Was the Indus Valley Civilization Illiterate?


As mentioned in my previous post , I am pleased to announce that my first paper jointly authored with Priya Raju and NK Sreedhar got published by the International Institute of Tamil Studies.


In 2004, Farmer, Sproat & Witzel released their controversial paper titled [PDF] “The Collapse of the Indus Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization” . The paper made the claim that the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was illiterate in a forceful and strident manner.

Since then, a number of attempts have been made to disprove this paper. Most of the attempts have tried to use interesting methods – [PDF] statistical techniques, [PDF]conditional entropy , [PDF 7.7MB] markov chain model etc to prove that the Indus inscriptions encode speech.  We had previously covered Asko Parpola’s effort to counter FSW.  Parpola’s efforts were not accepted by FSW.

We found that, to our surprise, many years after FSW, no one actually had published a comprehensive analysis of all the points made by FSW.  We decided to do just that in our paper.

Illiterate Indus?

As a newbie researcher, i found the FSW paper very useful to understand the state of the Indus research. As we researched every point FSW makes, we learnt even more about the IVC.

It was a long grind to get the paper published after several iterations. We are grateful to the International Institute of Tamil Studies for publishing our paper.

Special thanks to Michel Danino, Iravatham Mahadevan, Bryan Wells, M Meenakshisankar, PK Karthik and some reviewers who want to be anonymous  for their painstaking reviews. Iravatham Mahadevan, my guide at the Indus Research Center, went through the paper line by line 3 or 4 times to make it into an academic quality paper.  Special mention goes to Priya Raju for making the paper readable after Michel Danino’s critical review, not to speak of her contribution to the actual research which is quite significant. NK Sreedhar has made several contributions to the paper including the key one on the Singletons.

Thanks to JK at Varnam blog for introducing me to Michel Danino.


With all due respect to FSW, we reached the conclusion that most of their arguments can be refuted. The paper can be downloaded at Response_to_FSW2_Paper_v3.1-Final .  If you are really interested in the IVC research, i strongly recommend that you read the FSW paper as well as our response to it. Please chime in with your comments.


  1. Quote
    Srinivas Badekila said May 2, 2010, 6:24 pm:

    I’ll read through your paper.

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 2, 2010, 6:41 pm:

    Thanks Srinivas. Look forward to your comments.

  3. Quote

    Excellent work Sukumar,Priya,Sridhar and co. It was interesting to read those research papers. Here are my thoughts on this

    1. As everybody agrees, IVC people used imperishable materials to express their writing, i think which is very hard to achieve consistently, the language signs variance is significant due to some small stoke difference. If we visit old temples, better one is Thirupati, even there we can make lot of Tamil letters just missed stokes here and there, and looks like new letter, because it is hard to achieve uniformity with the sharp object on stone.

    2. The beauty of Dravidian language(highly believed that evolved from IVC) is condensed form of meaning, each Thirukural is just under 150 characters, but the meaning of each kural can be written for 100 pages. All Tamil literatures were not written in pages of pages like their Vedic counterpart.

    3. I think comparing with other civilization is not an ideal solution to find whether IVC people are literate or not, matter of fact any civilization.

  4. Quote

    FSW seems overly dependent upon the politics of Dravidian and Aryan dialectics, and their writings are far from convincing with overtly broad stroked dismissals about the veracity of the Indus Script and their interpretations, and even less substance in comparative analysis with ancient egyptian hieroglyphs, hittite or akkadian nomenclatures.

    I am surprised that FSW seems to be even a serious scholarship, let alone ruling ideology. Its a classic case of “It takes one to call another… ‘Illiterate.'”

    I am glad someone is doing something about this nonsense.

    Years ago my dad gave a long lecture at the dining table when I had invited friends over for Deepawali, about the sophistication of communications, structure of the society and the architecture which included rather advanced notions & implementations of air-conditioning and ventilation in Ants and their dwellings. We were all forced to change our minds about the concept of civilization from our tiny anthropocentric and speciest viewpoint. FSW seem like they could have used that lecture from an electrical engineer. For someone in the field of civilization, FSW don’t seem qualified to discuss the matter they publish.

  5. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 3, 2010, 10:38 am:

    Thanks. Interesting insights.

  6. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 3, 2010, 10:44 am:

    Thanks. You have made some great points. I don’t think FSW’s scholarship is in doubt, but their approach and disposition is eminently unscientific. Ironically, they seem to bring their own confirmation bias as much as they ridicule Aryan and Dravidian proponents of confirmation bias. Their bias is “There’s zero chance the Indus valley is literate. Zero” can be seen at this URL


    Your father’s discourse on Ants is great. Another pet peeve i have with many “believers” is that they think Humans are special and animals are inferior (goes to anthropocentric view you mention), although every day new research is showing how animals can do those “special” things only humans can do.

  7. Quote

    Congratulations Sukumar et.al. It looks like a culmination of intensive research and analysis. Great job.

  8. Quote

    Thanks for your kind words MD.

  9. Quote


    I am surprised at this very topic itself.. what do we mean by literate? How do we benchmark it? Do we compare IVC with present notion of literacy, or do we have the notion of literacy according to times? (I havent yet read your response to FSW)..

