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  1. 1. Kharoṣṭhī Script Dr. Priyanka Singh Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
  2. 2. 1.Discovery and Decipherment 2.Nomenclature 3. Geographical range 4. Chronological range 5. writing Technique and Language 6. origin- Different theories 7. Palaeographic features 8. Numbers and Numerical Notation
  3. 3. Kharoṣṭhī was deciphered during the 19th century by James Prinsep, C. Lassen, Carl Ludwig Grotefend And Edwin Norris. Bilingual Inscriptions in Gandhari and Greek on coins helped with decipherment. Greek legend : Basileos Soteros Apollodotou Kharoṣṭhī legend :Maharajasa tratarasa Apaladatasa.
  4. 4. Nomenclature The early scholar who deciphered the kharoṣṭhi records had attempted to the name this script variously on the basis of its affinity to the region or people or language. it was called- 1. Bactrian 2. Indo-Bactrian 3. Kabulian 4. Arianian 5. Bactro-Pali 6. Ariano-Pali 7.Gandhari 8. Kharoṣṭhī
  5. 5. This script was first noticed on the coins of the ‘Bactrian’ rulers and hence it was called ‘ Bactrian’ character. But as the rulers themselves because of their connection with India, were sometimes referred to as ‘Indo-Bactrian’, the same term was also applied to the script. On geographical grounds Lassen preferred to call it ‘Kabulian’ and Wilson ‘ Arianian’. Cunningham suggested the name Gandharian alphabet. As the language used in these inscriptions is some form of Pali or Prakrit , the script also came to be known as Bactro-Pali or Ariano-Pali.
  6. 6. Of these the most popular name was Kharoṣṭhī . Kharoṣṭhī as the name of the script was first suggested by Terrien de Lacouperie in 1886-87 on the basis of the Latitavistara and the Chinese encyclopedia Fa-yuan-chu-lin ( 668 C.E.). De Lacouperie’s suggestion was adopted by Buhler. The Chinese encyclopedia Fa-wan-shu-lin reports a traditional attributing the invention of writing to three individuals, namely (1) Fa or Brahma who wrote left to right, i.e. the Brāhmī script, (2) Kia-lu or Kia-lu-she-ti who wrote from right to left, i.e. Kharoṣṭhī script and (3) Tsang-hieh who wrote from top to bottom i.e. the Chinese script. In the jain texts such as the Pannvana sutra and Samvayānga sutra Kharoṣṭhī is referred to as one of the eighteen script s of ancient India. The Buddhist text Lalitavisatara enumerates as many as sixty-four script of which Kharoṣṭhī script stands second, next to Brāhmī script.
  7. 7. Discovery & Decipherment The discovery of Kharoṣṭhī script and first attempt a decipherment were made by British archaeologist and numismatist Charles Masson. Between 1833 and 1838, Masson excavated over fifty sites around Kabul and Jalalabad in south-eastern Afghanitan, amassing a large collection of small objects and many coins, principally from the site at Begrām ( ancient Alexandria ) north of Kabul. from studying his collection of bilingual coins issued by Greek rulers Masson realized that the Greek legends on the obverse of the coins were directly translated into the then unknown sript on the reverse. This provided the first key to unlocking the script now known as Kharoṣṭhī .
  8. 8. Masson sent his progress, along with ink impression and other copies of his collection, to the Royal Asiatic Society 0f the Bengal, where metallurgist and scholar James Prinsep began to work on deciphering then further. Prinsep was able to read a number of letters by comparing them to the Greek letters. Prinsep recognised 11/12 letters. The rest were deciphered by German orientalist Christian Lessen, A Cunningham and E. Norris by the middle of the nineteenth century.
  9. 9. The meaning of the name of the Script following explanations of this name are found: 1. The inventor of this script was a person called Kharoṣṭhas (Khara= Oṣṭha means asslip) 2. It is called Kharoṣṭhī because it was used by the Kharoṣṭhas, the barbarous peoples on the north-western boundaries of India. 3. Kharoṣṭha is the Saṁkrit form of Kāsgar, a province in central Asia, which was the latest Centre of this script.
