The Real History of India – Part 8: Parpola Lecture disproves Farmer/Witzel/Sproat

Updated again March 16, 2008: includes this post in their History Carnival. Thanks a lot  We are honored.

Updated again March 9, 2008: Steve Farmer sent me an email and was kind enough to explain to me why my post was moderated out. I accepted his explanation. But i told Steve that attacking the person and attacking the argument are 2 different things and that untill the comments that attack me are removed from his group forum, i will keep my retort up over here.

Updated March 9, 2008: This post is being discussed by Witzel, Farmer and others. I have got some new labels from this group of highly accomplished academicians – I am now a Nationalist (read Hindutvavadi) and a Parpola Admirer/Deifier. My response to their discussion on their forum doesn’t seem to get posted possibly because they moderate it. I also didn’y store my post by mistake. I am rewriting my post on that forum here and hence some of the words may have changed but the essence is the same:

1. I am the author of the post all of you are discussing. I object to the nationalist label you assigned to me because that is a proxy for unscientific people. I am a proud Indian National, as proud of my nationality as much as you all are about yours. If you call me a Nationalist, i assume you will also carry that same label with the same negative connotations against your names as well. For the record, I am of the view that Aryans came from outside India and Aryanized the local people (its not Aryan Invasion). You will understand my position if you read post #6 of this series.

2. I find it amusing that you all picked one line in the report about Homer’s epics being in Linear B for your discussion and even setting bounties to be hunted for it. That might have been entirely my mistake in representing what Parpola said. Let me point out to you that this entire Parpola rebuttal disproves the Witzel/Farmer/Sproat beyond reasonable doubt. If you still want to stand by your research, please publish your rebuttal in an open forum like you have done with your original paper. Where is the need for obtaining a personal discussion with Parpola?

3. Witzel, i generally respect and admire your research and your arguments. I have read most of your papers available on the public Internet and also the spats you had with Frawley in the pages of the Hindu newspaper. But this paper of yours that tries to prove that IVC was illiterate is one that i don’t agree with at all. Now Parpola has disproved it.

4. I seem to have gotten another label – Parpola Admirer/Deifier. I think Parpola is extraordinary and I am an admirer, yes. He is a man who has spent 4 decades of his life on Indology in a time when what goes by the name of Indology is arguments around Aryan Invasion Theory. I believe that IVC was a great civilization and in some ways better than or at atleast at a par with Sumer and Egypt. IVC deserves its rightful place in the history of humankind. You can dismiss that as my axe to grind. Maybe. But you can easily make me abandon my position with scientific arguments that is accepted as valid by the general Indology community. Just setting bounty money on irrelevant parts of the argument doesn’t behove of an accomplished academic community that all of you represent.

I rest my case.


Updated March 8, 2008: NK Sreedhar found the link to the powerpoint Parpola used. He also found a more verbose PDF version where Parpola explains his rebuttal. Thanks a lot Sreedhar.



After covering the Aryan Invasion Theory debate, we get back to the IVC. Saturday, Feb 16, 2008 was a great day in my life. Thanks to Archana Raghuram’s tip off, myself and Priya Raju got to attend a lecture by Asko Parpola at the Indus Research Centre [Roja Muthiah Reference Library] on saturday from 10.30 AM to 12.30 PM. We had reached the venue at 10 am, so that there would be no scope for missing even one word of the great master. I also managed to get his autograph. After about 15 min, we saw Iravatham Mahadevan coming and sitting in the front seat. I got his autograph as well – he signed his name in the Indus Script! If you are really interested in understanding the IVC people and their script, this lecture notes may be a critically important one to read. I have tried my best to capture everything Parpola said. If you find this lecture difficult to grasp, you may want to first orient yourself to his thoughts by reading this recent interview of Parpola which appeared in the Hindu newspaper.

Welcome Address by V.C. Kulandaiswamy, former Vice Chancellor of Anna University, who chaired the meeting:

This center has been setup in Jan 2007 and is one of the newest centers for Indus Research. It is now operating under Iravatham Mahadevan’s tutelage. We have today Asko Parpola, Professor Emeritus of Indology from Univ of Helsinki today. There have been several Indus researchers but AP is unique. He has dedicated almost 4 decades, one could say, his entire life to Indus Research [Wow!]. Not just him, his brother, his wife and his daughter are all engaged in Indus Research. No other person on the planet can claim this sort of dedication to the cause of deciphering Indus – it is a rather unenviable task because many people think the script is undecipherable.

He got started as student of Sama Vedic rituals [is an expert in Sanskrit, Vedas and Upanishads] and later started working on the IVC Script. He started collecting material for his research in the 1960s and has accumulated a monumental amount of material which he has now published in 2 volumes the Indus Corpus [need the exact name] in 1987 and 1991. 2 more volumes are being worked upon.

Asko Parpola

I presented this paper in July 2007 at a Stanford Univ conference criticizing the Farmer/Witzel/Sproat paper that claimed that IVC was illiterate. I also presented this at a Japanese Conference. I am going to present the same paper with some more material to all of you today. This paper is not yet available in the public domain.

For the record, let me start by saying that the IVC script is a logo-syllabic script. I will present their arguments one by one and offer my rebuttal [starting with a “But” – My addition] for each one of them and then conclude with some more thoughts.

1. There are too few symbols compared to Chinese and other such pictographic scripts. At the same time there are signs repeated in the same seal.


a. they agree themselves in the paper that this point alone is not enough to prove that it is not a script.

b. Kimmo Koskienien, a colleague of mine sent an email to Sproat “does this mean you can’t prove or disprove” – Sproat replied “Yes”.

c. Shows the Narmer Inscription from Egypt showing how Cat Fish [Nr] + Awl [Mr] = Narmer.

d. Shows the famous Cleopatra and Ptolemy Cartouches which have repeating signs within a single cartouche. So repeating signs alone don’t prove or disprove anything.

