Mleccha written, read rebus



After deliberation, Hanuman ji decides to speak to Sitadevi in As’okavana in maanusha or jaati bhaasha. Valmiki provides a breath-taking account of the chintan of Hanuman ji (see painting) starting the Sundara kaanda. The Mahabharata cryptology references in Jatugrha parva of the language used in conversations between Yudhishthira on the one hand and Vidura and Khanaka (look at the name, connoting a mine-worker !) take place in mleccha. And, then Vatsyayana refers to cryptography as mlecchita vikalpa, a writing system (alternative representation of speech in picture-writing). Thus, we have mleccha vaacas attested and also mlecchita vikalpa (writing system of mleccha).

The rim of the narrow-necked jar (the most frequently occurring sign) in Santali is called kanda kanka. Samskrtam calls it karnaka (rim). Kanda in many bharatiya languages means fire-altar, vedi, furnace. kan- in Tamil means copper; kanaka in Kannada means gold. So, I decipher the sign as a homonym of kanda kanka ‘gold-copper fire-altar’.  We are all mleccha, meluhha. Mleccha might have received many connotations of meaning. The earliest attested reference is mleccha as the spoken languages distinguished from arya vaacas (refined, literary language) — vox populi as distinguished from vox literati, a situation which continues even today in almost all languages of Bharatam. A farmer from Karnataka or Tamilnadu would have been able to transact in Sarasvati valley in ancient times as the linguistic area existed. In fact, the key to the decipherment came when I found Kannada having a remarkable word, aduru connoting ‘native, unsmelted metal’. Adar also means ‘brahmani bull’; it is so specific. Hence the pictorial occurs majestically, all by itself without any standard device (sangada) in front of it. Since it is meteoric iron or metal, there is no need for a smelter/furnace, sangada !

If we do not convey the extraordinary legacy to our children, we have failed. I need guidance in achieving clarity in communicating the findings related to a problem which has been with us for over 150 years now since the first surface discovery of a seal from Harappa by Cunningham. I do not think our ancestors were illiterate as some seem to suggest.

Prof. Sundara Adiga noted: “I used to tell my friends in the Archaeology field that there is no point in looking for Dravidian or Aryan exclusively in the Sindhu-Sarasvati language. It can not be expected that there was one language spoken over such a vast area in a society comprising several communities having there own spoken languages. And in view of the continuity of the Sindhu Sarasvati traditions in many ways, it is but natural that the languages of the peoples must have survived   in the languages spoken subsequently among the peoples of the region of the Civilization later on known as Rajasthani, Punjabi etc.

Reasons for my developing an interest in the matter of decipherment

A friend of mine in the Asian Development Bank gave me a paper-weight replica of a seal from Mohenjodaro given as a memento to First Class passengers on Pakistan International Airlines. A paper pasted at the back of the paperweight claimed that the script has not been deciphered so far and that the seal represents the five thousand-year old civilization of Pakistan. This has been lying on my desk and I was wondering what the epigraph on the seal meant. This led me to start with a study of all ancient Bharatiya languages. I compiled an Indian Lexicon as a comparative dictionary of 25+ ancient languages of Bharat. This compilation took me 25 years to complete. I found that there were about 8,000 semantic clusters (that is, words similar sounding and with similar meanings across the entire length and breadth of Bharatam. This led me to a compilation of the entire corpus of epigraphs found on seals, tablets, copper plates, pottery and even on a huge sign-board at Dholavira and a gold pendant in Harappa. I used the corpus of Indus script texts compiled by Iravatham Mahadevan and Asko Parpola and updated them with later findings and material available in various museums of the world beyond Pakistan and Bharatam.

Procedure followed and clues obtained to attempt the decipherment

I made a statistical analysis of the number and graphics of ‘signs’ or ‘pictorials’ on the epigraphs written on a variety of materials (about 4,000 epigraphs have been discovered so far, mostly on seals, tablets and copper plates). I found that some ‘signs’ and ‘pictorials’ were repetitively used. For example, rim of a short-necked jar and a young bull (heifer) with one horn and pannier are the most frequently occurring motifs on the epigraphs. Such a distribution of ‘signs’ and ‘pictorials’ clearly points to the fact that the epigraphs were not meant to be ‘names’ of owners of the objects with epigraphs. But, many of the ‘signs’ and ‘pictorials’ were very graphic representations of commonly recognized objects such as a wide-mouthed pot, fish, liquid-measure, axle of a spoked-wheel, archer, ox, antelope, brahmani bull, elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, a person hiding on a tree branch. I started looking for the words used in Bharatiya languages for these glyphs (that is, graphic representations). A surprising pattern emerged confirming my hypothesis that the underlying language used for these glyphs was retained in many words of many Bharatiya languages. I also found that these words representing these glyphs had homonyms (similar-sounding words). All such similar-sounding words formed a pattern and were related to only one civilization category: that of metal-smiths, of smithy, of furnaces used by workers working with minerals, metals and alloys. This principle of identifying similar-sounding words is similar to the technique used by Champollion to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs. This technique is called rebus method. Thus, I coined the phrase Sarasvati hieroglyphs for these ‘signs’ and ‘pictorials’ on the epigraphs and was able to decode them using words from the Indian Lexicon which has over half-a-million words.

Methodology developed and application of the method to epigraphs

I refined the methodology by clustering the epigraphs by ‘hieroglyph’ category, that is, I tried to classify the 4,000+ epigraphs by the dominant artistic motifs or graphics (which I call glyphs). I found that only two animals were shown with their heads turned backwards: tiger and antelope. I looked for a word which explained this feature. I found that in Telugu the word krammara means ‘head turned backwards’; the homonym is: kammara, karmaara ‘smith’ ! Tiger is denoted by the word ‘kol’; the homonym is kol ‘panchaloha alloy’ (Tamil) Similarly antelope is denoted by the word ‘mr..eka’; the homonym is melakka ‘copper’ (Pali). Thus I was able to see why the tiger and antelope were shown with their heads turned backwards. The total pictorial representation of the tiger and antelope shown with their heads looking backwards can now be deciphered: alloy-smith, copper-smith. I also found that some glyphs were ligatured (that is, many artistic features were combined); for example, the young bull (heifer) was shown with a pannier and one-horn. Some animals were joined together (example, heads of ox, antelope, heifer joined to one body). The device in front of this heifer was shown with two components: 1. bottom component showing a wide-mouthed pot with smoke emanating; 2. top portion showing a gimlet (sharp-point of a drill-lathe) with a churning motion shown by wavy lines depicted on the gimlet. I found that the pannier or waist-band was denoted by the word ‘kammarasaala’; the homonym is: ‘karmaaras’aala’ (smithy). One horn is kod.u; homonym is kod. ‘workshop’. Thus the ligatured pictorial can be read as: damra (heifer); homonym: tam(b)ra ‘copper’ + karmaaras’aala (smithy) + kod. (workshop), that is the copper smithy workshop. Similarly, the device generally shown in front of this glyph can be deciphered as: sangada ‘lathe, gimlet’; sangada ‘joined animals’; kammata ‘gold furnace’; homonyms: sangada ‘furnace’. Kamatha means ‘an archer’; homonym is: kammata ‘mint’. Thus the device shown in front of the one-horned heifer (young bull) can be read as: kammata ‘gold mint’ + sangada ‘furnace’.

The result

The result of the method has produced a remarkable pattern. Almost ALL the epigraphs relate to the work of artisans, smiths working with minerals, metals and alloys and seem to denote the repertoire of a smithy such as furnaces of a variety of types used for a variety of metallurgical processes. The entire corpus seems to be a record of property possessions of vis’vakarma artisans. I wondered what Jamshedji Tata would have done to give a memento to his bride at the time of his marriage; maybe, he would have designed a seal as a mangalasutram stating that he owned a blast steel furnace ! The epigraphs seem like a calling card of the artisan stating the property possessions and the professional expertise he or she possessed. Same is the case with the decipherment of the Dholavira sign-board which connotes a copper smithy with a number of metallurgical services offered. This makes it the earliest advertisement board in the history of human civilization, a board which could be seen by the sea-faring merchants traveling into and out of the Persian Gulf and hugging the Hindumahasaagara.

