13. Indus Seals portray Star constellations

Unicorn Figure: Auriga-Aldebaran constellations combined

Unicorn symbol

                        Unicorn symbol is the most discussed symbol and no conclusion is arrived at on its meaning. Benght Hemtun says that the unicorn symbol indicates the Taurus constellation and the horns of unicorn points towards the star Aldebaran. His explanation seems to be correct and the picture in the seal beautifully coincides with the star constellation. The International Astronomical Union website has an interesting observation on this Taurus constellation. The narration on the topic “origin of constellations” starts with the remark that the cave paintings at Lascaux in southern France could have been the earliest known sky map depicting the Taurus constellation (The bull figure in the painting). The Pleiades constellation (six stars cluster) is also depicted by way of six dots near the bull head. The painting is 17,300 years old and it shows that the study of constellations have started a full 10,000 years ahead of the emergence of farmers in Anatolia. Man was at hunter stage of civilisation at this time period (20,000BC). (Rappengluck., 1996)

                       The horn of the bull was used as a pointer by the Indus people; hence they depicted only a single horn instead of double horn. They were well aware that there were no unicorns at that time, and the unicorn is deliberately drawn to show the subsequent generation, it was a symbolism not an existing animal. The vessel before the animal is variously described by different people. Hemtun says that it looks like a sailing boat, and the seal depicts the starting of sailing season. Mahadevan says that it looks like a filter and most probably it was a kind of filter used for soma juice, but he himself points out the contradiction that soma is known to later day suppose to be Indo-Europeans and not Indus people. In this book, the possibility of Indus people themselves being the authors of Rig Veda is being discussed, if that theory is accepted, the possibility of this vessel being soma filter is very much possible.

                             Closer look of the vessel shows that it is some kind of ritual vessel, and most probably it was used for collecting the blood of the bull, before slaughtering the bull. Blood was considered as the only food and source of nourishment for the spirits of the dead persons. Most probably the blood was collected in this kind of vessel and offered to the spirits by way of pouring blood into holes made on graves (or) stem of the vessel itself acted like a tube and the blood was directed towards the inner cavities of the tomb. After the blood is drained out the animal could have been slaughtered and the meat would have been consumed by the people. All the depictions in the seal have two parallels, one heavenly event and another earthly event. So far we discussed about the earthly nature of the vessel symbol. Now it is the time to think about the heavenly meaning of this vessel symbol. Careful observation of sky map shows that the ritual vessel coincides with that of Orion constellation. The orientation direction of Orion is different from the orientation in the “hunter on tree” symbolism, which is being narrated in the following pages.

Mother goddess of Indus valley

 Inanna fighting animals

Hemtun mentions about naked goddess and her role with rain. This Indus seal illustrated here shows a similar goddess who is naked and standing on elephant, crowned by a wheel. Heliacal rising of Auriga constellation might have indicated the beginning of rainy season in those days. Because of that reason Inanna (mother goddess) is always associated with rain. (See the discussion on Inanna under the chapter interpretation of Sumerian symbols). Hemtun says that wheels with six pokes means moon calendar. The six segments represent six seasons of two months each. (Or) There is possibility of another explanation also. The wheel represents sun and she is protecting the sun from two horrible animals, which are trying to eat him. The animals are most probably Raahu and Ketu, which are responsible for the Grahana. As per Hindu mythology Grahana happens because these two monsters try to eat the sun. (Or) There could be a third explanation also for the wheel; it might have represented the North Pole star, helping out the sailors in determining the north direction. Out of this discussion one concept is clear; the rain goddess Inanna of Indus people has been replaced by rain god Indra of later day Indo European people. There are two things in common between Inanna and Indra; one is the vahan (vehicle) of these gods (elephant) and the other one is their identification mark (wheel).

