Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Hunt for the Rosetta Stone of the Indus Valley!!

 For Illustrative Purpose Only
THE ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and the Indus Valley civilization are considered to be the oldest of organized civilizations. Due to its massive monuments and a comparatively long reign the Egyptian civilization continues to leave on the face of the earth its traces in some of the most recognizable forms. The pyramids and the massive burial chambers and the wealth of artifacts discovered enshrined the civilization into the collective minds of humanity.

The Indus Valley civilization on the other hand was discovered purely by accident. It was during the laying of a railway line during the British times that perfectly fired bricks in huge quantities were discovered and reported. These were perfect as ballast for the railway tracks. An ancient historical site became a quarry for bricks!! Only when some intrepid archaeologists in the 1870s went and discovered some seals with various symbols did the interest in the civilization peak.

This interest was partly due to the excitement in the archaeological circles because the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were being confidently translated only in the last few decades. The key to this translation was a stone edict in three different languages which was rediscovered by a soldier who was a part of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. This stone with some other fragments turned out to be the key for translating the Egyptian hieroglyphs. During the Anglo-French wars, the stone was taken to England where it continues to be displayed in the British Museum almost continuously since 1802. It is the most visited artifact in the British Museum. The wonder and awe that the translated hieroglyphs generated in the general public and in the archaeological circles was beyond comparison. A lost civilization was speaking to the modern world. Those were the golden days of Egyptology.

In this charged climate, when another ancient language was discovered the interest among archaeologists was very high and the race to decipher the script was on. This enthusiasm met harsh reality. The Indus Valley civilization did not have enclosed sealed spaces such as the tombs of kings which yielded the bulk of the Egyptian artifacts. The civilization was a functioning efficient city made out of mostly mud and bricks. Utility and efficiency were the guidelines for the city and they will devoid of major architectural landmarks.  Most of the finer things in the cities would have long ago crumbled and would have been converted to dust. Most of the writings and the scripts discovered were only on various seals. These proved to be too little for any serious research.

Also, the language in question turned out to be very arcane and in the absence of a Rosetta Stone, a key or a clue that connected the ancient to the modern, the search for meanings of the ancient script turned out to be a frustrating endeavor. As of date, we do not have any means of deciphering what the ancient seals and symbols mean.

Between 400 and as many as 600 distinct Indus symbols have been found on seals, small tablets, ceramic pots and more than a dozen other materials, including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. Experts are currently at a loss as to how to progress in this matter.

What can be safely said is that this ancient language would have had some knowledge of it being passed down generation to generation. Computer models have opined that the script supported a phonetic spoken language. The language is expected to be Dravidian in nature. The presence of the many Dravidian languages not only in the southern India but also in Pakistan in the form of Brahui language does give credence to this theory.

Somewhere during the last 5000 years, either the language was lost naturally or some cataclysmic event could have led to all evidences of the translation of the language being lost. Students of ancient Indian sciences point out that the knowledge of the ancient sciences would have been coded in such an arcane language. It would have ensured that only a select few will have access thus ensuring secrecy and avoiding misuse.

What sciences would ancient India be proficient in? Why somebody like Alexander would come all the way to India? How the arcane knowledge of the Indus script turns out to be a major obstacle in the hunt for the sciences? How does Rudra, the right-hand man of Chandragupta Maurya and a disciple of Chanakya surmounts the odds and deciphers this script. To know more, read “The Indus Challenge”, a historical fiction coming soon to bookstores near you and available for pre-order on