WRITING IN ANCIENT INDIA – FOREIGNER’S NOTES

          We have already seen the evidences for writing in ancient India from Vedas, Vedāṅgas, Itihasas, Purāṇas, Dharma, Artha, Kama śāstras and Kāvyas. Even foreigners who visited India from centuries even before the common era noted and documented the writing system of their period. Such notes are available and act as the evidences.

  1. Greek writers

The account of the Greek writers, Nearchos, Megasthanes and Cutius about India date from 326 BCE. Their evidence is useful in establishing the existence of written books and in regard to the material used for writing.

Nearchos testifies that paper was being manufactured from cotton and tattered clothes. This can be taken as an evidences that India invented paper even before China.

Curtius observes that the inner bark of certain trees i.e Birch-bark (Bhūrja patra) was used for writing. Megsthenes who stayed in Pāṭaliputra writes about the mile stones on roads as indicating the distance between two rest-houses. He also mentions written almanac and smṛti texts.

  1. Chinese encyclopedia

          A Chinese encyclopedia was written in 668 CE as the extracts of Buddhist texts Tripiṭakas. The name of the same is Fa-wan-shu-lin. It records that three divine powers invented writing.

  1. Fan or Brahmā invented Brāhmī written in left to right
  2. Kia-lu invented kharoṣṭi written from right to left and
  3. Chinese, invented by Tsanghich, which runs from top to bottom.

The encyclopedia further states that the first two scripts were born in India and the last one in China.

This can be taken as an important evidence since it quotes that Brāhmī was created by Brahmā.

  1. Other visitors

          Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler in India in 7th CE notes that writing in Indian was invented very early. It is also on record that he got copied 657 Sanskrit books with twenty scribes from Kashmir palace library.

          Itsing who stayed in Nalanda in 7th CE, collected 400 texts consisting of 5,00,000 ślokas. Such a large number of books could not have come into existence in just a few centuries.

          Thus writing in ancient India is noted down by the foreigners.

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