Myth of Tamil Brahmi

Myth of Tamil Brahmi and script.
There is Ashokan Brahmi standardised by Ashoka found all over India. And there is tamil Brahmi. Let us see the genesis of Tamil Brahmi.
Tamil Brahmi Genesis
The early Brahmi inscriptions posed a greater challenge on account of their archaic characters and orthographic conventions, which were different from the original Brahmi used for Prakrit. The challenge seemed insuperable even to the most competent among the pioneering epigraphists. The major breakthrough in the decipherment of the cave inscriptions of Tamil Nadu came with K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer (1924). He was the first to recognise that these are inscribed in Brahmi, but with certain peculiarities and new forms of letters, due to its adaptation for the Tamil language which has sounds (phonetic values) not known to the Prakrit (Indo-Aryan) language and northern Brahmi script. Yet, this lead was not seriously followed and was soon forgotten. Even Subrahmanya Aiyer did not pursue his line of enquiry to its logical conclusion. Other scholars like V. Venkayya and H. Krishna Sastri were constrained by the assumption that all Brahmi inscriptions were invariably in Prakrit or Pali, as Brahmi was used predominantly for Prakrit in all other regions of India from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. Their readings failed to convey any meaning.

Irvatham Mahadevan
Now enter the picture Irvatham Mahadevan an administrator-turned scholar, we have tamil Brahmi. By reviving Subrahmanya Aiyer's early decipherment and reading and at the same time more systematically studying these inscriptions in all their aspects, including palaeography, orthography and grammar, and seeking corroboration from the Sangam Literature and Tolkappiyam, the basic work on Tamil grammar. Mahadevan has virtually re-deciphered these inscriptions and shown them to be inscribed in Tamil. Hence the name "Tamil-Brahmi," one variety of the Brahmi script.

Characteristics of Tamil Brahmi
1.Brahmi script was adapted and modified to suit the Tamil phonetic system.
2.Palaeographic changes were made to suit the Tamil language, with the omission of letters for sounds not present in the Tamil language and by additions to represent sounds in Tamil that are not available in Brahmi.
3.All but four of the 26 letters are derived from Brahmi and have the same phonemic values.
4.Even these four - i.e., l,l, r, n - are adapted from the letters with the nearest phonetic values in (Asokan-) Brahmi, i.e., d, l, r, n.
5.Letters were also modified with a special diacritic mark, viz., the pulli (dot). These are reflected in the development of the Tamil-Brahmi in three stages (TB I, II and III):
Stage I
1. Inherent a (short-medial vowel) was absent in the consonants
2. strokes (vowel notations) were used for both the short and long medial a, and hence the need for the reading of consonants with reference to context and position;
Stage II
when the stroke for medial a marked only the long a;
Stage III
1. when the use of diacritics like the pulli was introduced for basic consonants and for avoiding ligatures for consonant clusters (as in Simhala-Brahmi).
2.The pulli was used also for distinguishing the short e and o from the long vowels, for the shortened - i and -u (kurriyalikaram and kurriyalukaram)
3.The pulli used for the unique sound in Tamil called aytam, all of which are unknown to the Indo-Aryan ( Prakrit and Sanskrit).

It is the recognition of the absence of the inherent vowel a (short) in the early phases, e.g. ma, ka, na with strokes or medial vowel notations, which are actually to be read as ma, ka, n (the inverted J symbol for the nominal suffix `an' characteristic of Tamil), and the addition of the pulli as a diacritic, that provided the key to the whole re-decipherment. Herein lies the basic contribution of Mahadevan to the study of the script and alphabet. That these findings are corroborated by the phonetic rules of the Tolkappiyam.

Above passages gives the Genesis and Characteristics of Tamil Brahmi
Where are these Incriptions

1.Pottery inscription in Tamil-Brahmi giving the name Catan. 1st century A.D. Found at Quseir-al-Qadim on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.

2.Rock-cavern inscription in Jambai 2nd Century AD.

