'Story or History of writing'/Part:22

Tamil is the most important literary language of Southern India and Though it is related to Sumeria as well as Indus valley languages, It was first written as Tamil,in Tamili (Tamil-Brahmi) script and then it developed a script of its own as present one!  Also a comparison of the Tamil signary [the signs constituting the syllabic or alphabetic symbols of a language] with other brami derived scripts reveals its special position in the sphere of Indian writing. For example, brami itself has thirty six basic signs and of the northern group of its descendants Bengali, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Oriya and Devanagari have thirty nine, But Tamil makes do with thirty basic signs, including six derived letters, and in earlier versions had only twenty one! Further,Divakara Nigandu of 8th century AD refers to four different Tamil writing systems existed and they were classified as:

1.Vadivezhuthu /Pictograph /a pictorial symbol for a word or phrase.
2.Peyarezhuthu / Logograph /a single written symbol that represents an entire word or phrase 
3.Mudivezhuthu / Syllabary ? /                                                                                    
4.Thanmaiezhuthu / Phonetic ?/

"வடிவெழுத்து பெயரெழுத்து, முடிவெழுத்து தன்மை 
எழுத்தென எழுத்தின் பெயர்இயம் பினரே"

Vadivezhuthu Peyarezhuthu Mudivezhthu thanmai
Ezhuthena Ezhuthin Peyar Iyambinare

They, the scribers, classified the script into Pictograph, Logograph, Syllabary And Phonetic types.

Makes it clear that Tamils until 8th century AD followed all
four writing systems to convey messages on stone, pottery (both personal and burial pottery) and many more media in the past.
The Sangam Age memorial stones engraved with Tamil-Brahmi scripts found at Pulimankombai and Thathappatti in Tamil Nadu and the large number of Tamil-Brahmi inscribed potsherds unearthed in the archaeological excavations conducted at Porunthal and Kodumanal and the scientific dates obtained for more than 800 inscribed potsherds unearthed in the
archaeological excavations conducted at Kodumanal, Uraiyur, Korkai, Karur, Kiladi Porunthal, etc., clearly established the fact that the Tamil society was a literate society well before 2500 years. Among the many funerary rituals described in the early Tamil poems is the erection of nadukals or herostones. A poem in the Purananuru 264 describes this ritual:

"They planted a memorial stone with the name
etched, on a mound with gravel, and decorated
it with the feathers of pretty peacocks and flower
garlands woven with hemp fibers.

Will the families of bards, who do not know
of his passing, the great man who brought cows
with calves and chased away enemies, still come?"

While herostones are found in the archaeological record, it was difficult to date any of these specimens to the early historic period. But in March 2006, from the village of Pulimankombai in Teni district, on the southern bank of the river Vaigai, excavators found herostones inscribed in the Tamil-Brahmi script of the 3rd century BCE or before. These were found in association with a number of urn burials of the site.The inscription on one of the herostones reads: "kal pedu tiyan antavan kudal ur akol.", means: "This herostone was raised to a man called Tiyan Antavan of Pedu village who died in a cattle raid that happened at Kudal ur.” This is the first inscriptional reference to a cattle raid, an event which is commonly referred to in inscriptions of later periods.

All of these well proved that the Tamili (Tamil-Brahmi) script that came into existence well before 6th century BCE, started taking a round shape around 2nd-3rd century CE. This change led to the emergence of vatteluttu script around 5th century CE. This ancient script joining with Grantha script that introduced in Tamil Nadu later evolved as the present Tamil script around 7th-8th century CE. Thus, the Tamil language and Tamil script undergone a change through the years by absorbing the contemporary socio-cultural transformation.

[Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]

Part:23 will follow


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