Home Article Deepak Deciphers The Indus Code (Part I)

Deepak Deciphers The Indus Code (Part I)

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[Although this story is based on history, this is a work of fiction. The author is not an expert in Indus Valley literature. However he has taken the liberty to put forward his own conjectures on the Indus valley code through the eyes of a playful child investigator, Deepak. Given the work of piecing together various sources of information on Indus culture, may however lead to some inaccuracies. Happy reading. Written, July 2006]

Then he paused. ‘Wait a minute.’ Deepak thought to himself. The tiffin boxes!

‘Dad. Dad. He came running spitting his paste. I think I decoded the script.’ Deepak’s dad looked puzzled.
A week back Deepak and his dad had setup a trip to the historic ruins of Mohemjadaro.

Munching some croutons and leaning on a long sofa, Deepak’s dad mumbled, ‘Hmm?.Indus Script?.I wonder who will ever decode it?’

Deepak was busy with his play station, and the word ‘decoded’ darted his eardrum  ‘Decode what, dad?’ He asked.

‘Well son. Did you know that no one has yet decoded the world famous Indus Script in Mohenjadaro?’ leafing through a travel brochure of Mohenjadaro, Deepak’s dad explained

‘Where’s Mohenjadaro? Deepak asked.

‘Its somewhere in Pakistan now.’ His dad replied.

At age 13, he was full of questions and wonder. He shut off his play station, squatted on the floor next to his dad, and whispered. ‘Dad. Let’s go to Mohenkadaro. Let’s decode the script.’

‘Well son.’ His dad brushed Deepak’s hair. ‘It’s not that easy. Scientists have been trying to decode the script from decades.’

‘But dad. That does not mean we can’t decode it. Can we?’ Deepak retorted.

After much cajoling and persuading Deepak’s dad reluctantly replied

‘Ok Deepu. Maybe we will. Anyway, we have to go to Mumbai to collect mama. So lets pass Mohenjadaro. Get ready for next Monday.’

‘Are you serious, dad?’ Deepak squealed in excitement.

His dad smiled and adjusted his tie ready to go to office. As he closed the door behind him, he paused for a moment, slid the door ajar and whispered ‘Put your thinking cap on son, you will have a long and bumpy ride ahead.’

Last year Deepak had visited Mumbai, his first trip to India. He was enchanted by the Elephanta caves, walked on the Choupatti Beach, and traveled in the all-efficient local trains. Occasionally he had seen men with Nehru caps lodging and dislodging the tiffin boxes. He liked Mumbai for the vibrancy and the people. Today he was excited again. He hopped to his room and started arranging his investigation kit. A pocket binocular, a microscope, a notebook and a ready to use camera. He was ready.


Sunday night came in a jiffy.

‘Well, remind me to buy some new batteries tomorrow at the airport.’ Deepak’s dad replied adjusting the zoom lens of his Nikon.

‘Dad. Why haven’t they decoded the Indus script yet?’ Deepak asked for the fifth time that day as he packed his tiny rug sack.

‘Wait for it son. We’ll learn all about it.’

The flight was long and busy. They landed in Karachi at three in the afternoon and took an hour long flight to Mohenjodaro. After resting for the night at a local motel, Deepak was ready to leave with his investigation kit, a small water carrier, a baseball cap, khaki short and sneakers, the next morning.

Deepak’s first encounter of this place however left him a little confused. As he walked among the scattered ruins of Mohenjadaro, it did not resemble any historic buildings that he had seen before. This looked more like a dump-yard, filled with mud and old dried bricks strewn around.

‘Ok everyone.’ The tour guide greeted with a smile.

‘Good morning. This is your guide Janaab. Welcome to the world famous city of Mohenjadaro. This city dates even before Greeks or Romans. Mohenjadaro was one of the oldest planned cities with roads and  drainage systems….’

As they walked along, Deepak was already tanning. The Mohenjadaro sun was harsh and  there were hardly any trees on site. His thoughts were however on that elusive Indus script. 

‘…and this large building here was a granary, where the grain of the entire city was stored. This was one of the oldest democratic societies…’ The guide continued. Deepak looked around and at the far corner he saw some steps leading downwards.

‘Now, here, what looks like a sports stadium is really the Great Bath – a large rectangular pool for community rituals. This river has dried out. But observe the bricks. They have been tightly packed and lined with bitumen to make the pool waterproof. Imagine all this 5000 years ago…’ The guide continued.

…As he moved deeper into the museum, Deepak suddenly spotted something that looked like a writing.….

After another hour of lecture, and wandering, the guide bid farewell to all the tourists. Deepak, squat in the middle of a earth mound, exhausted.  As he opened a can of distilled water he asked his dad ‘But where’s the script dad?’
‘We’ll get to it son’ His dad explained.

‘Look Deepu. Patience is the key here.  In order to understand the script. You have to understand the lifestyle of these people. What did they eat? What did they use? What did they wear? What kind of trade did they do? These are all important questions. We can’t go back in history. But we can probe what exists today and make an informed search about what these scripts are.’

‘Ok Dad.’ Deepak nodded. ‘Then I have this question for you. Tell me if this was such an old city where is the palace and the king’s throne?’

‘Well son. See, that’s the sort of question you should be asking. This was not a kingdom. It was run by a priest-king.’
‘Who’s a priest-king?’ Deepak asked.

‘The Indus valley people were run by ceremonial priests. They did not have power like the kings. But they were considered sacred. You see son, this was not a monarchy. The priest king was a democratic concept. Let me show this.’ Deepak’s dad opened the third page of his Mohenjadora guide book and pointed out to a photograph ‘See. This one. This terracotta statue is the Priest King. Soon we’ll be able to see this in the museum.’


Deepak and his dad had some packed lunch at a nearby gazebo and moved on to the museum. Inside the museum it was a retreat from the warm air outside. As they grazed through first few displays, Deepak’s dad pointed out excitedly.

‘Look Deepak. This is the priest I was talking about. Only his bust survives today with a headdress.’

‘Who’s that woman next to him, dad?’ Deepak asked.

‘Well. That woman is supposedly a dancer. You can see her bangles and ornaments.

As they went around other artifacts, Deepak looked at different cutlery and artifacts. There was so much to see here.
‘How do I keep all these things in mind,’ he thought.

‘Now Deepu, are you beginning to understand who these people are? Well, that should give some insight into their script.’
Deepak nodded.

Then he took out a notebook and started writing. As he moved deeper into the museum, Deepak suddenly spotted something that looked like a writing.

‘Hey dad.’ He called out. ‘Is this it?’

His dad walked up to Deepak. ‘Yes son. This is it. This is the famous Indus script. What does it look like?
‘But dad why is it so tiny?’ Deepak asked in excitement.

‘That’s for you to find out. Your work starts here. Good luck.’ He smiled.

‘See Deepu. There. That writing represents a ‘bow and arrow.’ And that represents a man carrying two pots hung on a stick. And this one here, these three lines indicate a trishul.’ Deepak’s dad was getting excited with his knowledge of the signs.
Deepak on the other hand was suffering from a mild information overload. He put his palms on his jaw and stared at the writing.

‘Is this a script? A sign? A code? He wondered.

‘Where do I start?’

[To be continued…]

Author: Newton DSouza- USA

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