TWO SYSTEMS OF SYMBOLIC WRITING
THE INDUS SCRIPT AND THE EASTER ISLAND SCRIPT
4th revised edition 2012
© 2012 by Verlag Egbert Richter, 27726 Worpswede
All rights reserved
C o n t e n t s
The numbers of the seals and tablets were taken from the Finnish Concordance. The Sanskrit-letters have been rendered according to the internatioal alphabet of Sanskrit transliteration (IAST). All inscriptions have to be read from right to left.
The Indus Script and the Easter Island Script also called Rongorongo have several things in common, apart from the fact that both are still regarded as undeciphered. The most striking parallel is that some pictograms look identical, as was pointed out already by G. de Hevesy, but he relied on insufficient renderings of the signs. Though the signs that look identical or nearly identical in its form must not have the same meaning, it cannot be denied that both writing systems make use of a similar method of rendering words by pictograms and word sequences by ligatures and fusions. Moreover, the number of basic signs in both scripts is about 100. It is known that the Rongorongo script was not used for ornamental purposes, but that the inscribed tablets called kohau rongorongo were recited publicly on special occasions with a religious purport. Many of the inscriptions of the Indus seals and tablets look too short for a recitation, but since they have amulet function they served for a religious purpose too. This is also evident from the motifs.
On the other hand, there are great differences. The Indus script was written on small seals, the average number of signs on a seal being only five, whereas the Rongorongo script was carved on wooden plates and sticks in lines of about 40, sometimes about 80 signs depending on the length of the tablet. The language that is expressed by the signs is known in the case of Rongorongo as being Rapanui, the language of Easter Island, called Rapa Nui nowadays, though not identical in grammar and words with the Rapanui that is presently spoken there.
It can only be surmised that the language of the Indus script is related to some of the languages spoken today in the Indus Valley or in the neighbouring areas. The Indus script is often applied as a legend to a motif, whereas the Rongorongo script has no relation to motifs, except that in a few cases the signs were carved on wooden figures like a breast ornament and a birdman.
Besides, the Indus script was used in big towns with a population of many thousands of people that had far-reaching oversee and overland relations with other civilizations, the Rongorongo script was used by and known to a very small group of persons not exceeding five hundred, and it was developed in a tribal society that had very little and over several centuries no contact at all with other cultures.
The Indus script is one of the oldest writings that were conceived by the human mind going back to the era of the bull 3000 years before the beginning of the Christian era. There are only the Sumerian and the Egyptian pictographic writings that are of equal age or still older. The Rongorongo writing is comparatively a new invention. It is certainly not older than 500 years. If the Easter Islanders would have obtained any knowledge of a script in their former homeland, it could either be a derivative of Chinese or one of the many branches of the Brāhmī script that is based on the Indus script (cf. Richter-Ushanas 2012b; 223). Petroglyphs found in the Marquesa islands can be related to the Old Javanese Kawi script that is derived from the Brāhmī script. Even if there would be a closer relation between the Indus script and Rongorongo, it would not be helpful in the decipherment of each of the two, because we would only compare the unknown with the unknown.
A decipherment of one or both of them can only be afforded by studying the two scripts in their own surroundings. This has been done here in the case of the Indus script by comparing it with verses of the Ṛg- and Atharva-Veda, the oldest books of the Indian tradition. These books have been transmitted orally until our time, but nonetheless they contain several words related to writing and writer. The word for 'sign' is well known in the Ṛg-Veda already and is once even used in connection with word (ṚV X.71.2). In the Atharva-Veda, charms in relation with amulets are common. The Indus script has survived the oral tradition and probably been adopted by another writing, the oral tradition of Easter Island has survived the knowledge of writing and it has never given rise to another tradition. There exist the readings of four tablets of the islanders Metoro and Ure Vaeiko. Metoro's readings are not as incoherent as was thought hitherto by the scholars in this field.
Several inscriptions and motifs of the Indus seals and tablets and the inscriptions of two Rongorongo artefacts as well as two lines of Metoro's reading of the tablet called Aruku Kurenga are presented here to the general public for information and further discussion. A word script, with which we have to do in both cases, can be understood even by people who do not speak the same language or dialect, as is obvious from the Chinese script. It is not necessary to write grammatical forms, if the oral tradition is known to the writer and the reader alike. Even a letter script cannot dispense with the oral transmission, otherwise we could close our schools and universities.
There is a great amount of disbelief and distrust, if somebody ventures to read these inscriptions as word scripts. In addition to those people who believe in the incomprehensibility of all symbolic writings, there is another group who tries to mould them into a letter script under the influence of a way of thought that is associated for more than thousand years with letters.
The apostle Paul says in Kor 2.3 that the letter kills, but nobody cares for this. I was myself no exception to this rule. So I tried to read the Indus signs as syllables. The results thereof have been published in 1997. Only after I was sure that the Rongorongo script can be read as a word script indeed, I came back to my former logographic word readings of the Indus script published in 1992 under the title the Fifth Veda. In the present form of this study the reader will only find these word readings, but improved sometimes through the results of the syllabic readings. Thus, the endeavour to read the Indus script syllabically was not entirely fruitless.
The author of the present book does not pretend that his readings of each or of both the two writings are final, but after it has been in a process for about 25 years most of the signs of the Indus script and a great number of inscriptions have been made readable in a way that it can be called a decipherment. The same can be said in regard to the Rongorongo script. Not a decipherment in the narrow sense of the word, however, which is impossible in the case of word-scripts that do not consist of ciphers or letters. In spite of their inherent ambiguity the pictograms can be made intelligible for the modern mind.
If the word decipherment could be altogether discarded in regard to these readings, I would do so. We do not possess a better word in modern languages, however, and the newspapers and magazines want to have their headline. At any rate, the word 'decipherment' should not be used by those who have nothing more to tell, but that symbolic writings are no writings at all. The reader who takes the time will find that a word script is very well understandable and that it can even open new insights to a mind that is not only occupied with economical or technical problems or to a merely analytic scientific approach. If I make use of a synthetic heuristic method including yoga and meditation, it does not mean that I am a pseudo-scientist or a crank, as I am called in Wikipedia. If Wikipedia is really a free encyclopedia, as it pretends, it should follow the basic rules of any scientific discussion and refrain from personal defamation and not quote from a long out-dated review. It should also accept that yoga and meditation can be part of a scientific approach as it has been shown by many famous scientists before. This is no reason of putting them and their books on a virtual index as the catholic church has done it hundreds of years before and is still doing in praxis. It may be correct to call me a 'spiritual' scientist, if this is not confined to Christianity, but the best would be to dispense with such labels altogether, whose only purpose is to discriminate and even criminalize all efforts that do not follow the main stream of science which means that they do not apply the standards the Western neo-colonialism.
The discussion of this issue should not be confined to the internet, but there should be held a symposium, where the protagonists of the different ways of deciphering can present the results of their investigations to each other and to an interested public. To facilitate the discussion and to open the opportunity of continual revision also of the main work of the Message of Indus Seals and Tablets that has appeared as book on Demand in the 4th edition in August of this year, a revised and enlarged version of The Two Systems has been published as E-Book. On this occasion I have improved some readings contained in the Message, the grammatical renderings of the inscriptions of seal 9702 (§ I.2), 2606, 2728 and 9006 (§ I.4) and of tablet 2807 (§ I.9). Moreover, I found a better suitable Vedic verse for the inscription of seal 6208 (§ I.4).
The rules that have been applied for the decipherment of the Indus script and the Easter Island script have also been proved successful in the deciphering of the disk of Phaistos, which is inscribed by another unknown symbolic writing, the Cretan hieroglyphs (cf. Richter-Ushanas, Der Diskus von Phaistos und die Heilige Hochzeit von Theseus und Ariadne, Nordhausen 22012c).
Worpswede, in November 2012
Like the Sumero-Akkadian pictographic writing the Indus script has been engraved on seals. In Mesopotamia cylinder seals were used, whereas in the Indus Valley stamp seals prevail. Far more important for the reading is, however, that in case of the Indus Valley, there are only these seals and a few terracotta tablets and graffiti, there are no inscribed clay tablets of larger size as were found in Mesopotamia. Accordingly, the inscriptions on the Indus seals are very short, on an average they consist of only five signs. On account of their pictographic character the signs of the inscriptions can and must be read in a symbolic way. That a symbolic interpretation is subjective, can only be maintained to a certain extent: Symbols have to be regarded subjectively like old and modern art. We have to consider the cultural environment, however. Nearest or even contemporaneous to the Indus civilization is the Vedic tradition, whose oldest and holiest book is the Ṛg-Veda. It consists of about 1000 hymns addressed to different gods and goddesses. The Atharva-Veda, that is said to be of a younger age, has many hymns in common with the Ṛg-Veda. Its main subject are charms which are to be expected to be found on the Indus seals too.
The language of the Vedas is an ancient type of Sanskrit. Western science dates the origin of the Ṛg-Veda between 1500 to 1200 BC, but since some of the Vedic gods are mentioned in a Hittite contract of 1350 ante, the Āryans, the people to whose tradition these gods belonged, must have lived in the area of the Indus Valley already at an earlier time (Richter-Ushanas 2012b;13-19).
It is highly unlikely that the remembrance of the Indus civilization and the script in particular was lost all of a sudden after the end of the Indus cities. Certainly, the production of seals stopped henceforward, but the Indus pictograms could be and were written or painted on pottery and bangles and also on perishable materials. Contrarily to the opinion of most of Western and Indian scholars, there are also words for to write and writer in Vedic times and in the Veda itself, they have only not been registered as such in the dictionaries.
Thus Ṛbhu, the name of three Vedic artisans, may mean writer too. Its root rabh is related to Greek rhaptein, to knit together, and glyphein, to write, from which hieroglyph, sacred sign, is derived. Synonymous and homophonous with rabh is the Sanskrit root grabh corresponding to Greek graphein for to write. The root grabh is not used in this sense in the Veda, but we come across the roots ṛī, to let flow (the line of writing) and ṛṣ, to pierce, which can also mean to write. From the latter root ṛṣi, seer, singer, is derived. It is synonymous with the root rad, to scratch, that was explained as to write by Geldner (2008 III; 26). Another root that is used for to write is piś, to carve (in stone). It can hence be supposed that the early Vedic poets could, if not write themselves, at least understand the pictographic meaning of the Indus signs.
There are about 400 signs in the Indus script. The most frequent pictogram that served as a marker for the end of a verse or a quarter (pada) of it, may have been compared to a cup or vessel in the symbolical language of the Veda. The Celtic grail may have the same mythological origin.
In several hymns the Ṛbhus are said to have made the cup of the creator Tvaṣṭtar into four. This can be explained in relation to the quarters of the universe and the yugas, the cosmic periods, but it could also contain a hint to the development of the script that consisted of simple signs in the beginning as it is found on early graffiti and in neolithic cave paintings. In a second step diacritic strokes were added to it. In fact, there exist cup-signs with one, two, three or four additional strokes.
Divine and urban origin is also ascribed to the modern Sanskrit script, the Devanāgarī, (the script) of the town of the gods, and the Brāhmī script that comes chronologically between the Indus script and the modern Sanskrit script. The Brāhmī is probably named after the daughter of the god Brahmā, who is the creator of the world, whereas his daughter Brāhmī has invented all the sciences. Brahmā is the successor of Tvaṣṭar in the later Indian tradition.
Western scholars believe that the Brāhmī alphabet is based on the Old Semitic script going back to the Phoenicians who are said to have developed it from the Egyptian script at a time when it was still pictographic. It is more likely, however, that it is based on the Indus script, whose geometric signs have much more similarity with the Brāhmī alphabet than the Egyptian.
It can further be objected that it is not very likely that the Indus inscriptions or even some of them are contained in the Ṛg-Veda, since Sanskrit, its language, is Āryan, whereas the so-called priest-king illustrated above and other human figures excavated in the Indus towns have no Āryan features at all. The thick lips make the figure appear like a eunuch who had a leading function in the government and the army in Mesopotamia. The functions of the priest and the king were separated there as in the Vedic tradition. The denomination priest-king cannot be correct hence. It may be an image of a leading priest, however, indicated by the ribbon with a third eye he wears round the head, which corresponds to the fish-sign with a stroke or eye.
The language of the Veda that has been transmitted orally for at least two thousand years, is an early type of Sanskrit, no doubt, but we do not know, whether the Veda was transmitted in this language from the very beginning. It is much more likely, that its original language was a Prakrit idiom. Certainly, the founders of a high civilization can also be credited with the ability of developing a refined language like Sanskrit, that was from the very beginning the language of a small group of people, for the common people a Prakrit language like Pali, that served this purpose for the Buddhists, is better suitable.
The Veda consists of an older and a younger part. It is possible that the older hymns were translated into Sanskrit from a Prakrit language, and that only the younger hymns were originally composed in Sanskrit. This would imply to give up the idea that Sanskrit is older than any other language and that the Āryans are the supreme race. Even if the elaboration of Sanskrit took place after the decline of the Indus civilization, as it is maintained by Western scholars, the reminiscences of its tradition may have been incorporated into the Vedic tradition in this language, as is maintained by the Vedic scholar J. Gonda (1948: 348). Though the feelings of the Āryan poets for the former tradition were inimical sometimes, as it can be deduced from the fight of their main god Indra with the snake-god Vṛtra called a eunuch in ṚV I.32.7, they could not prevent or did not even want to prevent the infiltration of the ideas of the Indus lore in the Vedic tradition. This is also obvious from the method of etymology applied in the Brahmāṇas and the Upaniṣads. Sometimes an abstract word or name is explained there by a concrete homophone. The same method was applied by the priests and poets of the Indus civilization in respect to the pictograms of the Indus script.
For the discovering of the language of an unknown script a working hypothesis is needed to begin with. On the ground of the hypothesis that the Indus seals contain mantras of the Ṛg-Veda I could read most of the inscriptions logographically, but their phonetic values remained insecure (Richter-Ushanas 1992). A bilingual would be of great help to remove this insecurity. With regard to the shortness of the Indus inscriptions, the discovering of a name written in two languages has the greatest probability. This has promoted already the deciphering of other scripts like the Egyptian, the Old Persian and the Akkadian. The only name that is known in this field is Meluḫḫaki, the Akkadian appellation for the land at the borders of the Indus river. After the decline of the Indus cities this name was passed on to Egypt, whereas the name of the staple-place Makan at the Persian Gulf was passed on to Nubia (Borger 1979 I; 89).
The appellation Meluḫḫaki appears on the Akkadian cylinder seal 557 in Boehmer's catalogue. A drawing of it is found in the catalogue Vergessene Städte am Indus (1987; 123). The signs for the name that are written vertically on the seal are equal to . The syllable ḫa is rendered by a sign whose original pictographic value is a fish (Deimel 1947; sign 961). The determinative for ki is written by the lozenge.
In the same position a fish is found in the second line of the inscription of the Failaka seal 9702 that is reproduced here from the drawing contained in the exhibition catalogue Vergessene Städte am Indus (VSI 125). The seal was first published by Kjaerum (1983; 119, fig. 279) with the explanation: A bull facing left, below at least five Indus script signs. Between the bull and the signs, an unidentified figure, partly damaged. In field bottom left a crescent. Probably he interpreted the fish-sign as a crescent. In the Finnish Concordance II the five Indus pictograms are rendered as read from right to left of the impression. Read in the direction of the normal sequence of the signs on the Indus seals we get .
The three pictograms of the lower line are most probably Sumerian. If they are read as Meluḫḫaki, as is suggested by the fish-sign and the triangle at the end, a similar appellation in the language of the Indus seals may be contained in the upper line. Since the fish-sign and the lozenge render ḫaki, the initial compound of the lower line must be equal to me-luḫ. The sign for me in the Sumerian script is derived by Deimel from the pictogram of a mouth with a tongue and explained as language (Sumerian Dictionary, sign 889). The Sumerian sign for luḫ is explained by him as to clean, to wash (sign 596). Both signs have no similarity with the compound on the seal. After a long search I discovered that its equivalence is the sign for rimu, wild bull, written in Akkadian as (Borger 1979; sign 170). The prolonged strokes at the left can be explained as horns.
Heimpel explains meluḫ as clean powers (1987; 24 note 14). But the translation of the Sumerian me with power is inadequate, since it can also designate institutions and activities with a sacred character on account of their relation to the goddess Inanna or the god Ea. Even bad activities like the destruction of a city can be a sacred act therefore. The 50th me called 'holy purification' is rendered by the syllable luḫ. Heimpel points out that similar epithets are given to other countries as Kur-me-sikil-la to Aratta. Sikil means clean like luḫ. The last syllable ḫa is equal to the Sumerian genitive. It may have been added from euphonic reasons, but it may also be a word-sign for the fish-man, the seer and priest. The lower line would be equal then to land, where the bull is purified (by the priest) in a ritual. The bull in the motif is an epithet of the soma in the Veda. The soma is purified in a woollen sieve. The soma is also called pavamāna, the purified. After purification it runs in a vat filled with water like the river Sindhu into the ocean. Sindhu is derived from the root sidh, strive for perfection. The name of the people living at its borders, the Indians or Hindus as they are called today, is derived from this river too. Perfection by merging in the ocean of bliss is the aim of the yogi, who is depicted on several Indus seals.
According to the Sumerian myth Enki and the order of the world the land of Meluḫḫa is ruled by the god of wisdom, Ea. If we translate me as language, as it is suggested by Deimel we would obtain (land) having a pure language. This may refer to Sanskrit or its forerunner.
The bull is used as a motif not only on the Failaka seal, but on many Indus seals and sherds found in Mesopotamia and Baluchistan. The bull standing in front of a plant illustrated on pots from the Mehi area is a rebus for its place of origin, the land of Meluḫḫa too (cf. § I.6).
The pressing of the soma in a sieve of wool is referred to in the inscription of the upper line, whose first sign can be explained as a woollen sieve. The second sign looks more like the sun, but the soma is often compared to it in the Veda. The four long strokes of the following sign can be an image of the streams of soma. The next sign can be interpreted as the vessel, where the soma-juice was collected before it was drunk by the priest designated by the last sign.
With regard to the Veda the upper line we are directed to ṚV IX.83.2, where the soma is identified with the sun and the sieve for its purification with the mind:
The sieve of the glowing (sun) is extended at the heavenly place;
its radiating threads spread out (in the vat)
helping the soma-presser to mount the back of the sky in the mind.
The first sign denotes the sieve, the second the sun at the heavenly place, the radiating threads correspond to the number-sign with the triangle beneath, the variant of the cup-sign and the man-sign render the soma-presser who purifies himself in the mind. The bull of the motif is mentioned in ṚV IX.83.3. The owner of the seal is protected against foreigners (the raw ones in IX.83.1), if he purifies himself in the mind. The heavenly place of the sun can be identified with Meluḫḫa as the country, where the soma is ritually purified. The man of the last sign can also be a merchant who brought his goods from the land at the Indus river to sell it in Failaka. In those times many things were transported and kept in vessels. The merchant is called vanij in the Veda. He has negative and positive connotations. In ṚV V.45.6 he is described as a man busy with prayers and it is said that he will obtain full vessels (puriṣa), an attribute of the creator in ṚV I.164.12 too.
If the long strokes are explained as fingers, we obtain a number-sign with the triangle at the bottom as the thumb. Then we get the number five. Number-signs have to be read generally behind the sign they qualify. If the cup-sign is explained as the bed of a river, called āp in Sanskrit, we obtain land of five rivers, Pañjab.
Phonetically, Meluḫḫa can also be affiliated to Vedic mrdhra-vāc, speaking disdainfully (like an enemy). Probably it got this meaning at the end of the Indus culture, when the Āryans came into power. Significantly, mrdhra-vāc is used in connection with the battle of the ten kings called daśarajña in ṚV VII.33.3. This is the only battle mentioned in the Veda with a historical background. In VII.18.13 we read about the enemies:
At once Indra has destroyed all the castles,
the seven citadels of the enemies he has broken into pieces;
to Trtsu he has given the house of the (former) owner,
may we conquer Pūru who speaks disdainfully at the sacrifice.
This event is referred to in the inscription of the motifless seal 2120 with the inscription : Who speaks (1) hostile (3) at the sacrifice (3), Pūru (4) and his seven citadels (5,6) Indra (7) shall destroy with violence (8). Since the battle of the ten kings took place at the end of the Indus civilization, when the Āryan tribes were fighting for supremacy over the remnants of the Indus cities the doctrine of the four yugas can only be of mythological value.
In the Śatapatha Brahmāṇa Meluḫḫa has been transformed into mleccha, speaking a barbarian idiom, probably with the intermediate form mrdhra(-vāc), speaking hostile. There are still tribes said to speak a mleccha idiom in India, especially in the East. But there is no proof that they are descendants of the population of the Indus cities. It is known, however, that there has never been a war between the mleccha speaking tribes and the later Āryan or Dravidian inhabitants. In the Purāṇas Kalki, the still expected last avatāra of Viṣṇu, is said to come in particular for annihilating the Mlecchas. In this way they are identified with the Dasyus in the Ṛg-Veda. According to the Āryan invasion theory, advocated in particular by American indologists, the Āryans are the foreigners or barbarians. This is heretical from the Purāṇic point of view and contradictory to the archaeological excavations.
Through the Persians the name Meluḫḫa has survived in the name of Baluchistan, now a southern province of Pakistan. This name is also found on vessels with the motif of a bull bound to a tree (cf. § I.6). That means that this name refers to a whole area. Parpola reads Meluḫḫa as Dravidian highland (1994; 170). This agrees with the landscape of Baluchistan.
Meluḫḫa may also be inscribed on the square seal 9000 found in Ur. In Sumerian the three signs of the seal render, read from left to right, sak.ku.si. Its literal meaning is (a)head/in front - stand - eye. With regard to the motif we obtain (the bull) that stands in front (of the cow). This is similar to the frequent sequence in the Indus inscriptions. It refers to the golden embryo in the beginning of creation and to the sacred marriage of the soma-bull and the cow in the form of the vessel, in which the soma runs. The soma is also called a seer. The Akkadian reading is seer with protruding (big) eyes (igi[si]gal).
On several seals from Failaka the sign , called footprint by Kjaerum, is inscribed. It depicts the soma-plant or ephedra gerardiana and corresponds to the sign also written in the Indus script. It proofs that the Indus script is logophonetic.
The variant of the cup-sign of the Failaka seal never forms a pair with a man-sign in the Indus inscriptions. The basic cup-sign is found in the inscription of the unicorn-seal 9102 found in Kiš. It is identical to the inscription of seal 2502 (M-228) from Mohenjo Dharo. If the four-armed fish is interpreted as a water-bird, we can read the inscription as ṚV I.124.4ab:
The Dawn appears like the breast of the śundhyu-bird,
like the merchant Nodhas she displays her lovely things.
The second sign can be explained as the shop of the merchant Nodhas. The cup-sign designates the Dawn here.
If the second sign is read as a stable, the inscription can be read as the second half of ṚV I.92.4, where the Dawn is compared to a shepherdess who opens the pen for the cows. The stable is also related to the goddess Ištar (Kramer 1969; 98, 101). The two seals are hence related to both traditions and can be regarded as a bilingual too. They may have belonged to an Akkadian priestess and to an Indian seer respectively.
The attempt to read the Indus signs as letters undertaken by several scholars, Indian and Western, cannot be successful, as it does not consider the symbolic way, in which the Indus scribes thought. Besides, it is contradictory to the structural analysis of the script (Mahadevan 1973; 41) and to the historical evolution from pictograms to letters (Haarmann 1990).
There is no sufficient basis for the Dravidian hypothesis either. If the original language in the Indus Valley was Dravidian, the codex of the Indus inscriptions would have been incorporated in the holy books of that people who, if not contemporaneous, were the next settlers in the area together with the Āryans. In this way the Akkadians dealt with the Sumerians, the Greeks with the Minoans, the Romans with the Etruscans, the Āryans with the Indus civilization.
The most frequent motif on the Indus seals is not the bull, but a fabulous animal with one horn called unicorn that is standing in front of a standard. It has the body of a bull and the head of a horse. The lines on its breast look like the cloth that domesticated horses wear. Like a bull it has no mane. Recent finds confirm that a small ass-like horse was extant in the Indus civilization and there is no reason to suppose that it was not domesticated. In ṚV I.161.7 the Ṛbhus create a horse from a horse, with regard to the inscription of the unicorn-seal 0251 this can be referred to a horse without mane, i.e. the unicorn (cf. Richter-Ushanas 2012b; 35; 277).
The vat-sign standing above a unicorn on seal 2802 (M-1656) can be explained in connection with ṚV I.163.1: When the horse emerged from the water or the foam with the wings of the eagle and the legs of the antelope, its birth was highly praised. The horse (aśva), identical with the unicorn, emerged with the soma from the sea as described in the story of the twirling of the ocean.
The standard before the unicorn has been retained in the word aśvattha, tree, where the horse stands. Since the standard is a ritual instrument, it can be read as me, and the whole motif renders Meluḫ(ḫ)a again like the bull with the standard found on sherds from Mehi (cf. § I.6). Its Indian equivalence would be land where the unicorn is purified. The unicorn has features of the deer and the goat. The Vedic name of the goat, aja, unborn, is equal to amṛta, immortal, which is a name of the soma.
In ṚV IV.58.3 the soma is said to be a bull with four horns, three feet, two heads and seven hands. This animal can be compared to the composite animal found on several Indus seals. On seal 8630 it is associated with the standard normally found in front of the unicorn. On some seals it is depicted with two additional heads. Hence the single horn must have been attached to the animal for artistic or mythological reasons. This was first done by the Ṛbhus (I.161.7) who have also invented the script.
The unicorn appears as a horse in Europe, China and Japan, but it has also elements of a bull and a deer. In Christian symbolism it is an image of Christ like the deer (Sälzle 1965; 294, 301). In the Old Testament it has negative connotations (Jung 1972; 527). In the zodiac it was replaced by the lion. Some scholars believe that the unicorn is an urus that appears to have one horn only, because it is looked upon in profile as in the case of the bull on Sumerian seals of the Uruk period. Inspite of its one horn, the Sumerian animal is definitely to be recognized as a bull, however, whereas the unicorn is always a different animal, even in the rare cases, when it has two horns.
We have got only the values or some of the values of seven signs through the investigation of the Failaka and the Kiš seals, but the cup-sign is the most frequent sign of the Indus script, the fish-sign, the womb-sign and the man-sign are also quite frequent and the sign for the ephedra is most important, because it designates the soma-plant.
Though the cup-sign looks like the last capital letter of the Greek alphabet, if turned upside down, and though it appears invariably at the end of the inscriptions, it cannot be affiliated to a word in the list arranged after the final letter in Grassmann's dictionary.
If we read it as the genitive ha, the last letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, we face the difficulty that it has no word-meaning in Vedic Sanskrit as it has in Sumerian. There is, however, the related syllable hu, to pour out (the sacrificial drink). This meaning could be appropriate for the cup-sign too. In the Hittite script, the cup-sign corresponds to the pictogram for god and to the syllables a, hi and hu. By its form the cup-sign incorporates all objects. It can represent abstract and concrete words, male and female, noun and verb, matter and spirit. For the Hittites it also represented the dice. The dice were treated like gods, because they predestinated fate.
The cup-sign is also found in the 'priest alphabet' of Mu allegedly discovered by Churchward. He explains it as abyss (1990; 185). This can be a reading of the cup-sign in the Indus script too, but certainly not the only one, because this would be contradictory to its frequency. Though reading the signs symbolically, Churchward did not take notice of their multivalence. The same defect is found in Meriggi's approach of reading the Indus signs with the help of the Hittite script as denoting articles of rural life (ZDMG 1934).