2. Text is too short and there are too many rare signs (or very infrequently used signs)


a. Indus Seals have an average of 5 signs and that is more than sufficient to convey many things. Given the logo-syllabic nature and the fact these seals may represent religious rituals or trade transactions, we cannot expect long sentences.

b. Shows 2 Akkadian Seals from 2200 BC that shows “Adda the Scribe” and another showing a short poem about King of Akkad.

c. Not all signs are short – shows 2 seals having 14 signs each.

c. Sometimes even a single sign can convey a concept and shows the man + 2 concentric circles + tiger seal.

d. Compound signs that are composed of 2 or more individual signs are present. For examples shows the compound sign having a man carrying bow+arrow and also man and bow+arrow as individual signs.

3. Too many singletons


a. Only 25% of the signs occur only once and even that may change with more seal excavations.

b. All logo-syllabic scripts have many rare signs like Chinese for example.

4. No “random-looking” sign repetitions within any text.


a. points to the ptolemy & cleopatra cartouches with sign repetitions highlighted to show what a “random-looking” sign repitition is.

b. Indus also has this pattern and it occurs in the very same “bar seals” that they talk about. they missed it.

c. Shows many examples of sign repititions using seals M-682 A, M-682a, M-682 a bis; M-634-A, 93; K-10A, K-10a;

Also shows 1 sign repeated in 2 places in an 8-sign bar seal.

d. Then shows an example of a repeating sign that has 2 signs signifying “eye” and says that is “kann” [See in tamil] and “Kaan” [To See in Tamil] . So the repetition must be “KannKaani” meaning “Supervise”. [This is f***ing brilliant.]

5. “Lost” long texts never existed. We need text > 50 signs.


a. Maybe we need more excavations.

b. Rongo Rongo signs from Easter Island have greater than 50 signs. Is it writing?

c. Cites Possehl 2002, Cotton was cultivated and it was a main export of IVC. Yet we find only a few fibers of cotton attached to some vessels. Maybe they wrote text on persihable material like cotton.

d. Neachos, Greek, said that thickly woven cloth was being used for writing in India, he said it in 325 BC

e. Sanskrit sources also mention this.

f. Asoka was the first one to write in stone which is dated to 250 BC.

g. Panini mentions the word Lipi meaning script in 400-350BC so he must have known about writing.

h. There are evidences in Central Asia from 2nd cent A.D talking about palm leaf and birch bark manuscripts.

So they might have written their long texts in such perishable material which might have been lost.

6. No cursive variants found, so no possiblity of scribes, so not a script.


a. Egyptian hieroglyphics existed for 3000 years and their Heiratic cursive system doesn’t differ that much from the hieroglyphics.

b. AP’s sign list from 1994 shows 398 signs with quite a few variants of the same sign which means they had scribes.

7. No writing instrument found.


a. We know Tamils used Thin Metal Rods [Ezhuthaani in Tamil] to incise palm leaf. these might have gotten corroded.

b. they may have used a brush. There are evidences in North India to show they used brushes to paint the palm leaf.

8. Indus signs are non-linguistic


a. There are mesopotamian seals with signs that appear near Gods and also longer rows of signs appearing in limited contexts like their stelae and their boundary stones. Deities that protect their boundary stones were found on them. So it is common for ancients to have both linguistic and non-linguistic things in their writing.

9. Why didn’t they adopt writing from Mesopotamia because like the Celtic Druids and Vedic Brahamanas they wanted to keep their things a secret.


a. Adopting writing doesn’t oblige you to divulge secrets. You can always choose to not write down the secret stuff if that is what you want.

b. Literacy was restricted anyway. So just adopting writing doesn’t make everyone literate as we have seen in Egypt and elsewhere.

c. Incas developed a complex civilization without writing [they used some knotting system called Quipu]. So writing is not essential but at the sametime writing offers many advantages that can’t be denied.

At this point he says he is moving onto some additional thoughts:

1. The script must have been used mainly for administration of their trading system and for religious rituals much like the Ancient Sumerian Script.

2. The Neolithic Phase – 7000-4300BC, Chalcolithic Phase – 4300-3200BC.

3. Early Harappan phase – 3200 BC – 2500 BC due to some changes in flood patterns of the Indus, the common granaries dissappeared and they started using Large Urns but in each home. Irrigation systems started appearing because they couldn’t rely on the floods anymore. Cities with Grid patterns appear. Bullock Carts and Boat Trafficking emerge to enable them to have a cultural unification of a vast area. Harappan had one of the largest areas under its domain of its time.

4. Mid Harappan phase – 2800-2500 BC – Indus Script developed, standardized burnt brick of 1:2:4 standard started appearing everywhere.

5. Mature Harappan phase – 2500-1900 BC – the script is standardized across the board.

Standardized weights and measures created. Large building projects are started. In the city of Mohenjadaro, they build a citadel of 20 hectares size on a 12 meter tall artifical platform. One of the largest constructions of its kind for its time. There are 2 storied houses with individual baths that are unparalleled anywhere in the world at that time. They had 700 wells which have not collapsed even after 5000 years.

6. Shows Indus Tags from Umma in Mesopotamia. Almost 100 such clay tags were found in Kalibangan each of them having 4 0r more seals on them.

7. He said they started using Witnesses to record things [didn’t completely understand] and they started recording transactions in probably perishable material like cloth, leaves etc.

