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Chapter Four
Sanskrit : the Key  to Indian Religious History


The Indian Scripts are originated from two early sources – one from the Semitic Languages and the other from the Aryan (Indo-European) Languages.  The early scripts of Brahmi originated from the Semitic Languages from the 7th centaury BC while the Kharosti originated from the Indo-European Languages about the same time.   It is interesting to note the Sanskrit Script as used today was actually an offshoot of the Semitic influence rather than Aryan.  Certainly there must have been mutual influence and interaction during the development.  This interaction between the two major ethnic languages can be traced back to the Persian invasion of Israel.  Ahasaures, also known as Artexerxes was probably the husband of Queen Esther.  From then on the relation between the Aryan and the Semitic people were very cordial.  This led to the mutual influence that we see in the script and languages. 

I. The Brahmi alphabet of north-western India of the 3rd century B.C., generally called the Mauryan alphabet, is represented in:
(1) The Kalsi Rock Edicts
(2) The Delhi-Topra pillar-edicts
(3) The Pathyar (District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh) rock inscription

II. The Brahmi alphabet of north-western India of the 2nd century B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era, usually called the post-Mauryan alphabet, is represented among others by the following records:
1. The coins of the Indo-Grecian Kings Agathocles the Pantaleon
2. The inscriptions of the ksatrapa Sodasa 
3. The Kanhiar (Dist. Kangra, H.P.) rock inscription 
4. The Bathtsal (Jammu) cave inscription 

III. The inscriptions of the Kusana kings-Kaniska, Huviska and Vasudeva, discovered form Mathura and its vicinity, illustrate the next step in the develcpment of the Brahmi of north-western India.

 IV. Further development of our alphabet is illustrated by the following records of the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. which represent the western variety of the northern Indian alphabet of the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., generally called the Gupta alphabet:
1. The Abbotabad inscription of the time of Kadambesvara dasa (Gupta) year 25 = A.D. 344 
2. The Mathura inscription of Chandragupta II, G.E. 61 = A.D. 380
3. The Mathura stone inscription of Chandragupta II
4. The Shorkot inscription of the year 83
5. The Tussam (Dist. Hissar) rock inscription
6. The Lahore copper seal inscription of the Maharaj Mahesvaranaga 
7. The Bower manuscript

In the following records of the 6th and the 7th centuries A.D., discovered in northwestern India, we find further development of the forms of the Western Gupta alphabet leading to those of the Sharada in the 9th century.
1. Kura inscription of Toramana
2. The Nirmand plate of Mahasamanta Maharaja Samudrasena
3. The Sonepat Seal of Harsavardhana
4. The Hatun rock inscription of Patoladeva
5. The Gilgit manuscripts

(Quoted from: Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh – Linguistic Predicament
Edited by: P. N. Pushp and K. Warikoo, Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, Har-Anand Publications)

Early Nagari Script

With few exceptions this script was used for writing Sanskrit. There are five examples; all but one from south central Java, dating from the late 8th to early 9th centuries uses Nagari Scipt. This script may have had a north Indian origin, perhaps associated with the Buddhist monastery at Melinda. It is sometimes called Pre­Nagari because the oldest known examples in India only date from the 11th and 12th centuries AD. It is also possible that the script evolved in Indonesian Bud­dhist monasteries before being used in inscriptions. A complicated inscription from Sanur, Bali consists of three parts: one in early Nagari script and Sanskrit language; another in Nagari script, Old Balinese language; and the third in Early Kawi script, and Old Balinese language. Its probable date is 914 AD.

(The Sharada Script: Origin and Development B. K. Kaul Deambi  http://www.koausa.org/Languages/Sharda.html)

There had been another more ancient script in existence in Grantha Script, which became a predominant script form in the Southern India.  Earliest of these had been found during the reign of Pallava Kings in Chennai around 5th Centaury AD.  Evidently this is a Dravidian influence. In the beginning Sanskrit was written in Grantha Script Later it was transliterated into Nagiri Script after 7th Centaury AD.  The Grantha Script influenced and produced most of the Dravidian Scripts.  As we can see Sanskrit is essentially a Dravidian development, as the modern Dravidian languages will show. Anyone can see that most Dravidian Languages contain large amount of Sanskrit in comparison with other Northern Languages.  This is especially true of Malayalam.  Malayalam came out of Tamil and we see that early Malayalam literature was all in Sanskrit.  Sanskrit was better known in South India than in North India.  Even as late as a century ago – my father’s diaries were in Sanskrit.

