N. Jha and N.S. Rajaram, The deciphered Indus script. Methodology, readings, interpretation.RAJARAM's and JHA's slightly updated 9/9/20
"DECIPHERMENT" and 9/28/2000
OF THE INDUS SCRIPT Full story, by S.Farmer and M.Witzel,
by M. Witzel, Harvard University in FRONTLINE and at this pdf site
For latest updatyes
see bottom of these pages
Rajaram's and Jha's book aims at presenting the decisive decipherment of the Indus script. According to them, the Indus inscriptions are written in late Vedic Sanskrit. Be that as it may, let us discuss the book on its own terms.
Transcription of Sanskrit:
aa, ii, uu = long vowels a, i, u, R = vowel r as in KRSNA, M = anusvara, H = visarjaniya;
T, D, N = retroflex t, d, n; z = palatal sh (as in Shiva), S = retroflex sh as in KRSNa.
1. THE WRITING SYSTEM
This system is an alphabet stemming from the
(pre)-Indus age and derived from a complicated system of 'pictorial'
signs, in other words, of logographs. Curiously, Rajaram and Jha,
faced with a multitude of characters which have been variously numbered
between 400 and 800, select the c. 100 most common signs and reads them
as an alphabet of consonants and a few numbers, while they take the rest
of the characters as 'pictorial' signs. Indeed, about
80 characters are used more than 20 times and about 100 more than 10 times
in all of the several thousand inscriptions.
The number of 80 or 100 characters would fit a syllabary alphabet, especially if some additional conventions for consonant clusters (e.g., rky, spr, psny, etc.) were adhered to. Rajaram and Jha suppose that the Indus script had only consonant signs followed by an inherent vowel like modern Nagari ka. (The only exception is a general sign for word-initial vowel). However in Rajaram and Jha's system, any vowel can be indicated by the Indus ka sign (thus ki, ku, ke etc.); and ka also represents the consonant k when not followed by any vowel at all.
This writing system, of course, is most inconvenient to represent any Indian language, whether Vedic Sanskrit, Dravidian, Munda, or others. In all of them vowels are crucial. A script that does not represent them opens the door to a multitude of the ambiguities. It certainly does not work for (Vedic) Sanskrit where the words represented by the letters m -n - include:
mana 'ornament' or manaH 'mind' (as visarga is often not written), manaa 'zeal' and ' a weight', manu 'Manu, mankind', mano (= manaH), 'o Manu', maana 'opinion', or 'building' or 'thinker', mane 'in the ornament', maane 'two weights', manau 'in Manu', manaiH 'with ornaments', miina 'fish', miine 'in a fish', miinau 'two fishes', miinaiH 'with fishes', muni 'Muni, Rishi, ascetic', mune 'o Muni', munau 'in a Muni', munaiH 'with Munis', mRn- 'made of clay', menaa 'wife', meni 'revenge', mene 'he has thought', mauna 'silence', etc., --- to mention just the most common forms possible.
How is the poor recipient of a seal impression or token to make out whether it refers to a gold coin, a sage, the great Manu, some fish, or his wife? This ambiguity, however, does not deter Jha and Rajaram.
In stark contrast to the paucity of vowel signs -- there is just one sign for the (initial) vowel of a word -- they see a proliferation of additional signs for unexpected items such minute details as word-final -H and -M (Visarjaniya and Anusvara), verb endings such as -te or noun endings such as -su (all derived from Paninean grammar!) And, the grammarian inventors of the script even included special signs for guNa and vRddhi and (i.e. u becomes o, au) that are 'occasionally' used. They did not even forget some marks for Vedic pitch accents (svara). Though the scribes lacked post-consonantal vowels, they also did not fail to observe the rules of vowel combination (sandhi)!
The immediate question that rises, of course,
is why is this alphabet so specific in certain areas such as final -H,
but so deficient as not to include any vowel following a consonant? Indeed,
"the single most important point to note in reading the Indus writing is
that the vowels have to be supplied by the reader" (p.111). Therefore,
the last sentence would look, in Indus script transliteration, like this:
"thsnglmst'mprtntpnttnt'nrdngth'ndswrtng'sthtthvwlshvtbsppldbythrdr." In short, this script of some 100 signs should allow to write all words of the Indus language, even if reading them was quite difficult.
In addition, however, there are hundreds of "pictorial" signs (logographs) that can express words with just one sign, and a combination of the alphabet, its 'pictorial' and numeral signs was used as well. "This gave its scribes several ways in which to express the same sounds, and write the words in different ways." (p.106) The 'principles' of Rajaram and Jha's interpretation are summed up as follows (p. 111): "First, if the word begins with a vowel, then the genetic sign has to be given the proper vowel value. Next the intermediate consonants have to be shaped properly by assigning the correct vowel combinations. Finally, the terminal letter may also have to be modified according to context. In the last case, a missing visarga or anusvaara may have to be supplied though this is often indicated."
In other words: select what you want and fill it in! To quote Voltaire: consonants count little, vowels nothing!
