Symbolic value of ancient symbols in 21st century

Some symbols have been inculcated in people nowadays in a way that we assume these as well established facts.
One of these symbols is the symbol of kingship; the main characteristics of throne, large proportion, rigid position and higher ground remained almost similar which are assumed about kings till date. In Sumerian art the image of the king was portrayed as the one seated on a throne larger in proportion to other human figures. E.g. the standard of ur (2600 B.C.) depicts the king as a tall figure whose head even crosses the upper bound even if seated. Egyptians even used special canons to depict heroic rigid figures of the kings. The seated sculpture of khafre (2600 B.C.) shows a king with a headdress, throne, rigid posture and a heroic body while the sheikh el-balad’s sculpture (2500 B.C.) is depicted without the canons because he was an ordinary man. The concept of sovereign kings can be seen in the victory stele of Naram-sin (2300-2200 B.C.) who larger than others stands in a heroic victorious posture above others. The awe and reverence has always been created either by large scale/proportion or the throne. The four seated ramses figures in the temple of ramses II (1257 B.C.) on a throne with a headdress and the huge scale show that the king has always been a reverent not an ordinary civilian, his feet placed above the ground to highlight his status. Similarly in persepolis (518-460 B.C.) in apadana the seated figure on a ground higher than standing figures shows the rigid posture and courtiers are some characteristics which we assume about a king or higher official today. The modern day’s president is a person whose special than the civilians, the concept of god as kings might have changed but the sovereignty after god still lies with him/her even in a democratic state. Like the kings, president gives a speech on a center space stage higher than others. The rigid posture of prince Charles, the throne and embellished headdress of queen Elizabeth II are a modified version of the ancient symbols. The high status is depicted with large president houses which replaced the ancient palaces . The reason why a president is not expected to socialize among other civilians is because of the inculcated eternal supremacy granted to kings since ancient times.

The other ancient symbol is the concept of sacred water present in religions today worldwide. Water was considered as a god in Sumerian period (2600 B.C.). The Egyptians believed in the sacred lotus flower which bloomed from the sacred water. This flower was considered the origin of the re the sun god which created the world e.g. the osiris sits on the eternal waters in the final hall of judgment depicted by egyptians (1290 B.C.). The great bath of Indus valley also shows the religious affiliation of people with the sacred water probably used for ritual bathing . The concept of sacred water is prominent in Hinduism which considers water as the source of lotus flower like egyptians. Hindu texts describe that water represents the procreative aspect of the absolute, water represents piety, purity and Vishnu in bhagwand gita is portrayed as sitting on eternal waters (Goel ). The ganges river in India supposedly carries the blessings of Vishnu and hindus take a dip in it to cleanse their ills and souls much similar to the bath at Indus valley. In Islam the holy water zamzam well is revered because of its historical significance. Zamzam well is the site from where Hazrat Ismail (R.A) son of Hazrat Ibrahim (R.A) drank water when he was left with his mother Hazrat Hagar (R.A) in a desert. In Judaism the sacred water and bathing ritual is highlighted by construction of mikveh which is collection of spring clear running water. It is meant for cleansing from leprosy, semen, childbirth and menstruation. In catholic churches the sacred water is used for blessing and rushing away evil spirits. The holy river at Jordan is believed to be the place where Jesus was baptized and bathing there preaches forgiveness from sins (Altman). Thus all religions have highlighted water as a sacred element for purification of soul since ancient societies of Egypt or Indus valley though backgrounds have been changed in every religion.

Work Cited

Altman, Nathaniel. Sacred water. Washington: Hidden spring, 2002.

Goel, Anil. “God’s favourite flower.” Jul. 1999. Lotus Sculpture. 25 Jul. 2009.

