Beyond Brahmi, Indus text shaped modern scripts: study

The text used in the Indus Valley may have shaped the southern and northern Indian languages, new studies suggest. An analysis has traced the origins of the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Prakrit and Devanagari scripts back to the Indus Civilisation and its writing, giving a new dimension to the conventional belief that Indian scripts owe their origin to the Brahmi script.

Two papers on the findings have been published in the July and August editions of Current Science. They were authored by scientific officers from the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Tamil Nadu.

"So far, it was believed all modern Indian scripts owe their origin to Brahmi script. Our findings add a new dimension and push back the evolution of both the Dravidian (southern India) and Aryan (north Indian) family of language scripts to the Indus Valley Civilisation and beyond. The presence of Brahmi- and Kharosthi-like scripts is also traced to the Indus script," said S Srinivasan, principal author for both papers. The other authors are J V M Joseph and P H Harikumar (retired).

The paper notes symbols in the Indus text that resemble the zodiac symbols for Aries to Pisces. "A need to invent signs for zodiac symbols would have arisen when the Indus folk needed to cast horoscopes. References to such practices abound in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Also the Indus folk may have used the seven basic notes [of music]. We suspect the exposure to these musical note signs would have led to the intrusion of the note signs into the early Tamil-Brahmi writings," it says.

Medial-vowel signs suggested Indian scripts of the Aryan and Dravidian families evolved from Indus writing, and all such Tamil and Kannada signs were identified in the Indus text. Two frequent signs in the Indus script, the jar and the short, double vertical strokes symbol, were identified as equivalent to two medial-vowel signs in Tamil. Two others, comb and arrow, were identified with medial-vowel signs in Kannada. "We were able to identify from the Indus text, the presence of scripts for five Indian languages, namely, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Prakrit and Sanskrit," the paper says.

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