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There are so many sounds emanating from the same organs with very little difference in positions, that besides the index some other means of distinguishing the sounds were also perhaps adopted. For instance in the case of labials b, p and m which were all to be represented by a closed mouth, b had the shape of a rectangle made with straight lines, m had a circular shape,
a and p was made up of a straight and a curved or two cursed lines. It is not, at this distant date, possible to guess what these distinguishing marks were. I have however tried, in the plate attached, to write down most of the letters according to the system described above. A comparison of these with the Bráhmí of the inscriptions and the present day Devanagari characters, shows a striking similarity between the two, demonstrating that the shape of the Indian letters was actually designed in accordance with the position of the organs producing the respective sounds. This finally settles with the theory that the Indians borrowed their alphabet from the Semitic people.
VIII.-Writing in India before the Brahmi Script.
We have seen in the previous chapters that the Bráhmí alphabet was arranged and designed in India, and instead of being copied from the Semitic alphabets as hitherto supposed by European scholars, was the original from which the Semitic alphabets were derived. We find it very scientifically arranged, and its letters also designed on a scientific principle. It can safely be assumed that the first idea of an alphabet and its scientific arrangement could not have occurred to the Indian sages simultaneously, and there must have been an alphabet existing in India before it was dealt with scientifically in about 1700 This was the Devanagari, ? but it is not possible now to
1 say what the arrangement of its letters was. Nor can their original shape be known, as the Devanágarí characters have undergone a complete change under the influence of the scientific Bráhmí script.
It is probable this was derived from some system of hieroglyphics going through the usual process of development described in chapter IV. The Aryans when they came to India from
1 What I mean by Devanágarí has been mentioned in the previous chapter,
their home in Central Asia brought writing with them either in the crude picture forms or in its second stage, the phonetic syllabery. The real alphabet was formed in India and not in Central Asia, as in the latter case, the Accadian and its derivatives the Chinese and Assyrian scripts would have, by mere contact, been in possession of an alphabet and not ended with a syllabery. The name latterly given to this alphabet, viz. Devanágrí, was due to its connexion with the writing at the home of the Aryans.
The arrival of the Aryans into India could not be put later ihan 4000 B.C., as the hymds of the Rig Veda composed on the banks of the Indas and in the Himalayan passes show that the vernal equinox occurred in the asterism Mrigasbirá at the time, which was the case from 34th to 43rd century B.C. For a long time the new comers must have been in an unsettled state, and could not have found the calm atmosphere necessary for the development of such subjects as writing. It will not however be very much out of the mark if the formation of this alphabet is placed four or five centuries before the scientific arrangement of the letters.
In the absence of any old inscriptions or references it is impossible to say definitely what was the original process of development of the Devanagarí alphabet, but the retention of the four syllables ri, li, ai and au among the vowels of the new arrangement shows clearly that a syllabery preceded that alphabet. It is certain that this syllabery had its origin in an old picture writing, and this could have, I am sure, been shown to be the case had we been in possession of the real Devanágarí characters. As it happens, however, our present Devanagari letters are only modified forms of the Brühmí characters, so that they have been taken, and rightly, as derived from the latter. The only letters which d not appear to have been so derived are a (9) ri (F), 1 (a) and h(E). 1 Now in one can easily notice the
1 We can by expert handling and stretching the letters, show that these are also derived from old Brahmí letters, but I do not believe in unwarranted stretching of letters, or additions of strokes, or supplying missing links to suit the argument.
cursive form of five horizontal lines against a vertical one representing a hand. The Sanskrit word for hand being “hasta ", the letter“h” which is the first letter of the word, was represented by the symbol for “ hand.”
The letter or rather syllable ri Ħ also appears to have a pictorial origin. Being the first letter of the word " Rik" (the hymns of the Rig Veda) it was represented by the symbol for the hymns, which was perhaps the same as for “ Veda” or “Book " generally. A book (called Grantha) of thrse old times was surely represented by a bundle tied with a string or the symbol I so this was the symbol for the syllable “ri” also.
80 . It appears that after Bráhmí letters were formed, the syllable "ri” in those characters (viz., !. or 2) was added as a determinative, thus giving the present Devanagari letter #.
The letter E also appears to have its origin, like the syllable # , in an old form with a determinative. The sound a was probably denoted by the symbol för Agni (fire), which
must have been
showing a flame. To this old Devanágarí
letter was later on added the Bráhmí symbol for a in order that the letter be not forgotten and lost. This gave the present
The above will probably be styled as merely a guesswork, bat it is not an improbable guesswork, and shows sufficiently
"It will probably be said that the sign for “i” is added at the top and not at the bottom. This does not appear to be universal, as we find in the Bhattiprola inscriptions this sign attached to ņ in the middle, and in the present day Devanagari to ap at the bottom making it the syllable "li” (Z). It is possible, however, that the sign was for a and not i and the sylla ble was ru, as it is still propoanced in Marathi, Uriya, Telga, etc. As matter of fact this vowel has neither an (i) nor an (u) after it, but at the beginning of a word it is difficult to pronounce without one of them, hence its syllabic form.
that the old script of the Indians was developed in the regular way passing through all its stages, from an original pictograph devised by the ancestors of the same people before their coming to India.
The discovery of some megalithio remains in Raigir, Nalgonda district, Hyderabad, Deccan, and close by, described by Mr. G. Yazdání is very important in this respect. In the cairns, which were burial mounds, has been found pottery which shows certain marks scratched on it. These undoubtedly represent some sort of pictograph or hieroglyphic writing. 131 symbols have been discovered which resemble the letters, or rather syllables, and words of the Accadian or Chaldæan pictograph (hardly Egyptian'as mentioned by Mr. Yazdání). Seven of these symbols have an appearance of Brahmí letters (sokan or Dravidi). As the burial of the dead in clay coffins shaped like dish covers, as found in these cairns, was peculiar to the ancient Chaldæan people, it is thought, and perhaps correctly, that the people buried here were descendants of men associated with the old Chaldæans, who migrated perhaps thousands of years ago to Southern India by the way of the sea. They did not evidently come down by land, as no similar burial remains have been found in Upper India. Amongst these men were probably the Vánaras of the Rámáyana, the people who helped Ráma in recovering his wife from Rávana, the Ráksasa king of Lanká, and the cause of their joining him fo readily and willingly can be easily understood now, as they were either Aryans or people allied to them. The hieroglyphic writing found in the cairns is thus the descendant of the old pictograph of the Aryans, from which the old Devanagarí alphabet was formed. The Bráhní as we have seen was formed in a different way and the resemblance of some of its letters with the symbols found in the cairns is a mere chance.
There is also a sort of pictograph found engraved on several rocks at Rajgir (Old Rajagriha), Patna District. The old pictorial alphabet is also not altogether absent from India.
· Journal of Hyderabad Archæological Society for 1914.