8. Many seals show a man kneeling in front of a Jar. I know a south indian village in Kerala where each village brings a jar of paddy to offer [i think this is there in Tamilnadu villages also].

okay, finally, is it a script or not?

Farmer/Witzel/Sproat are inconclusive. they couldn’t prove it is not a script. We also know that there were “potter marks” in the neighboring areas of baluchistan, turkmenistan, iranian plateau etc which clearly show what non-linguistic ones are. Indus is clearly a script.

there are 400 standardized signs and seals. most of them read right to left and most of them are arranged in a row neatly unless they had space constraints when they had to cram the signs like M-12A and M-66a

Shows examples of repeating signs that occur in seal endings as well as in the middle. Shows that such sequences were seen in seals collected from 9 different cities including sites as far away as Turkmenistan (Gonur) and Iraq (kish)

Then he shows examples of megalithic makings from Sanur in Tamilnadu where there are script like symbols. the problem is they have things like a 3 sign symbol which occur in different combinations and permutations, clearly indicating a non-linguistic thing.

The script was uniform everywhere – Sindh or Punjab used the same script.

Cites Godd 1932: No. 17 M – a round stamp seal which contains 5 different Indus signs in a unique combination. Concludes that it is a seal representing a foreign word for Indus people to read – perhaps by the traders.

then talks about Meluhha and that it is IVC very briefly.

Principle of Homophony or Puns or Rebus Principle

Shows a Sumerian Arrow sign standing for “Ti” that could mean one of 3 things – Arrow, Mistress of Life, Rib. It is this one that gave rise to the Biblical myth of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib because they mistook Mistress of Life as Rib because it is the same word! There are several such homophone examples in the IVC script – meen=star being a famous example.

Backing Out?

Shows Witzel saying in a paper “IVC script may encode puns” and Farmer saying “It may not be a conventional speech-or-writing-encoding system”. He made a joke of their retraction.


Even short noun-phrases and incomplerte sentences qualify as full writing if it uses the Rebus principle.

Then he answered a few questions:

1. What about Mehrgarh? You didn’t mention that site.

It is an important site because it is one of the few that show the contiunuity from neolthic to chalcolithic to post-Indus covering all the developmental phases.

2. Why do we need to decipher the script?

a. Civilization’s definition includes writing.

b. It is one of the oldest writing systems in the world, so it is important for linguistics.

c. We need to know what religion it encodes because that is important to understand south asian religions.

Then he talked about how the Rig Veda was at first very creative but then when they switched to the mode of preserving it via the oral tradition they made it very rigid so that it can’t be changed at all. He said they same thing happened in Greece after Homerian Poems were written down using Linear B script.

He also mentioned that as the Vedic people moved in, the Brahmans from their society because of their knowledge would have immediately become important people in the IVC due to their knowledge of the Vedas. He said this is much similar to what happened when the British came and the Brahmins took to English quickly and became their key people for administering India.

There were a few more not-so-relevant points, and the meeting got over and we left. There was a mob around AP, thankfully i had gotten my autograph before the meeting.


On the whole it was a mind-blowing experience to listen to the grandmaster of IVC research. I was already in awe of Parpola’s work and after this lecture, i became even more convinced of the greatness of his work. Without knowing any of this, in my own small way, i had hypothesized that the IVC seals must have had a collating sequence . I did that entirely based on Farmer/Sproat/Witzel’s repeated insistence that the average length of the inscriptions on the seals was too small. Even though they said many things in their paper, that is the one assertion of theirs that bothered me the most.


  1. Quote

    Sridhar.. thanks.. i did not take your sarcasm seriously, as its part of the game.. 🙂 .. only thing is that i raised those points without taking sides, with a view that why cant there be any other alternate way to those two extreme sides.. It just striked me, when i again reread this subject, during my medical rest for 2 weeks,

    Still, i am seen from the opposite camp.. I am not defending any one..

    let me consolidate the discussions so far on my side..

    Where i go with sukuamar..
    -> Point 4 in the starting of the post, on the point, that IVC is advanced.
    -> avestans as asuras,

    Where i dont go.
    -> IVC did not wage wars
    -> Aryanisation or aryan subjugating IVC.
    -> Dravidian/Aryan divide
    -> Too much importance on Parpola.

    Middle Path:
    -> Aryans coming from outside. – depends on the border we define for india.
    -> Saraswathi Civilization – Possibility, as the dry river bed is recently confirmed by BARC..
    -> Taming of horses.. but, horses could have been present all over..

    Deviation from two extremes:
    -> Possibility of earlier contacts of IVC with Northern tribals, (who might be grouped as Aryans).
    -> Elephants as important aspect, thats so far neglected. Time line for evolving of use of elephants in war.
    -> no continuity of aryanisation concept with later day history.
    -> Aryans/IVC co-existing or co-habitating.
    -> RV adopting idol worship from IVC.
    -> RV ignoring their own god, and adopting IVC’s shiva,vishnu, brahma & skanda.
    -> Possibility of Later day agamas by RV, for IVC gods.
    -> Possibility that Horses could have spread all over the continent, before humans attempted to tame it.


    This is my position so far.

    I think, i again started commenting in this post, following Rajaram sir’s comment here.. His argument that an analogy is not a proof is quite convincing.. particularly, the following point of Rajaram sir’s seems to be acceptable to me.

    “You cannot present conclusions based on conjecture as fact. Proto Dravidian, like Proto Indo European is a hypothetical language that is based on a belief and a linguistic model. It cannot be accepted as empirical evidence.”

    Proto-Indo european language is a proposed or assumed one, .. this is where, i suspected, that the concept of mankind’s root to adam & eve who in turn from a single father, in christianity would have influenced the historians, to propose a hierarchial structure for languages.