Ashoka - He was an Ideal Ruler, who dedicated himself to the victories of righteousnessVedas were originally written using the Grantha and Nagiri Scripts.  Since the earliest evidence of Grantha Scripts are found only around 5th c AD, the Vedas could not have been written anytime earlier.  It may be argued that Vedas could have been in oral form.  This is a conjecture.  People certainly have been philosophical even without a written document.  But they are not crystallized until they are written down.

The first epigraphic evidence of Sanskrit is seen in 150 AD and this inscription is in the Brahmi script.  (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1982). From the fifth century A.D. classical Sanskrit is seen to be the dominant language in the inscriptions.

Earlier documents used Pali and Prakrit.    Asoka who took every care to make his messages intelligible to the common man used all existing scripts and languages.  These 3rd Centaury inscriptions do not include Sanskrit.  It included Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic.  But no Sanskrit is found because it was not in existence at that time.









Asoka’s Edict in Prakrit

Sanskrit was developed out of Prakrit and other existing languages during the interval of 100 AD to 150 AD  “The first evidence of classical Sanskrit is found as an inscription dating around A.D.150 in the Brahmi script. It records the repair of a dam originally built by Chandragupta Maurya, and also contains a panegyric in verse, which can be regarded as the first literary composition in classical Sanskrit. It is at Girnar in Kathiawar and was inscribed by Rudradamana, the Saka Satrap of Ujjayini, on the same rock on which the Fourteen Rock Edicts of Asoka were also found.

It is significant that Rudradamana employed classical Sanskrit in a region where about four hundred years before him Asoka had used only Prakrit. This definitely proves that in the second century AD Sanskrit was replacing the dialects. Even so the language did not replace Prakrit everywhere, but it continued to be used in inscriptions for something like one hundred years or even more after this date. However, from the fifth century A.D. classical Sanskrit is seen to be the dominant language in the inscriptions.  ( Hinduism, by Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, USA, 1979.)

What it amounts to is that the exaggerated claims of the Vedic origins of Hinduism are unfounded.  Hinduism as presented today by the modern Hindus is a product of a period much later than at least 100 AD simply because Sanskrit, the heavenly language came into existence only after that period.  Then it is argued that “The Vedas have been "heard" or composed by different seers over a great period of time and were handed down from generation to generation through oral transmission. Since it was essential to maintain the purity of the hymns, a great emphasis was placed on the correct chanting of each word in the mantra according to a particular rhythm to maintain their efficacy during the performance of the rituals.”  “We do not know for certain when exactly the most holy books of India were first written down. The major and the only really authoritative way of transmission were oral, and written text was important only in exegesis and ritual science, not in religion itself. In other genres of literature, for instance in the Dharmsastra and Ayurveda, it is rather well established that the extant text tradition was only fixed in the earliest (written) commentaries. Before that, in oral transmission, the texts were open to additions and modifications. In the Veda the texts were fixed much earlier, and the transmission in the first place remained oral. But here, too, the texts were probably first written down in connection with commentaries.” http://folklore.ee/folklore/vol8/veda.htm

If that is the case in what language was it transmitted since Sanskrit did not exist?

This evidently puts new and sharp change in the way we look at Hinduism.  We have been heavily fooled by the proponents.  But this is simply a characteristic of all religions.

