Art of Writing in Ancient India

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Shyamji Krishnavarma, Oriental Lecturer of Balliol College, Oxford, in the paper he read before the International Congress of Orientalists at Leyden in 1883, which he attended as the delegate of the Government of India, has dealt with the subject in a masterly way, and shown that the art of writing has been in use in India since the Vedic times.

He says: “I feel no hesitation in saying that there are words and phrases occurring in the Samhitas of the Vedas, in the Brahmanas and in the Sutra works, which leave no doubt as to the use of the written characters in ancient India. It may be confidently asserted that the systematic treatises in prose which abounded at and long before Panini could never have been composed without the help of writing. We know for certain that with the exception of the hymns of the Rig Veda, most of the Vedic works are in prose, and it is difficult to understand how they could possibly have been composed without having recourse to some artificial means.”

Katyayana says: “When the writer and the witnesses are dead.” Yagyavalka mentions written documents; and Narada and others also bear testimony to their existence.

Even Max Muller himself is compelled to admit that “writing was known to the authors of the Sutras.”

The supposition that writing was unknown in India before 350 B.C. is only one of the many instances calculated to show the strange waywardness of human intellect.

Har Bilas Sarda a member of the Royal Asiatic Society and author of Hindu Superiority has written: “The extraordinary vocal powers of the Hindus, combined with their wonderful inventive genius, produced a language which, when fully developed, was commensurate with their marvelous intellectual faculties, and which contributed materially in the creation of a literature unparalleled for richness, sublimity and range. The peculiar beauties inherent in the offspring of such high intellectual powers are greatly enhanced by its scientific up-bringing and by constant and assiduous exercise it has developed into what is now such a model of perfection as to well-deserve the name of deo-bani, or “the language of the gods.” The very excellence of the language and the scientific character of its structure have led some good people to doubt if this polished and learned language could ever have been the vernacular of any people.

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 215-217).











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