Tuesday, September 1, 2015

IS SANSKRIT LANGUAGE OF INDIAN OR HINDU ORIGIN?



Is Sanskrit Language of Indian or Hindu Origin ?
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville , T.N., September 2015)

The present form of Classical    Sanskrit    differs from Vedic Sanskrit   in a number of essential points of phonology,  Vocabulary,  grammar, prosody and Syntax. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas.  The end of the Vedic period is marked by the composition of the   Upanishads which form the concluding part of the traditional Vedic corpus. The Vedic language itself contains a massive lexicon of words — far more than any other historic or modern language — that deals specifically with states of mental cognition, perception, awareness, and behavioral psychology.  Classical Sanskrit is to be found in Puranas which sometimes differ from Paninis Vedic Sanskrit absorbing local dialects of Paschimottari, Madhyadesi and Dakshini. They are all grouped together as Prakrit. I somehow feel some sort of Prakrit dialect pre-existed Vedic Sanskrit of Panini who brought it into a language form of Phonology, Vocabulary, Grammar and Syntax as defined in Vedangas from the spoken and memory languages.

The Classical Sanskrit and Prakrit were spoken languages for a long time. But today Classic    Sanskrit mainly remains as the language of liturgy and a subject for language study of literary interest in schools and colleges though not spoken. With the division of India based on linguistic basis study of Sanskrit declined and it lost its pristine glory as Mother of all languages.  Consequently, study of Vedas has also been given up even by Brahmins. But those Brahmins who want to become priests whose life depends on Vedic mantras chanting continue to learn them mechanically as parrot chanting, often not understanding their meaning so also Slokas and Hymns as well as the prosaic language used in worship. The present Government however is keen to change that status and also wants to firmly establish it as of Indian origin.  After the successful launching of Yoga firmly in UN as of Hindu heritage, their eyes have turned towards Sanskrit. Christians have similar claims on Latin moving away from Aramaic. Latin is also liturgy language and not a popular spoken language.   This has brought in certain amount of opposition from other religions who hate Hinduism more than the Sanskrit language for one reason or other. They are not able to shake Hindu religion much because of its basic foundation of Sanatana Daharma as they have done many other faiths and also eliminated many of them by sheer power of political strength, physical strength   and buying power.

You come across some sensational news as posted in the appendix below from time to time some politically motivated and some as genuine information based on fresh discovery. By and large any doctrine in religions we find is invariably based on Sanatana Dharma though Hinduism we practice today is not completely Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism as we practice today is a more recent nomenclature given to conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions of plurality of beliefs   and worship with a long list of development from the Vedic sacrificial religion through the worship of epic and Puranic heroes and personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical systems rather than to a monolithic tradition or theology based on single system of belief and worship or a single text as scripture. You see how complicate we have made the Eternal Concept of Sanatana Dharma! We are adding more and more to these complications.  Are we confusing ourselves without convincing ourselves which springs from neglect of study of Vedas which most of us have long back given up?
 Hindus hold on to Vedas and Bhagavad Gita somehow through translations mostly to which other religions have not turned their thoughts though they are meant for all human beings on this planet. Even among Hindus very few understand them being in Sanskrit but they get over through interpretations by many, Aagamas and several translations into English or their mother tongue by learned scholars.   Hindus consider Sanskrit as ancient and Mother of all Languages and consider it as  its heritage.

We heard about the evidence of Vedic culture in Lithuania and Mitahrism of Rome and now about the Mittnis of Tigris Euphrates Valley about Sanskrit showing Sanskrit as having earlier roots other than Vedas and so do not belong to Hindus.   Hindus today want to claim everything as their own and say   everything came from a Universal Tradition of Sages and therefore theirs which may be called Religion of Sanatana Dharma for Humanity. The motivation   for  all religion  has the same source,  only people  have moved out,  brought out a new concept   of  religion taking   parts of it    here and there  that suits them   by way of  their religious  following and even its words as  if it is a new revelation.  That includes present day Hindus.  Today Sanskrit words such as dharma, Karma, avatar, pundit etc., can be found in English dictionary. As Hindus often refer to Vedas or Bhagavadgita more often than not this claim apparently seems to be justified.  Others have found the language and the text difficult to understand and have also scant respect for them. Truth cannot be different for each religion and so it all converges to Dharma in Hinduism. Fortunately many of the Indian languages are derived from Sanskrit, and if not, they are closer to Sanskrit.

