Monday, April 20, 2015

Invitation for Publication

Invitation for Publication of “Origins of the Vedic Religion and Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation” 

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Hi friends, 

I cordially invite you to the publication ceremony of my latest research book “Origins of the Vedic Religion and Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation” which is scheduled on Monday, 27th April, 2015. The book sheds light on our real cultural roots on the basis of latest archaeological, geological, genetic proofs supported by the literary evidences with unbiased view. I have taken independent view in the book and have used most of the available resources to solve the ever going debate over the Indo-European language and culture issue. I am sure the book will give new insight to the readers on our civilization, religions and cultural ethos.
Publication ceremony:
The function will be presided by Dr. Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College and the chief guests will be Dr. Shruti Tambe, Prof. Hari Narke and Kapil Patil.
Venue: Rajvade Hall, Bharat Itihas Sanshodhan Mandal, Pune.
27th April, 15, Evening 5.30 PM.
Publisher: Prajakt Prakashan, Pune.
The brief intro on the book is as under: 
Brief introduction:
 The highly debated issue of the Aryan or proto-Indo-European language speaker’s homeland still is not reaching to any resolve. The European and some Indian scholars have been proposing drastically opposite theories to prove either Eurasia or Indian homeland, sometimes dramatically stretching the timelines to make one wonder how scholars can play with the archaeological proofs and the indications provided by the ancient scriptures to derive suitable meanings to meet their needs.  
 Mr. Sonawani has attempted to look at the ‘homeland’ scenario; taking cognizance of all the theories forwarded by the scholars so far, from fresh angle and has postulated that;
 1. The basis of Indo-European language group theory is migrations of the proto Indo-European language speakers from some homeland. Author challenges the hypotheses’ of such migration and from archaeological, anthropological and scriptural proofs suggests that there has been no massive migrations from any place since 10,000 BC to cause substantial impact on the cultures of other populations. With archaeological evidences he suggests that the people all over the globe had started settling down by 12,000 BC with the invention of early agriculture and process gradually was completed by quite before 10,000 BC, therefore it is out of the question that the so-called PIE speakers started migrating from the hypothetical homelands at about 2000 BC or 5000 BC to impact linguistic and cultural features of other civilisations, as postulated by the scholars. 
 2. The author further suggests that, when early humans were foragers, period ranging from 60,000 BC till 12,000 BC, he already had learnt to move around in the known territories for his developed geographical consciousness and had already shared, developed rudimentary languages those took separate path when he settled down in the respective regions after invention of the agriculture. However early vocabulary and grammatical traits survived, showing some similarities even today in the territories in question. Such similarities are owed to the early human life and not to the movement of so-called Proto-Indo-European people. 
 3. Author further proves, from all the results pouring in from the recent geological explorations conducted at Ghaggar basin, and from the careful analysis of Rig Vedic/mythological descriptions of the Saraswati River, the Ghaggar river cannot be at all equated with the Rig Vedic Saraswati. 
 4. Mr. Sonawani in this book indicates that the many personalities mentioned in Rigveda and Avesta, including Zarathustra and his patron, were contemporary to the early phase of Rig Vedic compositions. This sheds light on the possible date of the Rig Veda and Gathas of the Avesta.  Further the author suggests, providing numerous scriptural and archaeological evidences, with in depth analysis, that the Rig Vedic geography is none but Helmand valley, Southern Afghanistan. He has, from Rig Veda and Avesta proved that most of the identifiable tribes mentioned in both the scriptures were and still are located in Iran, Afghanistan and north-west India (now Pakistan), and are speaking the descendent languages even today. 
 5. Author also points out that the indigenous Vedic Aryan theory is unfounded for as there is no slightest affinity between the Vedic and Indus culture. He explains diligently that, how, even if Rig Vedic period is stretched back substantially, i.e. from presently accepted date of about 1500 BC, to as back as 3000 BC or even earlier, any association of the Vedic people with Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation is improbable. Thus Out of India Theory is untenable because there is no proof to show slightest connection between both the cultures. 
 6. Since Indus-Ghaggar Valley have not experienced any intruding immigrants from minimum of 7000+ BC, there is no any genetic or archeological proof to prove any foreign influx since then and so there also are not any proofs to prove so-called Vedic Aryans migrated from India to West, the vital question is raised by Mr. Sonawani…how Vedic religion was introduced to India? How it found space here to become a major sect in the later course of time? The author however substantially proves with presenting rows of evidences to show how the Vedic religion was introduced to India and how institutionally it was spread by the handful of disciples and early native converts. This revelation, supported by substantial proofs may help to change our traditional views to look at our ancient socio-cultural and religious history. Also Mr. Sonawani explains how most of the Indus religious and cultural practices show their continuity, though in modified forms, even today in Indus-Ghaggar regions. 
 7. The important aspect of the book is author points out at the sever social harm caused by the supremacist views taken by the European and Vedicist scholars since last two hundred years to solve non-existent mystery of origin, either of Aryan race or PIE language speakers’ migrations. 
 8. This book explains the roots of the original Rig Vedic language and how it gradually was modified in ancient times to suite the changed linguistic environments, with providing the internal proofs from the Rig Veda and from the observations of Indian as well as European Sanskrit scholars. This shatters the myth of the Vedic dialect being mother of Sanskrit and other Prakrit dialects.  
 Distorting human history to prove some humans are superior over others, racially or linguistically, is not the way to solve the puzzles of our ancient past, Mr. Sonawani stresses through this book. 
 “Origin of the Vedic Religion and Indus-Ghaggar Civilization” is an attempt to help us look back at our past with clean and unprejudiced vision.
————————————————————————-
 I humbly request to bless me by attending the ceremony.
.
Thanks,
With warm regards,
Your sincerely,
Sanjay Sonawani

