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PALAEOGRAPHIC ART OF INDIA AND SOUTH EAST ASIA
A REPORT BY DR. H.R. RAGHUNATH BHAT
THE National Colloquium on Paleographic Art of India and South-East Asia, was the first such dialogue jointly organized so far, in south India in general and Karnataka in particular. It was hosted by Karnataka Research Institute in collaboration with IGNCA and the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Hampi fro June 8-11.
Palaeographic art is not merely the art of ancient writing in India and South-East Asia, but it also includes other aspects, pertaining to the origin, development, nature, significance and characteristic features of almost all the important scripts, prevalent since ancient times like, Indus, Brahmi, Kharoshthi, Nagari, Tamil, Kannada-Telugu, Telugu-Kannada, Tamil Brahmi, Malayalam, Tigarlari, Arbaic, Persian, Konkani and Modi. Following is a report on the colloquium.
At the inauguration, after the invocation of 'aksharajnana' (literacy) rendered by Prof. S.F. Pujar, Professor of Social Work, Prof. N.R. Shetty the dynamic Member Secretary, IGNCA, stressed the need to motivate a high level of research in universities through collaborations, setting up of digital libraries for accessing Sanskrit and other manuscripts.
Dr. Shrinivas Ritti, the doyen of Indian Epigraphy and Chairman Epigraphic Society of India (ESI) in his introduction to the colloquium recalled the footprints in Indian epigraphy, mentioning the works of B.C. Chabra and D.C. Sircar and others.
The academic sessions began with the lecture on graffiti marks by Dr. A. Sundara, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Epigraphy (rtd.), Karnatak Univesity, Dharwad. In his paper he traced the meaning, origin, and development with regard to paleographic art, its salient features and the significance of graffiti marks. It was followed by a paper on Tamil Script by Dr. Swaminathan, Senior Epigraphist, Directorate of Epigraphy, ASI, Mysore. He said Asoka deputed his men to learn the script prevalent in Tamil region, who after learning the script might have gone back and succeeded in spreading the script through the Edicts of Asoka.
Second day's proceedings commenced with a lecture on Siddamatrikas as established or well-developed script Dr.(Smt.) Shobhana Gokhale, Prof. of Epigraphy from Pune, Dr. V.D. Hegde, Reader in Hindi, Mysore University presented a paper on the 'Origin and Development of Devanagari Script.' Dr. A.V. Narasimhamurthy read a paper on Paleography and Coins.
Dr. M.S.G. Narayanan, Chairman, ICHR presented a paper on Vatteluttu script in Kerala, Defining Vatteluttu as the round letter he traced the origin, nomenclature, special features, purpose and significance of Vateluttu script. Dr. Shrinivas Ritti gave two lecture, on the Use of Kannada in Kannada Inscription and Telugu-Kannada script in two different sessions. The colloquium generated scientific fervour when Dr. B.V. Subrayappa from the Institute of World Culture, delivered a thought-provoking lecture on the Indus script. His hypothesis was that because of the prevailing centralized administration in the cities of Indus valley there was accounting work and the symbols, depicted on the Indus seals are nothing but numerals. However, he said his deciphering was not the final word on the subject. The stalwart of Indian Epigraphy, Dr. K.V. Ramesh, presented his ideas on Brahmi and its northern derivatives. Because of the development of slightly more advanced culture in southern India than northern India, the script that existed in this part goes beyond the period of Asoka, he said.
Third day's session commenced, with the presentation of paper by Dr. G.S. Khwaja, Sr. Epigraphist, Directorate of Epigraphy, Nagpura, on Chronograms, numerals and calligraphic art and Arabic and Persian scripts. Dr. S. Nagaraju in his memorable lecture on Indian script in south-East Asia not only reviewed but specified that the script that was used in Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati region probably went to South-East Asia. But the subsequent development were purely local developments. Marathi-Modi Script - its origin, evolution and significance was the theme of the paper presented by Dr. M.Y. Savant, one of the scholars in India, who has mastery over Modi script. Dr. Sanghmitra Basu, Rsearch Officer, IGNCA spoke on the History of writing in Northern India. How historical necessities and changing political situations affect the paleographic art was aptly illustrated by Dr. Devarakondareddy, in his paper on Paleographic art of Wodeyars' and Paleyagar's period. Dr. Panditaradhya, Reader in Kannada from Mysore University presented a paper entitled Kannada Numerals in Kannada.
Itihasa Bhisma, Dr. G.S. Dikshit besides delivering the Diamond Jubile Special Lecture on Common Sense about a Common Script for India, also spoke on the Tigalari script commonly found in the house-hold of Havyaka Brahmanas. It was used by the priests in Tuluva region for keeping temple accounts in a secret (coded) language. Dr. K.S. Sharma and Dr. Vaman Bendre, spoke on Dr. D.R. Bendre and scripts. Dr. Umakant, Professor of Physics gave a presentation on Reformation of Kannada and Nagari Scripts through transparencies. Dr. S. Gururajachar gave graphic description of the epigraphs of Southeast Asia in his paper on Some Aspects of South-East Asian Inscriptions. Mysore Nagaraj Sharma from the Oriental Research Institute emphasized on the use of computers in deciphering scripts while speaking on Script Enhancement Programme though Computers. Dr. S.K. Joshi, Archaeologist from Dharwad highlighted on the selection of stones for engraving the inscriptions and its impact on the script.
Dr. Leela Shantakumari of Department of Ancient Indian History and Epigraphy in her paper on Scribes of North Karanataka focused on the composers, writers and engravers of inscriptions as gleaned through the epigraphs. Dr. H.R. Raghunath Bhat talked on Paleographic art Karnataka. Dr. R.M. Shadaksharaih's lecture was also part of the last session,.
The special lecture series as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations was in fact the Jewels in the crown of this four-day marathon colloquium. They were by Dr. G. Deivanayagan, Shri Veerabhadra Rao and by Dr. K.V. Ramesh, G.S. Dikshit, all of them eminent scholars. An exhibition of ancient epigraphs, artifacts and photographs of monuments was also held at KRI, which was visited among others by Prof. B.K. Chandrashekhar, Minister for Information and Dr. A.M. Pathan, Vice-Chancellor, Karanatak Universtiy.
The author, Dr. H.R. Raghunath Bhat is the Director, Kannada Research Institute, Karnatak University, Dharwad.
Copyright IGNCAŠ 2001