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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Harappan Script :The Age Old Enigma Solved.

Indus Script Deciphered

It has been 140 years since the first seal was discovered at Harappa. Since then, we had many such seals with more than 400 signs discovered at various sites across a wide region spanning present day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Rajasthan, Punjab and Gujarat. A few were even found outside, not more than forty seals in the Middle East from Oman, Euphrates Valley all the way to Jordan. But the average number of signs per seal is just five and the longest text we have is of 17 characters.
Even now we have no clue as to what they had meant. Experts in various fields have spent years of their careers trying to decipher the enigma. Their efforts are seminal especially the likes of Mahadevan, Parpola, Rao and Kak.

Another predicament which plagued the efforts is the extremely passionate adherence to two divergent views by the scientists, with their political and ideological support groups ossified into Hindutva and Tamil Nationalists
There is promise on the horizon with recent advances in computer aided methods.However, conclusive proof can only be obtained if we lay our hands on a longer text, or, providence provides us a bilingual text - which theoretically is possible considering the amount of trade between the Indus and its contemporary Acadian Empire.

Recently, a friend of mine had said that I am ignorant of the fact that the script had already been deciphered. He was convinced by a book which he had picked up at the airport and gave it to me to read, which proved 'conclusively' that the short texts represented the hymns of Rig Veda with an extremely convoluted logic; then I came across another similar book by a lady which claimed that the pictograms or the logograms were a modified version of their Sumerian / Acadian counterparts.
While the experts are spending their lives and careers in search of truth in a scientific and transparent milieu, the field has been infested by a multitude of charlatans and frauds, who keep claiming to have had deciphered the script for short-lived fame, which unfortunately is lapped up by the gullible media and public.The paucity of material and its controversial nature makes the subject attractive to these academic carpetbaggers.And, it is easy to sound authentic with a little bit of creativity.

Just to prove the point, let me put down a parody of a ‘scientific paper’ (For the convenience of my friends, I have shortened it by eliminating chaff and retained only the juice and rest assured,  usually such papers run into a hundred pages at the least for the purpose of manufacturing authenticity):

A New Approach to the Decipherment based on the Context and Functional Imperatives of Epigraphical Evidence from the Bronze Age Civilization of the Indian Subcontinent.

Prof. Adhoc Speculatrov,
University of Ĝodŋōžwhér

Dr. Kamaal K Kallan
Coordinator, BhéjaKhāli Project

Dr. Jaundice D’ Fraud
School of Barchaeology, Kalahari


The Bronze Age Civilization of Indian Subcontinent was discovered by ….. and is variously called …… by its type site Harappa. Since 1875, a number of artifacts in various media had been discovered which contained markings …. A complete list of these textual signs is available …. This article utilizes the catalog of the Society for ….. of …. The monologue ends finally after an eloquent flow of unendurable drivel with adequate amount of name dropping and a comprehensive listing of convenient facts.


The complete catalog of 420 signs was critically examined and the contexts in which they were found were noted. A team of experts from the fields of Geriatric Illogic, Procreative Biology, Incomprehensible Epigraphy and Historic Calisthenics; duly assisted by the Apostate Co-laboratory of Hoax, New Jerk and The Ecstatistical Sinstitute of Panacea.


Many hypotheses were put forward based on the number and the structure of signs and their sequence and frequency of occurrence. The paper wanders into 'the' inconsequential details for the exigency of sounding authentic with cross references to some earlier works until a few convenient facts are culled and dressed to support the propositions required for a workable hypothesis. (definitive was deliberate)