Friday, April 3, 2015

Origin of the Indian Caste System

Inequality based caste system is the unique feature of the Hindu society. It widely has been assumed by most of the scholars that the caste system is ancient and always was rigid, immobile and unjust from the beginning. The assumption has to be corrected in the light of evidence because it is not true, it cannot be true. Also, we can see that the scholars have confused Varna system with the caste system which has led them to the wrong interpretation of the caste system. In fact, there is no relationship between Varna system and caste system though both begun to plague each other in the later course of the time. The assumption that the invading Aryans defeated aboriginals of the India and enforced lowly status and caste system upon them also is not true because Aryan invasion theory that was propagated by western scholars and followed by Indian thinkers is proven to be preposterous on account of the available various archeological and genetic evidence.

Let us not forget here that the Varna system is part of the Vedic religious order which commands descending order of the classes based on the birth. Varna (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) system is rigid and there cannot be any mobility from one to other. However, the caste system is entirely profession based, horizontal in nature and is a flexible system. Till 1000 AD, people were free to change or enter into the new professions of their like. Caste system was part of the Shaivait religion, which is distinct from Vedic religion.
The number of castes in India is above five thousand today. If we go back in the human history we find the number of castes were just a handful. There were not that many professions to form that many castes. Let us not forget here that every caste or sub-caste in India has its ancestral profession. When the human society began to form with a couple of inventions at hand to make life safe and easier, its division of labor was simple. The human race has traversed from food-gatherer hunter man to pastoral man. The invention of agriculture made the nomadic man to settle thus changing his attitude towards life as well. The concept of ownership over land (and woman) changed his social order.The transformation from nomadic man to settled man forced him to change his lifestyle and social philosophy. 

Early professions were limited and so the castes. With new inventions, new professions emerged to serve the society and earn the livelihood. The people joining new professions naturally were from the same human stock. The service class too emerged to fulfill the ever growing needs of the society. It was not the rigid system. People were mobile. They could easily change professions from one to another depending on their skills and choice. The excavations at Indus sites show the division of labor but it doesn't show discrimination based on the profession.

The blame goes to Purushsukta of Rig Veda that the Varna system is created from the sacrificed body of the Lord himself. It suggests that the Brahmin was first to born from the head of the Lord and the Shudras were last born from his legs. This is a myth that has haunted Indian social system at the least from last thousand years as it gave sanctity to the notion of birth based inequality. However whatever Purushsukta or later Smritis command, the social facts were contrary to that.

Shepherds, cowherds, stone masons, farmers, leather workers, masons etc. were the earliest professions. The need of the early society was to survive from the odds while trying to make the life comfortable. The early states, whether democratic or monarchist, were made of small tribes consisting of just a few thousand citizens. The religion then was commanded by the King or head of the state of those times. Social order was changing from matriarchal to patriarchal society with the invention of agriculture. King was the Chief priest. The need of priestly class was not felt then because the state itself constituted of the moderate population. It does mean that the Purushsukta's declaration about Brahmin being born first is incorrect.

Brahmin or priestly class must have emerged with the growing population and society's requirement to appoint some people  to conduct  the ritualistic tasks on behalf of them. The founders or philosophers of the religion do not necessarily hail from the existing priestly class; rather they follow the new ideas as they emerge. The ancient religion that people of those times followed was shamanic in kind and pagan in nature. The rituals were less complicated.  Rig Vedic seers too did not hail from the original priestly class. They had their independent and varied professions. The caste system was not emerged in Vedic society as well. Except Purushsukta, we do not find the existence of Varna (Class) system prevalent in the Vedic tribes. Rig Veda mentions only three categories, Brahma, Kshatra and Vish those are not birth based and are interchangeable with the same person. Brahma in Rig Veda means Mantra. (Chant) whoever can compose it is Brahmin and whenever he wields the weapon against the enemy is Kshatriya. In a way, too was a loose concept. Formation of fixed classes had not begun even in Vedic religion for a long time as its spread was limited. Same applies to the other religions those were practiced by the societies of those times. Hence, Brahmin first is a misconception preached by Rig Veda's Purushsukta.

The settled society tends to the division of labor. New inventions occur or borrowed and the manufacturing begins when trained people jump sensing opportunities. There cannot be bondage to stick to the birth based profession. Had it been the case from where new people could have been brought to carry on new professions?

With further specializations in the same business, people do divert into it. We can see in India every caste and sub-caste have the ancestral profession, either in production or in services. Caste is nothing but the profession and from ample of examples we find in India people could change their professions, there were no bindings on it and no profession was treated lowly except those who dealt with the dead or filth.

Most importantly the professions could be changed. One could enter the reputed or disrepute professions depending upon his skills or choice. The great poet of India, Kalidas, belonged to the shepherd community, now considered to be a menial caste. From the play "Mricchakatik," we find the hero of the play, even being Brahmin by birth, is in the profession of trading which was preserved for Vaishya Varna. Shudraka, a great playwright belonged to Shudra varna and yet he was king and writer. Yadavas ruled Maharashtra for over 350 years those belonged to Gavali caste (cowherds). There are many examples that show clearly that the though the laws of social order were already codified by the Vedic people they were not actually practiced by either Vedic or non-Vedic societies. Though the caste system in India is depicted in the form of a pyramid, descending order of the classes on birth base, though it is correct for the Vedic Varna system, not for the caste system. caste system was horizontal and not pyramid like vertical. We will see in the next chapters that the caste system did not belong to Vedic religious order but to non-Vedic social order that was based on the principle of equality.

