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Sanskrit writing

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The classical literary language of India, Sanskrit (from saṃskṛta ‘elaborated’) is the language described in the grammar of Pāṇini ( c. sixth century bce ). It has been India's pre-eminent language of learning for two and a half millenniums and continues to be studied widely. The oldest form of Sanskrit, Vedic, the language of the Hindu scriptures, is distinguished from epic and Buddhist Sanskrit. During its long history Sanskrit has been written in various scripts in and outside India. Early inscriptions are in B rāhmī writing . As of the fourth century ce it was followed by one of its derivatives, the G upta script , which in turn gave way to the N āgarī script . B engṛālī writing and the O ṛīyā script have also been used, as have the local scripts of Dravidian languages in south India, especially T amil writing . Sanskrit has furthermore been written in Old Kawi, Tibetan and Chinese characters, a fact which is of great importance for the history of printing. In the eighth century ce , ‘one million’ Buddhist charms ( dhāraṇṭ ) were printed in Japan for distribution to the temples and monasteries of the land. The texts were taken from the Raśmi vimaviśuddha prabhā nāma dhāraṇī and printed in Chinese characters used as phonograms on strips of paper. In Japanese they are commonly referred to as Hyakumantō-dhāraṇī or ‘mantras of the million stupas’ ( Figure 2 ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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