Multivalence is also found with the Sumerian pictograms. Deimel mentions in his dictionary 26 signs for syllable 'ge', 12 for 'gi'. In spite of the Failaka bilinguals it would be impossible therefore to arrive at a definite translation of an inscription without the Ṛg-Veda.
The method of the logophonetic reading of the Failaka- and the Kiš-seals on the ground of the Ṛg-Veda proved to be successful also in case of many other inscriptions. In the course of this research it was confirmed that not only the cup-signs, but that other signs can have several meanings too. This cannot be otherwise in the case of a word script, it is even found with syllabic writings. Though the ambivalence of the signs applies to sequences too to a certain degree, they are a great help in crosschecking. Which sign was taken for a certain word, was obviously left to the writer, if it could only be related to the pictographic form. The Vedic language offers many possibilities in regard to homophony and synonymy. They are far from infinite, however. The greatest difficulty is to find the most appropriate verse for a certain inscription in the bulk of the 1000 Vedic hymns. In any case, we need an 'indicator' to start with.
To illustrate how this method of reading the Indus inscriptions works, we shall study at first several seals with one sign only. Apart from early Harappan graffiti and pot-marks, where the script is still in a rudimentary stage, inscriptions with a single sign are rare. The most frequent singularity is the leaf-sign or a variant of it.
On several seals it is inscribed over a gazelle or goat. Both these animals live on leaves as it is illustrated on tablet 2719,3 (cf. § I.5) and they are able to destroy the trees in this way. In ṚV X.95.15 the goat is like the she-wolf an image of the apsaras or water-woman, the tree of the man, whose potency she robs. But in ṚV I.161.13 the male goat is said to be an awakener like the dog. In this case the leaf can be explained as an image of the soma-plant. The soma is an awakener too like the Dawn. The seal with the motif of a gazelle or goat can hence have a awakening function or be used as a magic spell over this animal by a hunter or a lover.
In most cases the singularity is a compound as on the elephant-seal 2058 and the five unicorn-seals 5131 , 1292 , 3089 , 4678 and 2704 . On the tiger-seal 3246 the man-sign is combined with a wheel-sign similar to the inscription of the unicorn-seal 2546, where a compound man-sign is followed by a wheel-sign .
It is likely that the compound man-sign of seal 2546 that consists of a man with a girdle and hoofs indicating the female and animalic part of his being is a symbol of the Puruṣa, the cosmic man, who is androgyn and theriomorph and represents the principle of unity in diversity. In later times he was called Nārāyaṇa, the name of the author of the Puruṣa-hymn X.90, which means son of Nara, the cosmic man. The single wheel together with the man-sign directs us to ṚV X.90.5: From him (the Puruṣa) the (goddess) Virāj was born, from Virāj the Puruṣa.
Virāj means light. Light is the first emanation of the universe. The wheel-sign can be explained as the sun in this connection. It can be deduced from the elephant-motif of the seal that its owner was a brahmin who knew the ancient Vedic cosmogony.
The male and the female principle are also referred to, if the owner of the seal is a writer, identical with dub-sar on many Akkadian seals and with ṛbhu or ṛṣi in the Veda. This can be the meaning of the compound on seal 2704, since its elements are a stylus and a hand. The writer or carver designates the male aspect, the material of the seal the female. The circle is also a symbol of writing. In this way it can be explained on the round seal 3413 (H-342), where it is found on the reverse.
The triangle-sign in connection with a unicorn can also denote a woman who looks for a man like the princess Ghoṣā in ṚV X.40.11, who implores the Aśvins to send her a man like a seed-giving bull who places his head in her womb. This recalls the unicorn-legend.
On seal 3089 the female principle is written by a thigh, the male by two oblique strokes that when elongated form the step-sign . The male principle is often expressed by the foot or step in the Ṛg-Veda. Viṣṇu creates the world with three steps, whereas the Puruṣa needs only one step for the same deed, three of his steps form the immortality in heaven (ṚV X.90.3,4). The female principle is called Uttānapad, stretching the legs up or apart (for creating and conceiving) in ṚV X.72.4. On the unicorn-seal 5023 the thigh is replaced by a plant that denotes the female principle too. By invoking the female principle the owner of the seal wants to obtain a wife of similar qualities as the goddess has.
On seal 1292 the male and the female aspect are formed by the seed and the field. The seed fertilizes the field or the womb (ṚV X.101.3). On the zebu-seal 2310 the male principle is added through a long stroke . Seen as pearls the seed is an epithet of the truthful merchant in ṚV V.45.6.
In case of seal 4678 the Puruṣa is illustrated by the simple man-sign, the staff denotes authority and the triangle behind him may refer to fire. Hence the compound can denote the Aṅgiras (ṚV X.62.6).
The geometric compound of seal 5131 occurs also at the end of seal 2120, where it is connected with Indra as suppressor. It expresses the desire to overcome all calamities as Agni is asked for in ṚV I.189.2.
The male and female aspect of the cosmic man are also represented in early Harappan graffiti and on neolithic cave paintings (Tillner 1981/82; 87). The crosses and lozenges which we find in these paintings can be interpreted as a symbol of the female organ and of the fireplace. The female organ is an aspect of Agni in the Five-Fire-Doctrine of the Bṛhad-Araṇyaka-Upaniṣad.
On account of seal 4678 I have formerly affiliated the five unicorn-seals to the first verse of the Agni-hymn I.1. The rule that different signs can have the same meaning can easily lead to a wrong or partly wrong affiliation.
The sacred marriage belongs to the fundamental ceremonies of polytheistic religions. It is especially known from the Egyptian, the Sumerian and the Akkadian religion. It does not only enhance fertility, but it also opens a way to resurrection. It was celebrated by the Greeks in Eleusis and other towns and has found its way into the monotheistic religions too. In the Old Testament we meet it in the Song of Songs of king Salomo, in Christianity in the relation of Jesus with Maria Magdalene, in the Koran in the marriage of the truthful Muslim with a beautiful virgin or huri in the gardens of Paradise.
The name huri does not mean 'white', as it is stated in many modern Western dictionaries. According to the Koran it refers to the white and black of the big gazelle-like eyes of the huris. For the same reason, there is a white and a black tree in the Muslim paradise, one leading to resurrection, the other to fertility. Etymologically, the name is related to the Greek word hierodule, holy or sacred woman, and to Akkadian harimtu, which has the same meaning. The harim was originally the secluded holy place, where these women lived.
On the other hand, the sacred marriage causes great problems for monotheistic religions. The god of the Jews has even created the Great Flood to annihilate it, but the flood is based on the Mesopotamian tradition. In the Ṛg-Veda the sacred marriage is regarded with ambivalence. It is firmly established in its older parts, but it is suppressed in the younger parts, where Indra became the sovereign god. There are several motifs on the Indus seals and tablets that are related to the sacred marriage. These motifs were still known by the seers of the older Veda who could still read and understand the Indus pictograms. The strongest testimony for the integration of the sacred marriage in the Vedic tradition is the marriage-hymn ṚV X.85 that deals with the cosmic and the human marriage. Religion in ancient times included sexuality as a means for securing fertility and for rejuvenation and the realization of the truth as it is reflected in the Jewish metaphor of to know a woman by sexual intercourse. To enter a holy place was only allowed after the purification of body and mind. The violation of this rule was punished with death everywhere in the world, no matter, whether the violator was male or female. The apparently obscene passages of the Veda have to be looked upon in this religious context.
On the Indus seals the sacred marriage is described in various ways. On seal 1387 (M-296) illustrated at the left a stylized pipal tree with the protomes of two unicorns attached to its trunk is depicted that can be identified with the cosmic tree and with the car of the sun-daughter called all-shaped in ṚV X.85.20, on which she is driven along the ecliptic to celebrate the cosmic, i.e. the sacred marriage. If the sun-sign in the middle of the initial compound of the inscription (read from left to right) is regarded as female, the compound can be explained as the car of the sun-daughter, the whole inscription can be read then according to ṚV X.85.20: The car of the sun-daughter (1) the foremost man/the husband (2,3) mounts (4) for the sacrificial place (5).
In Vedic times marriage was a sacred act similar to a sacrifice. The field-sign is used in this connection in the inscription of seal 2279, where a bull is killed by a man with a lance.
The cosmic husband of the sun-daughter is Viśvakarman, the all-maker. If the first sign is taken as male, the inscription can hence be read in relation to Viśvakarma according to ṚV X.81.1: Viśvakarma (1) has created (3) these worlds (1) by sacrificing the former beings (2,3) on the sacrificial place (5). Viśvakarma is called the pillar and the fundament in ṚV X.81.2, which agrees with the third and the fifth sign. The cosmic tree is mentioned in ṚV X.81.4.
A feast is held together with marriage all over the world. In Vedic times a lot of bulls were killed to provide the food for the retinue and the relatives of the bridegroom and the bride. This is referred to in ṚV X.85.13:
The wedding car of the sun-daughter went ahead
sent off by Savitṛ (the sun as the father);
in the lunar mansion Aghā the bulls are killed (sacrificed),
in the lunar mansion Phalguṇī (the bride) is brought home.
The name of the lunar mansion Aghā can be derived from the weak stem gha of the root han, to kill. Agha means not killed, however, because the bulls that were sacrificed, were not killed in the modern sense of the word, but sent to heaven. In later time the mansion was called Maghā, enjoyment, rendered by the feast. The petals of the stalk in the centre of the motif can also be explained as the blood dripping from the head of the sacrificed bulls or unicorns. The bloody forms of the sun-daughter are mentioned in ṚV X.85.35. The tree of the motif has nine leaves, five pointing upwards, four pointing downwards and triangles in the middle. This agrees with the Śrī yantra and the enneagram. Both are symbols of luck that is wished especially at the occasion of marriage.
Creation and fertility are the main topics of Vedic thought. But this is only the material aspect. By knowing the laws of creation not only fertility, but also immortality is achieved. Creation is reabsorbed then through Yoga, whose roots can be traced to the Indus civilization as is indicated by the person sitting with crossed legs on several Indus seals and tablets. The same idea is illustrated on the Śrī yantra in a geometrical way.
The inscription of seal 1387 can also be read mathematically: The quadrature of the circle (1) is achieved by the mathematicians, the foremost seers (2, 3), by approximation (4) to the field (5). Square and circle are equal to male and female. The quadrature of the circle, i.e. the co-operation of the male and female parts of being, is identical to the cosmic marriage. In this way mathematics becomes part of religion and Yoga. With regard to ṚV X.85.13 Jacobi dated the Veda to c. 3000 years B.C. (Kleine Schriften 1970; 258).
The sacred marriage is also illustrated on the cylinder seal 7038 (Kalibangan-65), where two warriors are depicted who form a cross with their lances protecting the woman between them, who has taken their hands showing that she wants them to be friends.
This recalls the story of the hostile armies of the Devas and the Asuras who both want to obtain the goddess of language, Vāc. On the right of this scenery a centaur is depicted, before whose mouth three strokes and before his feet a hand-sign is inserted. The human part of the centaur is identical with the woman between the two warriors. The centaur is standing under an acacia or kino tree, which is a symbol of language like the sign , the main sign for woman in the Indus script, that can also be explained as a comb. The centaur is a symbol of language on account of its being manifold.
In the first part of ṚV X.125.5 and the second of X.125.6 the goddess Vāc says:
I am she who says, what is agreeable
to the gods and to human beings;
I create quarrel among men, I pervade the earth.
Language creates peace by saying what is agreeable and quarrel through misunderstanding.
The two signs can be read according to ṚV X.125.2, where the goddess of language says: I carry (2) the swelling soma (1). The soma, the spiritual liquor of the Vedic Āryans, is often called drop (indu). Three drops refer to the three components of the soma. The sacred marriage is also referred to in ṚV X.125.7,8, where the goddess says: I give birth to the father in the head of this (world). The head of this world is the vault of heaven. Like the primordial female being Language has the power of creation and destruction. Though she is the daughter, she gives birth to the father. The father-daughter-relation is the fundament of patriarchy and matriarchy simultaneously.
The centaur and the two signs can also be identified with the all-formed seedgiving bull Viśvarūpa of ṚV III.56.3 and the horned animal that draws the car of the Aśvins according to ṚV I.184.3, where they are called with their older name Nāsatya:
The two arrow-makers (came) for winning the prize, o Pūṣan,
the two Nāsatyas (came) to the marriage of the sun-daughter;
your water-born car drawn by horned animals hovers near,
their yokes are fringed out like the clothes of the rich Varuṇa.
Pūṣan is an old fertility god. Because of his age he has no teeth. He is even older than Varuṇa. In reversing the father-son-relation he chooses the Aśvins as his fathers (ṚV X.85.14). In this way creation is reabsorbed. Varuṇa is invoked in relation to the sacred marriage, because he is a symbol of fertility like the father of the sky. The yokes of the car of the Aśvins are fringed out like the leaves of the acacia on the seal and the hide of the centaur. Their car has three wheels according to ṚV X.85.16. This corresponds to the second sign of the inscription of the unicorn-seal 1084 (M-798) , whose first sign can denote the Aśvins. The last sign can be explained as to enter the head or to give birth in the head (of the father) as it is done by Language in X.125.7. The sign is not only a symbol of fertility, but also of castration or retention of the seed strived for in Yoga. The centaur is an image of these two aspects of creation too. The middle sign of seal 1084 can also be read as marriage and the last sign can denote the daughter of the sun, if looked upon as female. Hence the inscription can be read as the Nāsatyas come to the marriage of the sun-daughter.
ṚV X.125.7 is also contained in the inscription of the tablet 7142 (K-79). The first sign can be read as the (six) worlds, the second as the goddess of Language. The six worlds are equal to heaven and earth in the Veda. It is said of the goddess in ṚV X.125.7 that she touches the sky with the tuft of her hair.
The sign is frequently used in the Indus script. Parpola has related it to the Dravidian god Mumukan who is a god of love and war. Indeed, the two circles could be an image of love. But in ancient times love was not an aim in itself as it is nowadays, but was always related to marriage and fertility as human marriage was correlated to the cosmic marriage. Heaven and earth are often called plates in the Veda. They can be identified with the intersected circles, especially when looked upon holographically. Seen as a whole heaven and earth form the world. Explained etymologically the word 'world' means high or great (altus) man (wer, vir = man). In ṚV X.90.2 the Puruṣa, the cosmic man, is said to be all this world. He is half man and half woman, because the two principles create each other mutually (ṚV X.90.5).
In Vedic times the bride was sent to the husband on a beautifully decorated car in a procession, whose first part, where the flags are carried, is illustrated on the seal 1568 (M-491). Its inscription (according to the Indian concordance), where we find the sign again, can be read according to ṚV X.85.41:
Soma gave her to the Gandharva, the Gandharva to Agni,
Agni gave her (the bride) to the husband with wealth and sons.
The gods Agni and Soma and the Gandharva are rendered by the three long strokes in the beginning, Agni is also depicted by the single stroke at the end. To give in marriage is equal to the second sign, the two short strokes and the tree-sign in the circle are equal to wealth and sons, the husband is rendered by the warrior-sign, which indicates that he is the protector of his wife. Since the bridegroom (and the owner of the tablet) was a warrior, he could afford the procession depicted on the seal. The rhombus-sign with a tree inside it stands for the fertile womb, i.e. for the bride.
The fertile womb is also illustrated on the reverse of tablet 3304 (H-180), where a plant grows out of it. In analogy of the reduplicated inscription the two persons of the first side can both be male and female. If the standing person is regarded as male, the inscription can be read according to ṚV X.85.37: Who for the seed of the lord of the house (1,2) opens her limbs with love (3), in whose womb he inserts the member (1,3), Pūṣan (6) shall bring (5) hither/to the sacrificial field (4).
The fourth sign has the form of a seal, which is a sign of love also in verse 8.6 of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. Pūṣan, rendered as the water-carrier here, is the sun-god, the father of the bride. The knife or saw and the shell-ring (VSI C 98) cut by it he carries in his hands may have served as a marriage-present for the woman sitting in front of him, who carries firewood on her head thus showing her agreement.
If the standing person is regarded as female, the reading corresponds to ṚV I.179.6 dealing with Agastya and Lopāmudrā: Who ploughed (1) the field with pegs (2), who placed the seed in the womb (3), who fulfilled the truth (4,5), Agastya combined both colours (6). The two colours are fertility and immortality.
Lopāmudrā, whose name means literally 'whose seal (mudrā) is broken up ((lup), but it can also be explained as 'she who broke the seal (of austerity)'. Lup can also mean earth, the ploughed one. Lopāmudrā would mean then 'she, who is a form of the earth'. This agrees with the instruments she holds in the hands. According to ṚV I.179 they indicate that she wants to be treated like a shell or like the earth by Agastya, the sitting person here, who carries soma-twigs on his head to ask the gods for redemption from the sin of breaking the vow of austerity (ṚV I.179.5). The two fighting tigers on the reverse can be explained as man and woman striving for perfection (ṚV I.179.3). The water-carrier in the inscription is also an image of the seer and yogi, whose desires agree with the law.
Moreover, the inscription can be read ironically according to ṚV X.86.16,17 dealing with the relationship of Indra's wife Indrāṇī with the ape (or ape-like man) Vṛṣākapi:
He is not the master, whose virile member hangs between his thighs,
he is the master, whom the hairy slot opens
when he sits down on it - Indra is higher than everything.
He is not the master, whom the hairy slot opens
when sitting down on it, he is the master,
whose virile member hangs between his thighs -
Indra is higher than everything.
By the ironical approach sexuality and austerity shall be reconciled to uphold fertility and to open a way to immortality. This is also the function of the seal.
For the first sign we get the virile member hanging down, for the second between the thighs, the third sign is equal to the hairy slot, the fourth to sit on. The hand-sign and the water-carrier can either denote Indra as the master or the servant.
The second sign of the inscription of tablet 3304 occurs only once again in the inscription on an etched bead registered in the Indian concordance under the number 3512, which in the Finnish concordance bears the number 0736, but here it has been replaced by the sign . All the signs of this seal can be referred to the goddess of Dawn in her aspect of a house-wife and a prostitute. The first sign can be read as having beautiful buttocks or as the rosy stripes of the Dawn, the second as to unveil the breast, the third as the śundhyu-bird, a water-bird, the last as Nodhas. This is equal to ṚV I.124.4: The rosy Dawn unveils her breast like a śundhyu-bird, like Nodhas she displays her beloved things.
Nodhas is the name of a merchant. He is a descendent of Kakṣīvat, the author of ṚV I.126, that we shall study later. The name can be explained as na + uddhā, displaying pearls or the navel. The merchant displays his pearls like a prostitute or apsaras her navel and her other beloved things, her house is open like that of a merchant, as it is indicated by the fourth sign. If the first sign is read according to the Finnish concordance, we get the night, her sister, instead.
It was difficult for some Vedic poets to tolerate the shameless and cruel behaviour of the Dawn as she shows it in particular in ṚV X.95. In X.86.6 Indra urges his wife to partake in sacred prostitution, but in ṚV IV.30.9-11 he destroys the cart of the Dawn like Jesus expelling the merchants and the prostitutes from the temple with a whip (John 2.15) recalling Nietzsche's warning in his Zarathustra: You go to a woman? Do not forget the whip. In the early Vedic tradition the shamelessness of the goddess is part of the sacred marriage, however, that was performed for fertility and immortality alike. This surpasses Nietzsche's overman and the rights of women in the later Āryan society.
The sign for unveiling the breast is also found in the second position of the inscription of the unicorn-seal 2002, where it follows the marriage-sign. It agrees with ṚV I.124.7: Like a devoted wife (1) she opens her bosom (2), like a smiling prostitute (3) she lies on the bed (4) adorned with beautiful ornaments (5) for the husband (6). The beautiful ornament are two birds that touch each other with their breasts as a symbol of love.
Who is a potent man and who is impotent is also dealt with in ṚV X.95.3, where king Purūravas describes the behaviour of his favourite, the water-woman Urvaśī, has forsaken him. The Śatapatha Brahmāṇa tells that the Gandharvas, her divine companions, want her back after she has become pregnant by the king and therefore they steal the lambs she has brought with her and which are tied to her bedpost. Thereupon Purūravas gets up to fetch the lambs and she sees him naked in a lightning created by the Gandharvas. In this way, they have made him breaking one of her conditions, whereupon she leaves him. But he is not willing to let her go and after some time he recovers her in a lake and tries to make her come back to him. She says that she has left him like the first of the Dawns and that she is as difficult to catch as the wind. He answers:
Like the lucky shot of the arrow, the missile from the quiver,
like a pushed ball that wins cows, that wins hundreds (of jars);
as they let flash up (a lightning) by an unmanly design,
as the Gandharvas have made a sheep roar.
This is contained in the inscription of the unicorn-seal 2111, whose translation renders: Whose character (1) is superhuman (2), who possess a mortar (4) and (3) a fire-vessel (5), the guardians of treasures/the Gandharvas (6) play the flute (7-9). The long strokes are equal to the three strands or gunas of the human character. The last three signs can literally be read as to play a flute by spreading the fingers.
All these similes are related to inseparability. Though the Gandharvas are impotent hermaphrodites and castrates like the centaur on seal 7038, they enjoy the company of women, whereas Purūravas, though a virile man, is not able to make Urvaśī stay with him. He feels, as if he has lost his potency and his mind, after she has left him. He is therefore called a fool by Urvaśī, on the other hand it is her beauty which has made him losing his mind. In explaining her behaviour she compares women to prostitutes, with whom no friendship is possible (X.95.15). Owing to the sacredness of sexuality, that is similar to the friction of the fire-sticks and the pressing of soma, the separation of the sexes is only temporarily. But from the modern point of view this is a challenge to personal love, and lovers behaving in this way are called cruel.
The dialogue-hymn ṚV X.95 was so much appreciated in the Indian tradition that it has become the theme of a drama of Kalidāsa (6th century) and forms an episode of the Harivaṃśa (6th century) and the Bhagavāta Pūrāṇa (12th century) and other collections.
An exact copy of the three circles of the last sign of seal 2111 is found in the Easter Island script. It means maitaki, good, there and is mostly used in relation to youth initiation which included defloration, and can be compared to the sacred marriage.
Four circles in the form of a threefold noose are found on the broken tablet 2740 (M-1406). The motif shows three human figures, one is beating a drum, a variant of the mortar, the second is jumping over the rope, the third holds his hands up to prevent him from falling on the earth. The two are acrobats like the youths jumping over a buffalo on seal 2510. In the left corner we find a sunflower and a man-sign. A cup-sign has been retained on the reverse of the tablet. The noose is an attribute of Varuṇa. He is a son of Aditi who is illustrated by the flower-sign. The man-sign renders the son. Hence the tablet is dedicated to Varuṇa, the lord of the noose, the son of Aditi. In ṚV I.24.15 the boy Śunaḥśepa asks him to release him from the sacrificial post he is bound to:
Release me from the upper snare, Varuṇa,
release me from the lower, release me from the middle one;
then, o son of Aditi, we shall do our service
free from sins for you before Aditi.
In ṚV I.28.3-5 he says with reference to the soma-pressing:
Where the woman knows to move (the pestle) up and down,
there you may swallow down the soma, Indra!
Where they bind the pestle like the horse with the reins,
there you may swallow down the soma, Indra!
Though you are yoked in every house, little mortar,
here sound loudest like the drum of the victor!
The author of the hymn is illustrated in the jumping and the dancing persons of the tablet. After his release Śunaḥśepa dances to the rhythm the drum, because he feels like a victor. The flower recalls the meadow of Aditi, where the deceased stay after death (ṚV IX.113.10). The cup-sign on the reverse is a hint in the same direction. Heaven is also a place of marriage as in the Muslim paradise.
The snare has become the flute like that blown for Yama, the lord of the mortals (ṚV X.135.7). This reading is contained in the inscription of the water-buffalo-seal 2445. The flute was blown on the occasion of burials or cremations. Death is only the other aspect of sexuality, whose symbol is the buffalo.
The shameless woman who is an aspect of the Dawn is depicted as a relief on Indian temples dating from the 2nd to the 8th century presented by Janssen at the conference of South Asian Archaeology in Berlin 1991. She is called lajjā gaurī, shameful woman. Her head is replaced by a lotus-flower, and originally she has neither a bosom no arms and her feet are drawn upwards. Therefore she can be identified with the Vedic mother-goddess Uttānapad, who draws the feet upwards for giving birth. But before she can do so fecundation has to take place and for this purpose women often use a similar position.
In ṚV VII.33.11-13 it is the apsaras Urvaśī who induces the gods Mitra and Varuṇa to lose their seed in a lotus-flower and in a vessel. Both these wombs are combined in the body of the lajjā gaurī. Janssen calls it therefore correctly a vase (1991; 463). This is equal to the Indus-sign . The additional stroke represents the vulva as in the inscription of tablet 3304. The intersected circles are also found in the short inscription of the two-sided tablet 3306 that we shall discuss in the following chapter on account of the five swastikas depicted on the reverse.
The inscription of tablet 2774 (M-453) illustrated at the left that depicts a yogi with adorers holding a cup of soma in their hand and snakes at both sides can be read according to ṚV X.72.2: The creator has forged together these (two) worlds like a smith.
The rhombus-sign and the two strokes are equal to the two worlds, the four-armed fish-sign to the smith, the intersected circles and the two long strokes render to forge together, the cup-sign the creator. The verse does not refer to two (etau), but to these (etā) worlds, and even the worlds have to be supplemented. The motif of the seal is related to fertility and immortality like that of tablet 3306. The two persons bringing soma-offerings to the yogi illustrated by the simple cup-sign are probably husband and wife. The snakes are an image of fertility and resurrection too.
The inscription is also contained in the introductory verse of Bṛhad-Araṇyaka-Upaniṣad V.1.1:
This is the whole, that is the whole,
from the whole the whole evolves;
when the whole emerges from the whole,
the whole remains as the whole.
The first, the fourth and the last sign can be regarded as ideograms for whole, the two short strokes of the second sign render this or that, the two long strokes of the fifth sign can be read as to remain here, the fish-sign renders to evolve, a personal god is missing in the Upaniṣad.
Moreover, the inscription can also be read according to Yoga-Sūtra II.23: The coming together or marriage of the power and its lord is for the realization of their own separate natures. The first sign renders the power, the second and the third its lord, the fourth coming together, the two strokes render own or separate, realization is represented by the cup-sign.
In ṚV I.126.6 the mongoose or ichneumon is mentioned as a simile of a virgin by the 100-years-old seer Kakṣīvat, whom she was given by an Asura-king among other presents for his conducting a big sacrifice. The Asuras are known for their malignancy, so the seer gets a virgin who has grown much hair, which is regarded as rather ugly in the Indian tradition. In spite of that the seer asks her whether she is ready to celebrate the sacred marriage with him:
She who holds tight, she who embraces closely,
she who hides herself like a female ichneumon (in a hole),
the voluptuous girl - will she give me hundreds of joys?
The girl answers:
Come near and embrace me closely!
Do not fear that I have only few (hair);
I am full of hair like a sheep of the Gandhāris.
Though a virgin the girl invites the seer like Yamī her brother, that is like a sacred prostitute. Her bad quality, her thick hair, becomes her adornment now, as it were. The bride is adorned like a goddess in India and elsewhere. The adornment of the goddess Ištar belonged to her divine me, her magic attributes (cf. Richter-Ushanas 2010). In the Old Testament, the sacred prostitute was called zenot, the adorned (woman).
The ichneumon or mongoose is a holy animal, because it kills venomous snakes that cannot defend themselves with their poison against it on account of a drug it produces. The mongoose is also appreciated because of its hide like other animals of this family. The female ichneumon has a certain smell that makes it a fit partner for the sacred marriage and helpful for fertility in the eyes of the Vedic seer. Since he is a seer, the girl does not hesitate to fulfil his desires, inspite of his hundred years.