We have ample proofs that clearly shows even the leather workers (Charmakar, later treated as untouchables) had their nation-wide trading guilds and earned significant reputation in royal courts and society till 8th century AD at the least. We also find that certain products were mass manufactured in the villages dedicated to the certain specialized productions and the goods used to be distributed in the various marketplaces, domestic as well foreign. The centralized production system prevailed until the end of the tenth century AD. The independent village system is not as ancient as it is thought to be. It was invented to survive from the adverse times but continued till recently as there never occurred a chance to get rid of it.

We must not forget that the caste system never ever was rigid, inflexible as is commonly thought. The Aryan theory has classified the lower castes as the defeated and enslaved aboriginals. There is no slightest evidence to prove this hypothesis. Then how come that the caste system persists even today with its evil sense of inequality, dividing the people those belonged to the same stock of the people? How the once reputed castes/professions lost their eminence and were degraded socially?

Caste system originally was profession based and was not unjust or enforced by the priestly class for their benefit. How and when caste system became birth based and senses of inequality plagued the Indian society is a crucial question we have to deal with. Whether the religious commands were forced casteism on the people and they accepted it without any protests or was it the outcome of the peculiar circumstances? This has to be discussed at great length to know the roots of castes and its evil that has haunted Indian people since last many centuries.

However, we have to leave behind the misconceptions those have been nourished by us for reasons or for the theories of the scholars of past to understand why our society is so casteist even today and why our attempts to eliminate caste system are utterly failing.

First, we should know that the birth based caste system is not as ancient as it is thought to be. An emergence of birth based caste system has its roots in entirely different circumstances those we are going to discuss in the next chapters.

(To be contd.)

Myth of Lord Vishnu!

It’s fascinating to see how a minor Vedic God like Vishnu was elevated to a supreme God Lord Vishnu! A mere secondary companion of Indra in Rig Veda, Vishnu was adorned with entirely new character to make him a preserver of the universe who incarnates from time to time to eradicate the evil forces and restores the religion!

He is a God who has surpassed his original humble character in the later mythologies! Lord Vishnu was cunningly made a part of the Hindu trinity, with the constant elevations to attain the present position, so much so that he surpassed the positions of the supreme Vedic God’s like Indra, Varuna and Mitra! Originally it was only Lord Shiva who was creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe. How Brahma and Vishnu were added to partake Shiva’s tasks is another story of mythological corruption.

Vaishnavism is a cult that worships Vishnu as a supreme God. His abode is sea-floor where he is in half-sleep on the coil of Shesh Naga (serpent) with his consort Laxmi sitting at his feet humbly.

To know how Vishnu reached to this high status, let’s have a brief look at his history right from Rigveda to Puranas.

In Rig Veda Vishnu appears as a mere secondary companion, assistant of supreme Vedic God Indra. There are only three and half Sukta’s (Verses) dedicated to him. He also is seen in a form of sunbird and also the sun that crosses the whole universe in his three steps.

In Rig Veda there is no mention of his consort Laxmi. His abode also is not mentioned anywhere. “Shri” a Goddess mentioned in a Shri Sukta, a later addition to Rig Veda, is thought to be Laxmi, but the scholars believe Laxmi never was a Vedic Goddess but was assimilated from the Non-Vedic tradition in the later course. "Shri" has nothing to do with Laxmi, as far as Veda's are concerned!

In Rig Veda we can notice that the task of incarnations is originally ascribed to Prajapati, not Vishnu! Mention of three incarnations in Rig Veda, those later on, were attributed to Vishnu, originally were of Prajapati. Lord Prajapati seems to have completely vanished from the Vedic tradition as we do not find any mention of Prajapati in the later Vedic literature.

Vishnu's another name is Narayana, but Narayana was a different God or seer. Mahabharata's Narayaniya Upakhyan is very much clear about this. And the name "Narayana" has not any convincing Vedic etymology, hence some scholars believe that he had Dravidian origins. The name “Narayana” cannot be derived from any Sanskrit root but Dravidian. In Mahabharata Krishna clearly tells Arjuna that in the past birth he himself was Narayana, a seer, and Arjuna a “Nar” (Male), his pupil. He doesn’t seem to relate himself with Vishnu anywhere in Mahabharata. Still, people believe Krishna is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, which is unhistorical and contrary to the tradition.

In the days, when Aryan Invasion Theory was popular, the scholars though that Vishnu must have been originally the non-Aryan god who was later assimilated in Vedic pantheon. This thought appeared because Vishnu has bluish complexion, whereas Aryans were white with blue eyes and golden hair. But this idea now sounds rubbish in absence of any proof of the Aryan invasion. Even the very concept of the Aryan race has been now debunked by the anthropologists.

In Satvata (Clan of Krishna) originated a cult that was famous and widely in vogue until second century BC, known as “Pancharatra” that worships five elements like Vasudeva, Pradhumna, Sankarshana, Balarama and Aniruddha. This cult was non-Vedic and devotional in nature, and here too Vishnu finds no mention in Pancharatra philosophy or rituals. This history clearly shows that the Krishna never belonged to the Vedic tradition though he too clearly seems being hijacked by the later Vedic tradition, declaring him incarnation of Vishnu.

The Pancharatra Cult was famous for centuries, so much so that a Garuda (Eagle) pillar dedicated to Lord Vasudeva was erected by Greek Ambassador Heliodors near Vidisha in first century BC. From the inscription on the pillar, it proves that Vasudeva (of Pancharatra cult) worship was prevalent in those times. Vishnu, as a supreme God was not emerged on the cultural horizon till that period.