    On sukumar’s side, the most convincing point to me is the following..

    Yes, as of now i support the view that the IVC script is Proto-Dravidian. I don’t agree that it is a dogma. It is as valid a theory as the IVC Script=Sanskrit theory. If that is not Dogma then this is not either.

    Both are not dogma.. it would be only beneficial, if research is done on both..

    And the following is NOT accepetable to me, and this is also one of the reason, for me to comment again.

    I am sure you will find Vedic symbols in the IVC like swastik, om etc but that is because the process of Aryanization involved adopting IVC symbols. this is a standard technique used for acculturating people into the new culture/religion. This per se doesn’t prove that IVC was Vedic.

    IVC need not be RV.. But, sukumar’s conclusion of aryanisation, is what i am disagreeing here.. rest in my earlier comments..

    Barring few sensitive issues, other interpretations as given in this post are very informative. I did not have any disagreement with that, although i felt, there may be other interpretations possible.. so i did not comment on those..

    Thanks for the opportunity given to me so far..

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 28, 2008, 7:11 pm:

    Many many hearty congratulations on this historical event on this blog – Senthil actually commented something about the subject matter of my posts after what is likely to be a discussion that spans over 100s of comments from Senthil and our responses to Senthil.

    I am very pleased that you finally have decided to actually talk about my post. No sarcasm intended.

  3. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said March 28, 2008, 7:42 pm:

    I am responding to this comment

    1. I never said Avestans are Asuras. Where did i say that?

    2. What do you mean by too much importance to Parpola? I support Parpola/Mahadevan that the IVC language was proto-dravidian. Right in my post i have disagreed with many things Parpola said.

    3. Aryans coming from outside depends on how India is defined. Please make up your mind on one thing first. Are the Aryans and the IVC people the same or different? Where they came from is the next question. There is no country called India in the shape and form we see it today until we became Independent. Ashoka who is arguably the king with the most of current day India under his rule did not rule the Chera, Chola, Pandya kingdoms of Tamilnadu/Kerala. Even the British ruled only about 60% of present day India, the other 40% were princely states which Sardar Patel annexed into India in a masterstroke of inspired nation building efforts just after independence.

    4. IVC people having contact with Northern Aryan Tribals. This is definitely a possibility. How does that affect the fact that IVC people’s culture was amalgamated into the Aryan culture?

    5. Saraswathi as Ghaggar Hakra. This argument is useless even if it is true. The RV, the oldest Aryan document doesn’t even mention Saraswati enough number of times. I also proved why RV could not be about a riverine civilization like IVC. This is a deadend which the Hindutvavadis are promoting to extend the date of RV to pre-IVC days.

    6. Horses could have been present all over. That may be the case, but they were not present in the IVC. You need to show evidence of Horses, Chariots and spoked wheels being used in tandem in the IVC. This is another deadend being pursued by Hindutvavadis to revise the RV dates.

    7. We have already covered elephants ad nauseum. This is another deadend. if you believe otherwise, please do some research on your own.

    8. How do you know what my position is on the Aryanization in medieval India? My series is now at 1700 BC or so. I do plan and will write about Medieval and Modern India sometime in the future. In fact i chose the term Aryanization because it fits very well with what happened later as well.

    9. RV adopting idol worship. I don’t know how you are sure about this? All the Indo European people worshipped idols wherever they went.

    10. The Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Skanda being adopted from IVC? That is not what i said. you didn’t read my post. Brahma, Vishnu are RV Gods, Shiva was equated to Rudra who is also a RV God. Skanda is not part of the holy trinity of Hinduism. Whereas Skanda whose IVC name was Murugan was part of the IVC trinity. The only IVC god to make it to the RV trinity was Siva who was actually a god of love but it was distroted to mean god of destruction. This is how subjugation happens, taking the native gods and symbols and incorporating them to form the new modified conquerors’s religion. this is what christianity did, islam did. The evidence of Hinduism’s absorptive nature still continues with the absorption of Jain and Buddha concepts as well.

    11. Again the taming of horses.

    12. Once the IVC people were assimilated what is the big deal with the Agamas?

    13. You only quoted part of my response to rajaram. Proto Indo European is a hypothetical construct to talk about how Sanskrit, Greek and the other Indo European languages evolved from the mother language which is being called as proto indo european by the historians. It remains hypothetical because there is no script in central asia to decipher. Whereas since the IVC has a script we need to decipher by actually using proto dravidian (tamil being the closest we have to that language). Rajaram doesn’t believe in comparative linguistics as he said in his comment in response to my comment. The fact that he doesn’t believe in that field where numerous linguists are working even as we speak is just his opinion.

    14. The above discussion has nothing to do with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve is a concept from the Bible as you know. No responsible historian uses the Bible as a historical document to take dates etc from. It does give a lot of clues to what might have happened. Interestingly, genography researchers have found the Adam and Eve all of humanity has descended from and traced it to Africa. You can goto the National Geographic project and check it out. The link is in my Gond post.

    15. On the last point about Swastik etc. What is your position? If you don’t agree with something, you need to say why you are disagreeing? IVC was Vedic is the only other position that could explain Swastik in IVC, right? Please read my posts again and this comment again to understand why the IVC could not have been Vedic.

  4. Quote


    I read your post earlier.. Since i focussed on few things, it might appear, i havent read..

    I will take some days to explore your comment..

  5. Quote

    ok. thanks.