Why go to Mittnis of Tigris-Euphrates Valley to find out the source of Sanskrit? The Aztecs of Central Mexico, the Incas of Peru and Mayas of Yuctan (South-East Mexico) were all  settlers from Indus valley civilization or earlier Sarasvati Valley civilization  practicing Sanatana Dharma and speaking either Sanskrit or a pre-existed dialect  when the river dried up and forced to migrate. Al Beruni has stated that in former times Khorasan, Persia, Iraq, Mosul and the country up to the frontier of Syria were Buddhistic. Evidently these were a converted lot from Vedic Religion. Either this generation either perished or moved out or converted by force to emerging new faith Islam. The late King Shaw of Iran belonged to the ruling   dynasty called “Pahlavas”.   Pahlavas were a race of Kshatriyas mentioned in Vedic legends. (see Valmiki Ramayana, Balakanda 54-18— pahlavaah sataso nripaah--Pahlavas  Kings in their hundreds ).  His royal title was Arya-Mihir (the sun of the Aryan Race). That does not mean his dynasty spoke Sanskrit and Sanskrit   has its origin in Iran! The Kings convert to other religions. But they carry their surname or title.
The present excitement in these articles is due to certain political events. Indian government   enthusiastically participated in the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok. Not only   it sent 250 Sanskrit scholars partly funding the event but also the conference saw the participation of two senior cabinet ministers: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who inaugurated the conference and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, who   attended its closing ceremony on July 2. Inexplicably, Swaraj also announced the creation of the post of Joint Secretary for Sanskrit in the Ministry of External Affairs.   It may not be too far-fetched if this could be made a political issue and taken to UN to claim its origin to Hinduism and India, in the near future. Unfortunately they cannot make it an UN language as it has got the same status as Latin. We can however popularize it and make it a spoken language progressively.  This was the objective of three languages formula once thought about in school curriculum which was not strictly enforced.
Both Devanagari and some of the South Indian scripts are the evolutes of Brahmi and Kharoshthi Scripts. Though memorization was the practice, script was needed for a written language. The late Brahmi script was the script of Ancient Malaysia. A very large number of   Malayan words are of Sanskrit origin.
Soviet archaeologists have found the remains of a giant Buddhist Cave-Monastery inside the Kara-Tepee Hill in Termez (now in Uzbekistan). The excavations have revealed shrines, temple,  stupas and cells. Of particular interest in this context is the discovery of inscriptions in different languages including the Brahmi and the Kharoshti scripts. The Russian and Lithuanian languages are very close to Sanskrit. The Thai language has many Sanskrit words, though in a distorted form. We talked about Vedic culture of Lithuania sometime back.
As far as Sanskrit (sushtu kritam samskritam) is concerned as the name suggests   it is a well-made earliest language with grammar and prosody for the first time based on present day evidences. It is the language of the Vedas and Vedic people who ever they may be. It is also interesting to note Sanskrit should have come out of a spoken dialect Prakrit which was popular in North India even after Puranic period as stage language though historians think the other way. Here is a quote from Vedanta Desika showing the dialect and the emerged Literary Sanskrit. 
Purisaa tunja vuhooee acchua laccheea itthiaasannaaoe--Prakrit
Purushaas-tava vibhootih saapi sreerbhavati tava kim punaritamLiterary grammar Sanskrit 

There are evidences today Vedic people met a well cultured society as they moved down to Gangetic Valley and other places that are also traced back to Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro pre-Vedic culture.   It is also said Tamil Language the fore -runner of Sanskrit existed even before the Vedas came into existence as explained in my text “Sanskrit is Divine, Can Tamil be too?”  Who knows one day research findings may link it to the language spoken by Mitannis? Mittani spoken language and the so called earlier Tamil may all converge to the dialect Prakrit the fore-runner of Sanskrit Language.  The author does not give the examples of spoken language of Mittanis. His conclusions are based on some names which sound Sanskrit which could also be Prakrit!   Vedas also need the help of Nighant to understand the Vedic Sanskrit.    Nighant is a particular type of Sanskrit glossary containing brief annotations of obscure and difficult words grouped into thematic categories.  Sanskrit language also came out with its first language dictionary in the world--Amarakosa.   On the basis of these facts available today it is safe to conclude Vedic people were the first to set standards for a written as well as spoken language with glossary, Grammar and prosody (Chandas) and therefore Sanskrit is the Mother of all written languages with set of rules and regulations for its use by all. This is evident from Vedangas without which Vedas can't be understood. The facts are known that Panini grammar equivalent of Tamil Tolkappiyam was a much earlier literary work on language.  I am sure the conference would have discussed on some of these points. 

