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Placeholder for Saraswati-Sindhu script

This is a placeholder post for various references and resources related to Saraswati-Sindhu Script.

Dr Kalyanaraman-ji’s work:






Varnam’s posts and research:






Asko Parpola’s works:



Please feel free to add any other links (to articles/documents) that you may be aware of – using the comments form below.


Related Post: Breaking the code: the Sarasvati-Sindhu Script

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July 5th, 2009 Posted by | Ancient Indian History, Distortions, Misrepresentations about India, Indian History | 21 comments


  1. Some of you will find this interesting:

    Can Computers Decipher a 5,000-Year-Old Language? by David Zax

    Comment by B Shantanu | July 20, 2009

  2. In a paper which renders the issue of ‘illiteracy’ moot or of little practical value, Kalyanaraman has claimed that the script was used for smith guild tokens encoding speech repertoire of smiths and that the legacy of the writing system continued in mints which issued punch-marked coins during the historical periods using Indus script glyphs. The paper also reiterates that the critique of Massimo Vidale has not so far been answered by the ‘Harappan illiteracy’ proponents.

    The paper can also be downloaded from here

    Comment by B Shantanu | August 5, 2009

  3. Some more research from Dr Kalyanaraman:

    Decoding Indus Script – Mleccha, mlecchita vikalpa in Sarasvati hieroglyphs


    Ppt slides

    Abstract of Lecture at Rojah Muthiah Library at 5 PM on 26 February 2009 by S. Kalyanaraman

    Script is decoded as sarasvati hieroglyphs composed of all pictorial motifs — over 100 — and signs — over 400 – and read rebus in mleccha vācas (as distinct from arya vācas — Manu). The context is: miners’ and smiths’ repertoire (not unlike the viśwakarma working on utsava bera in Swamimalai following the cire perdue technique of Sarasvati civilization bronzes or asur/agaria working in iron ore smelters in Ganga basin of 18th century BCE).

    Sarasvati hieroglyphs are in mleccha, mlecchita vikalpa (Vatsyayana). Hypothesis posited: Language X + Proto-Munda = Proto-mleccha (with borrowings in Sarasvati Linguistic Area).
    Rebus readings of almost all glyphs (pictorial motifs as well as signs) relate to mine workers’ and metalsmiths’ repertoire. The writing system is a vikalpa (alternative representation) of their vernacular, mleccha, cognate: meluhha. Presented in 15 e-books at http://sites.google.com/site/kalyan97

    In view of the essentially pictographic nature of the writing system, the presentation is made in three parts:
    a. monograph on vernacular (deśī), the linguistic area and the continuity of proto-mleccha vernacular; structure and semantics of hieroglyphs of mlecchita vikalpa, the decoded writing system;
    b. powerpoint slides with selected glyphs and readings; and
    c. Epigraphica Sarasvati of about 4000 inscribed epigraphs on photo albums. http://sites.google.com/site/kalyan97/epigraphica-sarasvati

    Two fundamental questions should be researched further:
    1. the continuity of the civilization evidenced by cultural markers all over India and the neighbouring regions;
    2. the formation and evolution of languages in a linguistic area of the Sarasvati civilization continuum in India, proved by the decoding of the Indus script (Sarasvati hieroglyphs).


    Separately from a blog post by Jayasree :

    …This finding makes me recall some instances from the past. One is from Valmiki Ramayana wherein Hanuman debates within himself on what language he could speak to Sita who was languishing in the Ashoka vana. Should I speak in the language of the learned persons (in Sanskrit) or speak in the language of common persons, Hanuman asked himself.

    Sanskrit was the language of education and was used in discourses on intellectual stuff. This existed in written form. But the dialect spoken by people was different and it was not given a written form. We come to know from Megasthanes that transactions were done orally. There was no habit of recording or writing anything in trade. It was because people adhered to word of mouth and rarely indulged in cheating. Wherever writing was done it was done in Sanskrit. But the common dialect that people spoke was not given a written form.

    This had existed till the times of onset of Jain and Buddha culture. The Jains were the forerunners in giving written form to spoken language of the commoner. In a scenario dominated by Sanskrit based Vedic religion, the Jains wanted to reach out to the common man. They could reach him easily only by speaking his language and making him read their views in the language they speak.

