Dravidian proof of the Indus script

First a disclaimer, I know nothing about epigraphy and I can write in one post card what I know about language (Old Tamil) and history including Indus Valley. I attended the talk today out of curiosity and to listen in person to Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan. I took limited notes of the talk, so I may have misunderstood some, so please refer to the actual paper for correct following.

Padma Shri award winning Indian epigraphist Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan (IM) delivered today evening in Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL), what the scholars hosting the talk proudly claimed as a historic talk. This was the first public presentation by Mr.Mahadevan titled “Dravidian Proof of the Indus Script via The Rig Veda: A Case Study”. The man at 84 years was frail, his voice feeble but his energy on the subject, his urge to unravel the mysteries of Indus Valley Script was super clear and infectious. The small hall at RMRL was filled with nearly hundred experts (excluding myself) and there was pin drop silence (a rarity in India) to listen carefully to Mr.Mahadevan.

Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan presenting - 14 Nov 2014
Mr.Iravatham Mahadevan presenting – 14 Nov 2014

The presentation began by listing 4 signs (or symbols) named for convenience as ABCD, reading right to left. The four ideograms are the following:

A – looks like a “Back of wolf”, a four legged animal with no face meaning the real identification of the animal not important, its more of an object/asset

B – looks like a Hook, receive

C – looks like crossroads, village

D – looks like a Jar, a most frequent occurrence in Indus script, almost 10%. Frequently appears in the end

From this, Mr.Mahadevan arrives using various techniques to deduce Old Tamil (Dravidian) root words with the nearest literal meanings and use a technique called “rebus” which uses images to indicate the (pronunciation of) a letter (for example he said letter I in English can be shown with an image of Eye).

In the first process, he deduces the Old Tamil root words for these 4 signs. By this,

A – is மாறு as in மகாகவி பாரதியார் பாடல் வரிகள்:

கங்கை நதிப்புறத்துக் கோதுமைப் பண்டம்
காவிரி வெற்றிலைக்கு மாறுகொள்ளுவோம்

where மாறு indicates “Barter”, extending to “Merchant”

B – is கொள் as in மாறுகொள்

C – is Village, (Proper Noun) a Resident of a village, பாடி as in ஆயர்பாடி/காட்பாடி. Another meaning is வாழ் as in வாழ்கிறான், வாழ் in old Tamil is to differentiate between living and to live prosperous

D – is like ‘அன்’ as in மஹாதேவன் to indicate masculine gender

Reading all  the 4 signs together we can arrive at மாறு கொள் பாடி அன், from this he arrives at proper forms to “One who receives barter and lives in the city”. In other words, “Merchant of the city

In the second process, he deduces the 4 signs to be the root words of names of later day Pandian Kings, who were probably descendant of Indus Valley who retained the names without knowing the meaning.

A – மாறு, மாறன் – meaning Barterer – now a Pandia King

B – செழி, செழியன் – meaning he of lightning – now a Pandia King

C – பாடி, பாண்டி, பாண்டியன் – meaning the prosperous – now a Pandia King

C – வாழி, வழுதி  – meaning he of the city – now a Pandia King

In the third process, he deduces the 4 signs to arrive at Rig Veda days Sanskrit names including the god name “Pusan”. I didn’t follow the Sanskrit names properly so couldn’t take notes on that. He mentioned instances of how some of the names (words) in Rig Veda could have been wrongly understood (myths created), and understanding their root words from Indus Script can explain the intended meaning of those words.

I remember in one place he using the word “அம்பல்” to indicate “அம்பலம்” which means Assembly as in அம்பலப்படுத்துதல்  (bring it out in open village assembly).

By the above 3 process, Mr.Mahadevan concludes the following 3 points:

  1. The Language of Indus civilization was an early form of Dravidian
  2. Due to migration of a section of the Indus population southwards, they formed some settlements in South India
  3. (Rig) Vedic age succeeded the Indus civilization. The Rig Veda is a product of cross composite

Update:

Modern India was made in Madras

Today TiE Chennai as part of their charter member dinner had invited  Madras Musings founder and writer Sri S.Muthiah for giving a talk. Muthiah as the favourite historian of Madras and tomorrow being Madras (Chennai) 375th Birthday (founded in 1639 by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan) the topic was easy to guess. It was about how The Beginnings of Modern India (was from Madras).

Having been to few of Madras day walks organized by Mr.Sriram V including Alwarpet, Old Fort Wall and Royapuram I was looking forward to hearing about Chennai’s history from the authority of the subject S.Muthiah in person. Lucky for me, after the event I got a chance to take a picture with the man himself along with my friend Pravin Sekhar.

Madras-Musing-Sri-S-Muthaiah
With Sri S.Muthiah (in centre) of Madras Musings

Before the event  started Muthiah was chatting around with few of his friends. The moment,  master of ceremonies mentioned “Madras”, Muthiah transformed into a man half his age (he is 84 years old). Dates, Names, Places, Events started flowing with ease, from 2500 years back to present day.

Muthiah talked how the Arabs 2500 years back were trading between Europe and India through the high seas. Ships were frequenting from Muscat, Bahrain, Alexandra to West coast of South India (Kerala predominantly). This was the time when the Silk Route (land route) from Europe to India through present day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan was rifled with pirates. Vasco da Gama  then got his glory by discovering an alternate route over seas to India from Europe across African continent, who was guided from African east coast to India by an Arab navigator. If Arabs were to be credited of bringing in trade (they brought Islam from middle east much later) from Europe through seas, it was St.Thomas (The Apostle) in 1 AD who brought Christianity to India nearly 1500 years before Vasco da Gama and to this day San Thome Basilica stands in his remembrance.