We find Vishnu appearing as a supreme God only in Gupta period, the fourth century till sixth century AD. Gupta era is very significant, not just from the point of its being epitome of political power they achieved but from the socio-religious point of view as well. In Gupta era newly developed Sanskrit language started getting eminence over other Prakrit languages. Most of the Puranas and ancient epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata were recomposed and theologically reconstructed in Sanskrit during this period.

Vishnu and Laxmi were joined together to create a new divine couple. Origin of Vaishnavait Laxmi is still unknown though we find another Laxmi in non-Vedic pantheon. The task of the incarnations that was dedicated to Prajapati was now transferred to Vishnu. The Vaishnav cult borrowed “devotion” (Bhakti) from Pancharatra cult. They borrowed idol worship from Shaivait religion, which in fact was anti-Vedic practice. Idol worship was never a part of Vedic tradition, rather it is prohibited.

The fact should be understood that prior to Gupta period, not on a single coin or inscription neither God Vishnu nor his consort Laxmi is mentioned or depicted in any image.

What could be the purpose? Was it a new religious revolution to bring forward a minor Vedic God to be idolized when Vedic tradition doesn’t allow idol worship? The fact is otherwise. The elevation of Vishnu was required to subjugate spread of the Shaivait tradition that had survived through the millenniums. Also because of the spread of the Buddhism Vedic fire sacrificial rituals had become rare. Because of the wave of Buddhism the violence in Vedic fire sacrifices were being attacked. The complexities of the Vedic rituals and huge expenditures and huge time it consumed made it difficult to find patrons.

Vedic people had to find an alternative without losing their own identity. It was obvious that to the masses idol worship was too simple to follow. In Buddhism also Idol worship had entered by then. To have something new for livelihood, that could attract immediate attention and acceptance from the masses, Vedic people had no choice but to adopt to the popular tract. Hence Vishnu was chosen from Veda’s to adorn him entirely new character.

Also, this shift in Vedic religion can be attributed to the Vedic converts who brought in their old traditional Hindu traits. Ghurye suggests after studying copper-plate inscriptions of that time that the rate of conversion to Vedic fold had increased enormously during this era. These new entrants did not abandon their old practices though converted, as it happens with all the converts. However, they needed a new god who can be idolized and worshiped without harming sentiments of the original Vedics. They found all they needed in the obscure god Vishnu, however, his character needed to be highly elevated to stand opposite to Lord Shiva.  

To do this all popular ancient cults and heroes been needed to be assimilated in the character of Vishnu! Idea of incarnations, originally belonging to Prajapati came to their rescue. Right from Rama to Krishna (later on even Lord Buddha), almost all originally Non-Vedic Hindu personalities of the ancient past, were gradually consolidated with Vishnu as his incarnations. This was in a way cultural hijacking but not new to the Vedic religious character.

Lord Shiva worship was main hurdle in the way of Vedic people. To divert people from Shiva to Vishnu was not an easy task. Many Shaivait shrines like Pandharpur and Tirupati also were gradually hijacked with the help of the rulers to convert them to Vaishnavait shrines. New myths needed to be created to justify such transformation and it was done in the course of the time. This could be done only because of the new converts, who originally were the part of that ancient tradition.

The Vaishnavait Bhakti (Devotion) cult thus was originated and began spreading from north to south. Main reason for the decline of Buddhism in India can be attributed to the rise of Vishnu. Most of the hero’s of the past were preached being incarnations of Vishnu, thus making Vishnu even popular. Vishnu offered what people needed. Many of non-Vedic God’s this or that way were associated with Vishnu through new fictitious, freshly composed myths. Though actual Vishnu shrines are very few in India, only because such assimilations, a picture got created that the Vaishnavait cult was popular in India.

Thus Vishnu was made a supreme God for the Vedic’s while Shiva too remained highly revered God for the non-Vedic people. The tussle between Shaivaits and Vaishnavaits has seen bloodbath, deceit and hateful propagandas in the past. The devout converts to the Vedicism, to retain their supremacy used almost every tool, but could not much succeed except for polluting the traditions and dividing the people in two sects.

Vishnu was gradually elevated and adjusted in the concept of the trinity; Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh…creator, preserver and destroyer… It is speculated that Brahma originally belonged to the Yaksa tradition of Gangetic plains. In Upanishads too, the term Yaksa is used as a synonym to Brahma. There is no God Brahma in Vedic tradition though the word Brahma is used several times to denote chant, not god. It only is in Yaksa tradition that the concept of a miraculous, wondrous and omnipotent lord creator is used. Still, it is a concept and that is not treated as god. In many tribal mythologies god Brahma is considered to be their creator. The Upanisadas use the term Brahma, equivalent to Yaksa, as a basic principle responsible for creation. This tradition has no relation whatsoever with the Vedic religion, hence treating many Upanishads being Vedic is erroneous as they does not show any link between Vedic doctrine and the philosophy of Upanishads.  

The fact that appears from the mythologies, Shiva was only God responsible for creation, preservation and destruction. The concept of the Brahma was completely philosophical to carry intellectual debate on creation. But in an order to demean Shiva, to pose him in destroyer form, to elevate Vishnu, what term would suit other than preserver to Vishnu? Thus modifications were made through the Purana’s to establish the rule of the Vishnu thus creating a wider rift between Indian societies. The attempt, if we look back at the religious history of India, has been too successful!