Again this background, it is strange that word-initial vowels are indicated at all. This is, in all probability again a feature that Rajaram and Jha have borrowed from medieval Indian scripts: "...a substantial percentage of words in Sanskrit begin with a vowel --- probably more so than and any other language. This is of course the reason that the innovation of the U-shaped generic vowel symbol represents such a significant development. This also explains why such a large number of messages on the Indus seals have this vowel symbol as the first letter."
The last sentence of course only holds, if the direction of writing is from left to right (as in Brahmi and modern Indian scripts). In fact, the 'rimmed vessel', U-shaped sign is the most common in Indus writing , occurring over 850 times. But it occurs, in most cases, as the last sign of an inscription and therefore has been taken by most scholars as a case suffix, not --against all evidence-- as a word-initial sound. Rajaram and Jha are not deterred: "In reality, the U-shaped symbol almost never appears at the end of the word. In fact, it is often useful in determining the direction of writing of specific words, which, as we pointed out, follows no hard and fast rules".
In spite of the lack of vowels, the inventors of the Indus script have taken care to follow Panini's rules of word formation and have supplied it with verb and noun endings (technically called te and su endings): "Whenever they needed an advance in writing, the scribes borrowed an idea or a practice from Vedic linguistics or phonology and tried to invent a written symbol for it." (p.115). But it was not natural for them to invent the basic, simple vowel signs, as later on found in the Brahmi and Nagari scripts ? That crucial invention, of course, would have made the script quite unambiguous. It would also have robbed its interpreters, Rajaram and Jha, of most of their chances to show their ingenuity in finding whatever they wanted to detect in the inscriptions -- from imagined horses and horse thieves to Rgvedic kings and mathematical formulae!
Therefore, indeed: "The Indus therefore is a rough and ready script" (p.112). There are many more idiosyncratic and erratic features that the script is supposed to have. Change of direction of writing ad libitum, combination of letters, numerals and 'pictorials' (logographs) according to the whim of scribes (or rather, the decipherers), etc.
Rajaram and Jha also suppose that is the last consonant is doubled when preceded by another consonant, i.e. agni > agnni (p. 125), as observed by the "Vedic commentator Shaunaka (c. 3000 B.C. or the 'early' Harappan period)". This is supposed to go back to a stage when there was no vowel sign, not even the initial vowel sign (U), and when doubling of the initial written consonant would have indicated that: apa would be written ppa (p.125). "This practice was carried over into the writing of composite letters also. This is because, the same problem---absence of a vowel sign --- confronted the Vedic scribe in writing commonly occurring words like agni.... and many more in which the succeeding letter (after the vowel beginning) happens to be a composite letter." (p. 126) Apparently, the problem was not felt in the middle of words!
In discussing the 300-700 'pictorial' signs (logographs), Rajaram and Jha clearly have to rely on their view that the Indus language is Sanskrit. "For example, the sound zva represented pictorially by the azvattha leaf" (p. 116).
Especially curious is Rajaram's "Puranic" prediction
in 2000): "....there still was a good deal of the ambiguity in the
writing. If any seals of other written media of an earlier period
are located, the writing system will be more primitive than we find on
the Harappan seals; as we go further back in time, the writing is likely
to get more pictorial. The steps in the evolution of writing that
we have suggested might help in identifying them. (See appendix )" (p.129).
This acute prediction then actually becomes true, one
year before printing the book, with the discovery of the earliest
Indus writing of c. 3300 BCE at Harappa and is discussed in an appendix
(p. 252). Given Rajaram's penchant for inventive reconstructions
(see his Piltdown horse, see: http://www.safarmer.com/horseseal/update.html ),
his Puranic prediction should be taken with many grains of salt as well.
If all of the above was not enough to drive any reader of the seals mad, Rajaram and Jha have built in a large number of fudging items which will be discussed below. This results in a 'system' that allows virtually any reading of an inscription that a reader wishes to attain. Since the proof of the pudding is in eating, some examples of Rajaram and Jha's interpretations will be given below.
