The Alphabet which we learn from our parents or in school lays the foundation of subsequent education. It is a unique system of recording all our thoughts by means of just very few sings, each of which has a distinct sound value. It is generally believe that the first alphabetic system was invented in 1600 B.C. by the Phoenicians. But recent excavations at Lothal (Indian), Harappa and Mohenjodaro (Pakistan) have revealed that by 2000 B.C. the Indus Valley people had evolved an alphabetic writing of 22 basic signs from their partly pictographic writing of 62 basic signs.
Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha (RSVP) (Deemed University) has initiated a number of Innovative programmes in the fields of Sanskrit and Indology. It has successfully. It has successfully launched the programmes of "Sanskrit-Science Exhibitions" ,and "Sanskrit Science Monograph Series" whose main aim has been to bring out the profound Scientific Knowledge that exists in the ancient Sanskrit literature. RSVP has also the credit of launching the pioneering programme of "Sansk-Net", whose main aim is to preserve Sanskrit texts through digitization and to develop net-working among the Sanskrit Institutions and Documentation Centres of Sanskrit Manuscripts and Sanskrit texts.
"Lipi Veethika" is yet another milestone in the innovative activities of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha. "Lipi Veethika" aims, at demonstrating that the ancient Indian Civilization, had developed "Scripts" for its spoken language. We should mention at the outset that the inspiration for getting an Alphabet Gallery set up at RSVP was generated in us, primarily by the brilliant and outspoken address delivered by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Honourable Minister of Human Resource Development, at the World Sanskrit Conference, held in New Delhi, India, in 2001. I had had the privilege and honour of chairing this Session of Special address. Dr. Joshi had demonstrated in a scholarly was as to how Sanskrit Language had its own indigenous script. After hearing this insightful address, we in the RSVP desired to establish an Alphabet Gallery, to generate in the Sanskrit World, about the subject of evolution of the Scripts.
It is often argued that Vedas, called as "Srutis", had perforce remained as spoken texts, transferred from Guru to Sishya, in the oral tradition, because there was no script developed for their spoken language. This inference drawn from the world "Sruti" that which is the object of Sravana, -hearing, is rather erroneous. The rationale for the oral mode of preservation and transmission of the texts of profound knowledge could be quite distinct and diverse, it has nothing to do with the presence or absence of a script for the spoken language. According to the tradition, Vedas are regarded as Apourusheya not composed by any body. They were simple revelations to the Rishis, from the eternal sound waves which are divine and indestructible. Reducing these revealed texts to a set of written forms was perhaps regarded as sacrilege and it was also perhaps unwarranted because oral transmission was the best way to preserve the Chandas and the contextual purity of the Vedic hymns.
The thesis that the ancient civilization of India - of Vedic and/or pre-Vedic period - did not "know" the "mode of scripts" for their spoken language, has been very convincingly refuted by the path- breaking "discoveries" made and by the research conducted on the excavations of Mohenjodaro, Harappa and later at Lothal (Gujrat). We are indeed to the scholarly community that has endeavoured to decipher the pictorial scripts found excavated at Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Lothal sites.
Names of Many scholar deserve to be mentioned in the contenxt of the efforts to decipher the Indus Script. Prominent among them are W.A. Fairservis, Asko Parpola, Knorozov, Mahadevan, N. Jha and S.R. Rao. The approaches and Methodology adopted by these pioneering exercises need to be studied and analysed by the discerning scholar interested in the evolution of scripts. RSVP, as an educational institutional institution in the study of Sanskrit and Indology, has set up this Alphabet Gallery, as a first step in this regard with the objective of providing the necessary materials for study and research.
Dr. S.R. Rao's name is well-known among the Archaeologists, as a scholar who has given a totally new interpretation to the Indus Script. We had got in touch with Dr. S.R. Rao for his advice on the architectural designs adopted in India in the past in particular, or Chola, Kakatiya and Chalukya periods, which we were intending to adopt in our new buildings such as Administrative Building Sansk-net Building etc. Our association with Dr. S.R. Rao, in this context ended up in yielding this unique Alphabet Gallery for RSVP.
Dr. Rao's approach in the decipherment of the Indus Script has been appreciated by many scholars in the field, as being objective and free from pre-conceived notions about the original home of the Aryans and about the Aryan-Dravidian connections in the evolution of the Indus Civilization.
I would like to express our profound gratitude to Dr. S.R. Rao and his team for taking extra-ordinary pains in setting up this Alphabet Gallery in a very elegant manner.
I should also place on record my appreciation of the commitment with which Prof. D. Prahlada Char, Vice- Chancellor, RSVP and his team at the Vidyapeetha, implemented this challenging task.
We hope that this Alphabet Gallery would inspire students, researchers and the scholarly community, in general, to study further this dimension of the World of Sanskrit and Indology.
Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha feels immensely proud to publish a catalogue containing the concepts displayed in the Alphabet Gallery established in the Vidyapeetha under the valuable guidance of Dr. S.R. Rao - the renowned archeologist.
