Scripts used in India
Epigraphical Studies in India – Sanskrit and Dravidian
Scripts used in India
In north India, the Brahmi script was used over a vast area. Besides Brahmi, Asokan inscriptions are also found using Kharoshthi, Aramaic and Greek scripts.With the advent of the Saka-Kshatrapas and the Kushanas as political powers in north India, the writing system assumed a definite change due to the use of new writing tools and techniques. Further development of the Brahmi script and perceivable changes in its evolutionary trend can be discerned during the Gupta period. The Gupta script is considered to be the successor of the Kushana script in north India.
From the 6th to about 10th century A.D., the inscriptions in north India were written in a script which was called by different names like Siddhamatrika and Kutila. From the 8th century A.D., the Siddhamatrika script developed into Sarada script in Kashmir and Punjab, into Proto-Bengali or Gaudi in Bengal and Orissa and into Nagari in other parts of north India. Nagari script was used widely in northern India from the 10th century onwards. The use of Nandinagari, a variant of Nagari script, is mostly confined to the Karnataka region.
In central India, mostly in Madhya Pradesh, the inscriptions of the Vakatakas, and the kings of Sarabhapura and Kosala were written in what are known as ‘box-headed’ and ‘nail-headed’ characters. It may be noted that the early Kadambas of Karnataka also employed ‘nail-headed’ characters in some of their inscriptions. During the 3rd – 4th century A.D., the script used in the inscriptions of Ikshvakus of Nagarjunakonda developed a unique style of letter-forms with elongated verticals and artistic flourished, which did not continue after their rule.
Some of the earliest inscriptions of south India, particularly from Tamil Nadu, which are found engraved on the stone-beds in the caverns are in Brahmi script with some additional signs corresponding to certain sounds which are peculiar to the Tamil language. Hence, this script is popularly known as Tamil-Brahmi. In south India from 7th century A.D. onwards a number of inscriptions belonging to the dynasties of Pallava, Chola and Pandya are found. These records are written in three different scripts known as Tamil, Vattezhuttu and Grantha scripts, the last variety being used to write Sanskrit inscriptions. In the Kerala region, the Vattezhuttu script developed into a still more cursive script called Kolezhuttu during the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. At the same time, the modern Malayalam script developed out of the Grantha script.
The early form of the Telugu-Kannada script is found in the inscriptions of the early Kadambas of Banavasi and the early Chalukyas of Badami in the west and Salankayana and the early Eastern Chalukyas in the east who ruled the Kannada and Telugu speaking areas respectively during 4th to 7th centuries A.D.
Inscriptions are available not only in our vast sub-continent but also in countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Java, Tibet, south-east Asian countries. It is interesting to note that the scripts used in the inscriptions found in these countries were evolved from the Brahmi script.