  6. Quote
    Neville Ramdeholl said May 2, 2009, 10:38 pm:


    The Mythology of the Vedic Horse

    The discovery of the ruins of the Indus Civilization in northern India remained

    virtually unknown for decades until Indian writers and historians realized that they

    were overlooking something of historical importance for their country’s history. The

    gradual archaeological evidence from the exposed ruins excited Indian academia so

    much so that they began to formulate a new history for India’s history to equate it

    with Rig Vedic Civilization, a latecomer to the Indian subcontinent. The rush to bind

    the suburban Indus with the pages of Vedic steppe life ran into a brick wall literally,

    with the total archaeological absence of the horse and chariot in its ruins, the two

    most central innovations brought by the Indo-Europeans from the vast steppes of

    Russia and together with the rite of cremation as the central focus of their religion.

    Since then, Indian writers and historians have been stumbling among themselves in

    a desperate effort to absorb the two distinct entities as a continuity of their history.

    Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful due to several factors but the

    most powerful of these are the horse and chariot that characterize so much of the

    pages of the Rig Veda. The massive efforts by writers and historians to conceptualize

    the pages of the Rig Vedaas part of the Indus has brought forth bitterness and

    indeed some bad blood. Books and literature has been reprinted to cast it as

    indigenous despite the glaring evidence that the horse and chariot did not exist in the

    Neolithic period in Indian history. But historians and their surrogate writers are

    going to make sure one way or the other that Vedic and Indus history are one and

    the same, despite the deep varying contradictions that stare them in its ruins.

    Ah, the Rig Veda, it is so unique with its vibrant life from the steppes of Russia and

    its bards and seers singing and chanting the praises of Indra and the sky gods and

    the new found, fertile land of rivers and forests of northern India. Here the Aryan

    tribes, fascinated with their new surroundings brought a new type of burial, the rite

    of cremation and the innovations that would cause such contention, the horse and

    chariot. This central focus of horse and chariot played an important role in their

    religion, the mythology of the horse, a mythology that never existed or seen before

    in Neolithic India.


    The enigma of the Indus remains exactly what it is today, from its date of discovery.

    The Indus civilization with its vast population and cities with modern conveniences as

    we enjoy today, still baffles archaeologists, historians and writers with its absence of

    the horse and chariot. Its writing and imagery of seals do not portray any pictures

    of the horse and chariot but its supporters insist to this day that the horse and

    chariot did and do exist in its history. This persistence, at times vehement

    encounters embarrassment and raised tempers from those who support an Aryan

    Indus. But to begin to write about anything historical, one must begin with periods or

    dates. There is no doubt that the Indus civilization began in 2600 and ended in 1900

    BCE, a time when although huge cities and roads were built and trade prospered,

    the horse and chariot was nowhere in sight. The seals and script of the Indus

    provided an intellectual use for trade and commerce and although trade was far

    and wide, nowhere in the records of the Indus are the existence of horse trade.

    Everything else under the sun was traded with Sumer, Mesopotamia and Babylon

    and those are very faraway places. The taboo to portray the horse in writing as

    suggested by some writers , I cannot buy. Why should an advanced

    civilization with such high intelligence, if it possessed the horse and chariot consider

    it taboo to expose it images? This, I think is an excuse by some in academia to

    account for its absence and which they can’t produce any evidence whatsoever.

    Some writers see horse finds and remains in some cities of the Indus and even

    illustrate such figures in their writings. None of these scarcely resemble the horse

    and I can tell a horse when I see one. No doubt the Indus was heavily populated

    with asses and onagers which was used to pull heavy wooden carts and these

    scarcely resembled chariots. The eolithic Age in India have not produced any horses

    or chariots and the people of India had to wait for the advent of the Bronze Age for

    the horse. Horse remains and finds in the Indus as written by certain writers are

    just that. There are no justifiable evidence that they can produce simply because

    compared to the pages of the Rig Veda, the Indus was not blessed with a mythology

    of the horse. That is only found in the Rig Veda. The Greeks had one, the Trojans

    had one and the Hittites had one. We see in all these civilizations the populace

    interacted and integrated with the horse and chariot, in wars, horseback riding and

    social interaction. This is completely absent from the civilization of the Indus and we

    read in the pages of the Rig Veda the vibrant horse trade and breeding between the

    Aryan tribes. In substitute, what the people of the Indus did was make use of the

    vast herds of asses and onagers for transport from the feeding grounds of the

    Rann of Kutch. It had a plentiful supply of asses. There is no depiction of the true

    horse or chariot in the ruins of the Indus civilization irrespective of what is written or

    what is read by Indian scholars and historians. The attempt to do so otherwise

    makes one suspicious of their true intentions. Now, why should some writers and

    historians attempt to include the horse and chariot in the Indus and give it an Aryan

    character? Whatever the motive is only exposes the agenda or angle from which

    the writer or historian is coming from. Whatever that is does not concern me. What

    concerns me is the point that the Indus is not an Aryan entity and had never been

    one. Here, I will enunciate several points and arguments that the Indus was just the

    Indus and nothing else. As I said before, the Indus has never possessed a

    mythology of the horse nor of the chariot. We have not seen any images of the

    chariot or horse in the seals of the Indus nor in its writing , however much has been

    deciphered. We have not seen people of the Indus interacting with the horse and

    chariot as illustrated in other civilizations, nor have we seen any evidence of horse

    trading on the seals with other countries. A high civilization such as the Indus with

    writing and no mention of the horse nor its images is very, very baffling. In the

    archaeological record of other civilizations there are depictions of the horse and

    chariot either in battle, riding postures, or simply interacting with its citizens. This

    lack of integration in the Indus, the lack of evidence of breeding, the lack of

    describing of the colors of horses and lack of training is preponderant and the Indus

    either did not receive horses from the Aryans or their civilization collapsed before

    the Aryans moved in.