Why Vishnu was chosen over other supreme Vedic Gods like Indra or Varuna? The characteristics of Indra and Varuna or other supreme Vedic God could not be used as they were already known to the masses. All religious texts, including Buddhist or Jainist, are loaded with their mention. They had turned already very minor Gods in the eyes of the people. Providing them a new look, a new character would be highly impossible. Hence an obscure God was needed to be chosen, polished, and glorified with newly invented myths while associating him with the popular heroes of the past. Meticulously this was done in Gupta era, who had provided patronage to them. In this era, the banking rights of the traditional occupational guilds were transferred to the Vaishnavait shrines thus breaking the backbone of the professions and occupations.

In the later era, after tenth century AD, when the conflict between two religions, Vedic and Non-Vedic, reached to the violent levels, the unification of Vishnu and Shiva was proposed by many saints. It succeeded to some extent, though the religious differences never could be bridged. The philosophy of both the religions has distinctly been different. Vishnu shrines are rare in India whereas Shaivism maintains its supremacy with millions of Shiva and his consort’s shrines.

However, Vishnu has been proved as the rescuer of Vedic people, if not for the rest of the masses!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A way to decipher the Indus Script….




Indus script or symbols so far have posed a problem before the scholars because, though, labourously various approaches have been taken to decipher it, still, so far, there is no success. In absence of the Rosetta stone, a bilingual inscription, Indus script could not be read conclusively to help understand the language of the people of those times and who were they. Aryan Invasion or Migration theory had led to some scholars to think the script could belong to the Dravidian speaking people and hence the language of the script could be of Dravid origin. Asko Parpola has devoted his life in the decipherment of the script on this basis. 1 Many Sanskritist scholars rather think the language of Indus script is Vedic Sanskrit and they too have claimed to have deciphered it. 2   However these claims have been refuted outright or even have been called fraudulent. The scholars like Farmer et al have claimed that the signs appearing on the seals are not meant to encode speech but are non-linguistic symbols to serve key religious, political and social functions or serving as formal memory aids. 3  There have been attempts to find origins or similarities of the script with other extant deciphered scripts of the contemporary civilizations, however, those attempts, too, have been failed for there simply is no similar script has ever been located. Decipherment through the computer programs has not yet been successful, the students of TIFR have been able to conclude from the sign combinations appearing on every seal may be meaningful and the writing is highly ordered. 4  

Nonetheless, the fact, so far, remains that the Indus script or non-linguist symbols remain as an enigma. However, we need to discuss on the following points, if at all they can help, to take a new approach to solve this riddle.

1. LANGUAGE ISSUE:  Aryan invasion theory led some scholars like Parpola to think the displaced population of the Indus Valley was Dravidian. Naturally, he thought that the language spoken in NW area could be none other than Dravidian before invading Aryans subjugated and forced Dravidians out. Some so-called Dravidian in Rig Veda, considered to be loan words, too became one of the foundations of his theory. This is why he made every effort to read Dravidian in every symbol and tried to connect with that language. 5 NS Rajaram and N Jha had also claimed to have deciphered Indus script and its language being Sanskrit. 6 However both the claims so far have not been well received by the scholars. Rather Rajaram’s attempt to forge an Indus seal to prove horse presence in Indus Valley has been a blot on Indian scholarship. 

However, it is a fact that the Indus script must be conveying some speech. A speech that was in daily use that only could have been inscribed on the seals and other objects in form of the script. The images appearing on the Indus seals and the scriptural symbols stand apart in design and order.  Rather images are far beautiful over the scriptural symbols. Still, almost every seal carries one or more symbol to denote something, which we do not know at the present what it is conveying.  

However, let us deal first with the preconceived notions about the immigrant Aryans entering in the subcontinent to enforce their languages. It is not at all a proven fact. Vedic religion came to India through its handful of the preachers but the Rig Vedic language was modified later based on the local Prakrits. Since there is no proof that there ever was any invasion or migration to India hence the displacement of the Dravidians from Indus regions can be outright rejected. There are proofs that there has been an interaction between the people of the Indian subcontinent from ancient times despite their independent linguistic groups. But the major influence would be of the local tongues, those naturally would reflect in the encoded speech, except for the terms for the goods imported from those regions. 

The presence of the Sanskrit becomes far more doubtful because there is no proof it existed before first century AD. There is not even a single specimen inscription available that would indicate the existence of even Vedic language prior to third century BC. Vedic language presence in ancient times is moreover a myth based on the hypothetical ideas of language evolutions. The existence of Vedic language prior to Prakrits is merely a hypothesis, presented by PIE migration theorists, to substantiate their theories of origin, but they do not present any physical proof of its existence in support.  Moreover, Indus civilization possesses no Vedic cultural element. There are attempts, though, to connect somehow Vedics with the IVC, but they remain only speculative but put forth vehemently! 

So, wishful thinking that the Dravidian or Sanskrit language is encoded ion Indus script and attempting to decipher the ancient script on that basis wouldn’t be correct. The failed attempts speak for themselves.

2. There have been attempts to decipher some certain signs, such as fish, arrow and terminal signs. Parpola thinks fish sign actually denotes “min” (for fish) which actually represents the ‘star’ or ‘planet’ in Dravidian languages. The jar sign is most frequently appearing sign in the Indus script. BB Lal thinks the jar sign is quite similar with the various jars found at Kalibangan whereas Parpola thinks it represents the front side of the bull or cow.  Frequently occurring at the end are arrow or lance signs which is supposed to be the suffix. 7 There are examples (funny sometimes they might appear) the readers of Indus script have read Hammurabi as Ravan in the script! 