Let us see what spoils such a great discovery
  1. Pulli TheoryScholars have observed two notational systems of Brahmi for writing Tamil. The first system is older than the second and the latter is very close to the Asokan Brahmi system. In the first system the short medial, a, is marked by a short horizontal stroke. In the second system the same mark indicates a long medial a. For example, scholars once used to read a certain word as maakaana following the second system. It did not make much sense. When the first system was used to read the inscription, the meaning became clear. The same word was read as makan, a common Tamil word for son. These two systems of Brahmi are different from the Tamil Pulli system described in Tholkappiam. The earliest stone inscription in the Tamil script is found at Vallam near Chinglepet and it belongs to the early seventh century A.D.There the dot over the pure consonants can be clearly seen. In the numerous inscriptions found on rock-shelters on hillocks near Madurai, scholars have failed to observe the Pulli in any of the inscriptions. The occurrence of the Pulli is closely linked with the date of Tholkappiam believed to be the oldest Tamil work. The late occurrence of the Pulli in Tamil inscriptions will indicate either the late date for the tholkappiam or prove Tamil Brahmi theory as false.
  2. Lack InscriptionsFor all the theories about inscriptions , we find only two or three inscriptions in the period mentioned 300BC to 500AD. Almost all the inscriptions are some grafitti. If the sangam literature and Tholkappiam if assumed are from this period then there should be flurry of inscriptions the absence show that written culture was not widespread.
  3. Inconsistencies of two Tamil brahmi and Tamil Pulli systems.The second system is closer to Ashoka Brahmi then the first one. And pulli does not show up until 7th century AD. Some scholars have even argued that Ashoka brahmi came from Tamil Brahmi, but that is not a creditable argument. Only few inscription sometimes only one inscription have been cited to show they are different. Anyone can see there will be some changes even if same person writes and the script surviving great distances with only few variations is itself miracle. So these differences are just few errors crept into the writing not a seprate script.
  4. Citing evidences where tamil was not present
    Mahadevan has been citing the southern Brahmi script found in Karnataka and Andhra to prove his theory especially Bottiporulu inscription. Which cannot be considered in the context of tamil. Many of the inscriptions dates not verified by competing authority. many references have been heresay and preliminary data on the first sighting. Many of the inscriptions are handcopied which again can introduce errors.
  5. Regional variations not surprising
    There are number of regional variations in Brahmi itself. Northern brahmi, southern brahmi , sinhala brahmi and others. In southern brahmi itself in bottiporulu inscription simultaneouly different variations have been found.
  6. Sinhala Brahmi
    Tamil brahmi is very similar to Sinhala brahmi. Here Mahadevan will claim sinhala brahni came from tamil brahmi, but evidence shows otherwise. Until 3nd century AD the tamil brahmi and srilankan brahmi are carbon copy of each other. only with advent of pallavas the script went in different ways.
  7. Scientific evolution of Brahmi
    Brahmi's limitation in phonetics in each region of India was overcome by adding megalithic symbols over the brahmi script that is why we have so many scripts in India. These are called vowel markers. This nothing new.
  8. Literary works at later period
    The written literture comes from later period of 8th century AD , it reaches a peak in 12-13th century AD. Writting seems to have started around 6th century AD during Pallava region.
So a normal evolution of scripts are taken in the arguement and has been cited reason for uniqueness of the script. Same type of evoluation has taken in other parts of India is downplayed and the arguement is made that only tamil has them is false. In short the Tamil Brahmi is an attempt to stretch the antiquity of tamil and also

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


  1. #Tamil historians always argue that Pulli is mentioned in Tolkappiam and followed in Tamil script hence Tolkappiam is ancient. Usually other way is more natural. When a grammatical work is composed it lists the nature of the language , its script in practice and rules to borrow and convert works from other languages with the conventions already in practice. Since the Pulli appears without doubt in 7th C.E Tamil inscriptions, Tolkappiam must be of this period or generously a century earlier.