Working Hypothesis

It was proposed by a few eminent scientists that since the number of signs exceeded 400, the script is logo-syllabic: like the Sumerian Cuneiform, Linear B, Mayan, and Egyptian. However, an analysis of its sequences by our Team of Exports from the Co-laboratory of Hoax gave us some path-breaking insights. The signs are independent pictograms each with a complete meaning for the users.
Based on the frequency and the position of the signs, it was proposed that certain signs almost always occurred at the end of the sequence and are considered case endings. But by applying the technique of inverted logic based on our ethnographic study conducted by our team at the Trucker’s Offices near the Octroi Depot at the New Bombay Creek, we are able to establish that the sequence of notations is based on their decreasing importance in size of expense and their regularity of occurrence, with the exceptional notations occurring towards the end. This proves that the common signs in the seals were engraved first and the exceptional ones towards the end. Whereas, the clay impressions show the reverse,yet we were able to prove from our ethnographic research at the dance bars of Thane, crowding of certain common signs at the beginning of the inscription is due to the propensity of the transport clerks to provide space for the exceptions and their casualness in marking / inscribing the common notations / signs.
Most of the earlier research in deciphering the signs was mired in the inconsequential debate on language used. Bryan Wells and I. Mahadevan were of the opinion that the script is Dravidian and tried to read words from it. Subhash Kak has shown that it bears similarities to Brahmi script and the language could be Indo-Aryan.
Yet, Computer models developed at The University of Ĝodŋōžwhér showed that the signs only indicated certain meanings common to the users and not limited by the language spoken by them. The wide area in which these signs were found shows that they had a uniform meaning independent of the diverse languages and faiths of people who inhabited the region which probably was as multilingual as it is today: Currently the region under the influence of Harappan Civilization hosts a multitude of diverse linguistic groups and cultures. Here, an example may be necessary. A hundred rupee note has the same meaning to all users even though it was called differently by the speakers of Punjabi, Bengali or Tamil. If the seals had similar functional role, any search for language is of no consequence.
As to the functional context in which most of these seals were found in Moenjodaro, Kalibangan, Lothal and Lagash there is evidence of their usage as sealings on shipments. This proves beyond doubt that the seals had an economic function.
With the clarity achieved from various fields of study we set forth our hypothesis:

The seals were a record of the expenses incurred by the courier / transporter and were recorded on Steatite as such by the clerks of the receiving warehouses and clay tokens with its impressions were issued to them for reimbursement, which they carried back as proof of acceptance of expenses and the reimbursing clerks destroyed the sealings after the purpose is served. A duplicate of the engraving was impressed on the goods as a record of its value.

The ethnographic study of the freight clerks’ notations in Bombay Creek indicated that the common ones are surprisingly symbolic even today.
With this knowledge, we embarked on deciphering some of the most common signs of Harappan symbols below.

Modes of Transport

Firstly we explore some signs which are indicative of various modes of transportation of goods relevant to the Bronze Age Civilization.

The Ship: The civilization was riparian. Most common mode of transport was by river. A symbol of Ship / Galley is also the most common symbol in the seals and clay sealings found. The highest and most regular symbol inscribed by the engravers also must have been this, therefore, its presence at the beginning and also in a most casual fashion. Minor variations in this symbol must have denoted the types and variety of craft used. The symbol also is associated with some number marks which might have denoted the days or distances or even the number of craft.

The Wheel or Cart:
The wheel symbol usually occurred in pairs and also accompanied by number signs. They probably indicated transportation by carts.
Carts were an important mode of transport and there is enough evidence from the presence of Toy Carts. The above picture indicates that most of the carts were of two wheels as they are even today.

Yoke Load:
Another common sign, with its meaning clear. Even today in rural India, carrying loads with a simple bamboo yoke is common. A number of combinations of the yoke with other symbols show the use of human loaders.
For example:
The above symbol is a combination of human yoke bearer and a ship, probably indicative of loading or off-loading from the ship or a symbol of chandler.

