From the Jacket
Since the publication of the concordances of the inscriptions of the Indus seals many people have been working on the solution of the riddle presented by the 5000 years old script of the Indus valley. At first sight the task does not appear too difficult, as there are pictograms that can easily be recognized as man, bird, fish, dog or plant or a part of them. A lot of signs are geometric, but this does not seem to be an insurmountable obstacle either, since some of them resemble or are identical to the majuscules of the Greek and the Latin alphabet or found in the mudras of Indian dance and in the patterns of symbolic Indian art. The decipherments that were based on these similarities resulted, however, only in the reading of some inscriptions as more or less obscure names, sometimes not even a phonetic value could be given. Nevertheless they are often presented as complete decipherments to the public. On this account, the pretension that the Indus script is deciphered meets with increasing suspicion and is exposed to ridicule even. Many scholars working in this field are nowadays of the opinion that the Indus script is altogether indecipherable, if not a bilingual of considerable size turns up.
The approach to a decipherment presented in this volume makes avail of a bilingual, too, but its master key is the discovering of the symbolic and linguistic connection of the Indus signs with the Rg-Veda. More than 200 inscriptions, among them the longest and those with the most interesting motifs, have been decoded here by setting them word after word in relation to g-Vedic verses. The results that were gained by this method of comparison for the pictographic and phonetic values of the Indus signs are surprising and far beyond the most daring phantasy. They have been summarised now in a complete sign- dictionary containing over 150 further inscriptions. At the same time many problems of the g-Veda could be solved and new insights be won, for example in the issue of the age of the Rg-Veda and the origin of the Vedic poets or the nature of the Soma plant.
Egbert Richter-Ushanas has studied Indian and Western philosophy, science of religion and ancient and modern Oriental and Indian languages for more than 40 years. He has published translations of the Bhagavadgita, several Upanisads, the Yoga sutras and other works of Indian philosophy. And a monography on Vedic cosmosophy. He travelled through India several times. In the last four years he has worked on the decipherment of the Easter Island script (www.zfn.unibremen.de/ —ushanas). At present he lives in his hometown in Bremen/ Germany as a free-lanced writer.
Upwards the root, downwards the twigs, thus the eternal asvattha tree is said to be, whose leaves are the Vedic hymns; who knows it, is a knower of the Veda.
- Bhagavadgita 15.1
This book has not come into being in one step. Chapter II, IV, V, VII, VIII and IX were originally written in English as separate articles and then published in German in Der Komische Mensch und die Indus-Kultur together with other articles. Two years later they were printed in their original language in The Cosmic Man and the Tree of Language, enlarged by the chapters 1, III, VI and X. This collection was published in revised form in Delhi in 1997 under the title of the first chapter. Now they appear in the second revised edition together with a chapter on the swastika.
The nucleus of the second chapter was presented in a lecture at the Conference of the Association of South Asian Archaeologists held in Berlin in 1991. The original version of the Xth chapter was published in Ancient Science of Life XII.3-4, 1990, p. 320-326. The last chapter is based on a lecture held at the 3 World Archaeological Congress at Delhi in 1994. It has been placed at the end, because the swastika is not only found throughout Indian history, but also in the West. It even occurs in the form of a bird in the Easter Island script.’
One of the aims of the former books and lectures was to show that there is a cultural relation between the lndus civilization and the Indian tradition already in the time of the Rg-Veda. In the course of the printing of the German edition, [discovered phonetic values for an obviously bilingual seal from Failaka. The discovering demonstrated that the Indus inscriptions are not only symbolically related to the 1g-Veda, as I had demonstrated in Der Finale Veda/The Fifth Veda in 1992, but that the Veda also offers a phonetic reading of a great number of seals.
The disadvantage of the previous editions was that the phonetic and the logographic reading of the inscriptions often pertained to different hymns. This unfavorable state of affairs has been removed now, because the inscriptions including that of the Failaka seal are not read syllabically, but llogophonetically. In this way, a greater part of the Vedic hymn, sometimes a whole verse even, is preserved. The progress is mainly due to the study of the Easter Island script I was engaged in the last four years, because it destroyed the prejudice I had against the practicability of word scripts.
The basic rules of the reading of the Indus script have to be modified according to these improvements:
I. The language of the script is an early type of Vedic Sanskrit, which we may call Gandharvic. At that time prefixes and suffixes were still treated as separate words as in isolating or agglutinative languages. Many words are non-Aryan, but of Sumerian or Austrian provenance. The word-divisions are often made in a similar way as in the later Vedic etymology. Homophony and synonymy are largely made use of. The copula is not written.
2. All signs, including the number-signs, are originally names or attributes of gods, whose totality is represented by the most frequent sign U which I call cup-sign (of chapter 1.1). It often indicates a finite verb, On account of its multivalence it can be used like a joker.
3. The direction of the script is normally from right to left. The few exceptions are correctly indicated in the Indian concordance.2 Sometimes an inscription can be read from both sides. In longer inscriptions consisting of two or three lines the reading generally starts from the bottom and may also be boustrophedon. On tablets with two, three or four sides the inscription can start on any of the sides.
4, The script is logographic. Compound signs can refer to several words or a sentence. The motif of a seal or tablet can also be treated as a logogram. May signs have diacritic strokes that can form a new sign with the corpus of the basic sign. Geometric signs have a concrete meaning, too. Many signs have several meanings in correspondence to the different possibilities of their pictographic interpretation. There are no determinatives as in the Sumerian and Akkadian writing.
5. The man-sign t is used for males, the teeth-sign E that was explained as a comb by A. Parpola is used for females.3
6. To make larger use of homophony long and short vowels are often treated alike, nasals and semi-vowels may be dropped or added. Cerebrals can be represented by dentals and vice versa, aspirates by non-aspirates. This is due to Prakrit influence
7. There are several pictograms with the same or nearly the same value as is obvious from the concordances. Vice versa different words can be written by the same sign. This phenomenon is known from the Sumerian pictographic and the Akkadian cuneiform writing. It is quite normal for a symbolic script. The second rule has economic; the first may also have local and historical reasons. On account of this rule, the same Vedic verse can be written by different pictograms and different verses by the same pictograms. Nevertheless, the phonetic value of a pictogram is constant in the frame of its pictographic possibilities of interpretation. The multivalence is necessary. as otherwise the number of signs would increase too much, but it makes it often very difficult to-day to find the most appropr