    # As advocated by Iravatam Mahadevan Tamil-Brahmi has developed in 3 stages, with each next stage better than the previous one. Since Tolkappiam does not reflect these it must be using/referring well developed Pulli which was already included in Tamil script during 6th C.E or 7th C.E.

    # Majority of the historians accept that Jainism entered TamilNadu through Karnataka and most of the early inscriptions are connected with Jaina faith. Mahadevan also recognised some rare words and suffixes in these inscriptions which are not found neither in Old Tamil, nor in Old Tamil literature and which also are not in line with grammatical sutras of Tolkaappiam. After scrutiny Mahadevan declares that they are existing and prevalent in Old Kannada. Since Tamil and Kannada share most of the antique characters of their proto language , the language in inscriptions may not be Tamil but may be Kan-Tamil or Tamil-Kannada or proto dravidian.

    # Ashokas 250 B.C inscriptions have Kannada word like 'isila', Madhavapura-Vadagavi inscriptions (150 B.C.) , other inscriptions of 100 B.C. contain many Kannada names, compound words and With these it canot be argued that the language is Kannada-Brahmi. Same argument applies to Tamil-Brahmi also.

    # Wherever an antique piece with Brahmi inscriptions are found , either it may be in China, Egypt or Indonesia immediately there will be hue and cry that it is Tanil-Brahmi. These have to be rechecked whether they contain Tamil-Brahmi (whose existence yet to be established beyond doubt)or any other variant of Brahmi.

    -N.Shankarappa Toranagallu

  2. # Ashoka (293 B.C-269 B.C) promoted Brahmi & Prakruta. Amongst Ashoka’s inscriptions rock inscriptions are the oldest. Cave,plate and pillar inscriptions followed this. Until now 18 rock inscriptions have been found and 9 are in present day Karnataka. All these have special features in their script which now called as Southern Brahmi. In true sense this has to be called as 'Karnataka-Andhra' Brahmi.

    # Even though Tamilnadu & SriLanka are geographically close ,culturally SriLanka had ties with Nortrh India. In 500 B.C Vijaya of Simhapura(Bengal-Kalinga) is the first Arya to reach SriLanka. Ashoka deputed Mahendra to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism. Contemporary king in SriLanka called himself ‘Devanampriya’ and had inscribed this on rock which is very similar to Ashokan Brahmi. Use of Brahmi thus started in SriLanka and extended upto 7Th A.D. From -300 B.C. to 0.0 A.D , totally 374 SriLankan Brahmi inscriptions have been found & their number increased to 1440 by 7th century A.D. Amongst these 5 are dated at Ashoka’s period. These inscriptions are spread over entire SriLanka except Northern Jafna and north eastern part of SriLanka & earliest ones are found in district of Puttanam. This indicates that Brahmi did not reach SriLanka from Tamilnadu but from Karnataka.

    # 2nd and 3rd century A.D SriLankan Brahmi inscriptions contain names of women ending with ‘Abbe’ a respectful suffix in Kannada and which is still prevalent in north Karnataka. This indicates that Karnataka had direct links with SriLanka rather through Tamilnadu.

    # There are evidences that SriLanka had trade relations with Tamilnadu in 200-300 B.C. But no inscription of this period have been found until now in which either Tamil or Sinhalese language is used instead of Prakruta. Experts have recognized the influence of Samskruta and Pali on these and not of Tamil or Sinhalese.

    # For a short period in 5th century A.D Kadudda Parinda of Tamil origin ruled from Anuradhapura & his queen adopted Sri-Lankan Brahmi for inscription and not Tamil-Brahmi.

    # In due course SriLankan Brahmi separated and developed into separate script with Sinhalese language. After this stage only Pallava’s Grantha script and Samskruta inscriptions came into existence. It has been recognized that these are influenced by Chalukyan inscriptions.

