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A fragment of Ashoka's 6th pillar
Indian calligraphy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1 Historical evolution of Indian Calligraphy
1.1 Early calligraphy
1.2 Middle ages
2 Features of Indian calligraphy
3 See also
4 Sources
5 External links
Historical evolution of Indian Calligraphy
Early calligraphy
On the subject of Indian calligraphy, Anderson 2008 writes:
Aoka's edicts (c. 265238 BC) were committed to stone.
These inscriptions are stiff and angular in form. Following the
Aoka style of Indic writing, two new calligraphic types
appear: Kharo and Brhm. Kharo was used in the
northwestern regions of India from the 3rd century BC to the
4th century of the Christian Era, and it was used in Central
Asia until the 8th century.
Copper was a favoured material for Indic inscriptions. In the north of India, birch bark was
used as a writing surface as early as the 2nd century AD. Many Indic manuscripts were
written on palm leaves, even after the Indian languages were put on paper in the 13th
century. Both sides of the leaves were used for writing. Long rectangular strips were
gathered on top of one another, holes were drilled through all the leaves, and the book was
held together by string. Books of this manufacture were common to Southeast Asia. The
palm leaf was an excellent surface for penwriting, making possible the delicate lettering
used in many of the scripts of southern Asia.
Middle ages
Indian traders, colonists, military adventurers, Buddhist monks and missionaries brought the Indic script
to the countries of South East Asia.
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An illustrated manuscript of the
Mahabharata with calligraphy
Ghalib poem in Nastaliq
An eleventh century vaeuttu
inscription, from the Brihadisvara
temple in Thanjavur
A page from the Guru Granth
Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh
The languages of these regions were influenced by Indic
language and culture; the influence came in the form of the
basic internal structure, the arrangement and construction of
syllabic units, manner of representation of characters, and
the direction of writing (left to right) (Gaur 2000: 98). Fine
Sanskrit calligraphy, written on palm-leaf manuscripts was
transported to various parts of South East Asia, including
Bali (Ver Berkmoes ?: 45).
It is hypothesized that Persian
influence in Indian calligraphy
gave rise to a unique and
influential blend in Indian
calligraphy (although a number
of different calligraphic traditions existed in India) and that Indian scripts
were fundamentally different from scripts used in Arabic and Persian
traditions. The notable achievements of the Mughals included some of their fine manuscripts; usually
autobiographies and chronicles of the noble class, these manuscripts were initially written in flowing
Persian script. This style of calligraphy was thought to influence other traditions of India, such as the
Indian epics, including the Ramayana and Mahabharata (Bose & Jalal 2003: 36).
Emperor Humayun had bought Persian calligraphers into India;
they would later be joined by native Hindu artists of India to
further promote this art in the court of emperor Akbar,even one
of queen Mariyam Anjumam who was the adopted daughter of
Rajput King Bharmal was the Persian her name was Harkha also
(Bose & Jalal 2003:36).
The Arabic text on the Qutab
Minar is in the Kufic style of
calligraphy; decorations with
flowers, wreaths and baskets
show the native influence of
Hindu and Jaina traditions
(Luthra ?: 63).
From the 16th century onwards Sikhism played a key role in the
history of Indian calligraphy. Sikhs have traditionally handwritten
their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, and furnished it with
illumination. Sikh calligrapher Pratap Singh Giani (18551920) is
known for one of the first definitive translations of Sikh scriptures
into English.
The Oxford manuscript of Shikshapatri in the Bodleian Library (Williams 2004: 61) offers an excellent
example of Sanskrit calligraphy.
Features of Indian calligraphy
Religious texts are the most frequent vehicle for calligraphy in India. Monastic Buddhist communities
had members trained in calligraphy and having shared responsibility for duplicating sacred scriptures
(Renard 1999: 23-4). Jaina traders incorporated illustrated manuscripts celebrating Jaina saints. These
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Inscriptions in the Kufic
style of calligraphy form
regular bands throughout
the Qutb Minar, Delhi,
built 1192 CE
A Calligraphic design in Oriya script
manuscripts were produced using inexpensive material with fine calligraphy (Mitter 2001: 100).
See also
Salomon, Richard. Indian Epigraphy : A guide to the study of
inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and other Indo-aryan languages.
New York, Oxford University Press : 1999.
Stevens, John . Sacred Calligraphy of the East. Boston, Shambala :
Anderson, D. M. (2008), Indic calligraphy, Encyclopdia
Britannica 2008.
External links
Devanagari script on Omniglot
(http://www.omniglot.com/writing/devanagari.htm). This
site also has information on a range of Indian scripts.
Scripts and Languages of India
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