THE EVIDENCE OF A SCRIPT IN SRI LANKA FOR THE LAST 2600 YEARS.
ONE OF THE 5 OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL ALPHABETS…AND WHY YOU’LL NEVER LEARN TO READ THEM
. Sinhalese (Sri Lanka)
Photo: sharyn morrow
Considered one of the most expansive alphabets in the world, Sinhalese has more than 50 phonemes, though only 38 are frequently used in contemporary writing. Still taught in Buddhist monasteries and schools, the language is the mother tongue for more than half of Sri Lanka’s 21 million inhabitants.
Its low geographical relevance (confined to the island of Sri Lanka) is its greatest threat. Restricted to a piece of land surrounded by water, Sinhalese writing has until now and is likely to endure for a good while yet, even if its usage decreases over time. I GOT THIS ON AN E MAIL.
Pre-History ; Sri Lanka is an small Island in the Indian Ocean at the bottom of India.The origin of the people is scientifically been tested – some dental morphorlogy testing was done recently by Diana Hawkley.please click to get link on the web.
Myths: The epic Ramayanaya describes the mythical king Ravana of early Sri Lanka. Some script on inscriptions with names associated with the king that needs to be clarified.
Evidence of early settlements.Settlement dating back to 1200 BC was done by Dr Raj Somadeva.
The Evolution of a Script is evident form about 900 BC
Didorous a contemporary of Augustus made or pretended to have made a voyage to Ceylon and lived there for seven years. Nine facts mentioned by him as the characteristics of the Sinhalese people of that country, though doubted much in former days, have been confirmed by later experience. The tenth fact the learned author of the “Periplus’ was obliged to leave to future inquiry — namely
” Whether the particulars of the Alphabet of the Sinhalese may not have some illusion to truth” for he says ‘ the characters are originally only seven, but four varying forms or combinations they became twenty -eight ,”
— Dr Vincents”s ‘ Periplus of the Erythrean Sea’.
The Sinhala or Sinhalese people are fortunate that their history is not only available in texts that can be dated back to the 4th Cent AD, but most of the facts are substanciated by inscriptions written in this script , that can be traced back to 500 BC. The Sinhala language and the script is now called Brahmi mentioned in Lalitavistara as one of the scripts mastered by the Buddha in his boyhood. Brahmi and Dravida were Sanskrit words for two of the many script learn’d by Prince Sidhartha.
Happy to note that you have started the work on Brahmi. The letters ඇ සහ ඈ appeared only by the 7th century.
“Our Brahmi letters are slightly different from the Indians. There is no different between the Brahmi script and the modern Sinhala script other than a few combined letters and those two letters. In the 3rd Century B.C. we had only 5 vowels (a, e, I, o, u) and in the 1st century B.C. it increased to 6 with long a. Perhaps we had other vowels from the 1 century B.C. but can be seen in the inscriptions only after the 7th century. The method of adding vowels to the consonants (medial vowels) is the same from the beginning to the present day”.- Prasad Fonseka.
The script similar to that found in the Island was used by those in South and North India. The student of the present Tamil script cannot be trace the origin due to the lack of inscriptions in typical Tamil script beyond 9 Cent AD, the 200 odd dated pre -christ inscriptions found in the whole of the Tamil speaking area of India is also written in a script similar to that used by the Sinhalese. There again these inscription use over 30 % of the words are loan words from Sanskrit and Sinhalese.
But the student of the Sinhalese script are more fortunate as they can trace back the evolution of script used in the Island as far back as 750 BC. I feel I have the right to call it Sinhalese script until evidence to the contrary appears.
SOME EARLY SINHALA SCRIPT OF 500 BC ON POT SHRED.
SCRIPT USED BY SINHALESE 300 BC.
The earliest and the present script is below, the script is placed according to the 7 sounds .Those akshra produced by the throat- the Gutterals, the Palatal -produced by the back of tongue or palate, The Cerebrals produced by upperpart of mouth ,towards the brain, Dentals – the sound produced by tongue tip against the upper front teeth, Labials those pronounced by the lips and Sibiants , sound pronounced with a Hissing sound.
SKILL IN WRITING-
A story from Mahavagga–
“There was in Rajagri a group of seventeen boys, friends of each other and all under twenty years of age. The most pre-eminent of them was Upali. Now, Upali’ s father and mother thought: ” How will Upali after our death live a life of “ease and without pain ? If he learns Lekha[the art of writing], his fingers will become sore. If he learns Ganana[Mathematics], his breast will become diseased. If, again, he learns Rupa [Dealing in money], his eyes will suffer”.