The ichneumon can be affiliated to the sign of the Indus script. Parpola has explained it as a squirrel hanging on the trunk of a tree (1994; 103), but this animal is not mentioned in the Veda. In the inscription of the bull-seal 1325 (M-1202) and of the motifless seal 3678 (H-771) the sign of the ichneumon follows the sign for marriage. Both inscriptions can be read according to I.126.6: To embrace closely is contained in the first sign of seal 1325 and the first and the third of seal 3687. The basing meaning of the first sign is marriage. The second sign renders in both inscriptions the ichneumon. The first cup-sign of seal 1325 can be read as holy, the fourth and the fifth sign refer to the priest and seer Kakṣīvat, whose name means 'having a girdle' literally, the fourth sign can also be read as hundred. The second cup-sign can be read as joy that is obtained from soma as well as from sexual intercourse, the number hundred as a symbol of perfection is denoted by the small circle. The first sign of the second half of the inscription refers again to the old seer, his age is indicated by the stick held by him. The next sign can be read as wearing a bosom, i.e. as a woman, the five long strokes as her thick hair. The mongoose-sign is related to the bosom-sign, because both refer to the sacred prostitute and the virgin.
The two separate signs of the inscription of tablet 3678 that are written on the reverse are often found on tiny seals from Harappa, either with one, two, three and four long strokes. They denote the town of Harappa called Hariyūpiyā in the Veda. Its literal meaning is 'post of Hari'. Hari, green or golden, is a name of the soma-juice, the post can be referred to the soma-plant and the axis mundi, to which the Soma is often compared in the Veda, and to the virile member. Both signs have female connotations too. The town was regarded as female in ancient times as in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. In this context the two signs can be read as giving hundreds of joys.
The meaning of the sign of the intersected circles is fairly the same in all inscriptions, i.e. marriage or cohabitation in a sacred way, or a related verb. Its protagonists in the beginning of creation are heaven and earth or two similar gods according to the Vedic and other traditions.
The ichneumon-sign occurs eight times on Indus seals and tablets. In seven inscriptions it has the same meaning, in the inscription of the unicorn-seal 2373 (M-154) it means young woman or virgin, however. This inscription is of particular interest, because its last three signs are identical with the last three signs of seal 1387 that we have studied in the beginning. It can be read according to ṚV VI.75.4:
The two (3) (bow and arrow) (1) go to the battlefield (7) like a young woman (2) to the place of marriage (7); like a mother (4) the son (5) the womb (7)shall carry the arrow (6). The field-sign can be read as battlefield, place of marriage and womb. The womb is also the field, because both are fecundated by the seed. The bow can be identified with the womb or with a ship. In these cases the arrow is equal to the virile member or to an oar. The lance can also mean arrow as in the motif of seal 7038.
The field can also be the whole cosmos. It is like the womb for the creator as described in the cosmogonic hymns X.81 and X.82.
The sheep of the Gandhāris, with whom the girl compares herself in her answer in I.126.8, is the markhor, the wild ewe with spiral horns still living in the Himalayas. It is depicted on several Indus seals, among them is the seal 2606 illustrated at the left. The two signs can be read together with the motif according to ṚV I.126.6,7: The embrace of the young woman who has thick hair like the sheep of the Gandhāris (motif) gives infinite joy. The first sign can be read as the embrace of the young woman, the cup-sign as infinite joy.
The markhor is also depicted on the famous seal 2430 (M-1161), where it takes part in a sacrifice or is the sacrifice itself (cf. § I.7). The wool of the markhor was used for the sieve, in which the soma was purified. Therefore it is related to the sacred marriage, too, which was not only celebrated to obtain fertility, but also for regaining immortality, as we know. For that the purification from sins is an indispensable precondition.
The inscription of seal 2279 that we have mentioned in the beginning can be read according to ṚV X.81.1: The father (2) has created (3) all beings (1) by penetrating (4) the later and hiding the former (worlds) (5).
The two principles of the field and the knower of the field are also mentioned in Bhagavadgita 13.1-3. When the two initial signs are fused we get the compound . With regard to the cosmic field it can be explained as the father of the eye which is a name of the creator and the knower in ṚV X.81.2. The eye is a term for the vulva and of the power of discrimination called buddhi in later Indian philosophy.
We know from the 6th tablet of the Gilgameš epic that the sacred marriage sometimes had to tackle with obstacles. The same happens in the Ṛg-Veda in the story of Atri and Saptavadhri illustrated on tablet 2728 (M-478). On the obverse a jar covered by a lid indicating virginity and the deity in the tree with the tiger are depicted at the left, at the right a man is caught up in a kino-tree assisted by two persons. On the reverse a man offers a cup of soma kneeling before a kino-tree followed by several signs and a design in the form of an endless knot. The motifs agree with ṚV V.78.4-6 dealing with the rescue of the seers Atri and Saptavadhri:
When Atri descended into the fire-oven
and called for your help like a woman on her child-bed,
you came with speed of a falcon, Aśvins! (4)
Open yourself, o king of the trees,
Like the womb of a parturient woman!
Listen to my cry, Aśvins, release Saptavadhri! (5)
For the frightened seer Saptavadhri
who was searching for help, you Aśvins
have opened and closed the tree through your māyā. (6)
Atri who can be identified with the kneeling man on side 2 suffers from an obtruding, Saptavadhri (bound with seven throngs) who is identical with the man caught up in the tree from a resistant woman, as indicated by the covered vase. Atri suffers from too much heat, Saptavadhri feels like a castrate (vadhri).
The inscription is contained in ṚV V.78.4: Atri (1) whose seed (2) fell into the fire-oven (2) called the two Aśvins (4) for help (1) like a woman (5) on her child-bed (motif).
The Aśvins use their magic power to open the tree, in which Saptavadhri is caught, because it is a symbol of a resistent woman like the closed vase. The tree replaces the two tigers held apart by a hero on other tablets. In the last verse of the hymn an easy birth is asked for, but the problems the two seers were facing are of a different kind.
It was by his inspiration that the Vedic priest or poet (kavi) could recognize the male and female principle in all phenomena of the world. Therefore he was correctly called a seer or a seer-poet. This inspiration has become very rare in modern times, but sometimes we can find it till now as in a poem of the romantic German poet Joseph von Eichendorff:
Es war, als hätt der Himmel die Erde still geküßt,
daß sie im Blütenschimmer von ihm nur träumen müßt.
Die Luft ging durch die Felder, die Ähren wogten sacht,
es rauschten leis die Wälder, so sternklar war die Nacht.
Und meine Seele spannte weit ihre Flügel aus,
flog durch die stillen Lande, als flöge sie nach Haus.
In English prose these verses would run:
It was, as if the sky had quietly kissed the earth,
so that she must dream of him in the flushing of her flowers.
The air went through the fields, the ears were moving softly,
the forests were rustling peacefully, the night was bright with stars.
And my soul widely spread her wings apart,
flew through the silent land, as if she was flying home.
Sexuality is reduced to a quiet kiss in this romantic poem. In reality, much blood went along with marriage as it is indicated in the motif of seal 1387. Invariably, heaven and earth are bridegroom and bride.
The cosmic marriage is celebrated in spring as well as in summer, when the human marriages take place preferably. After marriage of the male and female principle the soul returns home - to itself. In the poem a bit of incompleteness is left as in the relation of man and nature, therefore the rhymes Himmel (heaven) and Blütenschimmer (flushing of flowers) and spannte (to spread) and Lande (land) are not exact. This deviation is similar to the Pythagorean colon. For the same reason we will never get an exact identity of two Indus signs or sequences applied in different inscriptions. Exactness is scientific, but it kills the inspiration. The gods like ambivalence, as it is said in the Upaniṣads.
On the other hand, one must be careful, not to fall a victim of the so-called Pygmalion-effect and to depend too much on one's own approach of interpretation. Whether a reading is still in the field of pictographic ambivalence or whether it is beyond it and wrong, can only be decided by looking upon it again and again from different angles and by comparing it with other word-scripts like the Sumerian, the Chinese or even the Easter Island script. A word script is a vehicle of inspiration, but it can also be the cause of misinterpretation as language itself. Nevertheless, word scripts can give a better clue to ancient civilizations than letter scripts, because they contain the key of their interpretation in themselves, they are pictorial bilinguals, as Parpola has called it (1994; 277).
We have pointed out already that the apparently obscene passages in the Veda must be looked upon in its religious context that was inherited from the Indus culture. An example thereof is the cohabitation of a bull and a woman depicted on seal 5013 excavated in Chanhu Daro that is illustrated at the left. Its inscription agrees with ṚV X.61.6, where the father-daughter-incest at the beginning of creation is described in clear sexual metaphors:
In the midst of this work, when the father
had directed his whole love to his daughter;
it happened that the two lost some seed in separating,
that fell on the earth in the womb of the good deed.
The first sign is equal to the father putting his whole love on the daughter, the two divine lovers are denoted by the cup-signs, their seed by the additional single strokes. In that time, it was attributed to both sexes. The triangle-sign renders to embrace. The long strokes can be read as to separate here. The earth and the womb are equal to the rhombus-sign. The three last strokes can be read as Chanhu Dharo, the good place where the rite took place. The name means literally 'hill with a place of shelter' or 'hill with huts' (Hindi chāṃhā). Chanhu Dharo was probably the earliest inhabited place in the Indus Valley and it also survived the fall of the big cities in the Jhukar period.
The cosmic marriage is also represented in the mating of a bull and a cow on seal 9902 (Gadd 18/Parpola 1994; 219). After having restored the first two signs its inscription can be read as ṚV X.85.14d: The daughter of the sun (1) chose (1) the Aśvins (3) as her husbands (2) at the marriage (5) on the sacrificial place (4). In the Vedic hymn it is Pūṣan who chooses the Aśvins as his father to avoid the incestuous relationship (cf. 7038).
Apart from the mating of a bull and a woman the sacred marriage is illustrated through cohabitation a tergo on the signless Indus tablet 1574 and the stone-slap 8025 from Daimabad. Its two signs that can be restored as can be affiliated to ṚV X.101.3: Sow the seed (1) in the ready womb (2)!
The motifs of seals with foreign signs or signless seals can be interpreted in regard to the sacred marriage too, as in the case of a round seal excavated in Dilmun and a cylinder seal with Indian motifs found in Ur. The motif of the Dilmun-seal depicts a bull and a cow in cohabitation, contrarily to the natural position the cow is on the top. The three pictograms above the motif that correspond to the Indus signs can be read according to ṚV X.125.8: The goddess of language (1), who is the pervader and fertilizer (2), is like an ichneumon/like a hierodule (3). The female ichneumon is compared to a virgin who behaves like a hierodule in ṚV I.126.6.
The image of the goddess on the cylinder seal 9006 illustrated above excavated in Ur in Mesopotamia is based on a matriarchic conception. Like the woman on the Indus seal 3304 she gives birth to a plant, while lying on the back with her legs drawn up, here she has no male supervisor, however, but drives the bull in front of her with a stick. One of her toes is placed upon the tail of a scorpion, whilst her vaginal fluid trickles down on its head. Instead of the fig-tree on Mehi sherds we find a palm-tree in front of the bull that is an attribute of Ea, the Akkadian god of wisdom.
The Vedic name for this goddess is Aditi or Uttānapad. In the Vedic tradition the beating of the bull is equal to the purification of the soma. It is said in ṚV IX.74.5 that the soma places the seed in Aditi's womb that is identical to the soma-vessel.
The elements of the motif render the name Meluḫḫaki as on the Failaka-seal. Me is rendered by the stick, luḫ by the watertank in front of the bull. The scorpion can be read as ha here as on the Dilmun-seal above, because it was regarded as a sacred animal. Therefore it is placed under the marriage-bed on Akkadian seals (Boehmer fig. 549, 690, 691). The determinative for land, ki, is rendered by the two wavy lines beside the scorpion. Through the scorpion cohabitation becomes a sacred act like the purification of the soma. Two scorpions are found on both sides of the naked goddess with her legs spread apart on another cylinder seal from Ur published by Legrain (Philadelphia 1936).
Ute Franke(-Vogt) classifies the cylinder seal under animals in a row, which leads to a wrong interpretation of the motifs. Bull and scorpion do not form a row of animals. In this connection she mentions the double-sided tablet 6208 that was excavated in Lothal and whose motif consists of a bull and a unicorn. These animals do not form a row either, but they illustrate a dual principle as is revealed by the inscription that is contained in ṚV X.39.11,14: Whose car (1) moves in front (2) with his wife (3) through the two kings (4,5) is blessed (6); this song-offering (7) is like a girl (9) for the man (8), like a son (10), who is a progenitor (11). The two kings are Mitra (bull) and Varuṇa (unicorn). As on tablet 3304 the woman is pliable and obedient.
Even if the first hymns of the Veda are 500 years younger than the last material traits of the Indus culture, the spiritual tradition of such a big and long tradition does not die, not even after an elapse of 500 years. It is not debated that its traits are found in later Hinduism, so why not in the Veda? An agricultural and nomadic culture is very well able to incorporate traditions of an older urban civilization as it is was done by the Akkadians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Jews. This applies in particular to the conception of the sacred marriage. It is not necessary that the languages are identical, because some newcomers can be trained in the older language and serve as interpreters.
The motifs on a seal or tablet can be helpful to a great extent in the affiliation of the inscription. On the other hand, the motif can be explained and sometimes restored with the help of the Veda. To demonstrate this we shall study the four-sided tablet 2719 (M-1431), of which three sides have no inscription. Of the motif on the fourth side only some traits have remained. The animal at the left is certainly a bovine, probably bull, the animal at the right a centaur with a tree behind it as on seal 7038. In the middle four persons can dimly be recognized, the first feeds the bull, two hold their hands together as the tigers on seal 3304b, the last one offers a vessel to the centaur. On the third side a ceremony is illustrated that can be identified with the soma pressing (cf. § I.6). It is described in ṚV I.28.1,2:
Where the stone on the broad fundament
is erected for the pressing,
there you may swallow with greed, Indra,
the soma pressed in the mortar!
Where the two boards (on which the press rests)
resemble the thighs (of the woman),
there you may swallow with greed
the soma pressed in the mortar, Indra!
In these verses the thighs of the woman are used instead of the two wooden boards, as it is done by the left person in the motif on side three. The upper pressing stone has the form of a pestle and the lower is round and deepened in the middle like a mortar. After the soma has been pressed by the squatting woman, the sap is poured from the mortar in a vessel by the standing woman. With regard to the Veda the figure behind the vessel is the god Indra, to whom the soma is dedicated in most of the Vedic hymns. He runs to the vessel to swallow it with greed. The hymn I.28 was composed by the boy-saint Śunaḥśepa, but it is not very likely that he is illustrated on the tablet, because there are two persons engaged in pressing the soma. The first sign of the inscription on side 1 makes it more likely that all the motifs refer to the famous seer Agastya and his young wife Lopāmudrā. According to ṚV I.179 Agastya had the desire for progeny in spite of his old age.
On the first side the couple is illustrated as the tiger and the person in the tree. The squatting position that is also found with the woman holding the pestle on side 3 is an image of seduction. The two are also represented by the two gazelles or goats eating from the tree at the left of side three, which is a butea frondosa called ḍhāk in India. It belongs to the family of the acacias like the tree on the Mehi-sherd (cf. § I.6). Its leaves are almost identical with those of the pipal tree and there is one sign for both in the Indus script. Agastya, whose name means '(who) is (asti) immovable (aga)' [like a tree or hill], is the enjoyed as the tree, when generating progeny he is the enjoyer. These two aspects of life are also illustrated by the motif of the tiger and the deity in the tree on side one and the file of three animals (unicorn, elephant and rhino) with a crocodile hunting two fowls above them on side two.
Agastya and Lopāmudrā are depicted again on the fourth side of the tablet as the unicorn at the left and the composite animal at the right that is an image of the goddess of language, Vāc, whose personification Lopāmudrā is. The motif in the middle can be explained as Agastya and Lopāmudrā making love, the man with the vessel as Agastya praying for remission of his sin (cf. I.179.5). That Agastya regards it as a sin to have had sexual intercourse with his wife can be explained with his leading an ascetic life and with the youth of Lopāmudrā. Therefore their relation appears incestuous. Like Indra Agastya conquers the snake, the image of sin, that lies on the altar like Vṛtra on the hill.
The inscription on the first side that can be restored as is contained in ṚV I.179.6:
Agastya dug with (wooden) pegs
desiring children, descendants and power;
both colours the mighty seer let bloom,
with the gods his desires became true.
The man-sign in curved lines can be identified with Agastya reconciling the two colours of fertility and austerity by ploughing the land, the sign for the pipal or ḍhāk-leaf can be rendered as to let bloom, the first cup-sign consisting of two hands folded together can be read as to desire, the second cup-sign can denote the truth and the gods. This renders: After the furrow-making seer Agastya let bloom the two colours, his desires became true with the gods.
The name of Agastya who is one of the most famous seers in the Veda does not only appear on this tablet. Thus the signs of a pipalleaf and a cup-sign on tablet 2734 that designate the divine nature of the Soma can be referred to ṚV I.179.5 and read as Soma, the god, is the redeemer. The motifs of the tablet can be related to the mythology of Agastya.
On the first side three persons are standing in front of a kino tree which is a variant of the soma-plant. The man at the right who is killing or sacrificing a bull is an image of Agastya (cf. Bhagavadgītā 4.24). The composite animal on the second side represents Agastya's wife Lopāmudrā here. The two footprints at the right side pointing in opposite directions are another variant of the soma-plant, the ephedra, and a symbol of transmigration through cohabitation. The same idea is expressed by the pipal leaf together with the peacock on painted urns from Harappa, sometimes the peacock has a man in its stomach whom he is going to bring into the other world.
The gazelle eating from a pipal or ḍhāk-tree in the middle of the third side represents Lopāmudrā again, the bull with three heads at the right is an image of the soma-bull called Viśvarūpa in VI.41.3. The man standing behind the bull can be identified with Agastya. According to later Indian mythology, Agastya created Lopāmudrā by taking a part from each animal. On a miniature painting from Rajasthan of the 17th century the Gāyatrī, a synonym of the goddess of wisdom, is depicted in the form of a composite animal.
The unicorn on the Indus seals is regularly standing behind a 'cult object', whose function is unknown so far. Its prototype is found together with a bull on several sherds from Mehi in Baluchistan, where it is combined with a tree:
It seems, as if the contrivance is standing on the trunk of a tree similar to that of the following tree. Normally, the upper part of the standard has the form of a net that is always smaller than the lower part looking like a vessel. On the sherd only the frame of the net has been retained. A small ivory sculpture, excavated in Harappa some years ago (Kenoyer/Meadow 1994; 467), shows that the whole object has a round form. There are red-coloured impressions in the lower part, but there are no holes. On account of these features the contrivance could be an image of a fire-drill or a mortar or whim.
Mode thinks (1959; 258) that the tree between the two bulls is a fig-tree called pipal or aśvattha, but the leaves can also belong to the butea frondosa belonging to the acacias called śamī in India (cf. § I.4). This family is also indicated by the needle-leaves on the back of the bull. The pipal and the śamī are both venerated in India till today as an image of the cosmic tree, though the pipal is a parasite that suffocates other trees. The fruits of the pipal have berry-form and are sweet like dates. It may have delivered the sweet soma or madhu, whereas from the śamī its bitter variant was obtained. Unlike the German mead the soma never was an alcoholic drink. It is often said that it swells, but this was a natural process brought about by watering the stalks of the plant. On the Failaka-seal that we have discussed in § I.2 the inscription indicated the place, from where the pot came, the land of Meluḫḫa, where the soma, the bull, was purified in a sacred rite. The same appellation is obtained from the motif of the sherd.
A standard is also found on several Failaka seals (Kjaerum 1983; fig. 139-148). Here the net is at the bottom, however: . In the Sumerian script the net-sign is used as a determinative for plants (Deimel sign 593), particularly for medicinal plants (Akkadian šammu). Since the standard has the form of the crescent of the moon on the Failaka seals, we can translate the whole symbol as 'moon-plant'. This is identical to the soma-plant, for soma is a name of the moon. On several Failaka seals the net-sign appears together with a plant that has pinnate leaves, on others with a temple-door giving it a sacred function.
Mahadevan supposes (1994; 435), that the upper part of the contrivance is a filter used for the purification of the soma. He explains the 'hair' issuing sometimes from the lower part as splash of the liquid (1994; 437). If the lower part is regarded as a mortar, the 'hair' can be explained as the ends of the stalks that were pressed by the pestle or the pressing boards. The mortar and the whim work after the same principle as the modern motor or as pole and a car.
The name of Meluḫḫa is also indicated on a jar from Nindowari (VSI, fig. 44). The soma-bull is fastened to a śamī tree with very fine bud-fibres here. Beside it are twigs, one with leaves of the pipal, the other with leaves of the śamī. There are many combs and several eyes above and under the animal, a meander is painted on its back and a lot of lines are drawn on its belly. The meander can be read as hills as on the Mehi sherd, the eyes are a symbol of wisdom and may represent the seers or the planets.
Leaves and eyes are also found on painted urns from the Harappa cemetery (VSI, fig. 181). Their main motif is the peacock whose tail sometimes looks like a foot or as acacia-leaves. Pad, foot, is homophonous with pati, bird. The peacock is the vehicle of the soul after death. This proves that the Harappans believed in rebirth.
A śamī with two birds sitting in its crown with a fruit in their beaks is depicted on a jar from Lothal (Rao 1991; fig. 31). This motif can be related to ṚV I.164.20. The two birds can represent the two ways after death, the way to the sun and the way to the moon, the tree is then an image of the cosmic tree. The way of the moon leads to reincarnation. The cosmic tree is an aspect of the cosmic man. The reincarnating entity, the soul, is a spark of him. Therefore the cosmic man and the soul are both called puruṣa in later Indian philosophy.
Cosmogonic conceptions play an important part in the Veda and on this ground a lot of inscriptions can be read, in particular those of the often discussed seal 2420 (M-304) with the motif of a horned figure in a yoga position surrounded by four animals and the equally famous seal 2430 (M-1186) with the motif of a deity in a pipal tree accompanied by seven persons with plaits and venerated by a kneeling man with a head of an ancestor on a dais at his right and a markhor at his left side.
The inscriptions of the two seals are nearly identical. On seal 2430 the field-sign that we have met on seal 1387 appears again, here it is written separately under the deity in the tree. The similarity of the two inscriptions can best be recognized when they are written under each other:
On the presumption that the additional stroke of the man-sign represents a phallus, it can be read as the creator-god Dakṣa, whose name means potency literally. The inscriptions can then be affiliated to ṚV X.72.4cd,5cd:
From Aditi (2) Dakṣa (1) was born, from Dakṣa (4) Aditi (3);
then the beneficial gods (5) were born,
the friends (7) of the drink of immortality (6).
On seal 2430 the sign is written separately beside the tree-goddess. Since it means (place of) sacrifice, it is the abstract form of the first man-sign of the inscription of seal 2420 and can be placed on the top of the inscription of seal 2430. In this way we arrive at the same number of signs on the two seals. In the Veda the sequence Aditi-Dakṣa has been interchanged. The inscription runs over two lines, because in the Veda the line 5ab is added: For Aditi has been born as your daughter, Dakṣa! With this interpolation the commentator wants to make Dakṣa the actor, whereas originally he is the victim being seduced by his daughter. As the man-sign Dakṣa is the victim, as the cup-sign the creator. Likewise Aditi is not only the mother-goddess, she is the daughter too.
The two triangle-signs represent the mother-goddess Aditi called Uttānapad in X.72.3 and 4, 'she, who spreads her legs apart', literally who draws her feet upwards (for conceiving and giving birth) as it is illustrated on the cylinder seal from Ur (cf. § I.6). The same motif occurs on an Etruscan bronze tablet as lady of the beasts (Sälzle 1965; 63). She can also be compared to the lajjā gaurī, the shameless woman. Turned round the triangle appears as the form of the human beings on the neolithic Indian cave-paintings. The fish-sign renders the gods. The penultimate cup-sign signifies the drink of immortality, the soma, the last man-sign stands for the friends. The gods behave like human beings in regard to the soma.
On seal 2430 the first sign can be read as Aditi in her aspect of the mother again, the second in her aspect of the daughter. The diacritic fish-sign renders Bṛhaspati, the priest of the gods and the author of the hymn, or the goddess Aditi again, the cup-sign denotes the drink of immortality, the cup-sign for the drink of immortality, the man-sign renders friend here. The yogi and the deity in the tree are both androgyn according to this reading of the inscriptions.
The name lord of the beasts (Paśupati) for the central figure is already explained in the Varāha Purāṇa as referring to the gods who have taken the form of animals to accept Śiva's sovereignty after he has destroyed the sacrifice of Dakṣa because he was not given a share of it. The Pūrāṇa does not state the names of the gods, but with regard to the Vedic tradition they can be classified according to the directions as it was suggested by Hiltebeitel already (1978; 776). The elephant that is known for its memory and dignity would correspond to the north, the aggressive tiger would represent the east, the rhino the west, the water-buffalo the south, the region of Yama. By wearing the horns of the buffalo the yogi shows that he has overcome death. He has also absorbed the energies of the other animals as the goddess Durgā did in later mythology. The goats under the pedestal are not part of this classification.
According to ṚV X.90.8 the animals of the plains, of the forest and of the village have emanated from the Puruṣa. The animals of seal 2420 live both in the plains and in the forest. The goats live in the plains. If they are included, the animals around the yogi can be classified according to the seasons and the planets. Only three seasons are mentioned in X.90.6, but five are enumerated in I.164.12. Probably in the Indus Valley five seasons were known too. The order of the animals looked upon in the direction of the original of the seal is equal to a pentagram:
1. elephant - autumn - Jupiter (Bṛhaspati)
2. goats - winter - Mercury (Aśvins)
3. rhino - spring - Venus (Uṣas/Dakṣa)
4. tiger - summer - Mars (Indra)
5. buffalo - rainy season - Saturn (Yama)
After the rainy season follows the autumn again. The winter is a pleasant season in India. Mercury is connected with the constellation of the Twins. The Aśvins correspond to day and night and to the male and female principle. The rhino is correlated to the spring on account of its potency represented by the horn. In this respect it resembles the unicorn.
Since the lord of the beasts is an aspect of the cosmic man, the animals can also be correlated to the four castes, that emanate from the Puruṣa according to X.90.12. It may be objected that the animals are wild, the castes civilized. This objection can be refuted by placing a manger before each of the four animals so that they look as if the were tame, as it is regularly done on the seals. Then the elephant would correspond to the brahmin, the tiger to the kings, the rhino to the common people and the water-buffalo to the servants. The goats under the dais can be correlated to the tribal people. They are never tamed. There were no slaves in this on the whole peaceful society.
As the deity in the middle is surrounded by wild animals that belong to nature, it is part of nature too, but as the year it is related to both realms of life, nature and society. Seen as a yogi he is outside society, seen as the year he is Prajāpati, the father of all beings, the highest god in ṚV X.121.10. Prajāpati is another name of Dakṣa.
The seven persons in the lower register of seal 2430 are referred to in X.82.2 as the seven seers. It is said that the creator of the world is still beyond them. According to the following verse the seers of ancient times have sacrificed to him like those of the present time. The head beside the main priest in the middle of the seal is mentioned in the cosmogonic hymn X.125 addressed to the goddess of Language, who declares in X.125.7: I give birth to the father in the head of this (world). The head is equal to a the primordial constellation, where all planets stand in one line. Besides, it is a simile of the virile member of the cosmic father.