Here is another interesting study on linguistics  which historian ignore but would  rather support on wrong archaeological evidences  or conclusions:


An interview with Dr. Nicholas Kanazas, renowned Greek Indologist

Aryan migration was out flow from India and not inflow into India from outside as  Historians report based on wrong  or sketchy archaeological  evidences while ignoring linguistic evidences. In the quest to bring out the various facets of the Aryan issue, News Gram decided to interview various scholars who have worked extensively towards unraveling the mystery of Aryan issue. In this installment of  ‘The Aryan Question’ series, News Gram brings an exclusive interview with renowned Greek Indologist and author of many books on Aryan issue-- Dr. Nicholas Kanazas. His reporting is as follows:
Max Müller’s evidence was only a ghost story in Kathāsaritsagara which had one Kātyāyana whom identified with the sūtra-writer of the 3rd cent BCE and so concocted the chronology in neat 200-year periods. In this he no doubt had to consider the chronology of Greek history, which was a basic element for the European culture and Bishop Usher’s date for the beginning of creation about 4000 BCE. Anyway, Müller himself rejected this--is own early view later in life declaring that the Ṛigveda could have been as early as 5000 BCE. This is not usually stated by   historians believe in Aryan InvasionTheory.
Main-streamers   will propose emphatically that Avestan is older than Sanskrit. It is one of their props for claiming that the Indo-Aryans moved from ancient Persia into Saptasindhu.     All such claims are based not on actual evidence, but on reconstructions of proto-languages which are sheer conjectures and in any case, prove nothing and sheer assertions!
It would be utterly absurd to claim that the Indo-Aryans came from Persia, bringing the name Haraxvaitī and changing it to Saras-vaitī (one who has rapids, whirlpools) so that saras would engender other cognates with sar! On the other hand, it is quite rational to say that the Avestan people moved out of Saptasindhu taking with them the name Hǝptahǝndu and the river Haraxvaitī.
In the Gathas, there is mention of some 16 places the Avestan people traveled before settling in Persia and one of them is Hǝptahǝndu! This is a transliteration of Saptasindhu, land of the seven rivers. Now the name or this collocation sapta sindhavaḥ (plural) occurs in several Rigvedic hymns, but nowhere in the Avestan hymns.
Possehl and Bridget Allchin, tell us that Sarasvatī stopped flowing down to the ocean at about 3800 BC. Consequently, the hymns that praise Sarasvatī as “best-river, best mother, best goddess” etc. must have been composed before that date. Otherwise, the Indus would have been the best river!
The Rigvedic hymn 6.61.9, 12 saying that Sarasvatī (goddess and river) spread the 5 tribes beyond Saptasindhu must also have been composed at that date or before.
Then there are certain (more than 10) common items among the Harappan archaeological evidence that are not found mentioned in the RV but are found abundantly in post-Rigvedic texts, especially Brāhmaṇas and Sūtras.
The real spread in the out of India movement took place from Bactria, not Saptasindhu itself. First the Vedic people moved there as Baudhāyana says, then  spread north and north-west in small or large waves. In 1997 Joanna Nichols also proposed on her reading of the linguistic evidence that the central area of dispersal was Bactria.
A recent 2014 publication by an Indian has little linguistic evidence but contains much unreliable archaeology and cites only one of the work of Dr. Kanazas,   an essay of 2002, ignoring more than 20 publications since then.  One who really cares about these issues should read Dr. Kanazas’s  2015 publication.  Dr.  Kanazas   presents 42 pages of evidence showing that Vedic Sanskrit is much older than Avestan in chapter 4 of the 2015 publication. In these pages, Dr.Kanazas  refutes  R Schmitt’s 2009 claim for Avestan anteriority point by point. 
Should we depend on linguistic evidences and not on doubtful or controversial archaeological evidences?   If we read a modern novel set in a big city and find no mention of Russia and unified Germany, no mobile telephones, no colored television, no free Mandela, no Princess Diana and so on, then we know that it was written at about 1980 or before.
Only ancestors of present day Hindus and the sages were there in the world to start with.  This can be known from the fact that every Hindu remembers his lineage or Gotra originating from a three or five sages passed on by his parents traditionally.  This is an unwritten law. This is also being repeated in his religious resolution. He also knows how old the world has been before him from the religious resolution.  Other cultures have to resort to some historic evidence for their origin.   According to Sankaracharya of Kanchi (Maha periyaval) the ancient Vedic civilization, existed all over the world, with many Sanskrit, Brahmi, Tamil inscriptions on many walls of temples, below the pedestals of statues, etc. In these Tamil inscriptions of pots, there are two instances, first for casting votes, in pots, called Luda Olai, meaning votes on public issues, inscribed on Palmyra leaves, another for burying martyrs and respected warriors, keeping their hairs inside big pots, called as Thaazh


