Grantha script


Mandakapattu Inscription.jpg
7th-century inscription in Grantha script at the Mandagapattu Hindu temple
Languages Sanskrit, Tamil
Time period
6th Century CE -present
Parent systems
Child systems
Cham script

Tigalari script

Malayalam script

Sinhala script

Dhives akuru

Thai script [1]
Sister systems
Kolezhuthu, Tamil script
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Gran, 343
Unicode alias

The Grantha script (Tamil: கிரந்த எழுத்து, romanized: Granta eḻuttu; Malayalam: ഗ്രന്ഥ ലിപി;) is a South Indian script, found particularly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, that emerged between 5th- and 6th-century CE . This early Grantha script was used to write Sanskrit texts, inscriptions on copper plates and stones of Hindu temples and monasteries.[2][3] It was also used for classical Manipravalam – a language that is a blend of Sanskrit and Tamil.[4] From it evolved the middle and transitional Grantha script by about the 8th-century that remained in use till about the 14th-century. A more evolved modern Grantha script and a variant Tulu-Malayalam script has been in use since the 14th-century into the modern era, to write classical texts in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages.[2][3] It is also used to chant hymns and in traditional Vedic schools.[5]

In its Pallava script origins, the Grantha script is related to the Tamil and the Vatteluttu scripts.[3] The modern Malayalam script of Kerala is a direct descendant of the Grantha script.[3] The Southeast Asian and Indonesian scripts such as Thai and Javanese respectively, as well as South Asian Tigalari and Sinhala scripts are also derived or closely related to the Grantha through the early Pallava script.[6][7][8]

The Tamil purist movement of the colonial-era sought to purge Grantha script and use the Tamil script exclusively. According to Kailasapathy, this was a part of Tamil nationalism and resembled regional ethnic chauvinism.[9]

History [ edit ]

In Sanskrit, grantha is literally 'a knot'.[10] It is a word that was used for books, and the script used to write them. This stems from the practice of binding inscribed palm leaves using a length of thread held by knots. Grantha was widely used to write Sanskrit in the Tamil-speaking parts of South Asia from about the 5th-century CE into the modern times.[2][3]

A Chera era Grantha inscription.

The Grantha script was also historically used for writing Manipravalam, a blend of Tamil and Sanskrit which was used in the exegesis of Manipravalam texts. This evolved into a fairly complex writing system which required that Tamil words be written in the Tamil script and Sanskrit words be written in the Grantha script. By the 15th century, this had evolved to the point that both scripts would be used within the same word – if the root was derived from Sanskrit it would be written in the Grantha script, but any Tamil suffixes which were added to it would be written using the Tamil script. This system of writing went out of use when Manipravalam declined in popularity, but it was customary to use the same convention in printed editions of texts originally written in Manipravalam until the middle of the 20th century.[citation needed]

In modern times, the Grantha script is used in religious contexts by Tamil-speaking Hindus. For example, they use the script to write a child's name for the first time during the naming ceremony, for the Sanskrit portion of traditional wedding cards, and for announcements of a person's last rites. It is also used in many religious almanacs to print traditional formulaic summaries of the coming year.[citation needed]

8th century Velvikudi grant inscription in the Grantha script (Sanskrit language).

Types of Grantha [ edit ]

Pratyāhāra Sūtras in Grantha Script

Grantha script may be classified as follows:[11]

Pallava Grantha [ edit ]

An archaic and ornamental variety of Grantha is sometimes referred to as Pallava Grantha. They were used by the Pallava in some inscriptions. Mamallapuram Tiruchirapalli Rock Cut Cave Inscriptions, Kailasantha Inscription come under this type.

The Pallavas also produced a distinctive script separate from the Grantha family.

Western Grantha [ edit ]

The Tigalari-Malayalam script is called Western Grantha (west Tamil Nadu, Kerala). This type of Grantha was used by Cholas approximately from 650 CE to 950 CE. Inscription of later Pallavas and Pandiyan Nedunchezhiyan are also examples of this variety of Grantha Script.[citation needed]

A variety of this form is called the Tigalari-Malayalam script, traceable from the 8th or 9th century CE.[12] It later split into two distinct scripts – Tigalari and Malayalam.

