Archive for the ‘Steve Farmer’ Category

Rebuttal of Sproat, Farmer, et al.’s supposed “refutation” by Rajesh Rao

July 13, 2010

Rebuttal of Sproat, Farmer, et al.’s supposed “refutation”

[Updated: July, 2010]

This article is reproduced here, with due acknowledgements, as it has bearing on the Dravidian researches going on here in Tamilnadu.

Particularly, Asko Parpola had delivered his lecture at Coimbatore and Chennai, but full details are not provided to general readers, as these issues affect them socially and politically.

In 2004, Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel published a paper in “Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies” (entitled “The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization”) claiming that the Indus valley civilization was illiterate and that Indus writing was a collection of political or religious symbols.

The publication of our paper in Science elicited hostile reactions from them, ranging from off-the-cuff dismissive remarks such as “garbage in, garbage out” (Witzel) to ad-hominem attacks (labeling us “Dravidian nationalists”) and a vicious campaign on internet discussion groups and blogs to discredit our work. Their first knee-jerk reaction was to call the two artificial control datasets in our study “invented data sets” (Farmer). This was followed by Sproat and others on a blog claiming to have constructed “counterexamples” to our result. Sproat has even attempted to publicize his claims using an article in Computational Linguistics and a web page entitled “Why Rao et al.’s work proves nothing”(!), despite the fact that our work has now been published in journals like Science, PNAS, PLOS One, and IEEE Computer.

Here, we respond to their arguments in a point-by-point fashion. First, their arguments:

(1) Two datasets, used as controls in our work, are artificial.

(2) Counterexamples can be given, of non-linguistic systems, which produce conditional entropy plots like those presented in our Science paper.

(3) Conditional entropy cannot even differentiate between language families.

(4) The absence of writing material and long texts is “proof” that the Indus people were illiterate.

We view arguments (1)-(3) as arising from a misunderstanding of our approach and an overinterpretation of the conditional entropy result. Some of these arguments are made with a narrow computational linguistics point of view without considering other properties of the Indus script and the Indus civilization (see below). The last argument has been controverted by several other researchers as discussed below.

Here is the point-by-point rebuttal:

(1) As stated in our Science paper, the two artificial data sets (which Farmer et al. call “invented data sets”) simply represent controls, necessary in any scientific investigation, to delineate the limits of what is possible. The two controls in our work represent sequences with maximum and minimum flexibility, for a given number of tokens. Though this can be computed analytically, the data sets were generated to subject them to the same parameter estimation process as the other data sets. Our conclusions do not depend on the controls, but are based on comparisons with real world data: DNA and protein sequences, various natural languages, and FORTRAN computer code. All our real world examples are bounded by the maximum and the minimum provided by the controls, which thus serve as a check on the computation.

(2) Counterexamples matter only if we claim that conditional entropy by itself is a sufficient criterion to distinguish between language and non-language. We do not make this claim in our Science paper. As clearly stated in the last sentence of the paper, our results provide evidence which, given the rich syntactic structure in the script (and other evidence as listed below), increases the probability that the script represents language.

The methodology, which is Bayesian in nature, can be summarized as follows. We begin with the fact that the Indus script exhibits the following properties:

  • The Indus texts are linearly written, like the vast majority of linguistic scripts (and unlike nonlinguistic systems such as medieval heraldry or traffic signs);
  • Indus symbols are often modified by the addition of specific sets of marks over, around, or inside a symbol. Multiple symbols are sometimes combined (“ligatured”) to form a single glyph. This is similar to later Indian scripts which use such ligatures and marks above, below, or around a symbol to modify the sound of a root consonant or vowel symbol;
  • The script obeys the Zipf-Mandelbrot law, a power-law distribution on ranked data, which is often considered a nec­essary (though not sufficient) condition for language (see our PLOS One paper);
  • The script exhibits rich syntactic structure such as the clear presence of beginners and enders, preferences of symbol clusters for particular positions within texts etc. (see References), not unlike linguistic sequences;
  • Indus texts that have been discovered in Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf use the same signs as texts found in the Indus region but alter their ordering. These “foreign” texts have low likelihood values compared to Indus region texts (see our PNAS paper), suggesting that the script was versatile enough to represent different subject matter or a dif­ferent language in foreign regions.

Given that the Indus script shares the above properties with linguistic scripts, we claim that the similarity in conditional entropy of the Indus script to other natural languages provides additional evidence in favor of the linguistic hypothesis.

We have recently extended the result in our Science paper to block entropies for sequences of up to 6 symbols (see IEEE Computer paper for details):

IndusBlockEntropies-RajeshRao

IndusBlockEntropies-RajeshRao

The language-like scaling behavior of block entropies in the above figure, in combination with the other properties of language enumerated above, could be viewed in a Bayesian framework as further evidence for the linguistic nature of the Indus script.

The above figure also addresses objections raised by some (e.g., Fernando Pereira) who felt conditional entropy (which considers only pairwise dependencies) was not a sufficiently rich measure.

Let us now consider the nonlinguistic systems that have been suggested:

  • Mark Liberman, Sproat, and Cosmo Shalizi in a blog constructed artificial examples of nonlinguistic systems whose conditional entropy was similar to the Indus script but their examples have no correlations between symbols – these examples do not exhibit the entropy scaling property exhibited by the Indus script and languages in the above figure, let alone other language-like properties like those exhibited by the Indus script.
  • Two natural nonlinguistic systems that have been suggested, medieval heraldry and traffic signs, are not even linear, nor do they exhibit other script-like properties such as those listed above.
  • The Vinca markings on pottery are linear but scholars have established that the symbols do not appear to follow any order – the system thus can be expected to fall in the maximum entropy range (MaxEnt) in the above figure.
  • The carvings of deities on Mesopotamian boundary stones are also linear but the ordering of symbols appears to be more rigid than in natural languages, following for example the hierarchical ordering of the deities. This system can thus be expected to fall closer to the minimum entropy (MinEnt) range in the above entropy scaling figure than to natural languages.

We therefore believe that the new result above from our IEEE Computer paper, showing that the block entropies of the Indus script scale in a manner similar to natural languages, when viewed in conjunction with the other language-like properties of the script as described above, adds further support to the linguistic hypothesis.

(3) Sproat has endeavored to produce a plot where languages belonging to different language families have similar conditional entropies, thereby claiming that the conditional entropy result “proves nothing.” This claim is once again based on an overinterpretation of the result in our Science paper. We specifically note on page 10 in the supplementary information that “answering the question of linguistic affinity of the Indus texts requires a more sophisticated approach, such as statistically inferring an underlying grammar for the Indus texts from available data and comparing the inferred rules with those of various known language families.” In other words, conditional entropy provides a quantitative measure of the amount of flexibility allowed in choosing the next symbol given a previous symbol. It is useful for characterizing the average amount of flexibility in sequences of different kinds. We do not make the claim that it can be used to distinguish between language families – this requires a more sophisticated measure.

(4) With regard to the length of texts, several West Asian writing systems such as Proto-Cuneiform, Proto-Sumerian, and the Uruk script have statistical regularities in sign frequencies and text lengths which are remarkably similar to the Indus script (Details can be found in http://indusresearch.wikidot.com/script). These writing systems are by all accounts linguistic. Furthermore, the lack of archaeological evidence for long texts in the Indus civilization does not automatically imply that they did not exist (“absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”). There is a long history of writing on perishable materials like cotton, palm leaves, and bark in the Indian subcontinent using equally perishable writing implements (see Parpola’s paper below). Writing on such material is unlikely to have survived the hostile environment of the Indus valley. Thus, long texts may have been written, but no archaeological remains are to be found.

As regards the argument for literacy from the point of view of cultural sophistication of the Indus people, we believe Iravatham Mahadevan has addressed this adequately in his op-ed piece below (see also Massimo Vidale’s entertaining article).

References

  • Final version of the Science paper (including Supplementary Information), 2009:

o        http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/rao/ScienceIndus.pdf

  • IEEE Computer review article with new block entropy result:
    Probabilistic analysis of an ancient undeciphered script, 2010:

o        http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/rao/ieeeIndus.pdf

  • PLoS One paper: Statistical Analysis of the Indus script using n-grams, 2010:

o        http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009506

  • PNAS paper: A Markov model of the Indus script, 2009:

o        http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/rao/PNASIndus.pdf

  • Asko Parpola’s point-by-point rebuttal of Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel:

o       Parpola A (2008) Is the Indus script indeed not a writing system? in Airavati: Felicitation volume in honor of Iravatham Mahadevan (Varalaaru.com publishers, Chennai, India) pp. 111-131.

http://www.harappa.com/script/indus-writing.pdf

  • Massimo Vidale’s “The collapse melts down: a reply to Farmer, Sproat and Witzel”:

o        http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=9163376

  • Iravatham Mahadevan’s “The Indus non-script is a non-issue”:

o        http://www.hindu.com/mag/2009/05/03/stories/2009050350010100.htm

  • Syntactic structure in the Indus script:

o       Koskenniemi K (1981) Syntactic methods in the study of the Indus script. Studia Orientalia 50:125-136.

o       Parpola A (1994) Deciphering the Indus script. (Cambridge University Press), Chaps. 5 & 6.

o       Yadav N, Vahia MN, Mahadevan I, Joglekar H (2008) A statistical approach for pattern search in Indus writing. International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 37(1):39-52.

http://www.harappa.com/script/tata-writing/indus-script-paper.pdf

o       Yadav N, Vahia MN, Mahadevan I, Joglekar H (2008) Segmentation of Indus texts. International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 37(1):53-72.

http://www.harappa.com/script/tata-writing/indus-texts.pdf

Sanskrit has also contributed to Indus civilisation: Asko Parpola

July 7, 2010

Sanskrit has also contributed to Indus civilisation

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/79062/sanskrit-has-contributed-indus-civilisation.html

Sanskrit has also contributed to Indus civilisation
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Ancient civilisations and long un-deciphered mysterious scripts have always been hauntingly engaging challenges to the human consciousness.
Fired by John Chadwick’s classic in archaeology, ‘The Decipherment of Linear-B’, that chronicles how the secrets of the late Minoan and Mycenaean civilisation in ancient Greece were unveiled, renowned Indologist Prof Asko Parpola set out on an equally challenging task over 45 years back to crack the script of the Indus Valley Civilisation. For someone who has done a lifetime of monumental research on ‘Deciphering the Indus Script’ even using modern computerised tools, Parpola, whose path-breaking study on ‘A Dravidian Solution to the Indus Script Problem’ had bagged the ‘Kalaignar M Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Research Award’ at the ‘World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC)’ in Coimbatore, is remarkably self-effacing and realistic. A diligent scholar from Finland in both ‘Vedic’ and ‘Dravidian’ studies,spoke to M R Venkatesh of ‘Deccan Herald’.

Excerpts:

What prompted you to undertake this amazing intellectual journey?