    The earliest books written in language other than Sanskrit were by Jains. They were in Prakrith. The earliest Jain book of astrology is ‘Surya Pragnapti’ which was an adaptation of Lagadha’s Rig Jyothisha. This was in ‘Arthamagadhi Prakrith’. Lagadha’s Jyothisha was written when the sun entered Dhanishta in uttarayana. Jain’s Surya pragnapthi has the sun entering Abhijit in uttarayana!

    That means this book of the Jains was written when Abhijith was still part of the sky. Abhijit is placed in between Utthradam and ThiruvONam (shravaNa). Abhijit was part of the sky until Mahabharatha times. Even if we want to discount the existence of abhijith for lack of evidence now astronomically, we can still enumerate the period of this book. This book was written when the sun entered uttarayana at a point left of Shravana star. Today the sun enters uttarayana in Moola star. The time gap can be ascertained and it is possible to find the time of Surya pragnapti from this. That time is when the spoken language of the people of most of Bharatham was given a written form.
    From Prakrit, other Indian languages sprang with a written libi.

    But Tamil was a case apart from all these.
    When Mahabharatha war happened, Tamil was already there in written form supported by the sophistry of a well developed Grammar. A verse on the praise of the Cheran king who supplied food to the armies engaged in Mahabharatha war is found in PurananUru. Another verse is about the Pandyan king who lived in the now- submerged landmass, south of present day Kanyakumari. Tamil was referred to as “Agastheeyam” in one of Srivaishnava books (Acharya Hrudhayam) Agastheeyam is said to be a grammar work of Tamil done by sage Agasthya. This sage is also said to have given a written form to Tamil.

    That means Tamil had once existed as a spoken language among the masses. There are however many Sanskrit terms in Tamil (eg daanam, thavam) as part and parcel of Tamil language itself. Unless Tamil had co-existed along with Sanskrit, this can not have happened. The aiding tool for this combination is Hindu dharma or Sanatana Dharma as it was the only dharma prevalent everywhere in those days. Since the Tamil lands were stretched far down the South and were part of a huge landmass connecting Africa and Australia, my guess is that Tamil was a spoken language in that part of the world.

    Coming to the findings of Dr S.Kalyanaraman, he has pointed out an interesting similarity in the writing on metallurgy and of artisans of India in those days. The cast for making statues (utsava bhEra) recovered from Harappan sites (Saraswathy sites) are the same as what the Vishwakarmas settled near Swamimalai in Tamil nadu do today! It was because there was a single cult of Vishwakarma, a single cult of Maya followed by artisans all through the Ithihasic and Puranic times.

    As such, these informations are not news to me! Without even going into research of this kind, we can say everything about the antiquity and unanimity of Bharatheeya culture just from our arm chairs with the help of Ithihasas, Puranas, Samhitas and a host of other texts given by Maharishis.

    Comment by B Shantanu | August 14, 2009

  4. “Since Tamil lands stretched far down south and were a part of a huge landmass connecting Africa and Australia”

    This statement is an anachronism. The continental drift that split the various land masses from the one large continent called pangea happened some 400 million years ago.

    India split from the southern portion of what is now Africa around 55 million years ago. (This is known by the dating of the Himalayas).

    However , man , as a species separate from other primates has only existed on this earth around one million years. Of this, civilization existed only for the last 10,000 years. So the contention that Tamil was a language spoken in the entire southern hemisphere is inaccurate to say the least.

    Secondly, Tamil’s borrowings from Sanskrit as evidence of them coexisting at the same time and/or originating at the same time. That is like saying English originated at the same time as Latin since there are so many latin terms in it. One interesting note is that while Tamil has many sanskrit words, the reverse is not true–we do not find Tamil words in Sanskrit very often.

    Let us look at what the facts tell us. The oldest literature in Tamil (of the Sangam period) dates back two thousand years–approximately the beginning of the common era (exact dates betw. 3rd Century BCE and 3rd Century A.D). Since the language was highly developed, it is assumed that it had a longer history.

    In comparison, the Rg Veda originates, even when conservatively dated, 1500 BCE. Even by conservative estimates, that is at least a 1000 years before the appearance of Tamil literature. Since the literature of the Vedas is also highly developed we have to assume an older history for the language. If we use the internal evidence of the Rg Veda (i.e cosmology, astromical positions of stars), the Rg Veda can even be dated anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 years old (depending on the scholar).