    # Upto 8Th century A.D no Tamil inscription is found in SriLanka & Tamil words used are rarest in occurrence.

    # The oldest inscription found in Tamilnadu during 300-200 B.C are on banks of Vaigai(Madurai river). The total inscriptions found are only 35 in number from 24 centres. These Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions contain one or two words or end in a sentence or two. The longest Tamil Brahmi inscription(Mangalam Inscription) contains only 56 characters. Even in 4th century A.D the Tamil-Brahmi inscription found contain only 65 characters. Non of these inscriptions are used for Non-Jaina intentions. The writing of these inscriptions are crude and does not reflect well developed script for writing.

    # Tamil heritage says that first Sangam literature was developed in Kapadapuram of SriLanka and SriLanka was part of Tamilagam, But the historical facts point at the otherway. From 300 B.C. to 400 A.D Sinhalese had 3440 inscriptions where as Tamil had only 65 that too which are very short and with one or two sentences.

    # In 5th century A.D Tamil transformed from Tamil-Brahmi & tried to adopt Vattelluttu. But failed to represent Samskruta and other phonological compulsions and turned to Grantha script. In 8th century A.D Tamil was able to refine its script. Even now Tamil cannot represent the other languages correctly in its script. Still today this problem is not yet overcome. For example words like ‘Hrudaya’, ‘Smruti’, ‘Schwarzsnegger’, ‘Stranford’ ‘Screw’ . cannot be written without ambiguity in Tamil. Since Mahapranas are not present in Tamil , readers discretion is required to differentiate between words like ‘ka’ ‘kha’ ga’ ‘gha’depending upon their context of use. For example Kanti Gandhi is written as Kanti Kanti and to be read as Kanti Gandhi with prior knowledge only.

    # But by 450 A.D Kannada was already equipped & ready with script to represent anything in phonologically correct way. (Halmidi Inscription) Telugu was not far behind Kannada in this respect.

    # An inscription of Anuradhapura belonging to 215 B.C- 237 B.C informs that ‘Sena’ and ‘Guttaka’merchants ( Compare this with Senas of Karnataka and name Gutta) of Tamilagam defeated Sinhala King Suratissa and ruled for two decades. But no Tamil Sangam literature or other Tamil literature mentions such people. But Sangam poets indicate Katumba’s(Kadamba’s of Banavasi ? ) as northerners (vadugas) with whom Chearan Shenguttavan had prolonged fight to contain them as they were ‘Kings of Seas. These sea kings may be of Kannada origin having link with SriLanka for trade. ( This has to be especially researched with name ending with ‘abbe’ in SriLankan Inscriptions which is of Kannada Origin)

    # With all of the above listed historical facts antiquity of Tamil literature, real character of Tamil Brahmi to be restudied in detail. Without this attesting unacceptable antiquity does not lead to know the real history.


  3. what ever you have written is hundred percent right. it is time we questioned the antiquity of tamil for the sake of authenticity and truth.
    we should not be bogged down by unethical and unscientific innuendoes.

  4. There are many points that are sharp truth in Shri. Toranagallus statements. More than anything else the pure geographic proximity tells about a much larger connection between the Indus, Brahmi or other cultures with southren part of India. Please note that Mumabi islands, Goa and the mahjor portions of the western coast were under Kannada Kings even at much later times and it has been told that quite a few of the southren coastal areas had direct contact with Europe, Greece and the near East. The words in Elamite are nearer to Kannada than Tamil. The whole of Brahui and the Meluhha reagion of ancient world had a direct contcat with habiatbale areas of the coast. The land link between north and south India was either through the gap at Nasik, Paithan, Godavari, Aihole then leading to Tamil and Dravida Country.

    I also know that Shri. mahadevans interst developed after the still controversial reading of 'Min Kannan' in Indus script. Again if at all the brahmi was taken to south by Budhists and Jains- who were ex-Brahmins at a time much later than Ashoka. Do you think all tyhe rock edicts were put directly under Ashoka's nose? (We know the entire lot of jatakas or Budha Charita were also written much much later after the demise of the lord- it was more like a novel than history in either case).
    I would very much like to congratule the site which allows a bit of free talk on these soft controversies and also would like to get in touch with Mr. Toranagllu Shankarappa.