    Book Two, the oldest book of the Rig Veda first mention the horse in Hymn I, Verse

    5 and give a description as a steed and we all know that the Rig Veda is full of such

    descriptions of this animal. As a nomadic tribe or tribes, the Aryans came from the

    steppes and we read of their nomadic life on the banks of the northern rivers of

    India. How they worship the horse, revere it, care for it and ultimately sacrifice it

    according to their religion. The horse is the main pillar of the lifestyle of the Aryan

    tribes and their daily life and activities is centered around it. Those writers who

    expound so loftily about horse and faunal remains of these animals in the cities of

    the Indus are forgetting one central point. The writings and seals of the Indus so far

    have not uttered one word of horses existing in the civilization nor have the seals

    and language of the Indus depicted any horse strappings as saddles, bits and

    bridles. Nor have there been depictions of authentic parts of chariots such as

    yokes, six-spoked wheels, fellies or any such parts. All this is known in the pages of

    the Rig Veda. The fact is that the Aryans worshipped a religion dominated by the

    horse and every Indo-European religion is similar to that of the Aryans of India.

    The horse first made it appearance in Greece around 2100BC with a well developed

    mythology and so do Troy with its famous Trojan horse around 1900 BC. Later on,

    Egypt possessed the horse due to the invasion of the Hyksos in 1700BC. Although,

    every stone has been literally overturned in the Indus in quest of the horse, nothing

    has been found. So much so in some quarters, much ado about nothing is being

    made of about the very name of the horse in India. Doubts are being cast about the

    very existence of the horse in the pages of the Rig Veda as various writers are now

    suggesting that the word for horse is being used as a symbol in its pages. Decades

    of failure to find this animal in the ruins of the Indus, its maddening existence in the

    Rig Veda and its stumbling block as an obstacle to prove that the Indus was Aryan ,

    has taken hold the obsession of writers and historians to now obliterate its very

    name in Indian history. The denial that the horse existed as something real and only

    as a symbol is now accepted by Indian scholars in an effort to clear the way for an

    Aryan Indus. It was only recently, that an effort was made through fraudulent

    means to concoct a picture of a horse in a sordid display of attempted forgery to put

    the horse in the Indus. This attempt is how far some zealous scholars are prepared

    to go to achieve what they cannot achieve by legal means. Why is it that other great

    civilizations have shown the existence of the horse and chariot in its everyday life of

    war and peace but the Indus cannot produce any evidence of this in its history?

    There can be but one answer to this question and that is by the time the Aryans

    reached the cities of the Indus, they were already abandoned and the inhabitants

    more or less had deserted the cities due to geographical and climate changes. It

    was a time of chaos and confusion which its unsettled people neither had the time

    and place to practice its culture and normal way of life. Strange newcomers with

    stranger animals and vehicles together with climate change gave no time to the

    Harappans to include the horse and chariot in its culture and history.


    So many writers and scholars have analyzed the horse evidence with varying

    degreesof their opinions on the absence of the horse at the Indus. Horse evidence

    by various historians and scholars have written volumes that remains of horses have

    been found at various places as Rupnagar, Kalibangan, Lothal, Mohenjo-Daro and

    other areas and terracotta images of this animal has also been found in its ruins.

    None of these finds have stood the test of true horses and a glance at these bones

    and figures shows the uncanny resemblance to asses and onagers and hemiones,

    found in such numbers in the Rann of Kutch. Even if for argument sake, that horses

    were part of the culture of the Indus, why is there not a mythology in its culture ,

    why is there no images or mention in its writings and seals? Why are there no

    evidence of interaction or integration of the Indus people with this animal? The far

    fetched idea that a taboo was the reason is preposterous and at the same time

    humorous. How more serious can you get? The play with words such as the term

    as ‘the linguistic horse’ is another instance where writers in imagined scenarios

    stated that Indians emigrated from India and settled in Central Asia where they

    acquainted themselves with horses. If this is so then, Central Asia was not the place

    to know horses but around the foothills of the Ural Mountains in the deep steppes of

    Russia’s Sintashta, over thousands of miles away to the north. There they would

    have witnessed the same sacrificial rites practiced by the Rig Vedic Aryans of later

    India. So much for this scenario and its linguistic term and its suppositions the

    archaeological record of India does not have enough horse remains in the in the

    Aryan civilization. It is all well and correct to use the taboo to find an excuse for the

    absence of the horse in the Indus, so why can’t the climate be used to accommodate

    the reason why only a few places in India has horse remains. The fact is that the

    Indus has NO remains of the true horse but the Gandhara Grave culture among a

    few other places do exist with horse remains. The symbolic argument by some

    authors to deny that the Rig Veda of the true existence of the horse in India is a very

    weak one, for as days go by , the Indus is not yielding any evidence of the horse

    and chariot. This fear is gripping Indian academia and new arguments with weak intonation are constantly being trumphed up to bolster sagging egos.


    When the Aryans came into India riding horses and chariot, it was a new

    phenomenon never before seen by the indigenous people for these were not wild

    horses but domesticated ones. Those who deny this have only to sift through the

    Gandhara Grave culture in the Swat Valley around 1600 BC. This evidence of

    horse remains on the Indian subcontinent is not disputed and confirms the existence

    of horses in Aryan settlements in northern India. The Rig Vedic attestation of

    horses and chariots are written in the earliest verses of their intrusions into the

    plains and river valleys of ancient India. There are also clear attestation of horse

    riding in the Rig Veda in the form of Maruts in their journeys on horseback. We read

    of reins, bits and bridles being used for riding in other instances in their history.

