Showing posts with label script. Show all posts
Showing posts with label script. Show all posts

Was Ancient India Literate ? : Super Human Memory Myth

western scholars of Indology said:
"Entire absense of writing, reading, paper, or pen in vedas, or during Brahamana period and complete silence in Sutra period(When art of writing was beginning to be known), the whole Literature of India was preserved in oral tradition only"

Weber who wants to bring all history to later than Biblical period admits:
"Europe has 10,000 sanskrit texts and considering that we have tens of thousands which the parsimony of karma has hithherto withheld form Museums and libraries of Europe, what a memory must have been their!."

Indian super Memory

The Immemorial practice with students of sanskrit literature has been to commit to memory the various subjects of their study and this practice of oral tradition has preserved the ancient Vedic texts. This fact has led Western Indology scholars to surmise that writing was unknown in the earliest period of Indian Civilization and that the later forms of the alphabet were not of pure Indian growth.

So According to these Western Indology Scholars, Indians have Super Human Memory. By Which they can not only memorize scores of documents, but they can also transmit through generations. Wow!, Who said science fiction is 20th century Stuff.

We are looking at this question. Did writing existed prior to Mauryas?

Panini is best known grammarian of India. Muller says that there is no single term in the panini terminology which presupposes the existence of writing. So we go to find out.

Panini almost singlehandendly brought together the classical sanskrit grammer. He mentions Grantha the equivalent for written or bound book in the later days in India. For Max Muller Granta mean simply a composition, which is handed down the generation by oral tradition. In short Panini is illiterate and somehow he produced one of the most eloborate and scientific set grammer ever known to mankind till today.Remember Panini has given 3996 rules for Classical Sanskrit Grammar.

Writing in Literature
Classical Sanskrit Literature

The direct reference to writing classical sanskrit according to Indologists in literature are found to be in the Dharmasutra of Vasistha, which Dr.Buhler thinks, was composed around 8th century BC. Some scholars will assign this work 4th century BC as well.Astadhyayi of panini contains such compounds as Lipikara and Libikara, which evidently mean writer. The date of panini is not fixed, prof.Goldstucker puts him 8th century BC, others put him in 4 the century BC. The Vedic works contain technical terms like aksara, kanda, patala, grantha and the like, which is clear indication of writing. Of course Indology scholars wont accept them.

Buddhist age

There are quite a large number of passages in the SriLanka's Tipitaka, which bear witness to an acquaintance with writing and to its extensive use.

At the time when Buddhist cannons were composed. Lekha and Lekhaka are mentioned in the Bhikkhu pacittiya and Bhikkhuni pacittiya.

In the Jatakaas, constant meniton is made of letters being written. The Jatakas know of proclamations.

We are also told of a game aksarika in which the Buddhist monk is forbidden to participate. This game is guessing of letters.

In the rules of vinaya, it has been laid down that a criminal, whose name has been written up in the kings porch, must not be recieved into the monastic order. In the same work, writing is mentioned as a Lucrative profession.

Mahavagga bear witness to the existence of elementary schools where the manner of teaching was the same as in the Indigenous schools of Modern India. All these references prove the existence of the art of writing in pre buddhist days.

Epic Age
Epics contains archaic expressions such as likh, Lekha, Lakhaka, Lekhana but not lipi, which some scholars think is foriegn orgin. So Writing was known in Epic Age.

Vedic Literature
We find clear evidence in wide spread use of writing in the vedic period. Written documents are mentioned as legal documents.


The earliest surviving written record other than Indus script is Piprawa vase inscription discovered by Colonel Claxton peppe. This Inscription is a prakrit before the prakrits of magadhi or sourasheni developed, so differently interpreted. This is dated to early part of 5th century BC.

Next comes Sohaura Copper plate , which Dr.Smith puts before Ashoka by 50 years.

The Inscriptions of Ashoka is all over India. This shows that Writing was well used in Royal courts and the writting was well understood by common people.

Dr.Weber came with view that Brahmi is borrowed from South Arab tribe. But this has been dismissed by Dr. Buhler.

Buhler Identified certain Brahmi letters were identical to 9th-7th BC century Inscriptions found in Assyria. One third of 23 Alphabets are identical to Brahmi letters. This Indologists suggestions that the Brahmi letters were derived from these letters from all Indology scholars including Buhler. But we have to note that the tribes in question are belonging belonging to Indian Tribe. This script traveled from India to Middle east.

Jain Stupa unearthed at the Kankali Tila site of Mathura regarded by Vincent Simith as the oldest known stupa then (Before Indus valley sites were discovered). Smith dated it to be 600 BC for erection. Dr.Fuhrer who supervised the excavation found out that it contained a inscription Deva Stupa in a script, so old that it was forgotten.