Medieval Grantha [ edit ]

Inscriptions of the Imperial Thanjavur Cholas are an example for Medieval Grantha. This variety was in vogue from 950 CE to 1250 CE.[citation needed]

Modern Grantha [ edit ]

Grantha in the present form descended from later Pandyas and the Vijayanagara rulers. Two varieties are found in modern era Grantha texts: the square form used by Hindus, and the round form used by Jains. The Modern form of Grantha is very similar to Malayalam script and the Modern Tamil Script.[citation needed]

Modern Grantha typeface [ edit ]

The Grantha script has evolved over time. The modern Grantha is illustrated below and shares similarities with the Modern Tamil Script.[13]

Vowels [ edit ]

Grantha Vowels.svg

Consonants [ edit ]

As with other Abugida scripts Grantha consonant signs have the inherent vowel /a/. Its absence is marked with Virāma:

Grantha Halant.svg

Each letter below includes the inherent vowel:

Grantha Consonants.svg

For other vowels diacritics are used:

Grantha Matras.svg

Sometimes ligatures of consonants with vowel diacritics may be found, e.g.:

Grantha VowelLig.svg

There are also a few special consonant forms with Virāma:

Grantha FinCons.svg

Consonant clusters [ edit ]

Grantha has two ways of representing consonant clusters. Sometimes, consonants in a cluster may form ligatures.

Grantha ConsLig.svg

Ligatures are normally preferred whenever they exist. If no ligatures exist, "stacked" forms of consonants are written, just as in Kannada and Telugu, with the lowest member of the stack being the only "live" consonant and the other members all being vowel-less. Note that ligatures may be used as members of stacks also.

Grantha SubLig.svg

Special forms:

Grantha Ya.svg ⟨ya⟩ when final in a cluster, and Grantha r.svg ⟨ra⟩ when non-initial become Grantha yvat.svg and Grantha rvat.svg respectively. These are often called "ya-phalaa" and "ra-vattu" in other Indic scripts.[citation needed]

Grantha yrLig.svg

Grantha r.svg ⟨ra⟩ as initial component of a cluster becomes Grantha reph.svg(called Reph as in other Indic scripts) and is shifted to the end of the cluster but placed before any "ya-phalaa".

Grantha RephLig.svg

Numerals [ edit ]

Grantha Numbers.svg

Below is an image of a palm leaf manuscript with Sanskrit written in Grantha script:

A manuscript page
A Vedic text's palm leaf manuscript (Samaveda) in Grantha script

Text samples [ edit ]

Kālidāsa's Kumārasambhavam:

Grantha Kalidasa Kumarasambhavam.svg

Transliterated into Latin (ISO 15919),

astyuttarasyāṁ diśi devatātmā himālayo nāma nagādhirājaḥ.
pūrvāparau toyanidhī vagāhya sthitaḥ pr̥thivyā iva mānadaṇḍaḥ.

Transliterated into Devanāgarī script,

अस्त्युत्तरस्यां दिशि देवतात्मा हिमालयो नाम नगाधिराजः।
पूर्वापरौ तोयनिधी वगाह्य स्थितः पृथिव्या इव मानदण्डः॥

Comparison with other South Indian scripts [ edit ]

Vowel signs [ edit ]

Grantha script vowel comparison with Malayalam, Tamil, Sinhala]:

Grantha VowelComp modified.gif

Note: As in Devanāgarī ⟨e⟩ and ⟨o⟩ in Grantha stand for [eː] and [oː]. Originally also Malayāḷam and Tamiḻ scripts did not distinguish long and short ⟨e⟩ and ⟨o⟩, though both languages have the phonemes /e/ /eː/ and /o/ /oː/. The addition of extra signs for /eː/ and /oː/ is attributed to the Italian missionary Constanzo Beschi (1680–1774), who is also known as Vīramāmunivar.

Consonant signs [ edit ]

Grantha ConsComp.gif

The letters ழ ற ன and the corresponding sounds occur only in Dravidian languages.