    Btw, Michael Witzel is one person who claims to have understood vedas, but dont know even the basics of Sanskrit.. He was thoroughly exposed at the recent conference in Delhi, where various Vedic scholars participated and challenged him to give meaning for the RV slokas, which he fumbled, and then later resorted to hindutva baiting..

    I seriously demand the eligibility of the so called western scholars claiming to be experts on indology..

    Btw, Michael Donino is a Hindutva supporter, and i am again surprised that you seriously considered his critical review.. 🙂 🙂 (Can we have his review please)..

    I also do not understand the very intent of all these IVC research.. It seems that instead of the drive to understand more about the unknown, there are lot of focus made on polarised and narrower conclusions..

    To give an analogy, if there is an argument, that whether “Senthil” ( the idiot who is nothing but me 🙂 ) is a good person or bad person, there will be two sides, each having their valid arguments and can go in to so much finer details to substantiate.. but the truth is that we cannot evaluate any single person within the polarised “Good” or “Bad” framework..

    Similarly, the IVC research done is only 5% of what is yet to be explored, and with this small data, we are attempting to conclude big things..

    Again, i am asking the fundamental question.. what is the intent & purpose of such research? Is it possible for us to do further research without forcing us to conclusions?

  10. Quote
    Sreedhar NK said May 7, 2010, 9:10 am:


    Congratulations on getting this published. It’s an important milestone in the overall effort.

  11. Quote
    Sreedhar NK said May 7, 2010, 9:12 am:


    You seem to have spent an enormous amount of time thinking through a detailed thought process before penning your comment to Sukumar. There’s a lot to learn from it.

    We should all take a leaf out of your book in how to encourage someone. Great job! Keep it up!

  12. Quote


    Thanks for your sarcasm.. 🙂 🙂 .. meanwhile i was pointing to the current IVC research in general, and NOT about sukumar’s paper alone..

    As i am saying for long time, the western indologists approach to IVC is highly racial, which triggers a counter reaction from native indologists which also tend to become racial.. FSW paper and the counter response to that made in sukumar’s paper is a perfect example of how racial has the IVC research became.. We are locked in to certain polarised patterns and are unable to come out of it..

    Btw coming to the literate/illiterate discussion, is it right to set present day benchmarks to compare older civilizations? Every community in this world is literate, according to its region and environment.. Every tribal group has an adminstrative structure, a communication method, the simple technologies to survive, build infrastructure in their environments, and a culture associated with it.. The level of maturity may vary, but every one in this world is literate enough to take care of his survival..

    But what is the approach taken by those so called western scholars? FSW tries to bring a point, that IVC people are illiterate, and hence Indian civilization of the later ones that derived from it were also NOT literate.. Its a racial bias, of the medievel european type..

    Ok.. now let me ask.. do we consider the rig vedic people literate, if we dont have the sanskrit script and only the slokas passed orally?

    I also like to mention a recent phenomenon.. My grandfather studied in Thinnai school.. he knows basic mathematics and many tamil literature like athi choodi, kondrai venda, which repeats even now at his 85 yrs.. There is no scientific proof of his literacy, but still he is literate.. In such case, the western approach will make my grandfather illiterate, because there is no scientific proof available to show his literacy..

    The reason why we have such serious ambiguities is because of the flaws in our understanding of the concept of civilization.. For a typical westerner, a civilization is that which has monumental buildings, town planning, infrastructure.. But in Indian approach, a civilization is the group of people, having a certain culture, justice system, and a language for the people to communicate.. Buildings, infrastrucutre and other physical materials are secondary..
    To be concise, civilization occurs in mental plane in indic terms, and in physical plane in western terms.. thus we have the great epic ramayana, as one of great civilizations without any physical marks for us to prove scientifically..

    How do we address this conflict in the very fundamental approach?

  13. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 7, 2010, 8:08 pm:

    Thanks NK. Congrats to you too.

  14. Quote

    I made this point in another forum, and thought of sharing it here..

    as i have mentioned in one of previous discussions, prakurutham is the spoken language and samskrutham is the scripts for refining the spoken language..

    If we look at the civilizational patterns, prakrutham can exist in any people group.. however scriptural form of a language can exist only within the system of rajyam.. (Or a nation or within a systematised administrative system).. because only in an administrative system, there needs a refined form of scripts for documenting messages.. Only in a rajyam, roles of people groups are defined, and that some people are designated towards knowledge, and some towards labour, some towards security etc..

    however, in tribal groups, there is no concept of rajyam, and hence no role based society.. but they do have a language among themselves.. Since they dont have any systematic administrative system, they dont require a script to document anything.. so they tend to represent some key messages as form of signs, or pictures or drawings.. these cannot be called scripts, but a representation of people’s thoughts in crude form..

    Coming to IVC, if we believe that indus scripts represent a language, then we have to assume that IVC has a detailed administrative structure, with an administrative head, and the relative boundaries.. It can be either one rajyam, or many rajyams spanned over the entire area.. In my opinion, the entire region of the Harappan and Mohenjadaro cannot have a centralised administrative system, and would probably had regional rulers. If there is a regional rulers, then there is a possibility that the scripts and languages might have represented different things in different areas, as we have now for kerala, tamilnadu, karnataka etc..

