Iravatham Mahadevan had always been curious about ancient scripts, deciphering them becoming a lifelong passion. One of the most celebrated researchers of scripts in the Indian subcontinent, he began his career as a subcollector before taking voluntary retirement to devote time to his pet subject.
The Padma Shri recipient turned 88 on October 2, but his nearly four decades of work – to establish the language of the Indus civilization as an early form of Dravidian script – continues. Despite failing health, Mahadevan contributes to the Indus Research Centre of the Roja Muthiah Research Library.
Mahadevan, who published his first monograph on Tamil Brahmi inscriptions found in caverns in the state while in service, was also the first to work out a solution to read the Tamil Brahmi script with the help of a key by German Indologist J G Buhler (1837-1898). Mahadevan’s solution attracted wide attention as it made it possible to read names of Pandian and Chera kings in some inscriptions.
His magnum opus remains ‘Early Tamil Epigraphy – From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century AD’, but his later writings, including a 2014 paper to establish Dravidian proof of the Indus civilization through Rig Veda, are intriguing too. He identifies a recurring phrase, ‘merchant of the city’, in the Indus script, and says it is formed by signs A, B, C, D. This argument is based on the theory that pictographic script follows the rebus technique, which can be read with another meaning suggested by the same sound (picture of a knot to say ‘not’). Mahadevan had earlier established that the Indus script is written from right to left.....Read more
Source web page: Times of india