Myths of Pallava Granta Script

Pallava Granta script is touted as script from 300AD to 10 century AD to write Sanskrit , It is also spread overseas and used by locals to derive their own script. Let us analyze the facts.

Pallava Dynasty
Though Pallava history is analysed by scholars for a long time, there are still gaps in knowledge. This is especially the case with the first period of Pallava history, the period ranging from the middle of the 3rd to the end of the 6th century A.D. The sources for the history of this period being limited, very little is known about its rulers beyond their names. The genealogy of these Pallava sovereigns and the actual duration of their reigns are still unsettled. Whether all the members mentioned in the charters actually ruled as kings is itself doubtful. We, however, get a clearer view of the dynasty during the second period, extending from the 7th to the 9th century A.D., as the epigraphs are distributed over a wide region with the advantage of some sidelights being thrown from the records of other dynasties. The Granta and Vetteluthu variations are evident from 8th century onwards until then, we find only Kadamba script. Moreover Granta and Vetteluthu are variations of Kadamba script and they evolved from kadamba script.

Pallava plates
The Earliest Pallava inscription is Mayidavolu, Hirahadagalli copper plate grants(4th century AD) uses Kadamba script, But after that we have a gap of inscriptions from 4th to 6th century AD. Even during vunnuguruvayapalem of paramesvaravarman I(669-700AD) and Reyuru plates of Narasimhavarman I (630-668AD) Kadamba script is used. The kurram plates of Narasimhavarman II (Raja Simha ) (700-28), Kasakudi and tandantottam plates of Nandivarman II pallavamalla (730 -96AD) and Bahur plates of Nirpatungavarman 9th century AD show variations from kadamba script , we can see first apperance of variations which latter evolved into Granta script around 11th century AD.

Pallava Granta Overseas
  • There is a tendency among scholars to describe early inscriptions in Indonesia and Indo-china as pallava granta and speak of expansion of pallava culture and influence. These views are wrong because of following reasons
  • The Script used in pallava inscriptions from 4th to 7th century AD and early epigraphs belong to Kadamba script which was widely used in south and western India.
  • Early writing in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sulawesi were written in Verse like records of kadamba kannada speaking areas unlike Pallava script.
  • Boxheaded alphabet used in epigraphs of King Bhadravarman of campa(south Annam) is not characteristic of pallava inscriptions, but is generally found in central and upper Deccan as well as Kannada speaking areas of western India.
  • Saka era introduced around 6th century AD in Indo-china and Indonesia is never used by Pallavas but chalukyas of Badami popular now in Kannada and marathi speaking areas.
  • Number inscriptions early ruling families such as Arakan(Burma), Sailendras of srivijya(palembang , sumatra) are written in kadamba and siddhamaka script of Eastern India.
  • The names of cities generally localised names of Vedic cities. Seventh Records indicate all India contact The city of Prom was also known as Vanadesi, similar to capital of the Kadambas Banawasi also the script is similar to kadamba script.
  • The Name ending varman found in East Asian dyansities is not exclusive to pallavas ,but also used by Kadambas,Alikuars, Salankayanas,Gangas, Maukharis, Matharas ,Pitrbaktas also have varman ending.
  • Many of Chronicles of South east asia are chronicles of Kalinga( orissa) and Sinhala.
  • Pallavas except a brief period in 7th century were feudataries of Satavahana , Kadambas, Chalukyas Rastrakuta and Cholas, they never took titles such as Maharaja and Rajadiraja which denote the rulers of Empires
So we can see the Truth in relation to myths floated around about Pallava Granta scripts.
  1. The Pallavas also used kadamba script and variations developed due to application of the script for writing local vernaculars tamil and malayalam
  2. Scripts used overseas are based on Kadamba script not pallava granta script, though Pallava script influenced them in the later period.
  3. Pallava Granta script developed after 8th century AD and previous inscriptions are in kadamba script only

Related Posts
Was Ancient India Literate
Brahmi Script Origin
Indus Script Myths
Tamil Brahmi
Pallava Granta Script


