One sees what one wants to

Published : Nov 11, 2000 00:00 IST

The Indus Valley Script: Texts, Concordances and Tables

Corpus of the Tamil-Brahmi InscriptionsDinamani

Mahadevan contributed this comment at the invitation of Frontline:


N.S. Rajaram has been good enough to send me an advance copy of his response (published in this issue) to the article "Horseplay in Harappa" by Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer (Frontline, October 13). My attention has also been drawn to his commun ication in the matter circulated on the Internet.

Rajaram has stated in his online communication that the copy he sent me in 1997 is "exactly the same one that went into the book." This is not quite true. What I got from Rajaram was a copy, labelled in someone's hand, of the photograph of Seal 453 as pu blished by Mackay in Pl. XCV of his book and reproduced by Frontline (October 13, p.7) and not the computer 'enhancement' published by N. Jha and N.S. Rajaram in their book (p. 177). The photograph shows clearly the hind part of a bull on the brok en seal. The computer 'enhancement' creates an optical illusion which makes the animal look somewhat like a deer, which is further developed into a 'horse' by Rajaram's artist. In the interest of truth, I have made available to Frontline the origi nal communication of 1997 received from Rajaram.

Rajaram's 'Horse II,' which he sees on the front cover illustration of Frontline (October 13), is another instance of an optical illusion. I have seen the original seal with the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi (ASI No. 63.10/363). No hor se is to be seen there. Rajaram's 'horses' only prove that one sees what one wants to.

However, I agree with Rajaram that it is time we put this 'horse business' behind us and look at the decipherment itself. I have done so. The Jha-Rajaram 'decipherment' is completely invalid. It is, in fact, a non-starter for the simple reason that the d irection of reading adopted by the authors is wrong, as demonstrated by Witzel and Farmer (Frontline, October 13, box item at p.12). The 'decipherment' makes as much sense as you would get out of this page if you try to read it from a mirror refle ction.

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