Testing the validity of the decipherment

In the course of compiling the comprehensive corpus of epigraphs (inscriptions) related to Sarasvati civilization, I found what I call ‘rosetta stones’ containing glyphs comparable to the Sarasvati hieroglyphs.

These ‘rosetta stones’ are:

  1. Two tin ingots found in a shipwreck in Haifa (Israel) containing three Sarasvati glyphs inscribed on the ingots ! (Originally, some scholars thought that these were Cretan hieroglyphs; I found that these are NOT Crean hieroglyphs). This was a surprise indeed. I went through the archaeometallurgical researches and found in a seminar held in Smithsonian Institution, Prof. Muhly had noted that tin used in Mesopotamia perhaps came from Meluhha; he had also noted that there was some connection with the invention of alloying (the metals age) and the invention of writing. When I looked at the glyphs inscribed on the 99% pure tin ingots I found that the glyphs connoted the metal ‘tin’. Liquid measure is ‘ranku’; antelope is ‘ranku’; the cross-roads denoted by glyph X is ‘datu’ meaning road; homonyms are: ranku ‘tin’; dhatu ‘mineral’.
  1. A cylinder seal impression from a site called Ur (Mesopotamia) was found containing many pictorials comparable to Sarasvati hieroglyphs (five-petalled flower, brahmani bull). The petalled flower is represented (as a frequently used sign on many epigraphs) on the earliest epigraph found on a potsherd at Harappa recognized as perhaps the oldest writing system in ancient civilizations. One glyph on this seal showed what Daniel T Potts proved was tabaernae montana, a fragrant flower. The word for this five-petalled flower is tagaraka in Bharatiya languages meaning a ‘fragrant flower used as a hair-fragrance’. The glyph is also shown on a bone combfound at Tell Abraq and also on a flask! The homonym is ‘tagara’ meaning ‘tin’. The other glyphs are also similarly deciphered as related to metals, alloys, furnaces. Brahmani bull is represented by the word ‘adar dangra’; the homonyms are: aduru ‘native metal’ (Kannada); danger, thakkura ‘smith’.

Limitations of the method and difference from other earlier 100+ attempts at decipherment

The major limitation of this method is that the continuity of the writing system in Bharatiya tradition cannot be fully explained in the later-day evolution of Kharoshthi and Brahmi scripts, though some scholars have seen similarities between Brahmi script ‘syllables’ and Sarasvati hieroglyphs. There is, however, one exception. A copper plate found at Sohgaura said to belong to pre-Mauryan period (that is, 2nd or 1st millennium BCE) has the top line showing Sarasvati hieroglyphs and bottom lines written in Brahmi script which have been deciphered as related to the facilities of two koshthaagaara made available at the junction of three roads for merchants during the period of draught. The top line in Sarasvati hieroglyphs connotes these two koshthaagaara (storehouses) and also indicate the facilities of furnaces made available to itinerant smiths-merchants.

The earlier attempts assumed that the pictorials were totem symbols and that the signs were alphabets or syllables. I have shown that both pictorials and signs are to be read as words. This is justified by the fact that there is an average of only 5 signs/pictorials on the 4000+ epigraphs and there are over 200 epigraphs which contain only pictorials or just one or two signs. The earlier attempts tried to assume the underlying languages as Sanskrit (SR Rao), Tamil (Mahadevan, Parpola) or Akkadian or Sumerian (JV Kinner-Wilson). I have shown that it cannot be Akkadian because a merchant from Meluhha is shown with an interpreter on a cylinder seal with cuneiform inscription. The presence of an interpreter shows that the Meluhha did NOT speak Akkadian. The word Meluhha is cognate with mleccha the language used by Yudhishthira in conversations with Vidura and with Khanaka, the mine-worker who helped the Pandavas escape through a tunnel from the Jatu or Laakshaagrha. Vatsyayana also refers to mlecchita vikalpa as one of the 64 arts to be learnt by a young person; mlecchita vikalpa connoted ‘cryptography’. Read with the cryptography used in Mahabharata related to Laakshaagrha, mlecchita vikalpa was clearly a writing system, a cryptography comparable to the Sarasvati hieroglyphs presented using rebus method. Thus, in my decipherment, I have hypothesized that the Sarasvati hieroglyphs can be deciphered using the Bharatiya tradition. Mleccha-mukha in Sanskrit means ‘copper’ !

The major limitation arises from the fact that a lot of work needs to be done to underscore the interactions among ancient Bharatiya languages. There are some indications provided by Emeneau (who co-authored a Dravidian Etymological Dictionary) that during the days of the civilization, Bharatam was a linguistic area (that is an area where many languages interacted and absorbed basic features from one another). This seems to be proved by my decipherment. Mleccha vaacas and aarya vaacas are two terms used in ancient texts; these seem to connote spoken language and literary language, both co-existing in Bharatam from ancient times, pointing to the evolution of Samskrtam from Prakrts. This hypothesis needs to be researched further in the context of the fact that early epigraphs of historical periods in Bharatam are based on Prakrt while the epigraphs in hinduised states of Southeast asia are based on Samskrtam..

Progress made in the decipherment with representative samples

Presenting the entire decipherment will make this note voluminous since I have to use pictorials taken from the epigraphs and hundreds of words from many Bharatiya languages to explain the decipherment. However, a few representative samples will show how the decipherment was achieved. (Annex)

Acceptable new knowledge gained through decipherment

The decipherment shows that the received wisdom about the history, formation and evolution of Bharatiya languages need a fresh look by researchers. There are at least 8,000 semantic clusters (similar-sounding words with similar meanings) in almost all bharatiya languages be they categorized as ‘Indo-Aryan’, ‘Dravidian’, or ‘Austro-asiatic of Munda’ as demonstrated in the Indian Lexicon which renders the exercise of a Dravidian Etymological Dictionary questionable since out of 5,200 etyma listed therein as many as over 4,000 etyma have cognate words in ‘indo-aryan’ or ‘munda’. The proposition about the linguistic area should lead to an analysis of the nature of the interactions which took place among Proto-Vedic, Vedic, Samskrtam, Pali, Prakrt, Santali, Mundarica, Nahali and proto-versions of present-day Bharatiya languages. Secondly, the nature of the metallurgical tradition in Bharatam has to be researched afresh as a continuum of lithic to metals age since iron smelters have been found in Ganga valley coterminus with the finds of copper smelters in Sarasvati-Sindhu valleys. Maybe, Bharatam skipped a bronze age and directly moved into the ‘metals age’. Thirdly, the vis’vakarma the technology tradition has to be researched basd on examples of cultural continuum such as: use of lost-wax technique even today, the use of s’ankha industry during the last 8,500 years (a cut wide s’ankha bangle was found dated to 6500 BCE at Mehergarh, 300 kms. north of Karachi), use of paints on terracotta toys found at Nausharo showing red painting at the parting of the hair of ladies, black painting for hair and golden painting for necklaces..

Reactions of the scholars concerned the world over regarding the decipherment

I have presented the results of my decipherment in an 8 volume encyclopaedic work on Sarasvati and have also presented in many conferences including a conference held in April 2006 in Madrid (5th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East). I have not had any negative reaction but for the comment that the language situation in Bharatam has to be studied further and that if some bilingual inscriptions are found, the decipherment can be effectively validated. I disagree with the reactions. There is a lot of literature available in Bharatam documented in many ancient texts following the Vedic, Bauddha and Jaina traditions. These documents can validate the language formation and evolution. Nahali cannot be a language isolate since it includes indo-aryan,dravidian and munda lexemes; it, in fact, represents the Bharatam as a linguistic area.

The present stage of my research

I am continuing the work on Bharatiya languages. I have a manuscript ready on the History and formation of Jaati Bhaasha starting with an episode from Ramayana. Hanuman sees Sitadevi in As’oka vana and exclaims: drashtaa sita ! Then, he introspects; this chintan is described in a separate sarga by Valmiki in the Sundaraka kanda. Hanuman thinks that if he talks to Sitadevi in Samskrtam she will get frightened thinking that Hanuman is a spy sent by Ravana (since, Ravana is a Samskrta Pandita). So, Hanuman decides to speak in maanusha, that is jaati bhaasha.