The ambiguities built into Rajaram and Jha's system already allow for a large amount of fudging, as has been demonstrated above. Even then, they have built in quite a number of further valves of security. (See pages 105, 130, 140, 184, 185) and witness: "because of the different ways of combining the basic signs, we get a great profusion of composite letters" (p. 109); "consonantal writing, it is the responsibility of the reader to supply the necessary vowels and the results will not always be an akaara." (p.109); "the U-shaped generic vowel appearing at the beginning of the word can take on any of the following values a, aa, i, ii... and done very rare occasions ya and va (p. 110); "this usage always holds when the vowel appears in the middle of the word." (p.114); "often [there]is some confusion between the vowel R and the semivowel r;" "On very rare occasions the composite letter r + k may represent the composite kR (as in kRSNa) (p.116); "...the action of GuNa and VRddhi vowels is generally made clear by these strokes. But the reader has to supply the details." (p. 126). "It is worth noting that the sounds of composite letters are not always free of ambiguities as regards the precedence of the sound to be pronounced." But the problem can be solved easily by using some Vedic training and ingenuity: "In resolving ambiguities, one is forced to fall back on one's knowledge of the Vedic language and the literary context. For example: when the common composite letter r + k is employed, the context determines if it is to be pronounced as rka (as in arka) or as kra as in kruura." (p.115); "since the Indus is a syllabary script, there will be occasional ambiguities in the readings. These have to be resolved with a reference to the literary context (p.130); "these numeric symbols are used in two distinct ways (1) as characters by themselves; (2) for repetition of other consonants" (p. 119); and finally: "the direction of writing of specific words, which, as we pointed out, follows no hard and fast rules." (p.113)
"We find the direction on the seals themselves ... to be mainly from left to right..." (p. 120). This, however, goes against all that has been maintained by all serious scholars of the script, since B.B. Lal found the proof for a right-to-left direction of the script decades ago. On the other hand, "the opposite mode of right-to-left writing is fairly common... the same word of phrase appears on a different seal but written in the opposite direction. The sum total of all of this is: no definite statement can be made about the direction of writing... no definite rules can be laid down in dealing with individual seals: each has to be approached with all these possibilities in mind" (p.120). But, of course: "We have not experienced much difficulty in determining the direction from the seals." (p. 122).
While Rajaram and Jha admit "While this may seem capricious to the modern reader ..... it is not necessarily the letters themselves that give rise to ambiguities, but their composition." (p. 116) These ambiguities can easily be solved by having recourse to (late Vedic) Paninean grammar and the world lists of the Nighantu, etc. -- or, better, -- to simple fantasy (see 'translation' of longer sentences, below). Of course, this amount of additional ambiguity allows to read virtually anything into the inscriptions. I have given some preliminary examples on the internet ( Indology <INDOLOGY@LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK> see below) and some other colleagues have proposed, of course in jest, to read them in Urdu or English.
After all of this fudge, one can only hope, with the
authors: "Ultimately, only familiarity acquired
through practice will allow one to read the in the script with fluency."
Rajaram and Jha's book does not list any sources beyond referring to Mahadevan's 1977 concordance (mostly, without giving its numbers) and some older collections, so that we have to believe first Mahadevan's, and second tier, Rajaram and Jha's copying and readings to be correct. (Both are not). Their dependence on Mahadevan results in conflating some signs, and the lack of an independent investigation of the number and the variations of signs make Rajaram and Jha's very starting point opaque. In addition, they do not even mention the concordances and lists of A. Parpola (et al.) and his fundamental photographic corpus of the Indus inscriptions is mentioned only in passing (that is, one half of this magnificent two volume set) -- with disastrous effect, as the case of the bogus horse seal, debunked by S. Farmer, has indicated.
Obviously, anybody could read anything into the Indus seals, with their kind of interpretation of the script. In fact, even their proposal of an alphabetic Indus script is not new at all. Right from the time of Hunter seventy years ago, several scholars have proposed to read some of the Indus signs a as alphabetic, and S.R. Rao has even derived them from early Semitic scripts. Rajaram and Jha, however, are far from even deliberating on this.
To them, the Indus script represents (late) Vedic Sanskrit. As such, it is part and parcel of Vedic civilization that has endured to this day. The Veda serves them as background information. In fact, Rajaram and Jha have perused the Vedic texts thoroughly to find their interpretation. And, just as with any traditional scripture, -- if one looks long enough, one is bound to find what one looks for.
It is a curious feature, however, that the authors find their proof in statements of late Vedic texts of a lexicographical and mathematical nature, the Nighantu and Nirukta, and the Shulvasutras. Certainly not the kind of background to be expected for seals playing a commercial and a very public social role. In addition, they use a passage from a very late book of the Mahabharata to make their point, just because this refers to an older, lost version of the Nirukta. Whatever one may think about the long and checkered history of the Mahabharata, to rely on a late passage (that, incidentally, knows nothing of the Indus culture) as the key for the interpretation of a script that is several thousands years older amounts to folly. But, they believe: "With the introduction of the features that defined in the Indus writing, scholars like Yaska and Vyasa were emboldened to undertake major tasks like putting down previously scattered knowledge into writing." (p.129)
Rajaram and Jha's Mahabharata 'proof' and their reliance on late Vedic dictionaries and technologies, is at best idiosyncratic, and at worst, completely anachronistic. Also, it presupposes something --the pre-Indus date of most of the Veda-- that still has to be proved before even attempting to "read" the inscriptions.
Such an early, pre-Indus date of the Vedas
is highly unlikely, actually impossible, due to the contents of the
Vedas (pre-iron age, but post-chariot invention,
i.e. post-2000 BCE). The assumption is typical
of the mono-lateral arguments preferred by modern revisionist historians.
The Vedic texts are not put into proper perspective.