    I may be wrong here.. but the point i am making is that for a script to evolve or develop, there needs to be a supporting administrative system.. but we often debate linguistics in isolation and as an independant entity.. If we could understand the other parameters, we can easily find how a loan word be obtained and from where..

    For example, the tamil literature was rich in romance, analogy (uvamai, uvameyam) and expression of feelings.. and the language developed based on these social necessities.. however, sanskrit evolved for accurate representation of details, and hence a richer vocabulary and a structured grammar..

    Please excuse me if this comment does not have any relevance here..

  15. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 7, 2010, 8:15 pm:

    I don’t understand how you manage to write such elaborate comments without even reading the papers in this post. Literacy as used in this context is very simple – did the IVC people write in a script whatever language they were speaking? Modern day notions of literacy are not being applied here. There is a saying in tamil – mottai thalaikum mozhangaalukkum mudichu podaradhu – you are a master of this art form.

    Witzel has spent many years in Sanskrit and is a scholar in Vedas as well. Hindutva folks don’t like him because he doesn’t kowtow to their opinion. If you read his papers you will get an understanding of his unquestionable scholarship.

    Why do you want to see Danino’s review comments? I don’t understand. Yes he is pursuing a Hindutva model for the IVC. But he was kind enough to review our paper and give us some important comments on how to make the paper be of academic quality. As i say in the paper’s acknowledgements, he may not necessarily agree with our views.

    There is plenty of material and a body of research to do research on the IVC. As long as the arguments are laid out scientfically, the community will listen. Pure & Simple.

  16. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 7, 2010, 8:25 pm:

    For your kind information, there is nothing racial in my paper or in the FSW paper. It is the Hindutva folks that see everything as some sort of racial war between westerners and easterners, indians and whites etc. Hindutva folks use these cards whenever they have no logical argument to offer up.

    Writing down stuff is a key requirement for literacy. By that token, the Vedic people were illiterate. This doesn’t mean they are stupid. As you pointed out, you can have enough skills and knowledge without knowing how to write. The standard is simple – did a culture write their language or not? if not they are illiterate. Also, just so you don’t go on another needless tangent, no one is saying literacy is a requirement of survival.

    Because we didn’t have anything written down for thousands of years, we have no proof to offer for many things we say. Now no one is asking you to prove anything. The problem arises only when we start saying based on the Ramayana & Mahabharata, Indian culture has been around for 1.5 million years and things like that. Obviously when we make such claims, we need to back it up with data which we can’t produce. Instead of trying to produce data or producing scientific arguments, we go off tangent and start accusing the people asking these questions of marxist leanings, pseudo secularists, anti-india conspirators, racists etc.

    In the world of science, if we can’t produce a scientific argument, we can’t argue anything.

  17. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 7, 2010, 8:29 pm:

    Your last comment is quite good. But you are assuming that the IVC researchers are not looking at these aspects. The research has been going on for nearly 85 years and every conceivable angle has been explored. You just need to do some work researching if you are interested in this topic. Unless you do that sort of research, it will be hard for you to argue with scientific data points. Currently you are arguing based upon perceptions, conjectures based upon personal experience etc.

  18. Quote

    /** Writing down stuff is a key requirement for literacy. **/

    Fine.. but it need not be a structured language.. writing down stuff in some form, whether its pictorial or signs or alphabets can also be termed as literate..

    Literacy have to be understood not from standardised benchmark, but in how a particular people group functions. By the definition of literacy, if members of a people group are able to write down stuff and others could read and understand it, then the people group can very well be termed literate.. ie, they have a pattern of writing down stuff and reading it.. that’s why, i am insisting that all tribal groups and communities are literate in their own sense..

    Hope, i a making some sense here.. 🙂

    If the FSW paper is about whether Indus script contains grammar or not, then they have a valid case, and your paper is an excellent response.. However, they tried to argue that IVC people are illiterate, which in my opinion is a negative approach..

    /** By that token, the Vedic people were illiterate. **/

    I would like to quote your own response in your paper.. “Absense of Evidence is NOT the evidence of absense” 🙂 🙂 .. there is no proof to claim that vedic people are illiterate..

    /** The problem arises only when we start saying based on the Ramayana & Mahabharata, Indian culture has been around for 1.5 million years and things like that.

    FIne.. we can ignore 1.5 million years argument… but we are rejecting even the attempts to date Ithihasa based on archeo-astronomy.. No discussion on the same is encouraged, simply by stating these are unscientific..

    Btw, how witzel was cornered at Delhi IIC conference is documented in the following link..

    In the conference which was for exploring RigVeda, witzel was talking about AIT..

    /** It is the Hindutva folks that see everything as some sort of racial war between westerners and easterners, indians and whites etc.

    Michael witzel is associated with White Nationalist Church, Dalit Freedom Network and other wester political agendas.. So i can also outrightly reject witzel because he has taking up the cause of political motives of the western organisations..

    I dont understand the logic that all western academics and historians are completely neutral, and all indian historians are extremely biased.. this pre-assumption itself is a bias on our part.. the western historians are mostly brought up in a christian and racial societal background, and that their perspective will have a imprint of their societal background, even if they are atheists..

