Visvamitra, Gudea, and the Mithraic Serpent-Bull Motif in the Seals




The ornate leaf symbol was a unique feature of the Indus-Saraswati culture


The ornate leaf symbol was characteristic of Indus writing and does not have many parallels in other cultures. It appears in 42 inscriptions (25 from Mohenjo-Daro some of which are on copper tablets). One inscription containing it was found in West Asia. It seems to have had sacerdotal significance and reminds one of the Soma sacrifice which was of great ritual importance. Soma was prepared by pressing juice from the leaves or stalks of a plant. The drinking of Soma juice was often followed by bull sacrifice. Thus the symbol may be given the value 'Soma'. In later Hindu art, the god Soma was depicted as a bull.



The symbol may stand for a strapped bull and can be read as Vŗs.

        The leaf-symbol seems to be linked to the sign  which also occurs in a large number (52) of seals. The identical decorations on top seem to link them with sacrificial rituals. Were these related to sacrificial ejaculations such as "Tŗng", "Om", "Sat" etc which had magical overtones?

        The sign-combination  occurs in 37 inscriptions of which 10 are on copper tablets. As it has a Mitra-ending, it can be presumed to designate a personal name. The middle symbol  has a distinct snake-like appearance and can be taken to represent the snake or ‘Sarpa’, and can be given the value ‘Sā’. The symbol is very similar to the early Roman ‘S’ which was written as . This is usually considered to be a symbol of the Sun but Mitra or Mehr was the Sun-god who is often associated with the snake. The symbol  also has some similarities with the Phoenician ‘shin’ . The serpent was a principal symbol of Gudea's god Ningizzida. The snake was a very important element of Egyptian and Greek mythology. Apart from the Bull, the most famous motif of Minoan art was the snake, symbol of the goddess. Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, was often depicted together with a snake.            

 Once the last two signs  of the sign-triplet are read as ‘sa’ and ‘Mitra’, the symbol can be safely taken to designate Vŗşa or the male bull and can be given the syllabic value ‘Vŗs’ and the sign-triplet can be read as Viśvāmitra.

        Gudea's homeland is unknown but Viśvāmitra is linked in the Indian tradition with Kanauj which cannot be modern Kanauj in U. P. which is not a very ancient city. On the other hand Kohnouj in Karman province is near Jiroft where an ancient Bronze age civilization has been recently discovered. Kanauj was also known as Kanyakubja and as the Jiroft area was once known as Khuvja or Huvja, this may been the homeland of Gudea.



Viśvāmitra (Gudea) may also have been linked to the Konar Sandal Ziggurat, Photo courtesy CAIS