  5. This is such a lovely site with alot of new interconnected knowledge strings. Please continue your good work.

    I'm from Sri Lanka and a Tamil with a good Sinhala knowledge. What you say about Sinhala is true to my knowledge. Having fluency of both Tamil and Sinhala I can say Sinhala has a completely different structure to Tamil. It is kind of strange given the close proximity of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

    New findings have been made in Sri Lanka and unfortunately Mahadevan is quick to jump into conclusions without facts and convincing justifications.

  6. Sinhala and Tamil has different origins ,so they are fundamentally different.

    Most of the Tamil Claims are political, not technical.


    1. Uncertainity of Paleography

    # The date of Tamil Brahmi inscriptions have been decided on paleographic grounds. There are no other external sources to confirm this. When other methods are not available , Paleography is considerd as the last resort to decide the date of inscriptions. Experts feel it is not unsual that the dates decided by paleographic technique may vary by two to three centuries. It is also notable that full scale real inscriptions and copper plate grants of Cholas and Pandyas which are in Sanskrit and Tamil languages appear from 6-7 C.E . Experts also feel that many a times the prejudice of the person also play a role in determining the date of inscriptions on paleographic grounds.

    # In India the date of inscriptions of Maurya King Ashoka are established on sufficient firm historical grounds. With these as the basis and comparing the variation of script the date of other inscriptions have been determined. After seeing the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions for the first time Subramanya Aiyyar suggested that they belong to 3 B.C.E . Others followed this without much enquiry. Tamil Brahmi writings over pottery have been excavated in Arikamedu , Adichallur and other places. From archeological grounds these pottery are dated to 1-2 C.E. Similarities between these pottery writings and Tamil Brahmi inscription in caves near Madurai which are dated as 3 B.C.E are observed. Considering this aspect historian and epigraphist A.H Dani has questioned the antiquity of Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions.

    # The date of Jambai inscription has been fixed at 2 C.E on paleographical grounds. R.Nagaswamy and Gift Shiromani does not agree this. They argue that in Ashokan inscriptions Satiya Putos are reffered along with Koda (Chola) , Pada (Pandya) and Keraputo (Chera Putra) . As per them Satiyaputo Atiyaman of Jambai inscription belong to Ashokan period and the date of Tamil Brahmi cave inscriptions shall be pushed back to 3 B.C.E. If this argument is accepted the enigma that why development of Tamil Brahmi in 900 years span (3 B.C.E to 6 C.E) does not grow beyond infancy remains unsolved. As per Iravatham Mahadevan upto 6 C.E the total number of Tamil Brahmi inscriptions are around 90. The longest inscription is 65 characters only. This data questions the vary validity of antiquity and evolution of Tamil Brahmi.


    Problem of Orthography

    # The orthography of Tamil Brahmi is a mix of Ashokan and Bhattiprolu systems. Due to this there is wide difference between reading of these inscriptions between experts.

    # The orthography of Tamil Brahmi is a mix of Ashokan and Bhattiprolu systems. Due to this there is wide difference between reading of these inscriptions between experts. Initially Mahadevan proposed the evolution of writing in tamilagam through Tamil Brahmi-1 , 2 &3 . After studying the pottery inscriptions from Arikamedu and Uraiyur belonging to same period , found at same strata of megalithic period Mahadevan changed his view and concluded Tamil Brahmi-1 & 2 developed separately , existed at same time and were used independently.

    # In Alagaramalai inscriptions Tamil Brahmi-1 & 2 both systems are used. To explain this anomaly Mahadevan declares that during initial stages when brahmi was adopted to write tamil , confusion prevailed and the mix up indicates the unstable experimental stage of short duration. But the dating of Tamil Brahmi extends from 3 B.C.E to 5 C.E , it is not clear howlong this experimental stage was prevailing.