It is a recognized fact that the Arabs were responsible in propagating in Europe the literature and knowledge they had acquired from Sanatana Dharma. Later the Panchatantra and several treatises on subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine and surgery and so on imbibed   from the Sages of Sanatana Dharma  were propagated by them.  Vedas were first to declare that the earth revolves round the Sun and the Sun is stationery body after making several statements to the contrary.  Surprisingly we can find similar statement in Quran which clearly shows Vedic influence and not Western from time consideration. A look at the pyramids clearly reinforces the fact that there was a compatible interaction and understanding between the cultures of Egypt and India in the science of Vastu Shastra about which I had spoken before.

A very large number of Hindu scriptural works in Sanskrit are written in   Kawi script of Bali and Java. The migration of Hindus from Indus valley Civilization to the Americas (from Alaska to Andes) for their establishing colonies there and spreading Sanatana Dharma and culture millennia before Columbus is now a well-recognized fact.   Jagadguru Chandreasekahrendra Saraswati writes in his book on Dharma California sounds like Kapilaranya citing the nearby Ash Island and Horse Island reminder of the connected story of King Sagara.  Hindu priests in America have replaced Bharata Khanda by Aindra Khanda in religious resolutions (Sankalpa) in American Hindu temples. Some of the prayers of Inca rulers of Peru appear to be almost replica of certain Vedic Hymns. The above brief survey reveals the spread of Vedic language and culture are beyond the boundaries of Saraswati Valley Civilization which later turned into Vedic civilization and then  shifted   to Gangetic valley civilization to geographically  say of Indian  Origin of today.  It is no wonder then Mittanni rulers had Sanskrit names though the language they spoke was no-where near to Sanskrit or Prakrit.  Did it resemble Tamil or Brahmi we can’t say as it is not mentioned anywhere what the language of Syrians then resembled? Certainly it can’t be Arabic may be Aramaic! Therefore it is no surprise that Shoaib Daniyal feels Sanskrit is of Syrian Origin basing it on few Sanskrit names of Syrian rulers.

Why should anyone worry about the history of the past and what way it benefits as followers of Sanatana Dharma?    Hindus are   always after Truth that is Sanataana Dharma. Wisdom of Vedas reveals that Truth.  Vedas also mention about Vedic culture and the then society. Vedas   often say "yathaapoorvam akalpayat" everything was created as before. We have to know when that before was and what was it when new knowledge comes in.  Anything about the past is good to know.  Knowledge is always welcome but we have to use our discretion in analyzing   and spreading it or gloat on it. It is well described in the following poem by Rama Prasad.

KNOWLEDGE

 Knowledge is never a burden!
In innate intellectual garden!
Past should never be forgotten!
One should let past to enlighten!

Knowledge is like light of lantern!
Which can brighten any cavern?
Never to be mocked at any time!
It's to be savored like sunshine!

Never to be ignored is our genesis!
Cannot suppress the hallowed basis!
Making effort to analyze and parse!
One can fully cherish life's source!

Stating life's facts is just absolute! 
Not for touting as truth is resolute!
Neither it is brazen nor offensive!
Knowledge sharing is not defensive!

Archeologists spend lifetime to find the origin!
For the dedicated nothing is small or smudging!
Virtues of truth should be shared with everyone!
Just like sun shimmers light its destined run!