The sacrifice of the head is equal to the sacrifice of the male potency. This was replaced by ūrdhvaretas, leading the semen upwards, in the later tradition . This process together with prāṇāyāma, the controlling of the breath, and certain positions of the body like standing on the head is said to be the fundament of yoga in the Tantric Saṃhitas. It leads to a temporary austerity called tapas, heat, in the Veda. The sexual activities can be resumed if necessary as the story of Agastya reveals, only the dissipation of the semen, especially in day-time is prevented (cf. Praśna Upaniṣad I.13). As a liquid, soma is the substitute of the semen. It is represented by the markhor on the seal.
I do not believe that a nomadic people as the Āryans describe themselves in some hymns of the Veda would have been able to develop such lofty philosophic ideas as they are found in the cosmogonic hymns of the Veda. They must have been composed in an earlier time.
The parable of the elephant and the blind has been told by a Buddhist monk to overcome the obstacles impeding the further spreading of the Buddhist teaching (dhamma). Buddhism has left its impact on Indian history, but it was also influenced by the preceding oral tradition of the Veda and the Upaniṣads. The Buddha was no friend of mythical thought in general and of the Veda in particular, but this does not mean that he and the Buddhist teachers who followed his dhamma rejected the Vedic tradition altogether. Instead, they tried to bring it in a historical frame and to incorporate it in this way in their own teaching. The parable of the elephant and the blind is an example for this dealing with an older tradition. It was applied by other creeds and religions, too, notably by Christianity. The parable is based on the ancient myth that a blind man can regain his eyesight by touching a sacred person or object. This myth has also found its way in the Christian New Testament. In the Buddhist version, however, the blind men do not regain sight, on the contrary, they quarrel with each other about the nature of the elephant they touch. The reason of their quarrelling is that they do not follow the dhamma and this is a sort of blindness.
The parable that is narrated in Udāna 6.4, a rather late Buddhist text, reads:
When the Buddha stayed in Sāvatthi, he was told of monks and Brāhmīns quarrelling with each other about what was the wrong and what was the right doctrine. Thereupon the Buddha said: In a former life there ruled a king here in Savatthi who gave order to somebody to collect all the people in the town who were blind by birth. After they had been brought, the king said to this man: Show them an elephant! To some of them the man indicated the head, to some the ear, to some the tusk, to some the trunk, to some the belly, to some the leg, to some the back, so some the tail, to some the end of the tail, and each time he added, the elephant is like this. Then the king asked the blind that had touched the elephant, how the elephant was like. Those who had touched the head said that it was like a water-pot; those, who had touched the ear said that it was like a winnowing-basket; those who had touched the tusk said that he was like a peg; those who had touched the trunk said it was like a plough-beam; those who had touched the belly said that it was like a covering; those who had touched the leg said that it was like a post; those who had touched the back said it was like a mortar; those who had touched the tail said it was like a pestle; those who hat touched the tuft of the tail said it was like a broom. Then they hit each other and cried: The elephant is like this, the elephant is not like this. This amused the king. In the same way those are blind who follow other teachings, they do not know what is to their benefit and what is not for their benefit, not knowing the law (dhamma), not knowing what is not the law. And because they do not know it, the quarrel with each other saying: The right law is like this, the law is not like this. And the Lord said the following sentence (udāna): Some Brāhmīn recluses are attached to this or that (doctrine) and they quarrel with each other like the blind who have each touched only a part of the elephant. (Cf. P. Masefield, The Udāna, Oxford 1994).
Surprisingly, the parts of the elephant that are touched by the blind are all found in the inscription of the broken unicorn-seal 2317: . The narrator of the parable was probably a brahmin who knew the Veda very well and who still had some knowledge of the Indus script. In the Buddhist parable, the unicorn has been replaced by the elephant, though the unicorn would have better suited the purpose, because the elephant is known even to a person that is blind by birth. In the parable the narration of the parts of the elephant starts with the head and goes on step by step till the tuft of the tail is reached. On the Indus seals the beginning of the inscription is indicated by the head of the motif.
The narrator reads the line from left to right, as the Brāhmī script was read at the time of the Buddha: The first cup-sign renders the water-pot, the two field-signs are equal to the winnowing-basket, the triangle-sign corresponds to the plough, the step-sign to the handle of the plough, the stroke-sign to the covering (the blind only touch the skin of the belly), the first man-sign to the pillar (on account of the stroke or phallus between the legs), the second cup-sign to the mortar, the horned man-sign to the pestle, the teeth-sign to the broom. The fact that two different blind men referred to mortar and pestle, proves that the Buddhist story is based on an older tradition. With regard to the Ṛg-Veda the inscription agrees with IV.19.9cd:
The blind saw after touching the snake,
the breaker of the crutches (the lame) walked away,
his joints having been fixed together (by touching the snake).
The first sign renders andha, blind, whose literal meaning is to be covered by darkness. Blind is related to being dazzled. The sign can also be read as a banner. The man-sign with horns is a symbol of the seer and priest, the first cup-sign represents the snake, the man-sign with additional stroke between the legs is equal to an impotent old man. Therefore it can be read as being lame, too. The stroke-sign denotes a clutch here, the following oblique sign to break, the triangle-sign can be read as to fix together, the two field-signs that can also represent a texture are equal to the joints (parva) meaning also the knot which is found in textures. The last cup-sign refers to the snake again. It is identical to the Kuṇḍalinī-snake dwelling coiled up at the end of the spinal cord. Its power is attributed in this hymn to Indra though it is otherwise identified with his enemy VṚtra. In other Vedic hymns it is the god Soma who makes a blind man see. The god Soma is also represented by the cup-sign.
The first two signs form often a pair in the Indus script, because the seer is the friend of the Dawn (Ṛg-Veda I.30.20). The reading andha can only be discovered with the help of the Veda. By looking on the radiance of the Dawn or the sun a man can become dazzled or blind, but when done with his inner eye, he becomes a seer. In spite of her purity the Dawn was not only regarded as a virgin, but also as a hierodule like the Mesopotamian goddess Ištar. The compound ukhachid is a hapaxlegomenon. Ukha is otherwise a pot, but here it means the crutch that has the form of a pot at the end. The German equivalence Krücke is etymologically related to Krug, vessel.
A man standing behind an elephant is depicted on the cylinder seal 8801 found in Maski, Maharaṣtra. The man has lifted his hands and carries a chain or hook around his waist. Most probably he is an elephant-driver, a mahout. The name is derived from mahāmatra, excellent man, leader, because he knows the character of the animal and how to deal with it. The seal can hence be used as an amulet to protect its bearer against attacks of a furious tamed elephant or for protecting the fields against wild elephants. Snake and elephant are both called nāga in Sanskrit, perhaps because they resemble each other in their antagonistic qualities and because the tusk looks similar to a snake.
By his reading of the inscription of seal 2317 the Buddhist narrator degrades the Vedic tradition by pointing out that its priests were merely engaged in pressing soma which is described with sexual metaphors in Ṛg-Veda X.101.12. He may have been induced to do so by the second man-sign in the inscription of seal 2317. Sexual metaphors are also used in the cosmogonic hymn X.61. In the eyes of a Buddhist the horned man, the Indus sign for priest, may have been a simile for a cheated lover or husband as in our tradition, because the horns create the notion of outdatedness and stupidity. Sexuality is identical with silliness and blindness for the author of the parable. Sexual symbolism becomes part of the religious life again only in Mahayana Buddhism.
If the innermost being is empty, as the enlightened Buddhist realizes in his nirvana, sexual allusions are only admitted as a concession to human nature being as unable to cut off the fetters of sexuality as to give up the hankering after gain and money.
The behaviour of the Vedic seers and priests in respect to sexuality is not in tune with Buddhism nor with a tribal society, but rather similar to the Mesopotamian religion. It can be supposed therefore that it was inherited from the Indus civilization that was contemporaneous with the Mesopotamian. The primordial incest-myth dealt with in Ṛg-Veda X.61 has its origin in the Indus religion, too. This means that sexuality is not dealt with in the Veda in the profane sense the Buddhist narrator attributes to it, but as a sacred ritual. The drop of soma is symbolically identical with the male seed, as Indra is the god of fertility. Vedic women are generally regarded as seductresses, even if they are mother, daughter, sister or wife. In this way they are serving fertility, but they are also instrumental in securing resurrection and immortality as in Gnostic traditions. Death is then only an intermediate stage as it is experienced in initiation.
On several Indus tablets the relation between death and immortality is illustrated by a fish caught in the mouth of a crocodile. When cohabitation is compared to the purification of the soma, macrocosm is reflected in microcosm. This relation is also the precondition for leading a healthy life, which includes sexuality. To refuse it can be a sort of blindness. By rejecting the Vedic tradition, the Buddha has lost the ground of the perennial philosophy, that made its first appearance in this cycle in the Indus Valley. Only when the body is healthy, it can strife for inner freedom. This applies for the society too.
The parable of the elephant and the blind was also narrated by the Bengali saint Ramakrishna, but with a different moral:
Once some blind men chanced to come near an animal that someone told them was an elephant. They were asked what an elephant was like. The blind men began to feel its body. One of them said the elephant was like a pillar; he had touched only its leg. Another said it was like a winnowing fan; he had touched only his ear. In this way others having touched its tail or belly, gave their different versions of the elephant.
Just so, a man who has only seen one aspect of God limits God to that alone. It is his conviction that God cannot be anything else (recorded by M., 1969, 125).
It can be inferred from this version of the story that Ramakrishna who introduces God (īśvara) did not regard the world as ephemeral like the Buddha, though his monastic followers adhere to the teaching of Advaita that has many similarities with Buddhism.
In Ramakrishnas version the men who touch the elephant are not totally blind, but only of limited understanding. They do not quarrel with each other either. Ramakrishna has omitted the similes of the broom and of the pestle and the mortar, in this way he avoids the association with sexuality. Moreover, he does not take notice of the mythical elements of the story. Herein he behaves like an Advaitin or Buddhist.
Belief in God and his son is a necessary precondition for doing miracles in the case of Jesus Christ, who is told to have been born like the Vedic Indra (cf. X. 73.2) through parthenogenesis. To make a blind man see and a lame walk is one of the miracles ascribed to the Christian saviour. But the Christians who ascribe this miracle to him, treat the myths that deal with a similar deed in other traditions with disregard or call them devilish even, in the same way as the author of Ṛg-Veda I.32 calls Indra's enemy Vṛtra a eunuch, who imprisons women. Similarly, in the Buddhist parable people are called blind who do not follow the Buddhist doctrine. Therefore the Buddhist version of the story is not a good example for the illustration of tolerance, as it is generally supposed.
After enumerating several conceptions of the world in the 2nd chapter of his Kārikā the famous Advaita philosopher Gauḍapāda, the teacher of Śankara, gives the following unbiased summary of human self-identification in verse 29:
That conception, which one wants to see, one sees,
and it protects and satisfies him who sees it,
and after he has realized it, he identifies himself with it.
The same problem is found in the methods of modern science. Every scientist believes that his method is the best, if not the only reliable, but each method can only reveal a part of the truth. One of the most crucial options is related with sexuality. There cannot be tolerance and peace between different creeds and traditions, as long as sexuality is excluded or degraded by them, as it is done in modern times not only by Christianity, but also by the Feministic ideology that regards itself as the most advanced nevertheless.
Neither in the Veda nor in the Buddhist parable nor in the New Testament the original meaning of the miracle is revealed. It can only be discovered with the help of the Indus tradition, on which all these stories are based. Its fundamental message is that a man should not only try to see with his outward eyes, but with his inward eyes, too, that means that he should try to become a seer. Similarly, for overcoming lameness it is not sufficient to walk in the physical sense of the word, but in the spiritual sense, too, that means that man must give up to look on himself as a slave and to realize his inner freedom and independence, to become a jīvanmukta, as it is called in the Indian tradition. This independence is part of the fundamental human rights. It has to be combined with solidarity and equality. As long as they struggle with each other, men cannot realize their inner independence. This is not a reason for to be laughed at, as for the king in the parable, but for compassion. Obviously, the Indus tradition where these ideas have been born is the fundament or turntable of the Western and the Eastern religious tradition. To admit this is also a question of tolerance, because it means to give up the belief that one's own tradition is, if not the only, at least the highest.
Swastika is the Indian name of a symbol called the gammadion cross in English after the Greek capital letter Gamma. It is one of the most popular symbols in India and is painted on the walls of many temples and houses. Its meaning is peace and happiness. Its name is derived from Sanskrit svasti, welfare, prosperity, luck. It is therefore connected with god Viṣṇu, the maintainer, the pervader. It has a similar meaning in Buddhism, where it is found on the back of the feet of the Buddha. From the 3rd century ante to the 4th century post our era the swastika appears on Indian coins together with the motif of the cosmic tree or the pyre. It was hence related to life and death. Its earliest appearance, however, is on seals and tablets from the Indus Valley, which is another proof for the persistence of this civilization. The first swastika has been found on a stamp seal from Mehrgarh, dated 2600 ante approximately (VSI fig. A 69).
The swastika has not been found in India only, but also in the Near East, in Egypt and Crete, in Scandinavia and in the areas inhabited by the Celts. Though it is generally believed that the symbol came into being independently in all these regions, it cannot be altogether precluded that these peoples were influenced by the Indus civilization. This does not mean, however, that the swastika is an Āryan sign, as its adaptation by the nationalistic movement in Germany may suggest. The population of the Indus cities was mixed.
It is not unlikely that the meaning of the swastika in India today is identical to that it had in the time of the Buddha or the Indus civilization, since the Indian mythology and philosophy has not changed very much in the course of the five millennia that are known to us historically. This is mainly due to the caste system which was most probably invented by the founders of the Indus civilization or developed by itself in those cities with its different population.
The Indian name for caste, varṇa, means colour. This is explained in the Bhagavadgātī in a psychological sense: The caste depends on the natural inclination of a human being, and this determines his profession. According to Ṛg-Veda X.90.13, where the origin of the castes is described for the first time in Indian literature, they were produced from the body of the Puruṣa, when he was sacrificed by the gods in the primordial sacrifice, from which the world came into being:
The brahmins were born from his mouth,
the warriors were born from his arms,
the common people were born from his thighs,
the servants came forth from his feet.
As the swastika is one of the oldest symbols of the Indian civilization, it could be understood as representing the Dharma, the holy order, established together with the primordial sacrifice of the Puruṣa described in ṚV X.90.16:
Through sacrifice the gods sacrificed the sacrifice,
these were the first laws;
thus these mighty beings reached the sky,
where the former gods, the Sādhyas, are.
The Sādhyas are probably identical with the yogis depicted on the Indus seals. The four castes would then be equal to the branches of the swastika and its centre to the divine state that everybody should strive for according to the injunction of the Bhagavadgītā. It would then be possible to restore the so far hypothetical original meaning of the swastika with the help of the Veda in the same way as we have done it with the signs of the Indus script in the foregoing chapter.
There have been found about 50 seals and tablets with the swastika motif in the Indus Valley, but of them only one seal and four tablets have an inscription: Seal 1311 and the tablets 1580 (M-482), 2717 (M-488), 3306 (H-182) and 3317 (H-242). In addition, there are the tablet 2733 (M-1415) with the motif of a Latin cross, of which nine copies exist and the tablet 2720 (M-461) with the motif of a variant of a St. Andrew's cross, of which 16 copies are illustrated in the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions. On tablet 2078 (M-419) and 2624 (M-1389) the swastika occurs together with a grid motif. On tablet 1623 (M-443) and on the stone slab 2707 (M-1356) it appears with another geometric design.
According to the Indian concordance the swastika is also used as a sign in the inscription of the tiny seal 3500 rendered there as . In the Finnish concordance the swastika is replaced by the field-sign that occurs also on the two tiny seals 3482 and 3486 (H-911) with the same inscription. Seal 3500 is not illustrated in CISI , but according to Vats, the excavator of Harappa, the second sign looks like . In any case the inscription can be read according to X.90.4:
With three steps the Puruṣa goes upwards,
one step remains here;
then he goes in all directions over eating and non-eating.
There are four steps in total and four steps in all directions which correspond to the arms of the swastika. The eating and non-eating are denoted by the first sign. One are eating, the others are eaten. This is the law of nature. In X.90.6 the gods create three seasons by sacrificing the Puruṣa. The Puruṣa can be identified with the horse-sign. According to ṚV I.163.3 the horse consists of three parts. They are equal to the seasons. The gods are not mentioned on the seal. The Puruṣa divides himself. The gods are part of his creation (X.129.6). They do not know how it came into being. The Veda does not reach the highest plane of wisdom here. The swastika can be identified with the Puruṣa or with the year in this inscription.
With regard to the two fish-signs the inscription of tablet 2733 with a variant of the Latin cross on the reverse can be read as ṚV IV.2.15cd:
We want to be like the Aṅgiras, who opened the cave,
the masters of the seers, the sons of the sky.
The diacritic man-sign denotes the Aṅgiras, the cross-sign renders to open, the field-sign corresponds to the cave. The two fish-signs can be identified with the master and the seer, the cup-sign denotes the sky here, the man-sign the sons. The cross-sign is the placeholder of the Latin cross that denotes fertility and resurrection and the source of the activity of the seers. The long horizontal stroke is related to Agni, the father of the Aṅgiras, the short vertical stroke to the Dawn, their mother.
On account of first sign the inscription the bull-seal 1311 (M-1225) can be affiliated to ṚV X.114.3:
The well-adorned virgin with four ear-phones (1)
whose face (3) is dripping with butter (2)
wears a distinguising mark (vayuna) (4).
The mark is also illustrated as the swastika on the back of the seal. It denotes the four main parts of the year.
The inscription of tablet 3306 is repeated on the reverse like that of the sealing 3304:
It can be read according to ṚV X.125.8cd:
Beyond the sky, beyond the earth (I am),
such a one I have become through my greatness.
The intersected circles render heaven and earth, the two long strokes beyond, the cup-sign greatness. The motif on the first side illustrates the goddess Vāc as a voluptuous woman who draws up her skirt as we find it on Akkadian seals depicting the goddess Ištar. The admiring tiger is an image of the seer. The motif can also be related to the twins Yamī and Yama. They have been born from the same womb, as Yamī says to her brother in X.10.5. The inscription would read then:
Like heaven and earth the twins (Yama and Yamī)
have been born from the same womb.
The two long strokes would denote the twins then and Yama would be identical to the tiger. The right and left turning swastikas on the reverse are a symbol of fertility and resurrection again. They are also related to the sun and the year with five seasons and an expression of happiness and inward and outward peace (svasti).
The oblique cross with additional bars following the two signs on tablet 2720 and others (M-457 to M-463; M-1409 to M-1414) is a fertility symbol like the Latin cross and the swastika. Since the field-sign can be explained as a manger or food, the cup-sign as its lord, we arrive at ṚV I.187.1: The food is to be praised, the mighty preserver of power.
The motif on the reverse of these tablets can be explained as a snake coiling up a tree. There are six coils, together with the railing we get the number seven. Therefore the motif can be identified with the cakras and the Kuṇḍalinīlini-snake. Her healing capacity is referred to in ṚV IV.19.4, with which we shall deal in the next chapter.
In the inscription of tablet 3317 arranged around a swastika, the three initial signs are severely damaged, but they can be restored with the help of the inscription of seal H-1922 that has been recently excavated. The Vedic paraphrase is contained in ṚV X.125.5: Loved (1) by the goddess (4) the man (3) becomes wise (2) he is given (7) knowledge (5) and security (6) by the goddess Vāc (8,9). The goddess is depicted on the reverse as a deity in a tree similar to the figure on seal 2430. The swastika is a symbol of the goddess Vāc here, but she is not only a symbol of peace, she also brings about dissension and war (cf. X.125.6).
The equivalence for the inscription of tablet 1580 followed by a swastika and a kino-tree and the motif of a crocodile with a fish in its mouth on the reverse is found in ṚV I.164.49: Inexhaustible (2) is the breast (1) of Sarasvatī (3)!
The inexhaustible breast is the bed of the river here and Sarasvatī is the goddess of the river. Though called inexhaustible, it dried up at the end of the Indus culture (cf. § I.5). The crocodile with a fish in its mouth on the reverse depicts the law of nature: The big swallow the small. The dark aspect of the mother-goddess can be overcome by the initiate who knows the relation of nature with the androgyn cosmic man, the primordial sacrifice symbolized by the swastika. It is the male that is sacrificed.
Through initiation the higher purpose of nature is realized. The crocodile becomes the teacher or guru then, the food the disciple. Both are divine, but the disciple must be 'swallowed' by the teacher to get rid of his ego-sense. The ego-sense is the offering then. With regard to this sacrifice the word guru, literally meaning 'heavy', can be derived from the root gṝī, to swallow. The heaviness of the guru is caused by the disciples he has swallowed, as it were. That means that the institution of guruship has its origin in the Indus culture like the caste-system. The guru is described as the swallower and as being swallowed in the Uśanas-story of the Mahābhārata. In a similar way the nature of a true guru is illustrated by Sri Ramakrishna in one of his parables. My translation follows the Hindi version:
One day [when making a walk] I heard the croaking of a bullfrog and I thought that it must have been seized by a snake. When I came back after some time the croaking had still not come to an end. I went nearer and saw that a small water-snake had seized the frog and now it could neither swallow it nor get rid of it. Therefore the state of suffering of the frog did not cease. It came to my mind that if the snake would have been a big one the frog would have been silent after three croaks. As it was only a water-snake both had to suffer.
Similarly, somebody's ego-sense is removed, when he meets a real guru. When the guru is 'unripe', both have to suffer, the guru and the disciple. The ego-sense of the disciple is not removed and he is not released of the clutches of attachment to the world. When he has come across an unripe guru, the disciple will not attain liberation.
Ramakrishna's critic refers only to the personal teacher of the ancient tradition, not to the members of organisations including that one established in his name. A teacher in a religious organisation will not suffer very much from his being unripe, as it happens with the priests of the Christian church, after which many Indian religious organisations are modelled today. Indian religiosity has to answer, of course, to the present needs.
Tablet 2717 (M-488) with the inscription can be related to the first two verses of the cosmogonic hymn X.190:
Law and Truth have been born from the inflamed heat.
From that was born the night, from that the fleeting ocean.
From the fleeting ocean was born the year,
that separates day and night ruling over all (creatures) that have blinking eyes.
The guardian-sign can be read as law and truth, the sign of the androgyn deity as inflamed heat, because it is the father of the sky whose tapas is inflamed by his daughter, the Dawn. The woman-sign can be read as the (cosmic) night, the ocean as the horse-sign and the stroke-sign, because the mane of the horse resembles the waves. Moreover, the horse is born from the ocean (ṚV I.163.1).
If the sign is read as the moon, it refers to ebb and flood depending on its attraction. The year is equal to the twelve strokes representing the months, day and night is written by the two net-signs. On account of the retina they may also represent the blinking of the eyes.
The motifs of the tablet 2717 illustrated at the left (Franke-Vogt 1991, plate 259, 264) shows on the upper side a swastika as symbol for creation and the elephant as symbol of Dātar or Dakṣa, the creator in the limited sense of Indian philosophy. On the right half we find a tiger and the deity in the tree who tries to seduce the tiger. The last motif is a composite animal that can be identified with the seven parts of the cosmic man (cf. § 4). On the lower side an altar with a goose, the vehicle of Sarasvatī in later time, and a priest with the horns of a buffalo is depicted who sacrifices a markhor to the deity in the tree. By this sacrifice fertility and resurrection is obtained.
On the reverse of the swastika-tablet 1623 we find an inverted with 15 triangles in a circle. The motif recalls the Śri yantra. It is also a symbol of the inverted cosmic tree. In Praśna Upaniṣad 6.1 the Puruṣa is said to have 16 parts. Probably the grid motifs on tablets 2624 and 2078 have the same meaning as the triangle motif.
On tablet 2773 the swastika on the reverse is replaced by the two signs . They can be read according to ṚV X.125.8b: I carry all the worlds. The water-carrier with a vessel on the head represents the goddess Vāc, who is like the goddess of luck, Lakṣmī, a personification of the swastika.
The sacred marriage is also illustrated by the motif of the endless knot together with a swastika on a rectangular stone slab recorded under the number 2707 (M-1356). It has no inscription. The rhombus in the middle can be identified with Aditi, the eight circles with her sons. With seven she went to the gods, the eighth she put aside. He is known as the death-born son who became the sun (cf. RV X.72.8-9). Therefore the motif is a symbol of luck like the swastika.
A similar motif is found on the copper-plate 2807 (M-1457). It is spread all over India till today like the swastika and also known from Mesopotamia, where it is used in relation to war (Parpola 1994; 57). Luck is needed on the battle-field too. Under the name of śrīvatsa, mark of luck, the endless knot is worn as a crest jewel by Viṣṇu and Jain saints. It looks similar to the vulva. It has been adopted by Buddhist art like the triratna.
The inscription of plate 2807 which consists of two lines can be read according to ṚV X.85.23,24 of the marriage-hymn: Aryaman (1) and Bhaga (2) may lead you to marriage (3,4), at the place (5) of the good work (6), uninjured (9) to the divine husband (7) in the womb of the true order (8). Aryaman is inserted later, the two first signs of the first line denote only Bhaga originally. The motif that is equal to the sign is described in X.85.25ab: From here I dissolve you, not from there, firmly I have bound you there (to the husband). Western scholars do not admit that the sacred marriage or the yogi are mentioned in the Veda. But since the gods are said to sit on a throne, they are identical to the yogis of the Indus culture, at least they are their relatives or descendants like the seers. This is recognized for example in ṚV I.1.2: Agni has to be praised by the poets as he was praised by the former seers. This attitude should also be followed by modern philosophers.
We could end our investigation here, if not a cylinder seal with Indus characters had been rediscovered in the British Museum several years ago that has been excavated in the Seistan area between Afghanistan and Iran. I give it the provisional number 9911*.
The seal is broken off on the top and at the left end and only a part of the inscription has remained. The fourth sign from the right can be restored as an eagle, whose feet are standing on an egg. Then we obtain .
The strokes can be explained as sparks and denote fire or the seed. This directs us to ṚV X.136. The inscription contains elements of all verses except the last one: The longhaired who carries the fire/the radiant seed and the poison (1,2), who is the whole brilliant sky (3), who flies through the air like a bird (4,5), who knows all things (6), he is the friend of the divine women (7). The unknown bird is called the divine soul in the human body by the Bāuls who are the spiritual descendants of the Vrātyas. The radiant seed is the seed that is kept inward, ūrdhvaretas.
The inscription can also be correlated to ṚV VII.103.1 of the frog-hymn: After having been silent for one year like brahmins who observe a vow, the frogs invigorated by Parjanya started their speech. The 12 strokes denote saṃvatsara, year, in this case, the first man-sign is equal to the silent brahmin or muni, who has realized the eternal brahman. Vratācariṇa, observe a vow or going with the wind (vāta), is equal to the bird-sign and the two long strokes, invigorated corresponds to the egg-sign, Parjanya, the rain-god, is rendered by the second man-sign, the speech by the woman-sign. The frog denoted by the last man-sign, is a personification of the muni too. Its arms and feet can form a swastika. Maybe, a frog was written on the lost opposite end of the seal as on the seal 2078.
The derivation of the name Parjanya is somewhat obscure, but most likely it can be deduced from the root pṛc, to fill. This has a sexual connotation too. Three seasons are mentioned in ṚV X.90.6, five in ṚV I.164.12. Six seasons may be referred to by the monogram on top of the Seistan seal, which corresponds to the centre of the Śrī yantra again and to the cosmic tree. It may be compared with the monogram on the top of the cylinder seal 7733 (Sibri-2).