Another table that compares the consonants ka , kha, ga , gha, ṅa with other Southern Indic scripts such as Grantha, Tigalari, Malayalam, Kannada and Sinhala.

Tigalari script comparison chart..jpg

Unicode [ edit ]

Grantha script was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0. The Unicode block for Grantha is U+11300–U+1137F:


Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1130x 𑌀 𑌁 𑌂 𑌃 𑌅 𑌆 𑌇 𑌈 𑌉 𑌊 𑌋 𑌌 𑌏
U+1131x 𑌐 𑌓 𑌔 𑌕 𑌖 𑌗 𑌘 𑌙 𑌚 𑌛 𑌜 𑌝 𑌞 𑌟
U+1132x 𑌠 𑌡 𑌢 𑌣 𑌤 𑌥 𑌦 𑌧 𑌨 𑌪 𑌫 𑌬 𑌭 𑌮 𑌯
U+1133x 𑌰 𑌲 𑌳 𑌵 𑌶 𑌷 𑌸 𑌹 𑌻 𑌼 𑌽 𑌾 𑌿
U+1134x 𑍀 𑍁 𑍂 𑍃 𑍄 𑍇 𑍈 𑍋 𑍌 𑍍
U+1135x 𑍐 𑍗 𑍝 𑍞 𑍟
U+1136x 𑍠 𑍡 𑍢 𑍣 𑍦 𑍧 𑍨 𑍩 𑍪 𑍫 𑍬
U+1137x 𑍰 𑍱 𑍲 𑍳 𑍴
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Unification with Tamil [ edit ]

Some proposed to unify Grantha and Tamil;[14][15] however, the proposal triggered discontent by some.[16][17] Considering the sensitivity involved, it was determined that the two scripts should not be unified, except for the numerals.[18]

Notes [ edit ]

  1. ^ Grantha, Omniglot (2014)
  2. ^ a b c Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (1998). Grantha alphabet (Alternative title: Grantha script). Encyclopaedia Britannica. CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e Richard Salomon (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 40–42. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.
  4. ^ Giovanni Ciotti; Hang Lin (2016). Tracing Manuscripts in Time and Space through Paratexts. Walter De Gruyter. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-3-11-047901-0.
  5. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008-01-01). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. ISBN 9788131711200.
  6. ^ J. G. de Casparis (1975). Indonesian Palaeography: A History of Writing in Indonesia from the Beginnings to C. A.D. 1500. BRILL Academic. pp. 12–17. ISBN 90-04-04172-9.
  7. ^ Patricia Herbert; Anthony Crothers Milner (1989). South-East Asia: Languages and Literatures : a Select Guide. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 127–129. ISBN 978-0-8248-1267-6.
  8. ^ Pierre-Yves Manguin; A. Mani; Geoff Wade (2011). Early Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections on Cross-cultural Exchange. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 283–285, 306–309. ISBN 978-981-4311-16-8.
  9. ^ K. Kailasapathy (1979), The Tamil Purist Movement: A Re-evaluation, Social Scientist, Vol. 7, No. 10, pp. 23-27
  11. ^ "EPIGRAPHY – Inscriptions in Grantha Script". Archived from the original on 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  12. ^ "Tulu-Malayalam script (writing system) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  13. ^ Grantha Alphabet, Omniglot (2017), The Online Encyclopedia of Writing Systems and Languages
  14. ^ Sharma, Shriramana. (2010a). Proposal to encode characters for Extended Tamil.
  15. ^ Sharma, Shriramana. (2010b). Follow-up to Extended Tamil proposal L2/10-256R.
  16. ^ Eraiyarasan, B. (2011). Dr. B.Eraiyarasan’s comments on Tamil Unicode And Grantham proposals.
  17. ^ Nalankilli, Thanjai. (2018). Attempts to "Pollute" Tamil Unicode with Grantha Characters. Tamil Tribune. Retrieved 13 May 2019 from
  18. ^ Government of India. (2010). Unicode Standard for Grantha Script.

References [ edit ]

See also [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]

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