 Let   truth come out one way nor another!
 For all to know and learn educate together!
Truth is truth even in silence it stands out!
So  join hands to let truth strive and sprout!

        "LIKE SANATHANA DHARMA "

              "SATYAMEVA JAYATE" 
  

REFERENCES
 1) Swami Harshananda, Introduction to Hindu Culture, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India
2) Srinivasan, N.R., Sanskrit Language is Divine, Is Sanskrit Too? Hindu Reflections, Internet
3) Shoaib Daniel, Fact check: India wasn't the first place Sanskrit was recorded – it was Syria
4) Jagadguru Chandsekarendra Saraswati, Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India
5) Editor, IndiaDivine.org Ancient Tamil Brahmi Script Found in Egypt and Oman








 APPENDIX
  India wasn't the first place Sanskrit was recorded – it was Syria

As the Narendra Modi government celebrates Sanskrit, a look at the oldest known speakers of the language: the Mitanni people of Syria.

Shoaib Daniyal  · Jun 30, 2015


After yoga, Narendra Modi has turned his soft power focus to Sanskrit.  The Indian government is enthusiastically participating in the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok. Not only is it sending 250 Sanskrit scholars and partly funding the event, the conference will see the participation of two senior cabinet ministers: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who inaugurated the conference on Sunday, and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, who will attend its closing ceremony on July 2. Inexplicably, Swaraj also announced the creation of the post of Joint Secretary for Sanskrit in the Ministry of External Affairs. How an ancient language, which no one speaks, writes or reads, will help promote India’s affairs abroad remains to be seen.

On the domestic front, though, the uses of Sanskrit are clear: it is a signal of the cultural nationalism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Sanskrit is the liturgical language of Hinduism, so sacred that lower castes (more than 75% of modern Hindus) weren’t even allowed to listen to it being recited. Celebrating Sanskrit does little to add to India’s linguistic skills – far from teaching an ancient language, India is still to get all its people educated in their modern mother tongues. But it does help the BJP push its own brand of hyper-nationalism.

Unfortunately, reality is often a lot more complex than simplistic nationalist myths. While Sanskrit is a marker of Hindu nationalism for the BJP, it might be surprised, even shocked, to know that the first people to leave behind evidence of having spoken Sanskrit aren't Hindus or Indians – they were Syrians.

The Syrian speakers of Sanskrit

The earliest form of Sanskrit is that used in the Rig Veda (called Old Indic or Rigvedic Sanskrit). Amazingly, Rigvedic Sanskrit was first recorded in inscriptions found not on the plains of India but in in what is now northern Syria.

Between 1500 and 1350 BC, a dynasty called the Mitanni ruled over the upper Euphrates-Tigris basin, land that corresponds to what are now the countries of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. The Mitannis spoke a language called Hurrian, unrelated to Sanskrit. However, each and every Mitanni king had a Sanskrit name and so did many of the local elites. Names include Purusa (meaning “man”), Tusratta (“having an attacking chariot”), Suvardata (“given by the heavens”), Indrota (“helped by Indra”) and Subandhu, a name that exists till today in India.

Imagine that: the irritating, snot-nosed Subandhu from school shares his name with an ancient Middle Eastern prince. Goosebumps. (Sorry, Subandhu).

The Mitanni had a culture, which, like the Vedic people, highly revered chariot warfare. A Mitanni horse-training manual, the oldest such document in the world, uses a number of Sanskrit words: aika (one), tera (three), satta (seven) and asua (ashva, meaning “horse”).

Moreover, the Mitanni military aristocracy was composed of chariot warriors called “maryanna”, from the Sanskrit word "marya", meaning “young man”.

The Mitanni worshipped the same gods as those in the Rig Veda (but also had their own local ones). They signed a treaty with a rival king in 1380 BC which names Indra, Varuna, Mitra and the Nasatyas (Ashvins) as divine witnesses for the Mitannis. While modern-day Hindus have mostly stopped the worship of these deities, these Mitanni gods were also the most important gods in the Rig Veda.
This is a striking fact. As David Anthony points out in his book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, this means that not only did Rigvedic Sanskrit predate the compilation of the Rig Veda in northwestern India but even the “central religious pantheon and moral beliefs enshrined in the Rig Veda existed equally early”

How did Sanskrit reach Syria before India?
What explains this amazing fact? Were PN Oak and his kooky Hindutva histories right? Was the whole world Hindu once upon a time? Was the Kaaba in Mecca once a Shivling?

