From: N. Ganesan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Apr 09 2005 - 08:26:29 CST
Encoding Grantha (Indic) script in Unicode
Thoughts about a working group
to encode the Grantha script in Unicode.
The Grantha script is used
in South India (eg., in modern Tamil Nadu and Kerala
states of India, Tamil speaking regions of
Sri Lanka) to write Sanskrit
language on epigraphs in the walls
of the grand temples of southern
India, copper plate inscriptions,
palm leaves and printed publications.
The widely used grantha script
was formed by the Pallava dynasty
who ruled from the city, Kanchi some
1500 years ago. Vedic texts, Kavyas,
grammar, logic works of Sanskrit have
been preserved in the Grantha script.
As a matter of fact, the first European
grammar on Sanskrit was printed in
the Grantha script (Ref. 4). Vedas with
the correct svara notation is easily
done only in the Grantha script,
and not in the Devanagari script.
While Devanagari is just now trying
to incorporate the Vedic svaras,
Grantha script has used correct accentsfor ages.
The Pallava Grantha script is the root
script for all South East Asian native scripts
including Sinhala script (Note 1). Even now,
the Sanskrit aagama books of
Saiva and Vaishnava traditions, the
Manipravala commentaries on Tamil
Alvars's Nalayira Divya Prabandham,
puranas such as Bhagavatam, shlokas
to various Indic deities, etc., are
printed in books using the Grantha script.
Grantha script is a very distinct
Indic script, but is related to Tamil
and Malayalam scripts. However, the
differences between Malayalam or Tamil
with the Grantha are many and they are
indeed quite significant.
Some primary references that can be
used in encoding the Grantha script in Unicode.
(1) K. Venugopalan, A Primer in Grantha Characters,
Conveniently available on the web:
(published in 1983 by James H. Nye (bibliographer of
the Southern Asian Collection of the Univ. of Chicago
Library. We can ask Jim to participate in encoding
Grantha script in Unicode. I know him for decades).
(2) The grantha script / P Visalakshy
2003, 320 p. Thiruvananthapuram : Dravidian Linguistics Association
(3) Reinhold Grünendahl: South Indian Scripts in Sanskrit
Manuscripts and Prints Grantha Tamil - Malayalam -
Telugu - Kannada - Nandinagari
Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz Verlag 2001. - xxii, 224 pp., 6 tables
It contains c. 5,200 basic characters, ligatures
(i.e., vocalizations), conjuncts / consonant clusters,
numerals, abbreviations etc. Special care has been taken to
map out the complexity of Grantha Tamil in a system
of graphic classification.
The material surveyed comprises Sanskrit manuscripts as
well as the Southern tradition of Sanskrit printing, and
books in Dravidian languages.
(4) The first Western grammar of Sanskrit was done
in Grantha characters:
Paulinus a S. Bartholomaeo, Dissertation on the Sanskrit
language. A reprint of the original Latin text of 1790,
together with an introductory article, a complete English
translation, and an index of sources by Ludo Rocher.
Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of
Linguistic Science. Series III - Studies in the History
of Linguistics. Volume 12. (Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V., 1977)
(5) First western book on Grantha script:
Alphabetum Grandonico-Malabaricum (on Grantha script).
Propaganda Press, Rome, 1772
(6) A.C. Burnell, G. Buhler's 19th century books
contain lot of info on Grantha script.
A start can be made to write a proposal
to encode the Pallava Grantha script in
Unicode used in publishing Sanskrit, one of the
twin classical languages of India the
other being Tamil, language books.
We can start a working group in Googlegroups
facility. Googlegroups supports unicode fonts
well, search capability is excellent,
we can store attachments such as scanned
copies of punlished books for usage samples, possible
code chart for Grantha script (the Grantha code points
will correspond with the Devanagari), Grantha section
in the Unicode std., (conjuncts, Vedic accents, ...)etc.,
The storage limit is huge in googlegroups.
Invitations can be sent to Sanskritists
in prestigious universities and Chennai, ...
who will be more than willing to encode Pallava
Grantha in Unicode. Then we can add a section
on the Pallava Grantha script in the Unicode
standard. Some font developers in Chennai
are willing to supply the Grantha font in
whatever location for Grantha script code
points are allocated. The ligatures, conjuncts
of Grantha are little complex, but can be handled
by the newer font technologies effectively.
We can give start with some fonts with near
complete conjuncts, but cannot be 100%
as the Grantha unicode font usage matures,
they will be perfected over time. Have plans to give
some 5+ Grantha fonts for free download in the web once the
proposal gets accepted. Then, also transliterators
between Hindi, Sanskrit, Malayalam and Tamil etc.,
and the Grantha script for webpages, word docmnts are
Thanks to Unicode encoding, going from one Indic script
to another is real easy. In the future, those
used to reading Sanskrit in the Grantha script
on the web will find it a easy to read inscriptions
on the temple walls of Madurai, Srirangam or Mysore in
south India or Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Inviting suggestions and working members for
encoding the Grantha script. Mike Eveson,
Michael Kaplan, Umamaheswaran, and other members
of this list can help in this Grantha project.
We can also make professors and grad students
of Sanskrit willing to help with info, usage samples,
explanations, fonts, etc.,
Please make the Grantha font in Uncode a reality.
Your valuable comments are very welcome, and
much appreciated. Please let me know if you
have interest in encoding the beautiful, ancient
and living Grantha script.
Note 1: A. L. Basham, "The Tamils... evolved an angular
script known as Grantha...It was from India, especially
from the south, that the people of South-East Asia
learnt the art of writing. The earliest surviving
South-East Asian inscriptions, found in Borneo and
Malaya, and dating from the 4th or 5th centuries,
are in fairly correct Sanskrit, and in a script
resembling that of the early Pallavas." (The Wonder
that Was India, p. 398).
B. Ch. Chhabra, in Expansion of Indo-Aryan Culture, p. 72
says, "Still it is a very remarkable fact that the earliest
known inscriptions found in those countries of the
Far East are all composed in Sanskrit, all belong
approximately to the same period, viz. the fifth century,
and are written in a script which in every respect
is identical with the Grantha character used at that
time on the coast of Coromandel. This is all the more
noteworthy if we remember that not a single inscription
in earlier Indian writing has come to light in those
countries and islands. Neither the Brahmi of the Maurya
period nor that of the Imperial Guptas is represented
in any of the records found there.. Even more significant
is the phenomenon that for several centuries the
Pallava-Grantha has remained the only script in vogue
both in Further India and in Indonesia (if at least we
are to judge from the evidence of the inscriptions) and
that during this period it exhibits a development
running parallel with that which we notice in the
contemporaneous records of Coromandel...The culture
of these countries during this period thus bears an
unmistakable stamp of Pallava influence."
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