My maximum expectations in the research in due course

With this new monograph on Bharatiya languages, I am trying to show that it is possible to delineate this jaati bhaasha and relationship with samskrtam in the context of documenting the contributions made by anusoochit jaati, anusoochit janajaati, backward classes and deprived classes in the samajam to Hindu traditions, ethos and civilization exemplified by the traditions of Khandoba, Vithoba, Jagannatha, Sabarimala, Balaji, Pandharpur, tirthayaatra and samskaara. This Itihasa Bharati project has to be continued by producing a multi-volume work on the contributions made by jaati, janajaati to socio-cultural history of Bharatam. True Bharatiya literature has to be found in the works produced in Bharatiya languages. Samskrtam has been a remarkable treasure-house of jnaana in many fields and disciplines ranging from art, music, dance to technologies including ayurveda, surgery, metallurgy, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, physical and natural sciences, apart from the contributions through yoga, dars’ana and aadhyaatmika texts. We have to endeavor to unravel the metaphors used in many ancient texts such as the Veda samhita, Purana and the history inherent in Bauddha Jataka and many Jaina scientific treatises. We also have to delineate the nature of the formation and evolution of Hindumahasagar Parivar, exemplified by the work of the French epigraphist, George Coedes whose book is titled: Hinduised States of South-east Asia based on epigraphical evidences gathered from Angkor Wat (Nagara Vatika) and other sites in Cambodia, sites in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and in the other Indian Ocean Rim States. Together with the Himalay Parivar, the Hindumahasagar Parivar will help us write a true Itihasa Bharati.

The rebus method, the vikalpa in mlecchita vikalpa is further elucidated.

clip_image002[5]Sohgaura copper-plate (pre-Mauryan)


clip_image004[3]Tree shown on a tablet from Harappa.

[Pl. 39, Tree symbol (often on a platform) on punch-marked coins; a symbol recurring on many tablets showing Sarasvati hieroglyphs].

1. Rebus method

The first line is composed of glyphs, many comparable to the glyphs used on Sarasvati epigraphs (Indus script corpus).

Rebus means ‘sounds like’. It is a Latin word, it means: a representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle. The word is said to have been derived from Latin re_s ‘thing’. This is perhaps cognate with Vedic rayi ‘wealth’. The rebus method was used successfully by Champollion using the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. An example is the depiction of ‘son’ (male child of a parent) by the similar-sounding word ‘sun’ which can be pictured as a circle with emanating rays. The system used a combination of phonograms (that is, sound-signs which spelt out the word in an alphabet system) and ideograms (that is, sense-signs which were ligatured or added to the spelled-out word to convey the meaning. Sarasvati hieroglyphs do not use an alphabet system; the system can just be called picture-writing or alternative representation of sounds through pictures or glyphs. For example, in the Sarasvati hieroglyphs, a glyph which is commonly shown is that of a tree in a platform. The word for tree is kut.i; a similar-sounding word, kut.hi connotes a smelter-furnace for minerals. Thus, when a tree is shown on an epigraph (as on the Sohgaura copper plate), it connotes a smelter-furnace.

2. Meluhha

‘Melukkha’ is cognate with Pali ‘milakkha’ or Sanskrit ‘mleccha’. In Pali, ‘milakkha’ also means, ‘copper’. In Sanskrit, ‘mleccha-mukha’ means ‘copper’.

clip_image005Meluhha-speaker shown on the Akkadian cylinder seal is a copper merchant/smith. Dilmun, Magan, Meluhha are regions mentioned in cuneiform texts of Mesopotamian civilization. Meluhha referes to Sarasvati civilization area. Muhly (1973: 260) associated the trade in tin “directly with Gudea’s report of receiving tin from Meluhha…A number of scholars have pointed out the possibility that tin arrived with gold and lapis lazuli in Sumer through the same trade network, linking Afghanistan with the head of the Gulf, both by land and sea (Stech and Piggott 1986: 41-4).” (P.R.S. Moorey, 1994, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries, Oxford, Clarendon Press pp. 298-299). ). “…tin may well often have travelled by sea up the Gulf from distribution centres in the Indus Valley. In the Old Babylonian period tin was shipped through Dilmun (Leemans 1960: 35)

The sea-faring merchant is accompanied by a woman carrying a kamandalu. The antelope he carries is a phonetic determinant: mr..eka ‘goat’ (Te.); read rebus, meluhha (language-speaker). The presence of an interpreter shows that Meluhhan spoke a non-Akkadian language. Akkadian seal (after Powell, p. 390: The Bronze Age Civilization of Central Asia, New York, 1980). The translator of the Meluhhan (Sindhu Sarasvati) language (EME.BAL.ME.LUH.HA.KI) is received by a person of high rank and sitting by his lap. Another Meluhhan sitting by three jars makes a greeting gesture. Two persons enter: one carries an animal, the other a kamandalu (alchemical water-vessel?). British Museum tablet #79987 enumerates a ‘man of Meluhha’ named (…)-ibra in a list of foes of Naram-Sin, King of Akkad, ca. 2250 BC. Cylinder seal impression; Legend: Shu-ilishu, Meluhha interpreter. Louvre AO 22310 (De Clercq Coll.); greenstone; De Clercq and Menant, 1888, No. 83. Collon, 1987, Fig. 637. Note: British Museum tablet #79987 enumerates a ‘man of Meluhha’ named (…)-ibra in a list of foes of Naram-Sin, King of Akkad, ca. 2250 BCE. “During the second half of the 3rd millennium BC, textual sources frequently refer to trade with Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha. Dilmun is known to be the island of Bahrain, Magan is probably present-day Makran and the territory opposite it in Oman, while at this period it seems that Meluhha referred to the Indus Valley where the flourishing cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa have been excavated. The Indus Valley civilisation used square stamp seals but under the impetus of trade some cylinder seals appear and a Meluhhan interpreter used a typical Akkadian seal.” (Collon, 1987)

The Meluhhan being introduced carries an antelope on his arm.The Meluhhan is accompanied by a lady carrying a kaman.d.alu. Since he needed an interpreter, it is clear that the Meluhhan did not speak Akkadian. Antelope carried by the Meluhhan is a hieroglyph: mlekh ‘goat’ (Br.); mr..eka (Te.); (Ta.); (Skt.) Read rebus: me-la-hha.Thus, the antelope conveys the message that the carrier is a Meluhha (speaker). The hieroglyph is thus a phonetic determinant.

Lipshur litanies state: ‘Melukkha…is the land of carnelian’ (Sumerian NA4.GUG, Akkadian sa_mtu). In the 17th century BC, the Neo-Assyrian king Esarhaddon called himself, ‘king of the kings of Dilmun, Magan, and Melukkha’. The Sumerian myth Enki and the World Order has Enki exclaiming: ‘Let the magilum-boats of Melukkha transport gold and silver for exchange!’  Enki and Ninkhursag (lines 1-9, Tr. by B. Alster) has references to the products of Melukkha: ‘The land Tukrish shall transport gold from Kharali, lapis lazuli, and bright…to you. The land Melukkha shall bring carnelian, desirable and precious, sissoo-wood from Magan, excellent mangroves, on big-ships! The land Markhashi will (bring) precious stones, dus’ia-stones, (to hand) on the breast, mighty, diorite-stones, u-stones, s’umin-stones to you!’

The city-state of Lagash (ca. 2060: king Shulgi) records a toponym about the presence of a ‘Melukkhan village’. (A. Parpola and S. Parpola, 1975, On the relationship of the Sumerian Toponym Meluhha and Sanskrit Mleccha, Studia Orientalia 46). The word ‘Melukkha’ also appears, occasionally, as a personal name in cuneiform texts of the Old Akkadian and Ur III periods. Seals of the Indian civilization have been found in Mesopotamia and Iran at Kish (modern Tell Ingharra), Ur, Tell Asmar, Nippur (modern Nuffar), and Susa; a shard with an inscription has been found at Ras al-Junayz, the southeastern extremity of the Oman Peninsula; seal impressions of the civilization have been found at Umma (Tell Jokha) and Tepe Yahya; pottery of the civilization has been found at Ras al-Junayz, Asimah, Maysar, Hili 8, Tell Abraq — in Oman and United Arab Emirates. Susa, Qalat al-Bahrain, Shimal (Ras al-Khaimah) and Tell Abraq (Umm al-Qaiwain) — sites around the Arabian Gulf — have yielded cubical weights of banded chert (unit weight: 13.63 grams) which are the hall-mark of the civilization.

