Colour of India

Colour of India

Wednesday, November 17, 2010




Dr Kalyanaraman says that Indus Script Decipherment is to find a solution to aq problem in cryptography (called mlecchita vikalpa in Sanskrit), like G. K Chesterton’s detective Father Brown; to decipher or, decode the GLYPHS to understand meanings of the messages conveyed by Indus writing on nearly 5000 inscriptions discovered and unearthed so far.

Father Brown is a fictional character created by English novelist Chesterton, who stars in 52 short stories, stories which were later compiled into five books. Chesterton based his character Father Brown on a parish priest in Bradford called Father John O'Connor (1870–1952), who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. The relationship between them was recorded by O'Connor in his 1937 book Father Brown on Chesterton.

Father Brown was a short, stumpy Catholic priest, “formerly of Cobhole in Essex, and working in London,” with shapeless clothes, a large umbrella and an uncanny insight into human nature in general and human evil in particular. Father Brown made his first appearance in the story “The Blue Cross” and continued through the five volumes of short stories, often assisted by the reformed criminal Flambeau. He also appeared in a story “The Donnington Affair” that had a rather curious history. In the October 1914 issue of the obscure magazine The Premier, Sir Max Pemberton published the first part of the story, inviting a number of detective story writers, including Chesterton, to use their talents to solve the mystery of the murder described. Chesterton and Father Brown's solution followed in the November issue. The story was first reprinted in the Chesterton Review (Winter 1981, pp. 1–35) and in the book Thirteen Detectives. Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown's methods tended to be intuitive rather than deductive.


Dr Kalyanaraman’s approach to Indus Script Decipherment is intuitive, inductive and deductive. According to him cypher uses a code and a code key to transform information. Cipher meaning the numeral 0 derives from Arabic word sifr (meaning nothing). Artisan – traders of ancient times created the cipher (variant spelling of the word, cypher) and their trade associates who received the messages could securely decipher the text of coded messages by performing an inverse substitution using the code keys: rebus. The idea of obscuring the messages so that it could not be read even if it were intercepted resulted in “cryptography”, Greek term for “hidden or secret writing”. The result was the development of “codes” or secret languages, and “ciphers”, or scrambled messages. A “code” is essentially a secret language invented to conceal the meaning of a message. The simplest form of a “code” is the “jargon code”, in which a particular arbitrary phrase or Glyph is used to substitute for the real intended message. This is very much comparable to “army codes” used to send concealed messages. According to Dr Kalyanaraman Glyph of a device is shown in front of a one-horned heifer in over 1300 inscriptions. (Note: Sangada, ‘lathe, portable furnace’: rebus: battle; rebus: Jangadiyo ‘military guard who accompanies treasure into the Treasury’ [Gujarati])

In cryptography, Kerckhoffs' principle (also called Kerckhoffs' assumption, axiom or law) was stated by Auguste Kerckhoffs in the 19th century: a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge.

Kerckhoffs' principle was reformulated (perhaps independently) by Claude Shannon as “The enemy knows the system.” In that form, it is called Shannon's maxim. In contrast to "security through obscurity", it is widely embraced by cryptographers.

In 1883 Auguste Kerckhoffs Niewenhof (1835-1903) wrote two articles in a journal called La Cryptographie Militaire in which he laid down the following six design principles for military ciphers. Translated from French, they are as follows:

1. The system must be practically, if not mathematically, indecipherable;
2. It must not be required to be secret, and it must be able to fall into the hands of the enemy without inconvenience;
3. Its key must be communicable and retainable without the help of written notes, and changeable or modifiable at the will of the correspondents;
4. It must be applicable to telegraphic correspondence;

5. It must be portable, and its usage and function must not require the concourse of several people;

6. Finally, it is necessary, given the circumstances that command its application, that the system be easy to use, requiring neither mental strain nor the knowledge of a long series of rules to observe.

Some of the above principles are no longer relevant given the ability of computers to perform complex encryption, but his second axiom, now known as Kerckhoffs' Principle, is still critically important. Stated simply, the security of a cryptosystem should depend solely on the secrecy of the key. Another way of putting it is that a method of secretly coding and transmitting information should be secure even if everyone knows how it works.

Based on Kerckhoffs' Principle, Dr Kalyanaraman states: “Let us assume that Indus writing is a cryptographic system using a Code (or algorithm or Code Key) that converts glyphs into text messages. Such A system should be secure even if everything about the system, except for the key is public knowledge. The KEY for the Indus script Cipher is Rebus using the language of the LINGUISTIC AREA OF INDIA. The underlying language whose GLOSSES are used in the KEY is MLECCHA (MELUHHA)”.