Well, my interest in the Indus Script was aroused during my student years. I also studied the classical languages of Europe, Greek and Latin, when I became a student of Helsinki University in 1959. At that time there was much discussion whether the ‘Linear-B Script’ had been deciphered or not. Actually it had been deciphered in 1952. A book on it by John Chadwick came out in 1960. I read it and it was quite fascinating. I was quite convinced that this (decipherment) is correct though there were still some Greek scholars who were sceptical. And then, my childhood friend Seppo Koskenniemi who was working for IBM in Finland asked if I would like to try computers for any problem in my field. He volunteered to do the programming; so at that time I thought we might do something useful to promote the study of the Indus Script. Because compiling statistics (on the frequency with which signs are repeated, etc.) has been very useful in all decipherment
attempts. My brother Simo who studied ‘Assyriology’ also joined the team.

How did you use computer technology in this study of Indus Script as India’s renowned epigraphist, Iravadham Mahadevan says you are the first person to have done it?

Asko Parpola: Well, it is not me. Seppo Koskenniemi and his brother Kimmo Koskenniemi, who is now Professor of Computer Linguistics at the University of Helsinki, assisted me. They have been there from the beginning.

On your seminal work on the Indus Script, what effected your change of approach to include sociology, anthropology and linguistics, instead of just an epigraphist approach that failed to make headway earlier?

Well, actually, I have not changed my approach. It has been there all the time.
I think every aspect has to be taken into consideration. We have to take advantage of every possible source (of knowledge) at our disposal.

Your solution to the Indus Script riddle – that the underlying s a syncretism rather than a collusive view of Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian family of languages. Your comments please?

Yes, I think these two language families have been in contact with each other ever since the Indo-Aryan speakers entered South Asia. It is impossible to leave Indo-Aryan sources out of account. They have preserved very important information of Harappan heritage.

One of 20th century’s greatest philosophers Wittgenstein had said understanding a language is understanding a whole form of life. Has your findings on Indus Script vindicated that insight on how language works?

Well, may be. You are putting it in very lofty words. I think every language is a unique way to see the world. I am using this phrase in connection with the tragic situation that is prevailing now in the world. So many languages, minority languages, are disappearing. At the moment, we are still having may be some 5,000 languages in the world, but very rapidly a large number of them have disappeared. It is just as with plant and animal species. Once they have gone, you can’t get them back and each of them is a unique
creation which is very valuable.

But these linguistic identities, when politicised, could lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences. So how is a harmonious understanding of world languages possible?

Yes. Besides Tamil, there are other Dravidian languages that have descended from the proto-Dravidian. But Tamil has preserved the language structure in a very archaic form. And also it has very ancient sources that are very precious. But at the same time, we must say that ‘Sanskrit’ has also preserved a very important part of the Indus heritage. So, it is impossible to say that there is something like ‘pure Dravidian’ or ‘pure Aryan’. They should not be pitted against each other. I mean, there has been mixture from the beginning. And even if you look at the history of Tamil Nadu, the ‘Brahmins’ were here
already in ‘Sangam’ times. So, they have also contributed hugely to the Tamil civilisation. So you have at least these two main language groups in India from very early times, side by side.

Your next project: will you continue your work on the Indus script?

I think it will be difficult not to continue, but actually my PhD was originally on ‘Sama Veda’ and I have been doing ‘Sama Vedic’ research in South India for many decades. There is a lot of material which I have not really had a good opportunity to work on, but which I would like to publish. Also, the ‘Thirukkural’ (of Tamil Saint-poet Thiruvalluvar) is a timeless book. I am working on a translation of it into Finnish and I would like the Finns also to have it.

How do you see the WCTC’s significance? Has it provided a platform to take forward your work on the Indus script?

Yes, I think so. For the Indus script it (WCTC) is certainly very important, a big boost to draw the attention of more Tamil and other Dravidian scholars into this venture. Scholars should get funds to pursue the studies further.

“The Indus Script, Harappan Dravidian and the Wild Ass” by Asko Parpola and the debate thereafter

June 30, 2010

“The Indus Script, Harappan Dravidian and  the Wild Ass” by Asko Parpola and the debate thereafter

Vedaprakash

Venue (Backside of CPT): Roja Muthiah Research Library, 3rd Cross Road, CPT Campus, Taramani, Chennai 600113

28-06-2010 (Monday) 4,00 pm: when I entered the Roja Muthaiah research Library premises, Venkatachallam[1], the old man was sitting in the Indus Research Centre (IRC), a room allotted to them on RHS.  Then I saw K. V. Ramakrishna Rao[2] and Orissa Balasubramaniam[3] entering the room and all started discussing about something with some papers.

The women / girls started rearranging chairs and tables at the entrance hall leading to the lecture hall. Two persons started displaying the books they brought on the tables. Only three-four persons were there for attending the meeting.

4.22 pm: Iravatham Magadevan came inside the room of IRC. Then he went to meet Asko Parpola, who was there already in the Computer room. Few more added.

4.40 pm: Tea came. Stil, people started coming slowly. Most of them have been elite, rich coming in cars. Then one woman came, identified as Rani Gift Siromoney, the wife of Gift Siromoney.

Then came P. R. Subramaniam, Narasaiah, Ramamurthy, Kavitha, Solomon, Vasanthi, Subbu, Ravichandran, Malar Mannan, Haran, K. V. Gopalakrishnan, ……………………and so on. And of corse reporters from the media.

4.50 pm: People started going inside the lecture hall. Hardly 20-25 were there. Some went and sat in the first two rows and others were hesitating and settling down in the last rows.

5.20 pm: the lecture not started, obviously, they were looking for some group to come. Then came the group from the Madras Christian College.

Iravatham Mahadevan He started explaining his relationship with Gift Siromoney from 1968, when he met him at the 2nd World Tamil Conference, where both came to present papers. He was praising his analysis of Kolam carried with the primitive computer in those days. He claimed that Gift was responsible for finding out the significant of “Pulli ezhuthu” that differentiates Tamil Brahmi from other Brahmi. He pointed out how he prepared charts showing the inscriptional way of development of Tirukkural written. He told that one Abdul Haq was the first to bring out computer analysis of the IVC. Pointing to his wife, he lamented that Rani was so worried as Gift was quoting from his concordance brought out in 1968 than the Bible.

Prof. Mrs. Rani Siromoney started his speech invoking god etc., Repeating the above with intermittent invoking god for all happenings.

Mrs & Mr Siromoney

Mrs & Mr Siromoney

R.W. Alexander Jesudasan, though not introduced to the audience by name for unknown reasons, the Principal of the Madras Christian College was called to say few words and he started his sermon praising the lord, Gift and others. He claimed that the Tamil studies of the college might come to end, but continues. He mentioned about Parithimal Kalainjar (V. Suryanarayana Sastri) of their college. However, he did not explain how it continues (He did not mention about M. Deivanayagam[4] who has been creating problem now or Moses Micheal Faraday[5] who confuses Siddhas with Christians).

R W Alexander Jesudasan

R W Alexander Jesudasan
M. Deivanayagam

M. Deivanayagam
Moses Michael Farradey

Moses Michael Farradey

The invitation card read as follows: Indus Research Centre of the Roja Muthiah Research Library  invites you to the inauguration of the Gift Siromoney Endowment Lecture Series Welcome address Dr. Iravatham Mahadevan Inaugural Lecture Prof. Asko Parpola on “The Indus Script, Harappan Dravidian and  the Wild Ass”.

Asko Parpola at RM 28-06-2010

Asko Parpola at RM 28-06-2010

6.10 pm: Asko Parpola started his speech showing the ppt. The first slide shoed that the same papers was presented on 25-06-2010 at Coimbatore on the occasion of the World Classical Tamil Conference. He delved upon the seal M-1690a, but revealed that it was missing long back.

“In a paper to be presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference, I am going to discuss recent developments in my study of the Indus script. In the book Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge 1994), I interpreted the ‘fish’ sign as Proto-Dravidian *miin ‘fish’ = *miin ‘star’, and its compounds with preceding signs as names of heavenly bodies attested in Old Tamil. One newly deciphered sign depicts “a hoofed animal’s hind leg.” It occurs once before the plain ‘fish’ sign. Old Tamil taaL ‘leg’ has a Toda cognate meaning “thigh of animal’s hind leg” and denotes a star in PuRam 395. The ‘hind leg’ sign once precedes a sign that depicts the wild ass. Is the reading taaL ‘(hind) leg’ meaningful in this context?

“Just one Indus seal has the wild ass as its iconographic motif; it was excavated in 2009 at Kanmer in the Kutch, next to the only wild ass sanctuary in South Asia. Bones of wild ass come from Harappan sites in Baluchistan, the Indus Valley and Gujarat; the salt deserts of this very area have always been the habitat of the wild ass. Bones or depictions of the domestic horse and the donkey are not found in South Asia before 1600 BCE.

“Tamil kaZutai or “donkey” has cognates in Malayalam, Kota, Toda, Kannada, Kodagu, Tulu, Telugu, Kolami, Naiki, Parji, Gondi and Kuwi. Bhadriraju Krishnamurti reconstructs *kaZ-ut-ay and asserts that Proto-Dravidian speakers knew of the donkey. More probably *kaZutay meant ‘wild ass’ in Harappan Dravidian, and the term was transferred to the similar-looking donkey when this newcomer came to South Asia from the west through the Indus Valley. Rigvedic gardabha – ‘donkey’ has no cognates in Iranian; it is a Dravidian loan word with the added Indo-Iranian animal name suffix –bha-. I explain *kaZutay as ‘kicker of the salt desert’, from *kaZ(i) / *kaLLar ‘saline soil’ and *utay ‘to kick’. The wild ass lives in the salt desert and is a vicious kicker.

“There is a Hindu myth explicitly associated with the wild ass, the Dhenukavadha of Harivamsa 57. Krishna and Balarama came to a palmyra forest occupied by the fierce ass demon Dhenuka and its herd. Wanting to drink the juice of ripe palm fruits, Balarama shook the trees. Hearing the sound of falling fruits, the enraged ass demon rushed to the spot. Seeing Balarama beneath a wine palm, as if holding the tree as his banner, the wicked ass bit Balarama and started kicking him hard with its hind legs. Balarama seized the ass by those hind legs and flung it to the top of a palm. The ass fell down with its neck and back broken and died. Dhenuka’s retinue met with the same fate, and the ground became covered with dead asses and fallen palm fruits. The palm forest, horrible when terrorised by the asses, impossible for humans to live in, difficult to cross, and with a great extent and salty soil (iriNa), now became a lovely place.

“The description of the palm forest as a salt desert confirms that wild asses are meant. The palm tree, Sanskrit taala from Proto-Dravidian *taaZ, is prominent in the myth and its earliest sculptural representations. The wine palm is associated with the wild ass, which inhabits the palm forest and finally falls down from the top of the palm like its ripe fruits. The wine palm is connected also with the ass’ killer (his successor as the god of its drink), Balarama, whose addiction to toddy is “an essential part of his character.”

