KANNADA SCRIPT: EVOLUTION
script has traveled a long way from the earlier Brahmi model. It has undergone
a number of changes during the regimes of sAtavAhana, kadmba, ganga, raSTrakUTa, cALukya, hoysaLa and other dynasties that
came after them. These changes were brought about, because of regional
variations caused by writing practices that were tolerated. A pan Indian model
was conspicuous by its absence. Many letters in the Brahmi script were written
The second stage of the development of the Brahmi script in Karnataka is found in the inscriptions of banavAsi, maLavaLLi and myAkadONi. (2-3 centuries A.D.)
The Kannada script used in the inscriptions of Kadmbas is deemed to be the earliest model which can be called Kannada as distinct from the Brahmi. Box headed letters (caukAkritiya talakaTTu) were already in use both in Kannada inscriptions as also the Gupta script which was contemporaneous to it. These letters are lesser in height and a little more rounded. CandravaLLi inscription of MayUrasharma, halmidi inscription of kAkusthavarma and the tALagunda inscription again of kAkusthavarma and the copper plate inscriptions of mrigEShavarma belong to this period.
Kannada script from the inscriptions of
The inscriptions of the CALukyas of bAdAmi are the ones installed by kings like mangalIsha, pulakEshi etc. Here the ‘talakaTTu’ is almost a straight line. Letters such as ಯ, ರ, ಸ, ಹ and ದ have more are less stabilized as early as the 7th century.
The process of stabilization set in during the reign of bAdAmi cAlukyas gained ground during the next three centuries when rAshTrakUTas were in power. Letters such as ಅ. ಆ, ಎ, ಕ and ಖ arrived at their final shape during this period.
The Kannada script underwent some important changes during the days of kalyANi cAlukyAs. This variety was called Old Kannada script by scholars like Buhler and Fleet. They letters are more rounded. ಇ, ಗ, ಘ, ಯ, ಲ and ವ got stabilized during the regime of Kalyani Chalukyas. The letter ಣ and ಭ acquired new shapes. ‘talakaTtu’ lost its perfunctory nature and became a distinct curve.
The Hoysala as well as the kaLachuri and sEvuNa scripts have by and large followed the Kalyani Chalukya model with more decorative details. This is particularly true of the Hoysala inscriptions because they make use of soap stone which is eminently pliable. Hence the letters are highly rounded and embellished.
On the contrary the inscriptions of the Vijayanagara Empire are regressive because of the stubborn granite which they used as writing material. The letters are rather crude and unattractive. The practice of indicating aspiration by splitting the letter at the bottom by drawing a small vertical line (hokkaLu sILuvudu) was inaugurated during this period. (ಥ, ಧ, ಢ, ಫ)
The letters used in the inscriptions of the Wodeyar dynasty are mostly similar to the letters that are being used now with a few exceptions which continue to be archaic. The bindu or anuswAra used to indicate nasal consonants is written next to the relevant consonant. Consonant-vowel combinations and consonant clusters are indicated in the script as per the methods evolved over a period of time.
There are many points of similarity between the Kannada script and the Telugu scripts. Kannada has created graphical representations of the Dravidian sounds as well as the Sanskrit sounds whenever they are used in the language. Consequently there is more or less one to one correspondence between the sound and the corresponding letter. The evolutions of some important Kannada letters are provided as illustrative material as an appendix to this note.
HUTTU MATTU BELAVANIGE — Origin and Evolution of Script: Dr. Devarakonda Reddy;
Published by Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara (Kannada Book Authority),
lipiya ugama mattu vikAsa’, 1968, A.V.Narasimha Murthy, Kannada Adhyayana
Dravidian Languages. By BHADRIRAJU KRISHNAMURTI.
MODELS OF KANNADA SCRIPTS AT VARIOUS PERIODS