Head Load:
These probably indicated head-loads: The symbols show a basket and a sack or a bundle being carried by a man. There was a considered opinion amongst our Procreative Biologists that the symbols represent a flycatcher and that of a woman who is in an extreme need of a primitive surgical technique called Liposuction. Many terracotta artifacts from the region suggest this propensity (see pic)
Terrain Specific Signs
There are many signs which are indicative of the geographical features and the hazardous terrains through which the goods were transported. Most of them are simple symbols denoting a familiar geographical feature. However, their similarity to some of the human, material and occasionally esoteric attributes is a cause for confusion. Dr. Kallan from the BhéjaKhāli Project counsels us to  refrain from using clues from religious and spiritual milieu which is in vogue amongst most scientists in deciphering the symbols. 'One must understand that the symbols were created to assist a nascent trade of population with diverse tongues and beliefs.

Another common occurrence is two simple parallel lines, either straight or curved. They frequently occur in
combination with the ship sign.
The parallel lines in combination with a number of human signs probably were indicative of River Crossing, Ferry etc.

Their similarity to the pedestrian crossing signs of the present day is very interesting. Probably they had signs for Zebra Crossing too, but we are unable to reach a consensus as the only sign which answers the requirement is either called a ‘Horse Crossing’ or that of an Asian Wild Ass. Therefore finally we intended calling them 'Unspecified Equine Crossing.'

Probably, the signs indicated a special consideration for transporting across a mountain or a range of mountains. The last may be indicative of a steep path or incline.
Though there was a logical probability that the first sign denotes a camel’s hump and a symbol for pack animal, which encouraged our geriatric experts to speculate on the symbolic ‘triple hump’.
Our colleague Prof. Richard Cephalus had examined the evidence of some other signs combining the triangular mountain sign and the human sign with obvious meaning similar to his own name in common Americanese.
The meaning is obvious.
The above symbols of wild animals and hooded cobra or lizard probably indicated the wild and hazardous route or losses due to brigandage and the need for protection.
We agree with the learned opinion of Dr. Pulitzer Ray and Animalka Gandhi that these signs, which are evident proof of uncivilized and callous attitude of the mercantile elite of these city states, must be destroyed.
Quantity and Space
The signs indicating weights, numbers and space which are essential to specify quantities delivered and losses incurred during transport. Most of these signs were in combination with other signs specifying the modes of transport etc.
Their resemblance to various common weights found across the region is clear. The variants probably indicated different units in combination with number signs.
The resemblance also of these symbols with some modern icons is obvious and our ethnology experts are still pursuing this line of research and the results would be published separately if they survive their prolonged inebriation.
The signs indicate the space or the location of the goods. The first sign probably meant half load or half rental at the wayside warehouse or on the ferry or boat and indicated the cost of transport or rental.

Other Expenses on route and Services

Our experience at the Creek indicated that deliveries of goods are always accompanied by a list of expenses of the truck drivers commonly incurred by them on route. The most obvious was the fuel and wages. Other expenses are as follows: Meals, Night Shelter, Highway Tolls, Taxes, Repairs and Miscellaneous Services. We shall explore some of the signs which indicate them.
With major part of the transport being riparian, the symbol of fish probably indicated meal. The sign of fish is one of the most common signs and is usually followed by number signs, probably indicating the number of meals to be paid for. The ‘Bird in Bowl’ sign also probably indicated food of a different kind. The inference is amply supported by the consumption patterns of some of the river-side settlements in the region around Amritsar: Macchli and Kukkad being synonymous with anything edible.

This might be indicative of plant based food, a vegetarian’s meal. But our team of experts in the field of Procreative Biology has a different view, which was confirmed by our study of expenses of long distance truckers: The signs are obviously of their most essential expense both in terms of size and regularity: sexual favors from a sizable number of establishments located strategically on most frequently traveled routes.
The sign of a parasol; probably a sign for shelter or protection for goods from elements: rain, sun etc. Even today, no trucker at the Bombay Creek ventured out on a journey without a rubber tarp. Alas, our friends engaged in educating them of the uses of a much smaller rubber to protect themselves from the most common natural hazard falls to deaf ears.
Wages & Slaves:
The above signs might be referring to bonded labor or gang slaves and the last could be a sign for female slave, used for either carrying or processing of goods.
Or, were they prisoners? We shall investigate once our specialists are freed who are currently assisting in exposing the roots of 2G scam, obviously due to the connection between certain Tamil groups and the Harappan Civilization.