Metallurgical techniques of Indus Valley Civilization

Excavations uncovered the remains of highly urbanized and modern towns at Harappa, Kot dijji, Mohenjo-Daro etc integrated as Indus Valley civilization (2800-2600 B.C.). This era is generally praised for its seals, jewellery and town planning; also shows great progress in metallurgical techniques of bronze, lead, arsenic bronze and Copper. Although main emphasis was on trade, but the artisans adopted several exquisite techniques to manipulate different alloys for usage in sculptures, ornaments, tools and also created motifs which are still being used in customized versions in various South-Asian regions.
Indus valley metallurgists used metals such as copper, lead, gold, bronze and silver. Several crucibles of copper slag are discovered which marks the beginning of metallurgy. Most of the beads found are coated with copper glaze which must have been melted in a 1000 degree temperature kiln (Mcintosh) and perforated with thin copper wires. The beads are used in various areas for stylization purposes till date in sub-continent. Gold and silver were employed as ornaments in this era. Globular and jasper beads of gold found are still being used in Gujarat by women for hairstyling. Gold necklaces even less than 0.25 mm in diameter are some of the technological advancements in gold (Lothal) Fig1. The gold pendants found with inlaid gems are still quite common in sub-continent generally referred as “Tika” Fig2. Silver was separated from lead and hammered into sheets. The art of hammering gold and silver in thin sheets is visible even till date in the sub continent where people use Silver and Gold foils to garnish their sweets Fig3. The evidence also shows that lead alloy with copper and bronze was utilized in Indus valley (2500 B.C.). Credit for development of various alloys in the south-asian countries also goes to Indus Valley civilization. They vigilantly made alloys such as Tin, Arsenic bronze and bronze by smelting copper with other metals (Claus). Bronze was extensively used in making sculptures. Bronze was also used by mughals for making pots and copper for basins and are quite common till date Fig4.
They introduced metallic sculpture casting techniques for the first time in South-Asia. One of these is the french “Cire-Perdue’ meaning ‘Lost-wax’. This technique uses Bronze alloy to cover the clay mold (Bronze). The symbolic bronze sculptures of this era seem to be an inspiration for different cultures where they are worshipped and have been modified into complete religious characters.
One of the finest examples of Bronze Sculptures found from layers of Indus valley is the “Dancing girl”Fig5. The dancing girl is a masterpiece in terms of fluidity in curves and lines. The girl symbolizes a woman in a dancing posture made from Bronze, solid and compact. Bronze sculptures were later used extensively in various periods for religious purposes. Most of them seem to be an inspiration from the Dancing girl in terms of technique and the Yogic postured deities found on Indus seals in terms of depiction. Thus an amalgamation of religion and metallurgy can be seen in them. People suggest that later in 9th and 10th century Chola bronze period, Dancing girl was used as an inspiration in the form of Cosmic dance of Siva (Mankind) Fig6. Similarly, Yogic figures of Mahavira from 6th to 12th century are made by using Lost-wax technique and the posture is quite similar to yogic-deities of Indus Valley Fig7. Various forms of lord Shiva and Vishnu bronze sculptures are also found at Thanjavir from Tamil Nadu from 8th to 16th centuries Fig8. All these figures use Lost-wax as per the technique is concerned. Motif of dancing girl and Yogic deities seems to be source of inspirations for these religious characters.
Thus, Metallurgy developed as a skill in Indus valley civilization. Various forms of Gold and Silver Ornaments found are quite similar to what are used even now. Copper, Lead and Bronze were a sign of an extremely sophisticated metallic system for making tools, sculptures and pots. These sculptures were may be modified and utilized by different regions of the sub-continent for religious purposes. But the highlight of the region’s metallurgy is that the techniques introduced by Indus Valley metallurgists e.g. copper glazes or the Lost wax method were used in the sub-continent even after 1000’s of years. Thus Indus valley paved the way for Future metallurgists and artisans for creating masterpieces.

Work Cited
“Bronze Sculpture.” Indianetzone Sculptures. 18 Jul. 2009.

Claus, Sarah Mills and Margaret Mills. South Asian Folklore. Taylor and Francis, 2003.

“Lothal”. Wikipedia. 17 Jul. 2009.

“Mankind’s metallurgical Heritage”. 18 Jul. 2009.

Mcintosh, Jane. The Ancient Indus Valley. ABC-CLIO, 2007.

Fig 1: Jewellery (Left) Fig 2: silver sheet

Fig 3: Dancing Girl (Left) Fig 4: Mughal bronze pot (Right)
Fig 5: Cosmic Dance of Shiva