   The Goat seal

Aswins and goat seal

                   The word aswins appears in Veda frequently, and aswins means horse. However horse symbol does not appear anywhere in the Indus symbols. Hence it has become major rallying point of Dravidian theory supporters of origin of Indus sites. Careful analysis of the symbols used for Aswin star constellation shows that the Kalan group of priests used the symbol of top of foot. Whereas, the next group used the symbol of honey bee and honey comb. Aswins are generally considered as medicine men, short in stature and accompanied gods as their companions and generally shown as small dwarf servants in the foot portion of gods. The third group used the symbol of goat (Aries) for this constellation. In fact goat is the most popular symbol for this star constellation. Only the fourth and the last group used the symbol of horse for this constellation. The above shown important seal named as “goat seal” shows the importance given to goat. The face of goat is like a human being and he is venerated as god. Most probably Agni is Indian version of God Aries. (Goat is the vahan/ vehicle of God Agni). (Or) Daksha could be the other candidate to take this place, because he had a goat’s head. In fact goat is not sacrificed in the ritual shown in the seal; only a human is being sacrificed, that shows the importance given to goat as a star constellation. The seven dancers portrayed here in this seal symbolize the Pleiades star constellation.


 Yogi Seal: Orion and surrounding constellations.

Yogi seal

 The god shown in the seal is “Proto-Shiva”. He wears the buffalo horns as his head gear, which is the characteristic emblem of Yama. He is also known as Mrigashira (Pasupathi) (Orion) and the lunar constellation is named after him. If you take a close look of that constellation in the sky map, the position of the tiger is tallying exactly the way it is represented in the seal. Other animals depicted in the seal had to be visualized with little bit difficulty, but all the animals are surrounding him, as depicted in the seal. Even minute points of the constellations are also depicted naturally in the seal. For example, there is a sign of man standing near the back of tiger, in fact there is a small constellation called puppies (modern name) (i.e. Little dog) only portion of which comes near to the back of the tiger is to be taken.  It gives an appearance of little man standing over the back of the tiger as depicted in the seal. This little man symbol brings to my mind the idea of “Lord Ayyappan”.  Note that the Yogi sitting position of “proto Shiva” is similar to the sitting posture of Ayyappan.  Then refer to the childhood story of Ayyappan that he was sent into the forest by the step mother and came out of the forest riding a tiger.  This story exactly tallies with the scene depicted in the seal. This story is evidence to the re-emergence theory of Indus ideas. It is a fantastic achievement that the constellations are so beautifully depicted, it cannot be done by ordinary minds. Definitely, it is the work of intelligent people.

               Proto-Shiva had been depicted with four faces, because he could see everything going on this world because of his top most position in the sky. He was god of moral value and punisher of immoral people, because he could watch all actions of people day and night on earth because of his position in high observation point in heaven and all seeing four/three heads. He can be identified with later day Shamash (Sumeria) and Brahma   (of India). However Brahma is not popular in present day India, because he is really old time god and has been replaced by many other new upcoming gods. It is one important phenomenon to be remembered that in Hindu mythology one god is replaced by another god (because of conquest by new invader or ruler) and the new god is given all attributes of the old god, whom he replaced, these attributes are in addition to his already existing power attributes. Because of this replacement phenomenon Kalan and Brahma had been relegated to the back stage and Yama has taken over those powers, which he lost to Shiva in the subsequent period. Shiva reigns supreme as on today. 

Linga worship

          Linga worship is popular in Shiva temples of today.  Scholars are divided in their opinion about Linga worship at Indus culture.  Practically there is not much physical evidence and no phallic stone had been recovered.  But it is a common practice in megalithic culture that, a phallic stone is placed over grave of a male person and a ring stone is placed over the grave of a female person to identify the sex of the venerated ancestor.  Hence it can safely be assumed that such a practice was there in Indus culture also.        In addition to that note importance given to male organ in the “proto-Shiva” seal, the Orion’s belt is one of the easily identifiable three stars in Orion constellations.  The three stars of Orion belt correspond with the groin of Proto Shiva.  It looks like that Linga was venerated as a heavenly symbol as a mark of identification of Orion constellation, which was important in determining the beginning of a new year along with Dog star (Sirius) constellation. There are always two parallels in mythological stories first the heavenly one and the second earthly one. The male organ of proto Shiva is heavenly representation and linga is the earthly representation in temples. (Or) The linga may be indicating the most important star of the sky the Aldebaran. Consider the bull (Nandi) in knelt down position before linga in Shiva temples. This is the same scene in heaven, wherein the bull constellation (Taurus) is located just front of the star Aldebaran.  