Night Travel:

The sign of moon probably was a symbol for night travel or transiting by night.

Symbols indicative of Lamps and Lamp Carriers. Torch bearers were probably hired and it was a common expense when transporting goods by night. Even today, you find the torch carriers at traditional processions in the subcontinent like temple fests and ‘baraats’. Imagine how easy it was in those days when the convoys of merchants traveled without any traffic restrictions, dancing to Indian Apache runes.
Security and Armed Guard:

The above signs probably indicated different types of armed security hired for the convoy and had different expense connotations. Dr Fraud has a different view in her previously published paper. (Please note that her name was curiously misspelled in the Journal of Barchaeology, Vol. 00)
Toll Gates & Taxes:
The sign of ‘Crab’ and its simplified or compound versions probably indicated Tax Passes or Booths. Our team of experts from Inverted Illogic rather that the Sanskrit word for crab is a clue of its meaning: Kara – Kataka.
Kara = Tax = Toll
Kataka = Pass = Gate

There are other signs indicative of toll gates

The parallel lines were considered earlier as indicative of river and the cross sign as barricade or gate. These above signs may be indicative of river, ford and dam / confluence in that order and had different values.
The sign of cross in a historic context and its connection with the preponderant penchant for evasion of taxes amongst the people of the subcontinent was noted and was referred to the Enforcement Directorate of the Government of India, who have been honing their skills in deciphering such issues and probably may find the clues at a new site on the Persian Gulf.


Before we conclude, we may need to validate our inferences by trying to decipher a sequence of signs meaningfully. Our experts equipped with the knowledge of Geriatric Calisthenics have successfully and unambiguously solved the riddle of the famous seal M 453.
M 453
 We try to read the sequence from left to right as it was meant.
The first sign is a ship and the two parallel lines indicate that the ship was a river craft. Let us assume that the cost of transport by ship on river is a unit and is acknowledged. The third sign indicates a cart. The goods were loaded and transported from the river to destination by a cart and the charges of hiring a cart are acknowledged. The fourth sign is a yoke bearer with two number signs indicating hiring of two men to carry the load from the cart (probably left at the gate) to the receiving warehouse. The last sign is a space indicator: either the space occupied at the warehouse or the location of goods at the warehouse or the location of the receiving center in relation to the city. Now the courier or transporter carries the sealing which also carried the identity of the receiver on the obverse side as an acknowledgment to either the place of origin of the goods or an agent for reimbursement of expenses incurred and also as proof of delivery for the merchant.

Now we can say conclusively that the methodology employed by our team could reasonably explain the meaning of most of the commonly used signs leaving a few exceptional signs which had a temporary use due to the exigent circumstances.
Therefore, we may conclude that the signs from the seals and sealings obtained at various sites of the Bronze Age Civilization of South Asia represent the clerical issues of the receiving centers to the transporters of trade goods acknowledging receipts and the incurred costs of freight and other services.
Further, our study also sets to rest the debate on the language issue as the signs are proved to be independent of the language spoken by its users.


At first we must acknowledge ‘you’ for the patience and perseverance displayed and the luxury of time at your disposal in reading this poppycock theory.
The many nameless truck drivers at the Bombay Creek and the Warehouse Clerks who have shared their experiences, Bills of Expenses and other precious data with our research team from the Ecstatistical Sinstitute of Panacea. The list would continue until finally the waiters of the Café Coffee Day who have patiently served an indefinite number of black coffees and endured as the research progressed for the whole evening amidst many a snigger and curse.
Ab chodo yaar, bahut ho gaya!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tsunami Helped Unearth this Temple?

If you take ECR stop at Tiger Cave a few miles short of Maahabs.

Off to your left will be a small boulder and an ancient structure surrounded by broken brickbats.

