The Indus script is Dravidian linguistically and culturally closer to the old Tamil polity than what has been recognised so far, eminent epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan has said.

He shared some of his recent and still-not-fully-published findings relating to the interpretation of the Indus script, in an endowment lecture on ‘Vestiges of Indus Civilisation in Old Tamil’ at the 16th annual session of the Tamil Nadu History Congress, which opened here on Friday.

Mr. Mahadevan said that though the claim could be met with incredulity, the evidence he had gathered over four decades of intensive study of the sources — the Indus texts and old Tamil anthologies — had led him to the conclusion.

Mr. Mahadevan, who specialises in the Indus script and Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, said there was also substantial archaeological evidence to support the view that Indus Civilisation was pre-Aryan. The Indus Civilisation was urban, while the Vedic culture was rural and pastoral.

The Indus seals, he said, do not depict the horse and the chariot with ‘spooked wheels,’ which were the defining pieces of the Aryan-speaking societies. “The Indus religion as revealed by the pictorial depiction on seals included worship of a buffalo-horned male god, mother-goddesses, the pipal tree and the serpent, and possibly the phallic symbol. Such modes of worship present in Hinduism are known to have been derived from the aboriginal population and are totally alien to the religion of the Rig Veda.”

There was also substantial linguistic evidence “favouring Dravidian authorship of the Indus Civilisation,” he said, citing Brahui, a Dravidian language still spoken in the Indus region, Dravidian loan words in the Rig Veda, the substratum influence of Dravidian on Indo-Aryan as shown by the presence of retroflex consonants in the Rig Veda and major modifications in the Prakrit dialects moving them closer to the Dravidian than the Indo-European family of languages. Computer analysis of Indus texts has also revealed that the language had suffixes only as in Dravidian and no prefixes as in Indo-Aryan or infixes as in Munda.

Clarifying that he was employing the terms, ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian,’ only in linguistic sense, he said speakers of the Aryan languages indistinguishably merged with Dravidian and Munda-speaking people millennia ago, creating a composite Indian society.

Priestly functionary

Referring to the ‘BEARER’ ideograms in the Indus script, he said the frequent Harappan title, ‘Bearer,’ originally meant a priestly functionary ceremonially carrying, on a yoke, food offerings to the deity. The corresponding Dravidian expression, ‘poray’ (bearer) was translated in the Rig Veda as Bharata (bearer).

The symbols inscribed on a Neolithic axe found at Sembiyan Kandiyur near Mayiladuthurai in 2006, a most significant discovery connecting Indus Civilisation with Tamil Nadu, corresponded to the signs of the Indus script. Symbols found on megalithic pottery and potsherds from Sanur and Mangudi in Tamil Nadu also resembled the signs of the Indus script.

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