# 4. SOME INTERPRETATIONS
Given the 'flexibility' of Rajaram and Jha's system virtually any reading is possible. This is certainly the case in seals which consist of only of two characters (see above). And it is not much better in slightly longer inscriptions, for the Indus seals etc. usually have only about the five characters per seal. It is, however, interesting to take a closer look at some of the longer inscriptions which Rajaram and Jha attempt to read.
If the assumptions given above are hard to swallow, even a cursory reading of the long list of their explanations contains many surprises. What were the Indus seals used for? At least some of them were stamped on bales of merchandise, others seem to have been tokens. Many of them were thrown out to as a rubbish (across embankment walls, for example) when no longer needed for one reason or the other.
Rajaram and Jha neglect such crucial archeological background information and maintain that the inscriptions represent a sort of repository of Vedic works like the Nighantu word lists and even of the mathematical formulas of the Shulbasutras! "...the Harappan seals: their concern is not history but preservation of Vedic knowledge and related subjects" (p.149).
However, one may wonder how many merchants in the 5000 years of writing across the globe put mathematical formulas or geometry on their seals and tokens, or who would -- in all seriousness--- choose sentences such as the following to stamp their goods? (p. 224 sqq.)
#69 aasaat "Nearby".
#54 paavaso ha "It is the rainy season" .
#57 haste tuvi susruhaH "Abundant (tuvi) rains in Hasta." (i.e. a nakSatra or month of Caitra).
#101 amazaityaarpaa "House in the grip of cold".
#85 dvidhaa gaavo vai "Cattle divided
into two groups and went (or were driven) in different directions".
#121 atti vatsaH " A calf that is feeding".
#108 amaaktaH kumaayuH A dog that stays home and does nothing is useless.
#115 puurvaa viiH "Birds of the Eastern country".
#102 rave zata kaakaaH "Hundred noisy crows" .
#97 muktu "Mosquito".
#137 yava-paa (r-to-l) "One who drinks barley
#131 ugra-zvaasa "The breathing of an angry person".
#123 tuurNa ugra zvasruuH "A mother-in-law (zvasruH) who is quick to anger, or short tempered mother-in-law" .
#92 paavasa homa "A homa (sacrificial
ritual) performed in rainy season".
# 84 apvaa-hataa-tmaahuH "Those about to kill themselves with sinfulness say".
#64: apa-yazo ha mahaat "A great disgrace indeed!"
(and not only due to the grammatical mistake involved -- mahaat for mahat).
#54 (*55) viSa-zrii draakSaa-zanaH
Reference to the eating of grapes ( a delicacy) by wealthy merchants.
#65 adma bekanaaTa "O! Moneylender, eat [your interest]!"
39 agni-vaaNe vRSaa-raamaH " ... Raama threatened to use agni-vaaNa (fire missile or perform a fire ritual)".
Further, there are several references to horses, which fit in very well with Rajaram's Piltdown horse seal ( http://www.safarmer.com/horseseal/update.html )
#96 azvaaH sahaH "Water fit for drinking
#58 varSa-raata paidva-paa "Reference to a keeper of horses (paidva) by name of VarSaraata".
#83 azvapaa paidvo dvaataSo 'zra gauraH (r-to-l) "A horsekeeper by name of Azra-gaura wishes to groom the horses."
# 5. VEDIC SANSKRIT?
It is one claim of the Jha/Rajaram book that N. Jha is a world-renowned specialist in Vedic: "Dr. Natwar Jha ... obtained a Ph.D. from Bihar University at Muzaffarpur. He is one of the world's foremost Vedic scholars and palaeographers who has deciphered the 5000 year-old Indus (Harappan script, thereby solving what is widely regarded as the most significant technical problem in historical research in our time." His name, however, has not come to my attention until just now. Apart from this, the claim of the book to represent Vedic Sanskrit is worth an investigation. Yet, wherever one looks, the Sanskrit given in this book is full of mistakes -- and this is not blamed on ignorant Harappan scribes. A few examples follow (full references see above). [add.: many of these, with the same mistakes, are already found in Natwar Jha's 1996 booklet: Vedic glossary on Indus seals / by N. Jha. Edited by B.K. Jha. Varanasi, India : Ganga Kaveri Pub. House, 1996. xi, 60 p.]
55 draakSaa-zanaH the word division is wrong; it should be draakSaa + azanaH (or plural).
64 mahaat is a strange form; one would expect neuter mahat corresponding to apa-yazaH.
65 adma 'eat!' which form is adma? (admaH 'we eat? or adma 'food'?)
102 zata should be zatam, if not a compound with kaakaH, which is not what is printed.
123 tuurNa ugra zvasruuH: no feminines (tuurNaa, ugraa), as required by the angry 'mother-in-law' (read zvazruuH!).
84 apvaa-hataa-tmaahuH: hataatma- would mean 'one whose self is slain' or the 'self of a slain (person)', not: 'who killed themselves'.
85 dvidhaa gaavo vai: unclear half sentence 'the twofold cows verily".
39 agni-vaaNe: why locative? "in a fire arrow"?