It was uncovered by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 Dec, '04

Some say it was a temple. An inscription on the boulder belongs to the Chola period, a thousand year old.
But the brick structure retains a lot of Pallava elements - probably half a millennium older. But the inside structure raised some doubts: The apse had an elevated platform at the rear leading to a few stepped chambers. There was no clear sign of any presence of an idol, or a Dagaba (Buddhist Model of Stupa).
The Tsunami that had uncovered the temple prompted a few archaeologists to study the sub soil of the beaches of Mahaabs. What they had found was a sign of a catastrophic tsunami around 1200 CE. Probably the one which had devastated the Carnatic coast and had reduced the cities like Puhar / Kaveripatnam; bringing to an end the mercantile empire of South East Asia.

History teaches.

But we refuse to be taught.

At this moment of great tragedy, in Honshu, I cannot but appreciate the efficient system and the civilian response to the calamitous event, there in Japan.
Kudos to their discipline.

I shudder when I think, of what would be our response to such disaster, god help if it ever occurs here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Chepauk, 11th January 1975

Why am I uncharacteristically speaking of a cricket ground?

I am sure that what I am writing fits the bill. There is a bit of history, a lot of our sporting heritage, and be assured, I shall throw in a hypothesis, as usual unconnected with the subject on hand.

In this religious faith sometimes called cricket, this hallowed turf, off Royyapet, was like Tirupati; to us ‘Madrasees’. Those days we made biennial pilgrimages, always during the auspicious harvest festival, at the Winter Solstice. Sun at the end of its southern path gave this muggy hot city its most benign weather.

It was the New Year of 1975 and I was a fourteen year old, a recent convert to this religion: A National Panasonic Radio and a brand new Murphy pocket transistors were my sacred means of worship.

Yet our gods had a fair march against the Giants, literally, those who came from across seven seas and rubbed their noses in the fragrant pollen-filled soil off Cubbon Park and the lateritic clay off Marine Drive.

But as it is always the case with this religion: failures belonged to the past, easily forgotten, and it was made easier as they belonged to the previous year, with our resounding win which came as the new-year dawned on India, curiously in the city of Rising Sun – Calcutta.
My pantheon was headed by a pair of diminutive gods: we always fought to decide who was shorter of the two.But the dilemma that day was whether one should make the trip as one of the gods was injured, was it his little finger?

Yet we won in Calcuttaaah!?!.
“Our boys have sorted them out”, was our battle cry
Andy Roberts and Vanburn Holder, we shall see them through
Bernard Julien, may be quick but wayward too
Lance Gibbs and his spin? Nay … not a worry
But the batsmen?
Who is that new boy who opened with Roy? Greenidge or Greenhorn?
Vivian, what an effeminate name, Richards
Then there was this Captain Clive,
and the Trinidadian Kallicharan, Ha there is a guy.
The keeper, Murray and whoever fills the eleventh slot?

But our team was set.
Yet we didn’t have our opener and the best bat. The god had injured his little finger.

Soooh, whhaaattt?

As usual our every trip to Madras began with a short detour to Tirupati, God, Didn’t we pray?

The toss was won by India before we reached the terrace.It was a grand view: stump to stump. And for me,it was the first time I ever saw a complete slip cordon. We called it the ‘Umbrella’ with an exclamation.

Roberts, the name always uttered with a tinge of subconscious dread was bowling to Farooq Engineer. We were tutored by our coach in the intricacies of what he called a ‘Bumper’; of course he only bowled at 40 and that’s his fastest.
We had to wait for those dreaded deliveries which never came while Julien removed our openers in a jiffy. We were 30 for 2. Then began the true procession induced by Roberts; and we were down 6 for some 75. Karsan Ghavri kept company with the Indomitable ‘God’ who was playing at the other end for sometime while he added a 25 to his 19. And …… Roberts removed Ghavri too.

Viswanath, Gundappa Rangappa Viswanath was at 44 when he ran out of batsmen. He had Prasanna, Bedi and Chandra to keep him company.

