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Editorial 22

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Indus Script Deciphered

2005-09-24 17.30.29

This Editorial introduces a series of very special articles, written by a Jain scholar, giving an alternative interpretation to the ancient Indus script.

> go to:  Indus Script Deciphered – Table of Contents

As long ago as 26 centuries BC, i.e. almost five millennia before present, a great civilization was flowering in the valley of the Indus, a river that still flows in the Eastern part of present-day Pakistan. The first signs of this civilization date from about 33 centuries BC. This is what official science reports. The high cultures of India may have existed long before that age, as is supported by ancient scriptures. As students of Theosophy are aware, high civilizations, coming and going, have existed all over the planet even millions of years ago of which no physical record is left or recognized in our days. They had their architecture, art, sciences, scripts and technology in days which are from our point of view in far prehistory. By definition ‘prehistory’ means the past from since when there is a written record. But could it not be that this definition is merely an expression of our ignorance?

The giant statues of Easter Island and the Egyptian pyramids at Giza for example are still an enigma.

The Egyptian script has been translated by the Frenchman Jean-François Champollion in 1822 thanks to a tri-lingually (Egyptian, Greek and Demotic – a non-hieratic ancient Egyptian script) inscribed stone from Memphis of 196 BC rediscovered in 1799 by a French soldier in Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta, now known as the Stone of Rosetta. No such stone has been found to reveal us the meaning of the Indus script. Other scripts, like the Mayan, could be rather easily understood once the code had been cracked. But for the Indus script no such ‘easy’ solutions have been found.

The Indus civilization, at least the period of it known by science, has been partly overlapping the Egyptian and West Asian civilizations as well as East Asian civilizations in time, and its remnants may be still living among us today.

The script was first discovered in India (now Pakistan) at the famous archeological sites at the archaic remains of the well designed cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, and in the harbor city of Dholavira in the North of India in Gujarat and over the Pakistan border. Practically all of the scriptural signs are amazingly precise, and usually accompanied by artistically beautiful animal reliefs (predominantly bulls) on small seals often no more than a square inch, of which over 4000 have been found. Each of them contains a small number of scriptural signs in the upper half and all seals together contain a ‘vocabulary’ of 430 different signs together. These scriptural imprints are of almost perfect quality and the animal figures which usually show on the lower half of the seals are so beautiful and precise that these seals must have had a more than average importance for the people who made and used them. It is hardly thinkable that such refined art work would be applied for seals which had only use as (trade) labels as has been presumed by some investigators. None of the art works are identical, and though they seem to be impressions by a prefabricated mall, each and every seal has been made by hand individually.

Nowadays it is known that this so-called Indus civilization occupied stretches of the Asian continent which are immensely vaster than the Indus region proper, and its influence probably stretched also beyond Asia. Evidence of its existence is lavishly available in South India (especially Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) and even Sri Lanka. Through transmigration and trade over sea and over land the footprints of this civilization reached even Ethiopia and all the Asian countries bordering the Persian Gulf and beyond.

Dr. Sneh Rani Jain, a pharmacy professor from the University of Sagar in the central province of India has spent a large part of her life pondering over and analyzing the Indus script. She could do so thanks to the meticulous work of a number of archaeologists of the latter part of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, who copied, photographed and categorized these seals. Regrettably the seals are now not accessible to scholars in the museums in Pakistan due to political reasons. She had to work from the published materials, but on top of that her Indian field research has contributed enormously to the awareness that the script was not only found in the Indus valley but on bedrocks elsewhere, particularly in the South of India, and inscribed on Jain statues (on the legs, eyebrows or elsewhere) in various other parts of India. We have also seen Indus signs in Sri Lanka.

It has been a boon in my life to meet “Mme Sneh” as by chance in a temple in a town near Jaipur in Rajasthan, now 10 years ago. I have had the opportunity to travel with her to remote places all over India – mainly the South – and taking pictures to illustrate her writings. A number of these are found in the chapters here published. I have had the opportunity to meet people – such as recluse Digambara (nude) monks and to interact with them, and to visit, see and photograph sites and temples where no outsider would ever be allowed. So this makes me into an occidental eye witness to a large part of the research.

Since the discovery of this ancient civilization and its script in the 19th century, thousands of investigators from India and all directions of the world have streamed in and have made efforts to decipher the script1 But without a ‘stone of Rosetta’ the ‘deciphering’ always remained ‘intelligent but fanciful speculation’. Naturally investigators took off from their own backgrounds, methods and/or cultural biases. They came to some interesting opinions, but their results differ as much as cows from apples, and none were satisfactory. Also, no researcher has succeeded in giving a total and consequent interpretation to the language and its signs. In this publication the Indus script is interpreted in its entirety and consequent for the first time.

The writer of these chapters on Indus Script Deciphered, now published for the general public for the first time, belongs to an ancient ascetic Digambara tradition, reads old scriptures in their original languages and has from young be acquainted with aspects of the oral cultural tradition of Digambara Jainism that can not be found in any written text. Through painstaking labor many of the meanings of the script have been revealed by her within the context of her approach. This has ultimately led to a complete interpretation of all signs and combinations of signs. All is going to be published here, parallel to sending this information to scholarly specialists the world over.

Whether the proposals presented here will ever receive wide recognition, that only time will reveal. The approach is quite different from most scientific work which is only intellectual by nature, and is here supported by impulses coming from within from within – you might call it intuitively – rather than from outside speculations and data interpretation only.

What makes Dr. Sneh Rani Jain’s approach unique, apart from its scientific value and completeness, is that the interpretation is spiritual – though exoteric – rather than mundane. The understanding of the meaning of the scripts and seals itself deepens our understanding of the old shramanistic and Jain refined spiritual believes and practices – which are said by the Theosophical writer H.P. Blavatsky to have been existence since the beginning of the our present phase of mental development of the human race, several millions of years ago. The inner value of the messages supersedes linguistic and cultural boundaries in many respects and Dr. S.R. Jain recognizes the philosophies of the highest and most accomplished Jain adepts and ascetics of bygone – but not entirely bygone – ages.

In Mme. Sneh’s writings contain many terms (from Sanskrit, Prakrit and also Hindi) are used which are not commonly known, and often differ in meaning from the same terms in Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore we have composed a Glossary especially for this publication; each of the terms in the online text is directly linked to the appropriate anchor in the Glossary or ‘ISD-Kosh’. Without this Glossary much would remain unintelligible or sometimes misleading for outsiders.

About the Indus Script and the contents of the paper

Indus script is a sign and symbol script that can be regarded as the most ancient code language known, used by all groups of shramanas (ascetics) wandering free through the Indian continent. They were and are revered for their spirituality and repute for spreading the message of peace. They became so much acclimatized to nature that even animals, flora and fauna were friendly and were cooperative with them. Many people, especially in the West, think that only human beings (and perhaps higher animals) have life and consciousness or a ‘soul’, and they selfishly ignore the life and well-being of other creatures living around, including vegetation and all the basic components of nature. But the ascetics knew since ancient days that not only vegetation but also air, water, earth, fire and microbes have life. Each of these has its own individual, indispensable soul that offers them the fundamental means of life, e.g. of birth, life and death and are reborn after the mundane death making living in world a cycle. Each one has chetana, i.e. conscious knowledge as the most important attribute within them. That chetana, consciousness, allows them to perceive and to react to the environment. Though not cared for by selfish humans they do have their own ways of communication. Insects, plants, and creatures who do not produce sound yet communicate, as is evident from ants, bees, worms etc. as well as vegetation. They have their own way to express and bring forth progeny, hence their descendants continue to proliferate in nature, as is also shown in the Indus culture, where the Swastika Law of Karma dominated the thinking.

Modern science believes in a law of evolution, but this evolution, which takes place in the physical bodies mainly, is but adaptation to outer circumstances which is thought to be brought about only by chance mutations of genes. Genes do show variations under natural stress, but generally return to their normal basic situation. The minutest live forms continue to live in nature just alike the higher ones and do not change drastically. No monkey and no ape has ever produced a human baby, nor vice versa. The hypothesis of humanoid ancestors of modern Homo sapiens fails on the Swastika Law of Evolution and Survival believed by the Indus people. In this view evolution does not run through progeny, but through cause and effect phenomena in which the soul transmigrates by itself into different categories of life-forms according to karma. This law applies to all existing living beings in the universe, visible or invisible (astral). After this and ultimately the soul can and will achieve blissful salvation. All this is, according to brahmacharini Dr. Sneh Rani Jain, is to be read in the ancient Indus seals.2

In the following 32 small chapters her findings will be explained, and is followed by a complete list of meanings for every particular Indus sign as well as particular groups of sign according to this interpretation. Link to Introduction

– The Editor (Dr. Rudi Jansma)

All foreign terms (which often have a different meaning in Jainism than the same and well known terms in Buddhism or Hinduism) have been linked to a Glossary (ISD Kosh) especially composed for this purpose for easy reference.

> go to:  Indus Script Deciphered – Table of Contents

  1. For a general overview of these activities I refer to Wikipedia under Indus script. []
  2. All writings, drawings and pictures are copyrighted © Dr. Sneh Rani Jain. All researches were conducted under the sponsorship of Ramadevi Beharilal Digamber Jain Trust of Bluefield, Virginia, USA, which owns all rights for its publication. Those who would wish to use the material here used need to seek permission of the Trust’s president – Dr. Pushpa Rani Jain, 2101, Walhala Drive, Richmond VA or from the author herself: Dr. Sneh Rani Jain, Vishram, behind Patel Market, Link Road, Sagar MP, India. []