|The Indus script is normally to be read from right to left. (This is
usually the direction of writing in the seal impressions, while in the
original seals - such as those illustrated in Fig. 14 - the
direction of writing is reversed.) The sign of 'two long vertical strokes'
(on the right) followed (on the left) by the plain 'fish' pictogram can be
shown to form one syntactic unit by means of a structural analysis of the
Indus inscriptions. They are likely to have formed a compound (Fig. 13 d). But how to read the pictogram consisting of 'two long vertical
strokes'? Such a simplified symbol can be pictorially interpreted in many
different ways. For example, it could be assumed to denote 'two', or
'pair', or 'path', or 'parallel'. In the absence of any idea about the
intended meaning of the 'fish' pictogram, it would be difficult to decide
which, if any, of these possible interpretations is correct. The above
suggested ways of reading the 'fish' pictogram and its attributes, however,
make it possible to approach the present case from a different angle, and
to use it as a test. Supposing that we are right in assuming that many of
the stable combinations of Indus pictograms ending in the 'fish' sign
denote Dravidian planetary names of the type 'COLOUR' + ('fish' =) 'star',
do any of the actually attested Dravidian compounds of this type provide
a colour term having a homonym that would adequately fit the pictorial form
of the sign 'two long vertical strokes'?
The word for 'white' that has the widest distribution among in the
Dravidian languages is vel. The compound vel + meen (assimilated into vel-meen ) 'white (or bright)
star' is known from Old Tamil as the name of the planet Venus, that
brightest star of the morning and evening sky; and the noun vell-i ,
derived from the root vel , denotes 'planet Venus' in a number of Dravidian
languages. The meaning of its homophone veli 'enclosed or intervening
space, open space' could hardly be expressed better pictorially by any
other symbol than 'two long vertical strokes'.
In Tamil, at least, the word velli is used not only in the meaning of
'planet Venus' but in the general meaning of 'star' as well.