He added 53 individual runs while the other three and the extras added a 20.
India was all-out for 190 and the god was unbeaten at 97.
It was the best innings - test or otherwise – I ever watched. There were many other gods and more runs, Sunny, Kapil and Sachin who scored and built great innings on this turf.

But Vishy’s is a standalone.
It was pleasure watching in those days when breeze blew uninterrupted through the Casuarina stands. Later in 90’s it had become a concrete cauldron, stifling with forty thousand spectators and 40˚c on ground.

But the new stadium design has promise.

Can’t wait to watch a test match there!

The Standing Stones

A friend of mine said they could possibly be fossilized dung of dinosaurs, straight out of Jurassic Park, understandable as he lives in the city of Dream Merchants.
I asked an old woman, who works on a farm cultivating peanuts when the rains are good and she said, “They were shepherds, long ago they were cursed by a Yogi who had turned them into stones and they have been standing here since then.

I tried touching one which was likely looking with my foot, expecting it to turn into a damsel; No luck.
They have survived long, only significant specimen of Menhirs in Peninsular India.
How long did they stand there in those windswept plains, exposed to elements: periodic floods and persistent wind?

Conventional wisdom  places them between 1300 BCE and the beginning of the Current Era, as they belong to a common heterogeneous basket of burials called ‘Megaliths’, Big Stones, which belonged to the Iron Age.

Primarily they are of four kinds: Cists, Dolmens, Stone Circles and Menhirs and they were erected to commemorate a hero or a prominent person after their passing away, usually at the site of their cremation.
The first three are enclosures; they were built around the mortal remains of people.

While the Menhirs are freestanding stones
Before I could consult the only expert in the field, my friend Yogesh restrained me, he probably was scared and didn’t want to trust the temper of this famous companion of Asterix.

However, their names are a clue: Asterix, the Star and Obelix, the Menhir maker.

Yogesh was part of the team which assisted Prof. Kameshwar Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, who was trying to decipher astronomically significant data from the structural remains of the Indian Stone Age.
What they had found is astounding:

The Standing Stones were laid out in rows: in line with the trajectory of the two significant annual solar events, The Solstices.

They belonged to a time probably a thousand years before Aryabhata, or Pythagoras.

The land around these Menhirs was covered by a layer of stones and pebbles; a close look revealed many used and discarded stone implements. From the technology employed and the styling, they belonged to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic: In South India these cultures date back from 3000 to 30000 BCE.
The Menhirs belonged to a different genre in relation to the other types of Megalithic burials.
Were they older than the conventional 2nd Millennium dates they are credited with?
These Menhirs are not far from Hyderabad, probably a hundred miles or so, on a dry rocky spur jutting into River Krishna. A couple of minutes off the highway, under the high tension power lines lay a few acres of cultivated land, but fortunately, not so intensively, in spite of its proximity to the river, which is the only reason for their survival.
But there is ample evidence of damage in the neighboring fields. Many of them were removed and some still lay there serving as bunds.

I must thank my young friend, Yogesh Mallinathpur of Deccan College, who had taken me there. I am sure there will not be any left when I visit next. Pressure on the land will ensure their annihilation in our lifetime.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Cult of Krishna

Were its origins in South Indian Neolithic?

Contrary to our belief that Krishna and his Cult of Bhagavatas belonged to the actual Mahabharata War period, literary evidence and the archaeological material show the presence of such a cult only at the beginning of the Christian era. Krishna probably was a historic hero who had lived in a misty past, remembered fondly for his deeds – some of them might have been factual and many - exaggerations and even fictional.
But there was clear material evidence of a faith akin to the mainstream Vaishnavism by the 1st century BCE.
There were some mentions of Greek writers of the Post – Alexandrian period with regard to  popular worship of Heracles in India, who certainly resembled the Krishna – Vishnu complex of deities.