 Hunter on tree. (Indus seal depiction)

Orion and Canis Major constellations.

Hunter on the tree- tiger below

This seal is the different version of the yogi seal described above. The change is that the yogi has become tree. Now the same constellations combine is depicted as tree, man and tiger. Tiger is the common link here. The myth of tiger and hunter on Shiv-rathri day should be recollected here. Story of Shiv-rathri is important in Hindu point of view. Many of them follow the rituals on this important day. The story goes in the following way. A hunter goes on a hunting trip into a forest and is chased by a tiger, to escape from the animal hunter climbs a tree and waits for the animal to go away. But the tiger decides other wise and stays put on the same place; down below the tree. With no other option in his hands, the hunter decides to stay on the tree over night. To keep himself awake, the hunter plucks leaves of the tree and throws down on the tiger wishing that it will go away. The whole night passes in this way, and in the early morning light hunter notices that the tiger has disappeared but there was a Shiv-lingam on that place instead of the tiger. The hunter feels that Shiva himself had come in the form of tiger to show the importance of Shiv-lingam of that place as well as the importance of the tree; Vilvam tree (Aegle marmelos tree (or) wood apple tree).

As described in other myths, there are two events in the story, one heavenly event and other earthly event. The earthly event has already been described. The heavenly event is that it is the heliacal raising of the Canis Major, which indicated the beginning of the New Year. Devote Hindus spend the whole night fasting and praying to Shiva. In ancient Egypt, a priest was assigned with special task of watching every night to spot the arising of dog-star. Even now Hindus are following the very same old custom, and carry out the special duty assigned to the priest without understanding the meaning behind the ritual.

 Sign of double Axe

(Adapted after the seal picture shown in web site of Steve Farmer)
Sign of double Axe
This seal is a kind of sky map and shows the position of various star constellations. Steve Farmer has critically analysed this seal and concludes that various symbols shown in this seal does not really depict any kind of script but only some kind of pictograms. His logical analysis is correct because most likely these symbols are describing the position of various star constellations and indicates a specific period of time in a calendar year. Benght Hemtun describes that the double axe symbol indicates two crescent moons, the upper one depicting growing season and lower one depicting time for visiting under world (some kind of religious ceremony of ancient Sumeria) associated with sowing season. The double axe symbol shown in this seal looks more like a stylished tree symbol. Heavenly tree is the symbol of Inanna. It is most likely that the double axe indicates the month of Inanna (mother Goddess) and the festival of Inanna which might have fallen on the full moon day in Auriga constellation. This also might have been the beginning of rainy season and sowing season of Sumerians as well as Indus people.

    The seal of double axe shows the arrival of new group of people in Indus valley. This sky map shows new constellations of northern hemisphere like Andromeda, Camelopardalis, Bootes and others.  In this picture the arrow of warrior is indicating the direction and location of pole star also. This importance given to pole star shows that the people who made this seal are from sea faring people and are definitely a class of their own in any society. Otherwise the people who used this seal might have arrived from Central Asia, because for them also the steppe lands are like a sea of grass or desert without any kind of identification for navigation. The problems are the same in sea as well as desert, no drinking water and no direction. Hence both these groups give lot of importance to pole star. The presence of this seal among Indus artefacts further substantiates the theory that the Indus sites were burial sites and were used by different kind of people over a long period of time.