Indus Script
Indus Script has 250-500 characters. Some of the Seals seems to be Bilingual with Indus script next to the symbols. Seeming symbols to be for traders from other languages. So Indus valley is literate culture.

Sir Alexander Cunningham had wanted to derive each letter from the indigenous Hieroglyphic, but then no hieroglyphic was found in India. But today we have Indus valley Hieroglyphic and many are working towards deriving brahmi from them.

Writing Material
Materials used for writing in India were Birch-bark(Bhurja-patra), Palm Leaves (tala-patra), paper, Cotton Cloth, wooden board (phalaka),leather, Stone, brick and metal. Manuscripts of books were generally written in the above leaves, paper and cotton cloth while for land-grants, certain charms etc, metals was used. Wooden boards appear to have been used as slates in schools and for the purpose of writing plaints with chalk in court-rooms. Documents in connection with loans also used to be written on boards. Works appear to have been carved on wooden boards; Some manuscripts , engraved on wooden boards, still exist.

From Brahminical and Buddhist literature, leather also appears, however rarely, to have been used as writing material as it was animal skin and they are perishable in nature.

Royal edicts were engraved on rocks, pillars and caves.

Agreements , donations,grants etc were also sometimes written on stone. Some Literary and religious works were written on this material. Bricks were also rarely used. Some bricks, with one or few letters inscribed, have been found in walls, temple-niches or pedestals of images.

Writing materials have been of perishable nature, Indian Manuscripts, relly belonging to an ancient age, are rare. In fact, the manuscripts discovered in central asia , are the oldest of the manuscripts available so far.

According to Nearchos, who accompanied Alexander (327BC), paper was manufactured in India out of Cotton. The earliest paper-MSS written in Gupta Script were discovered at Kashgar and Kugier in Central Asia.

The earliest bramhi script is on a vase dated to 5 th century BC

Writing medium
The Writing medium in cases of paper, cloth and leaves was ink or masi. The word masi is derived from root mas denoting himsa or crushing, destroying it. therefore seems that ink was produced by pounding certain ingredients. In some parts of India, the word for ink is mela, probably derived from root mel (to mix). ink thus appears to have been admixture of certain substances. The use of ink in India is atlesat 4th century BC, is vouchsafed by Nearchos and Curtius.

The Common color of ink is black. Red and Yellow inks were also used. For ordinary purposes, washable or delible ink was used. For writing documents, however indelible ink appears to have been in use.

Writing Apparatus
The Writing Apparatus (Lekhani, varnaka,varnavartika, salaka, Kathini etc) consists of bamboo pieces with sharp ends, quills etc. Compases and rulers also appear to have been use for special purposes.

Alberuni believes Indian Alphabet originated with the begining of Kali Age (3102BC).

Hiuen Tsang speaks of high Antiquity of Indian writing system. Brahmi is stated, in the Chinese Encyclopedia Fa-Wan-Shu-Lin, to be the best of scripts.

Some Greeks mention about Writing materials in India. Megasthanes mentions Milestones, Almanancs, Horoscopes, etc.- which indicate prevalance of writing. The evidence suggest that writing was in Vogue in India in the period of 6th century to 4 century BC as a legacy of earlier times, far from being novelty , it was a continuity and continuity of time immemorial.

Mauryan edicts reveal that Writting in Brahmi and kharosthi was written and understood by everyone including comman man.

Jains Works Pnnavana-sutra and the Samavayanga-sutra contains names of Eighteen scripts(lipi) including Brahmi and Kharosthi.

The Buddhist Sanskrit work Lalitavistara gives formidable list of 64 Scripts out of which Brahmi and Kharosthi is included. 64 scripts are divided into several groups . Eg. Provincial,Tribal, Sectrian etc. Some Foreign scripts were also known to Indians.

Ramayana, Mahabharata, Arthasastra, Sutra literature (8th to 2nd century BC), Yaska (pre-panian writer), Astadhyayi (5th century BC) and some early Sanskrit works throw light on a culture of writing.

Indus valley scripts shows that Writing existed prior to 4th millienum BC as well.

Rig Veda exists from time immemorial, but writing definitely existed when it was organised into samhitas.

The Indus valley findings made Indologists acknowledge that writing existed prior to Mauryan writing. Though it has not been deciphered , it clearly shows writing existed in India before atlest 5-2 milliena before christ. Some Indology scholars have tried to show Indus script is derived from script from another civilization. But all these theories have fallen flat. Hrozny tried to derive Indus script from Hittite, Diringer is convinced that no script existed prior to Indus script from which Indus scirpt can be derived. Hunter and Langdon regard Indus script as prototype of Brahmi. The Vedic Scholars believed that Brahmi is from Brahma. It is mentioned in Narada Smriti that if Brahma has not created the art of writing or given excellant eye in the shape of script, the future would not have been deprived of obtaining bright future.

