available evidence, we should guard against any assumption that there was
necessarily a single system of beliefs and ritual. For different sections of the
Harappan population could have had their own cults and deities.
Zoomorphic Deities The above mentioned animals might have been
perceived as embodiments of zoomorphic deities whose protection the seal-
owners wished to invoke. There is also the possibility that the pictured
animals might equally be representing the totems of the lineages or clans of
the seal-owners. But this could well be precisely because these animals were
the zoomorphic forms of the clans’ respective deities. In other contexts, the
animals do not appear to have any totemic functions at all.
Pasupati Mahadeva For example, in the so-called ‘Pasupati Mahadeva’
seal from Mohenjo- daro, a rhinoceros and water buffalo on one side, and an
elephant and tiger on the other, surround a three-faced seated deity in human
form (anthropomorphic), crowned with buffalo horns. According to one
recent study, the so-called ‘yogic’ posture of the deity, with the soles of the
feet facing each other, actually imitates the way the bull-deity sits in Proto-
Elamite (ancient Iranian) representations. This study further finds it difficult
to see the deity as Shiva, in his aspect of Pasupati, ‘the lord of beasts’ or
‘protector of cattle’, with none of the emblems associated with him in later
Other Deities A cylinder seal from Kalibangan shows a goddess, who
keeps apart two spearmen from fighting, and who then appears adorned with
buffalo horns and possessed of a tiger’s frame for her body. In this and all
other such representations, the animals might simply be embodiments of the
deity’s spirit or strength.
    • Such favoured beings could include humans too, such as the ‘hero’ or
        ‘heroine’, on a seal and on tablets, who faces two standing tigers, one
        on each side. Such a contest with two beasts has strong parallels in
        Proto-Elamite Susa (southwestern Iran) and in Mesopotamia (motif of
        Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king and epic hero).
    • Then, there is the spearman on a tablet who is killing a buffalo by the
        side of a buffalo-horned deity seated in the ‘bull-deity’ posture:
        presumably, the animal is the appropriate sacrifice for the deity.
    • Another recurring theme is the tree-spirit or deity. In a favourite