    We can very well see, how they are over obsessed with Sex, when they write about tantra yoga of Hinduism.. its their societal background that shape their thought process..

  19. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 8, 2010, 12:26 pm:

    1. I don’t know what to say to you. You are welcome to come up with your own standard of literacy – The Senthil Standard of Literacy – and then look at the world based on that. Please feel free to do so. You have a blog and you can write to your heart’s content on it, as you usually do.

    2. Here the standard of literacy is quite simple – did the writing encode a language or not. No one is saying it has to be a certain way, it is just that it should encode a spoken language. This is the world-wide accepted standard. FSW argue that IVC doesn’t meet this standard. There is no room here for the Senthil Standard of Literacy to come in.

    3. Vedic people are illiterate because they fail the above-mentioned standard. You cannot take a statement out of context from my paper and twist facts. In the IVC, something resembling a writing has been left behind. How they wrote it is not known and hence i used the absence of evidence argument. It cannot be used in the Vedic people who have left no evidence whatsoever of writing. In fact, India as a culture has no known written artefacts till the age of Ashoka (if you exclude IVC’s writings). By the standards of literate civilizations we were not literate. Now that may not agree with the Senthil Standard of Literacy, but you can write a paper on that and try to get it published instead of arguing with me.

    4. Again for the last time, archeo astronomy is a valid technique. It is the application of it that is wrong as pointed out to you many times before. If you are truly interested in this topic, try to write a paper and get it published in a peer reviewed journal, as we have done with our paper.

    5. Witzel and Hindutva folks are at loggerheads for a while. I will take anything either party says with a sack of salt. Again, you may want to develop a Senthil Standard of Scientific Scholarship and apply that to filter scientists through that. Whether I like FSW or not is not an issue at hand. It is what they have said about the IVC script that we have argued against. That is all i can do at this point.

  20. Quote


    /** did the writing encode a language or not **/

    Is there any sign/pictorial representation, that does not encode a spoken language? whether its the sign marks of the tribals or the pictorial representation as in IVC?

    When people employ a means for writing down, by implicit they are expressing their thought process, which in turn is influenced by their spoken language. Suppose if a tribal group uses “X” to represent a deer, they are actually encoding and decoding in their spoken language which is understood only within their group. We may not understand the encodings.

    Am i right here?

    Why a civilization cannot be judged by scripts is because, we do not know their spoken language which existed only at the mental plane. What we are trying to do now is to understand the IVC scripts from existing languages and NOT in the language as it existed on those times (which we will never know, unless some thing happens like in the jackie chan film “The Myth” or in the recent tamil film “aayirathil oruvan” 🙂 🙂 ).. Unless there is a continuity of the language & script, they could not be decoded.. there is no proof yet that what we are speaking today is a continuity of the IVC spoken language.

    Just to quote an example, how many of us know to read the stone inscriptions of the 10th centuries? and how many of us know to read grantha? Luckily we have experts over this, and from them we come to know what those grantha scripts indicate.. such luck do not occur in IVC signs.

    /** In fact, India as a culture has no known written artefacts till the age of Ashoka (if you exclude IVC’s writings). **/

    Absense of written records do not indicate absense of history.. ok.. Even accepting your point let me ask a question.. if we can get written artifacts from ashoka’s period, its imperative that ashoka inherited all those knowledge of writing from his parents and fore-fathers.. right? Or did ashoka developed all the scripts himself and wrote in that?
    And we dont know how many generations prior to him used those scripts..

    So do we say, people before ashoka’s period were illiterate, just because we dont have any written records? the same holds true for vedic people..

    /** By the standards of literate civilizations we were not literate. **/

    My often repeated assertion is proved here.. that we are evaluating history by present standards which is a fundamental error.. first of all why should we standardise history? (but you would again ridicule me like senthil’s standard etc)

    Again by the same standard, most people on those days were NOT literate.. Even a majority of British were NOT literate as late as 18th century, whereas we had a well established primary education system for thousands of years..

    /** It is the application of it that is wrong as pointed out to you many times before. **/

    I would also like to remind that due to lack of time, you were NOT able explain how its is wrong.. i wish we have a separate blog post specifically on this archeo-astronomy, where we can discuss in detail and where i can argue why the approach is right with examples..

    If R.N Iyengar’s paper itself is rejected, what is the gaurantee mine would be accepted.. so only a mutual debate in the possible future is the only solution..

  21. Quote


    I also would like to share another thing here.. While studying the old “Pattayams” (ie, the writings in copper plate) of our local history, most of it has a dating system based on salivahana era. This calendar was followed as late as 18th century, where the pattayams written by Dheeran Chinnamalai’s rivals used the same, in their letter to the britishers..

    I am quoting the following para from one of the “pattayam”..

    ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ சாலிவாஹன சகாப்தம் 1258 கல்லியப்தம் 4477 யிதுமேல் செல்லாநின்ற தாது வருசம் தை மாதம் சுக்கில பச்சமும் வெள்ளிக்கிளமையும் பஞ்சமியும் மிருகசீருஷ நட்சத்திறமும் பாலவாகறணமும் பெத்த சுபதினத்தில் ஸ்ரீமது ராஜாதிராஜ ராசாபரமேசுவரன் ராசகெம்பீறன் ஆணைகுந்தி சமஸ்தானத்தில் புக்கறாயறவர்கள் றத்தின சிம்மாசனருடராய் பிறிதிவி சாம்பிறாச்சியம் அருளாநின்ற

    In the above, there was a dating method based on salivahana sahaptham and also based on Beginning of Kaliyuga.. along with this, there was specific mention of astronomical details above, which we can use to cross verify using the archeo-astronomy software..

    Is this calendar system recognized by the historians? Considering the fact that dating is done with reference to kaliyuga, why cant we take this aspect while debating on historical dates?

  22. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 8, 2010, 9:13 pm:

    1. If X meant a deer and the particular tribe understood as deer, that is fine. In fact pictographic writing systems are somewhat like that.

    2. There is no judging going on here. Why is everything a judgement and why do you take everything so personally? FSW are merely saying that based on their analysis IVC was not literate. We have analyzed their paper and offered counter points to the points they made. Pure & Simple. this judgement, race, church/papal conspiracy is all a figment of the fertile right wing imagination. When they can’t score scientific points, they use these things.

    3. Absence of written records means absence of history – when did i say that? I merely said India was not literate until the age of Ashoka. And yes, people before the age of Ashoka were illiterate because we don’t have evidence of writing. It is possible that we may find such evidence later, but for now, they were illiterate.

    4. When we say a culture is literate we mean that the culture had a written script for their language and many people of that culture can read and write. Today India is a literate culture, but 50% of Indians are illiterate. By your argument, we have to declare modern India illiterate because 50% are illiterate? Just because British people had illiterates amongst them doesn’t mean British culture is illiterate. What sort of wierd logic is this? Why don’t you take some lessons in logic.

    5. I asked you to write a paper because only then you will begin to understand how difficult it is to get a paper published in a peer reviewed journal. You can try with your theories on archaeoastronomy.

  23. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 8, 2010, 9:15 pm:

    Interesting comment about copper plates. However, if it is as late as the 18th century, it will be difficult to use it as a proof of the start of the Kaliyugam.

  24. Quote


    /** And yes, people before the age of Ashoka were illiterate because we don’t have evidence of writing.

    Sometimes we have to rely on indirect inferences.. as i said earlier, if we have got writings of Ashoka, it means, he has acquired his knowledge of writing from his father & forefather.. ie, from the people of one or two generation previous.. which indirectly gives us the proof that atleast two generations of people before ashoka should have been literate..
    ( by this logic, your above statement is negated 🙂 )

    I would like to know if such inference of mine is valid? If not valid, why?

    /** this judgement, race, church/papal conspiracy is all a figment of the fertile right wing imagination. **/

    I dont know if its right wing imagination.. but it is what i understood, when i look at the fundamental motive.. Using scientific proofs is not a reason to reject a conspiracy angle.. scientific proof can be used even for deliberate lies.. so its not the data that is important.. It is the intent of the person that is more important..

    Btw, the very history of church itself gives us a solid proof on their various conspiracies.. So a right wing is NOT needed to expose the papal conspiracy..

    /** Interesting comment about copper plates. However, if it is as late as the 18th century, it will be difficult to use it as a proof of the start of the Kaliyugam.

    The copper plate inscription quote i gave in my previous comment belongs to 11th to 12th century, most probably during the reign of “Bukka Raya” of vijayanagara period.. (it should have been starting of Vijayanagara empire).. The salivahana calendar is said to be 78 years preceding the present gregarian calendar we are using.. But i have to confirm this from authentic sources..

    I would like to know if 12th century copper plate i gave as a valid proof? And adding to that, the same calendar has been precisely maintained till 18th century to my knowledge..

    Another striking aspect is the availability of more than one sources, to cross verify the date in the copper plate i have given.. (i have earlier mentioned this, and would like to detail it here)

    -> தாது வருசம் தை மாதம் சுக்கில பச்சமும் வெள்ளிக்கிளமையும்
    Direct calendar date along with day..

    -> பஞ்சமியும் மிருகசீருஷ நட்சத்திறமும் பாலவாகறணமும் பெத்த சுபதினத்தில்
    The astronomical data that is also provided.. this can be used to cross verify the above date, by checking the celestial objects on that particular date using the software available..

    -> ஸ்ரீமது ராஜாதிராஜ ராசாபரமேசுவரன் ராசகெம்பீறன் ஆணைகுந்தி சமஸ்தானத்தில் புக்கறாயறவர்கள் றத்தின சிம்மாசனருடராய் பிறிதிவி சாம்பிறாச்சியம் அருளாநின்ற

    The mention of the kings (emperor bukkaraya and the local king Prithvi ) at that time.. which we can again cross verify with other archeological dating..

    Such availablitly multi-source proof is a speciality of indian history.. I dont know if other cultures have such astrological references in their literature or documents..

  25. Quote

    This whole discussion on a standard for literacy is tangential to this post and the subject of the paper. The paper is about whether the IVC had a script encoding a sppken langauge. It is a scientific pursuit not some discussion around definitions of literacy. Like i said, you are welcome to create your own standard of literacy and write a paper on that.

