More evidence on Rajaram's Fraud & Fantasy

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat Oct 14 16:40:11 UTC 2000

The new issue of FRONTLINE has two important letters regarding Rajaram's
"Fraud and Fantasy" book:

* one by Harappa excavator Richard Meadow (on one more point of total
confusion of, and subsequent rabid attack by Rajaram regarding "the oldest

* the other one, by the famous Indus script expert, Iravatham Mahadevan,
that clearly shows that Rajaran had the *correct photo* (copy of Mackay) in
hand in 1997!

I copy Meadow's and Mahadeva's letters below for thsoe with slow onlinbe
access. But, this way you miss the sketch referred to below!

Read all readers' letters at:


                       Horseplay in Harappa

I congratulate you on publishing the forthright article by Michael Witzel
and Steve Farmer, titled "Horseplay in Harappa" (October 13). In the
article the authors refer to Rajaram and Jha's claim to have read a
"pre-Harappan" text from Harappa. The potte ry "tablet" from Harappa that
they claim to have "read" is the lead illustration in a BBC Online story by
Dr. David Whitehouse titled "'Earliest Writing' found." This story and the
image can be viewed at

The image of the inscribed piece of pottery was obtained by the BBC
directly from the website maintained by Omar Khan,,
and was never seen before publication by me or by any of our team who were
excavating at Harappa at thetime (M ay 4, 1999). This is unfortunate
because the image depicted in the BBC story is not the object discussed in
the Online story.

That object, a potsherd with a triple trident motif dating to sometime
between 2800 and 3500 B.C., was at the time and still is available on the
Harappa website html and is also
illustrated on page 15 of the October 13 issue of Frontline. Instead of
being willing to accept that the BBC had made an error and depicted the
wrong image, Rajar am has launched into a remarkable diatribe on the "Sword
of Truth" website excoriating me for a clarification that was distributed
on the Indology Listserver in which I pointed out the error made by the BBC
and also pointed out that while the body of the BBC story was basically
correct, the first and last sentences served to sensationalise the story.

In the end, of course, it is a matter of trust in the integrity of the
individuals concerned and acknowledgement that definitive statements
on matters of archaeological context can only be made by the excavators of
a site. In addition, the appropriate pl ace for such statements is in
publications by the archaeologists themselves and not in news stories
written and photographs chosen by journalists who are sometimes not as
careful as they might be in checking their material.

                       Richard H. Meadow
                       Harappa Archaeological Research Project
                       Peabody Museum
                       Harvard University, Cambridge
                       meadow at


Half-bull and the full horse

I read with interest the article "Horseplay in Harappa" by Michael Witzel
and Steve Farmer (October 13). As my views on the controversial Harappan
seal (Mackay 453) are apparently referred to by N. Jha and N.S. Rajaram in
their book The Deciphered Ind us Script and also cited by Witzel and Farmer
in their article, I feel I should explain where I stand in the matter.

Mackay's Seal 453 is broken off right in the middle and the front part of
the animal is lost. Judging from its hind part, and comparing the seal with
hundreds of similar ones found in the Harappan sites, one may say that the
animal is most probably the 'unicorn' bull, or the bull with two short
horns, or the humped bull (listed here in the order of statistical
probability based on the frequency of bovine motifs on the seals). In any
case the animal on the seal is clearly a bull and most certainly not a

Mackay's Seal 453 is listed as No.2453 in the Concordances of Indus
Inscriptions published by Parpola and Koskenniemi in 1973 and by me in
1977. These publications describe the animal, partly visible on the broken
seal, in the following near-ident ical terms:

                        Parpola and Koskenniemi (1973): code 93: "broken
unidentified bovid".

                        Mahadevan (1977): code 35: "uncertain animal
(mostly bovine) in the field".

 Sometime early in September 1997, Dr. Rajaram wrote to me enclosing a copy
of the published photograph (of the impression) of Mackay's Seal 453 and an
artist's reconstruction which miraculously turns the half-bull into a full
horse! Rajaram also said: "O ur recent findings about... the 'horse seal'
(and the writing on it) seem to make Parpola's theory of Harappan
Civilization as non-Vedic untenable. We have found other connections with
the Vedic which Jha and I'll be presenting in our forthcoming book The
Indus Script - A New Direction."

I replied to Rajaram on September 11, 1997 as follows: "I am somewhat
surprised you see a 'horse' in the Mackay Seal. The rear half of the animal
looks like that of a unicorn in many other seals."

The projected book has now been published by the authors with a more
assertive title. The authors state (page 162):

 "A well-known Dravidianist tried to argue with Rajaram that the animal on
the seal in question (Mackay 453) is not a horse but a unicorn bull."

I take the reference to a "Dravidianist" as a compliment. But I do not see
why Rajaram should have fought shy of mentioning my name, especially when
my views have been on record from at least 1977.

Tenali Raman, the famous court jester, once boasted to the king that he had
done a fine fresco of a galloping horse on a wall of the palace. Having
never suspected the jester of artistic abilities, the curious king went and
had a look at the wall. He saw a splash vaguely resembling a horse tail
(made earlier by Tenali Raman with a broom dipped in cowdung paste). The
king asked, "But where is the horse?". Replied Tenali Raman: "Behind that
wall, your Majesty!"

                        I. Mahadevan

ILLUSTRATION: K. RAJA   {{{go to :
and have a good laugh!! MW}}}


Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138, USA

ph. 1- 617-496 2990 (also messages)
home page:

Elect. Journ. of Vedic Studies:

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