The Absence of inscriptions since Indus valley is due to widespread use of Paper and Cloth, which are perishable in nature.

The Indian Civilization is a very advance civilization. There was a high development of trade and monetary transactions, and they carried on minute researches in grammar, phonetics and lexicography. These facts support the knowledge and widespread use of writing among ancient Indians. So the Super Human Memory is a Myth.

A Concise History Of Classical Sanskrit Literature By Gaurinath Shastri, Bhattacharyya Shastri Gaurinath
The rise, decline and renewals of sramanic religious traditions within indic civilisation with particular reference to the evolution of jain sramanic culture and its impact on the indic civilization by Bal patil
Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5 By Indu Ramchandani
A Companion to Sanskrit Literature: Spanning a Period of Over Three Thousand ... By Sures Chandra Banerji
On the origin Indian Brahma Alphabet Georg Buhler
Was Writing Know Before Panini by A Chela
Agama Aura Tripitaka, Eka Anusilana: Language and Literature By Nagraj (Muni.)

University of Washington Libraries

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origin of Brahmi Script

Brahmi Script
In the last centuries BC the script was divided into 3 varieties: northern, eastern, and southern. Dialectal differences consisted of the shape of the symbols, though the system remained the same. First separate branches emerged in the 5th century AD. The Brahmi script is the ancestor of all modern Indian writing systems, there are about 40 varieties of them nowadays, including Tibetan, Sinhalese, Sharada, Newari, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati,Gurmukhi, , Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Devanagari. In addition, many other Asian scripts, even Japanese to a very small extent (vowel order), were also derived from Indian script. Languages which used Brahmi as their script: Indo-Aryan (Vedic, Sanskrit, Prakrits, Pali), Dravidian, Iranian (Sacian), Tocharic.

Brahmi origin
Brahmi origin has been controversial. one of the reason is the sudden appearance of fully developed script in the inscriptions during Ashokan period and l absence of inscriptions between Indus valley and Ashokan period(gap of 1500 years). Opinions of Brahmi is divided to into two camps Foreign origin by Foreigners and Indigenous independent development by Indians. Let us see the opinions behind claims.

Foreign origin
Foreign origin or derived script theory is based on the following theories
  • Failure to find and identify actual specimens of between indus valley and pre-Ashokan writing.
  • The testimony of Greek author Megasthenes to the absence of writing in India in the early Mauryan period
  • The evident influence of Indian phonetic and grammatical theory on the structure of the early scripts
  • Uniform appearance of Ashokan Brâhmî all over India.
Aramic origin
It is thought that the brāhmī drift of a Semitic writing like the imperial Aramean alphabet, as it is the case for the alphabet gāndhārī(khartoshi) which appeared at the same time in Northwest India, under the control of the empire of the Achéménides. Rhys Davids thinks that this writing could be introduced in India of the the Middle East by the merchants.The similarities between the scripts are just what one would expect from such an adaptation. For example, Aramaic did not distinguish dental from retroflex stops; in Brāhmī the dental and retroflex series are graphically very similar, as if both had been derived from a single prototype. Aramaic did not have Brāhmī’s aspirated consonants (k, t), whereas Brāhmī did not have Aramaic's emphatic consonants (q, ṭ, ṣ); and it appears that these emphatic letters were used for Brāhmī's aspirates: Aramaic q for Brāhmī kh, Aramaic (Θ) for Brāhmī th (ʘ). And just where Aramaic did not have a corresponding emphatic stop, p, Brāhmī seems to have doubled up for its aspirate: Brāhmī p and ph are graphically very similar, as if taken from the same source in Aramaic p. The first letters of the alphabets also match: Brāhmī a, which resembled a reversed κ, looks a lot like Aramaic alef, which resembled Hebrew .
Southern Semitic origin.
Brahmi is a syllabary, it consists of syllables only, if we state that single vowels are also syllables. Each character carries a consonant followed by the vowel "a", much like Old Persian or Meroïtic. However, unlike these two systems, Brahmi indicates the same consonant with a different vowel with extra strokes attached to the character. Brahmi is written from the left to the right. However in few coins right to left Brahmi is also found.

Phoenician Origin
Phoenician origin is based on the following points.
  • Writing from left to right unlike aramic which is right to left.
  • Striking similarity between theta and Brâhmî tha
Emphasising this two points to Brahmi phoenicaian origin is theory far fetched. Maybe there is influence but no such a thing as origin from Greek alphabet.