    Why is it so hard for you to believe that some invention could be introduced for the first time in someone’s period? It appears you cant understand anything without dragging ancestors into the picture.

    If valid written records from the 12th century are available. that is good. Please apply the archaeo astronomy techniques on that and write a paper and get it published.

  26. Quote

    It is a specious argument that the ‘Concept of Literacy’ is above and beyond the discussion. It might not be within the bounded rationality of the published paper and its tactical moves, but it is most certainly not sacred. In fact, it is precisely sacred for the past masters of a colonized country that makes it an object of politicization and a subject of strategy. Here’s why…

    The oldest sanskrit book is one on regenerative grammar, something english did not acquire – we had english grammar but not regenerative – until the 1960s. The mythology also goes that sanskrit was not to be written and language had to be a spoken tradition, and only when it was going extinct did it get to be written and acquired a text form and a script. For no sound shall be represented in a silent script. In the history and philosophy of language that’s a very advanced concept and theology about ‘sound.’

    So, the mythology of literacy being a direct dependent variable and function of a script is not a valid argument anymore. The dependency variable and function of spoken language is the appropriate measure of literacy, not the ‘word’ nor the ‘script.’

    This is where euro-centricism, and the abrahamic tradition of the ‘People of the Book’ and the ‘Word’ (“In the beginning there was ‘Word'”) comes into play. This politicization must not be discounted as something small. Judaism and Exodus is a revolt of the ‘word’ against the Egyptian hieroglyphics and pictographs. The very existence of christianity, the underground catacomb religion of the pariah of the roman empire, came into existence precisely because of the ‘book’ which the judeo-christian tradition brought into existence to counter pantheism. The pariah status of the next group provoked the ‘left outs’ to proclaim, “we too have a book therefore we’re also children of god” is the story behind the invention of islam and the koran. [Read Karen Armstrong’s History of God and her interpretations of Abrahamism – Judaism, Christianity & Islam – for the politics of god & civilization]. Much of the planet’s arguments concerning ‘civilization’ is defined by this ‘People of the Book’ and their obsessive compulsive monomaniacal theology of the ‘Word.’

    Therefore, deconstruction of the ‘Word’ is a healthy tradition for India, China, Asia, Africa, Inuit, Native American Indian and the Australian Aborigine.

    The non-white, non-abrahamic and the non-european cultures have not had a position of power until recently and their history, traditions, cultures, archeology, language, mythology, religion, way of life, literature, politics, theologies, and meanings… have all been suppressed for centuries, if not millenia. Therefore, as Indians, it is but natural to take on a healthy perspective and question the very foundations of ‘the word.’

    While I can easily deconstruct and denigrate Hindutva’s political positions and arguments, we must also understand that their position is reactionary to what was and is perpetrated by white supremacy. It takes two to tango, it takes two palms to generate the sound of a clap. So, before you look down upon the likes of Hindutvas, whom from the general tone I suspect no one around this discussion supports (I am far removed from them to even know who they are and what they stand for, but I understand their role), I would advise that one pays some tribute to them as they are the knife that cuts the vegetables before we get to cook the dish. The eye for an eye strategy may not appeal to many.

    While some of you might even argue that ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,’ one must also ask the question, when one sees only eyesore and not worthy of sight, then what is wrong with blindness? And the pun is intended to provoke you to see what happens to the ‘script’ when there is no sight? How did the language, a function of communication and predominantly a function of sound, become the codependent of sight and transmitted by fingers? So, even outside the political argument of abrahamic impositions in the definition of ‘literacy’ there are some very fundamental questions at stake. And Indians being largely uncontaminated by the cultural theologies of the west are excellently positioned to be able to answer those questions from a position of natural footing… something the westerner has to revolt in order to be. I call it a simple case of core-competency of the cognitive matrix.

    While I know how complicated it is to publish in peer review journals, the real battle field is elsewhere. Peers are merely wagers of skirmish… the principle of the matter is a warfare. A warfare of much larger proportion than all of you are willing to credit. [And you have not really read my comments about the Pyramid in the Louvre and how important antiquity is for western civilization]. Whether you like the politics, religion, race and imperialism or not, you have entered the ‘Clash of the Civilizations’ (read Samuel Huntington) and are working to demonstrate a new understanding and meaning of civilization, literacy and existentialism.

    Welcome to the Kaluyuga.

  27. Quote


    /** The paper is about whether the IVC had a script encoding a sppken langauge. **/

    If this is the case, then i dont have any problems.. but the very title is about whether IVC is literate or NOT, which gives a notion of branding & reaction for it.. your paper is an excellent rebuttal to FSW and i have nothing against it .. but my debate was on the fundamentals and NOT on data or content..

    /** It appears you cant understand anything without dragging ancestors into the picture. **/

    Yes probably.. bcoz, to understand the continuity of history, the ancestors has to be brought in to the picture.. I feel, history cannot be analysed discretely..