Unfortunately, the history behind this is far more prosaic.

The founding language of the family from which Sanskrit is from is called Proto-Indo-European. Its daughter is a language called Proto-Indo-Iranian, so called because it is the origin of the languages of North India and Iran (linguists aren’t that good with catchy language names).

The, well, encyclopedic, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, edited by JP Mallory and DQ Adams, writes of the earliest speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian emerging in the southern Urals and Kazakhstan. These steppe people, representing what is called the Andronovo culture, first appear just before 2000 BC.
From this Central Asian homeland diverged a group of people who had now stopped speaking Proto-Indo-Iranian and were now conversing in the earliest forms of Sanskrit. Some of these people moved west towards what is now Syria and some east towards the region of the Punjab in India.

David Anthony writes that the people who moved west were possibly employed as mercenary charioteers by the Hurrian kings of Syria. These charioteers spoke the same language and recited the same hymns that would later on be complied into the Rig Veda by their comrades who had ventured east.

These Rigvedic Sanskrit speakers usurped the throne of their employers and founded the Mitanni kingdom. While they gained a kingdom, the Mitanni soon lost their culture, adopting the local Hurrian language and religion. However, royal names, some technical words related to chariotry and of course the gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and the Nasatyas stayed on.

The group that went east and later on composed the Rig Veda, we know, had better luck in preserving their culture. The language and religion they bought to the subcontinent took root. So much so that 3,500 years later, modern Indians would celebrate the language of these ancient pastoral nomads all the way out in Bangkok city.

Hindutvaising Sanskrit’s rich history

Unfortunately, while their language, religion and culture is celebrated, the history of the Indo-European people who brought Sanskrit into the subcontinent is sought to be erased at the altar of cultural nationalism. Popular national myths in India urgently paint Sanskrit as completely indigenous to India. This is critical given how the dominant Hindutva ideology treats geographical indigenousness as a prerequisite for nationality. If Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism, has a history that predates its arrival in India, that really does pull the rug from out under the feet of Hindutva.

Ironically, twin country Pakistan’s national myths go in the exact opposite direction: their of-kilter Islamists attempt to make foreign Arabs into founding fathers and completely deny their subcontinental roots.

Both national myths, whether Arab or Sanskrit, attempt to imagine a pure, pristine origin culture uncontaminated by unsavoury influences. Unfortunately the real world is very often messier than myth. Pakistanis are not Arabs and, as the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture rather bluntly puts it: “This theory [that Sanskrit and its ancestor Proto-Indo-European was indigenous to India], which resurrects some of the earliest speculations on the origins of the Indo-Europeans, has not a shred of supporting evidence, either linguistic or archeological”.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

[As we all know world Started with Eternal Tradition. That was a world Phenomenon not exclusive to present day Indians or Hindus.  We have evidences of this culture everywhere. We know about Mayan culture and sun worship. Sanakracharya says California sound like Kapilaranya and also links it to the Horse island and Ash Island nearby. Our sankalpas talk about   USA as Aindrakanda. I am therefore not interested in getting into an argument with the author. Anybody may send their views to them]


Ancient Tamil Brahmi Script Found in Egypt and Oman

(Posted by The Editor – Courtesy India Divine.org with the request to spread the message)


A broken storage jar with inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi script has been excavated at Quseir-al-Qadim, an ancient port with a Roman settlement on the Red Sea coast of Egypt. This Tamil Brahmi script has been dated to first century B.C. One expert described this as an “exciting discovery.” The same inscription is incised twice on the opposite sides of the jar. The inscription reads paanai oRi, that is, pot (suspended) in a rope net. An archaeological team belonging to the University of Southampton in the U.K., comprising Prof. D. Peacock and Dr. L. Blue, who recently re-opened excavations at Quseir-al-Qadim in Egypt, discovered a fragmentary pottery vessel with inscriptions.
Dr. Roberta Tomber, a pottery specialist at the British Museum, London, identified the fragmentary vessel as a storage jar made in India. Iravatham Mahadevan, a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, has confirmed that the inscription on the jar is in Tamil written in the Tamil Brahmi script of about first century B.C. In deciphering the inscription, he has had the benefit of expert advice from Prof. Y. Subbarayalu of the French Institute of Pondicherry, Prof. K. Rajan of Central University, Puducherry and Prof. V. Selvakumar, Tamil University, Thanjavur.