Greek and Brahmi
That the basic system of indication of post-consonantal vowels by diacritic marking was originally developed in and adapted from Khartoshi seems well established. But Falk's suggestion that the introduction into Brâhmî of distinct diacritics for short and long vowels was influenced by the model of Greek script is doubtful, since the notation of vowel quantity in Greek operates on entirely different principles. Whereas Greek uses distinct alphabetic characters, mostly derived from Semitic consonants, to represent, incompletely and inconsistently, short and long vowel pairs, Brâhmî has a complete and regular set of matched short/long pairs of post-consonantal diacritic signs.

Brahmi Numerals
Numerical notation system of Brâhmî. Because the use of distinct signs in Brâhmî for each of the digits (1 to 9) and the decades (10 to 90) a similar system used in early Chinese numerals. Also not only in system but also in the actual form of several of the numerical signs, between Brâhmî and heiratic and demotic Egyptian. we dont know which side influenced the other or Independent.

Indigenous origin

Independent origin
script appeared in India most certainly by the 6th century BC, but the fact it had many local variants, which suggests that its origin lies further back in time. The earliest inscription written in Brahmi date back to the 6th century BC in srilanka, and by 2nd century BC already there existed several varieties of it. Brahmi quickly became the official script of religious texts and cults, and therefore spread over all India.
Writting in Pre Ashokan Era
  • J.D.M. Derrett argues Megasthanese talks only about written Legal document not generally writting in India.
  • Nearchos, quoted by Strabo, to the Indians' practice of writing letters on cloth
  • Panini mentions Lipi (Writting)
  • Pali cannon makes reference to likhitako coro,lekha.m chindati (writting) in Vinaya-pi.taka
Ashoka Invention
Harry Falks believes as for him that the brāhmī was created under the Empire maurya. One often admits that it was an invention planned under the reign of Ashoka, necessary to the drafting of his edicts, case similar to that of the Hangul(Korean).

Indus origin
Brahmi script came from the Indus Valley Script. However, the lack of any inscription evidence between the end of the Harappan period at around 1900 BC and the first Brahmi and Kharosthi inscriptions at roughtly 500 BC makes the Indus origin of Brahmi highly questionable. However recent claims of deciphering the Indus script has strengthened this theory. Indus script have been found around 1500BC in Vaishai, bihar. And the theory derives the evidence from similarities as other theories. You can see in the picture .

Now the theory by western scholars is Khartoshi predated Brahmi and it was loose adoptation of Aramic. Khartoshi from Aramic is also not a good argument simply because several cases Khartoshi characters have different phonetic values from the Aramaic letters that they most closely resemble in shape. wide usage of Aramaicin the Ashokan Aramaic inscriptions, in the eastern regions of the Achaemenian empire.another theory is Brahmi is derived from Khartoshi. But this can be disproved on following points. Brâhmî ¤ ha , which can reasonably be derived from an Aramaic * he , but hardly from Khartoshi * ha , and * ta from Aramaic * taw ,
but not Khartoshi ¤ ta

We have to see that each theory putsforward the similarities and keeps silence on the other points. Brahmi is superior script all the others compared. And there is no easier explanation for the development of same.

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Myths of Pallava Granta Script

Pallava Granta script is touted as script from 300AD to 10 century AD to write Sanskrit , It is also spread overseas and used by locals to derive their own script. Let us analyze the facts.

Pallava Dynasty
Though Pallava history is analysed by scholars for a long time, there are still gaps in knowledge. This is especially the case with the first period of Pallava history, the period ranging from the middle of the 3rd to the end of the 6th century A.D. The sources for the history of this period being limited, very little is known about its rulers beyond their names. The genealogy of these Pallava sovereigns and the actual duration of their reigns are still unsettled. Whether all the members mentioned in the charters actually ruled as kings is itself doubtful. We, however, get a clearer view of the dynasty during the second period, extending from the 7th to the 9th century A.D., as the epigraphs are distributed over a wide region with the advantage of some sidelights being thrown from the records of other dynasties. The Granta and Vetteluthu variations are evident from 8th century onwards until then, we find only Kadamba script. Moreover Granta and Vetteluthu are variations of Kadamba script and they evolved from kadamba script.