The main motif on the seal from Sibri, a lion attacking a zebu, has much similarity with one of the main motifs of the Akkadian seals. Apart from the astrological meaning it could be explained as an illustration of the fight of the elements. The lion would symbolize the fecundating power and the zebu the fecundated. In ṚV V.83.3cd we read in this connection:
From the distance the thunder-cries of the lions arise,
when Parjanya creates the rain-clouds.
Parjanya is compared to a bull in verse 1 of this hymn. The bull and the lion are both aspects of the godhead. Therefore, the goddess Durgā is identified with the lion in a later Indian legend, where she fights and kills a buffalo.
The crocodiles above and below the motif on Sibri-2 are a symbol of fertility, too. On the top of Sibri-3 with the motif of a lion facing a zebu we find a small animal which could be a scorpion, but which is most likely a frog. Whatever it is, both animals belong to the rainy season.
To sum up, we can say that the swastika is a symbol of the sun and of the year and that it represents the cosmic order and of the goddess of language and luck as well as the cosmic game (līlā), whose form is also found in the ancient Indian catur-angachess. As a symbol of the cosmic order it is related to welfare and fertility. Though we had only very little material for our study of the meaning of the swastika, we have nevertheless arrived at a comprehensive and consistent result.
There is one question left, however: How could an emblem, whose meaning is peace and welfare in medieval and modern India, be used in its oblique form for bad purposes, as it happened in Germany 80 years ago? The reason for this lies in the structure of creation. With three quarters the Puruṣa is said to be the immortality in heaven, with one quarter only he is the universe according to ṚV X.90.3. Male and female is within this one quarter and within it is good and evil, too. Creation begins, when the Puruṣa burns up evil, says the Bṛad-Āraṇyaka-Upaniṣad in I.4.2.1, but in the eyes of the warrior-class he did not burn it up sufficiently. They think it their job to complete creation or to reinstall truth and virtue, when they have been lost. God himself is born for this purpose according to Bhagavadgītā 4.7-8.
In the time of the Veda, the Āryans believed that the Dasyus were the evil that the Puruṣa seemed to have left for them to destroy. In a similar way, Hitler and his followers thought the Jews were the evil that had to be annihilated, because they were an obstacle to the development of the German Empire which they thought would last for at least 1000 years. They thought that the spirit of life which is called jīvabhūta, the eternal principle of life in Gītā 7.5 and 15.7 had allotted a special mission to the German race which they believed to have descended from the Āryans, but in their politics they only carried out the philosophy of Darwin. Therefore it was easy for them to win the masses, inspite of the crimes they did.
It was known to them that the principle of life was part of the cosmic spirit, but they buried it in the mass movement that their leader Hitler created, though he who was certainly not an Āryan inspite of his blue eyes, but a Hun, since he was born in the area where they had lived before.
We do not know the language of the seals, but obviously we get comprehensible and consistent readings of its inscriptions with the help of the Ṛg-Veda and in some cases of the Atharva-Veda, though the rural Vedic life was different from the urban life of the great Indus towns. The Vedic seers and writers knew, however, how to adapt the inscriptions to their life. By the way, even in modern times an Indian town is still a big village.
Singular signs have a religious connotation too, as for instance the sign that is found on potsherds. The sign can obviously be explained as a hook and is similar to the Greek capital letter gamma. In Ṛg-Veda X.134.6 it is a simile for Indra's power, his śakti. Hence it combines the male and the female principle as in the sacred marriage and the swastika. In the later Indian script called Devanāgarī this sign is used for the letter ga. The verbal root gam means to approach, also in the sense of having sexual intercourse. This is similar to draw the water from a well. The well is a place for the meeting of both sexes also in the Old Testament. Going upright and adulterate are attributes of lordship that can be used in a negative sense. And in this sense the swastika was misused by the Nazi-movement.
In a word-script cross-checking is the best and often the only means to prove, whether the reading of a certain sign is correct. In the seals 2420 and 2430 we find several cross-signs, a variant of which we have come across already as a singularity on seal 2704. There we have read it as writer, on the other seals as the mother-goddess Aditi. This can be justified by the basic pictographic meaning of the sign which can be rendered as to grasp. The triangular form is conventional. The original image is the crab with an ecliptic body. The name of the mother-goddess means the 'eating one' according to Indian etymology. Eating and grasping are identical. On the other hand, Aditi is the food.
The pictorial form of the sign has been retained in several inscriptions the most famous among them is from Dholavira and has been excavated only recently. It is written on a wooden board which was probably fixed over the entrance door of the city. One sign has the size of about 40 cm. That means that everybody who entered the city could see it. Since it gives us a good opportunity to continue our crosschecking, we shall study it here in detail: .The 'indicator' is the wheel-sign here, because it is repeated four times. It can be supposed that at least one of them refers to Indra as the king of the gods and the god of the monsoon-rain and the monsoon-winds. This would also agree with the size and the position of the board. In ṚV I.32.15, the last verse of the hymn, Indra is described in the following way:
Indra is the king of the moving and the staying,
of the striving and the satisfied, he, who holds the vajra in his arms;
indeed, he rules as the king over the peoples,
like the rim the spokes (of a wheel), he holds them together.
Here we meet with an exact explanation of the wheel-sign and that it is used to designate the king, because he encloses his people like the rim enclose the spokes. The vajra, the thunderbolt, is identical to the second sign. Indra's weapon is also called axe or hammer in the Veda (kuliśa; ghana; khedrā) as depicted on the Dholavira board. In I.32.5 Vṛtra is said to have been hewn down by Indra's axe like a tree denoted by the third sign. The second wheel-sign renders to rule as a king. The country with its people going or standing is equal to the following three pictograms. The two wheel-signs at the end are used for the wheels of the car, whose spokes are hold together by the rim. The last sign renders to hold together, which agrees indeed with the pictogram. There is no equivalence for the beings with and without horn, but they can be identified with the moving and the staying.
We cannot end our crosschecking here, however, since there are four other inscriptions with the sequence . Three of them have been inscribed on bronze weapons, one belongs to the broken zebu-seal 2119. All of them have an additional line. The four signs at the beginning of the inscription from Dholavira are replaced by the two signs in all other inscriptions. The second line of the zebu-seal reads , the second line of one of the weapons reads , of the other .
The zebu can be a symbol of Indra on account of its majesty. The three signs of the zebu-seal can be affiliated to ṚV I.32.1: The bellies of the hills were crashed with the thunderbolt (for setting free the waters). The two signs of the middle line can be read as Indra's deed and to praise as it is done with an amulet. Together with the main line we obtain: Who has crashed (3) the bellies (1) of the hills (2) with the thunderbolt (3), Indra's deed I shall praise for those who work on the field (4) and those who wander (around) (5,6), of the king (7) who encloses all peoples like the rim the spokes (8).
The additional lines on the weapons can be affiliated to verse 7 of the same hymn. The short strokes can be explained as the pieces of Vṛtra that Indra distributes over many places like relics. The places are represented by the house-sign, of which several are found on the dagger 2798. The curves represent the earth on the sealing. To distribute is equal to the hand in the circle. The water-carrier represents Indra again. The waters are the female power through which a work is carried out or an aim is reached, but in case of the inundation of the Indus cities ruled by the Asura Vṛtra, the waters that were formerly under his control worked against him and destroyed him and the cities for the advantage of the Āryan tribes. They came into power after the flood subsided, but their priests ascribed this deed to Bṛhaspati and the Aṅgiras.
These readings show that the daggers were not intended to fight against an outward enemy, but that they had a spiritual or mythological purpose as we have found it in the battle of the ten kings (cf. § I.3). This attitude changed after the Āryans came into power. Therefore we should be careful not to interpret every battle in the Veda as purely symbolical as Sri Aurobindo did.
The crab-sign in triangular shape with a circle in the middle is also found on the motifless inscription 2301 (M-1262) . The two initial pictograms are rather conventionalised, so that their meaning is difficult to ascertain, but as they often occur together with the number-sign for seven, they can represent the sons of Aditi, the Ādityas, who are identical to the seven planets. Their meaning may also be head. In this inscription they can be identified with sun and moon. This directs us to ṚV X.85.18, a verse of the marriage-hymn:
Ahead and behind (each other) two boys go playing
around the (heavenly) way through their magic power;
one looks on all beings, the other,
who arranges the seasons, is born again (and again).
The triangle-sign with a circle can be read as the heavenly way the sun-daughter is going to her husband, the moon, i.e. the ecliptic. Ahead and behind is rendered by the sequence of the first two signs, the verb to play can be derived from the arrow under the signs, because to play means here that the heavenly bodies go in a certain direction.
The equivalence for magic power and all beings (of the three worlds) is found in the diacritic cup-sign. For the one that looks on these beings, i.e. the sun, we get a single stroke. The hand with four short strokes renders to arrange the four seasons. If taken as a tree it can also mean to be born again and again. The compound triangle-sign can also symbolize the navel of a woman, which is equal to the daughter on seal 2430.
A variant of the first sign without the "hair" and the arrow is found as a singularity on pots from Rahman Dheri. It may have served as a branding mark which indicated that it belonged to the chief, the head (of the clan). The main part of the sign can be read as a skull and as bald. The "arrow" can also mean to decapitate. Sun and moon are both threatened with decapitation in the time of the eclipses. A head is also found in the motif of seal 2430.
Another important pictogram that can hardly be recognized is the sign . Certainly it depicts a plant or a tree, and it appears together with the leaf-sign on seal 3862, but there is no reason to explain it as the banyan tree only as I formerly did induced by A. Parpola.
Since the sign follows twice a square sign and since the crab-sign is often placed in the middle of it and because of the form of the "berries", it can represent the vibhīdaka tree, whose fruits were used as dice. The vibhīdaka tree belongs to the terminalia. The flower-cup of these trees is nearly identical to this sign, only the number of the pistils have been reduced from five to three. By crosschecking it was corroborated that most of the inscriptions with this sign can be affiliated to the die-hymn, ṚV X.34.
The inscription of the unicorn-seal 3006, illustrated in the beginning, can be affiliated to X.34.1. The first sign renders the dice, the second the vibhīdaka tree, the two long strokes are equal to born in the storm, the bow-sign that can be interpreted as a bowl renders to intoxicate, the last sign represents the dice-board excavation, the single stroke denotes the worst cast.
Since the game of dice had to do with mathemathics and since the seers were architects, too (cf. seal 1387), the inscription of this seal can also be read as the law of Thales: A rectangular (1) triangle (2), obtained by drawing a demicircle (5) in the middle (4) of two lines (3), is a bridge between heaven and earth (6). The bridge is the rainbow. The Indian mathematicians have always used a poetical language for their laws.
The longest inscription with the vibhīdaka-sign is found on the unicorn-seal 7122 (K-15) . But here the two circle-signs which can be read as ducks direct us to ṚV X.95.9. The vibhīdaka-sign stands for immortality then:
When a (worthy) mortal feels attracted to the immortals,
and unites with us, who have a swelling bosom, according to our will,
we polish ourselves like ducks, (like playing mares we bite).
The apsaras denoted by the rhombus-sign of seal 7122 resemble ducks or horses illustrated by the signs in brackets. The comparison with horses is probably a later interpolation, since the horse is scarcely known in the Indus civilization. Instead the donkey was used. The (worthy) mortal is a potent sacrificer rendered by the sign of the soma-vat and the seer. Immortal corresponds to the sign of the banyan-tree regarded as immortal on account of its airy roots. To come together is equal to the bow-sign. The strokes denote the seed the apsaras are longing for. The plant-sign renders their big bosom that swells like the soma-stalks in the water, the triangle-sign with a stroke stands for to unite, the last two signs are equal to the will of the water-women.
Though crosschecking does not prove that the particular reading of a sign is correct as long as the basic meaning has not been ascertained, it is indispensable for systematisation and the only way to arrive at a sign-list with lexical qualities (Richter-Ushanas 2012b; 249). This method is particularly promising and necessary in the case of identical sequences. The longest identical sequence occurring in more than fifty inscriptions is . Since the first sign can be read as horse or hero, the whole sequence can be read as may we speak as heroes to the conference of the gods. This is called the family seal (Geldner) of the Gṛtsamadas, the authors of the second book of the Veda.
The most interesting inscription is found on the unicorn-seal 3005 (H-12) which can be correlated to ṚV II.40.6:
May the incomparable goddess Aditi be benevolent to us,
may we speak as spiritual heroes in the conference of the gods!
The first two signs can be read as the incomparable goddess Aditi, the three fish-signs denote the personal pronoun referring to the seers here, the hand-sign in a circle is equal to benevolent, the hare-sign denotes the heroes, the stroke-sign to speak, the crossing-sign the conference, the cup-sign the gods.
The last four signs can also be read according to ṚV X.101.2: Put (8) your thoughts (7) on the weaving loom (9) of the gods (10)! This is similar to Yoga-Sūtra I.35 and II.45.
From the Indus seals that have been found in Mesopotamia, from the name Meluḫḫa on an Akkadian seal, on a seal from Failaka and in the Mehi area of Baluchistan, from the occurrence of similar motifs and pictograms in the Sumerian and the Indus script we can deduce that both civilizations were not only exchanging goods with each other, but that they were in a close cultural contact, too. In fact, both have their origin in the era of the bull. On account of the relatively early decline of the Indus civilization, the Indus script retained its logographic character, it did not develop into a syllabic or a letter script. The words kept their pictographic and ideographic wholeness, word and image did not become separate entities. Even the modern Sanskrit script, the Devanāgarī, has retained a logographic substrate, as it were. The letters or syllables of the alphabet are words at the same time. Thus ka means who, kha hole, ga to go, ja be born, etc.
The Veda served as an ark, as it were, by which the wisdom of the Indus civilization was saved from its destruction in the Great Flood caused by an earthquake together with a flood most probably. Through the Veda it is not only possible to read the signs of the Indus script even today, it also allows us to retrace the links between the cultures of the past and to discover the ultimate origin of the Indian philosophy and religion and of the 'mythic mind' of the Indian culture.
The rediscovery of the spiritual fundament of the ancient Indus civilization proves that the idea of sacrifice is stronger than the notion of egotism, that is at the basis of modern societies and makes them so aggressive that they do not only destroy themselves mutually, but also the natural environment to an extent never witnessed before. What are called human rights should be again examined in the light of this tradition, in order to arrive at a peaceful future of humanity.
H. Mode, Das Frühe Indien, Stuttgart 1959; Vergessene Städte am Indus, Aachen 1987; Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions; Helsinki 1991; Ute Franke-Vogt, Die Glyptik aus Mohenjo-Daro, Mainz 1995. The first numbers of the seals and tablets are from A Concordance to the Indus Inscriptions, Helsinki 1973, the numbers in brackets from the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions I to III (CISI), Helsinki 1987, 1991, 2011.
For a detailed study of the Indus script in relation to the Ṛg-Veda cf. E. Richter-Ushanas, The Message of the Indus Seals and Tablets as preserved in the Ṛg-Veda and the adjacent Traditions, Norderstedt 42012a. This monograph contains a complete list of signs too.
For general information about the Vedic and the Mesopotamian traditions cf. E. Richter-Ushanas, Die Dreigestalt des Seins und der androgyne kosmische Mensch, Nordhausen 42011b; Die sakrale Liebe im Alten und Neuen Testament und im Alten Orient, Nordhausen 32010.
There are two possibilities to read the tablets of the Easter Island script: Either by ascertaining a structural regularity on account of the repetition of certain signs or sign-sequences, or by taking recourse to the oral tradition, though it is sometimes contradictory and therefore unreliable to a certain extent. In this contribution the attention will be focused on the oral tradition, but structural rules will be considered too. The main body of the oral tradition in regard to the tablets consists of the chants of the natives Metoro Tau a Ure and Ure Vaeiko. Metoro's chants were written down by the bishop of Tahiti, F.E. (Tepano) Jaussen in about 1873. The chants of Ure Vaeiko that could not be affiliated to any tablet so far were recorded by J.W. Thomson, the paymaster of an American ship visiting the Island in 1886, on the ground of the notes of the Tahitian merchant A. Salmon. The chants of Metoro are judged by all scholars as incoherent, though not totally incomprehensible. A few passages were translated in the past only to illustrate its uselessness for the understanding of the tablets. Ure Vaeiko's chants have been translated insufficiently into English by A. Salmon.
Part of the oral tradition are a number of popular songs that have been saved from oblivion by the ethnologist K. Routledge. The Rosetta stone of the Rongorongo script, as the Easter Island script is generally called today, is contained in these songs, in particular in those songs that deal with youth initiation.
The inscriptions of the breast ornament Rei Miro 2 and of the New York birdman have been translated here on the ground of this oral tradition. A sign-list elaborated by bishop Jaussen in 1893 turned out to be indispensable for the translation of these texts as well as of Metoro's chants, after it had been adjusted to the sign-lists published by the German ethnologist Th. Barthel in 1958 and 1963. As an example of Metoro's chants his reading of the first two lines of the tablet Aruku Kurenga are presented to the reader.
When in the 1870ties bishop T. Jaussen made the first attempt to decipher the Easter Island script called Rongorongo nowadays, because the sticks and tablets (kohau) on which it is inscribed were chanted (rongorongo), he had the assistance of the native speaker Metoro Tau a Ure who was working on a plant in Tahiti at that time. Four tablets, known under the names of Aruku Kurenga, Tahua, Keiti and Mamari, were read to him by Metoro, and by comparing his readings word for word with the signs Jaussen elaborated a list of 253 signs and ligatures known as Jaussen-list (J). It was published posthumously by Alazard in 1893 and reproduced by Wolff (1973: 66-77) and Heyerdahl (1965: Fig. 85-94). Though the bishop explained the signs in this list at first in Rapanui, the language of Easter Island - the island is called Rapa Nui nowadays -, and then in French, Jaussen was not able to find out a meaning in Metoro's reading of the tablets. Alazard, the publisher of his book, was of the same opinion, and illustrated this by translating the first line of the tablet Aruku Kurenga (Heyerdahl 1965: 353). When 40 years later the reputed ethnologist and expert of Rapanui, S.H. Ray, studied this line carefully he arrived at the same result (1932: 153-155).
It even appears, as if Metoro was not interested in revealing the secrets of the script to a foreigner. It is also possible, however, that Metoro had a feeling of respect for the bishop, and that he only relied upon the method, by which he had himself learnt the script from his teachers on Easter Island. At any rate, the bishop saw only a bulk of words and short sentences quite similar to a dictionary. Already on account of the length of the chants he thought it inappropriate to publish them. Most likely he had objections against the contents, too, since he could not have failed to notice the sexual meaning of many words. This may be the reason, why he did not invite Metoro for a second session. In spite of these circumstances, he made his list, of which he believed that it would make Metoro's chants intelligible.
The ethnopsychologist W. Wolff tried in 1945 to read the first three lines of the tablet Aruku Kurenga on the ground of Jaussen's word-list (1973: 80-104) having access to Metoro's reading in a corrupted form only. Though his 'translation' - the first line is mainly based on Ray's - contains several mistakes and does not go much beyond simple word-renderings, it is obvious that Metoro's chants are not completely meaningless. Wolff regarded Metoro as a competent interpreter therefore (1973: 90), though on the other hand he deemed it possible that the natives were consciously misleading the ethnologists (1973: 62). That Metoro, just because he is a competent interpreter could make himself understandable to the bishop only in the frame of the bishop's limits of thought, is not taken into consideration by Wolff.
Eight years later, P. A. Lanyon-Orgill tried to translate the tablets Atua Mata Riri (Small Washington Tablet) and Mamari after Wolff's example with the help of the Jaussen-list only. Metoro's chant of the tablet Mamari was unknown to him and his transcriptions of the tablets were quite insufficient. Hence he could not achieve verifiable results, though he looked on the matter from the right point of view.
Thirteen years after Wolff's and only five years after Lanyon-Orgill's rather fruitless attempts the renowned German ethnologist Th. Barthel published Metoro's four chants for the first time in total, but without a translation in his monograph on the Easter Island script in 1958. The list of about 700 signs that was published by him at the same place as an appendix has no explanations either. The translations from the tablets scattered in the monograph and his later attempts to read the script are confined to short quotations. In the sign-list of 1963 only 170 signs are explained, partly based on Metoro's readings, partly on arbitrary epigraphic suppositions.
It is unrealistic to expect to obtain the meaning of whole tablets or of whole lines even by only translating short passages relying on a small number of signs. Such a method cannot be called scientific either. S. R. Fischer (1997: 228) looks upon Bathel's scientifically uncontrollable explanations as a house of cards built on sand, the sand being Metoro. But Metoro cannot be held responsible for Barthel's explanations, since they are mostly his own conjectures.
Independent of Barthel's publication of Metoro's readings, Th. Heyerdahl studied Jaussen's manuscripts kept at Grottafera near Rome. Irritated by the fact that different signs can have the same and identical or nearly identical signs a different meaning, he remarked that it would seem to be a disavowal of Metoro's abilities as tangata rongorongo man, if one tried to read from his information intelligible stories (1965:381).
It took nearly 30 years till Heyerdahl's verdict was confirmed by the detailed scientific investigation of Metoro's chants through the Russian
ethnologist and expert of Rapanui, I.K. Fedorova (1986: 238-254). But in her 'evidence based on circumstances', by which she tries to show that Metoro's readings are deceitful, she has made several mistakes, which we shall discuss later. Besides, she has only given an interlinear translation of the first line of the tablet Aruku Kurenga like her predecessors apart from some examples taken from here and there of Metoro's readings. Moreover, she confines herself to the investigation of the realm of rational knowledge, as she admits herself (1986: 253). In a way, this is contradictory to her enthusiastic panegyric on the creative abilities of the Soviet researchers at the end of her article, since creativity cannot be confined to the realm of rationality. S.R. Fischer follows Fedorova in his judgement on Metoro's chants (1997: 53), without testing her arguments.
After considering that bishop Jaussen wanted to know the meaning of each single sign and making hence no demands contrarily to this preposition, Metoro's chants are the best means to study the Rongorongo script. Having undertaken the necessary efforts it will become clear that a coherent translation can be afforded without relying too much on fantasy, because each chant deals with a certain category. They are sometimes even composed according to the rule of tension, climax and balance found in all works of poetry and music. It can be assumed, therefore, that Metoro did his best to explain the meaning of the signs to Jaussen. We have to recognize, however, that he has often rendered them indirectly or metaphorically. It is unimportant in this regard, whether different signs have the same meaning and same signs a different meaning. This is the case with all symbolic systems of writing.
Metoro would not have deceived the bishop, even if he would have read the same tablet in a different way a few days later, he would have done it, however, if he would have read it exactly in the same way. At any rate, he reads a nearly identical sequence of signs on the tablets Keiti and Mamari nearly identical. Beyond doubt, he was competent to read the tablets, too, because he was taught in his youth by three teachers of Rongorongo (Fischer 1997: 49).
Metoro need not fear the consequences of violating the taboo connected with the tablets either, since after the year 1862, when most of the islanders and among them nearly all Rongorongo experts were brought as slaves to Peru and died there or on the way back of smallpox, nobody was there to punish him after his return to Easter Island. To read a syllabic writing is not more difficult than reading a letter script, if one is conversant with the oral tradition and the symbolic conception behind the pictograms. Therefore, even boys were taught to read and write the Rongorongo script.
In 1886, W.J. Thomson, the paymaster of an American warship, was able to persuade the native Ure Vaeiko to read photographs of the tablets that had been brought by him to the Island as a loan of bishop Jaussen. Ure Vaeiko had been a cook of Ngaara, the last independent king of Easter Island, who died around 1850, and had learnt the script from the king directly.
But Ure Vaeiko's readings did not promote the understanding of the tablets at all, since they were apparently not related to them. Moreover, the transcription of the original language of Easter Island and its translation into English is full of mistakes. Many words were misunderstood by Thomson's translator A. Salmon, a Tahitian of Jewish origin, who owned a sheep station on Rapa Nui at that time.
Another source that could be helpful in understanding the script is the oral tradition in general, but besides the names of some tablets only the beginning of a tablet called he timo te akoako has been recorded apparently. It was quoted by the natives, whenever they were asked to recite the contents of the tablets and was even given as a name to all tablets (Fischer 1997: 272). A traditional song going under this name has been recorded by Routledge in several versions (Fischer 1994: 415-417) and a short rendering of it is contained in manuscript A in Latin writing collected by Heyerdahl (1965: Fig 127), but the text is regarded as being unintelligible (Fedorova 1965: 401). Other manuscripts that have been written in Latin (B to F) have been translated, but had no effect on the understanding of Rongorongo.
The at first sight promising attempt to compare the Easter Island script with the outwardly similar-looking Indus script undertaken by de Hevesy (1933) does not find the approval of modern scholars anymore, mostly on account of many faults in his transcription of the Indus signs. At any rate, it is not helpful for the decipherment of each of the scripts, because he has compared the unknown with the unknown. S. R. Fischer admits, however, that de Hevesy opened up a whole new era of scientific interest in Rongorongo (1957:153). Scholars who criticise de Hevesy often do not notice that in the title of his lecture held on this topic he has spoken of 'paraissant', appearing, in relation to the similarity of the two writings. The most important point of objection is, however, that even if the signs of the Indus script were similar to Rongorongo signs, they need not have the same meaning. The same can be said of the similarities between the Indus script and the Hittite script discovered by Meriggi (1938).
De Hevesy, for instance, compares the Rongorongo sign for sky with the Indus sign for the leaf of the pipal (fig)-tree with additional strokes that lend it the appearance of a maple-leaf, but need not change its basic meaning. The tree represented by the leaf and the sky can be related to each other, if the tree is regarded as the world tree, but this concept is unknown to the oral tradition of Easter Island. The elements of the Rongorongo sign for sky are the sign for white and for hibiscus that cannot be regarded as a candidate for the world tree.
In view of these failures, the greatest hope to read the Rongorongo script is still resting on the discovery of similarities between the oral and the written tradition. Although the oral tradition is unreliable, as is pointed out beforehand by many ethnologists and linguists, eventually by S.R. Fischer (1997: 268), it can be said with security, that what is written in the tablets is known at least to a certain extent from the oral tradition.
If anywhere, the Rosetta stone of Rongorongo lies in the discovery of such similarities. Fischer mentions the song-tradition in this monograph, too (1997: 304). Only on the ground of the oral tradition a complete reading of the tablets can be afforded, which was also called for by Barthel (1958: 224), without he himself being able to do it. Induced by Ure Vaeiko's chant Atua Mata Riri Fischer discovered a cosmogonic formula on the Santiago-staff and other tablets, rendered by him as X1YZn. This may be a breakthrough, as he calls it, from the point of view of his structural method, even the most important after Barthel's monograph, but it is not more than a contribution to the decipherment, not the decipherment itself. Fischer speaks himself of a second breakthrough after the first discovery (1997: 260). There are many further breakthroughs necessary, before one can say that the script of Easter Island can be called deciphered. One thing, however, has been confirmed by Fischer's explorations: The Easter Island signs form a script. They are not merely mnemonic devices nor lists of ancestors nor purely ornamentic. Nor are they reproductions of constellations, as it is maintained by the hobby-astronomer and designer M. Dietrich (1998; 1999). The Jaussen-list does contain signs for star(s) and the Milky Way, but the only constellation named there is that of the Pleiads. Besides, the Belt of Orion is mentioned by Metoro several times. The Pleiads and Orion are spring-constellations on Easter Island and they are related to youth initiation therefore.
