The RASI-2004 International Rock Art Congress, Agra
Nominated as The Tenth Congress of The International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO)
28 November to 2 December 2004
Rock Art Research: Changing Paradigms
Symposium L: "Can We Interpret Rock Art?"
Chairman: Dr. Jean Clottes, France
Presentation of Paper:
"Indus Graffiti As Rock Art And Their Astronomical Implications"
Indus Graffiti as Rock Art
and their Astronomical Implications
The Kanaga sign is very
common in Indus rock art. It can be interpreted as the symbol for a primordial
God and a Lord of space and time with an astronomical meaning. In southern
India, there are rock art signs that refer to the Sky and in particular to the Draco
and Ursa Major constellations and to a Lord of space and time. Those rock art
signs can therefore be considered as recorded data of ancient astronomical
knowledge. They may have been used in the formation of linguistic communication
and also as religious symbols.
- Draco sign is read as ‘Ah'
- Kanaga sign is read as ‘Mu'
- Sky sign is read as ‘Van'
- Ursa Major sign
- Interpretation and Reading of Signs and Sign Sequences
Ahmuvan as seen in an Indus tablet (G.R. Hunter, 1934)
Part A: Ahmuvan
The Indus tablet (G.R. Hunter, 1934, seen above) shows an elongated
anthropomorphic figure with a trident shaped protuberance in the head
surrounded by a loop from head to toe from both sides of the figure and pipal
tree leaves attached to 13 smaller loops that come out from the bigger loop.
The reverse side of the tablet is inscribed with the Indus sign sequence No.
4307 10 (See part F, No. 7) and comprises the signs for the Constellation Draco,
Lord of Space and Time and Sky, which can be interpreted as the constellation Draco
is established by the Lord of Space and Time in the sky and can be read from
right to left as ahmuvan. This deity finds his parallel with the God Murukan
of the Tamil tradition of South India.
Ahmuvan stood for the time period during which the constellation Draco
held the key position in the northern night sky from around 10,500 B.C. onwards.
Draco and Orion are the partners in a great celestial seesaw that is being
performed over several thousands of years and Ahmuvan must have been worshipped
and venerated as a primordial God of the Indus valley civilization.
Part B: The Draco sign read as ‘ah'
In 10,500 B.C. Draco marked the north meridian when the Orion marked the south meridian (Graham Hancock, Santha Faiia,
1998) and Draco surrounded the pole of the ecliptic in 6,000 B.C. It is
circumpolar at higher altitudes and rotates slowly around the north pole of the sky.
The notion of unmoving pole star around 3000 B.C. refers to the Alpha Draconis of the Draco constellation in Indus valley
and the Gamma Draconis of the same is named as the zenith star since it almost
lies in the zenith of Greenwich. Draco had dominated the northern night sky
during several thousands of years and must have influenced the minds of the
ancients. They should have venerated and worshipped it as a powerful deity with
awe and wonder since it occupied a large area of the northern night sky.
The Tamil alphabet which is read as 'ah' metamorphosed
from an earlier script. Tamil Vattezhuthu, that is also read as 'ah', has its
origin from the Indus sign denoting the Draco constellation read as 'ah' too.
The unmoving north pole star of the Vedic
times is the Alpha Draconis and the Greek God Hercules displayed the Draco in
his shield. Draco was associated with the Egyptian deity Isis Hathor and
pictured as a cow and held a powerful position in myth and astronomy in China.
So the constellation Draco had occupied an important position all over the
'Ah' also stands for the primal expression sounded by the human beings by opening
the mouth naturally and may have inspired the way for linguistic communication
and invention of language.
Alpha Draconis was 0.6 degree away from the heavenly
pole in 2780 B.C. and this period corresponds to the Indus valley civilization.
Approximately the time period from 10,500 B.C. to 2,500 B.C. can be understood as
the Draco phase of the Indus valley civilization and possibly the Ursa Major
phase followed the Draco phase.
The Indus sign sequence No. 1487 00 can
be interpreted as the constellation Draco is in the sky (see part F, No. 6) which
is read as ‘ahvan'. And the sign Draco is self-evident in the northern night
Part C: Kanaga sign read as ‘Mu'
The structural relationship between the Kanaga
sign, Indus sign and Indus rock art sign shows a remarkable resemblance. All
these variations represent a symbol for space and time and a source of life
energy, which is none other than the sun itself.