Pallava plates
The Earliest Pallava inscription is Mayidavolu, Hirahadagalli copper plate grants(4th century AD) uses Kadamba script, But after that we have a gap of inscriptions from 4th to 6th century AD. Even during vunnuguruvayapalem of paramesvaravarman I(669-700AD) and Reyuru plates of Narasimhavarman I (630-668AD) Kadamba script is used. The kurram plates of Narasimhavarman II (Raja Simha ) (700-28), Kasakudi and tandantottam plates of Nandivarman II pallavamalla (730 -96AD) and Bahur plates of Nirpatungavarman 9th century AD show variations from kadamba script , we can see first apperance of variations which latter evolved into Granta script around 11th century AD.

Pallava Granta Overseas
  • There is a tendency among scholars to describe early inscriptions in Indonesia and Indo-china as pallava granta and speak of expansion of pallava culture and influence. These views are wrong because of following reasons
  • The Script used in pallava inscriptions from 4th to 7th century AD and early epigraphs belong to Kadamba script which was widely used in south and western India.
  • Early writing in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sulawesi were written in Verse like records of kadamba kannada speaking areas unlike Pallava script.
  • Boxheaded alphabet used in epigraphs of King Bhadravarman of campa(south Annam) is not characteristic of pallava inscriptions, but is generally found in central and upper Deccan as well as Kannada speaking areas of western India.
  • Saka era introduced around 6th century AD in Indo-china and Indonesia is never used by Pallavas but chalukyas of Badami popular now in Kannada and marathi speaking areas.
  • Number inscriptions early ruling families such as Arakan(Burma), Sailendras of srivijya(palembang , sumatra) are written in kadamba and siddhamaka script of Eastern India.
  • The names of cities generally localised names of Vedic cities. Seventh Records indicate all India contact The city of Prom was also known as Vanadesi, similar to capital of the Kadambas Banawasi also the script is similar to kadamba script.
  • The Name ending varman found in East Asian dyansities is not exclusive to pallavas ,but also used by Kadambas,Alikuars, Salankayanas,Gangas, Maukharis, Matharas ,Pitrbaktas also have varman ending.
  • Many of Chronicles of South east asia are chronicles of Kalinga( orissa) and Sinhala.
  • Pallavas except a brief period in 7th century were feudataries of Satavahana , Kadambas, Chalukyas Rastrakuta and Cholas, they never took titles such as Maharaja and Rajadiraja which denote the rulers of Empires
So we can see the Truth in relation to myths floated around about Pallava Granta scripts.
  1. The Pallavas also used kadamba script and variations developed due to application of the script for writing local vernaculars tamil and malayalam
  2. Scripts used overseas are based on Kadamba script not pallava granta script, though Pallava script influenced them in the later period.
  3. Pallava Granta script developed after 8th century AD and previous inscriptions are in kadamba script only

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Myths of Indus script

The world of scholars was totally ignorant about the culture known as Indus Valley Civilization or Harappa Culture till the early twenties of this century. The excavations at Mohenjodaro in Sind and at Harappa in Panjab (now in Pakistan) in 1922-23 and later and the discovery of numerous steatite seals in these excavations pushed back, at one stroke, the history of Indian Civilization including writing to the third millennium before Christ. After partition of India in 1947 when Mohenjodaro and Harappa went to Pakistan, similar sites in Eastern Panjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat were discovered. Of these Ka#liban#gan in Rajasthan and Lothal in Gujarat are important ones which have also yielded seals (and sealings) and have contributed much in establishing the chronological sequence of early and late phases of Harappan Culture. During the last fifty years and more, different views have been expressed by scholars about the authors of this great and highly developed culture which is comparable to that of Sumer, Babylon, Egypt and Assyria. And the key to the understanding of it lies in the decipherment of the writing on the seals and sealings. But unfortunately, the decipherment of this writing has defied the attempts of several scholars during the past fifty years and more. While some scholars think that this writing is of indigenous origin, others feel that it is of foreign origin. Even amongst those who think of indigenous origin, one set of scholars propound the theory of Dravidian origin while the other set put forth the theory of Aryan origin. These different views may be briefly mentioned here.

As stated above, the Indus script appears on a large number of steatite seals which are beautifully prepared. From Lothal in Gujarat some sealings are also found. From these sealings, which are found in association with packing material:; such as cloth, matting and twisted cords, it has been suggested that the sealings were used as labels and affixed to the packages of goods were thus of commercial or merchandise value10.