    Now, a nomadic people who are always on the move would not chant and sing and

    compile experiences if they had not encounter such things in the past. The horse

    which was central to their religion was sacred to their entire life and the argument

    that these things were symbols and not tangible is a weak and stupid and

    intellectually dishonest. The opening pages of the Rig Veda describes the

    flames and the sacrifice of the horse or the Ashvamedha as it is known in our history.

    Some writers should be ashamed to play with the word ashva or horse for this is the

    correct word for the horse and not an intangible or symbolic entity to substitute for

    the horse. The horse sacrifice is real in Rig Vedic practice and the attempt to

    abolish the horse as flesh and blood from the pages of the Rig Veda is vicious and is

    an effort to equate the sleepy , metropolitan Indus society to the fresh vigorous and

    vibrant nomadic clans from the steppes of Russia. Indian horse mythology and

    legend also describes the flying horse, similar to the Greek Pegasus, emerging from

    the churning of the ocean. It’s a white horse with two wings which Indra took to his

    heavenly abode Svarga and chopped off its wings to let it remain on earth.

    This richness of Indian mythologic horse lore corresponds to other Indo-European

    horse mythologies which is absent in the Indus civilization for without such

    mythology, the Indus could not experience the horse in its environs. The absence of

    a horse mythology contributes to the absence of the horse and its image among its

    people. The Indus Civilization built in the Neolithic Age is one of the wonders of the

    ancient world, peering through the mists of time with its magnificient buildings,

    toiletry, baths and network of roads through which one expects to see a motor car

    swerving through its path. This civilization with its vast network of irrigation, docks

    and trading vessels ranged far and wide beyond India to trade its products.

    Overland it used the plentifulsupply of asses and onagers and heavy wooden wagons

    to trade with its neighbors but it did not have the horse. Why? Because the horse

    did not reach these trading empires but were on the fringes of their borders of

    Central Asia. The trading ships and companies do not have any records of lists of

    horses traded between Mesopotamia, Sumer and Bablyon. Trade apart from sailing

    vessels was carried on in heavy wooden wagons hauled by hemiones and onagers

    and even these were used by the kings and emperors to fight in battles as imaged

    on seals. The advent of the horse changed everything in these countries but by that

    time the Indus civilization had declined and its inhabitants scattered to the four

    winds. Nature had taken its toll. The Indus Civilization would never experience the

    beauty of horseback riding nor the grooming of horses and their domestication at the

    hands of humans. That would be left to the empires that traded with Vedic India for

    the horse was a relative late comer to the rich empires of the south,arriving on the

    fringes of India from the vast steppes of Russia in the form of Aryan nomadic

    tribes, with a new way of life and philosophy and religion and a new art of war. The

    Aryans were notorious cattle rustlers and superb horse breeders. There is not an

    instance where any Indian writer could point with a clarity of mind that he or she

    could identify that the Indus Civilization knew the horse. The variety of reasons for

    this is that the limitless number of arguments concerning the horse has been lost by

    those who are busy with the obsession of the Aryan Invasion thus, overlooking

    important areas of Indus history which could not accommodate the presence of the

    horse in its civilization. All the arguments, all the bitter acrimony of those who wrote

    with such gusto and glowing richness of purpose that the Indus is Aryan may have

    India at heart and that is admirable. But to argue for something and present papers

    to further such a purpose without any foundation to build upon such arguments is not

    worth the while. To argue for the presence of horses in the Indus Civilization at a

    time and period in its history when such an age does not present archaeological

    evidence is stretching Indian history to the limit. Other civilizations have left us with

    their history of the horse and its mythological lore it played in the lives of men.

    Pegasus, the winged steed flew in Greek history, Homer sang of the horses on the

    plains of Troy and of the Trojan horse, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse foretold

    of the pestilences of the earth and yes, the Vedic horsemen drove their chariots

    across the Indian sky. And the Indus mythology? I see no horses or horsemen

    flashing across the Indus sky. The Indus people have not left us any written word or

    images that would tell us that their history also contained such animals of

    mythological lore. There is hardly a paper or book that does not imply or describe

    that the Indus possessed horses, horse bones, or remains of horse evidence in its

    excavations. As one person puts it, “ No archaeological evidence from Harappan

    India has been presented that would indicate anything comparable to the cultural

    and religious significance or the horse…” (Hans Hock) The sweeping suggestions by

    Indian writers and historians of numerous versions of Indus expertise that most of

    the cities of the Indus and its surroundings areareas of excavated horse bones and

    remains, is just a stretch of the imagination. Even Prof. Bokonyi could not identify a

    horse from an ass and he is the most quoted being among those who feverishly look

    for a vestige of this animal in the ruins of the Indus.They should pay attention to the

    astronomical symbols of the Indus with its telling absence of the horse on its

    calendar. This is in contrast with the Vedic one which has the horse’s head and

    even this part of the horse ,putting aside its whole body is not even illustrated

    nowhere in the Indus civilization and its cultural history.