The Rongorongo script cannot be compared to Hawaiian cloth patterns either that are called a script by L. Melville (1986: 109). Since cloth patterns cannot render grammatical forms, they do not deserve the name writing. Generally, the Rongorongo signs can easily be recognized as men, animals and plants, implements and geographica. This would not be sufficient to call them a script, however. For this the ability of rendering grammatical constructions at least in a rudimentary form is required, which cannot be afforded by cloth patterns or constellations.
Since this condition is fulfilled by the reading of the Rongorongo signs through Metoro and Ure Vaeiko, it is justified to call Rongorongo the only script that exists in the huge Pacific area.
Beside the tablets, of which 21 have been retained in a more or less good condition, there are a four other objects incised with Rongorongo script, the breast ornament Rei Miro 1 (with two signs), the breast ornament Rei Miro 2 (with 43 signs), a snuff-box (Fischer 1997: 429) and the figure of a birdman. Except the snuffbox all artefacts were published by Barthel in his monograph in the transcriptions of the americanist B. Spranz. Fischer's new transcriptions (1997: 403-508) display a great number of improvements, because they are based on the originals and not on photographs and plasters that were used by Spranz. Fischer did not numeralize the signs, however. This means that Barthel's numeralizations have still to be used, as Fischer himself does.
Before I ventured to approach the comparatively long texts of the tablets, I thought it recommendable to study the shorter material. For this purpose, the single line of the breast ornament Rei Miro 2 is especially suitable. Its study yielded a meaningful result to me at the very beginning, though several details remained unintelligible. Meanwhile, the former translation has been proved to be wrong in many aspects, its formal criteria have been retained until now, however. After translating the breast ornament I looked for identical passages in the recitations of Ure Vaeiko and of Metoro. Eventually, I discovered the model of Ure Vaeiko's Love Song (Thomson 1889: 526) with the help of the sign for woman in the tablet Tahua. This discovery led to a provisional translation of the tablets Keiti and Aruku Kurenga on the ground of the Jaussen-list. The comparison with Metoro's readings made it clear, however, that much better results can be obtained by translating them directly from the Rapanui text.
Even Fischer admits that these readings are not Metoro's invention, but that they are based on the oral tradition (1997: 52). Barthel has indeed discovered Bruchstücke echter Tradition [parts of genuine traditions] herein (1958: 210). Therefore I read these 'fragments' in the light of this tradition, dim as it may be, to find a common ground either philological or epigraphical, through which the category of a line can be ascertained. Fischer relates the category to a complete tablet, but it can be affiliated to a line as well. Line and tablet can consist of several categories. The tablet can be named after the main category of the first line. When the meaning of a number of signs has been ascertained, the rest of the line can be translated in accordance with it. In this way, the fragments or the signs and words of a line are becoming notes of a melody, as it were. Harmony was explained by the Greeks already as the putting together of sherds. Metoro's chants require the same hermeneutic endeavour that is given to the interpretation of texts of the ancient literature, but hitherto it was not believed that they deserve the same attention. Hermeneutic means here as well as there to discover the hidden meaning. There remains a 'heuristic rest', no doubt, that is inexplicable, but such a rest is even found in mathematics. The underestimation, and even disregard of Metoro's chants is partly due to the fact that they do not coincide with our conception of sound and melody, that means with our conception of what is logical. This requires even more philological endeavour and consistent examination of the results. And as in the case of other cultures it is necessary here to study the language as well as the oral tradition of the people, to which the texts belong. This includes the whole Polynesian culture here.
To learn the native idiom of Rapanui I had to my disposal the vocabulary attached to his book on Easter Island by W. Churchill (1912), J. Fuentes' grammar and vocabulary, Pater S. Englert's Rapanui grammatica y diccionario (1978), Stimson's Tuamotu-dictionary (1964), the Tahiti grammar and dictionary of bishop Jaussen (1949), the Marquesan grammar and dictionary of Dordillon (1931) and the grammar of modern Rapanui by V. Du Feu (1996) that contains a small vocabulary, too. Quite helpful were the grammatical notes in Fedorova's articles (1965; 1986). Sometimes the comparison with other Polynesian languages can deliver interesting results, as was shown by Bierbach/Cain. The proto-Polynesian word list, compiled by Biggs and Walsh (1966), can sometimes be used as an additional dictionary. The passive voice that is said to be historical by Du Feu (1996: 150) is frequently used by Metoro. Many of the words occurring in his chants are not contained in the dictionaries, either because they are obsolete or because they have been incorrectly rendered by Jaussen. In these cases crosschecking, besides asking the natives, is the most promising means to secure their meaning. The latter way has become quite easy, as some of them live in Germany, and some of them still know their native language.
In this paper, we shall confine us to the single line of the breast ornament Rei Miro 2, the seven short lines of the wooden figure of the New York birdman and the first two lines of the tablet Aruku Kurenga. All of them have to do with the initiation of boys and girls. Barthel's opinion that girls are almost never mentioned in the tablets (1958: 322) has been proved as wrong.
Before studying these events in detail, we shall have a look on the oral tradition in regard to the history of Easter Island. The first report of the settlement of the Island goes also under the name of J.W. Thomson, but the real author is probably A. Salmon, since the original in Rapanui is missing here. In greater detail this tradition has been dealt with by K. Routledge (1919), A. Métraux (1940) and Th. Barthel (1958). The first archaeological research was carried out by Th. Heyerdahl and his group (1965). The history of whole Polynesia was investigated by P. Bellwood (1978). The modern state of research is rendered by S.R. Fischer in his monograph (1997). Thomson writes on this matter (1889: 526):
The island was discovered by King Hotu-matua, who came from the land in the direction of the rising sun, with two large double canoes and three hundred chosen followers. They brought with them potatoes, yams, bananas, tobacco, sugarcane, and the seeds of various plants, including the paper-mulberry and the toromiro trees. The first landing was made on the islet of Motu Nui, on the north coast, and there the first food was cooked that had not been tasted for one hundred and twenty days. The next day the queen started in one of the canoes to explore the coast to the Northwest, while the other canoe, in charge of the king, rounded the island to the Southeast. At Anakena Bay the two canoes met and, attracted by the smooth sand-beach, Hotu-matua landed and named the island te pito o te henua or the navel of the deep. The queen landed and immediately afterwards gave birth to a boy, who was named Tuuma-heke. The landing place was named Anakena in honor of the month of August, in which the island was discovered. All the plants brought in the canoes were used for seed, and the people immediately began the cultivation of the ground. For the first three months they subsisted entirely upon fish, turtle, and the nuts of a creeping plant found growing along the ground, which was named moki-oone.
The second part of the name of Hotu-matua means father, the first part is not listed in the dictionaries. Barthel renders in his second sign-list (1963: 430) the sign B 37 (J 111, J 205), two small circles above each other hanging on a line, as hotu, without translating it. In the article going along with the sign-list, he explains it as 'bearing fruit (1963: 388) and relates it to Hotu-matua in a note. The word hotu does not occur in the Jaussen-list. In line Ab6,60 where it occurs as annexe of the sign for water (B 70) Metoro reads it as hotu, however, where it can be translated as to flow or to swell. This would also agree with Metoro's frequent reading kovare, afterbirth (J 205). Mostly, the sign B 37 is fixed to the sign B 5/J 136 for hibiscus or follows it. From the botanical point of view it could be explained as a branch of the hibiscus. This could be referred to as ira, creeper, in J 111 of the Jaussen-list, which is not used by Metoro, however.
In the lines Er9 and Ca1 he reads it as an image for the heaped up white sand, out of which the god Make-make created Hina, the first woman. With regard to the Make-make-myth and in connection with water the name Hotu-matua can be explained as 'the father whose seed (abundantly) flows'. This is indeed related to fertility, for which the god Make-make and the king were responsible.
It is interesting to note that the Sanskrit word pitar, father, can be derived from the root pi, let swell, let run (the seed). Fischer's explanation of the name through the variant Hatu-matua (1997.3: 109) is not convincing, since the relation to Mangareva, on which it is based, is conjectural. He also wants to replace Hotu-matua by Tuu-ko-Iho, who is the leader of the second boat according to a later tradition (Métraux 1940: 63), but Tuu-ko-Iho has quite different connotations in the oral tradition. In particular, he is known as the inventor of the script (Métraux 1940: 65).
The directions are not stated correctly, Motu-nui lies in the southwest of Easter Island (Métraux 1940: 8,60). Hotu-matua steered from there to the right along the northwest coast, as it is stated by Métraux's informant Tepano, but wrongly translated by Métraux. This means that Hotu-matua came from the west. Heyerdahl argues on the ground of the main draft of the sea (1969: 204), that the two boats must have come from the opposite direction, but then they would have arrived at the east of the Island.
The two double canoes are nowhere mentioned on the tablets that were recited by Metoro. The sign B 100, that Barthel explains as such (1963: 433), is read by Metoro in line Bv3 of the tablet Aruku Kurenga as (two) sticks, on account of the feather that is attached to it. The name of Hotu-matua is read by him in line Br1 of the tablet Aruku Kurenga, where the birth of his eldest and youngest son are mentioned too. The fruit moki-oone is unknown today. Oone means sand. Perhaps it was a cactus or peanut. With regard to the sign V48 on the breast ornament it could be the pod of a mimosa or a gourd.
According to Thomson, Hotu-matua arrived on the island with 67 inscribed tablets or sticks (1889: 514). Instead of 67, however, six or seven were meant probably (tae atuinstead of te kau-atu) and not tablets, but sticks are told of, since tablets were only used in later times. Though the number may be exaggerated, there is no reason to attribute the origin of the script to another source than that of the first settlers. If the script was only invented after the visit of the Spanish ship in the year 1770, as is maintained by S.R. Fischer (1997: 367), the inventor of the script would certainly be known by his historical name and there would be no need to replace it by a legendary name like Tuu-ko-Iho. Moreover, there are no similarities between the Easter Island script and the European, as is admitted by Fischer (1997: 375). Above all it is not a letter script. History renders no example for a true symbolic writing having developed from a letter script. This would mean to roll back the cycle of history. And why is it supposed that only the script is dependant on a European origin, why not the works of art, too?
Though no European influence on the script can be maintained, there are strong arguments for a contact of the Polynesians with the Indo-Javanese Madhajapahit-culture. By this reason, it can also be explained that the signs the Maoris of New Zewland wrote under the treaty of Waitangi (Fischer 1997: 5) have certain similarities with the Javanese Kawi script. Moreover, the number of the signs is identical and the Maori signs were arranged in three columns of twice of 13 and once of 11 signs like an alphabet. The final swastika has also been borrowed from India. Signs and tattoos in relation to youth initiation have been found as petroglyphs on the Marquesas (Gell 1993: Fig. 4-5; Linton 1925: Plate XIII-XV). They did not lead to the development of a script, however, as it happened on Easter Island.
The Indo-Javanese Kawi script can be regarded as its ultimate cause, because it has retained some features of a word script like the Brāhmī script. The purpose of tattoo, to protect the bearer against evil spirits (Gell 1993: 192), is similar to the purpose of the Indus and Mesopotamian seals. To protect means pa/pale in Proto-Polynesian like Sanskrit pā/pāla. The Maori name papafor the mother earth can be translated as 'double (i.e. strongly) protecting'. Moreover, the redoubled Kawi sign for pa is identical to the structure of the most frequent Marquesan tattoo-motif.
Metoro mentions in line Ab8 of the tablet Tahua the names of the two tuhungas Kahui and Kahui Manava and the kings Hira-kau-te-hito, Horo-ka-rua and Riri-ka-tea. The latter two are rendered in all genealogies (Wolff 1973: 16) as the greatgreatgrandfather and the greatgrandfather of king Ngaara. If we suppose that these names refer to the time of the invention of the script, it would mean that tablet Tahua, that is held to be one of the youngest tablets, because it is incised on a European oar, was incised at the time of the English buccaneer Edward Davis at least 100 years earlier than the arrival of the Spaniards.
The oar can be from his ship, too. Hira-kau-te-Hito lived several generations earlier than Horokarua, but only three generations after the tuhungas mentioned in all genealogies, who are separated from Hotu-matua by nine or ten generations of kings. This means that they must have lived approximately 200 years after Hotu-matua. Most likely they gave the script, invented by Tuu-ko-Iho already in the time of Hotu-matua's father Riri-ka-tea, its present form. It is certainly not only accidental that the name of Hotu-matua's father is identical to the name of the greatgrandfather of Ngaara.
The remembrance of the former country is still extant in the readings of Metoro and Ure Vaeiko, but it is wrapped in the form of the events that happened on the island itself. This is especially true for the youth initiation, that belonged to the most important events in the life of the natives. Therefore it occupies an important place on the tablets and the Santiago-staff, too. This is corroborated by Barthel's list of the frequency of the signs (1958: 165). On the mountain of Orongo, where it took place, the warriors assembled too, as it is reported by Ure Vaeiko in the tablet called Apai by Thomson. Here the great wars started, that originated mostly in the violation of a taboo. One of the most important taboo was the virginity of the secluded girls called neru. Only the timo, the leading shaman of the Island, who was also in charge of the circumcision of the male youths, of making rain, of announcing blood vengeance and of the mummification and burial of the death, had the duty of the first intercourse for making rain, as it is reported in the tablets read by Metoro.
The development of the script in the time of the tuhungas would also explain, why there are several signs in the script whose counterpart does not exist on Easter Island, notably the frigate-bird and several plants. This view is not contradicted by the fact that certain petroglyphs have been incised only after the contact with the Europeans, on the contrary, it proves that the tradition remained alive even after this historical date. That the most complicated signs are found on the staff of Santiago, can also be explained by the work of the tuhungas. These signs were forgotten after some time. That may be the reason, why Ure Vaeiko could not read some of these old signs (Fischer 1997: 93).
As the greatest war on the island, Thomson (1889: 528-29) reports the fight of the short-ears (hanau moko - the thin ones) and the long-ears (hanau-eepe - the big ones):
Many years passed after the death of Hotu-matua, the island was about equally divided between his descendants and the long-eared race, and between them a deadly feud raged. Long and bloody wars were kept up, and great distress prevailed on account of the destruction and neglect of the crops. This unsatisfactory state of affairs was brought to an end, after many years' fighting, by a desperate battle, in which the long-ears had planned the utter annihilation of their enemies. A long and deep ditch was dug across Hotu-iti and covered with brushwood, and into this the long-ears arranged to drive their enemies, when the brushwood was to be set on fire and every man exterminated. The trap was found out, and the plan circumvented by opening the battle prematurely and in the night. The long-ears were driven into the ditch they had built, and murdered to a man.
The reason of the war, not mentioned by Thomson, is stated by Métraux's informant Tepano (1940: 69):
He ki te Hanau-eepe ki te Hanau-momoko: "Ka oho mai korua ki amo tatou i te maea ki kaho[kaho] ki te tai. "He hakahoki te Hanau-momoko ki te Hanau-eepe: "Ina eko amo te maea mai [ma i] runga mai [ma i] te henua nei, hakarere no mo te kai, mo te rau, mo te maika, mo te tao, mo hakamamae ana tupu. "He hakarere, ina kai amo. He haka rere ro avai. He noho. He manau te hanau-eepe mo te Hanau-momoko o te tae hauu i te [h]angai te ahu. He Hanau-eepe ana te [h]anga tahi i te ahu oira i riri ai roto te manava mo te Hanau-momoko.
The long-ears said to the short-ears: "Come, let us carry stones to the shore of Kaokao." The short-ears answered the long-ears: "We do not want to carry the stones to that place there above, we want to leave them here for the food, for the plants, for the bananas, for the sugarcane, for those, who suffer, when they have grown up." They left them there, they did not carry them away. They left them there for ever. They stayed. The long-ears were angry with the short-ears, because they did not help them to erect the tomb (ahu). The long-ears were enraged in their stomach, because they had to erect the tomb alone.
Those, who suffer, when they have grown up, are certainly not the plants - why should they suffer? -, but the adolescents who were going to be tattooed in the course of initiation. The stones that the long-ears want to make use of to erect their tombs, are taboo, because they are inscribed with vulva-signs that secured the fertility of the land according to the belief of the short-ears, as can be deduced from the inscription of the breast ornament. Therefore they are against using them for a tomb of the long-ears. In the following war fertility wins the victory over death. As a result, the vulva-signs were incised on the rocks as before. The ditch that was dug by the long-ears is a symbol of the devouring vulva.
There is neither a sign for long-ears nor for short-ears in the script, there is only a sign for a long-necked bird. The circles on both sides of the head of the signs B 200-299, that are explained by Barthel as ears (1958: 259), are more probably symbolizing a feather-hat. At any rate, they are not long ears, as it is maintained by Esen-Baur (1983: 314). There are numerous great statues with long ears, however. This corroborates that the script got its present form only after the end of this war. The erecting of the statues stopped in the 15th century (Bellwood 1978: 370). Certainly not all of the long-ears were killed then, since Cook met many of them in 1774 (Métraux 1940: 73). The long-ears had only lost their ruling position. The custom of the elongation of the ears died out only after the contact with the Europeans in the 1850ties.
The burning of the long-ears is archaeologically confirmed by a layer of ashes found in the ditch that separates the peninsula Poike from the rest of the island (Murril 1965: 316). According to this discovery the war ended around 1676 ± 100. If we take the earlier date, it would mean that the script was given its present form at the end of the 16th century, i.e. 100 years before the arrival of Davis. That there were not found any remnants of a conflagration by recent Chilean investigations of the area (Van Tilburg 1994: plate 6), proves that the people who have told this story have exaggerated a great deal. According to Métraux (1940: 71-74), the long-ears and the short-ears were not two different races, as Heyerdahl supposes (1969: 76), but arrived together with Hotu-matua and lived side to side with the short-ears on the island in the beginning. Only in later time they occupied a separate area in Poike.
It is recorded in an oral tradition that there were people on the island before the arrival of Hotu-matua (Barthel 1974: 14). According to the archaeological investigations the settlement of the island took place between the 7th and the 8th century of our era, linguistic investigations state the 3rd century even (Fischer 1997: 366). The settlers were Polynesians, at any rate. Though Easter Island is far away from any other settled island, more than one settlement in the course of 1000, if not 1500 years is quite imaginable and with regard to the sea-worthiness of the Polynesian boats even likely. Barthel stuck unto his last days to his opinion that Hotu-matua arrived at the island in the 14th century (Fischer 1997: 642, n. 18). The opinion that the Island was settled twice is also advocated by H.-M. Esen-Baur with god reasons (1989: 107; 1993: 151).
The homeland of Hotu-matua called Hiva is said to be a rich country and inhabited by ghosts. It is reported of being situated in the west of Easter Island. Hiva is a name for the Marquesas, too, that are rather poor islands, however. In Marquesian the word means 'far away' and may have been given to the new living place in memory of the earlier homeland of the Marquesians (being in the West, too). The original homeland of the ghosts and the country of affluence can be the Society Islands or Samoa with the greatest likeliness. This would also agree with the time of 120 days for the voyage that is stated by Thomson, since the Polynesian double canoes had an average speed of 100 miles per day (Best 1924: 36). The Rapanui meaning 'foreign country' for Hiva and its affiliation to the small islands of Sala y Gomez that are only inhabited by birds is of late date (Bierbach/Cain 1988: 402). Nowadays Hiva is identified with South America. Through this shift of meaning the Europeans can be related to the ancestors, as it is done in the cargo cult.
The breast ornament was transcribed and numeralized by Barthel under the letter L (1958: 40,41). Since there is no paraphrase of Metoro for this artefact, my interpretation is solely based on the Jaussen-list after having adjusted it to Barthel's transcriptions. My philological explanations are given in round, the textual explanations in square brackets. Barthel's transcription of the signs was compared with Fischer's and corrected, if necessary. The same rules are applied to the other transcriptions. In Barthel's transcription of the breast ornament the first ligatures and the fusions B 545:51 (B 545 corresponds to J 45a) and B 51:48 (vulva/mountain) are not drawn correctly. Hence I render this line in Fischer's transcription (1997: 492):
1. [607:3] frigate-bird (take), feather-stick - 2. [607:71] frigate-bird, plant(poporo) - 3. 66 sugarcane (J 96) - 4. V71 plant (for hanging up) - 5. 2 good (thing) - 6. 306s.3 man, feather-stick - 7. 2 earth/sacrifial ground - 8. 376 eating (grasping) man (J 225) - 9. 4 niche, rock - 10. 780 prostrated girl - 11. V71 plant (toromiro) - 12. V48 gourd (J 74a/J 102d) - 3. V48 - 14. V48 - 15. 1.10 earth/stick (to cultivate) - 16. 380.V48 eating man, gourd - 17. 216s man with lifted hands: to work (J 216)/to do the particular thing - 18. V124a blooming gourd - 19. V124b blooming toromiro-tree - 20. 545.678a cool (J 45)/small; beak hanging down[be ready to let be seen, to show (hakarava J 198)] - 21. 430 sooty tern (J 61) with egg - 22. V408° sooty tern with feather sitting on an egg - 23. 400° young bird with feather - 24. V193° young bird with a cross and feather designating initiation - 25. V607 frigate-bird [timo] sitting on the head of a small bird - 26. V700 fish - 27. 115 = 51:48 vulva/rock - 28. V670 bird with feather and long neck: let be seen/let be grasped - 29. 115 - 30. V470 - 31. 51t birdman with head bowed down [for inspecting a vulva] - 32. 2.678a good (thing), beak hanging down [be ready to let be seen] - 33.51 - 34. [545:51] cool/small vulva - 35. 700 - 36. 51 - 37. 20.10 rocky place, stick: incise (J 133 and J 118) - 38. 51 - 39. 11 land with navel[Te Pito Te Henua] - 40. 51 - 41. 11 land with crater - 42. 51 - 43. 48 - 44. 51.
The take-bird carries the feather-stick, the take-bird carries the poporo-plant,
the sugarcane is hung up (at the entrance of the house) for the good thing.
The man with the feather-stick/the timo comes to the sacrificial ground,
he goes to the girl lying prostrated on the rock.
He plants the toromiro tree and the gourds
on the earth with the stick, he eats the gourd.
The man with the red string/the timo does the particular thing,
he goes to the blossoming plants [like the god Make-make to the gourd],
he goes to the cool girl, [the girl, whose vulva is small], when she sleeps.
When the sooty tern has come, when it sits on the egg,
when the young bird with the feather-hat flies to the rock for initiation,
the frigate-bird/the timo will sit on the young bird.
After the incision of the fish, after the vulva has been inspected,
after the vulva has been pierced,
after the good thing (the vulva) has been grasped,
the fish and the vulva are carved on the rock.
If the vulva is small, they incise (the sign of) the vulva on the rock.
The girl's vulva is the navel of the earth,
the girl's vulva is the navel of the earth,
the girl's vulva on the hill, the girl's vulva.
Lanyon-Orgill's supposition, that on account of the plant-signs and the bird-signs the text of the breast ornament describes a vegetation-ceremony (1953.1: 85), is principally correct. It must be added, however, that the ceremony deals with youth initiation (take). The adolescents partaking therein were also called take or takaor poki manu, bird child (Routledge 1919: 267), moa, cock/hen and tamaiti, child. Moa, cock or hen, is also used in Ure Vaeiko's lamentation song of the father for his child (Thomson 1889: 525). In the Jaussen-list we find moa rikiriki, hen with chickens (J 65).
For the girls the initiation ritual started with the examination of their vulva. For this purpose they went up to the hill of Orongo, climbed on a rock there and presented it to two Rongorongo-men, who ascertained whether it was small (teketeke), i.e. whether the girls were still virgins (Métraux 1940: 105; Barthel 1958: 282; Fischer 1997: 295, 334). Both, the hill of Orongo and the rock, are rendered by the sign of the hill on the breast ornament. The signs B 470 is equal to J 54 and J 198. The elongated neck or beak indicates the readiness of the girl to let her vulva be grasped, to let it be examined by the stick of the Rongorongo-men.
This is expressed by the verb taha, be ready, or by the causative form hakarava, to let be known, to show. Metoro renders this ceremony in Br10 as e tangata hanga era ki te mea ke - the man does the particular work. The man is the Rongorongo-man here. When the vulva was found to be small, its sign (B 51) was carved in the rock, on which the girl was standing.
In the end of the inscription of the breast ornament, the girl's vulva is compared to the navel of the earth, te pito te henua, which is also the poetical name given to Easter Island by the natives. It refers to the craters of the island, particularly to the great crater Rano Kao at Orongo, that was seen by Haumaka, the tattoo-master of Hotu-matua, in a dream, before the discovery of the island (Métraux 1940: 57).
From the variant pito te rangi, navel of the sky (Br1) the name Easter Island was probably derived. That the island was discovered at Easter, is not sufficient to explain its name. Salmon's explanation of Te Pito te Henua in Thomson's report of the arrival of Hotu-matua is philologically untenable.
The political name Rapa Nui is explained by Fuentes (1960: 835) as a loan-word from Tahiti being given to Easter island by Tahitian visitors. Its meaning in Tahitian language is 'flat board' and may have been given to Easter Island in comparison with the much higher hills of Tahiti. But rapa nui means great paddle in Rapanui and may refer to the paddles painted with the head of Make-make being found in a house of Orongo (Routledge 1919: Fig.105; Métraux 1940: 203).
From the modern point of view the ceremony of inspecting the girl's virginity may appear degrading, but the Polynesian notion of human individuality is different from ours on account of another conception of the human soul (Käser 1977: 31). On Samoa, too, the girls were deflorated manually on a public, i.e. sacred place (Gell 1993: 83). The virgin possessed great power (mana) in the Easter Island society. Therefore one wanted to make sure that she was virgin indeed. For this examination it would have been sufficient to look at her vulva, because no girl would have dared to show it to a Rongorongo-man, if she was not a virgin any more. But it is written in the tablets and confirmed by the oral tradition, that a stick was taken for this purpose. The Rongorongo-men were only in charge of the examination of the girl's vulva and the defloration. Some selected virgins were sent to the timo for the first sexual intercourse. The pubescent girl plays a prominent part in fertility and self-realization also in the Indian cosmogony and in the Euleusian mysteries of the Greek.
It is said on tablet Tahua that the examination of the virginity of the girls who are compared to the Pleiads there was done by an old woman as in other tribal societies. According to S. Freud the rite was carried out by an old man to save the husband of the virgin's vengeance for the loss of her virginity and the pain going along with it (1947: 172), but the pain is negligible and the defloration is highly desired by the girl. The question is, why a man of dignity had to do this. Apart from the relation to fertility the reason could be that the act meant no or very little pleasure for the old man except the timo. The Rongorongo-men had to use a stick even for defloration, which had no hygienic implications, as we nowadays are apt to believe. So the old men were not envied, especially by the old women, but paid for their task. The relation between the timo and a virgin who stayed with him for a short time, often only for one night, was not based on love as we expect of a girl for the man whom she has selected for her defloration and first sexual intercourse done at the same occasion normally. Boys and girls had a natural inclination to old men of dignity like the timo in that time, even if there occurred some sort of resistance now and then. Therefore they were called taha, inclined. The ritual of defloration independent of the first sexual intercourse of the girls and the incision that the boys had to undergo, were invented by the wisdom of god Make-make as said in line Ev8 of tablet Keiti. It is indeed wise from the biological and the sociological point of view, though we may not believe it. But do we have a better solution? The article on youth sexuality in the magazine stern 7.2004, p.48 proves the contrary.
The incision of the boys is also known from Tahiti (Oliver 1874: 434) and the Marquesas (Linton 1925: 41). For this procedure a needle or small knife would have been sufficient, nevertheless Metoro often speaks of the adze as the basic instrument of fertility in this connection. After the initiation of a boy a fish was carved in the rock.