“The myth also refers to the palm emblem on Balarama’s banner (tâla-dhvaja). In the Rigveda, Indra is invited to drink Soma like a thirsty wild ass (gaura) drinks in a pond of salty soil (iriNa). In Kutch today, such ponds are called taalaab. This Persian word comes from Indo-Aryan taala ‘pond’, from Proto-Dravidian *taaZ ‘low place, depression.’ Like the camel, the wild ass can quickly drink an enormous amount of water, becoming through homophony the prototypal toddy-drinker. Further homophones of taaZ connect the wild ass with the ebb of tide and its mythical cause, the mare-faced demon of the netherworld who drinks the whole ocean.”

He also relied upon his paper “Equus hemionnus & Equus Kiang and their vernacular names” along with Juha Janhunen.

Though, he mentioned about “wild ass” i,e, Asiatic Wild Ass[6] prevalent in different parts of the world, Asia in particular, he kept silence as to how they crossed over to Kiang in China. However, he went on as follows:

The Asiatic wild ass in Harappan, Dravidian and Indo-Iranian record
Asko Parpola University of Helsinki, Finland This abstract summarizes my part of a longer paper written in collaboration with Juha
Janhunen (who deals with the Turkic, Mongolic and Tibetan terms), entitled “The Asiatic  wild asses (Equus hemionus & Equus kiang) and their vernacular names”, to be published in full in the Proceedings of this roundtable
[7].


“After an introduction on the taxonomy and geographical distribution of the
different ass species and subspecies, I discuss one grapheme of the Indus script (no. 46 in the sign list of Parpola 1994: fig.5.1), proposing that it depicts the wild ass. The sign has realistic (cf. fig.1 a & b) and schematic variants (fig.1 c). The wild ass is present in the Harappan osteological record at least in Baluchistan, Sindh and Gujarat, but probably also in the Punjab and Rajasthan. Moreover, there are terracotta figurines of the wild ass, but it is
not among the “heraldic” animals of the Indus seals, probably because the ass was already an animal of ill omen: later on it was associated with Nirrti
‘Destruction’.


“The principal Harappan language, and apparently the only one in which the Indus texts from South Asia were written, was Proto-Dravidian (cf. Parpola 1994). Attested in 13 Dravidian languages, representing all the subgroups except North Dravidian, is a word for ‘ass’ (DEDR no. 1364). Bhadriraju Krishnamurti (2003: 12 and 525) reconstructs this  etymon for Proto-Dravidian as *kaz–ut-ay. Franklin Southworth (2005: 269-270) accepts this recontruction, proposing that instead of the domestic ass, the word originally denoted the wild ass, and that this animal was once present even in South India. This does not seem impossible in view of the continuous belt of semi-arid thorn-desert and dry tropical savannah from Kutch to Tamil Nadu, although there is little osteological support for this hypothesis. The wild ass assumption is endorsed by a new etymology that I propose for the word, as a Proto-Dravidian compound of *kaz- – ‘salt desert’ (DEDR no. 1359 + Turner 1966 no. 2954) and *utay ‘kick’ (DEDR no. 616). Desert, especially salt desert, is the habitat of the wild ass, and figures in the names of the onager in Sumerian (anše-eden-na) and Persian (χar-e daštī). On the other hand, the ass is famous for its kicking, and represented as kicking in the myth of the (wild) ass demon Dhenuka (cf. Harivamśa .57).  Sanskrit gardabha- ‘ass’ is very probably derived, with the animal name suffix -bha- (of PIE origin but still productive in Indo-Aryan), from the Dravidian word for ‘ass’, as proposed by Thomas Burrow and Murray Emeneau
.”

Conclusion: taaL (from *taaZ, preserved in Old Kannada) ‘(hind) leg, stem of tree’ (whence taaZ ‘tree with a prominent stem’ > ‘wine palm’) is in many ways connected with the wild ass[8].

7.11 pm: Discussion and questions: Surprisingly, Iravatham Mahadevan this time allowed questions from the audience with with conditions[9]. There were only six questions and they are as follows:

1. K. V. Ramakrishna Rao: your claim is confusing about the words – தாள்/தால்/தாழ், கழ்/கழு etc. What you mention about தாள் of Puram is different from your interpretation of தால்/தாழ்.

Asko Parpola accepted the possibility of other interpretations of the words. When Rao told that there had mean specific words used for ass and horse in the Sangam literature, he requested to provide them.

2. White bearded person: Taking the reference that Indra was invited to drink Soma like a thirsty wild ass (gaura) drinks in a pond of salty soil (iriNa), he asked as to whether the “wild ass” drank urine………so that it could be salty.

Asko Parpola replied that it was only figurative.

3. Dr. Vasathi: In our field excavations, we found the pictures / rock paintings of ass / horse and there have been may references in Sangam literature about ass / donkey. Whether the “koverukazuthai” and “wild ass” as mentioned by you are one and the same?

The Neolithic and megalithic findings of south India have been dated after the Wild ass of IVC.

4. A man with namam on his forehead: You mentioned about camel as one of five things to be sacrificed. Does camel to do anything in the context?

Asko Parpola went back to his slide that shown the five things for sacrifice:

Man Purusha Kimpurusha
Cow Gau Gavya
camel
Sheep Mesha
Goat Aja

He explained that hunting wild ass ws royal pastime and in ritual, it could have found place.

5. Kavitha (who does Ph.D in Indus script, as introduced by IM): Why there was no wild as in South India?

They entered India through IV before proto-dravidians.

6. Ramamurthy (very old man shaking…………As IM himself called him so): ……………………Researchers fall trap to such interpretations and also others to, but without coming to any specific conclusion……………………….

Asko Parpola accepted that his decipherment is incomplete and all the seals cannot be read like that and multi-interpretation is possibe! However, it s ironical that media reports that Asko reads IVC in Dravidian, Tamil and so on, as if, it is final. Iravatham Mahadevan intervened to accept that “multiple-interpretations of the seals are possible and nothing is final in the decipherment”.

Conclusion: The function started as Christian crusade, went on as Dravidian propgandist lecture and ended with confessional statement that the decipherment was not final!

Meanwhile, the press has carried on undue publicity about the meeting, of course, bth The Hindu and New Indian express do not publish the responses posted in their websites:

1. The Indus script and the wild ass – published on June 23, 2010

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article481104.ece

For this, “The Hindu” has published three responses in its site.

2. ‘Dravidians headed south before Aryans’ arrival’ –  published on 29-06-2010

http://expressbuzz.com/states/tamil-nadu/dravidians-headed-south-before-aryans-arrival/185399.html

3. பேராசிரியர் அஸ்கோ பர்போலா சொற்பொழிவு

http://www.dinakaran.com/tamilnadudetail.aspx?id=9283&id1=4

Vedaprakash

30-06-2010


[1] An enthusiastic IVC researcher, who concentrates on the weights and measures of IVC. He was accusing that Bryan Wells used his findings without mentioning his name.

[2] Independent researcher in Chennai.

[3] Comes from Orissa, but now in Chennai doing maritime and other connected research  on the antiquity of the Tamil maritime activities etc.

[4] Incidentally, Deivanayagam claims that I Mahadevan helped Devakala his daughter for her Ph.D. Now, both father and daughter have indulged in attacking Tiruvalluvar, Hindus etc.

[5] Now he has been the HOD of Tamil department of the Christian College.

[6] Several authorities, including “Mammal Species of the World”, list as individual species Equus

hemionus, Equus kiang and Equus onager, and several subspecies are built on these, such as E.

kiang polyodon. Also Equus luteus has been used synonymously with onager and hemionus

[7] http://woodstove-jack.blogspot.com/

[8] Ironically, the entire thing was already published in “The Hindu” and there have been three responses also: see at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article481104.ece

[9] I understand that K. V. Ramakrishna Rao requested IM that there should be discussion.

Underlying language of Indus script, Proto-Dravidian: Asko Parpola

June 25, 2010

Underlying language of Indus script, Proto-Dravidian: Asko Parpola

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/article485447.ece

Asko-at-Coimbatore-2010

Asko-at-Coimbatore-2010

The underlying language of the Indus script was Proto-Dravidian, Asko Parpola, Professor-Emeritus of Indology, Institute of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland, said on Friday.

Declaring that “an opening to the secrets of the Indus script has been achieved,” Prof. Parpola said the results of his readings kept within narrow limits: fertility cult connected with fig trees, a central Hindu myth associated with astronomy and time-reckoning and chief deities of Hindu and Old Tamil religion.

Delivering the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Research Endowment Lecture on “A Dravidian solution to the Indus script problem” at the World Classical Tamil Conference here, the Indologist said the readings were based on reasonable identifications of the signs’ pictorial shapes. The results made good sense in the framework of ancient Indian cultural history.

“These readings have been achieved with strictly adhered methodology which is in full agreement with the history of writing, methods of decipherment and historical linguistics including the comparative study of Dravidian languages,” he told the audience that included Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Displaying nearly two dozen illustrations of Indus seals and inscriptions, he dwelt upon the topic by explaining two broad aspects — underlying language and type of the script — that were essential in the decipherment of an ancient script. He also substantiated his thesis with an etymological analysis of certain Tamil words such as ‘muruku’ and ‘miin’.

Hinting that Harappan language had a genetic relationship with the Dravidian language family, Prof. Parpola said 26 Dravidian languages were now mainly spoken in central and southern parts of India. However, one Dravidian language, Brahui, had been spoken in Baluchistan of Pakistan for at least one thousand years. In contrast to Burushashki, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic languages, very small minority languages in south Asia, the Dravidian speakers until recently constituted one-fourth of the population in India.

Loanwords from the Dravidian family had been identified from Indo-Aryan texts composed in northwestern India around 1100-600 BCE. Besides, Indo-Aryan had several structural features that had long been interpreted as borrowings from Dravidian. “Historical linguistics thus suggests that the Harappans probably spoke a Dravidian language.”

Referring to the type of writing system, Prof. Parpola said the number of known Indus signs was around 400 “which agrees well with the logo-syllabic type but is too high for the script to be syllabic or alphabetic”. Though word divisions were not marked, many inscriptions comprised one, two or three signs and longer texts could be segmented into comparable units. The Indus script was created before any syllabic or alphabetic script existed.

Pointing out that the confirmed interpretations and their wider contexts provided a lot of clues for progress, he acknowledged there were still serious difficulties in the decipherment of the script. “One is the schematic shape of many signs which makes it difficult to recognise their pictorial meaning with certainty. Possibilities of proposing likely readings and their effective checking are severely limited by our defective knowledge of Proto-Dravidian vocabulary, compounds and phraseology.”

The problem of the Indus script resembled to some extent that of the logo-syllabic Maya script, where advance was phenomenal after Mayan speakers were trained in the methods of decipherment.

The Indologist said those who had good acquaintance with the realities of Indian culture and south Asian nature could make useful contributions in suggesting possible pictorial meanings for the Indus signs. For this, there was no need to be a Dravidian speaker.

Iravatham Mahadevan, eminent archaeologist, presided over the event.