    # Whenever writing with peculiarities/mixed system/confusing orthography is reported it is explained on the basis of reagional speciality and declared as new variety of tamil Brahmi. This does not explain how many varieties can exist in limited region like tamilagam.

    # Whenever writing with peculiarities/mixed system/confusing orthography is reported it is explained on the basis of reagional speciality and declared as new variety of tamil Brahmi. This does not explain how many varieties can exist in limited region like tamilagam. The available inscriptions to classify Tamil Brahmi into 1 2 &3 are very very few. The longest inscription itself is 65 characters in length. The total sentences of all tamil brahmi inscriptions is around 200 spread over nearly supposed 800 years i.e 3 B.C.E to 5 C.E. As per well known epigraphist A.H. Dani the errors in writing are being recognized under various Tamil Brahmis and which not correct.

    # Some tamil researchers have argued that the Sri Lankan brahmi is an offshoot of Tamil Brahmi. The number , variety and extent of Sri Lankan inscriptions are speaking against these proposals. Atleast 5 inscriptions of Sri Lanka are firmly dated to Ashokan period. As per sangam legend Sri Langa was part of tamilagam and the first Sangam was established in Kapadapuram of Sri Lanka. Contray to this in between 3 B. C.E to 4 C.E 3440 inscriptions from Sri Lanka are reported where as there are only 89 inscription for same period that too with maximum of two sentences. First tamil inscription of Sri lanka belongs to 9 C.E

    # The early inscriptions of Sri Lanka resembles serpentine trace type greek script and written from right to left. The inscription from 1 C.E are written from left to right. Experts have recognized the language of early inscriptions of Sri Lanka to resemble prakrit of northwest india. The kambhojas of north west india are reffered in a few early inscriptions of Sri Lanka. The Buddhist chronicle Mahavamsha informs that after dispersal of third Buddhist counsil Ashoka has sent bhikkus to Banvasi and Mahiosha Mandala. In ancient past these were the powerful Buddhist centres. The interaction of trade oriented kambhojas who knew Kharaoshthi/Araimak and Buddhist centres of west coast of India with knowledge of brahmi might have effected the evolution of Sri Lankan brahmi. The concentration of early inscription in Puttalam situated on west coast of Sri Lanka supports this possibility.

    # In old Sri lankan language ‘va’ ‘ya’ ‘sa’ get convert to ‘ba’’ja’ and ‘ha’. Same featurses are recognized in Mansehra and Shabazghari inscriptions of Ashoka which are in today’s Pakistan.


    2. Pulli problem

    # As exclaimed Pulli is not unique to Tamil Brahmi alone. Other scripts of India also use Pulli (dot) to denote Anusvara and Visarga.

    # Tolkappiam Proposes Pulli to designate pure consonants. I.Mahadevan declares this as the special feature of Tamil script. Pulli has not been found in Tamil Brahmi inscription in caves near Madurai. R.Nagaswami says that the first clear indication of pulli to designate the pure consonant is in bilinguial coins of Vashista Putra shatakarni in which dot is used over character ‘Ta’to indicate pure consonant. But this proposal has its own problems. In some coins of Bactrian kings found in Punjab-Sindh area dot was observed over some albhabets and was supposed to be a dot to indicate anusvara/halanta. James Princep who deciphered Brahmi and Kharoshthi , the assay master of calcutta mint of East India company has rejected this and clearly established that they are mere die extension marks. The supposed ‘pulli’ of Vashista Putra satakarni coin is one more such case. Otherwise pulli would have been widely used in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions of the same period.