96 azvaaH sahaH: there is no word for 'water' in this sentence; what is the form of sahaH? apparently understood, but not printed, as a compound azva-sahaH -- which is post-Vedic.
121 atti vatsaH: wrong word order.
Use of words:
57 tuvi susruhaH: susruhaH 'rains'? Apparently taken from sru 'to flow' but that does not lead to a form ending in -haH.
84 apvaa does not mean 'sinfulness' (an un-Vedic concept anyhow) but 'mortal fear'.
92 paavasa is an invention of the authors; in addition it should be paavase (locative), if not a compound as which it has not been printed.
97 muktu 'moskito' does not exist.
101 amazaityaarpaa "House in the grip of cold": amaa is not a word for 'house', it is an adverb, 'at home'; zaitya 'cold' is post-Vedic.
108 amaaktaH: for amaa see above, akta- means 'smeared', not 'attached' in Vedic; ku-maayu 'bad bellowing one' = 'dog' is Rajaram and Jha's invention.
137 yava-paa is a 'barley drinker' (or protector), not one of barley-water.
54 viSa-zrii: viSa means 'servant' or 'poison', not 'merchant'. Did they think of vaizya? Why zrii?
65 bekanaaTa 'money lender' is not well established at all; unclear meaning; just once in Rgveda (hapax).
58 paidva is not a normal word for 'horse' but a very special, mythological one that cannot be 'guarded'.
83 dvaataSo 'groom' does not exist; 'zra gauraH should be a compound: AzragauraH.
With so many mistakes and problems in just a few sentences,
one must infer that the Vedic background of Dr. Jha is not very solid,
and one can ask, in addition, what Dr. Rajaram, the author of the
final version of the book, has made of Jha's readings.
#6. THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BACKGROUND
At several instances in this book Rajaram tells his readers that they should now try to find their interpretations. Given the scholarly inclinations among the expatriate communities in North America we may expect a slew of new interpretations, in fact, a whole new cottage industry. Their impact will appear especially on the internet. This fits in very well with some of their goals, --they have backed several nationalistic and even chauvinistic web sites-- the gaining of respect in their new and old homelands.
One curious thing is that several new schools of 'Rajaramism' will develop which will fight each other over the "correct" reading of one seal or the other following Rajaram and Jha's lead. The ambiguity of the 'principles' underlying Rajaram and Jha's 'decipherment' certainly will allow for Krishnaite, Shaivaite, Dvaita and Advaita readings. We can sit back and enjoy the fray!
Of the other hand, there is one aspect to the book that one should not neglect altogether. The tenor and the conclusions of Rajaram's books (as well as in his multifarious internet writings, see www.swordofthruth.com, etc.) are plainly chauvinistic: mainly anti-Muslim, anti-"Western", etc. They are aimed at the general Indian market where Rajaram claims to have millions of readers. As such, the book is dangerous. It presents a skewed image of India's past and of the study of India carried out both in India and in the West over the past 200 years.
However, this book is just one of the recent movement of rewriting Indian history in a nationalistic, even chauvinistic way, and as such, it has to be taken seriously. The political aspects involved in such rewriting of Indian history urge us to take a closer look at this cottage industry, where the authors of dozens of books over the past ten years or so have mutually copied from and praised each other. They will have an impact, especially among the new middle class baffled by the impact of modernity and by the loss of their traditional roots. The present book and related imitations will serve, in future decades, as source material for a study of present Indian social change. And this is the real value of this book.
However, as far as the decipherment of
the Indus script is concerned, its place is safely among the 50-odd
examples, collected and discussed by G. Possehl, of failed
attempts. Certainly, "the picture of ancient India that it [R. &
J.'s book] gives of ancient India is entirely different from the
one found in many history books" (p. 248). --- But the book also
is, according to Rajaram's seal reading, p. 227 #64, "A
great disgrace indeed!"
*** *** *** *** ***
Some interpretations of inscriptions
(My discussions on INDOLOGY, based on other members' reports of Rajaram's book, then still not seen by me; shortened)
1. Rajaram's "Horse Thieves"
inscription at Dholavira
Sat, 8 Jul 2000 23:56:33 -0400
Leaving aside the remaining logographic signs, -- that would certainly mean some 3/4 of the signs which appear only 1x...
The theoretical question is where to draw the line for a (Semitic) alphabet. Signs used more than 10 x through the Indus Civ. at all times come to c. 100, those used more than 20 x come to c. 80 signs. Nice, for an Indian style alphabet?
Or read the Dholavira inscription....
(scroll down just once) which has:
crab - spoked wheel (d) - spoked wheel
(d) - ' - ^ - empty rhombus - spoked wheel (d)
- pipal leaf with projections - square on pole - spoked wheel (d).
These are *not* the most common characters, -- for the reading of which one would have to marshal the rest of the Skt. alphabet ... (e.g., all e, o, R vowels. None of the most common, Skt. a, aa). Sounds good? Nope.