Acceptance speech of Asko Parpola, recipient of the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award

http://www.thehindu.com/news/resources/article483967.ece

Your Excellency the President of India, Srimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi, distinguished dignitaries, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, Vanakkam!

It is indeed a very great honour to receive the first Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award from the President of India. Yet I feel embarrassed, because my work is only partly related to Classical Tamil, while there are Classical Tamil specialists who really would have deserved this award. But as this is not the only time when the award is given, I humbly accept that this is my turn. I am most grateful for the very considerable support for my continued work in this field.

The Government of India has rightly recognized Tamil as a classical language, a status that it fully deserves in view of its antiquity and its rich literature that in quality and extent matches many other classical traditions of the world. Yet, Tamil is not alone in possessing such a rich heritage in India, which is really a very exceptional country with so many languages having old and remarkable literatures, both written and oral. Sanskrit with its three thousand years old tradition has produced an unrivalled number of literary works.

Sanskrit goes back to Proto-Indo-Aryan attested in a few names and words related to the Mitanni kingdom of Syria between 1500 and 1300 BCE, and to earlier forms of Indo-Iranian known only from a few loanwords in Finno-Ugric languages as spoken in central Russia around 2000 BCE. But none of these very earliest few traces is older than the roots of Tamil. Tamil goes back to Proto-Dravidian, which in my opinion can be identified as the language of the thousands of short texts in the Indus script, written in 2600-1700 BCE. There are, of course, different opinions, but many critical scholars agree that even the Rigveda, collected in the Indus Valley about 1000 BCE, has at least half a dozen Dravidian loanwords.

Old Tamil texts constitute the only source of ancient Dravidian linguistic and cultural heritage not yet much contaminated by the Indo-Aryan tradition. Without it, it would be much more difficult if not impossible to penetrate into the secrets of the Indus script and to unravel the beginnings of India’s great civilization. In my opinion the Tamils are entitled to some pride for having preserved so well the linguistic heritage of the Indus Civilization. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that, though their language has shifted in the course of millennia, people of North India too are to a large extent descended from the Harappan people, and have also preserved cultural heritage of the same civilization.

Nanri! Tamizh vaazka!

The Indus script and the wild ass – Asko Parpola

June 23, 2010

Parpola brings out meaning of Old Tamil ‘taaL leg’
http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Chennai/article490698.ece

“The Hindu” has come out immediately with the following brief, ignoring, the interactions that took place at Roja Muthaiah Library onn 28th evening, when he presented his paper on  “The Indus Script, Harappan Dravidian and  the Wild Ass” with ppt.

After discussion and answering to crucial questions, Asko parpola clearly accepted that he did not read all the seals and his decipherment was not final.

In fact, Iravatham Mahadevan accepted  that “multi-interpretations are possible”.

Asko Parpola at RM 28-06-2010

Asko Parpola at RM 28-06-2010

Noted Indologist Asko Parpola on Monday delivered the ‘Gift Siromoney Endowment Lecture Series”’organised by Roja Muthiah Research Library, trying to read the old Tamil ‘taaL leg’ in the context of the newly deciphered sign depicting “a hoofed animal hind leg.” He was talking on ‘The Indus Script, Harappan Dravidian and the Wild Ass.’

He said “Old Tamil ‘taaL leg’ had a Toda cognate meaning ‘thigh of animal’s hind leg’ and denotes a star in PuRam 395.” The ‘hind leg’ sign once precedes a sign that depicts the wild ass. Besides pointing to various physiological features of the animal, which lived in the desert and could survive even after losing 30 per cent of the water of its body, he narrated many stories associated with the wild ass.

Noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan said more young researchers should enter the field of epigraphy, continuing his work and that of Professor Parpola. He pointed out that he had already reached 81 and Parpola was only 10 years younger to him. Gift Siromoney was a professor at the Madras Christian College. Though a mathematics student, he had prepared many field reports, including the fauna of Tambaram area and Thirukkural written in different scripts of the last 2,000 years. Rani Siromoney, wife of Siromoney, also spoke.

The Indus script and the wild ass

Asko Parpola

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article481104.ece

[Thanks to The Hindu for the photo and article. As “The Hindu” generally does not encourage the other view of any issue, we have no other way but reproduce it and circulate for discussion and debate]

Image of a modern impression of the seal M-290 from Mohenjo-daro, where the sequence 'hind leg' + 'wild ass' (to be read from right to left) occurs. Courtesy: Asko Parpola

Image of a modern impression of the seal M-290 from Mohenjo-daro, where the sequence ‘hind leg’ + ‘wild ass’ (to be read from right to left) occurs. Courtesy: Asko Parpola

In a paper to be presented at the World Classical Tamil Conference, I am going to discuss recent developments in my study of the Indus script. In the book Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge 1994), I interpreted the ‘fish’ sign as Proto-Dravidian *miin ‘fish’ = *miin ‘star’, and its compounds with preceding signs as names of heavenly bodies attested in Old Tamil. One newly deciphered sign depicts “a hoofed animal’s hind leg.” It occurs once before the plain ‘fish’ sign. Old Tamil taaL ‘leg’ has a Toda cognate meaning “thigh of animal’s hind leg” and denotes a star in PuRam 395. The ‘hind leg’ sign once precedes a sign that depicts the wild ass. Is the reading taaL ‘(hind) leg’ meaningful in this context?

Just one Indus seal has the wild ass as its iconographic motif; it was excavated in 2009 at Kanmer in the Kutch, next to the only wild ass sanctuary in South Asia. Bones of wild ass come from Harappan sites in Baluchistan, the Indus Valley and Gujarat; the salt deserts of this very area have always been the habitat of the wild ass. Bones or depictions of the domestic horse and the donkey are not found in South Asia before 1600 BCE.

Tamil kaZutai or “donkey” has cognates in Malayalam, Kota, Toda, Kannada, Kodagu, Tulu, Telugu, Kolami, Naiki, Parji, Gondi and Kuwi. Bhadriraju Krishnamurti reconstructs *kaZ-ut-ay and asserts that Proto-Dravidian speakers knew of the donkey. More probably *kaZutay meant ‘wild ass’ in Harappan Dravidian, and the term was transferred to the similar-looking donkey when this newcomer came to South Asia from the west through the Indus Valley. Rigvedic gardabha – ‘donkey’ has no cognates in Iranian; it is a Dravidian loan word with the added Indo-Iranian animal name suffix –bha-. I explain *kaZutay as ‘kicker of the salt desert’, from *kaZ(i) / *kaLLar ‘saline soil’ and *utay ‘to kick’. The wild ass lives in the salt desert and is a vicious kicker.

There is a Hindu myth explicitly associated with the wild ass, the Dhenukavadha of Harivamsa 57. Krishna and Balarama came to a palmyra forest occupied by the fierce ass demon Dhenuka and its herd. Wanting to drink the juice of ripe palm fruits, Balarama shook the trees. Hearing the sound of falling fruits, the enraged ass demon rushed to the spot. Seeing Balarama beneath a wine palm, as if holding the tree as his banner, the wicked ass bit Balarama and started kicking him hard with its hind legs. Balarama seized the ass by those hind legs and flung it to the top of a palm. The ass fell down with its neck and back broken and died. Dhenuka’s retinue met with the same fate, and the ground became covered with dead asses and fallen palm fruits. The palm forest, horrible when terrorised by the asses, impossible for humans to live in, difficult to cross, and with a great extent and salty soil (iriNa), now became a lovely place.

The description of the palm forest as a salt desert confirms that wild asses are meant. The palm tree, Sanskrit taala from Proto-Dravidian *taaZ, is prominent in the myth and its earliest sculptural representations. The wine palm is associated with the wild ass, which inhabits the palm forest and finally falls down from the top of the palm like its ripe fruits. The wine palm is connected also with the ass’ killer (his successor as the god of its drink), Balarama, whose addiction to toddy is “an essential part of his character.”

The myth also refers to the palm emblem on Balarama’s banner (tâla-dhvaja). In the Rigveda, Indra is invited to drink Soma like a thirsty wild ass (gaura) drinks in a pond of salty soil (iriNa). In Kutch today, such ponds are called taalaab. This Persian word comes from Indo-Aryan taala ‘pond’, from Proto-Dravidian *taaZ ‘low place, depression.’ Like the camel, the wild ass can quickly drink an enormous amount of water, becoming through homophony the prototypal toddy-drinker. Further homophones of taaZ connect the wild ass with the ebb of tide and its mythical cause, the mare-faced demon of the netherworld who drinks the whole ocean.

Conclusion: taaL (from *taaZ, preserved in Old Kannada) ‘(hind) leg, stem of tree’ (whence taaZ ‘tree with a prominent stem’ > ‘wine palm’) is in many ways connected with the wild ass.

(The author, who will be the first recipient of the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award, is Professor Emeritus of Indology, Institute of World Cultures, University of Helsinki.)

War of words in the cradle of south Asian civilisation!

May 14, 2010

War of words in the cradle of south Asian civilisation

In the heart of Pakistan, the ruins of a 4,000-year-old city have spawned a cross-continental row about language, culture – and racism in academia, By Andrew Buncombe, Thursday, 25 March 2010

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/war-of-words-in-the-cradle-of-south-asian-civilisation-1927005.html

Curator Mohammed Hassan
ANDREW BUNCOMBECurator Mohammed Hassan

At the quiet ruins of Harappa, one of the two main centres of an ancient civilisation that once spread from the Himalayas to Mumbai, Naveed Ahmed took in the arid hills dotted with thorn-bush. “I think the people who lived here were very different from us,” said the part-time guide. “The stones and the beads [they made]; it was as if they were more sophisticated.”

However peaceful this ruined city of the Indus civilisation may appear, the former residents of Harappa and the remnants of their society are today at the centre of one of the most acrimonious disputes in academia, a controversy that has allegedly led to death threats and claims of racism and cultural chauvinism.

Many experts in south Asia and elsewhere believe that symbols and marks inscribed on seals and other artefacts found here represent an as yet undeciphered language. Arguing it may be the predecessor of one of several contemporary south Asian argots, these experts say it is proof of a literate Indian society that existed more than 4,000 years ago.

But other experts based in the West say although the symbols may contain information, they are not a true language. They claim the judgement of their counterparts in south Asia may be swayed by regional nationalism.

Mohammed Hassan is curator of the museum beside the dust-blown ruins. Before leading a tour, the government official served tea and biscuits in his office and insisted the people of Harappa must have possessed a written language to store information. “If they were not literate, then how could they do so many things?” he said. “They had well-made pottery, big cities that were well-planned. They had a lot of knowledge about these things. They grew cotton, wheat, rice and barley. They traded with other cities.”

The Indus civilisation covered more than 500,000 square miles and lasted, during what experts term its “mature phase”, from 2,600 till 1900 BCE. The ruins, 100 miles south-west of the Pakistani city Lahore, the ruins were rediscovered in the early part of the 19th century.

