‘Journey of Civilization: From Indus to Vaigai’, Former IAS Officer R Balakrishnan’s Book Launched

Chennai: Journey of Civilization From Indus to Vaigai, written by former IAS officer, R Balakrishnan, was released here at the Anna Centenary Library Auditorium on Monday. The book was published by the Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai. Justice R. Mahadevan of Madras High Court released the book and the first copy was received by Tony Joseph, author of the best-seller, ‘Early Indians’.

The book seeks to establish common grounds and connecting threads that link the riddles of Indology, namely the authorship and language of the Indus Valley Civilization and the origins of Dravidian language speaking people in general and Old Tamil traditions in particular. The author considers these issues to be not only interconnected but two sides of the same coin.

This book also places new evidence about the Dravidian affiliation with the language of the Indus people and positions the ancient Sangam Tamil corpus as a proto-document that is relevant for understanding Tamil pre-history which had probable connections to the Indus Civilization. The spatial and temporal distances between the Indus Valley Civilization and ancient Tamilakam cannot be a restricting factor to tracing remnants of the Dravidian in the northwestern geographies and its legacy markers in the Sangam texts.

Using technological tools such as Geographic Information System (GIS), the author has analyzed what he calls the ‘Journey of a Civilization’ and argues that place-names are reliable markers to track ancient migrations. The book celebrates the plural foundations of Indian culture and prefers a narrative of the ‘Rain Forest’ instead of the popular ‘melting pot’ metaphor. As P. J. Cherian observes, Balakrishnan has provided a road map for future research with far-reaching consequences.

Balakrishnan is a researcher, writer and poet. He received his postgraduate degree in Tamil Literature and is the first student of Tamil literature to clear the Civil Services exam. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1984 from Odisha cadre. His postings in the tribal areas of Odisha triggered his interest in Indology, Anthropology and Place-name Studies. He has published several research papers on Place-name Studies, Odisha’s cultural history and its plural foundations.

The author has expressed his gratitude to the tribes of Odisha for having a lasting influence on him. He studied their lifestyle and culture closely and it was from them that he learned his first lessons on pluralism, diversity, inclusiveness and the beauty of coexistence. Those initial lessons have been his anchoring and guiding spirit.

“I consciously chose the metaphor of the rain forest in the book to narrate the journey of civilization. Normally, we use the metaphor of ‘melting pot’ and…, ‘Salad Bowl’. Civilizations are not made in crucibles. Salad Bowl is a post-harvest product…it places things equally but picks things carefully,” Balakrishnan said at the launch event.

“Equity within the salad bowl is not organic, yet it is a powerful articulation, better than the melting pot. But, a rain forest is real and rooted in the soil. Each layer from the ground…represents a distinct mini-ecosystem that coexists in harmony. Indian civilization is not a melting pot. It is a rain forest that represents pluralism of our Indian subcontinent,” he added.

Other eminent personalities present on the occasion were, former Chief Election Commissioner of India N Gopalaswami, Subroto Bagchi, Chairman, Odisha Skill Development Authority, T Udaychandran, Commissioner of Archaeology, Government of Tamilnadu, eminent archaeologists K Rajan and PJ Cherian. The function was attended by eminent dignitaries, authors, writers, researchers and others.

Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik stole the limelight with his brilliant portrayal of the book in Sand Art during the launching ceremony here.

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