3. Mlecchitaa vikalpa

Mlecchita vikalpa is explained as ‘cryptography; the term occurs in Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra.

47, 48, 49 are three of the 64 arts listed by Vatsyayana in Vidyasamuddes’a s’loka :

(47) aksara-mustika-kathana–art of expressing letters/numbers with clenched hand and fingers. (This is seen in the use of mudra depicted on many sculptures.)

“Dealers when bargaining in the presence of others from whom they wish to conceal their business, join their right hands under cover of the gown or sleeve of one of the parties; by touching the different joints of the fingers they note the numerals, and thus silently conclude their bargain.” (Burckhart, J.L., 1829, Travels in Arabia, Comprehending an Account of Those Territories in Hadjaz which the Mohammedans Regard as Sacred, London: H. Colburn, p. 191; cf. Karl Menninger, 1969, Number words and number symbols: a cultural history of numbers, MIT Press).

(48) mlecchita-vikalpa—cryptography

48 is writing system (e.g. mleccha hieroglyphs read rebus)

(49) desa-bhasa-jnana—knowledge of spoken dialects; this is language study (mleccha is a dialect of indic language family)

Some examples of mlecchita vikalpa (that is, picture writing or cryptography with similar-sounding words – homonyms – can be cited):

Gharial, = it.ankar; mangar ‘crocodile’

Lizard = kuduru

Fish = ayo

Tiger = kola

Nine = lo; Ficus = loa

Nave of wheel = eraka

Spy = heraka

Look back (tiger, antelope) = kammara

d.hangar ‘smith’; mengro ‘smith’

kuduru ‘gold portable furnace of smith’

ayas ‘metal’

kol ‘pancaloha’; kolla ‘furnace’

loh = metal

eraka = metal infusion

kamar = smith

Goat, antelope = mr..eka

Penance = kamad.ha

Tree = kut.i

Bird = bat.a

Heifer = kad.a

Horn = kod.

Die (dice) = pa_slo

Bracelet, headdress, tiger’s mane = cu_d.a

Serpent = na_ga

mleccha, melakkha ‘copper’

kampat.t.a ‘mint’

kut.hi ‘furnace’

bat.a ‘furnace’

ka_d.i ‘fire-trench’

kod. ‘workshop’

pasara ‘smithy’

cu_lha ‘furnace’

na_ga ‘lead’

4. Exact reference to the Mleccha bhasha in MBh with quotation

The full text of the reference to mleccha in Mahabharata Adi Parva, Jatugriha Parva CXLV – CXLIX with translation in English is appended.

The reference to mleccha vaacas is in the following s’loka in Mahabharata Adi Parva, Jatugriha Parva CXLV – CXLIX:

ki.n cicca viduren.okto mlechchha va_ca_si pa_n.d.ava .

tvaya_ ca tattathetyuktametadvis’ .. 6

This cryptography using mleccha language is described in Mahabharata jatugriha parva (shellac house with non-metallic killer devices). Vidura and Yudhishthira converse in mleccha language. So does the khanaka, the miner sent by Vidura to warn Yudhishthira about the jatugriha as a trap to kill the Pandavas. Khanaka offers to dig a tunnel so that the Pandavas can escape as the jatugriha goes up in flames.

Vidura conveys using cryptography that Pandava are in danger and hinting at the nature of the impending danger without naming the jaatugriha:

“And after the citizens had ceased following the Pandavas, Vidura, conversant with all the dictates of morality, desirous of awakening the eldest of the Pandavas (to a sense of his dangers), addressed him in these words. The learned Vidura, conversant with the jargon (of the Mlechchhas), addressed the learned Yudhishthira who also was conversant with the same jargon, in the words of the Mlechchha tongue, so as to be unintelligible to all except Yudhishthira. He said, ‘He that knoweth the schemes his foes contrive in accordance with the dictates of political science, should, knowing them, act in such a way as to avoid all danger. He that knoweth that there are sharp weapons capable of cutting the body though not made of steel, and understandeth also the means of warding them off, can never be injured by foes. He liveth who protecteth himself by the knowledge that neither the consumer of straw and wood nor the drier of the dew burneth the inmates of a hole in the deep woods. The blind man seeth not his way: the blind man hath no knowledge of direction. He that hath no firmness never acquireth prosperity. Remembering this, be upon your guard. The man who taketh a weapon not made of steel (i.e., an inflammable abode) given him by his foes, can escape from fire by making his abode like unto that of a jackal (having many outlets). By wandering a man may acquire the knowledge of ways, and by the stars he can ascertain the direction, and he that keepeth his five (senses) under control can never be oppressed y his enemies.’

5. What is Brahmani bull ? Why is it called so ?

clip_image006[3]Zebu or brahmani bull painted on a pot with a bird hovering over. The bird is bat.a; homonym is: bat.a ‘furnace’. d.angra ‘brahmani bull’ (Santali); homonym: aduru ‘native metal’ (Kannada); d.hangar ‘smith’ (Hindi)

Brahman or Brahmani bull is also called the zebu. It has a pronounced hump, long horns, droopy ears and a large dewlap. Scientific name was originally bos indicus; it is called Bos Taurus indicus adapted to tropical environments, domesticated in Bharat over 10,000 years ago. It is allowed to roam free in many parts of Bharat, considered a sacred bull; this may have led to the name Brahmani. adar, adar a brahmini bull, a bull kept for breeding purposes and not put to work (Santali) It is also called khunt: khu~t. Brahmani bull (Kathiawar G.); khu~t.r.o entire bull used for agriculture, not for breeding (G.)(CDIAL 3899).

6. Word value and sound value for each glyph

The sound value – as recorded in dictionaries
in many Bharatiya languages --
is given to both the picture or sign and
a similar-sounding word (called homonym)
whose substantive meaning conveys the message
of the epigraph. I have used only words as spelt and
attested in Bharatiya language dictionaries. 
As an example of the problem in determining the
sound value for each sign, say about 5000 years ago,
the following example of etyma may be cited.
aduru = native metal (Kannada);
ajirda karba = very hard iron (Tulu);
ayir, ayiram = any ore (;
ayil = iron (Tamil)(DEDR 192).
atar fine sand (Ta.); aduru id. (Ka.)(Ta.lex.)
adaru a sparkle; dear, costly (Te.);
avir splendour (Ta.); ayir iron dust, any ore (Ma.)
(Ka.lex.) cf. aril small sharp pebble (Ta.)(DEDR 209).
From these lexemes, it is not possible to specify
the sound value which was in vogue in the past.
Since the word aduru is a homonym of
adar ‘brahmani bull or zebu’ in Santali,
I suggest that this sound value could represent
the pictorial of a zebu or brahmani bull.

Have you tried to correlate the words of the tablets with the material evidences of the respective sites ? Suppose it refers t to a copper smithy any copper objects or remnants of copper smithy etc are found in the related sites ?

I tried to correlate the words of the seals, tablets with the material evidences of the respective sites. Some of these seals have been found close to workers’ platforms, in Banawali in a gold-silversmith’s residence and in Padri (Gujarat) in a coppersmith’s residence. Many words are recorded on over 200 copper-bronze plate tablets. The functions served by workers’ platforms found at Harappa are not explicit; it appears that the central circle might have been used to stack up storage jars with ores. No copper or remnants of copper smithy have been found near these workers’ platforms; one archaeologist conjectures that these platforms could have been used for indigo making. These storage jars have a pointed end and could not have rested on flat ground. Many copper furnaces, special furnaces used for making terracotta bangles and for making pots have been discovered at specific sites. The archaeological reports from sites such as Mohenjodaro and Harappa attest to the fact that the objects with inscriptions or epigraphs have been found from all parts of the site, from what is called the ‘citadel’ area and also from what is called the ‘lower town’.

