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Renaissance of ancient alphabet

Brahmi script used by the ancient Indian civilization is one of the world’s oldest writing systems, and is still being taught and studied around India. A young archeologist is now making efforts to bring the 2000 year old script to Goan masses

10th July 2018, 02:40 Hrs

Jay Joshi

India has been subjected to foreign invasions for centuries, and over the years undergone many changes. But, during all these years, the country has managed to preserve its core and its ancient heritage, which continues to leave the historians spellbound to this day. The route to exploring the history of ancient India goes through the Brahmi script. This script of ancient India is one of the oldest writing systems the world. 

The script has been used extensively all our India from the Mauryan Period (3rd C BCE) till the early medieval period where we note gradual change from Brahmi to Nagari script. Brahmi has been considered to be the mother script of most of the present languages. The Brahmi script was the ancestor of all South Asian Writing Systems. In addition, many East and Southeast Asian scripts, such as Burmese, Thai, Tibetan, and even Japanese to a very small extent (vowel order), were also ultimately derived from the Brahmi script. Thus the Brahmi script was the Indian equivalent of the Greek script that gave arise to a host of different systems. The script is still being taught and studied in the whole of India. 

Now, a group of young history enthusiasts are bringing the knowledge of the Brahmi script to Goan people. 

Bhoomij Heritage Consultancy, Goa and Trirashmi Research Institute of Buddhist and Indic Languages, Nasik is jointly organising a one day certificate course in introduction to Indian Epigraphy and practical learning of 2000 year old Brahmi Script.

“Brahmi script is quite well-studied all over India and it needs to be popularised in Goa. It is the key to learn ancient Indian history” says Sawani Shetye, proprietor of Bhoomij Heritage Consultancy explaining how studying Brahmi script could be beneficial, especially for history enthusiasts. “If anyone wants to study Ashoka’s edicts for instance, you could read them directly by yourself instead of reading someone else’s interpretation. It could also help coin collectors to better identify and know the ancient Indian coins.” 

That said, scripts and languages is something that takes considerable time to learn and master. So, how far would a one-day workshop take the participants? 

“In the upcoming workshop, we will touch upon the basics of the script. If you know Devnagri script, you can probably read Brahmi script within a couple of hours” says Sawani. After this workshop, one would be able to read Ashoka’s edicts, but if you wish to read the inscriptions on coins, you have to study the script deeper, she adds “Since the space on the coin is less, certain modifications and adjustments have been made to the letters, plus, each dynasty seems to have had their own style of coin inscriptions” says Sawani who holds a post-graduation in archeology. 

Brahmi script is believed to have appeared first around 5th century BC, although some earlier local variants have been found. It was used for royal edicts and  coinage, and is believed to have fallen out of use during the early medieval period (after circa 8th century AD). 

To a layman’s eye, the Brahmi alphabet might look very different from modern-day Devnagri script, but that question will be solved at the workshop, says Sawani “The way we have English alphabet changing slightly in cursive writing, Brahmi too took on a cursive stile and evolved into what we have today.” the workshop will explain how the ancient script evolved into modern one, states the history expert. 

Bhoomij Heritage Consultancy is committed to spreading of knowledge from research spheres of history and archaeology to masses and has held a number of workshops in the subject. The current workshop is being conducted by Bhoomij in collaboration with TRIBILS, a research wing of Boudh Sahitya Prasarak Mandal, Nashik. TRIBILS is committed towards promotion of Indic languages and scripts. TRIBILS is associated 

with Pali Department of Savitribai Phule, Pune University, Pune under a technical MOU to teach Pali 

language.


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