What is strikingly original and significant about Dr Kalyanaraman’s approach to decipherment of Indus Script Cipher is that he makes no a priori assumptions about either the direction of borrowings of words from one language family into other language family to prove or disprove the relative antiquity of languages of India or the theories related to invasions or migrations or chronology of movements of people into or out of ancient India which yielded the majority of Indus script inscriptions. The keys used by him are:

a) The Rebus Method attested in Sumerian and Egyptian hieroglyphs and

b) The Principle of linguistic area well-attested in world-wide language studies consistent with the historically attested presents of speakers of Mundra, Dravidian, and Indo-Aryan language families in contact with one another, resulting in a linguistic area of India. THIS CONTACT RESULTED IN GLOSSES OF MLECCHA.

I fully endorse the magisterial declaration of Dr Kalyanaraman in this context: “The result of the decipherment of Indus Script is the clear identification of LANGUAGE X; it is MLECCHA, which included Glosses common to 2 or 3 language families of the linguistic area.

Hieroglyphs, “Sacred Carving are characters made by graphical figures (Glyphs) be it animals, or objects. In the linguistic area of India, a synonym is Kundau to turn on a lathe, to carve (Santali); Kudar, Kudari (Bengali); Kotti ‘carver’ (Malayalam). The Indus artisan who invented or deployed many skills and techniques had also become a writer or engraver using Indus script Cipher.

According to Dr Kalyanaraman, the 2 swastika seals exhibited in the British Museum represent the quintessence of the form and purpose of Indus script inscriptions. The landmark work by Thomas Wilson of the Library of Congress reviewed the History of this Glyph and concluded that it represented an object. This glyph has been decoded Rebus as representing Zinc Ore (Zinc Sulphide or Zinc Oxide) which, as an alloying mineral ore, added lustre and shine to the brass alloy giving it a golden appearance. This Glyph is inscribed on over 50 inscriptions, on seals, molded tablets, metal objects and copper plates. A Swastika seal also appears in Altyn-tepe close to the Caspian Sea in a long distance, Archaeologically attested, trading context. The Glyph appears in combination with other Glyphs such as elephant, tiger, drummer, endless-knot motif, reinforcing the hieroglyphic nature of the script and the Rebus reading method used for the decipherment of the Indus script. This Glyph had gained great significance as a sacred Glyph which, in the Indian tradition, is drawn on a site before constructing a fire-altar for performing yajna and on Temple walls. The importance assigned was equaled by the function Zinc ore performed in a casting process to lend gleam and shine to the brass alloy artifacts such as vessels, cruise or goblets.

Against this general background, Dr Kalyanaraman has described the method of Semantic Clustering to define Indian linguistic area as follows: “From the Glosses of the comparative Indian Lexicon of over 25 ancient languages of India, phonetic variants of photo-Indic Glosses or Glosses of the Indus language can be clearly identified with Semantic Clusters which are groups of words with similar vocabulary and similar ‘meanings’. These complement the Isogloss bundles which reinforce the Indian linguistic area and the language families in contact in the area and provide basic resources for studying history of language changes. ”

The proto-Indic Glosses relate to the underlying language of Indus script Glyphs which are composed and written in a variety of materials such as turbinella pyrum (chank), metallic objects such as ingots, daggers, gold pendants, seals, tablets, pottery and even on a massive Dholavira sign board on the citadel gateway.

Dr Kalyanaraman has rightly concluded: “Indus script conveyed messages of artisans --- lapidaries, mine-workers, masons, carpenters and smiths. The message related to the repertoire of techniques and materials used by the artisans constituting veritable professional calling cards of artisan guilds or advertisement bulletin boards (as in the case of Dholavira sign-board) of products and services of their enterprise. Evidence from ancient texts and Mesopotamian documents attest this proto-Indic language as MELUHHA (Mleccha). The artisans who invented lapidary and metallurgical techniques also invented a hieroglyphic writing system. ”

The use of Rebus Method to match sound values (words, morphemes or phonemes) to Glyphs was well-attested in contemporary civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria --- of periods prior to Second Millinnium BCE. Sumerian script was phonetized using the Rebus Method. Rebus is a graphemic expression of the phonetic shape of a word or a syllable. Rebus uses words pronounced alike (homophones) but with different meanings. What is most exciting in Rebus Method is a variation of the pun. In Rebus Method of writing, a pun is created by using (writing) pictures to evoke a sound that is identical or similar to a word or a word part (morpheme or phoneme).