6. From the inscriptions the spoken language of the people following the metal smithy only can be known and this may not be the language of the elite and of the common people. of the Civilization.  Is this correct?

From the way the residential areas and work areas in the sites are laid out, there is little scope for conjecturing any hierarchy among the people of the civilization or even groups such as artisans or elite. The find of a statuette of an acharya wearing an uttariyam leaving the right-shoulder bare (similar to the pattern of uttariyam wearing in later days of Bharatiya culture), points to the respect accorded to an acharya. The finds of s’iva linga (3 at Harappa by MS Vats and one terracotta replica at Kalibangan) point to the worship of S’iva. Yes, from the 4,000+ epigraphs, only words related to metalsmithy can be known. Since these words are prevalent among many Bharatiya languages even today, it is reasonable to hypothesise that the 8,000 semantic clusters identified in the Indian Lexicon (The full list of the semantic clusters is at ) represent the language of the linguistic area. These groups of words with cognate meanings (hence, called semantic clusters) cover a wide range of life-activity, related to flora, fauna, birds, insects, animate phenomena: birth, body, sensory perceptions and actions, visual phenomena, forms and shapes, modes of worship, socio-cultural and kinship formations/interactions, identification of relatives in an extended joint family, numerals, numeration, mensuration, astronomical observations, economic court: natural phenomena, proucts of earth, building, infrastructure, work, skills, products of labour and workers (fire-worker, potter/smith/lapidary/weaver/farmer/soldier, language fields and commonplace action verbs such as ‘begin’, ‘block’, ‘rise’ and so on. It can be stated with confidence that there was a linguistic area during the mature phases of Sarasvati civilization and the semantic clusters continue to be used even today in many Bharatiya languages, pointing to a remarkable semantic unity and interactions among riverine/maritime people. This may explain why the glyphs (both pictures and signs) continue to be found on megalithic pottery motifs in Krishna and other southern bharat river valleys, not far from areas containing iron-ore and other mines. It may be seeen from the following map that the areas with mineral resources are cognate with the areas where the Austro-Asiatic or Munda languages or jaati bhaasha (what I call mleccha) were spoken. I suggest that this is the continuation of the Sarasvati river basin linguistic area as maritime-riverine people moved to search for new mineral resources and due to the desiccation of the river.


Pinnow-map of Austro-Asiatic language speakers


Bronze Age sites of eastern Bha_rata and neighbouring areas: 1. Koldihwa; 2. Khairdih; 3. Chirand; 4. Mahisadal; 5. Pandu Rajar Dhibi; 6. Mehrgarh; 7. Harappa; 8. Mohenjo-daro; 9. Ahar; 10.Kayatha; 11. Navdatoli; 12. Inamgaon; 13. Non Pa Wai; 14. Nong Nor; 15. Ban Na Di and Ban Chiang; 16. Non Nok Tha; 17. Thanh Den; 18. Shizhaishan; 19. Ban Don Ta Phet [After Fig. 8.1 in: Charles Higham, 1996, The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia, Cambridge University Press].

Ca.2000 BC, there were movements of people in search of minerals and metals. From Meluhha, there were copper mining and smelting expeditions to Oman. At Namazga IV-V (Turkmenia), a number of alloys were experimented with. (Kohl, P., 1984, Central Asia: palaeolithic beginnings to the Iron age, Paris, Editions Recherchedes Civilisations, p. 113, 169; Harappan artefacts are found at Altyn-depe in the latest levels; the suggestion is that ‘contact was strongest on the eve of the collapse of the site’). At Hissar were found arsenic-bronze, lead-bronze, lead, silver and gold. (Tepe Hissar III, 3rd millennium BCE.: a seal shows a four-spoke wheel). Jarrige reports the find of a vented furnace at Sibri. On the Baluchistan and Afghanistan border, Dales found ‘miles of slag and furnaces’ (Dales, G.F., 1973, Archaeological and Radioactive chronologies for protohistoric south Asia, in: South Asian Archaeology, N. Hammond ed., London, Duckworth, p. 167). The resource base is verily the nidhi of bharatiya bhashaa jnaana which can guide us to pursue studies in the evolutionary history related to every bharatiya language. It is apposite to record a tribute to the late Sudhibhushan Bhattacharya who initiated studies on Munda etymology , to the late Kuiper for his work on Nahali etymology and to the work of Norman Zide on Munda numerals. See full bibliography at

7. Why the term Hieroglyph is given ? For, Hieroglyph means ‘sacred writing.’  

Yes, the word is composed of two elements: hiero + glyph. Greek hierogluphikos : hieros mean ‘ holy’. The term hieroglyph, according to the Bartleby dictionary, has come to mean: “a picture or symbol used in hieroglyphic writing.” This has gained popularity after the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs which were used to record the property possessions of priests. A more appropriate word equivalent to the Bharatiya phrase (used by Vatsyayana), mlecchita vikalpa, is copper-worker glyptography (from Greek gluphclip_image009, carving, from gluphein, to carve.) This early writing system is related to metal workers of the civilization, starting from 6500 BCE when a wide cut bangle of s’ankha was found in a woman’s burial in Nausharo, 300 kms. north of Karachi. This s’ankha cutter is called s’ankha kr.s’a_na in Rigveda.

Why does the trough glyph denote a blacksmith, d.hangar?

Because, it is read rebus: d.angra_.

The depiction of a trough in front of wild animals such as tiger, elephant, rhinoceros is the clearest clue to glyphs of the writing system being hieroglyphs.

Vikalpa 1: d.a_ngra_ = a wooden trough just enough to feed one animal (Mundari); id.ankar..i = a measure of capacity; 20 id.ankar..i make a par-r-a (Malayalam) d.o~ga = trough, ladle (H.)(CDIAL 5568).

Vikalpa 2: it.ankaram = menses of a woman (Tamil)

clip_image010[4]One side of a prism tablet MD 602.

Vikalpa 3: it.ankar ‘crocodile, alligator’ (Tamil)

clip_image011One side of a prism tablet MD 602.

Vikalpa 3: d.anga_ = small country boat, dug-out canoe (Oriya); d.o~ga = canoe (H.)(CDIAL 5568)

rebus: d.hangar ‘blacksmith’ (H.); ‘a term of contempt for a blacksmith’ (Nepali).

clip_image012[4]m1138.clip_image0131344 clip_image014[3]h088clip_image015 m1166.clip_image016[4]1351  clip_image017h094clip_image018[2] m1152clip_image019[3]1369 clip_image0201804 clip_image021[4]Pict-39 Ox-antelope with a long tail; a trough in front. clip_image022

m1498Bctclip_image023[4]2917clip_image024 MS 4619, Pakistan, ca. 2200-1800 BCE White coated grey steatite, Mohenjo-Daro?, Indus Valley, Pakistan, ca. 2200-1800 BC, 1 round seal matrix, diam. 2,3×1,5 cm, 5 Indus Valley signs, bison left eating from a trough, with double loop handle.

clip_image025[4]Trough in front of wild-buffalo, B007.

Sign 1. bhat.a = warrior; bhat.a = kiln.


Bat.i = furnace for melting iron-ore (Santali) bhat.t.hi_ = a kiln, a furnace; an oven; a smith’s forge; a stove; the fireplace of a washer-man; a spirit still; a distillery; a brewery (G.); bhr.s.t.i = frying, fr. Bhrasj to fry (Skt.) bat.a = a type of iron (G.) bhat.a = a furnace, a kiln; it.a bhat.a = a brick kiln (Santali)

Fish glyphs shown with scales

Ma. Cūl.i scales of fish, skin of a jackfruit kernel; tūl.i id., husk. Tu. Cugul.i rind of a fruit or vegetable; cōli, sūli, (B-K. also) cūli skin, bark, rind (DEDR 2740).

Rebus: culli = furnace, kiln (Kannada), = potter’s kiln, furnace (Tamil); cul.l.a = potter’s furnace; cu_l.a = brick kiln (Malayalam); culli_ = fireplace (Skt.); culli_, ulli_ id. (Pkt.)(CDIAL 4879; DEDR 2709). Sulgao, salgao = to light a fire (Santali); hollu, holu = fireplace (Kuwi); sod.u = fireplace, stones set up as a fireplace (Mand.); ule = furnace (DEDR 2857).

