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one of the oldest varieties of Indian syllabic writing, written from left to right. The earliest literary monuments that have been read are a copper plate from Sokhgaura, Gorakhpur region (fourth century B.C.), and the edicts of Emperor Asoka (third century B.C.). Three types of Indian writing systems were formed on the basis of the Brahmi alphabet: northern, southern, and southeastern. The northern group includes Gupta, Tibetan, Nagari (and its recent form Devanagari, most commonly used in northern India for Hindi, Marathi, and other languages), Sarada, Newari (displaced by Devanagari), Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, and Gurmukhi. The southern group includes Grantha, the source of the alphabets of four modern literary languages in southern India (Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, and Tamil). The southeastern group comprises writing systems that developed outside India, mainly based on the ancient Pali alphabet: Sinhalese, Burmese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, and the old writing systems of Indochina and Indonesia.
Numerous hypotheses exist on the origin of the Brahmi alphabet. Many scholars, including Indians, consider the Brahmi alphabet to be of Indian origin. As evidence of this, some scholars cite the examples of proto-Indian writing (third to second millennia B.C.) that were discovered during the excavations of the cities of Harappa (1921-34) and Mohenjo-Daro (1922-31) in the Indus Valley. However, the Indus Valley script was apparently an ideographic or mixed ideographic-syllabic system, whereas the Brahmi script is a syllabic alphabet, and the time gap between them is more than 1,000 years. There are some historians of writing who are looking to foreign sources for the origins of the Brahmi system. Some hold that it came from Greek, and others that it was derived from Semitic (most likely, from Aramaic).
It is not known precisely when the Brahmi writing system originated; the most probable date is the eighth or seventh century B.C.
REFERENCESDiringer, D. Alfavit. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Bühle, G. Indische Paleographie. Strasbourg, 1896.
Ojha, G. H. The Paleography of India, 2nd ed. Ajmer, 1918.