|6th Century CE -present|
|Kolezhuthu, Tamil script|
The Grantha script (Tamil: ?, romanized: Granta e?uttu; Malayalam: ?;) is a South Indian script, found particularly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, that emerged between 5th- and 6th-century CE . This early Grantha script was used to write Sanskrit texts, inscriptions on copper plates and stones of Hindu temples and monasteries. It was also used for classical Manipravalam - a language that is a blend of Sanskrit and Tamil. From it evolved the middle and transitional Grantha script by about the 8th-century that remained in use till about the 14th-century. A more evolved modern Grantha script and a variant Tulu-Malayalam script has been in use since the 14th-century into the modern era, to write classical texts in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages. It is also used to chant hymns and in traditional Vedic schools.
In its Pallava script origins, the Grantha script is related to the Tamil and the Vatteluttu scripts. The modern Malayalam script of Kerala is a direct descendant of the Grantha script. The Southeast Asian and Indonesian scripts such as Thai and Javanese respectively, as well as South Asian Tigalari and Sinhala scripts are also derived or closely related to the Grantha through the early Pallava script.
The Tamil purist movement of the colonial-era sought to purge Grantha script and use the Tamil script exclusively. According to Kailasapathy, this was a part of Tamil nationalism and resembled regional ethnic chauvinism.
In Sanskrit, grantha is literally 'a knot'. It is a word that was used for books, and the script used to write them. This stems from the practice of binding inscribed palm leaves using a length of thread held by knots. Grantha was widely used to write Sanskrit in the Tamil-speaking parts of South Asia from about the 5th-century CE into the modern times.
The Grantha script was also historically used for writing Manipravalam, a blend of Tamil and Sanskrit which was used in the exegesis of Manipravalam texts. This evolved into a fairly complex writing system which required that Tamil words be written in the Tamil script and Sanskrit words be written in the Grantha script. By the 15th century, this had evolved to the point that both scripts would be used within the same word - if the root was derived from Sanskrit it would be written in the Grantha script, but any Tamil suffixes which were added to it would be written using the Tamil script. This system of writing went out of use when Manipravalam declined in popularity, but it was customary to use the same convention in printed editions of texts originally written in Manipravalam until the middle of the 20th century.
In modern times, the Grantha script is used in religious contexts by Tamil-speaking Hindus. For example, they use the script to write a child's name for the first time during the naming ceremony, for the Sanskrit portion of traditional wedding cards, and for announcements of a person's last rites. It is also used in many religious almanacs to print traditional formulaic summaries of the coming year.
Grantha script may be classified as follows:
An archaic and ornamental variety of Grantha is sometimes referred to as Pallava Grantha. They were used by the Pallava in some inscriptions. Mamallapuram Tiruchirapalli Rock Cut Cave Inscriptions, Kailasantha Inscription come under this type.
The Pallavas also produced a distinctive script separate from the Grantha family.
The Tigalari-Malayalam script is called Western Grantha (west Tamil Nadu, Kerala). This type of Grantha was used by Cholas approximately from 650 CE to 950 CE. Inscription of later Pallavas and Pandiyan Nedunchezhiyan are also examples of this variety of Grantha Script.
Grantha in the present form descended from later Pandyas and the Vijayanagara rulers. Two varieties are found in modern era Grantha texts: the square form used by Hindus, and the round form used by Jains. The Modern form of Grantha is very similar to Malayalam script and the Modern Tamil Script.
The Grantha script has evolved over time. The modern Grantha is illustrated below and shares similarities with the Modern Tamil Script.
Each letter below includes the inherent vowel:
For other vowels diacritics are used:
There are also a few special consonant forms with Vir?ma:
Grantha has two ways of representing consonant clusters. Sometimes, consonants in a cluster may form ligatures.
Ligatures are normally preferred whenever they exist. If no ligatures exist, "stacked" forms of consonants are written, just as in Kannada and Telugu, with the lowest member of the stack being the only "live" consonant and the other members all being vowel-less. Note that ligatures may be used as members of stacks also.
Below is an image of a palm leaf manuscript with Sanskrit written in Grantha script:
Transliterated into Latin (ISO 15919),
Transliterated into Devan?gar? script,
Note: As in Devan?gar? ⟨e⟩ and ⟨o⟩ in Grantha stand for [e:] and [o:]. Originally also Malayam and Tami? scripts did not distinguish long and short ⟨e⟩ and ⟨o⟩, though both languages have the phonemes /e/ /e:/ and /o/ /o:/. The addition of extra signs for /e:/ and /o:/ is attributed to the Italian missionary Constanzo Beschi (1680-1774), who is also known as V?ram?munivar.
The letters ? ? ? and the corresponding sounds occur only in Dravidian languages.
Grantha script was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0. The Unicode block for Grantha is U+11300-U+1137F:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Some proposed to unify Grantha and Tamil; however, the proposal triggered discontent by some. Considering the sensitivity involved, it was determined that the two scripts should not be unified, except for the numerals.