Indus Valley, Harappa inscriptions and seals

Significance of Fish Symbols in Indus Valley (Harappan) Inscriptions

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, March 2003 (ID. 2003-03-01)
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Harappa seals belonging to the Indus Valley civilization have large numbers of pictures of fish. According to Professor Asko Parpola, fish is also one of the most popular motifs of the early Harappan painted pottery. This short article presents a hypothesis on the significance of the fish symbol in Harappan seals.

Most scholars of Indus Valley civilization believe that it was a Dravidian or proto-Dravidian civilization. Tamil language is one of the oldest of Dravidian languages. Presently Tamil people live in the southern region of the Indian peninsula and in the north-eastern region of the Sri Lankan Island. What is the ancestry of Tamils? Legend has it that there was a large landmass south of the Indian peninsula called the continent of Kumari (Kumari Kandam). Westerners refer to this ancient continent as "Lemuria". There is geological evidence that there was, in fact, a landmass south of the Indian peninsula. According to legend and some literary references, Tamils populated this continent and kings belonging to the Pandyan dynasty (Pandya dynasty) ruled the land. This landmass submerged and some of the population came north to what is today the Indian subcontinent. It is possible that Tamils (or Dravidians) lived in India already and the "refugees" joined them. It is also quite conceivable that there was some migration and interaction between the north and south even before the tragic event. After the submergence of the southern landmass, Pandyan kings established their kingdom in southern India with Madurai as their capital. They ruled from Madurai as late as the 14-th Century AD. Their country, which was part of Tamil Nadu, was called Pandyanadu (or Pandya Nadu). Padynan dynasty is the oldest of the three ruling dynasties of Tamil Nadu, namely, the Chera, Chola and Pandya dynasties. 

The royal emblem of the Padya dynasty is fish. Tamil word for fish is "meen". Pandyan king is sometimes referred to as "meenavan". Their deity is "Meenatchi" (or Meenashi or Meenakshi). "Meen" means fish (as we said before), and "aatchi" means rule. Thus the name "Meenatchi" may mean "one who rules over the Pandyan dynasty". Even today there is a temple for goddess Meenatchi (Meenashi) in Madurai. Thus fish is an important symbol for Tamils. So the fish symbols in Harappan seals may refer to their ancestral king and/or the goddess.


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