However, we can see, this does not help. The Indus people might not have intended from the fish sign the actual “fish” or any cognate for fish or stars in their language. Attempting to derive astrological or mythological elements from the signs too is equally incorrect. One must bear in the mind the purpose of the seals. Unless that is understood properly signs on the seals will remain an insoluble problem forever. 

3.   Most of the script, single or few more signs, appears on the seals and tablets. Also, we can find that there is a certain chronological evolution in the seal making and even in the script signs, but natural in course of the time. Brahmi and Kharosti, the ancient known scripts of India, too, show the gradual progression in style. Indus script spans from its early Ravi phase (3300 BC) till 1800 BC. Hence the changes in the style come as no surprise. 

There is a variety of the seals, from square to button like seals. Some are not intended to be seals, as the inscriptions are not in mirror image, but they could have been used to provide individual identity and rank. Some scholars think they, especially button-seals, could have been used as passports or used as identity cards by the royal officers.  

Other inscriptions found so far are on pottery and copper objects. The total signs found in IVC are about 417. Average signs on the seal are 5. It is said that this is not the pictorial script because the Chinese pictorial script has as many as 4000 signs.  Because of the brevity of the Indus signs, maximum being 17 of Dholavira signboard and average on the seals being 5, the reading has become almost impossible. Over 5000 short Indus texts are available today waiting for a breakthrough. So far it only is understood that the writing system was right to the left, nothing else. There is a probability that the script was used for other writing as well, such as Royal communication, land records and internal correspondence, but no such specimen has been surfaced so far. Indian writing almost had been on the perishable palm leafs or wooden plates, hence in all probabilities, its finding is almost impossible; if at all it was used for such purposes. 

4. Instead of looking for mythological representations from the symbols those occur in the script; let us take another direction to find a way to decipher them.

a. Purpose: The main Purpose of the seals, which appears from the available proofs, was to mark packaged goods, meant for export or inland trade. Also, it is suggested that some seals could have been used to stamp mark of the authority. 8 However, we must distinguish the seals accordingly to find their purpose.

Mostly square seals have been used to make impression on clay or resin-like soft material on the packaged goods. Now there is proof available that the jute bags, besides wooden boxes, were in use to pack the materials. The seals bear, besides script, single animal like unicorn, bull, elephant, tiger and sometimes abstract logo. We can assume that these animal/logo seals could have been representing the identity of the group/city/province or trading guild, just like modern corporate logos. 

In India, during Mahajanpada era, the punch marked coins bearing unique symbols, representing their territories along with the different symbols representing the identities of the issuers of the coins and its location of origin was in circulation. The similar practice must have been in vogue in Indus times. The animal or other logos appearing on the seals must have been serving the similar purpose to denote the origin of the supplier (or trading guild) of the packaged goods. So, the animals, even mythical like unicorns, appearing on the seals are not arbitrary but have a specific purpose. 

Naturally, then, it would be obvious, apart from the identity of the supplier, to write what good were packed inside of the bags or boxes, for not only knowledge of the transporter but buyer as well. Many of the Indus seals have been found in Mesopotamia, Indus people traded with. The purpose of such square seals, except cylindrical seals, cannot be attributed to just signify elite status or to manifest power and prestige but to represent the identities of the seller’s from the unique symbols and identity of the goods and quantity from the script. 

Now, if we now think on the script appearing over the seals, what could it, most possibly, convey?

In all probabilities, the script would denote the goods that were packed in the sealed bags or boxes. The seals were manufactured not to use just once but to make repetitive marks. It also would indicate the volume that could have been traded from IVC. the numeric marks over the seals speak of it, though we so far are unable to understand what the numeric signs would have represented, 

Iconography would indicate the origin of the goods and script would inform what was packed. Most probably the quantity also was mentioned. Some seals appear to be having simple numeric marks, though we do not know as yet the figures numeric signs did represent. Some seals appear to have only scriptural signs but no iconography, indicating miscellaneous goods or suppliers. Alternatively, the general produces like cotton and timber; there was no necessity to mark the origin, but the just name of the product and quantity. Such signs, as under, could have been used for general purposes. 

Since the purpose of the seals was to mark the merchandise, it would not bear any personal names or any religious or other political information. Rather the seals were made of soft stones and other materials including gold, with the boss at the back to help make the right impression and for repetitive use. This would mean that for the repetitively traded/exported goods such permanent or durable arrangement was necessary. The art of seal making is a wonder in itself. 

From above, we only can deduce that the script over the seals must be conveying about the name of the good and quantity packed. The brevity of the script over the seals has only this explanation. Its purpose was limited and it served well with just mentioning names of the goods and its quantity and the literate people of those times could make sense out of it. Trying to find mythological or historical meaning out of the seals becomes thus baseless. 

What were most traded goods from Indus Civilization?

Indus people grew cotton extensively, forming a major part of their exports including cloth. Besides copper implements, beads and bead necklaces, crafts, shell bangles etc. too were exported originating from different locations. The beads were made of various semi-precious stones like Carnelian, agates, chalcedonies etc. sourced from the interior of the India as well as from Afghanistan or from further Central Asian regions. Timber, such as Teak and Deodar, also was a major export material to Mesopotamia. Gold, Silver and Tin too formed a part of the export.  

The Indus people had established their colonies in Mesopotamia and probably in Afghanistan too to establish trade network. The Indus seals have been found in Mesopotamia. So the seals found in Mesopotamia may have been mentioning the imported goods. However, there is no conclusive proof to inform us what Indus people could have been importing from Mesopotamia or its nearby regions. 10 Also, there are indicative proofs that the Mesopotamian traders too would have settled in Indus regions, the way Indus people made independent settlements there, under the common name “Meluha”. 