The Kanaga sign is a religious symbol of
the Dogon people of West Africa and worn by the male members as masks during
the funerary dance rituals to satisfy the spirit of a dead person. The Kanaga
sign stands for the primordial energy and acts as a mediator between earth and
heaven. In Indus rock art this Kanaga sign is identified as Kadavul, the
name for God in Tamil (S. Gurumurthy, 1999) and it is also a symbol of cosmic Purusha
which is drawn in the exteriors of houses as an auspicious symbol in southern
The Indus anthropomorphic figure is
represented by the Kanaga sign and can be interpreted as the symbol for a
primordial God and a Lord of space and time with an astronomical meaning
primarily denoting the three positions of the sun with its north, east, south
directions over the yearly motions. This sign may explain various time periods
and also other celestial positions.
The syllable ‘mu', which forms the root of the word Murukan, is the name of the God
for the Tamil language and explained as a Lord of space and time. 'Mu' also forms
the root for the Tamil word moondru, which is the name for the numeral
denoting three. The Lord Murukan is also called as Kanta Vel. The root
syllables mu and ka both refer to Murukan and the sun. The
Egyptian word ‘ka' denotes the spirit or soul and the Kanaga sign represents
the pivotal three positions occupied by the sun during the equinoxes and the
solstices in the sky.
The Indus sign sequence No. 4632 00, can be interpreted as the Lord of Space and Time
is in the sky (see part F, No. 5) which is read as ‘muvan'.
Part D: The Sky sign read as ‘van'
The U or inverted U is the symbol for the
sky in Indian art symbolism (K. C. Aryan, 1981). When the U is affixed with
four strokes in the top, it becomes the Indus sky sign. The four strokes stand
for the four directions: north, south, east and west. The U is read as 'van' as
the same denotes the sky in Tamil.
The primordial God of Indus valley–Ahmuvan–stands inside a bigger loop embedded
with 13 smaller loops with pipal tree leaves attached to it possibly denoting
13 time periods as found in the astronomical calculations of the Mayan. The
bigger loop stands for the sky dome or the celestial arc of the god as found
attached to the Indian Gods in temples. It is termed as tiruvatchi in
the Tamil agama tradition.
The syllable ‘an' denotes God in ancient Sumerian culture and the suffix ‘an' is
common in naming male persons in the Tamil tradition of southern India. Hence ‘Ahmuvan'
can be called as a deity of the sky and heaven.
Part E: The Ursa Major Sign
The Ursa Major constellation is popularly known as Seven Sages Mandalam in India
and referred in the Hindu ritual text Sathapatha Brahmana. It was identified as
'bull's thigh' constellation in Egyptian astronomical lore. The Indus sign
sequence No. 8054 00 (see part F, No. 10) depicts the Ursa Major sign along
with a drawing of a bull's thigh.
Ursa Major constellation is called Shang Ti, The Lord on High which decided the
movements of the emperor from the north as a pivotal pole star in China and
acted as a seasonal indicator. It was also a calendar, clock, stood as a sign
of social order, emblem of the king and an important source of mystical power
(E. C. Krupp, 1983). A ritual dance "Pace of Yu" was performed based on the
patterns of the seven stars of Ursa Major and the sign is self-evident in the
northern night sky.
The Indus sign sequence No. 4078 00, can be interpreted as the constellation Ursa
Major is in the sky, (see part F, No. 8) which is a part interpretation only.
The Indus sign sequence No. 4655 00, can
be interpreted as the constellation Ursa Major is established by the Lord of Space
and Time in the sky, (see part F, No. 9).
Part F: Interpretation and Reading of Signs and Sign Sequences
Numerous Indus signs are present in
Southern India as rock art signs (cf. I. Mahadevan, 1977 for Indus signs,
sign sequences and S. Gurumurthi, 1999 for Indus rock art signs).
- The Lord of Space and Time (Sign No. 8) is read as ‘mu'.
- The Sky (Sign No. 342) is read as ‘van'.
- The Draco Constellation (Sign No. 48) is read as AH.
- The Ursa Major Constellation (Sign No. 127).
- The Lord of Space and Time is in the Sky (Sign sequence No. 4632 00
) is read as ‘muvan'.
- The constellation Draco is in the sky (Sign sequence
No. 1487 00) is read as ‘ahvan'.