The skills of its residents – at least in terms of making bricks that could endure centuries – were revealed by two British engineers, John and William Brunton, who were building the East Indian Railway Company line to connect Lahore and Karachi and needed ballast for their track. The engineers later wrote that locals told them of well-made bricks from an ancient ruined city that the villagers had made use of. With little concern for preserving the ruins, huge numbers of the Indus-era bricks were reduced to rubble and used to support the tracks heading west.

In the early 20th century, excavation of Harappa proceeded along with that of the other Indus city at Mohenjo-daro, in the south of Pakistan, and it was at that time many of the seals now on display in Mr Hassan’s museum containing symbols and images of animals were discovered. And they have continued to beguile, fascinate and frustrate scientists, causing a running controversy that has played out on internet message boards, scientific papers and at academic conferences.

Like Mr Hassan, Iravatham Mahadevan, an expert in epigraphy from southern India who has been awarded the country’s highest civilian award for his work, has no doubts the symbols on the Indus seals represent a genuine language. “Archaeological evidence makes it inconceivable that such a large, well-administered, and sophisticated trading society could have functioned without effective long-distance communication, which could have been provided only by writing,” he wrote last year in a magazine.

“And there is absolutely no reason to presume otherwise,considering that thousands of objects, including seals, copper tablets, and pottery bear inscriptions in the same script throughout the Indus region. The script may not have been deciphered but that is no valid reason to deny its very existence.”

Mr Mahadevan believes the Indus script may have been a forerunner of so-called Dravidian languages, such as Tamil, spoken today in southern India and Sri Lanka. In addition to technical clues, he says the continued existence of a Dravidian language in modern Pakistan – Brahvi, which is spoken by people in parts of Balochistan – supports his idea.

Over the years, there have been plenty of other theories both from established experts and enthusiastic amateurs. Some, with the backing of Hindu nationalists, have claimed the script may be an early Indo-European language and that remnants of it may even exist in Sanskrit, an ancient language that is the root of many present languages in north India, including Hindi. It has even been claimed the Indus script belonged to metalsmiths, and others believe it died out with the city of Harappa itself and gave rise to no successor.

Part of the problem for the experts is that, unlike for those who cracked the hieroglyphics of Egypt, there is no equivalent of the Rosetta stone, the slab of granite-like rock discovered in 1799 that contained Egyptian and Greek text. In the 1950s, academic interest in Mayan hieroglyphics intensified when experts began to study modern spoken Mayan, but for the Indus scholars there is no agreement on which, if any, modern language is the successor to their script.

In 2004, the debate was jolted into a war of words after three American scholars claimed the Indus symbols were not a language at all. In a paper provocatively subtitled The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilisation, they said there was insufficient evidence that the symbols constituted a proper language. They pointed to various factors: that there was no single long piece of text; that there was disagreement over the number of actual symbols and that other well-organised societies had been illiterate. The symbols, they argued, may well contain information in the same way that an image of a knife and fork together might represent a roadside eatery but they were not a language that could record speech.

The ensuing uproar came mainly from south Asians. One of the American scholars, Steve Farmer claimed people would approach him in tears after he gave talks and that he had even had death threats. Comments on internet discussion boards accuse him and his colleagues of trying to prove that “non-Western cultures were less advanced”. Mr Farmer, who lives in California, said he believed much of the anger was driven by those wishing to promote pet theories about Dravidians, indigenous Aryan Hindus or “the general man in the street who wants to think ancient India was of the same order as Egypt or Mesopotamia. It’s total rubbish”. He added: “I have never seen anything like the passion that there is in India. There is not that sort of passion in the Middle East about ancient things.”

More recently, the Indus controversy has been joined by a team of Indian scientists who ran computer programmes which led them to conclude the symbols almost certainly constitute a language. Central to their claims, published last year in Science, was the theory of “conditional entropy”, or the measure of randomness in any sequence. Because of linguistic rules – such as in English the letter Q is almost always followed by a U – in natural languages the degree of randomness is less than in artificial languages.

One of the authors, Rajesh Rao, who was born in Hyderabad but is now based at the University of Washington, became fascinated by the Indus culture after studying it at school. His team measured the randomness with which the individual Indus symbols appeared on seals and compared that to the randomness of several natural and artificial languages. Mr Rao said it was closest to a natural language. “The Indus civilisation was larger than the ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Mesopotamian civilisations and the most advanced in terms of urban planning and trade,” he said. “Yet we know little about their leaders, their beliefs, their way of life, and the way their society was organised. Many of us hope that decoding the script will provide a new voice to the Indus people.”

Yet as soon as Mr Rao’s team published its findings, Mr Farmer and his colleagues hit back, denouncing their conclusions and methodology. Mr Rao, whose team has since issued a detailed defence of their theory, said he was surprised at the level of contention, within south Asia and beyond, but also at some of the comments he claims Mr Farmer’s group levelled at him.

So whether the Indus is a script with hidden meanings may never be deciphered. Naveed Ahmed, a 24-year-old part-time guide, whose family has lived “forever” in a village on the edge of the ruins speaks Punjabi, an Indo-Aryan language from the same family as Sanskrit. Was it possible a linguistic thread connected the language he used with what had been spoken – and possibly written – by the people who once occupied the ruined city? “I don’t know if it is the same,” he said. “But it’s a possibility that our language came from them. It is always a possibility.”

Why Michael Witzels, Steve Farmers, Karunanidhis are so worried about IVC?

April 20, 2010

Why Michael Witzels, Steve Farmers, Karunanidhis are so worried about IVC?

If the scholars are genuinely interested in researching and presenting facts without any bias, such type of presentation could be understood by even common man by going through.

But when a certain pattern with bias, prejudice, pre-determined attack on one particular linguistic or religious group counched under the so-called not following racism, racialism etc., then there is a reason to doubt their credentials whether they are Indian, Indian born or non-Indan, European or American categories.

Therefore, the changing stands of the scholars also worry common men, as their views are picked up by the ideologically biased journalists and politicians to interprete and propagate according to their viewpoint. Here only Karunanidhi comes. He never bothered when Asko Parpola visited Madras / Chennai about 100 times. It is not known as to whether he has ever met him and discussed. In 1990s, he said that the whole affairs of fighting with each other etc., were Aryan issues! Rama and Krishna were black and Kshtriyas……………and so on! Or his friend Iravatham Mahadevan used his good offices to make him meet.

However, now he has been chosen for the award!

In deed, it should have been given to Michael wizel or Steve Farmer appropriately, as they have done excellent work. not only that, Michael could come right inside the so-called “Aryan-bastion”, the much hated “Parppaniya den” – Sanskrit College and declared that he had developed some skills to read and understand Rifvedic verses. However, he could not pronouce “Indrasul, Mitrasil,Nasatya…….”, as his tingue was not co-operating!

However, his humour has been phenomenal and epigenetic!

Kindly have more fun, dear friends cheers!

With due acknowledgments to Sanskrit Professor!

Steve wrote:

>>It is tedious to keep going over these materials, but if it’s one
thing
we’ve learned over the years, it is that these people *only* win if you
don’t stand up to them. When you do, ignoring the smears and just
giving the facts, their plans crumble.

>> Michael will have more on Rajaram’s Hindutva Love Fest at U. Mass
Dartmouth later today or tomorrow, I believe.

Indeed, I went down to Dartmouth, MA, to take a look at the
“Symposium on Aryan/Non-Aryan Origin of Indian Civilization.”

The Aryan invasion of India is a 19th c. theory that no serious
scholar today takes seriously, but that plays a great role in current
Indian and NRI (Indian immigrant) politics in the US (as we have seen
in California recently).

Scholarly speaking, what is to be explained is the introduction into
South Asia of an Indo-European language (Vedic Sanskrit), of
Indo-Iranian poetry, poetics and religion, as well as some of the Vedic
material culture (horses, chariots, etc.) This is fervently denied by
Hindutvavadins as the cannot allow that a central part of their culture
that continues until today has come from the outside. In their eyes,
this would threaten the supposedly indigenous character of the (North)
Indian Vedic civilization, and thus, much of the roots of later
Hinduism.

I went to Dartmouth as to take a stand in what promised to be a
Hindutva-centered meeting that was to propound the victory against the
so-called “Aryan invasion theory”.
Also, as not to leave our archeologist and geneticist colleagues alone,
exposed to severe doses of Hindutva and being unwittingly co-opted, as
has happened before (such as in the Long Beach conference some 3 years
ago).

People were flown in from as far as Europe and India to attend the
“symposium”. Clearly, some major funding is behind this effort “to
settle the theory of an Aryan Invasion” at c. 1500 BCE.

This so-called symposium was fun, if you can savor the nutty “theories”
these people propound. There were just a few exceptions among the
speakers from the Hindutva mindset (see list below):

* P. Eltsov, a young archeologist (PhD Harvard, now at Berlin) who gave
a grand view of indian civilization based on indigenous ideas of the
development of culture, from texts such as the Puranas (that have never
been used for that purpose).

* P. Underhill, well known Stanford geneticist, gave an overview of Y
chromosome studies relating to India (see below for details).

* V. K. Kashyap, of the National Institute of Biologicals at New Delhi,
gave a serious genetic paper (overview of recent mtDNA and NRY
studies related to India), but unfortunately his conclusions were again
quite Hindutva-like (see below)

* Makarand Paranjpe, (JL Nehru U., Delhi) gave a macro-civilizational,
post-colonialist speech, clearly inspired by measured nationalism . It
was a plea for the decolonizing of the Indian mind (now 50 years after
independence!), but he is not of a Hindutva mindset.

* Dr. Asiananda, Intercultural Open University, Netherlands, gave a
Blavatsky-inspired talk, free from Hindutva. Instead, he actually
quoted Parpola and Witzel with approval (what a combination!). He
proposed a grand scheme of ‘megacycles’ in history: the pre-vedic,
postvedic and transvedic civilization, into which we enter now,
supposedly: the beginning of a new Axial Age: a great Asian peace zone
expanding world wide. Sure. Just ask the emerging new powers in Asia
and South America.

As the last few cases show, the meeting was as nutty as expected. A few
characterizations about the hard core Hindutva characters and their
camp followers.

N. S. RAJARAM
was stuck, as is usual with him, in the 19th century (Max Mueller),
though now (after having posed a historian Indologist for the past 15
years) he wants to be a scientist again, using modern science to
explain the Vedic age.

He gave his usual erroneous overview of the word aarya in the Rigveda,
underlining that aarya does not mean a ‘race’ but just is cultural term
(as long explained, unbeknownst to him, by Kuiper, 1955), that and
means ‘noble’ (which is wrong as Thieme has shown long ago). He also
denies that the Aarya distinguished themselves from others in the RV
(again untrue) and maintained that seeing Arya a “race” was a product
of European thought and was necessary for German nationalism in the
19th c. and unification in 1870/71. (Well, ask Bismarck whether he ever
read the Vedas or studied comparative linguistics).

Of course, Dr. R. is unaware of the fact that arya, aarya – he
mentions only aarya– in the RV means something else, (probably
‘hospitable’, i.e. “us’) and he is unaware of the seminal study of the
term by Thieme ( Der Fremdling im Rigveda. Leipzig 1938; Mitra and
Aryaman. New Haven 1957; JAOS 80, 1960, 301-17 the latter two in
English).