  1. The article appears to be very convincing but it may be difficult to prove the many statements that are in the article. Personally I have been spending some time on the evolution of characters in scripts on a mathematical basis - call it if you feel so as mathematical palaeography. I found that it is possible to define accepted shapes of characters geometrically and then apply a formula to trace the change in its shape over time. I found it is possible to work a few examples in the Appendix of Dani's book. If the same formula can trace the change in a few other characters may be the change can be quantised. My preliminary conclusions from these trials on Brahmi charcters and their evolution is that 1. All characters may not have the same origin in the first palce. 2. The changes that occur are sometiems universal and some times very specific. 3. Most probably the number of syllables/characters were small to start with but increased with time. etc.
    Initailly I used the technique of metafonts but now I am shifting to Post script to understand the shapes better.
    I respect and understand the derivation of Kadamba script and the Kalinga Script from Brahmi but its relation to Grantha script appears very far fetched, mathematically speqaking.
    My email address is and would very much like to be educated in related matters.
    Thank You.
    By the way when was the name Brahmi Script occur first or who coined it/ Why did Buhler call it Brahma Script ?

  2. mathematical palaeography, that is new, I dont know how far it will apply to evolution of scripts especially in India, Just because the evolution is linear, but complex, so many influences are there and it is not oneway journey that can be predicted by formula, take the case of granta itself there is brahmi influences, srilankan brahmi influences, kadamba influences and many we dont know, so how do you apply formula here. But you have something here , you can come up with more scientific explanations.

    As far as granta script, there is variations in granta script itself, we dont have set of characters to say this is granta of this period. Granta evolving from Kadamba script is not new. Read Indian Epigraphy by D.C. Sircar you will get more insights.

    origin of Brahmi is something not settled , eventhough lot of water has flowed since buhler called it Brahma script

  3. Dear Shri moda sattva,
    As I said in my comment the charcters are influenced by many factors the most unpredicatable one being the spot decisions taken by the scribe. I am trying to use neural networks to isolate these possibilities. As said earlier there is no one source - from where everything has been copied - for any of the writing systems that we have. Each of the cahrcatrs has its own history of journey of changes. I know it is a difficult problem - like trying define culture with a formula- but even if I succeedin doing it form Kadamba to Kannada, I would feel very gratified.
    I have gone through Sarkar, Buhler, Solomon, Dani and many others but the most interesting were notes in Annals of BORI by Dr. BM Borua. and Prof. Meghnad Saha and my Guru Prof. DD Kosmabi in his book on numismatics.
    Let us see, I am only 69 now and may live for another 3 years at least by which I would love to arrive at some conclusions.

  4. Hi,
    This is quite a new revelation, however till now not one scholar has said that it was Kadamba script. The earliest Pallava plates were written in Pallav Grantha script and in Sanskrit language. This has been accepted by E Hultzsch, V A Venkayya and T V Mahalingam. May you please give some references to support this theory?

  5. First before going any further, What is Pallava granta script? can you show complete set at each century? Don't show the alphabetset of 12th century AD Granta or one more put by tamil scholars on alphabet evolution of tamil script.

    Because only if you know how the characters looked, then you can compare and claim they are in pallava ganta. But we have a continuous evolution of Kadamba script from Brahmi and continuous evolution further to Hale Kannada script.

    E Hultzsch, V A Venkayya and T V Mahalingam are pro tamil scholars, what do you expect of them. You have to look beyond tamil scholars, they are not the only scholars

    As I already said in another comment, Read Indian Epigraphy by D.C. Sircar you will get more insights.

  6. Correction , the earliest pallava grants are written in Prakrit.

    1. So u mean it was not a kadamba script?

    2. So you do not know the difference between Script which is Pallava Granta, Kadamba and Languages that is Prakrit, Sanskrit ?



All comments to this blog are subject to moderation, and may appear at sole discretion of blog editor, if found to add relevance to the Posts