Indus Script, the earliest writing system of South Asia, may even earliest in the World
Dr.Kalyanaraman’s Book Indus Script Cipher
(Review of First paperback printing edition published in July 2010)
Book Review by Prof. Shivaji Singh.
Former Head of the Department of Ancient History,Archaeology and Culture, University of Gorakhpur (India) Presently National President, ABISY
A real treat for everyone interested in the earliest writing system of South Asia
<Dr. Kalyanaraman’s book Indus Script Cipher (2010) comes as a luminous ray of hope that brushes aside the gloom hitherto prevailing in the field of Indus (or, rather, ) palaeography and epigraphy. Not only all efforts aimed at deciphering the script had failed, there were no signs of even a partial success in that direction. “It is sad to observe” wrote Gregory L. Possehl in 1996, “that, except for the concordances, we are no nearer a decipherment than G. R. Hunter was in 1929.” The situation had remained unchanged till today despite the efforts made by some scholars including N. Jha and N. S. Rajaram in the period following Possehl’s remark. Many a scholars had even started feeling that Indus inscriptions would perhaps never be read! It is a matter of pleasure to note that Kalyanaraman’s present book has succeeded in changing this pessimistic scenario.
It is well-known that very ancient writing systems are seldom alphabetic. They aremnemonic, pictographic, ideographic, logographic, etc., in pure or mixed forms. The scholars trying to decipher the Indus script did not pay due attention to this fact and seldom engaged in investigating the evolutionary level on which the Indus writing system was located. Debates about the script remained confined to whether the language of the Indus people was Proto-Dravidian, Early or Pre-Vedic Sanskrit, or Proto-Munda. The controversy about the Aryan Problem seems to have come in the way of a proper approach to Indus script decipherment.
The author of the Indus Script Cipher makes it very clear in the very beginning of thebook that no a-priori assumptions are made about ‘the theories related to invasionsand migrations or chronology of movements of people into or out of India which yielded the majority of Indus script inscriptions’. It is this capacity of the author to remain objective in an emotionally and politically charged atmosphere that has made this book a great success.
The author successfully demonstrates that the Indus writing uses the rebus method.It is a simple method used by several ancient writing systems that have evolved or are evolving beyond the pictographic stage. It is based on likeness of sound orhomophony. The figure of an ‘eye’ may be made for writing ‘I’ since ‘eye’ and ‘I’ are homophonous. Similarly, wavy lines may be drawn to indicate a ‘sea’ for writing the word ‘see’.
There are many features that make this book laudable. But, to my mind the mostnoteworthy (or rather praiseworthy) is the understanding of the term ‘mlechchha’ arrived at in this book. The author of the book, Dr. Kalyanaraman, has outwitted all subaltern historians by assigning a noble status to this term.
I am sure that Dr. Kalyanaraman’s name will go down the history and he will be remembered with reverence by future generations for this extraordinary contribution.