Or, you can read, with a slight reversal of above list, if you like it better: a Paninean succession of u | uu | uuu. In other words, early grammar. That is certainly what I would put on my city wall! Much better than the recently broadcast version (I forget by whom, information overload, no one can keep up any more with all these decipherments!), which ran roughly:
"I have driven off all horse thieves!"
As for non-alphabetic signs, such as the svastika character:
it is omnipresent in many parts of the Old World. I like the interpretation
given to it in Ghana best:
So much for reading any unknown symbols, characters
and signs. BB Lal (1997: 214) tells us:
"Let us continue to be optimistic." -- Rather, I say: lasciate ogne speranza!
The procedure shows, as always, that changing one assumption will lead to a completely different "decipherment". And then, as always, comes the leap of faith plus secondary assumptions to make things work out... In other words: No inscription has been read yet.
There is an initial vowel sign, like the Aleph, which
can represent any vowel: this is the omnipresent jar sign.
Not very practical in any alphabet, unless the initial vowel represents one preceded by glottal stop (found in certain languages before any vowel but not in Skt.!), -- which then, by necessity, has to be followed by a separate vowel sign.
Vowels following consonants are generally not
written, so one consonant signs can be read as ka, kaa, ke, ki etc.
The Lord of Dholavira or Harappa would have made the inventor of this alphabet work in the copper mines of the Aravallis for the rest of his rather short natural life. Or, if a Brahmin, have him sent beyond Kaala PaaNi, to Punt.
Of course, Rajaram's vowel rule is, again, guesswork. Based on much later Indian scripts but worse than, say, modern Hindi (unspoken a, without halanta marking), or the ambiguities of Urdu script, for that matter. Rajaram's system allows insertion of any vowel, to fit the "decipherment".
Thus, the crab is [ma], this occurs only 33 x (crab turned right), too low for Skt. ma = c. 4% [in an average text, see Whitney's Sanskrit grammar];
the 5-stroke standing man is [ra] or [R], only 47 x , too low for r (= 5%) (vowel R has 0.74%)
the standing fish is [sha] (also "100", sha-tam), but see above [position in a frequency list of signs] 187x; r should be much lower than this freqency, at 1.5 %, and not at position 187x.
the same standing fish with a little roof overhead is [shri]. Now, that's cute! But what do do with all the other common fishes, 187 = r, 179 v , 127 y , 117 k ? See above. (Is this = zrImatI, zrImant: Mr., Mrs., Ms., young master,...? zrI zrI for kings, zrI zrI zrI for gods, as in medieval mss???)
Several sounds have more than one sign representing
them. Now that's already the *third* major ambiguity, added to those
pointed out above. And the one which finally destroys the "system" altogether.
Since we have (at least) some 80 or 100 frequent signs at our disposal, a really bad writing system! Brahmi/Gupta/Nagari does it with c. 50 signs plus the c. one dozen of 'added vowel' signs (always depending on the particular variety of alphabet used at what time, therefore: "circa").
And, typically, all of the above leaves out the likely possibility that other language(s) than Skt. are represented by the IVS ...
2. >Dholavira signboard acc. to Jha/Rajaram ("late phase of the script, ca. 2000 BC"):
>"I was a thousand times [or many times] victorious over avaricious raiders desirous of my
>wealth of horses"
As pointed out yesterday: anything goes....
Take the letter/Aksara dh (spoked wheel):
it is read as dhaa (2x), dhaH and dvai.
[Pseudo-] Voltaire, he say: consonants count little, vowels nothing!
The interpretation of the signs makes them a sort of [early] Brahmi or early Semitic (as even a look into Monier Williams dict., intro, will show)... Hardly any change between Jha/Rajaram's 2000 BCE and Asoka... But that's not the point here.
Note the confusion between d/dh, and reading ANY vowel
with the sign in question....
Maybe the Indologist who wants to read it as O.Norse or English should come forward and add his interpretation and translation now!!
* text & translation.
I must confess I have many difficulties with this "sentence". Maybe someone can help me out?
- wrong sandhi : dvaidhaH + raaga?
- I can recognize: mad 'of me, by me' etc.', dvaidha-
'twofold, contest, strife', raaga- 'color, passion', azva- 'horse', and
sahasra-dhaa 'thousand-fold', but:
vedha- obviously is wrong for Ved. ve'das- (neuter) 'possession' and I miss the '[avaricious] raiders' altogether.
And how to put all of this together?
At best: 'my strife with horses that are [my] possession of/by/with color/passion(?) 1000x."
Or try a Bahuvrihi: my strife with those possessing horses as [their] wealth by/because of [their] passion..."
Or, but that would be post-Vedic: my strife with those having obtained horses as [their] wealth by [their] passion..."
-raaga 'desire for' at best as SECOND part of a compound: 'longing for' [horses], but where is that compound?? (dvaidhaH?? -- wrong form, and no sense); or with locative, but here we get instrumental: azvaiH.
Or maybe Jha/Rajaram took all of the above as one compound? As the hyphens seem to indicate. With wrong Sandhi and case forms?