  10. 10. 4. it is the adaptation of the Iranian word ‘Kharaoṣṭa’ or ‘Kharaposta’ meaning ass-skin. Most probably this script was used for writing on ass-skin. 5. the earliest tradition about the name is recorded in the fa-wa-shu-lin a Chinese encyclopedia , according to which the script is called Kharoṣṭhī because it was invented by a person who bore that name Kharaoṣṭha. 6. According to Rajbali Pandey- The name Kharaoṣṭha is evidently Indian, a Prākritised form of Saṁskrit ‘ Kharauṣṭha’. The script may have been
  11. 11. Called so due to the fact that most of the Kharoṣṭhī characters are irregular elongated curves and they look like the moving lips of an ass. Nature of Kharoṣṭhī Script 1. Stone Inscriptions 2. Metal plates and Vases 3. Birch-bark 4. wood 5. Leather 6. coins
  12. 12. . The vast Majority of Kharoṣṭhī inscription are Buddhist records, mostly concerning pious donations and foundations. . Kharoṣṭhī was also extensively used in the coin legends of foreign and Indigenous rulers . In central Asia it occurs in the (a) Administrative documents from niya (b) Dharmapada manuscript (c) Chinese Buddhist texts .
  13. 13. Gold Plate
  14. 14. Kanishka Casket
  15. 15. The Indo-Greek Hashtnagar Pedestal symbolizes bodhisattva and Kharoṣṭhī script. Mathura lion Capital
  16. 16. Chronological range .The Kharoṣṭhī script first appears in shahbazgarhi and Mānsehra rock edicts of Aśoka. In the minor rock edicts of Aśoka at Brahmagiri and Siddhapura , the engraver Chapaḍa uses Kharoṣṭhī script for the last word ‘Lipikareṇa’. A large number of coins known as the Negama coins with Kharoṣṭhī legend on them have been discovered in the region around Taxila which are datable to post Mauryan period.
  17. 17. .Indo-Greek . Indo-Scythian . Indo-Parthian . Kuṣāna on some of the coins of the tribal republics such as the Audumbaras, Kuṇindas, Vrishnis and Rajanyas have the legends in Kharoṣṭhī . The maximum number of Kharoṣṭhī records, belonging to the Kushana period are from the North-western India, namely the Punjab, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and surrounding regions. It was very popular during the Kuṣāna period. Though the script was not used in India proper after later kuṣāna period , yet it was in vogue for a few more centuries in Chinese Turkestan. A large number of Kharoṣṭhī inscriptions from Chinese Turkestan have came to light, among them the noteworthy is the Khotān Dhammapada.
  18. 18. Geographical Range
  19. 19. Palaeographic Features . Unlike Brāhmī and its derivatives kharoṣṭhī script did not undergo extensive palaeographic changes in the course of its historical development. . Its history covers only some five centuries and takes place within a relatively limited geographical area as opposed to Brāhmī. . kharoṣṭhī is written from right to left . kharoṣṭhī has a cursive ductus which would seem to reflect an origin in a clerk’s script, written with pen and ink.
  20. 20. . The kharoṣṭhī script contrasts with Brāhmī in that It is top oriented, that is the distinctive features of each character tend to be at the top instead of at the bottom as in Brāhmī script. . The main difference in graphic principle between Brāhmī and kharoṣṭhī is that letter for the most part does not differentiate long and short vowels. . Does not have clear local variants except the central Asian variety
  21. 21. writing Technique and Lanuage . Kharoṣṭhī is a pen style of writing. . In Aśokan Inscription it leaves behind a foot-mark in the form of an upward slant at the lower end the verticals on the left. . The foot-mark is to be attribuated to the style of the writer. . In kushana Inscription , verticals gradually thin out cursive as in natural to a pen. . Kharoṣṭhī script was used to write the north western Prakrit language which was also the Gandhari Prakrit.