Manufacturing Zones

IGC (Indus-Ghaggar Civilization) was spread in the vast region, as large as 12.50 lakh sq. kilometers. The seals have been found almost in the all excavated Indus sites, representing various periods. We know from excavated sites that what material was mainly manufactured or produced from different zones. The flint quarries too have been found to explain the source of the raw materials that were in making many useful items. 

If we desire to really decode the script of IVC, we first have to limit our efforts to the seals those were meant for trade. The trading communities always limit their writing to the purpose and not religious discourses. The motifs on the seals may even exhibit the religious beliefs, but they certainly are intended and conveyed likewise. 

We need to carefully classify the manufacturing centers according to the products and regional agricultural produces. We know for sure many of the raw materials were sourced from the subcontinent as well as from distant locations. What IVC people were experts in to convert the raw material to fine objects!  They had qualities of the artistic manufacture where contemporary civilizations lacked in. So though the sources of the procurement may be different, after manufacturing to make inland or overseas trade marking the merchandise was essential. Though, the excavations at all the Indus sites and detailed analysis of the finds, it won’t be impossible too to have a generalized idea  as at the least we know what was exported from Indus valley. 

Hypothesis

The hypothesis is, if the seals were used to stamp the packed goods or bundles for the identification of the goods and its supplier/manufacturer or the trading guild, the script over the seals only would inform the limited information of the name of the goods and, if necessary, its quantity.  We have discussed that the animal motifs appearing on the seals must have been representing identity of the supplier source. We do not know for sure what Trading system IVC followed those times, but for the sake of unified foreign and inland trade, some mechanism must have been present, without which massive trade couldn’t have been possible.

To focus on the script, its brevity does speak that it only contained the name of the goods and quantity. They could not have been meant to express anything other than that. They also were not just formal memory aids as Steve Farmer et al claims. 11 Since the purpose of the information was limited, there was no need to add irrelevant details. The packed good-tags of the modern day too are very brief and objective. 

However, we confront here with a most debated problem and that is in what language the names of the goods could have been expressed? Was it Dravidian or Sanskrit? Or was it entirely different language such as Munda or Austric? 

At the least, we can be assured that the purpose of the seal was not at all religious, though some of the motifs exhibit the religious faiths of the people of those times. The elephant, unicorn and other animals and trees could be representing totemic symbols of the trading families those were meant to represent their identities most symbolically. Trying to read any mythology from those symbols wouldn’t be wise. The purpose of the Indus people was not to extend their religious beliefs to the other trading communities, within India or elsewhere, but simply meant to trade their merchandise. 

Hence we only can see the commercial information on the seals. There couldn’t be any relation between the motif and the message that script conveyed because wherever we find similar motifs, the script-signs appearing on the seals are different many a times. This means that the motifs inscribed on the seals meant to convey the origin of the supply/manufacture and the script the name of the goods. 

Now let us focus on the language issue.

Language

As stated above, underlying language of the Indus script is hotly debated issue. Initially, Aryan Invasion/Migration theories were in vogue and collapse of the Indus civilization was normally attributed to the nomadic Aryans hoards. Also, it used to be claimed that the Dravidians were part and parcel of the Indus valley, those, later on, were displaced and forced out to the south.  Some hypothetical loan words those were thought to be of Dravidian origin had boosted this claim. Naturally, the serious attempts had begun to decipher the script thinking the language of IVC was Dravidian. Asko Parpola has done immense work to decipher the language based on this hypothesis.

Later, troubled with the Invasion/Migration theories, Indigenous Aryan School emerged to claim the authorship of the IVC and thus tried to find the Vedic Sanskrit in Indus script. SR Rao, NS Rajaram, N Jha etc. attempted in this direction, even made huge claims to have deciphered the script. 

However, both the claims, in the lack of the solid linguistic foundation, remained so far disputed though hotly they still are debated. Paul D. LeBlanc in his thesis states, “The Dravidian and Ä€ryan camps oppose each other in all of the analytical perspectives surrounding the Indus script’s underlying language. Each side argues in favour of identifying their own culture or language to that of the ancient Indus Valley inhabitants.” 12 In short, the issue of Aryan v/s Dravidians, in new forms was flared up to cause socio-cultural unrest between north and south. 

Indigenous Aryan theorists, to counter European supremacist approaches started claiming Indus valley being the original homeland of the Vedic Aryans and that the IE languages and culture did spread to the west from northwest India. Once upon a time, the same Indigenous Scholars used the same theory to prove their foreign origin. 

However, it has been agreed upon by the scholars and archaeologists that there has been no major invasion in India after +7000 BC. Also, the present author has proved Geography of the Rigveda being Southern Afghanistan and not India. Also there are enough proofs to indicate that the Vedic preachers came to India to spread their religion when IVC was already disintegrated and was flourishing in new forms in Gangetic plains. So there is no any probable relationship between Vedic culture and IVC. So reading Vedic language in 2600 BC old Indus script cannot yield any positive result. 

There, similarly, is no question of Dravidians being displaced from IVC, hence finding Dravidian in the Indus script is equally wrong. 

Now in absence of both the possibilities we need to relook into the matter again and try to solve this riddle.