There is a lexeme which connotes pan~caloha, an alloy containing five metals:: kol This word is represented rebus (lit. sounds like) by a tiger, kolhu-o (G.)

kol = pan~calo_kam (five metals); kol metal (Ta.lex.) pan~caloha = a metallic alloy containing five metals: copper, brass, tin, lead and iron (Skt.); an alternative list of five metals: gold, silver, copper, tin (lead), and iron (dha_tu; Na_na_rtharatna_kara. 82; Man:gara_ja’s Nighan.t.u. 498)(Ka.) kol, kolhe, ‘the koles, an aboriginal tribe if iron smelters speaking a language akin to that of Santals’ (Santali) kol = kollan-, (blacksmith or smith in general)(Ta.lex.) kollar = those who guard the treasure (Ta.lex.) cf. golla (Telugu) khol, kholi_ = a metal covering; a loose covering of metal or cloth (G.) [The semant. expansions to kolla_puri or kolha_pur and also to ‘kolla_ppan.t.i‘ a type of cart have to be investigated further].

kol ‘working in iron, blacksmith (Ta.); kollan- blacksmith (Ta.); kollan blacksmith, artificer (Ma.)(DEDR 2133)

kolime, kolume, kulame, kulime, kulume, kulme fire-pit, furnace (Ka.); kolimi furnace (Te.); pit (Te.); kolame a very deep pit (Tu.); kulume kanda_ya a tax on blacksmiths (Ka.); kol, kolla a furnace (Ta.) kole.l smithy, temple in Kota village (Ko.); kwala.l Kota smithy (To.); konimi blacksmith; kola id. (Ka.); kolle blacksmith (Kod.); kollusa_na_ to mend implements; kolsta_na, kulsa_na_ to forge; ko_lsta_na_ to repair (of plough-shares); kolmi smithy (Go.); kolhali to forge (Go.)(DEDR 2133).] kolimi-titti = bellows used for a furnace (Te.lex.) kollu- to neutralize metallic properties by oxidation (Ta.lex.) kol brass or iron bar nailed across a door or gate; kollu-t-tat.i-y-a_n.i large nail for studding doors or gates to add to their strength (Ta.lex.) kollan–kamma_lai < + karmas’a_la_, kollan–pat.t.arai, blacksmith’s workshop, smithy (Ta.lex.) cf. ulai smith’s forge or furnace (Na_lat.i, 298); smith’s forge; ulai-k-kur-at.u smith’s tongs; ulai-t-turutti smith’s bellows; ulai-y-a_n.i-k-ko_l smith’s poker, beak-iron (Ta.lex.) [kollulaive_r-kan.alla_r: nait.ata. na_t.t.up.); mitiyulaikkollan- perumpa_)(Ta.lex.) Temple; smithy: kol-l-ulai blacksmith’s forge (kollulaik ku_t.attin-a_l : Kumara. Pira. Ni_tiner-i. 14)(Ta.lex.) cf. kolhua_r sugarcane milkl and boiling house (Bi.); kolha_r oil factory (P.)(CDIAL 3537). kulhu ‘a hindu caste, mostly oilmen’ (Santali) kolsa_r = sugarcane mill and boiling house (Bi.)(CDIAL 3538).

kola_ burning charcoal (L.P.); ko_ila_ burning charcoal (L.P.N.); id. (Or.H.Mth.), kolla burning charcoal (Pkt.); koilo dead coal (S.); kwelo charcoal (Ku.); kayala_ charcoal (B.); koela_ id. (Bi.); koilo (Marw.); koyalo (G.)(CDIAL 3484). < Proto-Munda. ko(y)ila = kuila black (Santali): all NIA forms may rest on ko_illa.] koela, kuila charcoal; khaura to become charcoal; ker.e to prepare charcoal (Santali.lex.)

Grapheme: ko_lemu = the backbone (Te.)

kolma = a paddy plant (Santali) Rebus: kolime= furnace (Ka.)

clip_image027[4]2949 Dotted circles clip_image0282950 clip_image029[4]Rojdi

kolom = cutting, graft; to graft, engraft, prune; kolom dare kana = it is a grafted tree; kolom ul = grafted mango; kolom gocena = the cutting has died; kolom kat.hi hor.o = a certain variety of the paddy plant (Santali); kolom (B.); kolom mit = to engraft; kolom porena = the cutting has struck root; kolom kat.hi = a reed pen (Santali.lex.) cf. kolom = a reed, a reed-pen (B.); qalam (Assamese.Hindi); kolma hor.o = a variety of the paddy plant (Desi)(Santali.lex.Bodding) kolom baba = the threshed or unthreshed paddy on the threshing floor; kolom-ba_rum = the weight a man carries in taking the paddy from the threshing floor to his house; kolom = a threshing floor (Mundari); cf. (Tamil) [Note the twig adoring the head-dress of a horned, standing person]

ku_l.e stump (Ka.) [ku_li = paddy (Pe.)] xo_l = rice-sheaf (Kur.) ko_li = stubble of jo_l.a (Ka.); ko_r.a = sprout (Kui.) ko_le = a stub or stump of corn (Te.)(DEDR 2242). kol.ake,, the third crop of rice (Ka.); kolake, kol.ake (Tu.)(DEDR 2154)

clip_image030Glyph 123 and variants sal = splinter; wedge joining the parts of a solid cart wheel (Santali); rebus: sal = workshop (Santali)

One side of a triangular terracotta tablet (Md 013); surface find at Mohenjo-daro in 1936. Dept. of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.


kamad.ha, kamat.ha, kamad.haka, kamad.haga, kamad.haya = a type of penance (Pkt.lex.)

kamat.amu, kammat.amu = a portable furnace for melting precious metals; kammat.i_d.u = a goldsmith, a silversmith (Te.lex.) ka~pr.aut., kapr.aut. jeweller’s crucible made of rags and clay (Bi.); kampat.t.tam coinage, coin (Ta.)

kamat.ha_yo = a learned carpenter or mason, working on scientific principles; kamat.ha_n.a [cf. karma, ka_m, business + stha_na,, a place fr. Skt. stha_ to stand] arrangement of one’s business; putting into order or managing one’s business (G.lex.)


m305clip_image033[4] A person with a plaited pigtail, bangles/armlets on both hands from wrist to shoulder, seated in penance, with three faces, two stars on either side of the curved buffalo-horn and twig.

ad.ari small branches (Kannada); ad.aru twig (Tulu)(DEDR 67); ad.aruni = to crack (Malayalam) adar = splinter (Santali) 8657 pradará— m. ‘cleft in earth’ VS., ‘rout (of an army)’ MBh. [√dr̥̄] Pa. padara— n. ‘cleft, fissure, board, plank’ (patara– with t as Si. spelling for d as frequently in Si. inscr.: otherwise Trenckner Notes 6216, Geiger PLS 39); Pk. payara— m. ‘splitting, breaking’; K. paira, pör, °ra m. ‘fear, agitation’

rebus: adaru =native metal (Kannada) ‘harrow’ (Santali) [cf. harrow ligatured to water-carrier] Vikalpa 2: pasa_ iron ring through which plough iron is thrust; pa_sa_ lump of metal (H.); pa_s silver ingot, iron share of harrow (M.) Vikalpa 3: mai~d rude harrow or clod breaker (M.); maj harrow consisting of a log (K.); ma~j ladder (P.)(CDIAL 9755). Rebus: med. ‘iron’ (Mundari) Vikalpa 4: ku_t.a ploughshare (Pali)

Rebus: ku_t.aka (EI 5) prob. headman of the cultivators, as in: gra_ma-ku_t.a ‘village headman’. Sign 230 (54) Vikalpa 5: clip_image035[4]ku_t.amu = summit of a mountain (Te.lex.) Rebus: ku_t.akamu = mixture (Te.lex.) = workshop (Ta.) Vikalpa 6: gu_t.a a stump, stumpy, short, dwarfish (Kui) khut to be blunt, not pointed; kun a dwarf, to be hump-backed (Santali)

The five alternative vikalpa indicate the reason for many glyphs in the repertoire of the mlecchita vikalpa (writing system).

clip_image036Kalibangan053 The fig leaf on top of a summit may also be read in this context of smithy repertoire:

Sign 326 (35)clip_image037[4] occurs on copper tablets. Sign 327 (42)clip_image038 kamar.kom = fig leaf (Santali.lex.) kamarmar.a_ (Has.), kamar.kom (Nag.); the petiole or stalk of a leaf (Mundari.lex.) Vikalpa: kamad.ha ‘penance’ (Pkt.); rebus: ‘mint, coinage’ (Ta.)

clip_image039[4]m1405At Pict-97: Person standing at the center pointing with his right hand at a bison facing a trough, and with his left hand pointing to the sign clip_image040er-aka ‘upraised arm’ (Te.)