    # The oldest coins with earlier vattelluttu script are found in Andipatti village , Chingalapattu taluk , North Arcot District over which the ‘Tinnan Etiran Senthan’ is written. On paleographical grounds the date of which is fixed at 200-400 C.E. Here pulli is used to differentiate ‘e’ and ‘o’ but not to designate pure consonant. Archeological department of Tamil Nadu has discovered hundreds of hero stones belonging to 7-8 C.E in Vattelluttu script in Arcot District. In these pulli has been used to designate ‘e’ and ‘o’ and not for pure consonant. R.Nagaswamy considers this as regional peculiarity and do not give any proof that pulli was used to designate the pure consonant elsewhere during same period.

    # Tolkappiam proposes pulli to differentiate pure consonants from syllables. But (1) it is not clear whether all consonants shall be written including inherent vowel ‘a’ as in all other Indian scripts and pulli shall be used whenever conjugate syllaby occur. Or (2) All consonants shall be written without vowels using pulli i.e pullis will be under waiting to be removed to form syllaby. The present practice in Tamil follows (1). Regarding pulli lot of discussion had undergone during proposal of Unicode for Tami script.

    # Pulavara Raju , Gift Shiromani (now deseased) and Jeburajan are in fore front of search for pulli in inscriptions and fix up the antiquity of Tolkappiam. None of them has found pulli for pure consonant without controversy in inscriptions before 7 C.E. Pulavara Raju has recognized use of Pulli in Arachallur inscriptions to differentiate “yee’ and ‘ae’ from ‘yi’ and ‘e’ and none to indicate pure consonant.

    # As per Gift Shiromani pulli has been used in Anaimalai inscription on the top right side of ‘Ta’ to indicate pure consonant. But it is not clear whether this is pulli mark or dent of the face of the rock because similar mark/dent has been recognized in the same inscription with some other consonant. Shiromani declares the second one ‘not a pulli’ and at this location pure consonant is not existing. This dual stand has raised doubts about the use of pulli in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.

  10. Lack of inscriptions

    # The oldest Jaina inscriptions belonging to 2 B.C.E are found at Orissa and Madhura. On paleographical grounds the oldest Tamil Brahmi inscriptiona are assigned to 3 B.C.E . But the external evidences further checked does not support this. Buddhists and jains are the pioneers in the written culture of india with Prakrit/pali as their language. The argument that Tamil Brahmi inscriptions are older than these is not on firm grounds.

    # Some experts have argued that the Jains who first came to Shravanabelagola of Karnataka did not have knowledge of writing. After they enetered Tamilnadu from Karnataka they came across Damili script which was existing in Tamilnadu and adopted this for writing. But to support this view no inscription from the people who formed original Damili script is found. Almost all the early Tamil Brahmi inscriptions are Jaina centric only. No noncontroversial and directly issued inscription from Sangam era kings are found in Tamilnadu and cancels all arguments in favour of pre existing Damili script. For a long duration between 3 B.C.E to 4 C.E of 700 years it is very strange that no Tamil King issued inscriptions. This very fact doubts the antiquity of Tamil Brahmi.

    # From available pottery inscriptions/some times graffiti I.Mahadevan declares that written culture was wide spread in Tamilagam and it was in reach of common people also. He also comes to the conclusion that Tamilnadu was under the rule of Tamilian native kings while Karnataka and Andhrapradesh were ruled by outsiders. Due to this they remained backward atleast by 500 years when compared to Tamilnadu in writing.

    # But at the same time I.Mahadevan is silent about the fact that while the kings of remaining India were issuing coins , inscriptions with their names, epitaphs why Muvendars(Chola-Chera-pandya) of Tamilnadu did not. Shatavahans the supposed contemporaries of muvendars have issued coins , inscriptions which speak themselaves. In view of this the the claims made by I.Mahadevan regarding antiquity and wide spread literacy in Tamilgam are enthusiastic in nature rather than on firm grounds. The inscriptions on pottery resembling supposed Tamil Brahmi are found near Anuradhapura of Srilanka. Hence Some of the supposed Tamil Brahmi inscriptions read by Mahadevan are doubtful and it may not be Tamil also.