According to Mr. Mahadevan, the inscription is quite legible and reads: paanai oRi, that is, ‘pot (suspended in) a rope net.’ The Tamil word uRi, which means rope network to suspend pots has the cognate oRi in Parji, a central Dravidian language, Mr. Mahadevan said. Still nearer, Kannada has oTTi, probably from an earlier oRRi with the same meaning. The word occurring in the pottery inscription found at Quseir-al-Qadim can also be read as o®Ri as Tamil Brahmi inscriptions generally avoid doubling of consonants.

Earlier excavations at this site about 30 years ago yielded two pottery inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi belonging to the first century A.D. Another Tamil Brahmi pottery inscription of the same period was found in 1995 at Berenike, also a Roman settlement, on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, Mr. Mahadevan said. These discoveries provided material evidence to corroborate the literary accounts by classical Western authors and the Tamil Sangam poets about the flourishing trade between the Tamil country and Rome (via the Red Sea ports) in the early centuries A.D.

A Tamil-Brahmi script inscribed on a potsherd, which was found at the Khor Rori area in Oman, has come to light now. The script reads “nantai kiran” and it can be dated to first century CE, that is, 1900 years before the present. The discovery in the ancient city of Sumhuram has opened a new chapter in understanding the maritime trade of the Indian Ocean countries, according to specialists in history.

 It was by chance that the potsherd was sighted. Alexia Pavan, an Italian archaeologist, had displayed the potsherd during an international ceramic workshop on “The Indian Ocean Trade and the Archaeology of Technology at Pattanam in Kerala” held in September in Kochi. P.J. Cherian, Director, Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR), and Roberta Tomber of the British Museum, London, had jointly organized the workshop. Pottery from several Indian Ocean countries was on display during the workshop. K. Rajan, Professor, Department of History, Pondicherry University, D. Dayalan, Regional Director, Archaeological Survey of India, and V. Selvakumar, Head of the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur, spotted the potsherd displayed by Dr. Pavan.

The Italian Mission to Oman (IMTO) had found this potsherd during its second archaeological excavation in 2006 in the Khor Rori area. The Director of the excavation was Alessandra Avanzini and Dr. Pavan was part of the team. Since 1997, the Mission of University of Pisa, forming part of the IMTO, has been working in Oman in two sites: Sumhuram in Khor Rori and Salut in Nizwa.

Personal name
The potsherd was found in a residential area of Sumhuram city. Dr. Pavan said it was part of a lid made by reusing the shoulder of an amphora. Soot traces visible along the external ridge suggest the use of the lid for a cooking pot. The sherd was discovered in a layer mixed with a few pottery pieces and animal bones, “which [layer] corresponds to one of the most important constructional phase of the city, to be dated to the first century CE,” she said. So the sherd could be dated to first century CE or a little earlier. There was so much of Indian material, including beads, coins and pottery, discovered during the excavation that it was important to show the relationship between India and the southern coast of Oman, she added.

The script “nantai kiran,” signifying a personal name, has two components, Dr. Rajan said. The first part “[n] antai” is an honorific suffix to the name of an elderly person. For instance, “kulantai-campan,” “antai asutan,” “korrantai” and so on found in Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions could be cited. The second component “Kiran” also stands for a personal name. More than 20 poets of the Tamil Sangam age [circa third century BCE to third century CE] have “kiran” as part of their personal names. “Thus, the broken piece of the pot carries the personal name of an important trader who commanded a high regard in the trading community,” Dr. Rajan argued.

It was generally believed that India’s contact with the Mediterranean world began with the Roman trade and much of the studies were concentrated on the Red Sea ports such as Quseir al-Qadim and Berenike, both in Egypt. While the excavation at Quseir al-Qadim yielded potsherds with the Tamil-Brahmi texts reading “kanan,” “catan” and “panai ori,” the one found at Berenike was engraved with the Tamil-Brahmi script “korrapuman.” The latest discovery in Oman was significant as it opened a new avenue in understanding the impact of the Indian Ocean trade, particularly on the west coast of the peninsular India, Dr. Rajan said. The region was known for frankincense and there was a possibility that trade in horses could also have taken place in these ports. (Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin used for burning as incense).

