Monday, April 28, 2008

Hindu cremation rites (including pitru-medha)

S’raaddham (archaeological evidence)

See notes on s’raadham, Hindu cremation rites (given below).

What has been found in Sembiyan Kandiyur is consistent with the practice of Pitru-medha described in As’valayana Grhya Sutra.

Post cremation Burial (Pitr-medha)

During the Vedic and early Grhya periods it was common to bury the incinerated bones of a deceased person in an urn. This was the pitr-medha ceremony. The Grhya-sutras of Asvalayana describe how the burned bones were to be collected on the third lunar day (tithi) after death. In the case of a man who had died, the bones were to be collected by elderly men and placed into a male urn. In the case of a woman, the bones were to be collected by elderly women and placed into a female urn. Urns were designed by their shape to be male or female. The performers of this ceremony were to walk three times in a counterclockwise direction around the bones while sprinkling milk and water from a particular kind of twig (sami). The bones were then placed into the urn as they were picked up individually with the thumb and fourth finger. First the bones of the feet were to be gathered and then successively the other bones were to be gathered working toward the head. After the bones had been purified and gathered they were sealed and buried in a secure location.

Megalithic period pottery found

T.S. Subramanian (The Hindu, 27 April 2008)

Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department leads excavation

— Photo: M. Srinath Significant finds: Pottery with graffiti marks found at Sembiyankandiyur village in Nagapattinam district.

CHENNAI: Pottery items including bowls, dishes and urns, from the Megalithic period, have been excavated at Sembiyankandiyur near Kuthalam in Mayiladuthurai taluk of Nagapattinam district by the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department.

An important finding: eight urns aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones inside. These might be of members of one family, according to department officials. The pottery included black-and-red ware, black ware and red ware.

The site yielded a rich collection of pottery with graffiti marks. A few iron pieces were also found.

Archaeology Department officials estimated that the pottery belonged to the Megalithic period or the Iron Age, which can be dated between 300 B.C. and A.D. 100.

Earlier discovery

The discoveries were made at the site where in 2006 school teacher V. Shanmuganathan found a polished Neolithic celt (tool) that had engravings resembling the Indus script. This celt caused a stir in archaeological circles. It was T.S. Sridhar, then Special Commissioner of Archaeology, who noticed the engravings on the polished celt. A semi-polished celt was found nearby without engravings.

The Archaeology Department decided to excavate the Sembiyankandiyur site to find out its antiquity and fix the chronology. The excavations began on February 6. Four trenches were laid at the place where the celt with the engravings were found. The first trench was laid in the garden of Mr. Shanmuganathan, the second trench at Thoppumedu which belonged to Shanmugam, a retired physical education teacher, another in the backyard of the house of Muthappa and the fourth at Padayachi Kollaimedu.

Important findings from the trenches were bowls, dishes, broken urns, full-size urns and so on. Eight urns were found to be aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones. Some urns had ritual pots inside. Some pots and sherds have thumb-nail impressions on them.

Designs and markings

Full-shape pots had the graffiti depicting a fish, a ‘damaru’, sun, star and a swastika. Geometric designs and marks depicting fish, sun and star and graffiti marks are often found on black-and-red ware and black ware, with the symbols sometimes repeated.

The excavations at Sembiyankandiyur were done under the guidance of Dr. S. Gurumurthi, Principal Commissioner of Archaeology; Dr. S. Vasanthi, Archaeologist; M. Muthusamy, Curator of Tranquebar Museum; S. Selvaraj and P. Gowthamaputhiran, Archaeological Officers of Thanjavur and Coimbatore respectively.

Read this doc on Scribd: s'raaddha1

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stamp on Tagore's India genetic map blurs lines

Stamp on Tagore’s India Genetic map blurs lines

G.S. MUDUR (Telegraph, Kolkata, 25 April 2008)

New Delhi, April 24: A mammoth effort to analyse genetic variations across Indian populations has blurred the lines that separate caste and religious groups, kindling memories of a 98-year-old verse from Rabindranath Tagore.

The Indian Genome Variation (IGV) project analysed 75 genes from 1,871 people drawn from 55 diverse caste, religious and tribal communities. Scientists also expect the project to throw light on how genes influence diseases, susceptibility to infections, and response to medicines.

The study by a consortium of six Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories and the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, has provided the strongest genetic evidence yet to suggest that several populations have intermingled in India over the centuries.

Dravidian lineages have mixed with Indo-Europeans, Austroasiatics have mingled with Dravidians, and bridge populations in central India are blends of Dravidian, Indo-European and Himalayan groups.

“When people move, genes move with them,” said Partha Mazumder, a senior project scientist at the statistical institute in Calcutta. “Genes carried by migrating humans cluster into groups, and different populations acquire some genetic distinctiveness.”
The scientists consider some of the findings about genetic proximity and disease risk data as so sensitive that they have decided not to make the identities of the communities public — for now.

“We had intense debates on whether to reveal the names of communities,” said Mitali Mukerjee, project coordinator at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi.

“I don’t think scientists are prepared yet to understand the full social ramifications if such information is made public,” Mukerjee told The Telegraph. “For medical applications, we don’t need names. Data about disease susceptibility genes will be made available to doctors and researchers,” she said.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Genetics, has shown that some Hindu caste groups are genetically closer to Muslims in the same geographical region than to their own caste cousins elsewhere in India.

The findings show differences between caste and tribal populations, but researchers believe this is because of the ancestry and relative isolation of tribal groups.

“The social hierarchy of caste groups is not fully reflected in their genetic profile,” said Mazumder, who’s been trying to use genetics to piece together migratory histories of populations.

The analysis has also indicated that Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are genetically similar and share genetic similarities with Dravidian groups. It has also shown that some Dravidian-speaking population groups in south India have Indo-European lineage.

“This opens up a number of intriguing questions about the ancestry and movement of Dravidian populations,” Mukerjee said.

“The map we’ve got shows a remarkable coincidence with what Tagore appeared to have sensed,” said Samir Brahmachari, the director-general of the CSIR, who, as former director of the IGIB, served as project chairman.

Brahmachari said the study results stirred his memories of Tagore’s 1910 poem Bharat-tirtha that has the lines: Aryan and non-Aryan, Dravidian and Chinese... Pathan, Mughal/All have merged into one body.…

The study of genetic variations can help determine risk to disease and infections and even response to drugs.

The analysis has shown that a genetic mutation called CCR5 which provides natural protection to individuals from infection with HIV is not present or is present in low frequency in most Indian populations

In the coming months, scientists hope to use genetic variation studies to understand how genes influence risk of a range of diseases — malaria to diabetes to brain disorders.

“We don’t want to label communities as carriers of disease-related genes nor do we want to raise false alarms,” said Saman Habib, a project scientist at the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, who plans to use the data to find out why different populations respond differently to malaria.