First of all, we must not forget here that the myth that the migrations of the PIE speakers and spread of the so-called Indo-European languages are a carefully nourished myth by the European linguists and scholars. Whatever were their motives, but it has resulted in unnecessarily complicating the language issue and so the cultural issues across south Asia and Europe. The present author has seriously challenged the migration theories those are claimed to be instrumental in spreading PIE languages and cultures. Rather the present author 13  has shown that to cause the net of the languages, migrations are not necessary and also there are no archaeological proofs of such migration at the least from +7000 BC onwards in India. 14
 
Hence, we are left with no choice but to accept the fact that the Indus people (and from the rest of the parts of India) were settled in their respective regions since last 10,000 years. Naturally the language they would have been speaking was the ancestor language of the present languages those are still spoken in the IVC regions and elsewhere in India. Regional variances in the languages too would be but natural.  

Looking at the map we can identify the modern Prakrit languages being spoken in these regions, including Panjabi, Sindhi, Rajashtani and Gujrathi. Culturally speaking, most of the Indus cultural traits are preserved even by the modern residents of these regions. For example it has been observed that the bangles and pendants women wear in Gujrath are similar to the Indus varieties. The bullock-carts, boats, utensils and the farmland furrowing practices are as similar as they were in Indus times. The tradition has been well preserved in folk culture. Hence, it won’t be a surprise the languages too, must have been spoken in this region in their archaic form of the present regional languages. 

We need to remove the myth from the mind that it was Vedic or Sanskrit language from which the Prakrits had evolved. There is no material proof to prove this assumption. Rather Vedic language has evolved from the Prakrits including Sanskrit. The Prakrit net of the languages was extant from Maharashtra to Gandhar, as evidenced by the epigraphical as well as textual history. Hence, assuming that the regional Early-Prakrits, ancestors of medieval Prakrits, were being spoken in Indus era will not be incorrect or any kind of exaggeration. The Prakrit substratum in Vedic language has been well detected and we cannot date Rig Veda prior to 1500 BC although the Vedicist scholars want to date it back to pre-Harappan era for their motives.

However, it would seem my hypothesis is more logical for it is in line with the archaeological, linguistic and anthropological history of India. Hence, instead of attempting to find Dravidian or Sanskrit languages in Indus script, trying to locate proto-Prakrits in it would be more logical. 

The process

Now, we will have to focus on the seals those were meant to stamp the packaged material. In the following chronology, we may be able to reach to the solution to the Indus script.

1. Classify the regions and the sites so far excavated.

2. Segregate the manufactured items meant to be traded/exported from particular regions.

3.  Segregate the seals as per their locations. (Dr. Iravathan  Mahadevan has done monumental work in this regards.)

4. Classify the regional languages and try to reconstruct them for at the least the names of the concerned goods.

5. We have regional Prakrit specimens from the epigraphs and other Prakrit literature from at the least 3rd Century BC onwards. We need to reconstruct these Prakrits to understand what could be their earliest forms during 2600 BC and onwards.

6. The names of the merchandise, in its proto or early forms, when satisfactorily understood we can undertake the further job to attempt to relate them with the texts appearing on the seals.

7. The number of words denoting to certain goods and number of the signs can be compared. The numeric signs too would come to be understood to what quantity it could have denoted. 

I strongly believe this is the only way to decode the Indus script. Let us not forget here that the site names traditionally bear the same information that could have been transmitted in those times. For the site “Kalibangan” means black bangles and truly the Kalibangan site was a manufacturing center of bangles in Indus times too. So the word “Kali” for black and “Bangan” for bangles still carry the same information. The site name must be similar to this in Indus times. 

Conclusion:

There is no meaning in the attempts to decipher the Indus script based on the Dravidian or Sanskrit for these languages were absent from the Indus region. Also attempting to extract mythological information from the seals, as Parpola and SR Rao has done, such forcible identifications too, so far, has misled the scholars. The Indus script remained un-deciphered for over hundred years because the unscientific approaches were taken by the scholars. 

The reconstruction of the Prakrit names for the traded goods and its comparison with the seals only could help to solve the riddle of the Indus script. We do not need “cultural element finder” but a commercial element finder. There are no Vedas or Vedic mythology, there is no Dravidian or their mythology, simply what the Indus script conveys is our commercial abilities. 

We need to focus on Indus script to decipher in this direction!

-Sanjay Sonawani 

References
1. A Dravidian Solution to the Indus Script Problem, by Asko Parpola, 2010.
2. The Deciphered Indus Script : Methodology, Readings, Interpretations, by Natwar Jha, Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram, Aditya Prakashan, 2000.
3. The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis:The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization’ (Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel, 2004). Available online at http://www.safarmer.com/fsw2.pdf
5.   A Dravidian Solution to the Indus Script Problem, by Asko Parpola, 2010.
6. The Deciphered Indus Script : Methodology, Readings, Interpretations, by Natwar Jha, Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram, Aditya Prakashan, 2000.
7. http://www.harappa.com/script/mahadevantext.html

8. The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives,  By Jane McIntosh, p. 72.

9. Indus Epigraphic Perspectives: Exploring Past Decipherment Attempts & Possible New Approaches, by Paul D. Le Blanc, University of Ottawa.

10. The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives, By Jane McIntosh, p. 118.

11. The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization (Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel, 2004). Available online at http://www.safarmer.com/fsw2.pdf
12. Indus Epigraphic Perspectives: Exploring Past Decipherment Attempts & Possible New Approaches, by Paul D. Le Blanc, University of Ottawa.
13. Origins of the Vedic Religion and Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation, by Sanjay Sonawani, Prajakt Prakashan, 2015.

14. “Culture changes during the Late Harappan period at Harappa: new insights on Vedic Aryan issue”, by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer in “The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History”, edited by Edwin Bryant, Laurie Patton, Pub. Routledge, 2005, page 31-40.