Fast forward to 1639 when Francis Day bought a settlement for John’s Company (East India Company) in what is today Fort St.George, Chennai. That time this area had only villages (Mylapore, Poonamallee, Tiruvottiyor, Thiruvanmiyur), British built a small warehouse and for next hundred years were traders with no security forces or territory building ambitions. Around 1746 then French Governor of Pondicherry  François Dupleix attacked British in Madras (First Carnatic War). With Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 happening in Europe, British and French exchanged between them Madras (India) for Louisbourg (Canada). Looking back now as a Madras Citizen, Muthiah joked that British got the best of the bargain :-)

Next 30 minutes Muthiah walked through this troves of Madras Photos. Each Photo showed a Madras landmark building including Chepauk Stadium, Government General Hospital (GH), Fort St.George, SBI Beach road branch (which got burned recently), General Post Office, Royapuram station, Raj Bhavan, St.Mary’s Church, Anderson Church, Ripon building, Armenian Church, St. George’s School and more. With each photo he talked how the modern institutions of India were born or influenced heavily in the Madras of British. Western Medicine in Asia, Postal Network, Railways, Imperial Bank (Fort St.George basement), Government, modern municipality (even before it got setup in Britain), Great Trigonometric Survey by Major Lambton in St.Thomas Mount (and Mount Everest getting its name) and British education system that Indians take for granted today owes its roots in India to Madras.

The Beginning of Modern India by S.Muthiah - 21 August 2014
The Beginning of Modern India by S.Muthiah – 21 August 2014

Muthiah had an interesting story of how Australian colonization propaganda by British owes dues to help from printing workers coming from Chennai St.George school trained on printing press techniques.

Bishwanath Ghosh has written a brief biography of S.Muthiah here.

Visiting Kolkata – Part 3

This is the 3rd part of posts on my visit to Kolkata covering our second  day there. Previous day we had gone around to Kalighat, Mother Teresa home, Belur Mutt, Esplanade & Netaji Bhavan. The plan for the day was to visit Victoria Memorial Hall,  Indian Museum, Botanical Gardens and experience more of Kolkata.

Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata
Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata
Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)
Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)
coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gates
Coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gate

Victoria Memorial Hall which was completed in 1921, was built in memory of Queen Victoria and funded entirely on voluntary (?)  donations from people & princely states of India. It’s a majestic looking building made of same (origin) family of white marbles as that of Taj Mahal, told our guide. When we visited the hall, the front entrance was full of scaffolding with restoration work by public works department going on. As a result we went in through  the back entrance which was the only way for visitors to go in. In my limited knowledge of  architecture I couldn’t find any difference between the front and back facade!. Inside the building there is a museum of collections from British era of several weapons and paintings of historic significance. In the centre hall right below the huge dome, the walls are adorned with paintings depicting various events in the life of Queen Victoria including her coronation celebration – you can’t help but be amazed  to see a world that was 100 years ago. Continue reading

Visiting Kolkata – Part 2

After a good breakfast at Taj Bengal we were on our way to see Kolkata. And boy, I was excited!.

We were accompanied by an ace Tourist guide Mr.Suvendu, who was certified by Government of India Tourism department. Being a native of Bengal, Mr.Suvendu knew Kolkata’s nook and corner to great detail.

Our first stop of the day was the Mother House, which is the head office of Missionaries of Charity and the final resting place of Mother Teresa. The unassuming grey building was inside a by-lane of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road. As you approach the building you see a sign in the entrance that says Mother Teresa, M.C. – IN. Turning right after you enter the door you see a life size statue of the noble soul who dedicated her entire life for the cause of the poor and sick. We handed over a bag of clothes that a friend of ours in Chennai had asked us to deliver along with our small donation to the organization and looked around.

Missionaries of Charity - Mother Teresa
Missionaries of Charity – Mother Teresa
Mother M.Teresa
Mother M.Teresa

In the room where Mother Teresa has been buried, we spotted few East Asians and  Americans who were offering their prayers. Having studied all my schooling in a catholic inspired school I followed suit with kneeling down and what I knew of crossing yourself and offering prayer. The legacy of Mother and the serenity of the place was unmistakable.

Next to the this  room in Ground Floor was a  small museum which had few memorabilia, photos and stories from the life of Mother Teresa. Opposite to this was a staircase leading to a simple looking room which was used by Mother all the years she lived here, it was kept in the exact state she left it in 1997. No Photographs were allowed in these places.

Mother M.Teresa (1910-1997)
M.Teresa (1910-1997)

Continue reading

Visiting Kolkata – Part 1

I felt Independence Day (15th August)  was a good time to look back into Indian history and learn more about the past of my country. Though East India Company and then British colonization of India started in Chennai, it was Calcutta (now Kolkata) where the British Empire established itself. Calcutta was the capital of British Raj and they ruled the Indian subcontinent from there for more than 130 years. For me it was one of the metros that I haven’t had a chance to visit.

For the long weekend last week Friday to Sunday (15, 16, 17 August 2014) I decided to visit Kolkata with wife & son. I had booked the flight tickets and hotel booking 2 weeks back. It was not like I narrowed down in Kolkata right away, I couldn’t find rooms in any of the popular tourist destinations – coastal resorts in South India/Goa/Andaman or Agra (I haven’t seen Taj Mahal too so far) were all booked.

We flew from Chennai to Kolkata by SpiceJet on 14th August that left Chennai at 8:25PM and reached Kolkata at 10:45PM, we couldn’t leave earlier as my son had his school on Thursday. The flight departed late and we landed in Kolkata’s Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport at 11:45PM. Having left from Chennai’s “new” Airport which is known for its poor maintenance,  the first thing that struck me in Kolkata was how how well maintained the big airport was. This was not the Calcutta I expected to see, which was known for its communist rule for many decades and its anti-capitalist sentiments.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

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