In one place this is being told in the context of goods that had reached Pumpukar. Another reference is to the goods sent by Satakarni (Gauthami putra Satakarni of the 1st century AD) to the Cheran king. These goods contained the wealth and goods of North India and bore Kannezhutthu - the letters by the eye. Those verses are reproduced below.
"வம்ப மாக்கள் தம் பெயர் பொறித்த
கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்த எண்ணுப் பல்பொதிக்
கடைமுக வாயில்.." (சிலப் – 5 – 111.113)
அடியார்க்கு நல்லார் தரும் பொருள்:-
வம்ப மாக்கள்- புதியோர்.
தம் பெயர் பொதித்த – தம் பெயரெழுதிய
கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்த – அடையாள எழுத்தினை இலச்சினையாக அமைத்த
எண்ணுப் பல் பொதி – பலவாகிய எண்களை உடைய பொதிகள்
கடைமுக வாயில் – பண்ட சாலை வாயில் (ஏற்றுமதி – இறக்குமதிப் பொருள்கள் வந்து இறங்கியிருக்கும் பண்ட சாலை)
"எய்யா வடவளத்து இருபதினாயிரம்
கண்ணெழுத்துப் படுத்தன கைபுனை சகடமும்"
அனுப்புகிறான். ( சிலப்- 26 -135 & 136)
இதற்கு உரை எழுதும் அடியார்க்கு நல்லார், "வேறோரிடத்தும் கண்டறியாத வடதிசை வளங்களை உடையனவாயும், சரக்கின் பெயர், அளவு முதலியன பொறிக்கப்பட்ட பொதிகளை உடையனவாயும் அணி செய்யப்பெற்ற இருபதினாயிரம் வண்டிகளும்" என்கிறார்.
These verses clearly indicate what the seals convey. They being sent by Satakarni containing the wealth of North India do imply that they had been sent from Indus regions. The detailed article on this is written in Tamil in my Tamil blog. Read it here: http://thamizhan-thiravidana.blogspot.in/2012/10/109-ogham_4138.html
When we have cross-referential inputs like this from within India, it is matter of waste of time to look elsewhere or differently to decipher the Indus seals.
After referring to the contributions made by many scholars to Harappan civilization (1921-2013), RS Bisht makes a passing mention that it as also known as Indus-Sarasvati civilization.
This is in Dr. YD Sharma Memorial Lectue delivered at Kokata on 31 August 2013 (Published in Puratattva 2013) which concludes after 18 pages: "Finally, comes up the most vexed problem of the identification of the people who built the Harappan civilization. In this case also diametrically opposite views are held by the scholars. Efforts have been made to identify with the Dravidians, the Proto-Elamites, the Mundas, the Aryans or even to a lost tribe. In this connection it is most pertinent to refer to the detailed anthropological studies carried out by a group of experts led by Hemphill, who hold that there are only two breaks in the anthropological records in the northwestern Indian subcontinent -- one occurs around 4500 BCE, in the beginning of the Chalcolithic era and the second around c. 800 BCE that falls in the Iron Age. The controversy will remain alive until and until the Harappan script is deciphered." (p.25)
The anthropological argument mentioned by Bisht is in the following citation:
Brian E. Hemphill, Alexander F. Christensen & S. I. Mustafakulov, "Trade or Travel: An Assessment of Interpopulational Dynamics among Bronze Age Indo-Iranian Populations," South Asian Archaeology, 1995, ed. Raymond Allchin & Bridget Allchin (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing, 1997), vol. 2, pp. 855-871.
Hemphill's observation was that there was no trace of "demographic disruption" in the North-West of the subcontinent between 4500 and 800 BCE.
When this 'demographic' observation negated the possibility of any massive intrusion, of non-Harappans into India, why should there be a 'vexed' problem identifying Indians while evaluating the archaeological efforts of 92 years between 1992 to 2013?
I wish Bisht had paused and deliberated on this identity problem a bit more to indicate pointers which could resolve the 'vexed' problem instead of merely using the non-decipherment of Indus writing as the crutch?
Some hope that genetics will help resolve the problem of identity. Genetics may not help if one starts with the problematic assumption that the language and culture somehow follow the same set of evolutionary rules.