Thus apart from portions of the Veda which were not written in Sanskrit, all other Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas and Puranas etc were written down later than 100 AD at liberal estimate.  They must have been written down much later in actual fact. A more realistic estimate will be around 6th Centaury AD.  “The pious view is that the Vedas are eternal and uncreated and exist essentially as sound. More conventional, but still pious, scholarship may still exaggerate the antiquity of the Vedas, sometimes claiming they go back to 10,000 BC or earlier. Now, however, it looks like even the oldest parts of the Rg Veda do not antedate the arrival of the Arya in India, although the gods and elements of the stories are older, since they are attested with Iranian peoples and the Mitanni, with parallels in Greek and Latin mythology.” (Kelly Ross)

Thus for instance the vast amalgamation of Puranic tradition known as the Skandapurana, as far as we can speak of it as a single work at all, cannot be older than the 16th century, as has been shown in the Groningen Skandapurana project (see Adriaensen et al 1994). Many scientific manuals and commentaries were composed during the 17th and 18th centuries, and a 19th century compilation, the Sukraniti, passed for a long time as a genuine ancient work. And of course Indian scholars of traditional learning are all the time producing new Sanskrit literature.
Klaus Karttunen  http://folklore.ee/folklore/vol8/veda.htm


It should be noted here that the names of the gods and the Rishis with which each Sukta begins were selected long after the collection of the VEDAS. These were determined in the Index known as the Anukramanee. Katyayana composed the Anukramanee, which has been followed in the Rik-Sanhita in adopting the names of the gods and the rishis.  Katyayana came after Yáska and it is therefore evident that the names were invented many centuries afterwards without having any historic truth in them. There is nothing in the Suktas themselves, which can throw any light in elucidating these words.
Rajeswar Gupta  http://phoenicia.org/rigveda.html



At one time, many argued for an authorship of the epic as early as 3100 B.C., or during the Early Harappan period. Some have even argued that the Harappans themselves were the Aryans of the Rig-Veda. However, more recent scholarship on the subject has suggested that the writing of the Rig Veda was no earlier than 1200 B.C. Certain scholars are inclined to accept a date of closer to 800 BC, while earlier dates, some up to 1500 BC, are put forth by still other scholars. Either way, several hundred years separate even this earliest estimate from the ending date of the Mature Harappan Period, which lasted from ca. 2500 to 1700 B.C. In line with this dating, as well as the lack of evidence for iron technology, hereditary social elites, not to mention warfare (three of the primary diagnostic traits of the Aryans, according to the Rig-Veda), most of the scholars of today are convinced that the Harappans were neither Aryan, nor ever in contact with the Aryans (Srivastava 1984). In fact, the archaeological record depicts a utopian world far different from that of the Aryans described in the Rig-Veda.  Thus Schaffer notes that "in the Indus Valley, a technically advanced, urban, literate culture was achieved without the usually associated social organization based on hereditary elites, centralized political government (states, empires) and warfare" (Schaffer 1982, 47). http://www.adventurecorps.com/collapse.html

The Demise of Utopia:
Contexts of Civilization Collapse in the Bronze Age Indus Valley
By Chris J.D. Kostman, M.A.


 The great epic called the Mahabaharatha (between 300 BC and AD 300) is by far the most important representative of the purana. Of somewhat similar free style are the 18 Puranas of a much later date. The beginnings of the artistic style are seen in the Ramayana (begun 3rd century BC). The finished epic kavya form, however, was not evolved until the time of Kalidasa, about the 5th century AD.

 This poet and dramatist is the author of the two best-known Sanskrit artistic epics, the Kumarasambhava and the Raghuvamsa.


Archeological findings support these observations.  For example in a recent India Abroad a shocking revelation came.  Here is the report. 

If the horoscope given to us is correct Krishna was born in the month of Sravana on the 23rd day on the night of full moon in Lagnam Edavam at midnight and if Guru (Mars), Kujan (Mercury), Ravi (Sun) and Sukran (Venus) were at their own home, Budan, Chandran (moon) and Sani (Saturn) were in their highest time, then Krishna was born in AD 600.

The point here simply is that none of the claims of antiquity of neither Hindu Scriptures nor the Hindu Puranas have any valid archeological, documentary or linguistic evidence.