Waddel was one of the earliest scholars to attempt the decipherment of the Indus script. He thought that the writing represents the Sumerian script and, based on the identity of Sumerians with Aryans, he read the names of Vedic and Epic persons11 . Pran Nath assigned alphabetic values to the script and suggested their connection with the later Bra#hmi# script12. Sankaranand and Barua also thought that the script was alphabetic. Sudhansu Kumar Ray also held a similar view. Hrozny tried to connect the script with the Hittite language. But Heras suggested that the script is picto-phonographic and connected it with Dravidian languages reading old Tamil on the seals. Hevesy sought to establish similarity between the Indus script and the script of the Eastern Islands in the Pacific ocean. Hunter felt that the Indus script is derived -partly from Egyptian script and partly from Mesopotamian script. Flinders Petrie also connected the Indus script with the Egyptian hieroglyphs and thought that the seals contained only the titles and not the names of the officials. He also assumed that the symbols were ideographs while Meriggi thought that while symbols were ideograms, others were phonemes so that the writing was of ideo-phonographic system. Amongst other early scholars who have attempted to read the Indus script may be mentioned Gadd, Sydney Smith and Langdon13 . David Diringer remarks "it seems obvious that the Indus Valley script which is rather schematic and linear on the extant inscriptions, was originally pictographic but it is impossible to decide whether it was truly indigenous or imported"14.

The above discussion would show how scholars are holding different views regarding the Indus script and how difficult the problem of decipherment of this script has been during the last several years. It is possible to decipher an unknown language in a known script or a known language in an unknown script. But in regard to Indus script, it is a case of deciphering an unknown language in an unknown script and hence it has baffled and defied the attempts of many a well-known scriptologist. For the success of such an attempt certain points of contact are necessary15. For example, the script of the Egyptian hieroglyphs remained undeciphered for a very long period until the discovery of the famous 'Rosetta Stone' inscription in 1799 by the French engineer Bouchard at the time of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. This sensational discovery proved to be a turning point in understanding the nature of the hieroglyphic script, because the Rosetta Stone contained inscriptions in three different kinds of script, viz., hieroglyphic, demotic (or local script) and Greek. With the help of the Greek text attempts to decipher the other two scripts were made by pioneers like the French orientalist Silvestre de Sacy and the Swedish diplomat Akerblad. And it was left to the fortune and credit of Sacy's pupil and French scholar J. Fr. Champollion to finally and conclusively decipher the inscriptions of the Rosetta Stone in 1821-2216. Again, the decipherment of the Cretan Linear B inscription, whose language was unknown and for which no bilingual text was available, was made possible for Ventris and Chadwick by the existence of, similar scripts n Cypriot and in Greek mainland written in Greek language17. Similarly some points of contact are necessary to find a satisfactory solution to the problem of the decipherment of the Indus script like the biscriptal or bilingual inscriptions.We shall now review the recent attempts made by Indian and foreign scholars about the decipherment of the Indus or Harappan script. Amongst the foreign scholars, the Russian team consisting of Knorozov, Volcok and Gurov may be mentioned. They are credited to have taken the help of the computer machines. They assign word value to the signs and suggest that the script belonged to the Dravidian family of languages18. The Finnish team of scholars led by Asko Parpola also believed the language of the Indus script to be Dravidian. Amongst the Indian scholars I. Mahadevan and S.R. Rao have made a detailed study of the problem19. While the former is inclined to attribute the script to be Dravidian, the latter thinks it to be pre-Vedic. Mahadevan has also made use of the computer facilities and has attempted to achieve 'word-division' in the script assuming the language to be Dravidian. S.R. Rao claims that his approach is without any presumption and has tried to show that there has been a change in the script from its earlier phase to the later phase in that the number of signs which were more in the earlier period were reduced considerably in the later phase. He compares the signs of this later phase with the symbols of the North Semetic script of a comparative date and by showing similarity between them gives the same phonetic value to the Harappan script that is found in the Semetic script, other words, S.R. Rao suggests that there was evolution of the Indus script from an earlier period or mature peri9d (2500 B.C. to 1500 B.C.) and that the early syllabic-cum-alphabetic writing was disciplined into an alphabetic system by 1500 B.C. He also suggests that the Indus people spoke an Indo-European language which shows close affinity to Indo-Aryan in vocabulary, semantics and phonology. The names of the rulers and chiefs and of countries, sacrifices and divinities, as read by him, would suggest that the Harappans were the progenitors of the Vedic Aryans.

B.B. Lal has pointed out the difficulties in accepting the views of both I. Mahadevan and S.R. Rao20. Mahadevan himself has changed his views and methods of approach on more than one occasion and we have yet to wait and see what his final views in the matter of decipherment of the Harappan script are. In one of his latest papers entitled 'Study of the Indus Script : A Bilingual Approach'21 he has suggested that the problem should be studied from the point of view of interpreting the ideograms in the light of the Indian historical tradition which has come down to us in two main streams, viz., Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. This theory still remains to be tested by scholars before expressing any opinion.

