WRITING IN ANCIENT INDIA – EVIDENCES FROM SANSKRIT DRAMAS

          The Dramas in Sanskrit are called as “śravya Kāvyas”. They too possess evidences on ancient writing. Bhāsa, the earliest dramatist known, is dated as 4th BCE. He gives so many references on writing. Avimāraka, the play written by him, mentions “Pustaka” – book.

          विदूषकः भवति, इदमक्षरं नाम पुस्तके नास्ति।

          The vidūṣaka answers the maiden that  the word is not found in the book. Hence the usage of “Book” clearly stands as a proof of writing in ancient India. Pratijñā yaugandharāyaṇa, another work of him, mentions the scribe. The very first act mentions “ Lekhakaḥ mām apavahati” and Tvaryatāma lekhakaḥ”.

          Abhiṣekanāṭaka of the same author too mentions book. Vāsavadatta gives the proof of writing on a wooden board.

      हृदयफलके सङ्कल्पधूलिकया चित्रितमिव।

          This passage poetically says that it is written as writing on a board with a brush. Kālidāsa, the greatest poet, also presents so many proofs for writing. Vikramorvaśīya, mentions writing on Bhūrjapatra (Birch-bark).

        भुजङ्गनिर्मोक इव भूर्जपत्रगतोयमक्षरविन्यासः

          The Vidūṣaka says that the script written on Bhūrjapatra wass looking like the serpent’s skin. Abhijñāna śākuntala, too gives another proof.

एतस्मिन् शुकोदरसुकुमारे नलिनीपत्रे पत्रच्छेदभक्त्या नखैः निक्षिप्तवर्णं कुरु।

          The friend insists śakuntalā to write a love letter on the lotus leaf which resembles the abdomen of a parrot with her nails.

          This gives an idea about the writing by nail on a smooth leaf. The same drama gives another evidence as

                अमात्यो विज्ञापयति अर्थजातस्य गणना बहुलतया एकमेवं पौरकार्यं प्रत्यवीक्षितम्।

          The counting of the works for the city is verified by the minister. Thus the counting is mentioned in the drama.

          Subandhu, a poet of 5th CE, mentions writing on a animal-skin as follows.

      विश्वं गणयतो धातुः शशिखटिनीकान्तेन तमोमष्या अजिन इव वियति संसारस्यातिशून्यत्वात् शून्यबिन्दव इव विलिखिताः तारा व्यराजन्त।

          Brahmā, while creating the world, made dots by the moon-chalk on the sky-skin to denote the śūnyatva of the universe. Those dots are the stars.

          Hence he poetically mentions the writing on skin by the chalk. Mālatīmādhava also proves that the writing on board is existing during it’s time.

      अरुणधातुवर्त्त्या फलकेषु लिखन्तीं

          The heroine is said that she writes on board with juices of red minerals. Śākuntala too mentions the brush. Mudrārākṣasa, written by Viśākha datta in 4th CE mentions about ink and writing material.

      मषीभाजनं पत्रं चोपनय।

          Mṛcchakaṭika too mentions the ink bottle.

      मेषराशिप्रविष्टेव मषीघुटिका

          Likewise there are so many evidences from Sanskrit dramas prove that writing was existing even before the common era.

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One thought on “WRITING IN ANCIENT INDIA – EVIDENCES FROM SANSKRIT DRAMAS

  1. Nice compilation . Had not given much thought to this before, because
    General belief here is that The Word and Writing were always there, since begining of time ! Taken for granted ! 🙂
    When manushya was created, Brahma ” wrote” his thalai ezhutthu , no ? Ganesha wrote down the Bharatham . Saraswathi holds palm leaves, equivalent to book ( obviously with some writing ) . Chitraguptan writes down our accounts. Though Mantras were orally transmitted, Yantras were drawn/ ezhuthapattana . And all these deities etc are always thought to be existing since time immemorial (though their icons started to be made only much later ) .

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