All of the above certainly is not Vedic, not even late Vedic: strange compound, wrong word (vedas), also a little long for normal Vedic : raaga-*veda-azva- ??
To arrive at : raaga-vedhaashvaih = "over avaricious raiders desirous of my wealth of horses" needs a lot of un-grammatical twisting --it reads more like English or rather Austronesian, transposed into pseudo-Skt.: "desire - wealth - horses" (is this what they did?) -- and it needs padding of several words not found in the "text".
I give up. Maybe an ingenious PaaNinIya can help us out here??
3. A DEFINITE INTERPRETATION
of DHOLAVIRA , a la Rajaram:
Mon, 10 Jul 2000 00:28:24 -0400 <INDOLOGY@LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK>
Using the ingenious Rajaram/Jha method, I can read the Dholavira inscription much better, however, not as:
>Dholavira signboard acc. to Jha/Rajaram:
>"mad-dvaidhah-raaga-vedhaashvaih-sahasra-dhaa" --- i.e.:
m -d - d - r -g - v - d - z - s - d
"Success to the Country of Raaghava which promotes friendship!"
Much better for a city wall! Especially so, as it rightly refers to Lord Krishna's realm and his capital, situated just over the Rann of Cutch, where it recently has been dredged up from the ocean at Dwarka.
In short: Mine is the *only correct* reading in the
geographical and early historical context!
You read it here first!
SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT from Rajaram/Jha's, isn't it:
>"I was a thousand times victorious over avaricious raiders desirous of my
>wealth of horses"
4. Rajaram's "Shiva" seal
Fri, 14 Jul 2000 18:31:32 -0400 <INDOLOGY@LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK>
From: Michael Witzel <witzel@FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: Re: message from Dr. Elst
It is Friday evening, time to relax. And reading one's mail:
>> here's one more piece of
>> decipherment by Jha/Rajaram. Their reading of the Pashupati seal is:
>> with different possibilities for vowel length yielding different reasonable
>> readings, most favoured one being:
>>"Mara tamed by Isha".
I am shocked to see that the most obvious reading of the famous Pashupati seal has escaped the decipherers, Dr.s Jha/Rajaram. It reads:
rimmed vessel - simple fish - rimmed vessel with
Roman '' on top -
pincers (with double handles?) - crab - simple (five stroke) man
deciphered as by them as:
'any vowel' -
m - r
Especially in conjunction with the picture on the seal, i.e. the three-faced, crossed-legged, ithyphallic Lord of the Animals, Shiva, and following the Jha/Rajaram method, *plainly* reads:
iiza udyatto merau!
"The Lord, with his [ ] up, (residing) on Mt. Meru"
What is up here is clearly visible on the seal.
Much better than to invoke overcoming the post-Vedic,
Buddhist demon Maara (or the equally late god Kaama): where does
the Great Yogi do that, on the
On second thought, another reading, one closely following Jha's construction of compounds, many be more appproriate:
'any vowel' -
m - r
"The [aim, resesarch, etc.] striven after out of hope is immmortal"--
in other, though Mleccha words:
"Hope springs eternal!"
5. Rajaram's Sarasvati homeland
in the oldest Indus inscriptions (c. 3300 BCE)
Prof. Rajaram had admonished us, via a surrogate:
>> People should read the whole book before judging it.
Leaving aside all of Rajaram's usual, useless polemics against "Western archaeologists", "racist, colonial, missionary Indologists," [where are they today?] and the polemics on this list which have nothing to do with the issue at hand, decipherment:
What does RR. have to say? http://www.swordoftruth.com/swordoftruth/archives/byauthor/navaratnarajaram/wowp1vo.html and wowp2vo.htlm show
Briefly, he reads the following signs, early c. 3500 BCE:
[[Add: Rajaram, again, got his data wrong, as he followed a misleading BBC link; R.Meadow who has found the inscription in question, has corrected it, via me, on INDOLOGY in 1999; see now for all the gory details ---such a Rajaram's defence of the WRONG BBC image and excoriation of R.Meadow for corrrecting the BBC report at this web site: http://www.safarmer.com/meadow.html
NOTE: The sign below is not
the one discussed by Meadow in his BBC interview; instead it is the first
color picture depicted in the FRONTLINE paper of Oct. 13, 2000, and
-- added, 9/28/2000 ]]
dotted rhombus - \ - Y -
^ roof with subscript \ - ^ roof with subscript
V - rhombus
as: Ilavartate vara
and gives a variant where roof with subscript | is expressed by a sign looking like M, and 2nd last as : Y
and one more inscriptions (undocumented all of them!) from 3000-1990 BCE which differs:
dotted rhombus - ,\ -Y - M - rimmed vessel
|- - rhombus
explained as Ilavartate vara (once written with long a in Ilaa...) as well. Note that the 2nd last sign differs in the last 2 inscr.!
Strangely enough, the preceding examples seem to have been read from left to right, the opposite of the normal sign order.
The difference between signs is explained a inner-Harappan development, M = 2 times roof with subscript | or \.
