New findings raise an old question: Do South Indians belong to the Indus Valley Civilisation?
Around two kilometres away from the famous Vittala Temple in Hampi, Karnataka, [a]round 10 years ago, KM Metry, a Kannada University professor of Tribal Studies who was researching instances of human-bear conflict in the area and visiting sites in search of stone tools used by tribals of the olden days, was walking alone on this dirt road when he saw what he thought was a light scribble on a rock in the distance.
The Indus Valley Civilisation has puzzled archaeologists and researchers ever since it was first discovered in the early twentieth century. Who were these ancient people who lived along the Indus River between 3,300 and 1,300 BCE? What could have happened to the builders of perhaps one of the greatest ancient civilisations? Could they have been wiped out by a flood or a superior military force, as some researchers argue? Or did they abandon the northwest part of the subcontinent because the river they depended upon dried up, or changed course, to migrate to other parts like South India, as Metry suggests?
Most researchers have turned to the tiny symbols and inscriptions on the seals and tablets found at Indus Valley sites for answers to these questions. And therein lies the perplexity. So far, despite several attempts to study the 417 identified Indus Valley symbols that have been found on over 4,000 objects, no one has come close to deciphering the script. Objects bearing it have been found all over, from the Indus Valley sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa to far-off places in West Asia. Each object typically has five or six symbols, and these occur in various sequences. Some researchers have even claimed that the symbols do not represent a language at all, and are merely pictograms of political or religious icons.
The likes of Metry and Kangale claim that the ability to decipher the script has proven elusive because no one has attempted to study the script using Gondi symbols and language. They point out how many of the symbols in the script resemble those found in Ghotuls, the traditional learning centres for unmarried Gond youngsters found in some of their villages. They claim that the famous Pashupati seal with the figure of a man with horns echoes the old Gondi practice of wearing a crown of horns for religious occasions. “When you start looking at the script keeping in mind Gondi symbols, then everything becomes clear,” Kangale says. […]
The TIFR group under Vahia has also discovered two structures used for astronomy in the Indus Valley, proving for the first time that the civilisation was far from primitive in this field of exploration. The two circular structures, located exactly on the Tropic of Cancer, at Dholavira in Gujarat’s Kutch district, were initially thought to be servant’s quarters. “It is implausible that an advanced civilisation like the Indus Valley did not have any knowledge of astronomy,” Vahia says, seated in his office at TIFR, surrounded by shelves packed with books on the subject. “Yet, no one had ever discovered any evidence of it. These structures we discovered were probably useful to understand the time of the day and night, seasons, years, and perhaps even longer periods.” […]
Yadav says, “Gradually, we are learning to understand the structure of the Indus script. We don’t know what it means. We probably will never know what the symbols are telling us until we discover something like the Rosetta Stone [the stone with a decree inscribed in three scripts, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and ancient Greek, the discovery of which helped researchers translate Egyptian hieroglyphs]. But we are learning its structure, its patterns and sequences. We hope to, with our work, be able to help future attempts to interpret the language.” […]
Source: “The Eternal Harappan Script Tease” by Lhendup G Bhutia, OPEN Magazine, Archaeology, 28 November 2014
Date Visited: 19 February 2022
Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educators
Search tips: in the search field seen here, type the name of any tribal (Adivasi) community, region, state or language; add (copy-paste) keywords of special interest (childhood tribal education language sacred grove women); specify any issue you want to learn more about (biodiversity ecology ethnobotany health nutrition poverty), including rights to which Scheduled Tribes are entitled (Forest Rights Act Protection from illegal mining UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) | More search options >>
For a list of websites included in a single search, click here. To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find an Indian PhD thesis on a particular tribal community, region and related issues, click here >>
- Anthropology | Archaeology
- Biodiversity | Ecology and environment
- Crafts and visual arts | Fashion and design
- eBooks, eJournals & reports | eLearning
- Ethnobotany | Hyderabad biodiversity pledge
- Forest dwellers in early India – myths and ecology in historical perspective
- Health and nutrition | Recommendations by the Expert Committee
- History | Indus Valley | Megalithic culture | Rock art
- Misconceptions | Modernity
- Languages and linguistic heritage
- Map | Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups & Endangered languages
- Museum collections – general
- Museum collections – India
- Regions of India
- Revival of traditions
- Storytelling | Success story
- Tribal culture worldwide
- Tribal elders
- Video | “Nations don’t make us human – languages make us human”: Ganesh Devy