The Garuda pillar at Besnagar (Vidisa) of Heliodorus, erected by a Greek ambassador to the Shunga court who had called himself a ‘Bhagavata’ happened to be the first material reference to the belief.
Some coins of the plough-wielding Balarama and the Chakra wielding Vasudeva of Agathocles from Afghanstan from second century BCE also confirm the existence of the cult.
The earliest but vague archaeological evidence comes from Mathura region, especially of the Cult of Samkarshana; and the Chittorgadh and Gosundi inscriptions in Rajasthan.

Now, let us try and push the dates of the original protagonist of all the myriad legends back as far as it is logically possible:
If we pursue, with reason, we must try and locate and establish his traces firstly in the orthodox tradition attributable to a very early date.

The compendia of Vedas are entirely bereft of his references.

The Chandogya Upanishad mentions a sage named Krishna, Son of Devaki, only in name and with no resemblance to the later day hero.
Of course, the final rendering of the epic Mahabharata belongs to a date slightly later. But the story is a record of every ancient tradition and collective memory dear to the orthodox renderer.

The earliest could only be the Puranic tradition assuming that, even though the accepted compilations belong to a much later period, they contain the kernels of some historic fact. Even they place him in a period marked by two significant events: Mahabharata Battle and the Submergence of Dwaraka.

From the archaeological reports of Prof. S R Rao of the ruins of Dwaraka, on the coast of Gujarat, its date of submergence falls sometime in the middle of the second millennium BCE, and arguably gives a clue to the probable date of the epic hero.

The date matches quite accurately with the king-lists and references in the Puranas duly corroborated by Megasthenes, of a 1040 year gap between the Mahabharata battle and the coronation of Nandas, which traditionally took place 90 years before the usurpation by  Chandragupta Maurya, whose date thankfully, can be determined due to the 13th Rock Edict of his grandson. If we go by the accepted dates of Chandragupta’s coronation, which is 321 BCE, we may arrive at the date of Mahabharata battle as 1450 BCE.

The ‘Prince of Mathura’ and the ‘King of Dwaraka’ became a hero in the popular milieu only at the beginning of the historic period: A gap of more than a millennium for the tradition to consolidate and the divinity of Krishna to be established within the orthodoxy, provided we agree on the date of submergence of Dwaraka and its association with the life of this legendary hero.

Is this tradition truly a product of a single man’s heroics or a consolidation of local beliefs and rituals crystallizing into the godhead ‘Vasudeva Krishna’?
In the complex called ‘Krishna’, we see four clearly discernible streams which had crystallized later into a single person:

1 A king and vanquisher of unorthodox / demonic enemies.
2 A mentor and a spring of religious thought, the ultimate Guru.
3 A godhead which drew heavily from the early tradition, yet crystallizing the new post Vedic milieu.
4 A fall back to the earliest pastoral lifestyle and the memories of Neolithic shamanistic strata.

‘The last of the above streams seems to be the most popular and enduring set with the common believer. And the others probably were later embellishments to fill out the character and draw support from its popularity to their emerging ideology.
Therefore, evidence to the kernel of Krishna legend in its pastoral setting must be available well before the third century BCE in the Neolithic remains in the region. Significantly, the material evidence from the early Neolithic remains of Northern sub-continent do not show any evidence of this cult.

Does this give us enough reason to look for antecedents south of Vindhyas?

Probably, yes.

Lets hypothesize that the kernel of Krishna thought had its origins in the Neolithic Milieu; and we perforce look for its evidence in the vast material remains there.

Let’s Explore:

I had some inspired encouragement from Prof. Korishettar, which drove me to visit this extraordinary site on top of a little hill, near the modern town of Bellary. Though the locals called this hill ‘Hiregudda’ meaning the ‘Big Hill’ in their vernacular, it is nothing but a hillock with a rocky outcrop resembling the head of large bird, probably an eagle. The colonial surveyors called it a peacock, but its semblance to a raptor is unmistakable.