  28. Quote

    After a long time you start ‘brewing’ some interesting discussion. Actually India has had many innovative concept during very olden days possibly well before even today’s modern world. For example, Indian medicine (Ayurveda) is very powerful but lack of documentation it is now fading away from its glory. So based on your argument, are all Ayurveda doctors illiterate? even though they know how to treat most complex deceases? The answer is yes, they are illiterate since they didn’t document it and they didn’t constantly update themselves, most of them knows if you do X and then Y and then Z then decease might go away, but don’t know how? why can’t apply Z first etc. Moreover as per current Indian literacy guide, they are illiterate too since most of them doesn’t know how to sign their name.

    Our agriculture farmers are brightest in the world. They can even sense 10 days weather with out even looking sky but how they got the talent?, any documentation? are they weather forecasters? can we learn anything from them? The answer is all NO, nothing was documented, nobody even interested to document it also.

    I think one the reason why we followed this pattern is, we were very much caste based professional earlier hence our ancestors’ didn’t interested to document it because they didn’t want others also learn it.

  29. Quote
    Ganesh said May 12, 2010, 6:06 am:

    Congratulations Sukumar, Priya and NK.

  30. Quote


    Are you saying there is no documentation for our ancient ayurvedic texts? or say for any other sciences that we have used? What about the scores of texts destroyed in Nalanda and Taxilla? Are we going to say, just because they are destroyed and hence NOT available, there is no documented texts in india on those days?

    I have an interesting point regarding your comment, but will share after your reply..

  31. Quote
    pk.karthik said May 12, 2010, 11:18 am:

    congrats Sukumar and my wishes to both NK and Priya too.Great job done.

  32. Quote
    pk.karthik said May 12, 2010, 11:21 am:

    Very intesting comments and lots of interesting points.

    @ Subha I dont agree with that lack of written document does not mean absense of literacy,but lack of a written script implies a lack of literacy.

  33. Quote

    Great news Sukumar, Priya and Sreedhar. All the very best in your future research.

  34. Quote

    Ganesh/karthik/vamsi, thanks a lot for your wishes.

  35. Quote

    thanks for your insights.

    thanks for your additional insights.

  36. Quote


    I had one thing in my mind when i wrote the comment, which is, a famous Jaundice ayurveda/siddha cure center at Papanasam near Tirunelveli(i wrote about it in here this blog or else where a long time ago), as you might know there is no treatment for Jaundice in allopathic medicine but the siddha center successfully treats Jaundice for centuries. Several research groups try to get documents and how-tos from the siddha center but no one succeed so far because there is none available. I believe like-wise we have several outlets throughout TN and India, but there is no consolidated documents/books and good research papers for these cure centers so far. I believe, which is why, ‘scientific community’ quickly called them ‘illiterate/bogus’ because there is no proof/documents and they can’t explain what exactly their medicine cured those complicated decease hence their reputation damaged. In other words, theoretical explanation of hows and whats are missing or not consolidated for most of the indian old sciences.

    Does it make sense for you?


  37. Quote


    If the sidhha centers could successfully treat jaundice for so many patients, why should we worried about the theoritical documentation? They are NOT R&D centers.. They are curative one.. why should they be forced to give proofs or documents?

    Is it not scientists who should be bothered about the theory or the underlying reason? If the scientists could not find out the reason, it is their reputation that is damaged and NOT those of the curative centers.. Is it not enough for me that their medicine cures my illness, and i dont care if there is any proof or not..

    /** I believe, which is why, ’scientific community’ quickly called them ‘illiterate/bogus’ because there is no proof/documents and they can’t explain what exactly their medicine cured those complicated decease hence their reputation damaged

    You have summed up in the above two lines, on what i wanted to tell.. First of all, what right do the so called scientific community have to call the other bogus?

    Secondly, why should we always think that everything in this world happens always as per a theory or systemic model? The universe may be governed by laws of physics, but the living beings in this world are mostly dynamic and unpredictable. Its totally flawed to find out a theory / model for everything in this world.

    Secondly, such over obsession on scientif proof oppresses the very fundamental freedom of thoughts.. Imagine, how the pre-christian social setup and the pre-british indian society functioned without the burden of any system..

    I think the same flawed approach is being taken for IVC too, that we think based on the pre-assumption that IVC civilization would have functioned in a theoritical model that we are conceptualising now..

    The reason is, that we are all moulded in to a corporate system that we could not think freely without a system..

  38. Quote

    I have another case point..

    WHen is a documentation required? When there is no continuity of a skillset or technique and that the person wants to write it down for conveying the message to next learner.

    In indian society, the caste based structure, ensured that the skillset is passed on to next generation, by default, as the child learns the skillset from the family.. so, why do we need documentation when the continuity is assured?

    Secondly, the indian society is need based one, whereas the western society is exploitative and colonising one.. The first corporate in the world was “East India Company” and it was setup to colonise wealth from east indic countries. And thus they needed to know details which was sent as form of documentation..

    But indian society is contented in itself..

    Today, its because we all are living the life of the european nobles that we are finding it odd with our native systems..

  39. Quote

    Senthil, super cool, you nailed it. Common sense prevails.