“Excavations by the University of Pisa have confirmed Sumhuram’s link with the ancient frankincense route and its cultural links with the frankincense-based kingdoms in southern Arabia,” Dr. Rajan said.

In the context of the advanced scholarship available on Tamil-Brahmi, estimated Dr. Cherian, this epigraphic evidence from Khor Rori had a great significance. “To the best of my knowledge, Khor Rori is the first South Arabian site to yield epigraphic evidence of the early historic phase [that is, when written records began].” Earlier, in the Mediterranean maritime trade network, only Myos Hormos and Berenike (on the Red Sea coast of Egypt) and a few sites in Sri Lanka had produced Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions outside India.

The importance of Khor Rori rested on the fact that it was an important pre-Islamic port-city in the ancient Indian Ocean exchanges between the Mediterranean region and India, Dr. Cherian said. The port of Sumhuram could be dated to circa third century BCE to fourth century ACE. This site could be crucial in tracing the maritime history of the Red Sea, the South Arabian and the Mesopotamian coasts and their hinterlands which could have played a pivotal role in the long-distance maritime trade between Tamilakam and the Mediterranean between the first century BCE and the fourth century CE, he added.

“It is unfortunate that the geographical and the cultural significance of the South Arabian region and its links with ancient south India has not been properly studied for various reasons,” said Dr. Cherian, who recently did field studies in Oman including at Sumhuram (Khor Rori) and the nearby Al Baleed sites. The Euro-centric perspectives that became dominant after the Roman Empire seem to have erased more history than they probably produced anew. In the absence of textual evidence for the early historic period, he said, archaeological evidence and to some extent, anthropological sources such as myths were the available means to retrieve such lost histories.

Dr. Cherian added: “This artefact with a post-firing Tamil-Brahmi script is, therefore, a find with a dual significance both as material and textual evidence. The challenge now is to seek associated archaeological finds from elsewhere, especially peninsular India.”

Brisk trade activity
The substantial quantity — the largest-ever assemblage from any Indian site — of 3,384 torpedo jar fragments and 1,720 turquoise glazed pottery from Pattanam suggested the brisk trade activity between Tamilakam and the South Arabian regions. (The KCHR, in association with other agencies has been excavating the Pattanam site, near Ernakulam, from 2007. Archaeologists feel that Pattanam could be Muziris/Muciri, which was a flourishing port on the west coast during the Tamil Sangam age, which coincided with the classical period in the West). “The presence of frankincense crumbs in almost all trenches at Pattanam is yet another indication of the site’s connection with South Arabia, including Khor Rori and the Al Baleed region, famed as the ‘land of incense’,” Dr. Cherian said.



The Sanskrit Language Itself is Evidence of Great Civilization

 (ICHR Foundation Lecture by David Frawley, march 2015)

The Sanskrit language, extending to Vedic Sanskrit, is a highly refined sophisticated poetic language that appears connected to both the courts of kings and to great religious teachings and festivals. The Vedic language is called Chhandas or meter. Each meter has its numerical basis from the Gayatri at 24 syllables to Jagati at 48 syllables.

The very sophisticated nature of Vedic Sanskrit also requires a great civilization to support it. The tendency among modern scholars has been to honor the Sanskrit of Panini as sophisticated but regard the Sanskrit of the Rigveda as primitive. Yet the two are closely related and Paninian Sanskrit relies heavily on the Vedic for its background structure and depth. If Paninian Sanskrit reflects a profound intelligence in the culture, so must the Vedic.

Yet as Vedic literature is itself diverse and has many layers, we cannot necessarily identify it with only period of ancient India. It likely spans Pre-Harappan and Harappan eras and we know it endured into the Post-Harappan era as well.  As India is a vast area there may have been other types of peoples or literature there as well. The Vedic though obviously important need not be regarded as the only one involved.

Vedic texts are compilations and have many layers and overlap, like Puranas or Bible. They can span long historical periods, with much difference in time between initial material and final redaction. The Vedic literature consists of a number of texts of which the Rigveda is not only the oldest and largest, but may reflect the most extensive period of time for its complication. The Puranas indicate that the compilation of the Vedas that we have, that of Krishna Dvaipayana is the last of a set of twenty-eight, which could give it a very extensive antiquity.