Bangle Tradition in the IVC Symbology
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Bangle Tradition in the IVC Symbology



This is the presentation i used at the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore, India. My paper was presented on June 25, 2010 at Kapilar Hall in the 12 noon-1:30 pm slot. Asko Parpola, ...

This is the presentation i used at the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore, India. My paper was presented on June 25, 2010 at Kapilar Hall in the 12 noon-1:30 pm slot. Asko Parpola, Ramaswamy and Srinivasan were the other 3 presenters. Iravatham Mahadevan was the session chairman.



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Bangle Tradition in the IVC Symbology Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Bangle Tradition in The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) Symbology By Sukumar Rajagopal, Associate, Indus Research Center, Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai Presented at World Classical Tamil Conference, Coimbatore,India, June 25, 2010 at Kapilan Arangam, 12 PM – 1:30 PM For detailed references please review paper published in the conference proceedings.
  • 2. Bangle Hypothesis
    • Bangles on both arms was a symbol of motherhood/marriage
      • Married Women/Mothers wore row bangles in both arms, whereas the unmarried women (or not yet mothers) wore bangles only in one arm
    • Importance of hypothesis to the broader decipherment effort
      • Double Symbolic Convention
    • Evidences considered
      • Indus Artifacts
      • Indus Sign List
      • Archaeological Architectural Evidence
      • Indus Burial Customs
      • Indus Seafaring Tradition
      • Linguistic Evidence
      • Sangam Tradition
      • Modern day bangle traditions amongst commoners & tribals
  • 3. Indus Artifacts depicting Bangles Dancing Girl, shown wearing row bangles in left arm
  • 4. Indus Artifacts depicting Bangles Fig Tree Worship Seal, All the women wearing row bangles on both arms
  • 5. Indus Artifacts depicting Bangles Contest for a Girl’s Hand Seal, shows tiger goddess wearing bangles in both arms, but the Bride wears bangles in only one arm. Presence of both in the same seal rules out Scribal error.
  • 6. Other seals showing women wearing row bangles
    • Seals K-50 (fig 14.26,p254) , M-305 (fig 10.9, p185), H-179 (fig 14.5, p244), M-1181 (fig 14.16, p250) also depict women with row bangles on both arms (Parpola 1994 )
  • 7. Indus signs depicting Double Symbolic Convention For each of the above signs, there are ones which show implements in only one arm/leg like the one below which also has a double equivalent
  • 8. Architecture - Double House
    • Further evidence for the double denoting higher status can be seen in House 1, in HR-A Area (Mohenjadaro). It had double entrances, double staircases, and a brick circle 1.2 meters wide (Ratnagar 2001). Number of seals found is unusually high and the presence of prestige objects suggests that it was not an ordinary residence. Sir Mortimer Wheeler assumed this to be a temple (Parpola 2004).
    • In the same house in Courtyard 10, a vandalized alabaster statue was found wearing the characteristic ceremonial headdress with two long pieces [the two long pieces another instance of the Double Symbolic convention] falling down the back of his head (Ratnagar 2001). The famous priest king statue (DK 1909) wore a similar ceremonial head dress (Parpola 2004, fig 12.1, p212).
  • 9. Indus Burial Customs
    • Instances of women being buried with shell bangles only in one arm
    • Claus – “During the Indus Valley Civilization…. Burials of adult women with shell bangles on the left arm are thought to represent the earliest use of bangles to define ethnic affiliation and possibly marital status”.
  • 10. Indus Seafaring Tradition One on the left is a traditional Indus boat and the one on the right has been identified as a double-decked boat. Is it possible the people of higher status rode this boat?
  • 11. Connection between Two & Higher Status
    • How is the number two connected to higher status? Interestingly, the word for two in Tamil – Iru, has the meaning of greatness/eminence/largeness/vast/spacious in Tamil (DEDR 481) as well as the traditional meaning of two (DEDR 474).
    • In Old Tamil tradition, there are several instances of Iru being used in the sense of greatness. There are poems written for a Chera King - Ceraman Kanaikkal Irumporai (Purananuru, Sangam Literature). Irum used as great.
    • Irumpanai meaning great/big bamboo in Pathirrupathu (Sangam Literature). Iruneer for ocean/great water in Manimekalai,(Sangam Literature). Irumpon – iron – great metal Akananuru (Sangam Literature).
    • Therefore, a woman wearing bangles in both arms is a “great” woman, having a higher status than the woman, who wears bangles in only one arm. Similarly, it could be inferred that in the sign list also, the Double Symbolic Convention, indicated higher status owing to higher skill levels.
  • 12. Puberty, Pregnancy, Marriage & Bangles
    • Puberty Ritual Still Celebrated
    • Choora and Shankha Phola traditions during weddings
    • Pregnancy –7th month Valai Kappu ritual in Tamilnadu, during which the woman wears row bangles (Parpola 1994). In the tradition followed by Badagas & Todas solemnize weddings only after Valai Kappu.
    • Baliya – upper arm bangle worn only by married women – Banjaras, Charans,Kolams, Lambadis and Ahirs.
    • From the above, it is reasonable to infer that the IVC would have either treated bangles as a symbol of a marriage or as a symbol of motherhood. In either case, in a fertility oriented society, it indicates a higher status .
  • 13. Sangam Bangle Tradition
    • In the Sangam Age, a ritual called Silambu Kazhi Nonbu was performed before the wedding, when the bride removes the Silambu (Gnanambal 1947). This makes the Silambu type bangle also a wedding symbol.
  • 14. Linguistic Evidence
    • Atukku Thotar, Irattai Kilavi in Tamil
    • The other 2 candidate languages – Indo Aryan & Munda
      • 434 entries, with meaning two, double, pair, couple, in Turner’s Comparative Indo Aryan Dictionary were analyzed. Only one word Doni had a connection to Great and its derived from Droni which has no connection to two.
      • Found 3 words in Campbells’ Santali dictionary which indicate some connection between two and great (Munda) but could not find direct etymological connection to two as great.
    • Therefore it is reasonable to conclude Two as Great is not a feature of Indo Aryan & Munda
  • 15. Other evidences
    • Subcastes of the Teli (Oilpressers) castes of Central/Western India - Ekbaila/Ekbaile use one bullock in their oilpress and Dobaila/Dobaile use two bullocks in their oilpress. Dobaile are considered to be of a higher status
    • Rettai Vilakkukaran, man of 2 lights, performing purification rites
    • In Tamil weddings, people of higher economic status employed Double Nagaswaram (traditional musical instrument) bands, whereas people of lower economic status employed a Single Nagaswaram band.
  • 16. Thank you I am grateful to Iravatham Mahadevan, Priya Raju, Sridhar K. Narayanan, Subramanian Chandrasekhar, Sundar G, K. Ananthalakshmi and Manikanda Pisharody for reviewing the earlier drafts of this paper and/or providing helpful tips, without necessarily agreeing with everything stated in this paper. Special thanks to GC Suresh Babu of the Indus Research Center, RMRL for the images.