The principle of Rebus Method is adopted in Sumerian, Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Indian Hieroglyphs as picture writing to denote sounds of an underlying language. What distinguishes the Egyptian Hieroglyphs from the Sumerian and Indus script Hieroglyphs? In the case of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, the underlying sounds of language are consonant clusters (syllables) but in the case of Sumerian and Indus script Hieroglyphs, the underlying sounds of language are mostly WORDS, rendering the Sumerian and Indus scripts LOGOGRAPHIC.

In the first Century before the Christian Era, when the Romans came to Egypt, they found the Nile Valley full of strange little pictures which seemed to have something to do with the history of the country. But the Romans were not interested in “anything foreign” and did not inquire into the origin of these queer figures which covered the walls of the temples and the walls of the palaces and endless reams of flat sheets made out of the papyrus reed. The last of the Egyptian priests who had understood the holy art of making such pictures had died several years before. Egypt deprived of its independence had become a store-house filled with important historical documents which no one could decipher and which were of no earthly use to man of beast.

Seventeen centuries later when the Rosetta Stone --- a slab of black basalt ---was discovered, it was very different from anything that had ever been discovered. It carried three inscriptions. One of these was in Greek. The Greek language was known. It was given to Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) to state at the beginning of his search: “All that is necessary is to compare the Greek text with the Egyptian figures, and they will at once tell the secret.”

The plan sounded simple enough but it took more than 20 years to solve the riddle. In 1823, Champollion announced, after carefully comparing the Greek and Egyptian texts of the famous Rosetta Stone, that he had discovered the meaning of 14 little figures. He announced that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs. He also came to the historic conclusion that the Egyptian Writing System was a combination of Hieroglyphic, Hieratic and Demotic writings.

The term ‘Hieroglyphic’ means literally “sacred carvings” and derives its name solely from the fact that in the latest times it was almost exclusively employed for the inscriptions graven on temple walls. It is now applied, however, to all Egyptian writing which is truly pictorial, ranging from the detailed, brightly coloured signs found adorning the tombs to the abbreviated specimens written with a reed-pen in papyri of religious content. ‘Hieroglyphic’ is, of course, the original variety of Egyptian writing out of which all the other kinds were evolved; sometimes it reads from top to bottom, sometimes from right to left, but sometimes also left to right, this being the form adopted in printed grammars; when the writing is from right to left the signs face towards the right.

The term Hieratic’ was given to the style of writing employed by the priestly scribes for their religious books. This is a derivative of the abbreviated ‘Hieroglyphic’ referred to in the previous paragraph, but Egyptologists have extended the use of the term to several still more shortened varieties of script found in literary of business texts; ligatures, i.e., signs joined together, are frequent and in the most cursive sort all but the initial signs are apt to be reduced to mere strokes. For scholarly convenience ‘Hieratic’ is customarily transcribed into ‘Hieroglyphic’, though this practice becomes well-nigh impossible in extreme cursive specimens. The direction of writing is normally from right to left.

For the third kind of Egyptian writing, called Enchorial “native” on the Rosetta Stone by Egyptian scholars and Epistolographic “letter-writing” by Clement of Alexandria, modern scholars have retained Herodotus’s name Demotic “popular”. This ‘Demotic’ was evolved out of ‘Hieratic’ only about the time of the Ethiopian Dynasty from c700 BC. It presents many peculiarities and demands intensive specialist study. In the Ptolemaic and Roman Ages it was the ordinary writing of daily life and its range of employment is best described as non-religious.

Another factor that assisted in the evolution was the writing surface involved. ‘Hieroglyphic’ was essentially monumental, cut into stone with a chisel or painstakingly executed in ink or paint upon carefully prepared walls. ‘Hieratic’ was practically as old as ‘Hieroglyphic’, but was employed like ‘Demotic’, for writing on papyrus, on wooden boards covered with stucco wash, on potsherds or on fragments of limestone.

When Christianity began to supersede Pharaonic Paganism, a medium more easily intelligible became necessary for the translations of Biblical texts. That was the reason for the introduction ofCoptic’, which became the latest phase of the Egyptian language.

It was only through Champollion’s discovery in 1823 that an orderly and historically accurate picture of the Ancient Egyptian civilization became possible. Dr Kalyanaraman has very effectively used the Rebus Method of Champollion for effectively decoding the Indus Glyphs.

Besides he has also complemented and supplemented it with the Method of Areal Linguistics Aelucidated by Lyle Campbell. In a path-breaking Monograph on Areal Linguistics (2006), Lyle Campbell has stated that there is no meaningful distinction between Borrowing and Areal Lingusitics, or between what was inherited from what was diffused and that it would be necessary to provide a historical account of language changes.