Like on other Polynesian islands a great feast was celebrated together with the ceremony of initiation, in which the warriors participated, too. At this opportunity kava was drunken, the pepper methysticum of the Polynesians. It must have been brought to the Island by Hotu-matua. How long it survived there is unknown. In later time, it was replaced by the poporo-plant (solanum nigrum).
The third sign of the breast ornament can either be read as sugarcane and refer to the custom of hanging up a twig at the door when the girl in the house is grown up that is also mentioned in Ure Vaeiko's love song, or it can be read as dead enemy (rau hei) according to J 77. The literal meaning of rau hei is entwined (hei) with leaves (rau). The dead warrior was entwined with threaded ti-leaves that made him taboo. Barthel reads the sign as warrior (ta'o), because it is homonym with the word for sugarcane. When the sign is read as dead warrior we obtain: The dead warrior wrapped in ti-leaves was carried to the place of sacrifice. This may refer to a human sacrifice. Sign no. 17 can be read as warrior, too.
The occurrence of warriors in the song is also related to the aim of initiation: To obtain courage. The competition for the first egg of the sooty tern (Métraux 1940: 331) is a form of a courage test and is therefore closely related to initiation. The competition was also carried out in spring, but it was invented in later times.
Only a Rongorongo-man could have the necessary knowledge to present the ceremony in this way. This can be attributed to the timo in particular, who according to Metoro's readings was the most important man in the Easter Island society after the king, though he must have lived generally outside the society on the hill of Orongo. Therefore it is likely that such a man has manufactured this breast ornament and that he has worn it too. It was communicated by two islanders that the breast ornament was worn by a woman (Fischer 1997: 494), but women could not read the Rongorongo-signs. The timo can be regarded as a woman, however, because his hair was arranged like that of a woman, as it is explained by Metoro several times.
The author of this line combines the categories of take (youth initiation) with the category of rangi (heaven, gods). The main category, however, is take, because the inscription starts with a sign referring to it and because it takes the largest space. The feather-hat is a symbol of power and fertility, that were both secured by the initiation. It is a symbol of divinity, too. Ure Vaeiko mentions the god of feathers in the tablet Apai (Thomson 1889: 519), where he calls him Nuku. The correct writing would be Ruanuku. The king and the timo wore a big feather-hat, the participants in the initiation a smaller one. In the script, both are rendered by the sign B 59f. In addition, feather-sticks were carried that correspond to the sign B 3.
There were two main gods on Easter Island, Make-make and Tangaroa, his brother. Make-make was engaged in making the earth fertile like the timo and the king. Tangaroa was the god of the netherworld and of death. In the script and as petroglyph Tangaroa is represented by the shark and the seal (B 720-730), Make-make by the frigate-bird and by two eyes in the form of a mask corresponding to the signs B 510-519. There are many rocks on Easter Island inscribed with the motif of the big eyes together with that of the vulva and the fish (Lee 1989: 114; Englert 1970: 24). Another symbol of fertility is the skull from which Barthel derives the signs B 510-519 (1958: 249).
The symbol of the skull can be interpreted as the victory of fertility over death. The eyes are - like that of the Christian God - a symbol of inspection. The Polynesians believed to enter heaven through tattooing and to live there for some time for their own benefit and for securing fertility for their people like the virgin who assisted the timo in making rain. The stalk that is carried by the second bird-child is part of thepoporo-plant that is also found as a tattoo-motif on the thighs of a woman (Métraux 1940: 248). It is generally written by the sign B 34. The plant shall guard against bad ghosts like the night-shade. Therefore it is also carried by the warriors who climb up to the hill of Orongo. The berries of the plant are slightly poisonous and were eaten only in case of famine (Métraux 1940: 160) as was the case at the time of the settlement of the Island. The sap of the plant was used for tattooing together with that of the charred leaves of the ti-plant (Métraux 1940: 238). Barthel explains sign B 34 as sweet potato, because he thought that a small plant like the poporo does not fit the requirements of the Easter Island tradition (1958: 234). The apotropaeic use of the plant seems to have been unknown to him. Contrary to Barthel's opinion this plant is referred to in the first line of Ure Vaeiko's creation-song Atua Mata Riri, because it served on Easter Island as substitute of the kava plant.
A significant epigraphical hint is given through the fusion B 545:678a in the middle of the line, whose components occur again in other ligatures. Sign B 545 is explained by Jaussen in J 46a as hupee, fresh air, hoarseness. In a love-song taken down by Métraux (1940: 356) fresh air and dew (hupee-hau) are mentioned. Hoarseness and slime given by Fuentes as the meaning of the word are related to fertility, slime is contained in the name of Make-make (Bierbach/Cain 1988: 407) who represents the male aspect of fertility. Make-make creates man by copulating with Hina, the sand piled up and formed by him (Métraux 1940: 314). Therefore the sign may also refer to female fertility and designate the cool or small vulva.
Epigraphically the sign looks similar to J 194, to come back, to draw back (huri) being related to the incision of the young men. This ritual is also affiliated to fertility. Barthel explains the sign as a pandanus tree, because he interprets the appendix as an airy root being characteristical for it. The pandanus grows at the sea-side and from this reason it may symbolize the fresh air.
The cross upon the head of the fourth cock is difficult to explain. Jaussen renders the cross-sign as scaffold (J 122), Barthel explains it (B 14) as a sign of prohibition (1963: 429). Here it may indicate that the initiates were taboo, even though their head was torn off, since this is a metaphor for defloration and incision.
Sign B 2, that corresponds to the signs J 30, J 183 and J 184, has many connotations. Barthel who always gives one meaning only, renders it as uri, black, referring to Tahitian inoino, bad (1963: 392). Metoro reads the sign generally as maitaki or inoinoin the sense of beaming. This is related to the Pleiads. Good (or fertile) is an attribute of the earth that is rendered in J 30h,i as the meaning of the sign. The three circles can be explained as the three craters of the island. In several cases Metoro reads the sign as hatu huri, to draw back the foreskin, which he calls a good thing. Sign B 2 is often used in connection with the sign for javelin or stick, vero (J 132), since both were regarded as something good, the stick, because it promoted fertility in various ways. Therefore the sign B 20 that is missing in J, is read by Metoro as good, too, or as javelin (mataa). On the breast ornament the sign B 20.10 stands for to incise (the rock).
The stick can also be used for inscribing Rongorongo signs. Hau-maka, the master, who tattooed Hotu-matua and led him to Easter Island after he saw the place in a dream, was probably a Rongorongo-man, too, since the motifs of tattooing were also used as signs in the script and to tattoo means also to write in Rapanui. In accordance with this, there are several signs identical to tattoo-motifs, as for instance sign B 17 that can be explained as fish-scales, the sign B 50 for earth and the sign B 51 for vulva. The motif of the paddle reappears with a pointed head as sign B 87 and B 88. The paddle is a symbol of Make-make, as we have mentioned already. The fish is a symbol of Tangaroa. The sign B 2 can be related to writing too, because it resembles a string figure that is the origin of the Easter Island script according to Wolff (1973: 55). By the tattoo patterns and the string figures only very few signs can be explained, however.
Sign B 51 that occurs ten times on the breast ornament alone, but otherwise only on the Santiago-stick and once on the third Honolulu-tablet, is generally explained as vulva on account of its form. Fischer believes that the sign B 50 has developed from the sign B 51 (1997: 546), Barthel interprets the signs B 23 and B 24 as vulva (1958: 228, n. 7; 281), which is epigraphically justified. Metoro reads the signs B 23 and 24 generally as water, probably because he did not want to hurt the ears of the bishop by telling him the correct meaning. Jaussen explains in J 81 the sign B 24 as Rapanui pure, which he translates as snail, but the correct translation is shell. Since the sign B 51 was used until modern time as petroglyph (Fischer 1997: 373, n. 35), it is quite unlikely that the sign B 50 developed from it, whose meaning has more connotations and which was used as a motif of tattoo in former times already. Since there are two or even three signs for vulva, it can be supposed that each sign has an additional meaning, as it is the case with the signs B 23/24 and B 50 that can also mean shell or earth. Sign B 51 can be interpreted in connection with the ceremony of defloration as 'small vulva' (teketeke), vulva of the girl. This is also corroborated by the Santiago-staff, where the ligature B 379.51 in I12 refers to the Rongorongo-man inspecting the vulva. On the third Honolulu-tablet (V) the sign B 51 is also used in connection with youth initiation. Defloration becomes a holy act for the Polynesians, when it is carried out in public.
The initiation ceremony of the girls is also referred to in the six legible lines of the wooden figure of a birdman inscribed on its beak, its occiput, its neck, its chest, its stomach and its thigh. Most probably the birdman was carved in memory of such a ceremony:
Upper line: Beak (X 3) - neck (X 1) - occiput (X 2);
lower line: chest (X 4) - stomach (X 6) - thigh (X 7)
The relation to the ceremony of initiation of the girls also follows from the two small fishes incised on the neck and two vulvae incised under the stomach of the figure that are not part of the inscription. Barthel has transcribed the lines of the birdman under the letter X in the following way:
X 1: Neck: 4 small; [28:V14] engraved vulva; 4 rock; 99 Rongorongo-man; [470?] inclined bird: to let be grasped, to let be inspected; 1 earth; 14 cave (of the neru): taboo; 545 three stars [Orion]; 400 take-bird; 1 earth: Hiva
X 2: Occiput: 381 reading man; 1 tablet
X 3: Beak:  poporo-plant; 59f feather-hat; 22f yams-root/phallus
(taboo); 22f yams-root
X 4: Chest: 515 Make-make; 40h moon - ? - ?
X 5: Flank: Two lines with illegible signs.
X 6: Stomach: V205 man climbing up (the sky)/Timo; 22f vulva;
D380 sitting man; 8 fire
X 7: Thigh: 400 take-bird; 546 to tear off the head
The small vulva is engraved in the rock,
after the Rongorongo-men have inspected
the inclined bird on the sacred earth.
The cave is open under the Orion for the take-birds from Hiva.
The Rongorongo-men read the tablets,
when the bearer of the feather-hat come
with poporo-plants and yams-roots to adore Make-make at new moon.
The timo climbs up (the sky) when he enters the vulva,
he kindles the fire, when he tears off the head of the young bird.
Since the first part of the first compound of the neck, of which only the upper part is left, represents the poporo-plant as on the breast ornament, the feather-hat in the second part can either refer to the initiate or to the warrior. From the following two signs symbolizing a red yams-root it is clear that the initiates are meant here, for the sign can also mean taboo, as it has the form of a phallus (or vulva).
The children of well-to-do families of Easter Island, particularly the girls who were called neru, were secluded in caves during puberty for getting a white skin, because it improved their chances for a good marriage. The white skin was regarded as an expression of mana, whose obtainment was one of the most cherished aims of the Polynesians. The seclusion of children is also known from Mangareva and Tahiti (Hiroa 1991: 117; Oliver 1974: 435). According to van Gennep (1999: 72) this custom belongs to the rites of passage. They are naturally connected with puberty (Eliade 1990: 160), but not confined to it.
The sign of the torn off head can also be related to initiation. Metoro reads it in line Br 9 of the tablet Aruku Kurenga in the sense of defloration or the first sexual intercourse. Sign B 4 is explained in J 148 as tau avanga, a stone for depositing a corpse. Barthel (1963: 429) renders it as ahu, stone formation, but the proper meaning of avangais niche of the ahu, in which the bones of the deceased were buried eventually (Métraux 1940: 115). The sign for niche can also be read as vulva, since woman is related to life and death. For the examination of their vulva the girls stood on a rock whose form is similar to the sign turned by 90°. Metoro reads the sign generally as huki, stick, thorn. These are both tattoo implements (J 118; Métraux 1940: 241). The thorn is an attribute of Make-make, too, who is called Tarahoi, he who appears in the thorn. He is written by the sign B 515 here. The eyes often appear as a petroglyph for the god. Ihe (B 4) can also mean peak or rock depending on the direction, in which the sign is read.
The content of these lines is contained in three take-songs that were written down by Routledge already, but were published only recently by Fischer (1997: 296,297). The inscription of the birdman can hence in particular be regarded as a Rosetta stone of Rongorongo. Fischer renders the songs:
Kia ... te hiva
te Manu ko te hiva. Katoo no koe ehuru oké
a umu ko marié he manu haka ohiohi o ...
"Maherenga" o tabooa ara tahé o te iva.
Matai épa hoki te monu turé hau
maru na te ragni na te wero wero na te rere
na te hohoku nui he atu hereri ai agnaroi
Katuu mai e te Také na Kahu par ravarava
Také Koai to Tua agnakopé komata mahoré.
Apero ta a mée o korua.
E akaaka no ena e mitimiti
After the elimination of the orthographic mistakes their translation runs as follows:
1. Kia [Maherenga] o te hiva,
te manu te hiva.
Ka tuu no koe e huru oka e.
Aa umu komari he manu
o te pua ara,
take o te hiva.
2. Mata(h)i epee ku riri hoki,
he motu tureme hau,
maro ma te rangi
ma te verovero na te rere,
ma te hoko nui he hatu,
here ria ia gnaroa.
3. Ka tuu mai, e te taka e,
ma kahu pua ravarava, taka e,
to tua gnakope,
ko mata mahore.
Apero-ta-a-Mee o korua,
e akoako no ena,
e mitimiti no ena.
1. For Maherenga from Hiva,
the bird from Hiva:
Stand (on the rock), the fence is open!
Like the earth oven is the vulva
for the bird(man).
He gives his strength to you, Maherenga,
on the way to the vulva,
take from Hiva.
2.The big old man climbs up with the stick,
he cuts tureme-grass and hibiscus,
he holds up the stick against the sky
to make fire (by lightning).
By the big stick he is the lord
of the bound ones, the fear to hear him.
3. Line up, taka,
let the vulva and the hymen be grasped, taka!
The young men go to the old man.
For him are the eyes of the mahore-fish.
Apero-taa-Mee has sung this song for you
and clicked with his tongue.
Stand on the rock refers to the custom just mentioned, according to which the girl had to climb up a rock for the inspection of her vulva. The examination was done by a plant-stick that was also used for setting plants and putting seed in the earth (Fuentes, Englert). The vulva is the earth (cf. Br1) and the earth-oven (umu). Similarly it is said that the men sow their seed in the womb of the woman in the marriage-hymn of the Ṛg-Veda X.85.37.
Metoro reads the ligature B 71.65.71 in Ev7 as ko raua ka tuu - they stand upright. The pronoun refers to the girls being generally represented by the sign for plant or flower. The rite was carried out after the first menses, at the same time the cave of imprisonment was opened. E huru oka erefers to the moment of release. But the taboo of virginity is lifted only after the Rongorongo-men have pierced the hymen.
In many societies the blood of defloration is regarded as dangerous for the man. According to the marriage-hymn of the Ṛg-Veda only the old Brāhmīn was not contaminated by it. Therefore, on Easter Island the girls were brought to two old Rongorongo-men for defloration. Routledge noted, that some beautiful virgins went to the timo for the first sexual intercourse (Fischer 1997: 335). The timo is the bird(man) here.
The relation between the timo and the girl resembles the sacred marriage in Mesopotamia (Richter-Ushanas 2004a, 58; 2010, 131). On this ground it can be understood that the stick the timo holds against the sky induces lightning like the stick of the rain-god. In the same way, fire is created by rubbing a stick in the hole of another stick. Therefore the sexual relation of king Purūravas with the water-woman Urvaśī, described in Ṛg-Veda X.95, is compared to making fire in the commentaries.
Here, bound, is used by Metoro in line Bv1 of tablet Aruku Kurenga in relation to the fish and the fruit, both metaphors for the youths imprisoned in a cave. Kahumeans cloth and skin, in connection with the vulva (pua) it refers to the hymen. Kahua auroauroa - when the dress is ready/when the girl is mature, is supplemented by Metoro in line Br2 of tablet Aruku Kurenga (cf. the following chapter).
Routledge has also noted (ibid.) that the girls brought presents and food to the old men. The eyes of the mahore-fish that are mentioned here as presents brought by the boys to the old man (the timo) may have been particularly tasty. The name of the singer Apero-taa-Mea contains the word taa, to write. That means that he was a Rongorongo-man. Metoro reads sign B 45 (rapa) on line Bv9 of tablet Aruku Kurenga as clicking of the tongue. The sign can symbolize a tongue, but rapa is the paddle used by the timo in dancing. The clicking of the tongue may have indicated the rhythm of the song like the movement of the paddle. Perhaps it is also used to express admiration as we do.
The relation to the first settlers is pointed out by the name of Hiva here. The incision of the male youths is not contained in the three take-songs, because they only deal with the initiation of the girls, though in song 3 the young men are mentioned in relation to the timo. In the inscription of the birdman the incision of the boys is not mentioned either, but perhaps it was related in the illegible signs of line X5.
Metoro's reading of this line was translated, as already mentioned, by I. Alazard, S. H. Ray (the first 33 signs) and I.K. Fedorova. Fischer (1997: 52) has translated the first 11 signs, mainly to corroborate his supposition that the name of Hotu-matua was taken from Mangareva. But it is against the principles of a literal translation to read one's own suppositions into a text. Moreover, the translation is philologically untenable, because he alters the structure of the words and sentences. Even if his investigation is founded on a Eurocentric positivism, as Fischer admits (1997: viii), it should follow the principles of philology.
Ray has understood the particles mai taeas the Tahitian verb tae, to come, perhaps induced by Jaussen's wrong explanation of the ligature J 219. Fedorova reads them like Jaussen in J 234 as 'not' (1986: 251). The grammars of Englert and Du Feu contain 'before', but Churchill gives 'as far as, until' as equivalence of tae atu ki, and 'not' only for the single tae. It seems to be likely that the meaning 'before' and 'as far as, until' can be used alternatively. Metoro uses the two particles often in the beginning of a subordinate clause like tae ai in modern Rapanui (Du Feu 1996: 54). This indicates a basic meaning of 'not yet' corresponding to the Marquesan comparative of inferiority (Dordillon: 47). For the simple negation tae would have been sufficient.
In the script, normally neither the sub-clause nor the negation are expressed, the negation can be written by a cross, however (cf. Br2, sign no. 1). The sub-clause, mostly used paratactical in Polynesian languages, can be deduced from the sequence of signs. After much consideration, I decided to translate these particles by the simple negation 'not' or the qualified negation 'not yet', 'not at once', according to the context. Often a subordinate clause occurs together with it. Sometimes oho, to go, is inserted after mai tae. J. Guy (1982: 445-447) has presented a structural analysis for the first half of this line that I have indicated it by paragraphs in Metoro's reading:
1. 595 ka tuu i te rangi - he arrives in heaven; 2. 1 - 3. 50.394s ki te henua e rua - on the two areas; no Hotu-matua - of Hotu-matua; 4.4 -5.2 ka haka nohoa - he takes his seat/he lives (J220); 6. 595.1 ki te hito o te rangi - with Hito (Hiro), (the god) of heaven; 7. 50 ki te henua - on the earth; 8. 301s te atariki - the eldest son; 9. 4 ki te henua - on the earth; 10. 2 ki tona henua - on his earth; 11. 40 kua tere te vaka - the boat comes ashore; 12. 211s ki tona tahina - to his youngest son; 13. 91 mai tae atu ki te tamaiti - not to the child; 14. 200 koia - he; 15. 595.2 e hiri ki te rangi - ki te henua - he attains to heaven; on this earth (J 154); 16. 50.394.4t - 17. 2 mai tae atu ia ki te henua - he does not come to the earth [of Hotu-matua]; 18. 595.2 koia kua koakoa ki te rangi - he enjoys heaven (J 157); 19.50 kua oho ia ki te henua - he goes to the (sacred) place; 20. 301s e tangata era e - the man/the god there; 21. 4 - 22.2 ka oho koe - you go; ka noho au - I stay; 23. 211s:42 ko te matua i runga o to pepe - the father on his seat (J 156); 24. 91 mai tae atu ki tona tamaiti - he does not come to his child; 25. 595s e kua koakoa ia ki te rangi - he enjoys heaven; 26. 600 kua rere te manu - the (Take)-bird flies; 27. 50 ki runga o te henua - on the earth; 28. 381 mai tae atu ki te tangata mea kai - it does not come to the man, who eats the thing; 29. 4 -30.2 i te henua - (he stays) on the earth; 31. 306 ko te tangata hangai - the man feeds; 32. 325 i te moa - the cock/the child (J 65); 33. 430 kua tuu - he/it comes; 34. 53 [te ua] - the rain; 35. 430 ki te moa - to the cock; 36. 17 kua koti ia - he digs up (the earth)/he cuts up the skin; 37. 430 e te moa e - the cock; 38. 4  ka vero koe - you beat; 39. 2 mai tae atu ki te maitaki - he does not come to the good [thing]; 40. 208 mai tae atu ki te Ariki e noho mai - they do not go to the king, they stay here/with the timo; 41. 200 ka rere ia - he [the timo] flies; 42. 2 koia kua rere ki te maitaki - he flies to the good [thing]; 43. 22 ka vero ia - he beats; 44. 305.74f ki te hua rae - the first fruit/the child (J 11); 45. 95 [ki te tamaiti] - to the child; 46. 1 o te henua - on the earth; 47. 770b koia kua hakahiri ia -he [the timo who tears off the head] has braided his hair.
Before we can make a whole of these apparently incoherent parts, we must ascertain, to which category the line belongs. As already mentioned, this is indicated by the first significant word of a line, i.e. rangi, heaven, that Jaussen has even written in capitals. The category rangi is classified by Fischer together with ranga, sacrifice (1997: 291). This seems to be justified, because the sacrifice goes to heaven. Generally, the category rangideals with the gods or with a man in relation to a god. The name of the god in question here is Hiro, the god of rain. He could be identified with Metoro's reading hito of the compound 595.1 (sign 6), since the added log can better be explained as a phallus than a navel (pito), but then we have difficulties to translate the following sentences. At any rate, the human being that had to entreat this god and who like the shaman went to heaven for this purpose, was the timo again, since he was responsible for making rain.
If it would be correct that the name of Hotu-matua was brought to the Island at the time of the arrival of the first missionary Eyraud from Mangareva in the year 1866, as is postulated by Fischer (1997.3: 109), this would mean that Metoro learnt the name from this source and inserted it in the text only for the sake of pleasing the bishop. But the name occurs in the genitive here. Hotu-matua is not the real subject. We remember that his first son was born just after the boat of the queen landed at the shore. The place where this happened has obviously been referred to in this line as the second place. The other place is Orongo, where the boats of the king arrived first. It was so sacred to king Hotu-matua that he went there to die. The place where the king landed is called Anakena, meaning august, because it was august, when he arrived at the island. The youngest son is known in the oral tradition as the dearest son of Hotu-matua (Routledge 1919: 280). This may be the reason, why he is mentioned here together with the eldest son.
If the line only dealt with historical events, it would belong to the category ta'u, but its main subject is the timo. It describes how he climbed up to heaven to obtain rain from the god of rain. This purpose is mentioned by Metoro in his explanation of the sign no. 15 (B 595.2). There is still another category in this line that bears the name hakiri. Fischer is not able to explain this word (1997: 282), his note is not helpful either in this matter. There is little doubt, however, that it is a contraction of haka iri, which has the meanings to climb up and to braid the hairs. The binding of the feather-hat and the erecting of the polished stones for the priest-houses in Orongo can also be designated by this word.
Firstly, it refers to the timo who had braided hairs and whose feather-hat was woven, and who went up to the hill of Orongo, but there was, as we know already, the ascent of the warriors and of the youths, too, who climbed up the hill for the purpose of initiation (cf. Br2).
The participants of this initiation are rendered by the sign of the frigate-bird again (B 600/J 26), that is explained by Jaussen as taha. As on the breast ornament they are also called moa, which literally means cock, hen or fowl, but which can also mean child. At the end of the ceremony the initiated were given a stick with Rongorongo signs (Fischer 1997: 298), but the stick mentioned in this line can also have had other functions. Van Gennep (1986: 85) mentions that on the Salomon Islands and on the Bismarck Archiple the male initiates were beaten with a stick. The ritual was carried out there by a birdman too. Such rites have been mentioned by Jensen in regard to initiation (1933: 165). Something similar might have happened on Easter Island, in particular in the case of resistance against the ceremony. Most probably, Metoro took part himself in an initiation rite and remembered it very well.
We can conclude from this investigation that in this line the categories rangi, timo, hakiri and takeare combined by the intermediate of the category ta'u. As we have seen already, there is nothing extraordinary in the combination of categories. Fischer, too, points out to this possibility (1997: 286). If we translate the line on this ground, we obtain:
He [the timo] goes to heaven,
he comes to the two places of Hotu-matua.
He who lives with the god of heaven, with Hiro, the god of rain.
He goes to the place of the eldest son [of Hotu-matua].
He [Hotu-matua] stayed at the place, where the boat landed,
(until) his youngest son was born.
He [the timo] does not come to the child,
before he has arrived in heaven on the sacred earth [of Orongo].
He does not come to the earth [of Hotu-matua],
before he has enjoyed heaven, after he has entered the (sacred) place.
The god there [says]: You go! [He answers]: I stay.
As long as the father [the timo] stays on his seat, he enjoys heaven.
The take-bird flies up to the (sacred) earth.
The bird does not want to go to the man, who eats the thing.
The father, who stays on the (sacred) earth, feeds the children,
he gives rain to them when he digs up the earth/when he tattoos them.
He gives them the stick when they do not want to do the good (thing).
They do not go to the king, they stay here/with the timo,
he gives the stick to the first fruits.
Of the child who has climbed up to Orongo [he tears off the head].
On the ground of the five categories timo, rangi, hakiri, ta'uand takewe obviously arrive at a coherent reading for this certainly not easy text. The initiation rite is traced back to the arrival of king Hotu-matua. This is done for the same reason as by referring it to Hiva in the take-songs. The initiation rite is called the good thing here or the particular work in Br8 and elsewhere. Other metaphors for initiation are he digs up (the earth) and he tears off the head that we know already from the birdman figure. It can be understood as defloration or the first sexual intercourse or as incision or circumcision.
Cohabitation is also described by the metaphor he eats the thing, often used by Metoro in this sense. The timo goes to the child (or youth) only after he has arrived in heaven, that means, when he is in a state of ecstasy. That he enjoys heaven in the course of this rite is not to be understood in the modern hedonistic sense. The rite is not celebrated for fulfilling personal desires, but for obtaining fertility for the land and in order to bring the initiate on a higher level of existence. The shaman does not exploit the child as it is done today by pederasts and by employers and leaders who compel them to do heavy work for small wages and even force them to partake in wars. Metoro says that the timo is like a father to the child and to the land and feeds both of them by the rain that is produced by this sacred act. This recalls the Indian relation between guru and disciple. Not even the god of rain himself can throw the timo out of heaven, as is hinted at in the little inserted dialogue. From the point of view of cosmology the activities of the timo serve to associate heaven and earth, god and man in a way similar to the sacred marriage in the ancient cultures. In his structural analysis, Guy divides the first half of this line in four parts of almost equal length:
A B C D E F
A B C D1 E F G H I J
A F C D F
A F C D1 E F H1 I A1
A is read by Metoro somewhat different in each case, but always in connection with heaven. B and C are also read in the same way in each case. There are great deviations, however, in regard to D: Hotu-matua, atariki (eldest son), the personal pronoun he and the man/the god there [in heaven]. The structural analysis is not helpful here, since there is a significant epigraphical difference between D and D1. In the case of the first and the third sign the feet are replaced by a circle, that can be explained as a belly. Guy did not notice this. Moreover, the two identical ligatures B 50.394s in no. 3 and 16 have not been read identically by Metoro. Though one can easily add Hotu-matua in no. 16, mai tae can only be known from the oral tradition. The additional strokes of the sign C for earth in the fourth case that can either be explained as plants of the earth or as the hair of the vulva, do not make any difference for Metoro nor in the structural analysis. The same applies to Metoro's readings for heaven (rangi) that are all related to the timo. Hito o te rangi was emended wrongly into pito o te rangi, navel of the sky, by Ray, since it is clear from the context, that the rain-god Hiro is meant here.
