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Earlier date for Tamil-Brahmi

When the urns containing human skeletons were discovered in Adichanallur in Tamil Nadu, they were initially dated to 800 BC. Now one of the urns has been dated to 500 BC and what makes this interesting is the script which was present in the urn.

The claim on the date of the script and the assertion that it is in Tamil-Brahmi will be subjected to the scrutiny of scholars in the field.

The term `Tamil-Brahmi’ is used when the script is in Brahmi but the language is Tamil. The Brahmi script was predominantly used for Prakrit from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. The Brahmi script was brought to the Tamil country in the third century B.C. by the Jain and Buddhist monks during the post-Asokan period.

According to Iravatham Mahadevan, one of the foremost authorities on the Tamil-Brahmi script: “The Brahmi script reached Upper South India (Andhra-Karnataka regions) and the Tamil country at about the same time during the 3rd century B.C. in the wake of southern spread of Jainism and

Buddhism.” In his magnum opus, Early Tamil epigraphy, From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century A.D., Mr. Mahadevan says that “the earliest Tamil inscriptions in the Tamil-Brahmi script may be dated from about the end of 3rd century or early 2nd century B.C. on palaeographic grounds and stratigraphic evidence of inscribed pottery. The earliest inscriptions in the Tamil country written in the Tamil-Brahmi script are almost exclusively in the Tamil language.” [`Rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script’ unearthed at Adichanallur]

Tamil Brahmi scripts have been found in the caves of Jain monks in Tamil Nadu and they were dated to 3rd century BC, thus working with the theory that Buddhist and Jain monks could have bought the Brahmi script to the south. But if the date of around 500 BC is accurate, it means that the script reached Tamil Nadu during the time of Buddha itself and not much later

6 Responses to Earlier date for Tamil-Brahmi

  1. Antony February 5, 2009 at 6:37 am #

    your deductive logic is ‘astounding’. If the age of the writing in the urn is proved 500 B.C it will only mean that it is wrong to call it anymore as ‘Tamil Brahmi’ and should be called ‘Tamil’ script meaning—the script travelled from south to north and not vice-versa as assumed till now for ‘mysterious’ reasons. There is no inscription before 3rd century B.C in north india and inscriptions in Tamil also are found from the same period.

  2. jk February 5, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Antony, if today, I write Tamil in Devanagiri script, what will you call it? Tamil script or Tamil Devanagiri?. It has nothing to do with date.

  3. Antony February 6, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    I am sorry! I was not aware that you had no idea about the controversy surrounding this ‘script’ issue between North Indian scholars and Tamil scholars. When they say Tamil-brahmi they imply brahmi is the original and Tamil-brahmi is derived from it. Tamil script has no particular name and it was known as Tamil script only, whereas Oriental scholars assigned the name ‘brahmi’ to the script of asokan inscriptions. Probably they assigned the name brahmi because they thought asokan inscriptions are the oldest writings and from that script only all scripts have been derived…as everything comes from ‘brahma’ they named it brahmi. But then when they came across Tamil written in a script somewhat different from that but around the same period they called it Tamil-brahmi meaning that brahmi script borrowed and adapted for Tamil. The above finding proves brahmi is derived from tamil-brahmi which makes the very name ‘Tamil-Brahmi’ counter-intuitive. So it is better to get rid of the the term ‘Tamil-brahmi’ script and use only Tamil script to refer. Now one can say Brahmi script was created by borrowing and adapting Tamil script for writing Prakrit during the time of Asoka through Buddhists and Jainists.

    • jk February 8, 2009 at 2:09 am #

      antony, i. mahadevan is a tamil scholar. he uses the term tamil-brahmi (http://is.gd/iNId).

  4. Antony February 9, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    Yes, I agree. Iravatham Mahadevan is using the term ‘Tamil-Brahmi’ because he believes that Tamil script in 3rd B.C itself is derived from Asokan Brahmi. I say he believes because it is just a hypothesis. There is no concrete historical evidence to prove this theory. In spite of scholars like Gift Siromoney’s strong arguments to the contrary, people who uncritically accept and work within the confines of established mainstream Indian scholars are refusing to examine any view point to the contrary. In such a scenario if it is proved that there are inscriptions available in what is called ‘Tamil-brahmi’ prior to 3rd B.C they will have no other go than accepting the fact that brahmi script was derived from Tamil script and the term term ‘Tamil-Brahmi’ is illogical. The genealogy is as follows: Tamil script was developed independently as an alternative for complex Indus scripts some time between 1000B.C and 500 B.C in the Tamil country. You may ask what is the proof for this. I would like to point out the recent discovery at Sembiyan-Kandiyur(http://www.orientalthane.com/archaeology/news_2007_04_02_2.htm) where Harappan signs were found on a stone axe in Tamil Nadu. And also the occurrence of the Muruku symbol in Tamil region continuously even long after Indus valley became history. If you connect all the dots i.e. 5th century B.C Tamil-brahmi inscription-Sembiyan Kandiyur-Indus Script, a form of Dravidian language–they all point to only one thing. But alas! the short-sighted and parochial Indian intellectual class is so obsessed and obstinate with their gangetic-sanskritic centred view of subcontinental history, they feel insecure that any fact that would be contrary to these hypotheses is actually a threat to “national unity” and “integrity of India”. After all, nationalism is the last resort of all criminals–scholars are no exception”. Under the weight of this mindless pseudo-nationalism, at least 15 languages that are more than 1000-1500 years old are in the verge of extinction very soon. If they update Indian history to at least reflect 10% of these facts our Telugu, and Kannada brothers would not have childishly demanded classical language status just because Tamil was accorded the status. The competitive jealousy that has been fuelled in these states against Tamil has already taken a heavy toll in the form of Cauvery dispute endangering the country’s unity.

  5. Natarajan March 9, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Hi Antony,
    I found expression of my readings & thought process in your above reply. Nice to have come across your viewpoint. Would like to keep in touch & discuss more. rajadnat@gmail.com
    + Natarajan

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