Once again, he expressed his nonacceptance of comparative historical
linguistics, which “would not exist without Sanskrit”. A typical
Indo-centric view, that neglects that other language families were
discovered earlier than the Indo-European one, and that the
establishment of IE ling. could have proceeded without the knowledge
of Sanskrit: it merely was facilitated by Skt as the constituent
elements of words (root, stem suffix, endings) are a little clearer
their than, say in Greek or Latin.

In short, historical and technical ignorance, which characterized all
of his writings of the past 15 years. (He cannot even get the
intellectual history of the 19th c., right as he depends on secondary
and tertiary sources).

Then, he cherry-picked from other sciences, such as genetics (“which
shows that there was no recent immigration into India!” — see below),
archaeology, etc. Again, without clear understanding of the procedure
of these sciences and the way some of their “results’ are arrived at,
by speculation. Thus, when he talks about the connection between the
Harappan civilization and the Veda (“by one group of people”), he
cherry-picks some similarities and neglects the fundamental differences
between the city civilization of the Harappans and the (largely)
pastoral, semi-nomadic Rgvedic culture.

All of this as to show that a “paradigm change” in understanding early
Indian history is underway. Well, just in his own mind and that of his
camp followers. (I will not go into details here. I have discussed all
of this madness of alleged paradigm change in along and tedious
fashion in EJVS 2001)

Instead, as he has now noticed that the Rigveda represents a maritime
civilization (see below, BB Lal’s talk), he wants to move on and study
the connections between Harappan and Rgvedic civilization on the one
hand, and the S.E. Asian (such as Cambodia) ones on the other. He is
clearly inspired by the popular books of S. Oppenheimer, and his failed
“paradise in the east”, based on the Toba explosion of c. 75,000 BCE
(ironically when Homo Sap., sap. had not yet left Africa).

Focusing, like Oppenheimer, on SE Asia Rajaram attributes, against
recent botanical data, the origin of rice agriculture to the Cambodian
Tonle Sap area some 12 kya ago, thus at 10,000 BCE. But we know that
domesticated oryza japonica originated in S. China and oryza indica in
the eastern parts of N. Indian plains, all quite a few millennia later
than 12 Kya.

Obviously I opposed these points in the discussion period (as mentioned
above) and ironically encouraged him to get all departments of
linguistics abolished world wide….

(By the way, no words by Rajaram about his proposed 2nd vol. of
“translations” of the Indus signs. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask him
about it. What a pity!)

S. BAJPAI

This former, rather unproductive Prof. of history at the CA State
University (Northridge) was very active in the long ranging CA
schoolbook debate that he “won” — of course, only in his mind. He
wanted to show that the theory of an “Aryan” invasion or even influx
into India was just a myth, and that the Vedic and Harappan (Indus)
civilizations were connected: by identifying the area of the Seven
Rivers (Sapta Sindhavah), the Sarasvati River, and the epicenter of
Rgvedic culture.

In doing so, he did not repeat what specialists have known for long,
that the 7 rivers define the greater Panjab area, but he propounded the
strange idea that the western Panjab rivers (Jhelum, Indus etc.) were
excluded… Note that this “result” excludes much of Pakistan and E.
Afghanistan (whose rivers are of course clearly mentioned in the text)

As for the Sarasvati, he tried to show that this is a “mighty” river in
Haryana State (northwest of Delhi), again something well known to
specialists. He propounded the typical Hindutva theory that this river
flowed from the mountains (Himalaya) to the ocean (samudra), neglecting
the studies of K. Klaus (in the Eighties) that showed that samudra
means many things in the Veda, including lakes. Thus, he overlooked the
point that the Sarasvati (Sarsuti)-Ghaggar-Hakra river ended in a delta
and in terminal lakes in the Cholistan/Ft.Derawar area in Pakistan,
well east of the Indus. He also overlooked the recent studies by two
Indian and two German geologists who have pointed out (Current science
2004) that the “great river” of the Harappan and Vedic period could
not have been so large anymore as its area does not show mineral
deposits of Himalayan glaciers. This renders a perennial glacier-fed
river into a smaller, monsoon fed one that could not fill the 10 km
wide river bed of former times.

Hindutvavadins need the big river, that they say dried up in c. 2000
BCE, as they want to make it the center of the Harappan Civilization,
that they call the Sindhu (Indus) –Sarasvati civilization. (But, it
has been shown by R. Mughal in 1977 that this drying up happened in
stages, with several reversals. Not mentioned of course).

Bajpai had the great idea (not substantiated by historical leveling of
the RV) that the original Sapta Sindhu region was in the Sarasvati
area, (called “the best place on earth” in RV 3 ) and that the concept
was later expanded to include areas west and east of it. Strange that
the Avesta also has it (Videvdad), but Avestan was never mentioned by
this Indocentric person (who told me during a CA meeting that he is not
interested in materials from outside India). Nor was any attention
paid to the fact that RV 3 is a book that deals with the victorious
Bharata tribe, who settled in the Sarasvati area and naturally praised
this river to the skies… Such is the lack of background and scholarly
sense of this great historian.

His conclusion was that the Rigvedic civilization and the Harappan one
overlapped in one geographical area and also in time, as the RV “must
be older than 2000 BCE” since it still mentions the great Sarasvati
flowing to the ocean.

In sum, he now wants to reconstitute the history of the Harappan and
Vedic times: “the myth and baggage” of the Aryans as coming from the
outside must be given up. In the question period, BB. Lal (see below)
honed in on this erroneous idea that must be discarded, and Rajaram
added that scholars now need to take one more step: join archeological
and literary evidence (as if we and others had not done that, for
example at Toronto 1990 (Erdosy 1995) and in the yearly Harvard Round
Tables (since 1999).

Again, it became clear how narrow, Indocentric and uniformed the
Hindutva proponents are and how much they lack proper information on
past studies. P. Eltsov and I criticized some of the points mentioned
above. Time however always was too short during the meeting to go into
any detailed discussion of the many points mentioned, so I had to pick
and choose among some obviously inane proposals and the lack of
information and vision.

B.B. Lal

Lal is the former Dir. Gen. of the Indian archaeological service. At
that time, he has done some very good work, though he has published
little of it and is doing so only now, after severe public criticism in
India some 2 years ago.

However, after his retirement he became religious and Hindutva-like. I
still must make a streaming video of interviews he gave in 1985 to a
Japanese TV crew about his digs that were meant to follow the footsteps
of the (god!) Rama , from Ayodhya southwards across the Ganges and
beyond… Maybe I can do so this summer.
Lal too propounds the identity of the Vedic and Harappan civilizations.

Anyhow, he also billed himself as a Sanskritist this time — but he
has never heard that Vedic Sanskrit is as different from the commonly
taught Classical one as Homeric Greek is different from Classical
Greek. Consequently, he made serious mistakes in his long discussion
of Rgvedic culture.

After blaming Max Mueller and M. Wheeler as originators of the Aryan
theory, and rejecting the old explanation that the invading Aryans had
driven the Dravidians southwards, he stressed the continuity of the
Harappan and Vedic cultures, and went on a textual spree:

If the Aryan Invasion theory was right, then how come that among
Rigvedic place names there are no Dravidian ones? (He never mentioned
the fact that many words have a third language origin, loans from a
prefixing, Austro-Asiatic like language). He then talked about plants
and animals as typical Indian (forgetting about temperate climate IE
words such as those for the wolf, otter, beaver, willow, oak, etc.),
and merely mentioned that the birch tree (another IE word) is not
found in the RV (it of course occurs prominently in post-RV texts, with
derivates to this day…)

Next came M. Witzel’s “abortive attempt” to find the immigration in a
Sutra text. The passage in question (BS’S 18) has found various
interpretations, and Lal, as a non-specialist, was of course not aware
of the fact that the Brahmana-like texts play with popular etymologies:
in case that of “going, moving” (I, ay) and staying at home (amaa vas),
which is found in the tribal names involved (Ayu, Amavasu), which I
had to point out to him. His summary, predicable again, was: no Aryan
invasion.

Next a discussion some terracotta “spoked wheels” in Harappan layers:
remember we need horses and chariots in pre-RV times! (An Indian
archaeologist had described them to me recently as spindle whirls,
confirming my own interpretation).

As expected he also found horses in archeology (figurines and the
Surkotada skeleton). I had to point out to him that the horse is a
steppe animal that was introduced into the near East and S. Asia only
around 2000 BCE, and that only by finding the phalanges of equids one
can decide whether we deal with a donkey, a horse or a half-ass
(onager, hemione) skeleton. Onagers still are found in the Rann of
Cutch.

Further a discussion of pur ”fort”, and sea trade with 100-oared boats.
As an archeologist, he had never heard that 100, 1000 are commonly used
as ‘many’ in Vedic texts and anyhow, the boat in question is a
mythological one, not one of human traders.

He also saw great rulers in the RV, just because samraat means
‘emperor’, in post-Vedic texts., Again philological failure. And so on
and so forth.

Finally, the Sarasvati again, drying up at 2000 BCE. Thus the RV must
be dated before that event. Indeed, Haryana settlements (the center of
RV culture, see above) go back to excavations showing a date of 6431
BCE (!) And genetics were thrown in for good measure (Sahoo 2006)

In sum, though the RV occupied only the northwest of the subcontinent,
it “overlaps in time and area with the Harappan civilianization”.

It is surprising how an established archaeologist can be so naïve, in
his old age, about facts from outside his field (palaeontology,
genetics, texts, linguistics) and still loudly proclaim his
‘revolutionary’ result (also in his latest book “The Sarasvati flows
on”.) I felt sorry for him that I had to point this out, but since he
is a well respected authority, it had to be done.

N. KAZANAS

Kazanas is the head of a new age-like institution in Athens (Greece).
He has studied some Sanskrit way back in Britain, and has joined the
anti-Migration bandwagon in recent years.

Interestingly, his talk put the RV not at 2000 BCE but at 3000 BCE and
earlier, but he still made the same assertion of a link between the
Harappan and Vedic civilization.

No problem: he has spoked wheels in an Indus sign where a man stands
above to ‘spoked’ circles; he has “plenty” horses in India, since
17,000 BCE (but, the Sivalik horse disappeared, like its American
relatives, in the megafaunal extinction around 10,000 BCE), all of
which fits the RV evidence of horses and chariots.

However, as indicated, he has the RV well before the Indus civ. : thus,
istaka ‘brick” is not found in the RV (never mind that it also is found
in Avestan and Tocharian, an old BMAC loan); pur does not mean fort or
town (W. Rau has shown in the Seventies that it means exactly that:
‘fort’); Rgvedic people were oceangoing; the RV has no fixed, built up
altars like the (supposed) Harappan ones at Kalibangan (well, what
about, e.g., RV 2.3.7 with 3 ‘ backs/hills’ for the 3 sacred fires?);
and echoing Sethna, the word for cotton is found only in the late Vedic
Sutra, while it has been found in the Indus civ.