The five times repeated bigram 4/2 is read by Metoro mostly as noho, to stay, to live, as stated in J 220. Here the places are referred to, where the timo or Hotu-matua lived. One of them, Orongo, became the place of sacrifice (marae) later on. The reading 'to stay' for the two signs only occurs in this line. The sign B 4 is often read by Metoro as niche, needle or stick, as was mentioned already, and the sign B 2 as earth or good (thing). The meaning 'to stay' can be derived from the fact that the niche was used for the burial of the bones. It is hence a good place to stay for the ancestors and consequently for the living too. This reading of the two signs can be added in the other cases too, where it has not been done by Metoro. To stay can also be rendered through the sign B 208, whose literal meaning is tuhunga, tattoo-master. The sign no. 38 is not B 4, as is stated by Barthel, but B 22. From here onwards, Metoro reads the sign B 2 as good (thing), which is an attribute of the earth and of initiation in its various forms.
The sign B 211s (H) is read by Metoro in no. 12 as 'youngest son', in the fusion B 211s:42 in no. 23 as 'father on his seat', however. The 'seat' has the form of a boat that is repeated in the fundament of the Rapanui houses. In this case the vulva is meant. The contradiction is solved by remembering that the rock of Orongo is the place, where the timo lived.
The translation of the second half of the line starting with the fifth repetition of the sign B 595 depends on the interpretation of the sign that Metoro reads as stick (vero) here. The ligature of this sign with the sign for rat representing the Rongorongo-man on the tablets Keiti and Mamari shows that it can also stand for the Rongorongo stick. But here it refers to the tattooing or the beating of the youths by the timo. Besides, the stick is a symbol of the male organ, the more so as the youths were lying half-sleeping on the earth during the painful procedure of tattooing.
After the tattooing was finished they went to the house of the king for examination of the motifs (Métraux 1940: 134), which is also recorded in the inscription of the birdman figure. The king gave his opinion on the tattoos and the Rongorongo sticks (Fischer 1997: 341). This is especially known of king Ngaara. In case the youths did not go to be initiated nor to the king after tattooing, the fertility of the land was in danger. This led to the immediate interference of the timo.
Barthel infers from the occurrence of the name of Hotu-matua that this line deals with the arrival of the king on the Island (1958: 211). The two places would then be the former homeland of the king and Easter Island, the bird in the second half would correspond to the cock of Ariana that cried before the king died according to the oral tradition. But such an interpretation, in which I believed myself formerly, cannot be justified through Metoro's reading. It would also mean that this line would mainly belong to the category of ta'u, which does not correspond to its contents and to its first significant word. A translation under this aspect is possible, but it does not lead to a satisfying result.
For comparison I shall now give the English version of Fedorova's Russian translation. She divides the text in three parts (a,b,c). Her substitution of the sequence of the signs in c is indicated by me through the numbers given in brackets:
(a) 1. 595 ka tuu i te rangi - he comes to heaven; 2. 1.50 ki te henua e rua - to the two places; 3. 394s no Hotu-matua - of Hotu-matua; 4.4 -5.2 ka haka nohoa - he stays there; (b) 6. 595.1 ki te hito o te rangi [-]; 7. 50 ki te henua - to the earth; 8. 301s te atariki - the eldest son - of the king; 9. 4 ki te henua - to the earth; 10. 2 ki tona henua - to his earth; 11. 40 kua tere te vaka - the boat goes; 12. 211s ki tona tahina - to his youngest (son); 13. 91 mai tae atu ki te tamaiti - he does not unite himself with the child; 14. 200 koia - he; (c) 15(34). 595.2 e hiri ki te rangi - he runs, he runs to heaven; 16(35) ki te henua - to the earth; 16(36). 50.394 - 17(37). 2 mai tae atu ia ki te henua - he does not unite - on the earth; 18(38). 595.2 koia kua koakoa ki te rangi - he enjoys himself in heaven; 19(39).50 kua oho ia ki te henua - he goes to the earth; 20(40). 301s e tangata era e ka oho - he goes; koe - you; 21(41). 4-22.2 ka noho au - he is located; 23.(42) 211s:42 ko te matua i runga o to pepe - the father on his throne; 24(43). 91 mai tae tona tamaiti - he does not unite himself with the child; 25(15). 595s e kua koakoa ia ki te rangi - he enjoys himself in heaven; 26(16). 600 kua rere te manu - the bird flies; 27(17). 50 ki runga o te henua - over the earth; 28(18). 381 mai tae atu ki te tangata mea kai - he does not unite with the man, who eats something; 29(19). 4-30.2 i te henua - to be on the earth; 31(20). 306 ko te tangata hanga - the man does; 32(21). 325 i te moa - the cock; 33(22). 430 kua tuu - he arrives; [34. 53]; 35(23). 430 ki te moa - at the cock; 36(24). 17 kua koti ia - he breaks up (the earth); 37(25). 430 e te moa - the cock; 38(26). 4 ka vero koe - you throw the javelin; 39(27). 2 mai tae tuki te maitaki - he does not unite himself with the beautiful; 40(28). 208 mai tae tuki te ariki e noho mai - he does not unite himself with the king;: 41(29). 200 ka rere ia - he runs; 42(30). 2 koia kua rere ki te maitaki - he runs to the good (thing); 43(31). 22 ka vero ia - he throws the javelin; 44(32). 305.74f ki te hua rae - to the first fruit; [45. 95]; 46(33). 1 o te henua - of the earth; [47. 770b].
Fedorova did not undertake a structural examination as it was done by J. Guy. Her substitution of the last part by the middle part does not lead to a better understanding of the text. This could only have been achieved by inserting the translation 'rain' for sign B 53. The words atu kiare transformed by her several times into tuki, to unite (in a sexual sense), which is philologically wrong, but gives a good suggestion of the meaning of the text. That some words like vero, stick, and moa, cock, are used in a metaphorical sense is not noticed by her either. Two phrases she does not translate at all. For ka oho koe(20/40) she gives the meaningless translation he goes, you, though she has translated it in her otherwise very helpful grammatical notes on the foregoing page (252) correctly as you go. In the following sentence ka oho au(21/41) she replaces the first person by the third. Hotu-matua she renders in the nominative.
Fedorova did not even try to form a consistent reading out of the whole line as it was done by I. Alazard (Heyerdahl/Ferdon 1965: 353). His rendering does not agree at all with the philological data, however:
May it rain from the sky on the two earths of Hotu-matua!
May he sit high in the sky and on the earth!
The oldest son is on the earth, on his own earth:
His canoe has sailed towards his younger brother, right up to the child.
For him, whether he be in the sky or on the earth,
may he come to the earth, he who enjoyed himself in the sky!
He keeps the earth in his hand. Man, go away. I will remain on my earth.
Father, you who sit on your throne, go to your child.
He enjoyed himself in the sky.
The bird has flown from the earth,
coming to the man who eats on earth.
The man feeds the hen, he has put the hen under water,
he has taken its feathers.
Hen, take care of the spear, go to the good place,
Go right up to the king to his house, fly:
it is flown to the good place, far from the spear:
flying towards the children of the earth it is flown into safety.
The preposition ka is always translated by 'may' or by the imperative, kua only by the past. A word or sign for rain does only occur in the second half of the line. Obviously, Alazard has interpreted the name of the rain-god Hiro in the sense of rain. 'From the sky' should be read as 'to the sky'. 'His canoe sailed to his younger brother' is meaningless. The object is ki tona henua, to his earth (of the elder brother). Mai taeis left untranslated. 'Whether - or' is grammatically possible, but does not give any meaning here. 'He keeps the earth in his hand' is not found in the text. The translation of the two imperative forms 'go away, I will' renders no meaning. 'From the earth' is not found in the text, but 'above, on'. The particular work (mea ke) after 'who eats' is not translated. Like Fedorova Alazard does not realize the metaphorical meaning of moa (cock, hen) and vero, stick. 'Under water' is not found in the text. The correct meaning for the sign is rain or simply water. 'He has taken its feathers' is not found in the text, but 'he digs up the earth'. 'Take care' is not found in the text either. 'Good' is better read as 'good thing' instead of 'good place'. 'Far from (the spear)' and 'it is flown into safety' is not found in the text. 'Into safety' is an unfitting rendering of the sign 'man without head'. Alazard commits these mistakes, because he like Fedorova did not understand the category of the line. From this reason he would not have translated the line correctly, even if he had not committed grave philological mistakes as Federova's translation shows.
Let us now study line Br2 of this tablet. It starts with the last word of the foregoing line, haka hiri, to climb up (to Orongo), though in the negative. Through the initial word it belongs to the category hakiri. Since the most frequent sign is B 59f, the feather-hat, we can suppose, that those who wear it, climb up for initiation. According to the oral tradition, Hotu-matua climbed up the hill of Orongo before his death. We shall study this ascent here for comparison. There are two versions of the story. The first reads (Barthel 1974: 239):
The king rose from the sleeping mat and said to all people: Let us go to Orongo, so that I can announce my death. The king climbed upon a stone and looked in the direction of Hiva, in the direction of the (sea-) route, on which he had come. Then the king said: Here I am and deliver my last speech. The people (mahingo) listened when he spoke. The king said loudly to his spirits (akuaku) Kuihi and Kuaha: Let the voice of the cock of Ariana softly crow, for the trunk with many roots [the king] enters! The king fell back and Hotu-matua died. [Translated from German].
In a somewhat different way the story is related by Métraux (1940: 69):
[The king] left his house, and went along to the cliff where the edge of the crater is narrowest, and stood on it by two stones, and he looked over the islet of Motu-nui towards Marae-renga, and called to four aku-aku in his old home across the sea, Kuihi, Kuaha, Tongau, Opapako: Make the cock crow for me! And the cock crew in Marae-renga, and he heard it across the sea; that was his death signal, so he said to his sons: Take me away! So they took him back to his house, and he died.
It is clear from both texts that Marea-rengawas situated in the West Pacific. The metaphor trunk with many roots is missing in the second version. On the other hand, the two names Tongau and Opapako are added, whose correct spelling would be to ngauand o papaku(Barthel 1974: 257). Ngau means to chew, papaku is the corpse, both suitable names for ghosts or aku-aku. Kuihi and Kuaha can perhaps be derived from kuhane, soul. The epithet heuheufor Hotu-matua, that is translated as trunk with many roots, occurs in the simple form heu in line Br2, where it means lobster and is a metaphor for the female energy that is related to fertility like the potency of the king, be he Hotu-matua or any other king.
1. 220.D68? (J 219) mai tae atu ki te hakahiri ia - he does not come to the climbing (of the rock); 2. 59f o tona hau - of his feather-hat; 3. 630 koia kua (h)iri - it (the take-bird)climbs up; 4.59f ki te ona o te hau - with his feather-hat; 5. 400 ka rere te manu kura - the red bird flies; ka rere ki to manu kahua auro aroa - he flies to the young bird, when its dress is ready/when it is mature; 6. V670 kua haka (h)iri - he climbs up; 7. 59f ki tona o te hau - with his feather-hat; 8. 600 kua rere koe, e te manu e - you fly; the bird; 9. 208.73f ki te tangata hakanganangana - to the dancing man; koia kua mau i te tapa mea - he takes the yams-root (J 158); 10. 430 mai tae atu ki te moa - he does not come to the cock/the child; 11. 59f hau ia - he wears the feather-hat; 12. 600 - 13.26 ko te manu haka umu - the bird is tattooed; hakahoki - he leads him back (to the tribe); 14. 6 ko te rima kua oho - the hand goes; 15. 430 ki te moa - to the cock; 16. 59f e kua hau ia - he wears the feather-hat; 17. 600 i atu manu rere - to the flying bird; 18. 300.22 ko te tangata kua mau - the man takes; i te tao hia - the sugarcane at the right time; 19. 430 ko te moa - the cock; 20. 59f kua hau i tona hau - he wears his feather-hat; 21. 600 e te manu e - the take-bird; 22. 17 ko koti koe - you break up(the earth); 23. 22 mai tae vero hia - he is not beaten; 24. 430 ki te moa - the cock; 25. 200s.3 ku hukahuka kia ia - he kindles the fire for him; ki te maro - who carries the feather-stick; 26. 40.95 ko te marama o te nuku - the moon for the group; 27. 59f.95x kua hau i te hau o te nuku - he wears the feather-hat of the group (J 161); 28. V64.70.10f kua tuui te hau o te heu - he comes to the water/the dew of the lobster; 29. 205 e tangata era e - the man there; 30. 360.2 ka unga koe - you bring/you order; ki to maitaki - for the good (thing); 31. 59f - 32. 95x mai tae hahau ia - he does (not wear the feather-hat; i te nuku roa - in the big group; 33. 26 ma te humu - for tattooing; 34. 6 kua oho te rima - the hand goes; 35. 208.73f ki te ariki - to the king; kua tere ko te heu ia - the lobster runs; 36. V95x kua hanu - he brings forth/fertilizes; 37. 17 ki te kotia ia - the dug up (earth); 38. 22 kua vero - he beats; 39. 430 koia ki te moa - he (beats) the cock; 40. 300.63 e kua rere ki te toki - he flies to the stone-adze.
That bird does not come to climb up the hill,
though he wears a feather-hat,
this bird climbs up (to Orongo) with his feather-hat.
The red bird [the timo] flies to him when the dress is ready,
then the young bird climbs up (the hill) with its feather-hat.
You fly to the dancing man, who carries the yams-root (in his hand),
he does not come to the young cock with the feather-hat.
He who tattoos them, leads him back to the tribe.
He holds his hand over the young cock with the feather-hat,
over the bird, who is fledged.
He seizes her, when the time of the sugarcane has come.
That is the young cock with the feather-hat.
Like the dug up earth you tattoo the young cock, you do not beat him.
The group kindles the fire for the man,
who wears the feather-stick, [the timo],
the group, that wears the feather-hat, when the moon has risen.
He comes to the water/the dew of the lobster.
He brings those (against their will), who do not wear the feather-hat.
He tattoos them and brings them to the king,
The lobster runs to him, he fecundates the earth after he has dug it up.
He gives the stick to the cock, [he tattoos him],
then he runs back to the stone-adze.
That Metoro really knew what he read and did not pretend to read only as Fedorova maintains (1986: 244), can be seen in particular from the fusion V64.70.10f (no. 28) that is rendered by him as kua tuu i te hau o te heu - he comes to the water/the dew of the lobster. The water or dew is a synonym for the vaginal fluid, the lobster stands for the mature girl, the sign for 'he comes' is a variant of the stick that can also represent the male member. The fusion of the signs is a symbol of their sacred union. Heuheu that is explained in Englert's dictionary as 'hair of the body except the pubic hair', can be translated as lobster, too. The trunk is his body, the roots are his feet. Here it is a symbol of the male potency, however. It should be noted that these animals undergo a metamorphosis.
Barthel reads a Hau-maka-chant here, by identifying hau, the feather-hat, following his 'principle of partial phonetical rendering', with this name (1963: 417). But such a principle has no basis in Metoro's readings. He always uses a complete word as synonym, for instance ihe for rock and thorn. Barthel's other readings like counsellor (630), dream-bird (V670), nobleman (600) are his inventions. After having investigated them carefully, the whole interpretation breaks down like a house of cards, to use Fischer's expression, but to the sand, on which it has been built in Fischer's opinion, Metoro, Barthel refers only in case of the sign for humu, tattoo, because it fits in his concept of Hau-maka's tattooing of Hotu-matua, but Hau-maka is not mentioned by Metoro at all.
In the same way as these two lines, all the four tablets that were read by Metoro can be translated. The main reason, why the previous endeavours to do this failed seems to be the incapability of the modern mind to make himself familiar again with the symbolic way of thought. That the modern mind has lost this capacity is due to his involvement in letter scripts. In the same way, the grown up man loses the memory of his childhood. It requires considerable training of the mind to regain this capacity. If we do not succeed in reading the pictograms of a remote writing system, we are not entitled to hold this system and those who have developed it, responsible for it. Such a behaviour is equally foolish as that of the fox against the grapes in Aesop's well-known parable. If we believe that such pictograms are unreadable at all, we are still on the track of the fox: we make our own inefficiency the measure-stick of our judgment.
The fox is more intelligent, however, than Aesop thought. Having noticed that the true (and sweet) grapes are difficult to obtain, he has started to produce artificial fruits and earns a lot by selling it.
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The deciphering of the Indus-script with recourse to the Ṛg-Veda shows that the Indus-culture is older than the Vedic canon that was transmitted orally. The Yoga has the same origin as it can be deduced from Indus seals and tablets with a person sitting in a yoga-posture. This is also evident through the Yoga practice of the greeting of the sun, where the hands form the Indus-sign for the sun . Since the Indus cities were destroyed in a relatively early time the Indus-script was conserved as a word script. It did not develop into a letter-script as the Egyptian writing. The word remained a whole, it was not divided into letters. The Sanskrit-writing can still be recognized as a word script, since syllables and even letters that all end into a.
We can learn from the rediscovery of the Indus-culture that the survival of a culture is caused through spiritualization and renunciation and not on egoism and the striving for an unlimited progress that turns modern societies so aggressive, that they not only kill themselves mutually, but also nature in a measure greater than ever before. Spiritualization is ambidextrous, which in the Indus-script is rendered by the sign of the double-archer , that is related to the creator-god Prajāpati, who embraces and protects all beings as is said in ṚV X.121.10. This he does with his two bows that have no aggressive implications.
Like the Indus-script the Easter Island script also called Rongorongo has been regarded as ornamentic by some scholars. The same happened to the Egyptian script before its deciphering. In case of a canon the readings of two islanders can be used for the deciphering, if they are studied without prejudice as it was done by the author.
Egbert Richter has studied Western and Indian philosophy, the science of religion and several European, Oriental and Indian languages. By the extension 'Ushanas' to his pen-name he indicates his relationship to the Indian and the Vedic tradition. In 2008 he was awarded the title prachya vidya parangata (expert in ancient Indian culture) by the World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) in Orlando.
By PRASUN SONWALKAR
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI, February 12,1994
The inscription of the seal 1339 illustrated at the left renders: May we have children, Rudra, may our lord be blessed (ṚV II.33.1).
The key to unravelling the secrets of the great Indus Valley civilisation lies in the Rig Veda, according to a German writer who has developed a new method to decipher and decode the Indus script that has defied researchers and scriptographers for centuries. Experts are no doubt impressed by the method, but would like more in-depth study before they put the seal of approval. Of the few scholars who have claimed to have succeeded in deciphering the Indus script, the method evolved by the German, Mr. Egbert Richter-Ushanas, gives a new dimension to the search. After over six years of pain-staking research, he has come up with a method that relies heavily on the verses of the ancient Rig Veda, and the premise that the holy scripture was influenced by the Indus way of thinking. He has found striking - if not parallel - similarities between the translations of the motifs on Indus seals and the verses of the Rig-Veda. Over 1,000 decoded: Of the 3.500-odd seals unearthed from the archaeological sites associated with the Indus valley civilisation. Mr. Richter-Ushanas claims to have successfully deciphered and decoded nearly 1000. Some times ago, a district transport officer from Bihar, Mr. N.K. Verma, had claimed to have deciphered the script on the basis of 'motifs' of items used by the Santhals during puja. Mr. Richter-Ushanas, however, disagrees with Mr. Verma's method, stating that such motifs are found almost everywhere in the world. Currently on a brief visit to India, he told this correspondent: "In order to decipher an ancient script, we ought to go beyond the laws or rules of science, but we should not violate them, as Mr. Verma did, for he did not pay any heed to the historical development of the Devanāgarī script and its relation to the Brāhmī script. Motifs like those on the Indus seals or of Indus signs can occur everywhere in the world, not to speak of Indian tribes who are still on the level of a dream world, where the motifs are produced". THE METHOD: After arriving at the meaning of an Indus inscription with the help of the Sumerian and Brāhmī script, he strings together a loose meaning of a series of inscriptions on any given seal, and finds a near-identical verse in the Rig Veda to arrive at a more accurate meaning of the inscriptions. Hailing from Bremen in north Germany, the indologist has some translations to his credit, including the Bhagavadgītā and the Upaniṣads. He has also written books on philosophy. His research on the Indus script - beginning in 1988 at the age of 50 - also took him to the Harappa and other sites of the Indus Valley civilisation. HARD TO TRACE: It was not always possible to find out the exact verse of the Ṛg Veda in which the in- scriptions are handed down, he said. This was partly be cause many verses are similar though occurring in different hymns, partly due to the shortness of the inscriptions, and partly by the ambiguity of the signs. But none of these reasons affect the "basic equivalence" of the inscriptions and the Rig Veda, he said emphatically. "Neither the Indus script nor the Brāhmī script are mentioned in the Brahmāāṇas. Therefore it is likely that these books were composed between 1500 and 1700 ante. Sanskrit has ever been an 'elaborated' language. Its elaboration cannot have taken place much earlier than the manufacturing of the first Indus seals, around 2300 ante. This would also be the time of the composition of the first Vedic hymns. This authorship of Sanskrit also explains why the words on the seals are often divided differently from the rules of modern etymology, but in agreement with the Brahmāṇas and Upaniṣads. Where could their authors have learned it from, if not from .the priests of the Indus valley civilisation?", Mr. Richter-Ushanas said. According to him, it is impossible to arrive at a translation of an Indus inscription without the Rig Veda for comparison. All the Indus signs on the seals, including the number signs, were originally names of gods. BASIC FEATURES: By careful study of the script he has drawn up ten basic features, prominent among them are: · Most inscriptions are centred around a dvandva (a double word connected by and) or a tatpurusa (a com-positum in the genitive gender). · All signs can be used as noun, verb, adjective or com-parative. · All signs can be male or female, except when they denote man or woman by nature. · Contrary to the rules of a letter script, different signs can have the same meaning and same signs can have different meanings. The actual meaning depends on the context, mainly on the name of the god to whom the inscription is dedicated. Mr. M.C. Joshi. former director-general of the Archaeological Suryey of India (ASI) is clearly excited about the conclusions. The deduction that the inscriptions have parallels in the Veda may need further probe, but the methodology adopted by Mr. Richter-Ushanas certainly has interesting logic, he said.
Additional remarks by Egbert Richter-UshanasIn 1994, when the article by Mr. Sonwalkar appeared in the Times of India, I affiliated the inscription of the first seal - the only one that was published in this article - to Ṛg-Veda I.155.4 dedicated to Viṣṇu, because I read the three short strokes tentively as the three worlds and as three steps. Then I discovered that the sign for the guardian, a man wearing bow and arrow, can also mean Rudra. There is also a relation between Rudra and the zebu till modern times. This led to the new translation rendered under the image of the headline. In this case the inscription was also useful in restoring line c of the Vedic verse. The landlord (literally the man on the horse) is blessed through the children, according to the similar verse V.4.10d he becomes immortal through them (cf. Geldner's note). The Indus seer had a higher aim as it can be seen from the unicorn-seal 2632 dedicated to Agni, whose last four signs are identical with the inscription of seal 1339. He tried to become immortal in this very life, as a yogi or jīvanmukta. The new reading of seal 1339 confirms that I was on the right track to affiliate the Indus inscription to a verse of the Ṛg-Veda for otherwise its decoding would be altogether subjective. It is often difficult to find out a reading of an Indus sign in the Veda that coincides with its pictographic form and with the amulet character of the seals. This function they certainly had, because they were worn on the breast or round the arm. I was also right in reading the signs logographically. In all endeavourings to decode the Indus signs, especially of Indian researchers, they are treated as letters. A word script is regarded as inferior, some scholars do not regard it as a script altogether, inspite of the Chinese and the Sumerian word script, whose basic images are known. In Egypt, the script was a means against oblivion of the past, but many Āryans wanted to forget the past and the people who ruled at that time. Probably this is the reason, why the Indus signs are mentioned in the Veda only cryptically as the names of the gods. One of the basic rituals of the Indus Valley religion was the sacred marriage, which can be deduced from the motifs of several seals. Rudra was born from the seed that fell on the earth after the cohabitation of the father of the sky and his daughter, the Dawn (ṚV X.61.7). Therefore the seed is a sign on the seal 1339. Because Rudra was born from the seed of the cosmic father, he is apt to help the human father in getting children.
The inscription of the seal 1135 illustrated at the left renders:Like a man (seedgiver) (1) with two women (in bed) (2,3)
the drawing animal (5) goes on firmly (4) (RV X.101.11).
On this seal the sacred marriage is performed by the sun and his two wives, heaven and earth. On the other hand, heaven and earth are the parents of the sun, when they are regarded as the male and the female principle. The sun is the father and the son simultaneously. Through the ritual of the sacred marriage this is realized and fertility and liberation (mokṣa) is achieved. The sacred marriage is hence the forerunner of yoga as it is indicated by the original meaning 'union'. Like the sun a man who has two wives goes firmly on his way of purification and perfection. Therefore the seer Yajñavalkya, who is the spiritual guide of king Janaka in the Bṛhad-Araṇyaka-Upaniṣad, had two wives. When he retired to the forest, one followed him, the other remained in the city. It is against the rules of modern life that a man has two wives. It will be accepted, however, by modern Western society, if a woman has two lovers. In Utta Danellla's novel The marriage on the countryside a young woman of a rich family is going to marry an earl of good reputation, who is about tens years older than she, but than she happens to meet a younger man and falls in love with him. They meet in a stable (a holy place in the Akkadian sacred marriage and in Christianity) a few days day before her marriage. In the movie they have sexual intercourse there. On the day of her marriage she simulates a faintness and the marriage is postponed. A year later she marries the other man and makes him enter her father's company. The former bridegroom accepts the new situation as a matter of fate without having any feeling of jealousy. He does not criticize his former bride at all, not to speak of calling her a prostitute, as he would have regarded her 20 or 30 years ago. In the movie his seeming self-control proves in her eyes, that he does not really love her. In both versions it is love which gives her the right to leave him and marry the other man. But marry she must. If she had married the earl, they would have divorced after a short time and she would have married another man anyway or live together with a partner without marrying him. Even then she would not have been called a prostitute as long as she pretends to have acted out of love. But what is love? To have a new relationship every three years or every week or so? Utta Danella, who was born in 1924, is one of the most renowned female writers in Germany nowadays. More than 70 millions copies of her books were sold. She married as a young woman a 20 years older man. In her novel she creates a dream world of love which ultimately leads into a commercial relation. In this way she propagates the modern Western style of living. The movie follows the same intention, but with much more male violence in love situations. In the Veda the goddess Dawn is described as a loving and faithful wife and as a prostitute who approaches men. Western scholars believe that such behaviour of a woman crept into the Veda and the Āryan society through the tribes the Āryans met after their arrival in India, but it is much more likely that it was inherited from the Indus civilization, where figurines of young women with a beautiful body and seducing dress and appearance have been found. Certainly they were not only puppets as some scholars believe, or if they were, they were the puppets of men. If we want to understand, what the Indus civilization meant to the Āryan society, we must study the ritual of the sacred marriage. It was this ceremony that created fertility and resurrection in the ancient high civilizations, and this ceremony was the main reason for its decay and of its apparent oblivion by the Āryans and its revival in Yoga and Tantra in later times. Therefore a chapter on this ritual has been included in this enlarged study. Worpswede, 11-2-2013