By Swami Harshananda
Brāhmi literally means ‘that which is related to Brahmā’.
- Brāhmī is the śakti or power of Brahmā, the creator, considered as his consort.
- Brāhmī is also the name of a script recorded as one of the earliest in history. It is considered as the mother of the devanāgarī script along with the allied scripts of Tibet, Burma, Śri Lanka and Thailand.
The earliest records available in the Brāhmī script are the edicts of Aśoka. Most of them, except the ones found in the North-West part of India, are in the Brāhmi script. The North-Western edicts are in the Kharoṣṭhī script. The Brāhmī script is normally read from left to right.
Regarding its origin there are two theories. Most Indian scholars maintain that it was derived from the Harappan script. Many European scholars believe that it was derived from a Semitic script like the Greek, Aramaic or the Phoenician. The tradition holds that it has come from Brahmā, the Creator, himself; and hence it is named Brāhmī. The similarities with the script of Indus valley civilization seem to support the theory of its Indian origin.
But certain deductions from all these possibilities are:
- By the time of emperor Aśoka (272-232 B.C.) the script was not only in existence but had also been considerably developed and refined.
- Knowledge of the script had long been forgotten. It goes to the credit of James Prinsep (A. D. 1799-1840) and Kamalākānta Vidyālaṅkāra for the complete decipherment of the script in A.D. 1838.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore