Breaking the code: the Sarasvati-Sindhu Script

published on April 18, 2008

Posted By  B Shantanu @

A few days I came across the amazing research work by Dr Kalyanaraman on the Sarasvati-Sindhu script.
In his own words,

“…Ever since I got a letter from Dr. BV Subbarayappa (the great man who wrote on History of Science and Technology in Ancient India– who sent me a monograph stating that Indus script is a womb of numbers and asked for my comments since I had done some fonts for all scripts of the world on the early PC’s) and got from my American ADB colleague, 3 replicas of Mohenjodaro seals presented as paper-weight mementos mounted on turquoise and wood by Pakistan Intl. Airlines to its First Class passengers travelling from Karachi to Islamabad, understanding the writing system of our ancestors has become my life’s mission. The paperweights have been lying on my desk for 30 years now. And I have just cried many-a-time looking at them as my pitr-tarpanam to our pitr-s.

When Vatsyayana mentions mlecchita vikalpa (cryptography) together with akshara mushthika kathanam and des’a bhaashaa jnaanam and when mleccha is cognate with meluhha, the enigma unravels. Hemacandra notes milakkhu ‘copper’ (Pali) as in milakkhurajanam ‘colour of copper’. As in Manu, mleccha is simply indistinct ’speech’, it does connote the vernacular; mlecchavaacas (lingua franca) as distinct from aryavaacas (grammatically correct literary composition). 

It was just breathtaking when I re-read jaatugriha parvan of Mahabharata and learnt that Yudhishthira and Vidura/Khanaka — according to Krishna Dvaipaayana or Veda Vyaasa — spoke in mleccha ! (crypt :)– Mleccha is the lingua franca and mlecchita vikalpa the writing system two of the 64 arts to be learnt by the young as vidyaasamuddes’a, according to Vatsyayana.

The journey into the mists of our ancestors’ world goes on. It is a journey into dharma…”

The work was painstaking and has taken “over 30 years of intense introspection and collation of earlier brilliant work done by our savants.“

As Dr Kalyanaraman says, “I find it just striking that one category alone — that of smithy or khanaka ‘mine-worker’, yes Khanaka of Jaatugrhaparvan of Mahabharata speaking in mleccha with Yudhishthira  — explains, rebus, virtually the entire corpus of inscriptions of Sarasvati civilization. Invention of a writing system was as brilliant as the invention of alloying changing the way people live and interact with one another, for ever.“

I first stumbled across this work on an Yahoo! group that I am member of which had this link:

I would encourage all of you to have a look at it when you have some time. You will be amazed. I believe this research is invaluable and I am very keen that it is read and understood widely.

The invention of writing by the inhabitants of Sarasvati-Sindhu basin was a ground-breaking, fundamental development that deserves to acknowledged and celebrated.

Sadly many of us continue to believe that the Sarasvati-Sindhu writing is indecipherable and hence of no significance..This research will go a long way in dispelling this notion.

Do also have a look at this site for more (and regular) updates:
and finally, for some photographs of seals and inscriptions from the era, please click here.

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