Glyphs for a furnace

kut.hi = furnace (Santali)

clip_image041[4]clip_image042clip_image043[4]kut.i = a slice, a bit, a small piece (Santali.lex.Bodding)

kut.i = a woman water-carrier (Te.)

clip_image044Seal impression, Ur (Upenn; U.16747); dia. 2.6, ht. 0.9 cm.; Gadd, PBA 18 (1932), pp. 11-12, pl. II, no. 12; Porada 1971: pl.9, fig.5; Parpola, 1994, p. 183; water carrier with a skin (or pot?) hung on each end of the yoke across his shoulders and another one below the crook of his left arm; the vessel on the right end of his yoke is over a receptacle for the water; a star on either side of the head (denoting supernatural?). The whole object is enclosed by ‘parenthesis’ marks. The parenthesis is perhaps a way of splitting of the ellipse (Hunter, G.R., JRAS, 1932, 476). An unmistakable example of an ‘heiroglyphic’ seal.

Two alternatives for reading the star glyphs on this hieroglyph seal impression found at Ur:

Vikalpa 1.

Rebus : Ta. tambira =copper (Pkt. tibira =merchant (Akkadian)

A. tirbir ‘sparkle’; H. M. tirmirī f. ‘giddiness’; H. tirmirānā ‘to be dazzled’; N. tirmir ‘dazzling light’, tirmirāunu ‘to be dazzled’ (CDIAL 5824).

Vikalpa 2. adaru = a sparkle (Te.); Ta. katir (-pp-, -tt-) to shine, glow, become manifest, abound, increase; n. ray of light, beam, light; katirppu radiance; katirava sun. Ma. katir ray; katiram beauty, radiance; katiravan sun; katirkka to shoot rays or looks, be radiant; katirmma shining, beaming. Ka. kadir ray of light, splendour; kadaru, kaduru lustre. (DEDR 1193). Other glyph: ad.aren ‘lid’ (Santali)

Rebus: aduru = gan.iyinda tegadu karagade iruva aduru = ore taken from the mine and not subjected to melting in a furnace (Ka. Siddha_nti Subrahman.ya’ S’astri’s new interpretation of the Amarakos’a, Bangalore, Vicaradarpana Press, 1872, p. 330); adar = fine sand (Ta.); ayir – iron dust, any ore (Ma.) Kur. adar the waste of pounded rice, broken grains, etc. Malt. adru broken grain (DEDR 134). Tu. gadarů a lump (DEDR 1196) kadara— m. ‘iron goad for guiding an elephant’ lex. (CDIAL 2711).

clip_image045[4]clip_image046h179B clip_image047[4]4307 Pict-83: Person wearing a diadem or tall head-dress standing within an ornamented arch; there are two stars on either side, at the bottom of the arch.

Kot Diji. Bovine (buffalo) depicted with long horns has a human face. Harappan period. Islamabad Museum. [Photo and drawing after Dept. of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Pakistan].

Other alternatives for reading the star glyph:

Vikalpa 3. ko_la = woman (Nahali); ko_l. = planet (Ta.) Rebus: kol ‘metal’ (Ta.) kod.u = horn. Rebus: kod. = artisan’s workshop (Kuwi)

Vikalpa 4. ta_mra dark red, copper-coloured (VS.); tamba red; copper (Pali)

ta_ra_ fixed star (Ya_j.)

Why wild-buffalo glyph?

2849 Pe. homa bison. Mand. hama id. Kui soma a wild buffalo [= bison]. Kuwi (Su.) homma bison; (F.) hōma sambar ( sic ). DEDS 454.

Rebus: soma ‘electrum, gold-silver compound’ (RV) (As interpreted by S. Kalyanaraman in 2006, Indian Alchemy, Soma in the Veda, Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal).

• The bunch of twigs = ku_di_, ku_t.i_ (Skt.lex.) ku_di_ (also written as ku_t.i_ in manuscripts) occurs in the Atharvaveda (AV 5.19.12) and Kaus’ika Su_tra (Bloomsfield’s ed.n, xliv. cf. Bloomsfield, American Journal of Philology, 11, 355; 12,416; Roth, Festgruss an Bohtlingk, 98) denotes it as a twig. This is identified as that of Badari_, the jujube tied to the body of the dead to efface their traces. (See Vedic Index, I, p. 177).

Ta. kulai (-pp-, -tt-) to shoot forth in a bunch (as a plantain); n. cluster, bunch (as of fruits, flowers); kulukku (kulukki-) to be full, abundant (Asher-Radhakrishnan, p. 65). Ma. kula bunch (esp. of coconuts and plantains, also of flowers); kulekka to bear fruit. To. kwïn bunch of fruit, esp. plantains. Ka. gole, gone cluster or bunch of fruits (plantains, mangoes, grapes, coconuts, etc.); konar(u) to get shoots, sprout; n. shoot, sprout, new branch. Kod. kola- (kolap-, kolat-) (plant) shoots against (one who planted it; in a proverb); kole bunch of plantains. Tu. gonè a bunch of fruits (as plantains, coconuts); (B-K.) kile, kīle a bunch. Te. gola a bunch, a cluster; gela a bunch. Kuwi (F.) gella bunch (of plantains)(DEDR 1810). kōraka— m.n. ‘bud’ R. (Tam. ‘sprout’, Kui kōl.u ‘bud’) EWA i 272] Pa. kōraka— m.n. ‘bud, sheath’; Pk. kōraya—, °rava– m.n. ‘bud’; Si. kuru ‘bud, tender leaves’. Addenda: kōraka— mukulayati ‘*blossoms’. 2. *mukurayati. 3. mukulāyatē. [mukulayati (tr.), °lāyatē (intr.) ‘closes (like a bud)’ Kāv., °litá— R., °lāyita— Kāv. ‘having blossoms’, mukurita— ‘id.?’ Pāṇ.gaṇa. (CDIAL 3527, 10147). Ta. Kor..untu tender twig, tendril, tender leaf, shoot, anything young, tender- ness; kol.s- to sprout ( Voc. 945); (Mu.) kol.k-ila new leaf; (Ko.) koli leaf-shoot ( Voc. 934); (Ma.) kodma male buffalo calf (< Te.). Kui newly sprouted, green, immature, unripe; kol.gari (pl. kol.gai) new shoot, fresh stalk, something green, immature, or unripe; kōl.u new shoot, fresh stalk, stem, or bud; new, green, immature; kōl.a a shoot, sprout, first sprout (of paddy after planting); kōl.a kol.a to sprout (of paddy); kōna bud; i sprout, offshoot; kul.a,, (Letchmajee) kl.uha wife. Kuwi (P.) kul.ia, (F.) kūria daughter-in-law; (&Dtod;.) kuva younger brother’s wife; (F.) khrogi kōma a soft twig (i.e. soft, young, tender; for kōma, see 2115); (&Ttod;.) young (of children); (Isr.) kl.ōgi immature, young. Kur. xōr leaf-bud, new leaves, fresh and tender leaves of vegetables; xōrnā (xūryā) to shoot out new leaves; korrā fresh (recently made, prepared, or obtained), pure. Malt. qóro infant, Indian corn when green; qóroce to sprout. Br. xarring to sprout; xarrun green, blue, black and blue; fruitful; xarrunī greenness; wife. Cf. 3650 Ta. nāy, for –kul.i, etc., in Konḍa, Kui, Kuwi. / Cf. Skt. kora-, koraka- bud (Turner, CDIAL, no. 3527); kul.aka- a new-born animal; kul.aka- child (epic; Burrow, Belvalkar Felicitation Volume, pp. 6 f.; cf. Turner, CDIAL, no. 3245); kudmala-, kudmala- filled with buds, bud (epic, kāvya; Turner, CDIAL, no. 3250); Turner, CDIAL, no. 3249, *kudma- bud. (DEDR 2129).