The Gallery displays many seals, charts and pictures that help to understand the gradual evolution of the script used by the Indus valley people upto Ashoka's period, which is later identified as the script of Sanskrit. The evidence showing further development of the scripts upto the present age, will also be added to the Gallery shortly.
There are claims which deny the existence of any Sanskrit script during the Vedic period. The tradition of oral transmission of the Vedas, followed in this country from time immemorial, is cited in support of this argument. However, the Vedic tradition which looks with contempt at Likhita-Pathaka - a recitor, looking at the written script, does not seem to subscribe to this view. Had there not been script using which the Vedas were copied down, where was the occasion to prescribe such a recitation? The Vidyapeetha is very much indebted to Dr. S.R. Rao who gave a shape to the gallery and prepared the catalogue.
The hymns of the Rig Veda were not reduced to writing not because there was no writing at the time but because it had not developed sings for all sounds which the ancient human voice could express. This has been used as a negative evidence by western scholars to assert that it is the Phoenicians who invented the consonantal alphabet to which the Greeks added vowels. The Greek alphabets were learnt by Cadmos in Phoenicia by 1313 B.C. During the Trojan War Palamedes added letters th, x, ph and kh to which Siminides added z, e, ps, and o. The Greeks and Estruscans changed the direction of writing process from left to right. Dr. David Diringer attributed the creation of the first alphabets to "some unknown syro-palestinian semitic genius". The Phoenicians had trade contacts with India through the Persian Gulf and overland to eastern Mediterranean. Despite the fact that a unique seal of unicorn and brazier (fire alter) motif and inscription in post Indus script was found at Djokha in Sumer, eve james Prinsep who deciphered the Brahmi script was advanced by Sir William Jones (1806), Kopp (1821) and Buehler (1872). But the discovery of more than 2000 Indus seals at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and Chanhudaro between 1920 and 32 established that Indians knew writing in 3000 B.C. After the partition of India the Archaeological Survey of India undertook a systematic exploration of Saarasvati (Ghaggar) valley in Rajasthan and Seatmate estuary in Gujarat. The first Indus seal of postpartition India was found at Lothal, an Indus port town discovered and excavated by S.R. Rao from 1954 to 62. the uniqueness of Lothal, an is its tidal dock which gave a new maritime dimension to Indus civilization. It is again Lothal which yieded convincing evidence of the commercial use of Indus seals. The stratigraphic evidence of Lothal excavation provided a clue development of an alphabetic script from the early partly pictographic script through a process of simplification by dropping pictures. This process of evolving a purely phonetic script in middle and late phases of Indus civilization is attested by a purely cursive writing of the late seals of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro (excavated by G.F. Dales) and those of Kalibangan, Dholavira, Rojadi, Banawali, Surkotada, Desalpur and other sites. Two inscriptions from Bet Dwarka and the Djokha seal of evolved Indus curisive script partly fill the gap between late Indus and Brahmi script. The Babylonian cuneiform tablet with Brahmi-Sanskrit writing (in British Museum) proves that Brahmi had been evolved fully by 6th cent. B.C. (Fig. 37) from the late Indus script. The Sohgura Copper plate inscription in Brahmi script is also attributed to 6th century. B.C. by A.B. Walawalkar (Ref. Ganesh Vidya ed. R, Subbu and L.S. Wakankar 1968 Tata Press Bombay). The close graphic resemblance among Brahmi and Semitic alphabets (Fig. 8) is a pointer to the development of phoenician and Ancient Greek Alphabets from the Late Indus Scripts of mid-second millennium through the first half of the first millennium B.C. There are still a few gapes to be filled in the long history of Early Alphabet of India and the Middle East but the close affinity between must inevitably lead to the conclusion that the commercial interaction between the users of two scripts in 17th 16th Century B.C. must have provided the channel for the semitics to adopt the much simpler Indus alphabets (2000 1600 B.C) for their consonantal writing.
Iravatham Mahadevan in his paper "the cult object on unicorn seals-a sacred filter" (Archaeological perspective of India since Independenced K.N. Dikshit 1984) concludes that the soma (Haoma) rituals of the indo-Iranians are based on a pre-Aryan substratum and that this is the reason for the remarkable resemblance between the Harappa symbolism of the sacred filter and soma ritual as described in the Rig Veda. But other scholar including Zvelebil have pointed out that it is not a filter as there is no vessel to collect the soma juice dropping from filter in the figure described. The perforatons allow air so that fire may be kept burning. It is undoubtedly a fire alter of the Iranian type closely resembling the fire altar depicted in Persepolis (Pl XIX Tr. B Fig. 16). Secondly if the socalled filter had anything to do with the ritual of soma which Mahadevan assumes the inscription on the seal illustrated here reads bag - bhag - rk - ahu meaning God bountiful Arka lord. The three tiers of flam are symbolic of three homes or three forms (Tridha) of Fire God Agni, namely fire, sun and lightning or garhapatya, ahavaniya and dasksina (Agni) fires as describd in Rig Vedas. Such fire altars have been laid bare in the excavations at Lothal, Rangpura, Kalibangan and Banawali. They are associated with terracotta cakes meant for offering Purodasa in fire worship. In the Harappa and Iranian cult fire (Arka) was worshipped as God, but in Vedic cult he is the carrier (agent) of offering (hevis) to gods. The anthropomorphic form of Fire God as Agnipurusa is depicted in three seals of which two (Pl XVI< XVII Tr. B) are illustrated here. In one case the term arka is used for fire god in Agni seal.
