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Post Info TOPIC: Kodumanal - GRAFFITI TO BRAHMI: The writing on the pot


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Kodumanal - GRAFFITI TO BRAHMI: The writing on the pot

Oct 09 2015 : The Times of India (Chennai)
GRAFFITI TO BRAHMI: The writing on the pot
Book On Excavations At Erode Site Details Primary Sources Of Ancient Script In Tamil Country
For K Rajan, each excavation he con ducted in Kodumanal, an early his toric site in Erode district of Tamil Nadu, led to new findings. His forth coming monograph on graffiti and Brahmi inscriptions on pottery from Kodumanal, “Early Writing System: A journey from Graffiti to Brahmi“, to be released on October 10, brings in details about the ancient writing system of Tamil country . It provides insightful data based on the materials recovered from the site.

Scholars believe that the perceptible writing system in India emerged about five millennia ago during the Early Harappan period and it continued to be used over a long period in a significant chunk of the Indus Valley . However, the decipherment of Indus script still eludes scholars despite their wholehearted attempts. The disappearance of the script after the fall of the civilization has complicated the issue. Some believe that the script and the language have not disappeared overnight and they must have transformed into different forms. As a result, an attempt to establish a link by connecting ChalcolithicIron Age graffiti symbols with Indus script has been made by some scholars.

The appearance of Brahmi script during the Early Historic period without any apparent link to the earlier scripts has further complicated the issue, according to Y Subbarayalu, author and scholar. “Irrespective of several claims, the origin and development of Brahmi script could not be traced in a satisfactory manner, largely due to the lack of well-documented primary sources. Rajan's book attempts to document a primary source namely inscribed potsherds that were unearthed in seven seasons of excavations conducted at Kodumanal,“ he said.

The book provides considerable data on the existence of two kinds of writing systems that existed during Early Historic times. “This pottery has both graffiti and Tamil-Brahmi writings, which occur mostly separately and in a few instances in a mixed form. The author has studied each of them in detail devoting separate chapters. His careful analysis and categorization will be helpful in making a comparative study of the signs and in finding out their morphological structure, if any ,“ said Subbarayalu.

“We collected data on the nature of settlement, gemstone industry here, method of iron and steel production, weaving and shell industry, types of graves and their architectural features. We have put the earliest limit to the period of the site at 6th century BC,“ said Rajan, author of the book, who is professor at the department of history , Pondicherry University .

Rajan said both the habitation and the graves area yielded graffiti. “Some signs are compound signs consisting of more than one symbol. A few of these occur repeatedly from different localities and levels. The more common graffiti marks are sun, swastika, star, ladder, “nandi-pada“, fish, bow and arrow, wheel, cart, signs like the Asokan-Brahmi `ma', etc.“

Though the exact connotation of these symbols, individually or in compound form, cannot be easily guessed, a close observation of these symbols, their places of occurrence, frequency and position clearly would demonstrate that they were used to convey some information.“There can be little doubt now that these graffiti are not mere aimless scratches rather they were one kind of writing system. Sequential placements of more than one basic or compound signs in a row seem to indicate a kind of communicative system. The spread of graffiti from northwest India down to peninsular India and Sri Lanka in different cultural contexts, both in rural and urban centres and sur vival of the symbols over a millennium would support that,“ said Rajan.

At least 551 potsherds bearing Brahmi letters were recovered from the 185cm cultural deposit. “The language of the inscribed potsherds recovered at Kodumanal is Tamil and hence it has been labelled as Tamil-Brahmi.But there are many Tamilized Prakrit names throughout the deposit,“ he said.

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