  40. Quote


    I think its not a sarcasm from you this time 🙂 🙂

  41. Quote

    No, i wasn’t sarcasm, i really meant 🙂

  42. Quote

    I read through this posts and your journey of discovery of “real” Indian history (8 posts) with great interest. The journey is impressive and you have a holistic, “connectionistic” approach to reconstructing history. You seem to have made field trips to various parts of the “neolithic plate” a.k.a. fertile crescent and made imaginative leaps to connect your ideas to observed facts or data.

    This debate is huge and complicated, also by the starting points, wished-for-results and the assumptions made. I will try to comment on the AIT/AMT (Aryanization) debate some other time.

    Your diligent rebuttals of the FSW paper show a great deal of hard work, which I appreciate. However, I am left with the feeling that your glass is half-full. Seems to me that you have not completely disproved their assertions, only proved that they can’t prove the assertions either. Are you a bit over-eager that IVC should be accepted as literate?

    I think Zen a.k.a. Sendil’s post regarding the fundamentals of literacy are valid. The unconscious benchmarking of civilization as a function of literacy – should be brought out & questioned. As Basu Bhattacharya once said, many Indians are illiterate (nirakshar), but civilized (susamskrth). If we delve deeper into the oral traditions of our traditional education, we may find that it is an alternative system, based on aural map constructions in our brains. For example, the Astavadhanam tradition in Sanskrit, Kannada & Telugu (I am guessing it is there in Tamil & Malayalam as well) is an example par excellence of this type of education and civilization. An interesting description of a recent Ashtavadhanam is given here.


    A sensitive set of researchers like you should also be aware that tribal people may have their own systems of knowledge, implicit codifications and informal learning that is learned within their circles, in the environments that they live in and is useful to them. Reading and writing may not be required for their life style and surroundings. They may classify the flora and fauna better than any qualified botanist or zoologist. But if you define knowledge as the ability to give Latin, English or Sanskrit names to these objects, then they may fail the test! It is such definitions that the Eurocentric world elite have perfected over the last 500 years. We need to be aware of our own conditioning due to this.

  43. Quote

    Excellent posts these… hmm.. being interested in IVC right from childhood, I always used to wonder that too many bright minds are getting lost in C,C++ for gyaan and can take a look at our history instead to understand their lives better… to me IVC was an utopian society and declined due to unfavorable climatic changes… really wish I could contribute to deciphering the writing on their seals to help unravel the mystery…

  44. Quote

    Few interesting quotes from the Arguments:

    1. We are studying the history using the current standards of language literacy which need not to be correct since all the current languages are not evolved from the past. Based on the historical findings, the language and religion changes whenever new invaders/rulers adopted new language/religion. Prakrit/Pali is the spoken language during Ashoka era, now we can evidence this language only in some of the indo-china bordering countries but not in India.

    Ashoka period – Prakrit/Pali with Religion Buddhism
    Krishna Thevarayer/Vijaya Nagara period – Sanskrit with Religion Hinduism
    Akbhar period – Urudhu with Religion Muslim
    East Indian Co period – English with Religion Christianity

    Modern day Hindi – Sanskrit script + Urudhu wordings
    Most of the state/region owned language in India – Mix of Sanskrit, Prakrit/Pali and Indigenous (Mix may vary place to place)

    2. If you select 3 judges from different Religion (Hinduism, Christianity and Muslim) and from different geographic regions, their judgmental related linguistic/culture/race always will be biased, it is a natural phenomena and not due to any biased political motive as quoted by Senthil

    Basically our judgmental/assumption system works based on our beliefs and what we see around us for which you cannot blame the scholars in general terms as if they are biased politically 🙂

    3. Science and Historical studies are evolving based on new findings and evidences over a period of time. We may be studying something wrong due to lack of evidences, though it may a general TRUTH, people should come forward to the research program and submit papers to eradicate the errors in the biased History writings based on the false assumptions/judgements due to lack of evidences

  45. Quote
    Gayathri Ananth said June 24, 2013, 6:51 pm:

    Hai Sir,

    I am happy that I visited this blog atleast now. I really wonder at the depth of interest that you & your team possess in Indus script inspite of being software engineers. I have down-loaded the ‘Response_to_FSW2_Paper_v3.1-Final’ (Illiterae Indus?). Yet to read the same thoroughly; however I glanced it randomly. I am very much interested in Indus Valley Civilization and am obsessed with the Indus scripts. Out of my personal interest, by God’s grace, I managed to get a PG Diploma in Archaeology (distance educaion – theory Only course) at Mother Teresa Womens University, Kodikanal. I am also writing a theoretical research document, based on proven facts, on Indus valley civilization (without actual field work) in an attempt to solve many of the mysteries of the ancient civilization. Once the document is ready, I would like to publish the same with a ‘Forward’ from Mr. Micheal Danino &/or Padmashri Iravatham Mahadevan Sir. On the other hand, I am trying to decipher the Indus Scripts. I am pretty certain that the Indus valley civilization was a literate civilization and I strongly believe that the scripts are indeed meaningful and that the script & the language is certainly Tamil. I am looking for genuine encouragement, support and recognition. In case you are willing to give me the same, I request you to kindly respond through e-mail. Thanks a lot. All praise to the divine mother and her protecting grace.

    Gayathri Ananth

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