Lord Skanda-Murugan

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

N.S. Valluvan

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.


  1. Ahmuvan
  2. Draco sign is read as ‘Ah'
  3. Kanaga sign is read as ‘Mu'
  4. Sky sign is read as ‘Van'
  5. Ursa Major sign
  6. Interpretation and Reading of Signs and Sign Sequences
  7. References

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 ancient world.

'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 sky.

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 India.

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'.

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

Part D: The Sky sign read as ‘van'

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).

  1. The Lord of Space and Time (Sign No. 8) is read as ‘mu'.
  2. The Sky (Sign No. 342) is read as ‘van'.
  3. The Draco Constellation (Sign No. 48) is read as AH.
  4. The Ursa Major Constellation (Sign No. 127).

  5. Read the sign sequences in the order of right to left

  6. The Lord of Space and Time is in the Sky (Sign sequence No. 4632 00 ) is read as ‘muvan'.
  7. The constellation Draco is in the sky (Sign sequence
    No. 1487 00) is read as ‘ahvan'.
  8. The constellation Draco is established by the Lord of Space and Time in the sky (Sign sequence No. 4307 10 ) is read as ‘Ahmuvan'.
  9. The constellation Ursa Major is in the sky (Sign sequence No. 4078 00) which is a part interpretation only.
  10. The constellation Ursa Major is established by the Lord of Space and Time in the sky (Sign sequence No. 4655 00).
  11. 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.



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    Indus Script

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    Architecture, Culture, Civilization

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The author N.S. Valluvan of Chennai, India, may be contacted by e-mail at: nsvalluvanart@yahoo.co.in

"'Murukan' in the Indus Script" by Iravatham Mahadevan
"Deciphering the Indus Script" (book review) by Richard Solomon
"The Hexagram and its Parallel in the Indus Valley Graffiti" by N.S. Valluvan

Index of research articles on Skanda-Murukan