Greatly influenced by the approach and insight of Areal Lingusitics of Lyle Campbell, Dr Kalyanaraman has presented his decryption of Indus script Cipher as an investigation of the facts of linguistic diffusion in the Archaeological context of finds exceeding 4000 inscriptions over the Sarasvati-Sindhu (Sarasvati-Indus) River Basins which is variously called a Sprachbund, linguistic diffusion area, convergence area or areal type”.

In his landmark work of Indus Script Cipher, Dr Kalyanaraman has carefully analyzed and proved that Indian Linguistic Area (also called South Asian Linguistic Area) shared not just lone words, but also shared Phonological, Morphological, Syntactic Traits which are structural features of languages or language families of the Geographical Area defined by the Indus (also referred to Sarasvati-Sindhu) Civilization.

In the light of this detailed and acute analysis Dr Kalyanaraman comes to this original and brilliant conclusion: “Indian or South Asian Linguistic Area is composed of languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Munda and Tibeto-Burman Language Families. … The sum of Borrowings of Structural Features (matched by shared Glosses) among Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Munda Language Families is clearly established in cultural contact situations, and contingent historical events starting from the days of Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization. One such historical, socio-cultural-economic or political economy event stands out: The continued use of Indus Script Glyphs on punch-marked coins over the entire Indian Linguistic Area.”

Dr Kalyanaraman endorses the approach of Mahadevan and Parpola on their use of the Rebus Method for decoding Glyphs of Indus Script but completely disagrees with them on the religious overtones they strenuously notice in the Indus inscriptions and Glyphs on the one hand and their attempt to assign grammatical morph and phonetic values to such Glyphs.

Dr Kalyanaraman has raised this question in this context. Since Parpola and Mahadevan assign the ‘Murukan’ value to different signs, who is right about the identification of a glyph to denote ‘Murukan’? Parpola or Mahadevan?

Avoiding such tortuous paths, Dr Kalyanaraman presents an alternative straight-forward Rebus Decoding of the select Glyphs by avoiding the diversionary paths of special pleading. Instead he uses Glosses of the Indian Linguistic Area which semantically cluster into repertoire --- products and skills of artisans and thus justifies the use of inscriptions directly in a trading context without suggesting occurrence of any names of people, places or deities. Thus, Dr Kalyanaraman’s decryption of Indus Script Cipher of Hieroglyphs of Indian Linguistic Area avoids the pitfalls of many past decipherment claims.

What I found most interesting is the reason given by Dr Kalyanaraman for choosing an inscribed object as the unit of analysis. To quote the words of Dr Kalyanaraman: “We have to be very cautious in interpreting the individual signs and individual pictorials; because, given the small size of the corpus, virtually ANY lexemic or phonemic or even artistic (cultural) value may be assigned and ANY language may be read into the inscriptions, if inscriptions they are, ‘readable’ in a language and do not merely represent artistic extravaganzas. Total objects presented in Purpola pictorial corpuses and Mahadevan concordance are a statistically small population, further fragmented due to the 400 to 500 signs (including variants and ligatures of basic signs) and over a 100 (including variants and pictorial ligatures yielding the so called ‘fabulous’ animals categories) signs. Thus, statistical stratification techniques assuming a normal distribution of population cannot provide statistically verifiable results. Hence, AN INSCRIBED OBJECT IS THE UNIT OF ANALYSIS.”

To sum up, this is the basic thesis of Dr Kalyanaraman:

1. There is no doubt that the Harappans were literate or had at least a literate social class. There are abundant examples of their script to verify this, but as yet not a single word can be rea

2. We know virtually nothing of the structure of the language nor do we even know to which linguistic family it belongs.

3. After surveying more than 100 claims of decipherments Gregory L. Possehi concluded that the writing system of Indus Valley Civilization remains undeciphered.

4. The Glyphs of Bos-Indicus and Fish are decoded and read Rebus as ‘Mleccha’ words denoting an artisan guild, in the context of recent discoveries of early iron-working in the civilization interaction area and many types of stone-beads made by lapidaries.

5. The continuity of the Sarasvati-Sindhu Civilization is the keynote which is affirmed by the postulation of an ‘Indian Linguistic Area’. (Kuiper 1948 and 1967, Emeneau 1956, Masica 1971, Southworth 2005)

6. 80 Years ago, Przyludski had noted non-Aryan loans in Indo-Aryan lamguages.