    The rousing denial of those who do not believe in an Aryan Indus and that India
    is noof Indian historians who are trying to rewrite its history. Such a ritual as practiced by Vedic Aryans from wherever they came from with this animal tells us that they tamed and domesticated the horse, was accustomed to the vastness of the steppes to let the animal wander for years and that the ritual was done among the warrior caste in its homage. Further, this was not done in isolation but among Indo-European peoples in dedication to this powerful animal. The horse and chariot are steppe innovations brought to India among other places by migration or invasion whichever you chose to believe. It is very strange that one writer stated that why the horse is not found in the seals of the Indus is because it is considered taboo by either the ruling class or its people. Stranger still, if that is so, writing its name is taboo too? That is silly. But some people use their writing to confuse, obfuscate and mystify others who believe in the dark arts and probably, that is why we see so much vehemence and acrimony from readers coming out from India who fervently believe in an Aryan Indus. No one has stopped to think that the ritual of the Ashvamedha by the Vedic Aryans is a steppe culture brought by them to India and its part of the mythology of the horse, a mythology that is absent from the Indus. As one writer puts it, “It would be very difficult case made by the great Ashvamedhahymn of dirghatam A auchathya of the clan of the gotamas that reeks so strongly of the steppes and not the riverine valleys of the Then, there is the suggestion that the Indus with its nearness to the BMAC and Afghanistan could have had the horse in its history. Then, what about the large bone and faunal findings in the cities of the Indus? It that not evidence of the existence of this animal in this civilization? Several writers gone to great lengths describing the existence of the horse and chariot at the Indus with illustrations of pictures and depictions of bones of horses and chariots. Who do they think they are fooling? Those illustrations appearing in articles written by those who believe that horses and chariots existed at the Indus are fooling themselves. Those pictures of horse remains and bones are nothing but remains of onagers and hemiones or half ass that roams the fields of the Indus. They look nothing like the real horse that the Aryans brought to India. Much emphasis is placed on Surkotada where Indus historians and writers are placing their hopes that the horse existed there but they seem not to realize that without a mythology , the horse cannot just appear in a primitive society without some historical attachment to its power, virility and its ability for speed.
    Ancient people are not like us, they were very primitive in their thinking and perception of things around them, they were cautious and put a cause and reason for everything that happens in the world that surrounds them. The animals that the Indus people etched on their seals proves that they worshipped and adored them and had the horse existed there, surely something in writing would have remained in its ruins. We have not seen any interaction with this animal nor its integrative image with the people. For example, in other civilizations nearby to the Indus there are evidence that the horse was there after it was introduced by Aryan tribes. We see etchings and depictions of people riding horses as a method of interaction and its integration in its society and it would gather some mythologic accretion to this newly introduced animal. The Indus has not provide this kind factual existence nor its mythologic beginnings to warrant a prehistoric Indus horse. It has not left any depictions nor imagery of the horse. Then, why do the writers and historians persist in this endeavor to prove something that never existed in ancient times? This I cannot answer, but nearby civilizations of Sumer, Mesopotamia and Bablyon did obtain the horse at a time when Aryan tribes were pouring and over-running the rich southern empires of the south but the Indus was apparently left out.
    This is baffling, since as a civilization it traded far and wide and the absence of the
    horse and chariot in its archaeological ruins should not be surprising, since most likely
    it was already in ruins due to some ecological and geographical disaster. The massive effort to provide a horse for the Indus, even by fraud is surprisingly taken lightly by intellectuals and their supporters and this does not bode well for Indian history. Even horse trade did not make it any easier for the Indus to have a horse and this great trading civilization with its mystifying seals and scripts still have brilliant linguists and historians puzzled even today in their attempts to decipher them. The writings of the Indus like the horse seem to elude the searchers of that piece of evidence that will clinch it for posterity.


    The myth that there are horse bones and remains in the Indus Valley sites and that
    excavations have also found such remains in pre-Indus areas are just what they are-
    a myth. The claim that chariots have also been used in the cities of the Indus are
    also a myth and the writers and historians who compose these writings have not
    been able to provide evidence to prove their points. These claims are the jumping
    off points from the case of the supposedly dead theory of the Aryan Invasion which
    is now being used to marshal and stitch together a patchwork for an Aryan Indus. This theory now being propagated by writers and historians can only fail because of
    historical circumstances which when laid out here will show that it is impossible
    for the Indus to become Aryan. An ancient seal of Abbakalla UR III around
    2050-2040 BC images of people riding horses, BMAC seal impression also shows
    around 2100- 1700 BC riders of horses. These are two of the oldest images of
    people riding horses .( The Horse, the Wheel and Language – David ,W. Anthony)
    The expansion of the Aryans into Mesopotamia and Syria introduced the horse and
    chariot culture to these areas. Sumerian texts from ED IIIb Ngirsu (2500-2350 BC )
    already mention the chariot (gigir) and Ur III texts (2150-2000 BC) mention the
    horse (anshe-zi-zi) (Wikipedia –Indo-Iranians) It is strange is it not that these civilizations have a word for the horse and chariot and for the Indus our writers are desperately searching for a horse which does not have a name for it. But they are searching for the animal. The other civilizations have the horse and chariot and rides horses at a time when the Indus is at its peak and is able and has the ability to write in its records and carvings of humans riding horse but not so the Indus. But the reason that is given for the absence of the horse is that of a taboo as one writer puts it. How is it that the Indus Aryanists are searching for an Indus horse and its neighbors are already riding horses but these Aryanist writers are telling us that horse bones exist in the cities of the Indus. How is it that the Sumerians and Akkadians are using chariots and riding horses in the same time period and all that the Indus Aryanists could come up with nothing but bones of asses
    and hemiones and onagers? How is it that the Sumerians and the Akkadians are
    enjoying horse rides and in this same time period there are no horses or chariots in
    the streets of the Indus? How is it that a proven archaeological fact that stratified
    finds of horse bones and remains are found in the Kachi and Swat valleys of India on
    the border of Sindh / E. Baluchistan around (1700 BC )? Isn’t it possible that the Indus could not have the horse because their civilization had already disintegrated? (Witzel EJVS) Unsubstantiated reports and writings by Indian writers and historians are kept churning out to keep the controversy growing. Already, the Indus has yielded a lot of archaeological evidence but so far nothing about the horse. And it will not ever yield such remains simply because the horse was never at the Indus. Keep on dreaming.

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