As regards S.R. Rao's approach, viz., assigning the phonetic values of the Semitic script to the late Harappan script and reading it as pre-Vedic Sanskrit is also not decisive and final. As pointed out by Lal, Rao compares the symbols of the late Harappan with those of the Semitic ones and this material is not enough to arrive at any conclusion. Regarding the vowel sign Rao compares it not with any Semitic sign, since Semitic has no vowel signs, but with Sumerian sign for a following Waddel. And for some signs, Rao suggests different sources, viz., Akkadian and Ugaritic. This will be a difficult proposition. Moreover, while the late Harappan script, as suggested by Rao, has many vowel marks, the- Semitic script is completely devoid of any vowel marks. In justification of his approach, Rao says that he is proceeding from the known script (Semitic) to the unknown script (Harappan). But he is silent about the known origins of both these scripts which are different. While the Harappan is descended from the early Indus script according to Rao himself, the origin of the Semitic script is suggested to be Egyptian. So Rao has to explain at what stage the Semitic script acquired the phonetic values of the Indus script if his theory is to be supported. He has not attempted to answer these questions but has only instituted some comparison between the two scripts and has tried to establish some kind of phonetic relationship. Another defect in Rao's findings is that while he has given his reading as pre-Vedic or Indo-European, he has quoted not a single authority of Indo-European Linguistics or even an authority of Vedic language that the readings given by him can be accepted. In view of what is said above, it is not possible to accept Rao's claim that he has deciphered the Indus script. Of course, every scholar who makes an attempt at decipherment of a new script does claim that he has deciphered, but a new script can be taken as deciphered only when the world of scholars accept his views without any doubt22. So we can say, without any fear of contradiction, that the Indus script has defied the attempt of all scholars so far and has not yet been deciphered just as the Asokan Bra#hmhi# script has been deciphered. The discovery of longer record in the script or a bilingual or biscriptal writing or some definite contact point would help us in finding a satisfactory solution to this unknown script in an unknown language.
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Myth of Tamil Brahmi

Myth of Tamil Brahmi and script.
There is Ashokan Brahmi standardised by Ashoka found all over India. And there is tamil Brahmi. Let us see the genesis of Tamil Brahmi.
Tamil Brahmi Genesis
The early Brahmi inscriptions posed a greater challenge on account of their archaic characters and orthographic conventions, which were different from the original Brahmi used for Prakrit. The challenge seemed insuperable even to the most competent among the pioneering epigraphists. The major breakthrough in the decipherment of the cave inscriptions of Tamil Nadu came with K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer (1924). He was the first to recognise that these are inscribed in Brahmi, but with certain peculiarities and new forms of letters, due to its adaptation for the Tamil language which has sounds (phonetic values) not known to the Prakrit (Indo-Aryan) language and northern Brahmi script. Yet, this lead was not seriously followed and was soon forgotten. Even Subrahmanya Aiyer did not pursue his line of enquiry to its logical conclusion. Other scholars like V. Venkayya and H. Krishna Sastri were constrained by the assumption that all Brahmi inscriptions were invariably in Prakrit or Pali, as Brahmi was used predominantly for Prakrit in all other regions of India from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. Their readings failed to convey any meaning.

Irvatham Mahadevan
Now enter the picture Irvatham Mahadevan an administrator-turned scholar, we have tamil Brahmi. By reviving Subrahmanya Aiyer's early decipherment and reading and at the same time more systematically studying these inscriptions in all their aspects, including palaeography, orthography and grammar, and seeking corroboration from the Sangam Literature and Tolkappiyam, the basic work on Tamil grammar. Mahadevan has virtually re-deciphered these inscriptions and shown them to be inscribed in Tamil. Hence the name "Tamil-Brahmi," one variety of the Brahmi script.

Characteristics of Tamil Brahmi
1.Brahmi script was adapted and modified to suit the Tamil phonetic system.
2.Palaeographic changes were made to suit the Tamil language, with the omission of letters for sounds not present in the Tamil language and by additions to represent sounds in Tamil that are not available in Brahmi.
3.All but four of the 26 letters are derived from Brahmi and have the same phonemic values.
4.Even these four - i.e., l,l, r, n - are adapted from the letters with the nearest phonetic values in (Asokan-) Brahmi, i.e., d, l, r, n.
5.Letters were also modified with a special diacritic mark, viz., the pulli (dot). These are reflected in the development of the Tamil-Brahmi in three stages (TB I, II and III):
Stage I
1. Inherent a (short-medial vowel) was absent in the consonants
2. strokes (vowel notations) were used for both the short and long medial a, and hence the need for the reading of consonants with reference to context and position;
Stage II
when the stroke for medial a marked only the long a;
Stage III
1. when the use of diacritics like the pulli was introduced for basic consonants and for avoiding ligatures for consonant clusters (as in Simhala-Brahmi).
2.The pulli was used also for distinguishing the short e and o from the long vowels, for the shortened - i and -u (kurriyalikaram and kurriyalukaram)
3.The pulli used for the unique sound in Tamil called aytam, all of which are unknown to the Indo-Aryan ( Prakrit and Sanskrit).