Semantics of language are cultural indicators. Replacing anthropological construct of 'democratic disruption', one can postulate continuity of cultural practices and using cultural indicators to affirm that there was no 'cultural' disruption between 4500 BCE and 800 BCE.
This may be one approach to resolve the 'vexed' Indian identity problem in Indian civilization studies.
Indeed, it is commonsense to study culture for effective civilization studies not to have any vexatious theories about identity of people in the civilization continuum.
One tool for studying culture is language but more important is the discipline of semantics -- as distinct from study of phonetics or syntax. Mere glossary won't help but the glosses have to be explained with 'meaning' as the meaning evolved over time in socio-cultural interactions.
Semantics as the study of meaning postulates relation between signifiers, like words, phrases, signs, and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotation (translation of a sign to its literal meaning). Denotation should be contrasted with connotation, which translates a sign to meanings associated with it.
Let us take some examples signifiers.
The cultural practice of wearing characteristic marking sindhur (red vermilion mark) on the forehead or parting of the hair is a signifier of an Indian woman.
We have to terracotta figurines of Nausharo which show such signifiers.
Lingam, grey sandstone in situ, Harappa, Trench Ai, Mound F, Pl. X (c) (After Vats). "In an earthenware jar, No. 12414, recovered from Mound F, Trench IV, Square I
Terracotta sivalinga, Kalibangan.
A tre-foil is a signifier of some 'importance', something or someone venerated (say, an ancestor)
The trefoil signifiers appears in the civilization in the following examples:
Statue, Uruk (W.16017), c. 3000 B.C.; bull with trefoil inlays; shell mass with inlays of lapis lazuli; 5.3 cm. long; Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin; Parpola, 1994, p. 213.
Steatite statue fragment; Mohenjodaro (Sd 767); trefoil-decorated bull; traces of red pigment remain inside the trefoils. After Ardeleanu-Jansen 1989: 196, fig. 1; Parpola, 1994, p. 213.
Trefoils painted on steatite beads, Harappa (After Vats, Pl. CXXXIII, Fig.2)
Trefoil inlay decorated base (for linga icon?); smoothed, polished pedestal of dark red stone; National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi; After Mackay 1938: I, 411; II, pl. 107:35; Parpola, 1994, p. 218.
Statue (DK 1909), Mohenjodaro; four views; white steatite, with remnants of red paint inside the trefoils of the robe; height 17 cm.; National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi; After Marshall 1931a:pl.98; Parpola, 1994, p. 212.
What word in spoken language, was used to denote this signifier? Would it be not be a reasonable and useful exercise to trace such signifiers in the Indian sprachbund, on the assumption that the present-day words (from one or more languages of the Indians) contain such signifiers with the same denotation which was in vogue in the early days of the civilization?
History is all around us. Civilization continuum is a living reality. Why should we still treat it as a 'vexed' problem when we can look for signifiers in the archaeological record or even i the anthropological record, to identify Indians in the Indian civilization?
One wonders why the identity problem is looked upon as an intractable problem. The problem can be resolved, if only we look for signifiers -- like the three examples cited above -- which are already available instead of hoping for some new or high-tech genetic markers which may create more problems than they can really resolve.
What gloss connoted a trefoil in Indian sprachbund?
I find a word in Malayalam which may provide the word as a signifier which matches with trefoil as a 'symbol'.
These examples may provide signifiers of cloth, of someone of importance, or young animal as may be seen from these artifacts displaying the trefoil.
These artifacts evoke the following glosses from Indian sprachbund with literal meanings of 'trefoil' signifiers:
Glosses (words and semantics):
पोतृ pōtṛ " Purifier " , Name of one of the 16 officiating priests at a sacrifice (the assistant of the Brahman (Rigveda)
போற்றி pōṟṟi , < id. n. 1. Praise, applause, commendation; புகழ்மொழி. (W.) 2.Brahman temple-priest of Malabar; கோயிற் பூசைசெய்யும் மலையாளநாட்டுப் பிராமணன். (W.) 3. See போத்தி, 1.--int. Exclamation of praise; துதிச்சொல்வகை. பொய்தீர் காட்சிப் புரையோய் போற்றி (சிலப். 13, 92).