    It is almost a truism accepted in India that Tamil is the oldest language. But is it really true?

    Here is an article on the dating of the Mahabharata War by a fairly respected scholar.

    Comment by K. Harapriya | August 19, 2009

  5. Markov model of the Indus script

    Rajesh P. N. Raoa,1, Nisha Yadavb,c, Mayank N. Vahiab,c, Hrishikesh Joglekard, R. Adhikarie, and Iravatham Mahadevanf
    aDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195; bDepartment of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai 400005, India; cCentre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, Mumbai 400098, India; d14, Dhus Wadi, Laxminiketan, Thakurdwar, Mumbai 400002, India; eInstitute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai 600113, India; and fIndus Research Centre, Roja Muthiah Research Library,
    Chennai 600113, India


    Although no historical information exists about the Indus civilization (flourished ca. 2600–1900 B.C.), archaeologists have uncovered about 3,800 short samples of a script that was used throughout the civilization. The script remains undeciphered, despite a large number of attempts and claimed decipherments over the past 80 years. Here, we propose the use of probabilistic models to analyze the structure of the Indus script. The goal is to reveal,
    through probabilistic analysis, syntactic patterns that could point the way to eventual decipherment. We illustrate the approach using a simple Markov chain model to capture sequential dependencies between signs in the Indus script. The trained model allows new sample texts to be generated, revealing recurring patterns of signs that could potentially form functional subunits of a possible
    underlying language. The model also provides a quantitative way of testing whether a particular string belongs to the putative language as captured by the Markov model. Application of this test to Indus seals found in Mesopotamia and other sites in West Asia reveals that the script may have been used to express different content in these regions or unreadable signs on damaged objects can be filled in with most likely predictions from the model. Taken together, our results indicate that the Indus script exhibits rich synactic structure and the ability to represent diverse content. both of which are suggestive
    of a linguistic writing system rather than a nonlinguistic symbol system.

    Published in Proceedings in National Academy of Sciences 2009. USA.

    This is very good science, if you can go thru this site above. It is very difficult to understand for those not conversant with Markov maths. They recently published in the journal Science and some more is probably in the offing.

    Comment by gajanan | August 19, 2009

  6. Harapriya and Gajanan: Thanks for the links and comment.

    Harapriya: Interesting question about Tamil. I don’t know. Perhaps other readers would wish to comment?

    Comment by B Shantanu | August 21, 2009

  7. Here is a good link on the latest archaeological findings.


    Comment by K. Harapriya | August 22, 2009

  8. Pl. read Varnam’s latest post The Markov Model of Indus Script

    Comment by B Shantanu | September 14, 2009

  9. From an email sent by Dr Kalyanaraman:

    Source: http://www.harappa.com/indus2/index.html Slide 142 reports the discovery in 1998 of a four-sided molded tablet — ca. 2450-2200 BCE.

    “Molded tablets from Trench 11 sometimes have impressions on one, two, three or four sides. This group of molded tablets shows the complete set of motifs. One side is comprised entirely of script and has six (five?) characters, the first of which (on the very top) appears to be some sort of animal. A second side shows a human figure grappling with a short horned bull. A small plant with at least six branches is discernible behind the individual. The third panel portrays a figure seated on a charpoy or throne in a yogic position, with arms resting on the knees. Both arms are covered with bangles, and traces of a horned headdress and long hair are visible on some of the impressions. A second individual, also with long hair and wearing bangles, is seated on a short stool to the proper left of the individual on the “throne.” The fourth panel shows a deity standing with both feet on the ground and wearing a horned headdress. A branch with three pipal leaves projects from the center of the headdress. Bangles seen on both arms.”

    This is decoded as a professional calling card of a smiths’ artisan guild, as may be seen from the homonyms of all glyptic elements (both signs and pictorial motifs) — presented on two slides.

    Addendum: man.d.a ‘twig, branch’ (Te.); rebus: man.d.a_ ‘warehouse, workshop’ (Kon.)

    namaskaram. kalyanaraman

    Comment by B Shantanu | September 25, 2009

  10. Those of you with an interest in this topic will enjoy Varnam’s excellent post on this from last week: The Harappan Volumetric System

    Comment by B Shantanu | December 7, 2009

  11. @Harapriya, @Jayasree
    There is no proof that Tamil lands would have stretched too much southwards. Tamil literature talks about Kumari kandam and the incident of it submerging in sea but it may have been a small area beyond kanyakumari. Regarding Udhiyan Cheralathan there is an explanation that the nootruvar(100 men) given in the poem are actually Satavahanas. But Mahabharatha itself mentions that Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas were fighting alongside Pandavas and against the Kauravas.