His simpl(istic) summary: the RV must be older than the Harappan civ.

He also believes that many ideas and myths of the RV have been
forgotten after 3000 BCE, that the genealogies (which ALWAYS are
subject to expansion and contraction) found in the Brhadaranyaka
Upanishad add up to a Vedic period of some 900 years; that Achar’s
calculation of the date of the Mahabharata at 3067 (see below) shows
the age of Indian civ..

Then, that the mighty Sarasvati (see above) leads to a period of 3200
or 3800 BCE, his time of the RV (never mind the other Hindutva dates
given above). Additionally, saras in Saras-vati does not mean a lake
but the root sr means to ‘rush’. Well, Mayrhofer’s etymological
dictionary (which he quoted!) lists saras itself and links it with a
different root, as seen in Greek helos ‘swamp,’ which he –as a Greek–
did not mention. (See my discussion of his ideas in JIES 31, (2003),
107-185).

Finally, the “full agreement of “all archeologist’’ in not accepting an
Aryan invasion as there “never can be any peaceful immigration” Huh?
Which was “possible only thorough conquest by nomadic horse riding
barbarians.”

In sum, the usual omnium gatherum of disjointed elements that all can
be disputed (as I did of course), point by point.

Simply put: horses and chariots in South Asia at 3500 BCE (before they
actually appear, after 2000 BCE)?

N. ACHAR

N. Achar gave another version of his paper (already widely distributed
on the net) that dates the Mahabharata tale to 3067 BCE, based on
the description of the movement of some planets, some eclipses, etc.
If we were to take these descriptions (found in post-Vedic,
non-standard Epic Sanskrit) as a given, the (unanswered) question would
arise: how this knowledge would have been transmitted, from its form in
the Harappan language, to Vedic and post-Vedic Sanskrit, in an ever
changing medium like the epic.

Anyhow: what would the Mahabharata be without horses and chariots (at
3067 BCE??)

In discussion, he maintained his belief that the astronomical data are
based on actual observation and somehow made it into our present
version of the Mahabharata (compiled probably only around 100 BCE.!)

Y. “Rani” ROSSER

She was, in a certain way, the most amusing highlight of the meeting.
Talking at high volume, shouting at times, she complained about the
state of schoolbooks with regard to the ‘debunked Aryan Invasion
Theory’ and that the ‘paradigm shift’ away from it does not appear in
American schoolbooks or in Summer school-like meetings that inform US
high school teachers. She has started a project collecting statements
about various scholars about the theory.

More amusingly, she took pot shots at me three or four times, laced
with faulty memory and confabulation as well as plainly wrong
information, and including even personal items. As it turned out later
she was confusing my website (where she does not figure) with that of
a second generation India group on the web (IPAC). I had to tell her “
first read, then speak…” several times.

Not satisfied with this, she accosted me in the break period, loudly
calling me, quote, “an asshole” (twice) . So much spiritualism for this
sari-clad, self-professed Ganesha worshipper.

(Others had contended themselves with complaints that I had not
answered their email (Kazanas), etc., or that I had not taken up their
invitation to speak at the meeting. Why should I legitimize them in
doing so? — After all his slander & libeling, Rajaram did not say
anything about me, of course not about his role in CA, but I
confronted him, and told him what I think of his defamation and
libeling since December. And too bad that Harvard did not buy his
libeling. No answer.).

Some such amusement apart, Rani Rosser clearly is very angry that I
disturbed her nicely planned scheme to saffronize CA schoolbooks (she
was involved in the planning and writing of the edits), and that I had
shown her ignorance on another list some 5 years ago. Another
Rajaram-like “forget me not” case.

Finally coming to some actual science:

P. UNDERHILL

Is a geneticist at Stanford U., and participant in our yearly Round
Tables. He gave an overview of the genetic data presently known for
India. It was loaded with caveats about what genetics can say about
ancient populations and how limited our knowledge actually is at this
moment. (Interestingly, Rajaram often interrupted and asked follow up
questions, as he now fancies himself as budding population geneticist).

Underhill stressed the fact that we have little ancient DNA, and use
modern one as proxy material that is supposed to indicate actual
historical events. Second, that there is no direct connection between
genes, language and archaeology. Third, that different population
histories can create the same genetic landscape, that certain
demographic events may be hidden, and that late arrivals [such as the
Aryans] may not be easily detectable.
Fourth, that there always is the possibility that results of genetics
are cherry-picked to suit political desires (a clear hint of Hindutva
efforts), but that good science always is self-correcting.

He then proceeded to give some details of the Y chromosome landscape of
South Asia, pointing out some haplogroups that arose in India and
others that came for the outside.

Of special interest is R1a1-M17 (which he discovered in 1995) and that
has often been attributed to the spread of Indo-European (while
Hindutvavadins let it originate in India). That is a gross
simplification. According to him, it probably arose in the area around
the Hindukush around 10,000 BC (+/- 3000 years), and spread eastwards
and westwards. It has the largest impact on S. Asia (some 25%), but is
found from E. Europe to India.
However, its resolution, that means as subgroups of M17, still are too
inadequate, so that nothing specific can be said about a possible
(re-)introduction of a variety of M17 into S. Asia [along with the
Aryans].

He re-asserted this in the discussion, when BB Lal wanted to know more
about the chronology of this haplogroup. I also brought up the lack of
genetic resolution for any recent movements of people such as Aryans,
Turkic Muslims and British, as the error bar still is 3000 years for
events around 1000 BCE and later. He affirmed this, taking the wind
out of the sails of those who had used the Sengupta/Sahoo papers
(2005,2006) that dealt with events around 10,000 kya, as to refute an
Aryan invasion. I also brought up the Kivisild paper of 1999 that has
been used in the CA debate to show that “genetics had refuted an Aryan
migration” — well, at 60,000 BCE, not at the likely date of 1500 BCE.

One can only hope that this and other ridiculous statements will now
disappear. Not easily, though, see the following:

V. K. KASHYAP

Kashyap is a DNA specialist at a national institute in Delhi. He gave
an even more detailed, valuable overview of the Indian genetic
landscape based on his project of studying 415 Indian populations.
However, some strange features appeared in his talk:
Dravidian at 50,700 kya
Austroasiatic at “??”
Tibeto-Burmese at 8-10 kya
Aryan at 3.5 to 5,.5 kya.
Dravidian at 50, 000? At that time, not even the hypothetical Nostratic
ancestor language had developed, not to speak of its daughter families,
such as IE, Dravidian, etc,

He then quoted some genetic papers with pro and contra for an Aryan
migration from Central Asia, and proceeded to Sahoo (2006) and his own
study: with similar results as those in Underhill’s. So far so good.

However the local atmosphere must have shaped his actual interpretation
of the data. For, he used them to show that there are [currently, I
add] no data for an Aryan Immigration and that the Aryan gene pool is
a myth.

In the discussion, Underhill intervened and stressed again that his
agrees with Kashyap’s genetic data. But that he hesitated to put a
specific origin on some of them, such as M17-R1a1 [which Hindutvavadins
have used for an Out of India theory of IE – at 10 kya ! ]. M17
could just as easily have arisen on the Iranian plateau and then have
moved into India, just as other lineages did. The lack of informative
sub-haplogroups makes it impossible to say anything more.

In sum: genetics has nothing to say yet about the Aryan migration. Too
bad for the Rajaram’s of this world.

(Kak did not come; nor was our old favorite, Dr. K, present nor his
buddy, the budding self-appointed linguist Kelkar who lives close by in
the Boston area).

(I skipped the other sessions, such as the one on the Indian family
system — which, I hear, was just as nutty, apparently inspired by the
fear of loosing the joint family system and the Indian “racial”
identity when NRI children are intermarrying with Non-NRIs left and
right. And I skipped the “Workshop on Indian Civilization”, apparently
used for planning Hindutva style college text books,– which would have
been even a greater loss of time and energy).

In the summary session, I stressed again that the “Aryan Invasion
Theory” is dead and gone, it is a 19th c. theory. But, not to be
misquoted, that they still have to explain how a temperate climate
Indo-European language got into the subcontinent (and Iran), along with
its poetics, religion and rituals. That they finally must learn some
linguistics and philology, and explain their facts. Just to cherry-pick
and cut and paste the interpretations of the various sciences does not
do.

In sum, as expected, another event that brought out Hindutva goals and
methods. A loss of time, sure, but these guys had to be confronted…

Cheers, M.W.

PS:
Here the official list which does not quite reflect the actual list of
speakers, as give above.
————————————————————————
———-
Symposium on Aryan/Non-Aryan Origin of Indian Civilization

Session I Chair: Vanita Shastri

4:00 PM – Dr. Petr Eltsov, Deutches Archaeologische Institut, Germany-
From Harappa to Hastinapura: A study of the earliest South City and
civilization from the point of view of archaeology and ancient Indian
literature
4:45 PM – Dr. N. S. Rajaram, Indologist – The Aryan Myth In Perspective
-History, Science and Politics
5:30 PM – Dr. Asiananda, Intercultural Open University, Netherlands –
Situating Aryan/Non-Aryan Origins of Indian Civilization within a
Mega-cyclical View of Indian History
6:15 PM – Dr. Shiva Bajpai, California State University, Northridge –
Epicenter and Ecumene of the Rigvedic Aryans

Saturday June 24, 2006

Session II Chair: S. S. Chakravarti

7:30 AM – Registration and continental breakfast

8:30 AM – Dr. B. B. Lal, former Director General, Archeological Survey
of India – An Ostrich-Like Attitude Is Perpetuating -The ‘Aryan
Invasion’ Myth?
9:15 AM – Dr. Nicholas Kazanas, Omilos Meleton, Athens – Dating the
Rigveda and Indigenism
10:00 AM – Dr. Subhash Kak, Louisiana State University – Vedic
Astronomy and the Aryan Problem

10:45 AM – Break

Session III Chair: C. M. Bhandari

11: 00 AM – Dr. Yvette Rosser, UMass Dartmouth – Aryans and Ancestral
Angst.
11:45 AM – Dr. Peter Underhill, Stanford University – Patterns of
Y-chromosome diversity in the contemporary South Asian gene pool
12:30 PM – Dr. V. K. Kashyap, National Institute of Biologicals, New
Delhi, India – Aryan Gene Pool in India- Reality or Myth; Evidences
Revisited

1:15 PM – Lunch

2:15 PM – Dr. Makarand Paranjape, Jawaharlal Nehru University –
Symposium Roundup
3:00 PM – Break

==============

Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street , 3rd floor, Cambridge MA 02138
1-617-495 3295 Fax: 496 8571
direct line: 496 2990
<http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwpage.htm>
<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/>
< http://users.primushost.com/~india/ejvs/>

Michael Witzel and Rajaram: Interesting encounters!

April 19, 2010

Michael Witzel and Rajaram: Interesting encounters!