potṛ. pōtrá1 ʻ *cleaning instrument ʼ (ʻ the Potr̥'s soma vessel ʼ RV.). [√pū]
Bi. pot ʻ jeweller's polishing stone ʼ
pṓta, pōtalaka, pōtalikā young animal, heifer; pōāla -- m. ʻ child, bull ʼ
potṛā m. ʻ baby clothes ʼpotrẽ n. ʻ rag for smearing cowdung ʼ. pōta ʻ covering (?) ʼ RV., ʻ rough hempen cloth ʼ AV pusta --2 n. ʻ working in clay ʼ (prob. ← Drav., Tam. pūcu &c. Pkt. potta -- , °taga -- , °tia -- n. ʻ cotton cloth ʼ செம்பொத்தி cem-potti, n. prob. id. +. A kind of cloth.
Te. poṭṭi, poṭṭiya scorpion;
Tu. poṭṭè tender ear of corn; Pa. poṭ grain in embryonic stage.
Ta. poṭṭu chaff
Ta. poṭṭu drop, spot, round mark worn on forehead. Ma. poṭṭu, poṟṟu a circular mark on the forehead, mostly red. Ka. boṭṭu, baṭṭu drop, mark on the forehead. Koḍ. boṭṭï round mark worn on the forehead. Tu. boṭṭa a spot, mark, a drop; (B-K.) buṭṭe a dot. Te. boṭṭu a drop, the sectarian mark worn on the forehead. Kol. (SR.) boṭla drop. Pa. boṭ id. Ga. (P.)boṭu drop, spot. Konḍa boṭu drop of water, mark on forehead. Kuwi (F.) būttū, (Isr.) buṭu tattoo.
pōta ʻ boat ʼ
H. pot m. ʻ glass bead ʼ, G. M. pot f.; -- Bi. pot ʻ jeweller's polishing stone ʼ; Pk. pottī -- f. ʻ glass ʼ; S. pūti f. ʻ glass bead ʼ, P. pot f.; N. pote ʻ long straight bar of jewelry ʼ; B. pot ʻ glass bead ʼ, puti, pũti ʻ small bead ʼ; Or. puti ʻ necklace of small glass beads ʼ
While it may be debated if a 'temple priest' of the civilization was called pōṟṟi as the gloss is used today in Malayalam, or pōtṛ as the gloss is used today in the performance of a vedic yajña, there seems to be a substantial semantic evidence to relate to the other characteristics of the artifacts deploying the trefoil symbol: cloth, young animal.
Both symbols -- cloth and young animal -- have pottu as word signifiers. If pōṟṟi or pottu is the word signifier, there is a rebus reading possible: pot 'boat' or pot 'bead' or pote 'long straight bar of jewelry'.
We seem to be looking at trefoil as a hieroglyph read rebus.
1. Shown pota 'cloth' worn as a shawl by the important person, the trefoil hieroglyph can be read rebus as the homonymous word: pōtṛ 'temple priest'.
2. Shown on pota 'young animal or heifer', or on beads, the trefoil hieroglyph can be read either as pot'boat' or pote 'long straight bar of jewelry or bead'.
These three examples of signifiers have thus provided a framework for resolving the 'vexed' problem of identity.
A conclusion is drawn by rebus readings of hieroglyphs deployed on about 7000 inscribed objects, over an extensive area along the Persian Gulf and along the Tin Road into the Fertile Crescent.
The conclusion is that Meluhha was the spoken idiom the people who denotated these Meluhha hieroglyphs and their rebus readings, almost all in the context of lapidary or smithy or forge. A corollary conclusion is that the Meluhhans were from the Indian sprachbund.
The substantive road traveled is the cultural continuum of Indian civilization. Hence, we do not have to find alternative excuses of substitutes such as Harappan or Indus civilization. If locus has to be a signifier the civilization can be called Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization without any hesitation because the civilization lives on not only on these river basins but has left traces which can be found even today in many parts of Eurasia --signifiers such as Tocharian ancu 'iron' or Vedic amśu 'soma'; Kota language kole.l as signifier word for 'smithy' as well as 'temple'.
Would it be ok to venture a suggestion that the problem of identity calls for special efforts on the part of archaeologists to attempt to use the vernacular words to signify artifacts such as pots and pans discovered in the digs, instead of using ONLY English words as signifiers.
Go vernacular, is the lesson to resolve the 'vexed' problem.
Sarasvati Research Center
January 28, 2014