    When it is debatable that whether Tamil as old as Sanskrit, atleast in written form it must have been in written form before Sanksrit. There is a term ‘ezhuthaa kiLavi’ in Tamil denoting Sanskrit. It literally means ‘the language that is not written’. Earlier it was believed that Tamil Brahmi was created after Ashoka era Brahmi script was introduced in the South. But the latest discoveries point that Tamil Brahmi was in existence even before Ashoka’s time.

    Comment by Shaan | December 14, 2009

  12. I found the sincere and trusted work on Indus-Sarasvati script decipherment by Dr. Natwar Jha. Please follow the link below. I hope that more scientists will continue and expand the work that had been done by Dr. Jha as been shown by NS. Rajaram.


    Comment by I Gege Putrayasa | January 23, 2010

  13. Forgot to include in my previous post. Here’s another link of Natwar Jha and NS. Rajaram work on book reviewed by IndiaStar:


    Comment by I Gege Putrayasa | January 23, 2010

  14. Thank you. I will have a look at the links.

    Comment by B Shantanu | January 24, 2010

  15. Sheela Bhatt interviews Dr S Kalyanaraman-ji: http://news.rediff.com/interview/2010/jun/24/interview-no-proof-of-tamil-script-in-indus-civilization.htm

    Comment by B Shantanu | June 27, 2010

  16. Presentation by Prof. Angela Marcantonio on the “Aryan Hypothesis”:

    Do watch.

    Repudiating linguistic evidence for the Aryan hypothesis: Prof. Angela Marcantonio

    Mirror: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35599742/Marcantonio-Repudiating-Linguistic-Evidence-Aryan-Hypothesis-Compatibility-Mode

    Presentation (ppt) made at a Symposium on Indo-European Linguistics

    WHEN? Wednesday, July 28th, 11:00 AM-12:00 PM
    WHERE?: Salem State College, Central Campus, Building One, Room # 225
    WHO?: Professor Angela Marcantonio, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, dpt. of Linguistics; P. A. Moro, 00195 Rome
    Thanks to Dr Kalyanaraman

    Comment by B Shantanu | August 10, 2010

  17. Brief excerpts from a detailed review by Dr. Shrinivas Tilak of “Solving the Indus script puzzle: A review of Indus Script Cipher by Dr S. Kalyanraman”:

    In Indus Script Cipher: Hieroglyphs of Indian Linguistic Area (Sarasvati Research Center, 2010) Dr Kalyanraman has picked up the most difficult puzzle to solve: the Goliath of the Indus script. The Indus valley civilization was contemporary with the great civilizations of the ancient Near East in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Though not always figuring as important in world history books, it was the largest urban civilization that existed in the ancient world in the third millennium BCE, dwarfing the Near Eastern civilizations in size and in the uniformity and continuity of its remains.

    The Indus civilization should properly be called the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization because the great majority of its sites were located on the now dried banks of the Sarasvati River, a once great river that flowed east of the Indus and whose termination around 1900 BCE probably corresponded to the last phase of this great civilization.

    The final drying up of the Sarasvati occurred because tectonic plate movements made the mighty river lose two of its tributaries, Yamuna and Shatadru (modern Sutlej). Sometimes it is called the Harappan civilization after the place name of Harappa, one of its first large sites discovered. Over the years, at least five larger sites were found stretching as far south as Daimabad in Maharashtra.

    Although certain aspects of the elite culture, and most seals with motifs and pottery with Indus script on it, disappeared, the Indus culture itself was not lost. In the cities that sprung up in the Ganga and Yamuna river valleys between 600-300 BCE many of their cultural aspects can be traced to the earlier Indus culture. The technologies, artistic symbols, architectural styles, and aspects of the social organization in the cities of this time were continuous with those in operation in the Indus cities, an idea that is shared by many prominent archaeologists including Jonathan Marc Kenoyer, Jim Shaffer, and Colin Renfrew (see Tarini Carr). Ruins of the cities of this civilization were excavated (particularly at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the province of Sindh in modern Pakistan) in the twentieth century indicating that it had a highly developed urban infrastructure.