The rimmed vessel is again introduced as ANY vowel at the beginning of a word. NOTE that this position is *very* unususal and rare in Indus script!
Plus a theory of substitution of writing this vowel by double initial consonant in older writing.
Remember, all based on a still unproven decipherment...
In short, the 3 examples given are not the same and cannot be read as the same unless ADDITIONAL PROOF IS given. Not the case.
And why is the sound "v" written as "V" once and as rhombus in the second line?
In addition to all the fudging criticised by S Farmer
and me, we have another one here, VIOLATION of HIS OWN principles. That's
a FIRST in decipherments!
** TEXT AND MEANING
The "text" 'Ilavartate vara' is supposed to refer to the Sarasvati (ila) and " Ilavarta refers to the sacred Vedic heartland. .... It could also refer to the ancient country Ilavrita, ruled by a king by the same name.... Ilavrita (ila avrita) also means 'surrounded by Ila'. "
First, Rajaram's ila or ilaa seems to be Rgvedic
iLaa (with retroflex l) 'potion offered in ritual'. This, unfortunately
for RR., is the POST-Rgvedic form of IDaa, as the meter shows. It
has been introduced into the Samhita text only later on, by/ before Sakalya.
But why sqabble about l or L , when so many consonants and vowels share the same character in RR's "alphabet"?? Just more fudging.
Second, iLaa is found *together* with Bharatii, mahii, sarasvatii -- thus iLaa and sarasvatii are NOT THE SAME.
Third, Ilavartate makes no sense. What is that word??
Fourth, the oh-so-desired "country" Ilavarta is NOT found in the Rgveda, as it is made to appear above, nor is it found for for along time: It appears only in the POST-VEDIC form ilaa-vRta (now already with regular -l- !), in the Mahabharata and Puranas. VERY misleading.
Fifth, vartate, here obviously taken as 'exists, is' is not Rgvedic at all. Vartate is found in the Rgveda a few times but it ONLY means 'turns around' (of the chariot) , and vartante (plural), of the dice.
And, vartate 'is, exists' is only post-Vedic. Later by at least 1000 years than the Rgveda.
Sixth, the sentence is again ungrammatical. At best: *iLaa vartate varaa* "iLaa turns around as the best one" (i.e. as offering to the gods, wife of Manu" etc. etc. Why does she turn? Certainly, out of horror that she has been mangled in these "translations".
No country, no king ilavarta, not even Sarasvati.
I wonder: what is RR's Vedic collaborator's role is
in all of this? After all, "He is one of the world's foremost Vedic
scholars and palaeographers" (according to their website).
Does he not know that ilaa is post-Rgvedic? And that vartate 'is' is only Epic/Classical Skt.?
Do we have to discuss what "is" is?
The unintended irony of Rajaram's "decipherment" is that he now gets a Semitic-style alphabet in the Indus area by 3300 BCE. Long before any alphabet anywhere, and long before the Semitic one was developed from Egyptian writing...
Just like the Dholavira horse thieves, do we now have Semitic traders introducing their alphabet before their time? Certainly not intended, as the Sarasvati area is the "cradle of civilization"....
Finally, no one has combatted my criticism of Rajaram yet (beyond some surrogate saying he despises Indologists anyhow, etc.) and his own quote above. If he or his Vedic collaborator Dr. Jha, or his surrogates cannot contest it, my criticism stands.
Postscript 9/9/2000 : In the meantime, no defense of Rajaram's Piltdown horse or his and Jha's 'decipherment' has appeared.
There was a front page story in the
PIONEER, on Sunday, Sept. 24, see:
This includes Rajaram's email to the Pioneer:
"In his e-mail reply to The Pioneer, Rajaram clarifies, "Both the photocopy of the seal (Mackay 453) and the artwork (of the horse image) were sent to me a couple of years ago by my coauther (sic!) Natwar Jha. I checked with the original postage-stamp size seal photo in the book and agreed with his identification and put those graphics in as an afterthought."
So now, the email-less(?) co-author N. Jha is the guilty
But, the recent reprint of the original publication that Rajaram says he
checked out in the Mythic Society, Bangalore, looks just the same as the
one in the original publication by Mackay (*we* checked!), and not at all
like his "computer enhancemnet", see S.Farmer's web site:
In addition, Rajaram takes refuge to his usual hobby horse, conspiracy theory:
"However, Rajaram terms the charge as a "vilification
campaign" against him. "I see the charge of fabrication (of the horse image)
as a diversionary attack -- to discredit the whole book, including the
decipherment (of the Indus script) by raising extraneous issues," he writes.
"In the process, they want to rob Indians of their history and tradition,
making them an intellectual colony of the West," he
Extraneous, indeed! - As this web site
shows sufficiently enough, the "decipherment" is more than flimsy, it is
pure fantasy. I hope he does not mean that Indians want to have *his*
script as their "tradition" !
The note concludes:
"Historians, meanwhile, are fiercely debating an
ancient past that may have what may the debate continues."
Further updates will follow as the 'debate' continues.