Ku. kol ‘womb’; A. kol, °lā ‘lap, hip on which children are carried’; B. kol ‘lap’, Or. koa; OMarw. kola m. ‘foetus’ (CDIAL 3607)

Ash. kū́l.Ə ‘child, foetus’, istrimalī—kul.ä́ ‘girl’; Kt. kŕū, kuŕuk ‘young of animals’; Pr. kyuru ‘young of animals, child’, kyurú ‘boy’, kurı̄́ ‘colt, calf’; Dm. kúŕa ‘child’, Shum. Kul.; Kal. kūŕ *l k ‘young of animals’; Phal. Kul.ī̆ ‘woman, wife’; K. kūrü f. ‘young girl’, kash. Kōl.ī, ram. Kul.hī; L. kul.ā m. ‘bridegroom’, kul.ī f. ‘girl, virgin, bride’, kul.ī f. ‘woman’; P. kul.ī f. ‘girl, daughter’, P. WPah. khaś. kul.i, cur. Kul.ī, cam. ko;l.ā ‘boy’, kuī ‘girl’ (CDIAL 3245). Kur..antai ‘child’ (Tamil) kola ‘woman’ (Nahali. Assamese).

Ta. kōl, kōlam raft, float. Ma. kōlam raft. Ka. kōl raft, float. Te. (B.) kōlamu id. / Cf. Skt., BHS kola- boat, raft, Pali kulla- id. (DEDE 2238). Pa. kulla— m. ‘raft of basket work, winnowing basket’ (CDIAL 3350).

Why is the hood of a snake ligatured like a tail of a composite animal?

clip_image048[4]m0571Bt clip_image0492913 Horned elephant.  Almost similar to the  composition: Body of a ram (with inlaid ‘heart’ sign),  horns of a bull, trunk of an  elephant, hindlegs of a tiger  and an upraised serpent-like tail 

clip_image050[4]m1175a clip_image0512493 Composite animal: human face, zebu’s horns, elephant tusks and trunk, ram’s forepart, unicorn’s trunk and feet, tiger’s hindpart and serpent-like tail.

clip_image052[4]m453BC clip_image0531629 Pict-82 Person seated on a pedestal flanked on either side by a kneeling adorant and a hooded serpent rearing up.

clip_image054[4]m0492Atclip_image055[4]m0492Bt Pict-14: Two bisons standing face to face.

clip_image056m0492Ct clip_image057[4]2835 Pict-99: Person throwing a spear at a bison and placing one foot on the head of the bison; a hooded serpent at left.

Because, kula_ connotes hood of a snake. Read rebus: kol ‘pancaloha’.

Vikalpa: A. kulā ‘winnowing fan, hood of a snake’ (CDIAL 3350)

Ta. kol (kolv-) to kill, murder, destroy, ruin, fell, reap (as the heads of grain), afflict, tease; n. act of killing, affliction; kolli that which kills; kolai killing, murder, vexation, teasing; kolaiñan, kolainan, kolai- van murderer, hunter. Ma. kolluka to kill, murder; kollikka to make to kill; kolli killing; kula killing, murder. Ko. kol act of killing. kol ga thief; kolgrn murderer. To. kwaly murder; murderous (in song, of buffalo, kite, dry season); who has died or is near death (in song, old man or woman); kwalyxn murderer; Ka. kol, kolu, kollu (kond-) to kill, murder; kolisu, kollisu, kolsu to cause to kill; kole killing, murder, slaughter; kolega murderer; kolluvike killing; kuli a killer. Ko. koll- (kolluv-, kond-) to kill. Tu. kolè murder. Kor. (M.) koru, (T.) kori, (O.) korru to kill. Te. (B.) kollu id.; kola sin, (K. also) murder, holocaust, enmity. Br. xalling to strike, kill, fire (gun), throw (stone); ? xal.l. pain, labour pains, colic (cf. Ta. kol affliction). DEDR 2132.

*kulla— 1 ‘neck, back, buttock’. Pk. kulla—, kōla— m. ‘neck’, kulla— m.n. ‘buttock’; L. kullhā m. ‘that part of a bullock’s hump on which yoke rests’; P. kullā m. ‘hip, buttock’; H. kulā m. ‘hip, buttock, waist’; G. kulɔ m. ‘hip, buttock’; M. kulā, kullā, °āā, kulhā, °āā m. ‘buttock’, kolẽ n. ‘hump of buffalo’. — B. kolā ‘having an inflated throat’? — Si. kulala ‘neck’? *kulla— 2 ‘defective’. (DEDR 3353).

Why is a woman ligatured to a tiger?


Because, kolhu-o (G.) kola ‘tiger’ is the phonetic determinant of the woman ‘kola’. Read rebus: kol ‘pancaloha’.

The decoding of ‘woman’ glyph on the tablet as a phonetic determinative of kol ‘tiger’ gains surprising validation from a ligatured terracotta image of a feline tiger with a woman’s face and headdress..

Feline figurine terracotta. A woman’s face and headdress are shown. The base has a hole to display it on a stick. (After JM Kenoyer/Courtesy Dept. of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Pakistan).

clip_image059[4]clip_image060[4]When a phoneme evokes more than one image, the artist who creates the glyptic representations uses ligatures. Thus, ko_la = woman (Nahali) kol = tiger (Santali). The representation in glyptic are yields a ligature of a woman and a tiger.

It appears that the person holding back the two rearing jackals on the tablet is a woman: ko_l ‘woman’ (Nahali); dual. ko_lhilt.el (Sudhibhushan Bhattacharya, Field-notes on Nahali, Ind. Ling. 17, 1957, p. 247); kola = bride, son’s (younger brother’s) wife (Kui) ko_l is a phonetic determinative of the two jackals, kol ‘tiger’; rebus: kol ‘metal’ (Ta.)

Another vikalpa is provided by the glyph of an adorant shown on seal m1186:


m1186 seal. kaula— m. ‘worshipper of Śakti according to left—hand ritual’, khōla—3 ‘lame’; Khot. kūra— ‘crooked’ BSOS ix 72 and poss. Sk. kōra— m. ‘movable joint’ Suśr.] Ash. kṓlƏ ‘curved, crooked’; Dm. kōla ‘crooked’, Tir. kṓolƏ; Paš. kōlā́ ‘curved, crooked’, Shum. kolā́ṇṭa; Kho. koli ‘crooked’, (Lor.) also ‘lefthand, left’; Bshk. kōl ‘crooked’; Phal. kūulo; Sh. kōlu̯ ‘curved, crooked’ (CDIAL 3533). 

Rebus: kol ‘pancaloha’ (Tamil)

The rice plant adorning the curved horn of the person (woman?) with the pig-tail is kolmo; read rebus, kolme ‘smithy’. Smithy of what? Kol ‘pancaloha’. The curving horn is: kod.u = horn; rebus: kod. artisan’s workshop (Kuwi)

The long curving horns may also connote a ram:

clip_image061h177Bclip_image062[4]4316 Pict-115: From R.—a person standing under an ornamental arch; a kneeling adorant; a ram with long curving horns.

The ram read rebus: me~d. ‘iron’; glyph: me_n.d.ha ram; min.d.a_l markhor (Tor.); meh ram (H.); mei wild goat (WPah.) me~r.hwa_ a bullock with curved horns like a ram’s (Bi.) me~r.a_, me~d.a_ ram with curling horns (H.)

The writing system, mlecchita vikalpa is all about the repertoire of a smith, smithy.

S. Kalyanaraman

29 June 2007

2 Responses to Mleccha written, read rebus

  1. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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