Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Grantha and SE Asian Scripts


Ever wondered where those curly letters in Thai and Burmese and other South Asian scripts come from?

This is Grantha a Southern Indian script ancestral to Tamil and Mon, Khmer, Lao, and even that Balinese script I posted about earlier.

Okay there's lotsof articles on Wikipedia and other stuff you cna Google but I'm going to translate that into a short explanation that hopefully you dont need to know about palaeography to make sense of?

Before Devenagari developed there was a script in India called Brahmi.

Scripts like languages diverge. They branch and bud. In the south of India Grantha developed and then Pallava and other forms and the forms that developed were more cursive, curly and curvy.

Why?

I suspect partly cos the stone used for inscriptions and temple building was harder stone like granite but also they scribes needed a script that could be written on materials like palm leaves.

Papermaking had not yet been introduced and paper was still an expensive imported luxury.

Yes people really did write on palm leaves.

One of the major trading ports on the south eastern coast on India was Madras where ships departed to journey to places like the Mon realms of Dvarati and Thaton in what's now Burma and Thailand and further away to Champa now southern Vietname and Funan a Khmer realm that traded with China.

And these places were where writing first appeared in South East Asia.

More on this next time!