  22. 22. Origin-Different theories The Theory of Aramaic Origin The origin of the kharoṣṭhī script is a much debated issue. The western scholars are generally of that opinion that kharoṣṭhī script was evolved out of the Aramaic script . The Aramaic connection was first discussed by Edward Thomas. Edward Thomas at first pointed out the similarity between the kharoṣṭhī and Aramaic script. This theory further developed by Isaac Taylor, J. Halevy and Buhler. The following arguments are produced in favour of this theory-
  23. 23. . Resemblance between the Aramaic and the kharoṣṭhī characters. Majority of the kharoṣṭhī signs can be most easily derived from the Aramaic types of the fifth century B.C. which appears in the Saqqarh and Teima inscriptions. . The writing direction of the kharoṣṭhī script from right to the left. . The kharoṣṭhī script has certain characteristics common with the Aramaic script, for instance, the absence of long vowels. . The use of kharoṣṭhī script in only those part of India which were occupied by the Iranians the second half of the 6th B.C. up to
  24. 24. Fourth century B.C. . The Aramaic alphabet was adapted to Indian languages by introducing a number of modifications and addition. . The Aśokan edict in north –west of India at Mānsehra and Shahbāzgrahī use for writing the word , Dipi which evidently was borrowed from old Persian. . The Appearance of the kharoṣṭhī script in India after Iranian invasion.
  25. 25. Why was this script introduced in India Buhler suggested that the territory of kharoṣṭhī corresponds very closely with the extent of the portion of Indian subcontinent , presumably held by the Persians. Since Aramaic served as the official language of the Persian empire the Aramaic alphabet could be adopted to the Gandhari (Indic) language. Richard Salomon points to the Aśokan edicts in Aramaic that included Prakrit word written in Aramaic Script. It confirms the close connection of the Aramaic with the Indic language and script. Buhler admits that kharoṣṭhī is an alphabet framed with particular regard to the needs of clerks. It arose out of official intercourse between the scribes of the Persian emperor and native chiefs and other authorities A.H. Dani also admits that kharoṣṭhī was originally adopted to write the
  26. 26. Language spoken by common people. The Persians wanted to establish relation with their subjects for the sake of administration. Local language was adopted but the problem was to find a vehicle through which language could be written in such a way that it was intelligible to local people as well as convenient to learn by the administrative staff who familiar with Aramaic. Thus it was created from Aramaic. B. N. Mukherjee holds the same view with Buhler that the kharoṣṭhī was created by the Achaemenids in the Indian Provinces of their empire in 5th century B.C. he explains that their official script was Aramaic while their subjects in the Indian provinces used Brāhmī to write Prakrit. The script was created because the
  27. 27. Aramaic knowing administrators wanted to write Prakrit in a script that was based on Aramaic and would be understood with a little efforts by the Prakrit-knowing and Brāhmī- using subjects. Indian origin R.B. Panday on the other hand, refutes thoroughly the above mentioned Aramaic origin theory and propounds Indian origin of Kharoṣṭhī Script. He examined the arguments in favour of the Aramaic origin of the Kharoṣṭhī Script one by one:
  28. 28. . The resemblance between the Aramaic and Kharoṣṭhī Script is very superfluous and accidental as every script is structurally composed of lines, curves, angles, hooks etc. . The direction of the Kharoṣṭhī Script from the right to the left is no guarantee that it was derived from the Semitic source. . The absence of long vowels in Kharoṣṭhī Script is due to the fact that it was used for Prākrit language which avoid long vowels, big compounds and difficult ligatures.
  29. 29. . Buhler does not give any reason as to why the word ‘Dipi’ should be regarded exclusively Persian or non Sanskritic. This word can easily be derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Dip’ to shine, to be illustrious. . Resemblance between the two scripts is so remote and contact between India and Persia was so formal that the question of adoption could not rise. Persian rulers did not use kharoṣṭhī for their official documents. The earliest definitely datable kharoṣṭhī inscription so for known are Aśoka belonging to 3rd century B.C. All the other kharoṣṭhī inscription found in Baluschistan, Afghanistan and central Asia are of later date. The long association of the Kharoṣṭhī with foreign powers – Persian, Indo- Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kuṣāna- created some sort of aversion towards
  30. 30. It in rest of India. With the rise of imperial Guptas and the upsurge of the unification of the country and nationalism, the Kharoṣṭhī script was discarded and died out along with its official foreign support. Its place in the north- western part was taken by Brāhmī. Ref. . Indian Palaeography, Rajbali Panday . Kharoṣṭhī script , S.J. Mangalam . Indian Epigraphy, Richard Salomon . The development of the Kharoṣṭhī script , C.C. Dasgupta
  31. 31. Kharoṣṭhī script
  32. 32. Numbers and Numerical Notation
  33. 33. Shahbazgarhi Rock Edict
  34. 34. shahbazgarhi Major Rock Edict
  35. 35. Shahbazgarhi Rock Inscription