History of Hindi

Scripts in India of the Present Day    

Three distinct type of script are in use to write Indian languages. We have in the first instance the national system of writing which is of Indian origin and which goes back to the Brahmi script of the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. and earlier. This Brahmi script was a single pan-Indian script in the centuries before and immediately after Christ. Then as the country split into different states this script began to change in different areas. After about 10 centuries of change it gave rise to various present day alphabets of Indian origin that are currently in use in the country. Of the five groups three belonged to the North and two to the South. Inn North India we have –

1. The North-Western group to which belong the Sarada script of Kashmir and a number of allied systems of writing which were current in the various Western Himalayan States besides Gurumukhi in which Punjabi is written and Landa in which businessmen of Sindh keep their accounts and write letters.
2. The Nagari script which was originally the script of Western U.P. and Rajasthan-Gujarat was later adopted by the Maharashtrians (who called it Balabodha or ‘Script for the use of children’ as opposed to the native script called Modi, of South Indian affinities, in which Marathi used to be written. Now the Nagari script throughout North India. It is really the script from which Western Hindi, Rajasthani and Gujarati speeches were born.
3. The Eastern Group of North Indian scripts within which the Newari of Nepal, Maithili, Bengali-Assamese and Oriya. The script was current in its oldest form in Eastern U.P., Bihar, Nepal, Orissa, Bengal and Assam.

In South India we have –
1. Telegu-Kannada group.
2. The Grantha-Tamil-Malayalam group. The Sinhalese of Ceylon is an evolved form of the Grantha from the Tamil country.

The Sarada script was confined to Kashmir, is dying out, the Nagari script is replacing and the Perso-Arabic script is now used in J and K. Gurumukhi unfortunately has got be associated with Punjabi Sardars and is one the reasons why Khalsa is not followed by other Indians across the country. Being only a written script Landa has no importance.

The Nagari is now the most important of the Indian alphabets. It took its present form about 1000 years ago and is a sister script to Sarada, Bengali and South Indian scripts. It acquired a fresh prestige during British rule when it gradually came to be accepted all over India as the pan-Indian script in printing Sanskrit. This was a direct result of the centralizing tendencies of the British rule in India. Sanskrit had no single script for the whole of India, and it was written in the different provincial scripts along with local languages. But with the establishment of Indian universities the need for a common script in Sanskrit for use in the whole of India was supplied by Nagari. The script came to acquire a new name i.e. Dev-Nagari or Divine Nagari because Sanskrit as the language of the Gods came largely to be printed in it.

The Bengali-Assamese script is virtually one script – only Assamese differs from Bengali in one letter, and has an extra letter for the sound of w or v. This script is very much like Maithili in which Maithili speech is written. Nagari is replacing Maithili. The Newari Script of Nepal in which the Tibeto-Burman Newari language as well as Sanskrit used to be written in Nepal is giving way to Nagari.

Oriya in its origin is related to Bengali-Assamese, Newari and Maithili but it has developed some peculiar shapes from the 15th century onwards. It is used to write and print both Oriya and Sanskrit in Orissa.

Kannada and Telegu are almost the same script. The Grantha script is derived from the old script of the Pallavas as it current around 650 a.d. and Sanskrit is written and printed in the Tamil country in the Grantha script. Malayalam is only a provincial form of the Grantha and Tamil is an abridged form the of the same Grantha.

During the 4th quarter of the 19th century, Sindhi, in the hands of the Hindu administrative officers of the province also adopted an elaborate form of the Persian script. The Roman script was brought to India by the Europeans.

Tibetan - Contacts between I and Tibet are to have got established around the sixth century a.d. The imp king Sron-btsansgam-po who occupied the throne during the first half of the 7th century a.d. He ruled over Nepal and parts of Assam. A devout Buddhists, he introduced in Tibet the Sanskrit language and the system of writing from India. He sent Sambhota to India to acquire a thorough knowledge of Indian scripts, Sanskrit language, Buddhists scriptures. After returning from India they framed a system of Tibetan characters and composed a grammatical work.

There is no doubt that the Tibetan alphabet is derived from the Indian Gupta script current from fifth to seventh century a.d. The grammar thus composed is used in Tibetan schools even today.

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