    …K started by looking for simpler though vital clues to decode the Indus script. He noticed that many seal or inscriptions feature certain motifs and signs came in duplicate: two goats, two short-horned bulls, two tigers, two heads of heifers, and two fencing persons. Analogously, he also found reduplicated signs (straight or wavy lines, dotted circles); about a dozen of them. The word for duplication is dula (pair) in Kashmiri, which is homonymous with a Munda word dul but which means ‘cast’ [metal] (p. 145). Secondly, he also found that a number of glyphs, in turn, appear as predictable pairs in stable sequences. He determined stability by measuring the frequency of occurrence of two signs within an inscription. He found, for instance, that the pair made of a sign for the human body and the picture of a container or jar occurred in 87 inscriptions and generally stood for a scribe making inventory of artifacts that were produced (pp. 153-154). Thirdly, to produce one message, the artisans employed on an average one pictorial motif plus five signs. The short message suggested to him that the Indus script did not record essays or even paragraphs detailing metaphysical dissertations or religious ideas. The messages more likely dealt with describing the listed and traded articles with relevant descriptions (p. 49).

    K next looked for familiar motifs, signs, and themes from the ancient Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization that have been depicted on the seals and that remain continuous with the local cultures and the broader, pan-Indic civilization of today’s India. He was able to find the following: the motif of the pair of deer or antelope (mriga) present on the platform below the man seated in a ‘yogic’ position from Harappa sin the scenes depicting the various activities of the Buddha; use of the conches and bracelets first recorded at Nausharo in 6500 BCE; the practice of wearing a red powder/dye at the parting of hair by married ladies as evidenced by two terracotta toys; the gesture of welcome (namaste) and various yogic postures (asanas); use of the cire perdue technique for making bronze icons; the practice of wearing a shawl (uttariyam) leaving the right shoulder bare etc (pp. 234-235). …

    Concluding remarks


    Comment by B Shantanu | September 10, 2010

  18. Must Watch: TED Talk by Rajesh Rao on “Computing a Rosetta Stone for the Indus script”


    Comment by B Shantanu | June 29, 2011

  19. Please read: A manuscript has been discovered with Indus script: Lucy Zuber Buehler (2009)

    Comment by B Shantanu | November 15, 2011

  20. From a post by Varnam on “Indus script designed with care”:
    In his book,
    The Lost River, Michel Danino wrote the following about the Harappan civilization.

    Altogether, the area covered by this civilization was about 800,000 km2 : roughly one-fourth of today’s India, or if we can make comparisons with contemporary civilizations, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia put together. This vast expanse must have offered unique opportunities as well as posed peculiar challenges — opportunities in terms of a wider choice of sources for raw materials and a richer store of human skill and experience; challenges arising from a greater diversity of regional cultures which had to be integrated , or at least coordinated, and the sheer extent of communication networks required to keep it all together.

    It turns out that the Harappans indeed took the challenge seriously and made sure that the script was uniform across this vast region.

    “Writing is an important window to the intellectual creativity of a civilisation. Our analysis reveals that people who designed the Indus script were intellectually creative and considerable time and effort went into designing it. The manner in which the signs were modified shows that it was acceptable across all the sites of the civilisation and was not intended for a small group of people,” said Nisha Yadav from TIFR, the principal author of the study.

    The Indus script is found on objects such as seals, copper tablets, ivory sticks, bronze implements and pottery from almost all sites of the civilisation. “The Indus civilisation was spread over an area of about a million square kilometres and yet, the sign list over the entire civilisation seems to be the same indicating that the signs, their meaning and their usage were agreed upon by people with large physical separation. A lot of thought, planning and utility issues must have been taken into consideration while designing these signs,” says the TIFR paper, published in the Korean journal, Scripta.

    The paper also indicates that the script may have a connection with scripts from India or even China. The authors say that the signs of the Indus script seem to incorporate techniques in their design that were used in several ancient writing systems to make optimum use of a limited number of signs.[Indus script designed with care, say TIFR researchers (via IndiaArchaeology)]

    Comment by B Shantanu | April 25, 2012

  21. Link to a recent book by Dr Kalyanaraman-ji: Philosophy of symbolic forms in Meluhha cipher

    Comment by B Shantanu | June 5, 2014

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