A local guide, Linganna was the first to set my mind on this course by his unpresumptuous comment, “It is the head of Garuda”

 The Garuda Hill?

As we climbed up the granite hillock crowned by a dyke of a Dolerite trap, we were treated to a profusion of petroglyphs dating to the Neolithic times. The presence of ash-mounds and an extremely large dolerite tool making workshop nearby reasonably establish the time horizons for the site: from 3000 BCE to the beginning of the current era.
The hill is even today considered sacred by the local land-holding castes: Kurubas and Gollas, and those names stirred a vague resonance between them and the two dominant tribes of Mahabharata period – the Kurus and the Yadavas.
It may be far fetched; but the feeling continued as I started clicking with a pocket camera. As the evening progressed it grew stronger.
Now let me share some of those pictures and their likely connection with some of the legends associated with Krishna as I saw them.

Pic. 1 ‘Sudarsana’
It was made by interweaving the pictures of cows creating a symbol which loosely resembled the later day representations of Sudarsana Chakra and the Yantra.

Pic. 2 ‘Baka-asura’
The ‘Crane’ being attacked by a man – diminutive compared to its size. Could this be a representation of the legend – ‘Killing of Baka-asura’ - the Crane Demon by Krishna?

Pic. 3 ‘Raas Lila’
The ‘Hero’ being serenaded by dancing girls: The area also abounds with many erotic glyphs. Could it be an early depiction of Raas?

Pic. 4 ‘Kaustubha’
Symbol of Kaustubha: the jewel or tattoo which adorned the chest of Vishnu and Krishna.

Pic. 5 ‘Kaliya mardhana’
The hero stamps the snake: interestingly, the presence of footprints: Probably an early portrayal of the legend of Kaliya, in which the hero had left his footprints on the hood of the king of Nagas as a protection from the threat of Garutman.

In addition, there were many glyphs depicting cattle which dominate the site: in varied moods from docile to belligerent – being ridden, chained or fought. Illustrating the pastoral milieu of the Yadava tribe ?

Krishna Pāda
Finally, there was an abundance of foot marks. My initial reaction was that they are of some votive value, left there by the pilgrims or the visitors. Their resemblance to the current practice of marking the footprints of Krishna at the doorsteps of the Hindu households on Janmashtami day as propitiation and welcome symbol is rather striking.

Until the dawn of history in South Asia, which coincided with the period of Alexander, we do not find any material evidence of Krishna / Vasudeva / Bhagavata cult in both literary and archaeological contexts. Yet, there was strong popular belief in this complex godhead in the masses: For many foreign kings – Indo-Greek and Kushanas had taken the names demonstrating conformity.
The origins of this popular belief cannot be traced to the orthodox Vedic milieu.
The strong tradition arising out of the Neolithic – Pastoral genre forming a dominant part of the Vasudeva – Krishna legends had not left any significant traces in the Neolithic material of North India.
Whereas, the Neolithic site at Hiregudda, in the Sanganakaallu – Kupgal complex shows  probable evidence of this belief, and the time horizons take the belief back to second and third millennium BCE, making it probably the earliest trace of such belief.

It may be worthwhile to explore the vast number of Neolithic sites in Deccan for further evidence.

Strangely, most of the Neolithic Pastoral sites in Deccan are found in the region drained by the river system, which even today is known by the name ‘Krishna’.

• The author is not a qualified historian or an archaeologist. There is an eminent possibility that these conclusions were arrived at by other professional scientists / researchers earlier. The author would happily cede credit to them in such case. Failure to acknowledge them is entirely due to his ignorance of their work if it exists.

1. Though the presence of southern Neolithic was recognized as early as the late nineteenth century by such pioneers as Sewell, Foote et al, and pursued by the eminent archaeologists like Allchins and Prof. Paddayya; the most significant contributions came recently with the rediscovery of Kupgal - Sanganakallu complex by the South Deccan Pre-History Project co-directed by Nicole Boivin, Ravi Korishettar, Dorian Fuller and Michael Petraglia.