It is the recognition of the absence of the inherent vowel a (short) in the early phases, e.g. ma, ka, na with strokes or medial vowel notations, which are actually to be read as ma, ka, n (the inverted J symbol for the nominal suffix `an' characteristic of Tamil), and the addition of the pulli as a diacritic, that provided the key to the whole re-decipherment. Herein lies the basic contribution of Mahadevan to the study of the script and alphabet. That these findings are corroborated by the phonetic rules of the Tolkappiyam.

Above passages gives the Genesis and Characteristics of Tamil Brahmi
Where are these Incriptions

1.Pottery inscription in Tamil-Brahmi giving the name Catan. 1st century A.D. Found at Quseir-al-Qadim on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.

2.Rock-cavern inscription in Jambai 2nd Century AD.

Let us see what spoils such a great discovery
  1. Pulli TheoryScholars have observed two notational systems of Brahmi for writing Tamil. The first system is older than the second and the latter is very close to the Asokan Brahmi system. In the first system the short medial, a, is marked by a short horizontal stroke. In the second system the same mark indicates a long medial a. For example, scholars once used to read a certain word as maakaana following the second system. It did not make much sense. When the first system was used to read the inscription, the meaning became clear. The same word was read as makan, a common Tamil word for son. These two systems of Brahmi are different from the Tamil Pulli system described in Tholkappiam. The earliest stone inscription in the Tamil script is found at Vallam near Chinglepet and it belongs to the early seventh century A.D.There the dot over the pure consonants can be clearly seen. In the numerous inscriptions found on rock-shelters on hillocks near Madurai, scholars have failed to observe the Pulli in any of the inscriptions. The occurrence of the Pulli is closely linked with the date of Tholkappiam believed to be the oldest Tamil work. The late occurrence of the Pulli in Tamil inscriptions will indicate either the late date for the tholkappiam or prove Tamil Brahmi theory as false.
  2. Lack InscriptionsFor all the theories about inscriptions , we find only two or three inscriptions in the period mentioned 300BC to 500AD. Almost all the inscriptions are some grafitti. If the sangam literature and Tholkappiam if assumed are from this period then there should be flurry of inscriptions the absence show that written culture was not widespread.
  3. Inconsistencies of two Tamil brahmi and Tamil Pulli systems.The second system is closer to Ashoka Brahmi then the first one. And pulli does not show up until 7th century AD. Some scholars have even argued that Ashoka brahmi came from Tamil Brahmi, but that is not a creditable argument. Only few inscription sometimes only one inscription have been cited to show they are different. Anyone can see there will be some changes even if same person writes and the script surviving great distances with only few variations is itself miracle. So these differences are just few errors crept into the writing not a seprate script.
  4. Citing evidences where tamil was not present
    Mahadevan has been citing the southern Brahmi script found in Karnataka and Andhra to prove his theory especially Bottiporulu inscription. Which cannot be considered in the context of tamil. Many of the inscriptions dates not verified by competing authority. many references have been heresay and preliminary data on the first sighting. Many of the inscriptions are handcopied which again can introduce errors.
  5. Regional variations not surprising
    There are number of regional variations in Brahmi itself. Northern brahmi, southern brahmi , sinhala brahmi and others. In southern brahmi itself in bottiporulu inscription simultaneouly different variations have been found.
  6. Sinhala Brahmi
    Tamil brahmi is very similar to Sinhala brahmi. Here Mahadevan will claim sinhala brahni came from tamil brahmi, but evidence shows otherwise. Until 3nd century AD the tamil brahmi and srilankan brahmi are carbon copy of each other. only with advent of pallavas the script went in different ways.
  7. Scientific evolution of Brahmi
    Brahmi's limitation in phonetics in each region of India was overcome by adding megalithic symbols over the brahmi script that is why we have so many scripts in India. These are called vowel markers. This nothing new.
  8. Literary works at later period
    The written literture comes from later period of 8th century AD , it reaches a peak in 12-13th century AD. Writting seems to have started around 6th century AD during Pallava region.
So a normal evolution of scripts are taken in the arguement and has been cited reason for uniqueness of the script. Same type of evoluation has taken in other parts of India is downplayed and the arguement is made that only tamil has them is false. In short the Tamil Brahmi is an attempt to stretch the antiquity of tamil and also

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