Now Lekha thus cannot here signify learning to write A, B, C, but rather ‘ the art of writing,’ which constitutes the profession of a Lekhaka.- Web site
This ‘ art of writing included not only the niceties of diction and style but also the different forms of correspondence, as will be seen from Chapter X of the Adhifftltsha-prachara of Kautilya’s Arthasastra, which in its concluding verse tells us that there were not one but many treatises on the subject.
SCRIPT OF SRI LANKA
In Sri Lanka, the earliest dated form of writing was on inscribed pottery found the strata, C4 dated to 500-600 BC, some even to 750 BC.
Over 1300 short inscriptions of 3rd, 2nd and 1st Cent BC has been studied by Scholars, who have identified that the letters in which Sinhala or Hela was written was arranged into seven groups the Guttrals, the Palatals, the Cerebrals, the Dentals, the Labials, Semi-vowels and the Vowels.
“Janas ca vak-sudha- sutir mani-sutis ca Rohana Nanyatra Simhala-dvipan mukta- sutis ca sagarah“
‘People who produce the Nectar of speech, Rohana Mountains which produce Gems and the Ocean that produces Pearls- these are nowhere found together, but in the Island of the Sinhalas’- Balaramayanaya-Act X verse 49.
The langauge on these inscriptions are sinhala ,only very few words belonging to Sanskrit , Pali or Tamil is used. These too was in later inscription . Even to express deep scientific concepts the Sinhalese used pure sinhala words. Today we cannot even understand the meaning of some of the words. The writers of these inscriptions knew Sinhala very well. The choice and use of words in the composition are scholarly. There is nothing wrong to be seen in the detailed analysis of letters except rarely.
The large numbers of the Sanga or Bikkhus who underwent training at the 3 main ancient monasteries of Anuradhapura and those at Mahagama and other centres provided the whole country with learned Bikkhus who were available throughout the country. So the layman had the fortunes of learning to read and write easily.- A.S. Hettiarachchi-Sec II Volume II – Inscriptions 1990.
In early Tamil inscription of South India , about 30 percent of the word used were loan words from Sanskrit and Sinhala.[ I Mahadevan= CORPUS OF TAMIL INSCRIPTIONS]
The aim of this post is to show the gradual changes of of this script in Sri lanka from 600 BC to the present date. A complete study of the evolution of the Sinhala Script was published by Dr P.E.E.Fernando. This script belonged to different generations of the Sinhalese from 600 BC to 20 Cent AD. The script was collected from inscriptions and published by many scholars, to whom all the credit of this article is due.I in turn has copied from the publications of these great historian and archeologists for the benefit of those using the web.The earliest script is found on the potsherds found in layers of earth C 14 dated 500-600 BC[ some back as 750 BC] during excavation of Dr Shiran Deraniyagala in the Citidal of Anuradhapura.
The Script found on cave inscription from the 2nd Cent BC to 7 Cent AD, published by Dr Saddhamangala Karunaratne in Epighraphia Zeylanica Special Volume VII,1984, is given next.
The the script on Inscriptions of Ceylon- Vol I, II & III is included here is the script from 3 Cent BC to 4 Cent AD.
A Sinhala inscription of the 6 Cent AD found at Anuradhapura close to Dakkhina Stupa.
Shown below an Inscribed gold ingot found during the excavations at Abeyagiri Monastery of 8-9 Cent AD.The weight is 438.10 gram. The weight indicated in ancient measures in Kalandas as 102. The weight of a Kalan may be accepted as 4.3 grams.
- The 9th and 10th Cent AD script is taken from Inscriptions of Ceylon Volume V of Dr Sirimal Ranwella,2001.
Those of the 13-15 Cent AD are from the Waharakagoda Inscription of Prof.Rohanadeera
This script was used to write to language ,what was known as Sinhalese for the last 2500 years. There are many very interesting web sites of the this language and the possible origin of it.
This may be of interest to the Sinhalese speaking or writing people ,how the script developed in the Island. The alphabet is not arranged in an ad hoc manner, but according to sounds, this is now called the Sinhala Hodiya which has expanded to use foreign words introduced to the Hela langauge..
1.Sinhala Inscriptions in South India- Article published by Mr DGA Perera in Ceylon Daily News
1. Letter K
3. Letter G
4. Letter Gha
5. Letter Ng
6. Letter Ch
7. Letter Cha
8. Letter J
9. letter Jha
10. Letter Ny.
13. Letter D
15. Letter N
16 Letter La
17 Letter Tha
18. Letter Dh
19 Letter Dha
20. Letter Na
21 Letter Pa