As I am an Indian and poor man, I could not have gone there to watch fun, but our Sanskrit Professor at Harvard have done a nice coverage to that event and I thank Michael Wizel and present the details as follows:

Flag this message

id=”message_view_subject”>[Indo-Eurasia] Rajaram, in Boston, requires withdrawal of Horseplay in HarappaSunday, 18 April, 2010 8:45 PM

From:
“Michael Witzel” <witzel@fas.harvard.edu>

Add sender to Contacts

To:
Indo-Eurasian_research@yahoogroups.com
Cc:
“Michael Witzel” <witzel@fas.harvard.edu>

Dear List,

since it is the weekend, a few amusing details about our old friend,
NS Rajaram’s, talk at MIT last week (4/10) and his subsequent
interview in the local Indian immigrants’ (NRI) newspaper Lokavani
“Voice of the People’ — sponsored by a clueless US immigration lawyer.

Along with one or two of my students, I went to MIT to have some fun.
And fun it was. Some very emotional people (among the c. 40
listeners) objected to our snickering at his “ideas” (see below).

Rajaram indeed repeated all the fantasies and unscientific nonsense
that he has propagated since he abruptly turned, overnight (why?),
from a mathematician at some US colleges and a (very occasional, but
hyped) collaborator of NASA-Houston, into a “historian” back in his
home town of Bangalore in India.

No need to repeat all of this as we have discussed it on and off over
the past decade. (Just read his interview, below)

Only a few highlights.

I thought to challenge his many fantasies (see Lokavani), but as
there was little time and chance, I merely pointed out the obvious:
that his “scientific” dating of the Vedic civilization BEFORE the
Indus civilization (2600-1900 BCE) is impossible precisely on
*scientific* grounds: before 2000 BCE, there were no horses
(caballus) in India, nor had spoke-wheeled chariots been invented by
then. Both are of course prominent in the “preceding” Vedic texts.

Rajaram and friends (e.g., an *always present* loud associate of a
local temple) took up the usual secondary and tertiary ‘arguments’
and ways out: that there were “Indian” horses with seventeen ribs in
the Rgveda (of course *not* a genetic trait of horses [that have
16-18 ribs]),and the Narmadicus horses (well, dead for hundreds of
thousands of years, — along with their 3 toes (!) ). Fun.

Or quoting a Graham Hancock film (Kathy?) … No comment.

More funnily, one young women, objecting emotionally to the husband
of my student, showed him the finger and called him an asshole.
Remember the same from our Dartmouth, Mass. meeting of June 2006?
(Where Rajaram is now invited by the miniscule setup of a “Center of
Indian Studies”, at U. Mass., Darthmouth). See my detailed June 26,
2006 report:

<http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/Indo- Eurasian_ research/ message/4278>

She also wanted to ‘correct’ my Sanskrit pronunciation of shaanti and
told us the familiar Hindutva standby that we were not entitled, as
non-Indians, to talk about Indian culture. When I told her that, in
that case, she was not entitled to talk about American culture, we
only got blank, non-comprehending stares, even after explaining it
for a 2nd time. — Fun.

But back to Rajaram. More fun: He came up to me after his 2 hour (!)
talk to “greet” me, and I told him to stop lying about me (…
forgetting, by the way, about his monthly missives to my president
and provost to throw me out of the University.. .).

**He then required me to withdraw our 2000 paper “Horseplay in
Harrappa” in the Indian magazine Frontline**
that completely destroyed his credibility, even in the then Hindutva-
led (BJP) circles.

I told him: no way.

He also told the audience that his 2nd volume on the “decipherment’
of the Indus signs would come out now. Cannot wait for more
decipherments such as “mosquito”.. .

And, that he has now shifted to a maritime interpretation (along with
David Frawdley) of the Rgvedic texts. (Good luck with traveling in
the night time sky = samudra!) And to South East Asian maritime
input on Vedic civilization — a pet idea of their part-time fellow
traveller, Koenraad Elst, in Belgium.

And, even more remarkably, researching now a connection between the
late 1st millennium CE Vedanta philosophy and … physics. On that
point, he was challenged by MIT/Harvard students, of course…

For all of this (in Rajaram’s words) see the link and mssg. quoted
below.

At any rate, apart from the loss of our time, it was good weekend
entertainment.
Hope you, too, enjoy his pronouncements. …

Cheers, Michael

His interview in Lokavani: <http://www.lokvani. com/lokvani/ article.php? article_id= 6418>

For convenience, it is reproduced here:

In Conversation With Dr. Navaratna Rajaram
Ranjani Saigal 04/13/2010

(This article is sponsored by Attorney Rachel C. Tadmor)
Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematician and scientist who after more than twenty years as an academic and industrial researcher turned his attention to history and history of science. He has authored several acclaimed books on ancient history including Sarasvati River and the Vedic Civilization, Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (w/ David Frawley); and The Deciphered Indus Script (w/ Natwar Jha). He is best known for showing the connections between Vedic Mathematics and Indus archaeology and proposing a decipherment of the 5000 year old Indus script jointly with the late Natwar Jha. He is currently visiting faculty at the University of Massachusetts , Center for Indic Studies at Dartmouth.

He spoke to Lokvani about his work and the need for technically minded Indians to learn more about India and its history.

What motivated , a mathematician by profession to do research in Indian history and Indology?

I was always interested in history and history of science. My maternal grandfather Sri R. Vyasa Rao wrote Sri Krishna Caritra in Kannada (my mother tongue) based on Sri Bankima Chandra Chatterji’s Bengali masterpiece of the same name. My study of the work taught me that there advantages to looking at history from a scientific point of view. I had long planned to bring out an English version of that work, which finally happened a few years ago in my English Search for the Historical Krishna. It is not a translation though but a new work that uses a lot of data which was not available to Sri Bankima Chandra.

How did you learn the techniques required to do research in History? Do you consider your “non-training” in the colonial-Eurocentric approach to history an advantage?

I don’t think you need any special training in history except a capacity to look at all claims with skepticism and never to accept anything on authority or reputation. The same is true of science also. In that sense my training in mathematics (and math physics) prepared me well for history.

Why is the Aryan Invasion theory which we now know is a myth important to Indian historians? Why are so many scholars afraid debunking the Aryan theories?

It was important because it was an attempt by outsiders, even those hostile to us, to tell us how we should see ourselves and our heritage. Now that the Aryan myth, not just the theory is dead, we need to move to a new phase– to understand what drove Europeans and even some Indians to hold on to it long after science and history had discredited it. European scholars like Leon Poliakov and Stefan Arvidson (in The Aryan Myth and Aryan Idols) have done it from a European perspective.

But Indian scholars seem to be still reluctant and even timid to face it and hesitant to call a spade a spade and expose these Aryan theories for what they are. It is residual inferiority complex.

Why is colonial-Eurocentric approach towards understanding Indigenous culture still strongly followed in intellectual history circles ?

Inferiority complex that is programmed into Indian humanities and social science programs. This is a colonial hangover or ‘dhimmitude’ towards their former masters. Colonialism may be dead but the mindset of the colonial subject is still there in the intelligentsia. This is by no means limited to India.

Why do western professors studying the history of an Indigenous culture place no value on the multiple sources of literature and  philosophies which guide the lives of the millions in the culture they study that have evolved through the ages some of which totally contradict their writings?

It is precisely because they contradict their long-held positions! It also strikes at the root of their presumption of superiority. But here the problem lies more with Indians than with the Western scholars. A clear message should be sent out that we judge everything on its merit regardless of whether source is indigenous (Indian) or Western, and no special consideration will be shown to anyone. After all this how we judge people and their work in other fields. A theorem in mathematics must be proved, no matter who states it. Why should it be any different in history or any other subject?

What is the danger in allowing  colonial-Eurocentric works go unchallenged?

We must reject all shoddy work, Western or Indian. But because West had a monopoly on such scholarship without competition, it generated a lot of shoddy scholarship. My objection is that it has given rise to shoddy scholarship and nationalistic responses that are also shoddy in scholarship. Now that the field is opening up, we must try to lift the standards of scholarship. But people with a stake in the status quo will fight it.

You have worked on  deciphering the Harappan Script and that claim has been vociferously opposed by professors following the Eurocentric approach. Are professors  closing the doors on Academic research and shutting the window to knowledge by closing their mind and not allowing their students to  look at rational thinking?

I don’t want to make too much of the vitriolic reactions of a handful of frustrated scholars — both Western and Indian — to the solution that Jha and I proposed. Several people, both in India and the West have received our work favorably and others have offered constructive criticisms. Actually the script doesn’t tell us much more than we already know– that the Harappan civilization was Vedic and also the Rig Veda came before Harappan archaeology (of the Indus Valley).

THIS IS THE REAL ISSUE– THE VEDIC-HARAPPAN IDENTITY. The rest is just diversion. Once this basic reality is accepted, it means the collapse of the academic discipline called Indo-European Studies.

As far as the script is concerned, it is just one piece of the puzzle, not the whole solution. Jha and I and David Frawley also have much more now that relate to the Vedic-Harappan equation. Jha and I had made progress towards a successor to our book The Deciphered Indus Script that would place greater emphasis on the Vedic symbolism and the identity of the Harappans. But we decided that in the prevailing climate a book would not get a reasonable hearing and be subjected to diversionary attacks and misinformation campaign. So we decided to wait until the climate turned more normal.

Unhappily, Jha died a few years ago but I and some of my colleagues are working on books on the subject. Now that these hostile academics and their followers have discredited themselves, we may bring out our books in the next few years. But for the desperate diversionary attacks by some scholars — both Western and Indian — worried about their positions and reputations, much of this work would have been available by now. So they succeeded in delaying progress by about a decade, that is all. My regret is that Jha, who made such a major contribution is no longer here to share it.

How do you hope to create a shift in the study of indigenous cultures which are currently being dominated by some powerful academics at prestigious universities?

Ignore their unsupported claims and demand that they give evidence and proof. Look at evidence without being swayed by prestige or reputation.  Above all, don’t give them  any support– financially or in terms of students. Their programs are dwindling, and it would be unwise for a young man or woman to try to make a career or gain fame following in their footsteps.

What advice do you have for our readers?

For young readers, first, study the past but don’t live in the past. See if we can bring ancient wisdom like Vadantic metaphysics to apply to problems of modern physics like quantum reality. Incidentally, this is my current area of interest. Next don’t waste time studying nineteenth century ideas like Aryan and Dravidian, etc. They are dead, no matter what their advocates may claim. (They will also be dead.) Except for details we have pretty much solved the problem of Vedic and Harappan origins and their mutual relationship. So start looking at proto-Vedic and pre-Vedic ages. This will call for a thorough understanding of natural history from the Ice Age to the present and of population genetics.

For everyone– don’t support these hostile programs just because they are at ‘prestigious’ universities or because some of these people have big reputations, at least according to themselves. Most of these are in decline and let them die a natural death. Don’t prolong the agony by giving them any life support.

On the other hand support and organize programs that stress an indigenous perspective like yoga, vedanta and science others that have a rational basis and are scientifically and intellectualy exciting.

Thank you for your time

Thank you