“  Mahabaharatha as given to us could not have been written before A.D fourth Centaury.  Panini, who is the famous grammarian, has mentioned several important personalities of the epics of that period.  While the reprints published later have made several errors, variations and exaggerations, the main characters and the imports of the stories remain in tact.  There is no doubt that Geetha came into existence only during the period of Gupta Empire.” 
K.M.Panicker ( A Survey of Indian History p.67)

It is certain that Manu did not know anything about the Trinity or their functions as Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer.  Yet by A.D 6th Centaury this concept was popular as is clear from the works of Kalidasa

Ramesh Chandra Dutt, History of Civilizations in India   Vol II   P.191

All Hindu myths are developed over a long period of times, where each myth was built over some older historical fact or person.  This is often due to confusion of names and times.  Most of them were local stories, which got incorporated, in the bigger picture.  So when a purana was presented in a codified form it was normally done in a third person method where this person sees the act being carried out in some distant places at distant time.  This was indeed the normal style of story telling of the period.  In the present day Katha Kala Shepam and Thullal this is clearly visible. 

There is a didactic quality in all of Sanskrit literature, but it is most pronounced in fairy tales and fables (c.A.D. 400–A.D. 1100). Characteristically, different stories are inserted within the framework of a single narration. The characters of the tale themselves tell stories until there are many levels to the narrative.

As the story is woven, the imagination of the storyteller takes control and describes these in vivid details and normal human life situations.  Thus even the Gods are presented with human qualities and falls into acts of immorality, jealousy and fight. We thus have imaginative weapons and methods of warfare.

 Because art forms of this type were basically presented through the temple, these took on the form of  “scripture”.  These characters are no more limited to any space or time but appears all over India at all times irrespective of their time of life.  This is natural as each village poet and narrator added his own local touch. Thus for example: Siva fell in love with the Vishnu who acted as a beautiful woman to steal the Amrit from the Asuras and ( a historically past myth of the ages ago) and begat Ayyapan in the recent past in the forests of Kerala.   Ayyappan’s closest friend was a Muslim.  This was indeed a difficult chronological problem and to save the situation some artificial interpretations has to be invoked.  How this is done I am not sure.  It requires quite an ingenuity to make coherent sense among the multitudes of mythical webs simply because it evolves out of imagination and without regard to logic.  But then the aim of these kathas were not logic, but didactic and moral and most often simply the enamor of the story itself.  In addition they were to be made interesting and intriguing.  It is thus a series of images over a long period of cultural development over all villages in India.  They represent the ethos of India.  To attach any historical import into it will be simply ridiculous.

The Development of Indo-Aryan Languages



"Knowing" Words in Indo-European Languages, Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.



Languages and Scripts of India   http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/scripts.html

Edicts of King Asoka   http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html

Sharada Script : Origin and Development -  B. K. Kaul Deambi   http://www.koausa.org/Languages/Sharda.html


The basic Brahmi script 

5th century BCE to 4th century CE



3.   The Brahmi Script

·    Brahmi appeared by the 5th c. BC.

·    The underlying unity of Indian scripts are due to the Brahmi.

·    Like the Greek alphabet, it had many local variants and gave rise to many Asian scripts - Burmese, Thai, Tibetan, etc.

·    Asoka inscribed his laws onto columns in Brahmi.

·    Theory of Origin? : (i) West Semitic; (ii) Southern Semitic – but it works very differently from Semitic.

·    Some trace it to Indus Script. But the Harappan ended by 1900 BC & the first Brahmi and Kharoshthi inscriptions date to roughly 500 BC. How does one explain the gap?

·    Brahmi is a "syllabic alphabet", meaning that each character carries a consonant plus a neutral vowel "a", like Old Persian, but unlike it, Brahmi uses the same consonant with extra strokes to combine with different vowels.



4.  The Kharosthi Script

·    The Kharosthi Script was almost contemporarily with the Brahmi.

·    Appeared by 3rd c. BC in northern Pakistan and east Afghanistan.

·    Some examples of Kharosthi also occur in India.

·    Like Brahmi, Kharosthi were developed for Prakrit dialects.

·    The early Brahmi and Kharosthi did not have the dipthongs /ai/, /au/, and the vocalic /r/ and /l/, so common in Sanskrit.

·    Kharosthi was used primarily for the Prakrit dialect of Gandhari.

·    In structure & sequence, Kharosthi and Brahmi are similar.

·    But Brahmi had different signs for different initial vowels, but it used the same marks that change vowels in C-V combinartion.

·    Brahmi had long and short vowel signs, Kharosthi had only one.

·    Kharosthi Script fell out of use by the 3rd or 4th century.