7. The language of the Indus writing system is hypothesized to be a proto-version of the Indian Linguistic Area or ‘Sprachbund’ (Indian Language Union).

8. One or more languages of India are likely to retain the glosses of the Indian language union. Glosses which are common to two or more of the language families --- Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Mundarika, Tibeto–Burman --- are likely to relate to the Indian language union.

9. The pictorial motifs used on inscriptions and script signs (most of which pictographic) are treated as logographs and read Rebus, using these glossed.

10. The sound value and substantive meaning value of the Homonymous Glosses relate to one semantic category: Metallurgy.

11. The decoding of the seals showing the Bos-Indicus points to the possibility that the inventors of early Metallurgy were also inventors of the Indus writing system.

12. Fifty (50) epigraphs of the civilization showing Bos Taurus Indicus which has been decoded as a Hieroglyph denoting in Mleccha a metal-smithy guild. This reference to a community through a glyph is indicative of the early guild working in the civilization.

Based on his analysis going through the Rebus path, Dr Kalyanaraman makes us understand that a language is only in part an individual instrument. It is in the main a community instrument used for community purposes. As such, a language tends to launch out on a career of its own, to which individuals --- traders, artisans, workers, and men belonging to different occupational groups --- contribute very much as the coral instinct contributes to the growth of a coral reef or island across centuries and vast expanses of Time.

Language has been the master tool which man who in his endless adventure after knowledge and power has shaped for himself, and which in its turn, has shaped the human mind as we know it. It has continuously extended and conserved the store of knowledge upon which mankind has drawn. It has furnished the starting point of all our science. It has been the instrument of social cohesion and of moral law, and through it human society has developed and found itself. Language, indeed, has been the soul of Mankind. In short, language is the house of BEING.

All of us are sensitive to the beauty of language. It will not be too much to state that some aspects of this beauty are shared by linguistic sciences. But one may ask the question as to the extent to which the quest for beauty is an aim in the pursuit of linguistic science. My answer to this question is this. A linguistic scientist like Dr Kalyanaraman does not study language because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If language were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing and life would not be worth living. I mean, the intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts and which a pure intelligence can grasp. It is because simplicity and vastness are both beautiful that a linguistic scientist like Dr Kalyanaraman seeks by preference simple facts and vast facts. He seems to be taking delight, now in following the giant courses of the stars of multiple cultures and civilizations across centuries, now in scrutinizing with a microscope that prodigious smallness which is also a vastness, and, now in seeking multiple ages through the traces of the past that attracts him because of its remoteness.

To Conclude, Dr Kalyanaraman has produced a pioneering work which enables us to find our footsteps for deciphering the intractable Indus script. Max Muller, the Philologist declared, “Language is the Rubicon that divides Man from beast.” The boundary between the human and animal --- between the most primitive savage and the highest ape --- is the language line. The birth of language is the dawn of humanity, in our Beginning was the Word. Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher, wrote: “The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” Without the Word we are imprisoned; possessing the word we are set free. The individual and community importance for language was brought out by William Gibson in his play ‘The Miracle Worker’ where he has described what happened when Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s first teacher) first met Helen’s mother:

Mrs Keller: What will you try to teach Helen first?
Anne Sullivan: First, last, and in between, language.
Mrs Keller: Language?

The miracle that Anne Sullivan worked was to give Hellen Keller language for only language could transform a small animal that looked like a child, a Kuntu, into a human being, a Muntu. Day after day, Month after month, Anne Sullivan spelled words into Helen’s hands. Finally, when Helen was 7 years old and working with her teacher in the presence of water, she spoke her first word. Years later, Helen Keller described that moment in ‘The Story Of My Life’ (1902):

“Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant that wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free. … I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name and each name gave it a new thought.”

Dr Kalyanaraman, who has the full Blessings and Benedictions of Goddess Sarasvati, has achieved the same effect in respect of his readers’ vis-à-vis the Indus Script Cipher what Anne Sullivan achieved in respect of Hellen Keller. I felt the same way after reading every page of Dr Kalyanaraman’s magnificent work ‘INDUS SCRIPT CIPHER’. The measure of the success of a new scientific theory is, in fact, a measure of its aesthetic value, since it is a measure of the extent to which it has introduced harmony in what was before chaos. Dr Kalyanaraman has introduced such a harmony into the darkest recesses relating to the decipherment of the Indus script. This is not the End. This is not even a Beginning of the End. This is only the End of the Beginning.

Let me pay my tribute to Dr Kalyanaraman in the immortal words of John Keats:
“Beauty is Truth

Truth Beauty - That is all
Ye Know on Earth,
And all ye need to know”