- The constellation Draco is established by the Lord of Space and Time in the
sky (Sign sequence No. 4307 10 ) is read as ‘Ahmuvan'.
- The constellation Ursa Major is in the sky (Sign sequence No. 4078
00) which is a part interpretation only.
- The constellation Ursa Major is established by the Lord of
Space and Time in the sky (Sign sequence No. 4655 00).
- The parallel meaning of the bull's thigh and Ursa Major
sign is stressed (Sign
sequence No. 8054 00) which is a part interpretation only.
- Aryan, K. C., 1981. Basis of
Decorative Element in Indian Art. (Rekha Prakashan) New Delhi. p. 16.
- Hunter, G. R.,
1993. The Script of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro and its Connection with other
Scripts. (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Ltd.) New Delhi. Plate. X X X X,
- Mahadevan, Iravatham,
1977. "Indus Script – Texts, Concordance and Tables" (ASI, No. 77) New Delhi.
- Parpola, Asko,
1994. Deciphering the Indus Script (Cambridge University Press)
- Gurumurthy, S.,
1999. Deciphering the Indus Script – From Graffiti on Ancient Indian
Pottery. (University of Madras) Chennai. p. 108.
- Tilak, B. G., 1893.
The Orion or Researchers into the Antiquity of the Vedas (Messers Tilak
- Plunket, Emmeline
M., 1903. Ancient Calendars and Constellations. (John Murray) London.
- Roy, S. B., 1976. Prehistoric
Lunar Astronomy – 19,000-3,100 B. C. (Institute of Chronology) New Delhi.
- Ghosh, Ekendranath,
1983. Studies on Rigvedic Deities – Astronomical and Meteorological. (Cosmo
Publications) New Delhi.
- Subbarayappa B. V., Sarma
K. V., 1985. Indian Astronomy – A Source Book. (Nehru Centre)Bombay.
- Krupp, E. C., 1983. Echoes
of the Ancient Skies – The Astronomy of Lost Civilizations.(Oxford
University Press) New York. P. 139.
- Aveni, Anthony,
1997. Stairways to the Stars – Sky Watching in Three Great Ancient Cultures.
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) New York.
- Temple, Robert K. G., 1998. The Sirius Mystery – New Scientific Evidence for Alien Contacts 5000 Years Ago. (Century) London.
- Hancock, Graham, Faiia, Santha, 1998. Heaven's Mirror – Quest for The Lost Civilization.(Three Rivers Press) New York. P. 198.
- Ashfaque, Syed M., 1989. Primitive Astronomy in the Indus Civilization. (Wisconsin
Archaeological Reports, Volume 2, No. 2) Wisconsin.
- Sidharth. B. G., 1999. The Celestial Key to the Vedas – Discovering the Origins of the
World's Oldest Civilization. (Inner Traditions) Rochester, Vermont.
Architecture, Culture, Civilization
- Heras, Henry, 1953. "Studies
in Proto – Indo – Mediterranean Culture", Vol: 1. (Studies in Indian History of the Indian Historical Research Institute, St. Xaviers College, No. 19) Bombay.
- Wheeler, Sir Mortimer, 1960. The Indus Civilization. (The Syndicate of the Cambridge University Press) London.
- Zvelebil, Kamil V.,
1981. Tiru Murugan. (International Institute of Tamil Studies) Madras.
- Zvelebil, Kamil V.,
1991. Tamil Traditions on Subrahmanya Murugan. (Institute of Asian Studies)
- Clothey, Fred W., 1978. The Many Faces of Murukan - The History and Meaning of a South Indian God. (Mouton Publishers) The Hague, The Netherlands.
- Clothey, Fred W., 1983. Rhythm and Intent – Ritual Studies from South India. (Blacki &
Son Publishers Pvt. Ltd.) Bombay.
- Frawley, David,
1993. Gods, Sages and Kings – Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization. (Motilal Banarsidas Publishers) Delhi.
- Ganapathi Sthapati, V., 2000. Vaastu Purusha Mandala. (Dakshina Publishing House) Chennai.
- Snodgrass, Adrian, 1994. Architecture, Time and Eternity, Volume 1, 2. (Aditya Prakashan) Delhi.
- Cairns, Grace E., 1992. Man as Microcosm in Tantric Hinduism. (Manohar Publications) New Delhi.
The author N.S. Valluvan of Chennai, India, may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org