    # The society depicted in sangam literature does not support the wide spread literacy in tamilagam. The written pottery have mostly found near centres of commerce. By this some experts feel that literacy was known to the people residing near these commercial centres and wide spread literacy is a myth.

    # The history of first three centuries of pallavas is murky and at the best estimates it starts around 350 C.E . Pallavas issued their grants in prakrit for first two hundred years. For the first time pallava king Simhavarman-3 (520-550 C.E) issued grants in Tamil. As per legends Mayura Sharma of Kadambas of Karnataka went to Kachi for persuation of Sanskrit studies. But the grants issued by him are in prakrit. Search for this fact will shed more light on status of the southern languages during that period. In view of this the theory of wide spread literacy among common people via Tamil Brahmi and independency of tamilagam does not hold firmly.

    # R.Nagaswamy and Gift Shiromani have argued that Ashokan Brahmi was created by adding more syllaby to Tamil Brahmi . Each and every external evidence is against this argument. The corpus of inscriptions , the subject variety contained in them , the extent of spread of Ashokan Brahmi , the limitation of Tamil Brahmi to Jains speak against this theory.


    Problem of Continuity

    # There is great difference between the Tamil Brahmi inscription of one or two sentences and the Pallava , Pandya inscriptios of 6-7 C.E . The writing of tamil brahmi between 700 years of these two periods seems to be too lethargic and almost stagnant and unevolving. Can a script under continuous use be so stagnanat for such a long period with such orthographical system confusion shall be checked on scientific basis.

    # After Tamil Brahmi inscription the earliest available inscriptions in Tamilnadu are Pulikurinchi (6 C.E) , Irulupatti hero stone inscription (6) , Tonduru Simhavarman inscription (C.E 6) , 1 & 2 Vallam and Tirukkalukunram inscriptions(C.E 6) in Tamil Script , Pallam Koil –Simhavarman copper plates (6 C.E ), Kurram-Parameshvaran copper plates (7 C.E) . A.H Dani has drawn attention between this large time gap. To overcome this problem tamil epigraphists have tried to spread the period of Tamil brahmi inscriptions evenly. But the problem has not solved and the attempts made seems to be artificial and just aiming to adjust the large time gap.

    # From Tamil Brahmi cave inscriptions it is cleare that Jains are pioneers for writing in tamilnadu. But it is very strange that first jaina work of Perungatai of Konku Velir appears only in 8-10 C.E. (The date of Tirukkurul , Naladiyar etc., are under intense controversies) This is the translation of original work in Sanskrit by Ganga king Durvinita of 6 C.E


    Scripts have been found in palani, srilanka and adichanallur also.

    The recent excavations has shown that more tamil brahmi scripts are found in tamil nadu and kerala which are pre-ashokan scripts. In a way you are correct, Tamil Brahmi is a myth. It shd be called as Tamizhly(dramili) script from which Ashokan brahmi was born. Its not fair to call it as brahmi.

    1. Kodumanal has been dated as site belonging to 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. How any inscription can be 500BC.

      There is three brahmi in neighbhourhood
      1.Southern Brahmi of Western Kind, from which kannada script evolved.
      2.Kalinga Brahmi from which Kalinga Script evolved.
      3.Sinhala Brahmi.

      Now if you see tamil brahmi inscriptions, sometimes they will use sinhala brahmi letters in a sentence mainly in southern Brahmi. Sometimes they will use kalinga Brahmi. Sometimes souther brahmi itself.

      Now how these so called tamil brahmi experts argue is they will show Sinhala brahmi letters to show it is different from southern brahmi or Kalinga Brahmi letters to show they are different from sinhala brahmi or show southern brahmi letters to show they are different from sinhala brahmi.

      Well Tamil Brahmi is myth, I doubt many inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi are genuine. Many look like fake. Why should somebody use a southern brahmi letter in one word and use Sinhala brahmi letter in another word in the same inscription.

  13. Dear All Can any one explain how the name came Brahmi, who name it and what was the reason to name like it's become. hope then we get some tips moving forward to clarity.


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