Driver (1976) oberves "The Phoenicians, according to ancient tradition came from the shores of the Indian of the Indian Ocean, including the Persian Gulf. A number of early place names in Palestine and elsewhere and the texts from Ugarit (Syria) give a hint of the Phoenicians in the same district. Possibly then they were a semitic tribe, which reached the mediterranean coast as part of the same great movement which brought the Aramaeans and Hebrews to their historic homes in the west, and it is significant that the first mention of them occurs in Egyptian inscriptions. (1575 B.C.) it might therefore be conjectured that the Phoenicians or a branch of them played a part, if not in the invention, at any rate, in the transmission of the alphabet from the south to the north, whence the knowledge of it was spread far and wide by their commercial activity, as Greek and Latin historians averred. They were certainly quick and practical enough to see the advantages of the new invention and turn it to their own use, but probably not cultural gifted enough to have made so remarkable a discovery even if that were chronologically possible. They were adapters rather than inventors (Rawlison, Phoenicia 59 61), yet here again as so often in life the genius who makes the discovery is forgotten while his successor who turns it to pratical use gives his name to it". This is exactly what has happened in the case of Indus script. The Indus people invented the first alphabets, the Phoenicians (Phanis of the Rig Veda) adapted it for commercial use and gave their name to the script. This fact will be substantiated by archaeological evidence.
It is deemed relevant here to quote the opinion of a few renowned scholars on the author's decipherment of Indus Script.
2. Prof. F.N. Souza (New York) in a letter to Indian and Review, New Delhi (Decr. 1979) writes "It is a great joy to read Dr. S.R. Rao's brief but astonishing article in the I & F.R. of 15, November 1979. the great discovery by Dr. Rao is the real key unlocking the mystery of the Indus valley civilization, which was till now taken to be of Dravidian origin. The Indus valley civilization than become Aryan. Another tremendous discovery by Rao. I would glean from his essay - is the Indus Valley script would then be the first actual link to writing in the evolution of the alphabet as we known it now and not as believed to be of Egyptain, Phoenician and Semtinic Origin. He made it clear that the Indus Valley script of "mixed writings" link pictographic writing and the rebus system to the phonetic values of Signs, the alphabetic system itself." I would like to congratulate heartily"
3. Prof. R.N. Dandekar, Director, Bhandarkar, Oriental Research Institute, Pune note only emphatically said that the Indus script has been deciphered by S.R. Rao but also invited him to deliver the most prestigious BORI Founder's Day Memorial Lecture, on (Indus Script and Language later published in Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Vol. XI 1980, Poona.
4. Prof. W.W. de Grummond Department of Classics, Florida State University, Talahassee (Texas) writes in New Trends in India Art and Archaeology (Aditya Prakashna Delhi 1992, 139) says "Rao's strategy in this procedure gives some assurance of the objectivity of his results. Rao has allowed the unknown (the language in question) to arise from the script. The fact that the language indicated by the process is an Indo-European one while the script used for comparison is Semitic, far from vitiating the results, substantiates their validity by confirming the lack of bias in the method. It (the article) is intended as a salute to an outstanding scholar, whose whole career has served as model to all who would like to combat the narrow and artificial limitations. Which unless the scholar challenge - as Dr. Rao has done with signal success can lead to myopic isolating and trizialising scholar provinciation".
The Indus alphabet had both vowels and consonants and language was closely related to Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic Sanskrit) and Old Iranian (Avestan) Languages.
The gallery aims to trace the origin, growth and development of the Indus alphabetic writing from 3000 B.C. and further into Brahmi Script of 300 B.C. from which other Indian regional script were evolved. The early phase of this writing is illustrated with the help of inscribed Indus seals and seal impressions of Lothal displayed in the Alphabet Gallery.
A comparison of Indus alphabets with the Phoenician alphabets suggests that a major part of Indus consonantal sings was taken over by Phoenician for their consonantal script in 17th century B.C. The Brahmi script of 3rd Century B.C. which was evolved from Indus alphabetic writing added a few more signs for vowels and consonants.
S.R. RAO, formerly Deputy Director General in the Archaeological Survey of India has brought to light the evolved from Indus civilization and its script through his excavations at Rangpur and Lothal, the latter a port-town, in western India.
Rao published his findings in 1973 and later in 1982 and 1991. He is also a marine archaeologist known for his discovery of the legendary city of Dvaraka submerged in the Arabian Sea.
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