GUWAHATI, June 17 – While the origin of the Brahmi script is yet to be ascertained and the prevailing impression is that Emperor Ashoka was the first to use this script, new research and findings have shown that the Brahmi script was in vogue in ancient Kamrup either contemporarily or even before.
According to the traditional school of thought, the evolution of other Indic scripts descended from the Ashokan Brahmi.
Questioning this theory and asserting that the Brahmi script originated in ancient Kamrup and not in the Mauryan Empire, researcher Ashok Sarma says that a stone inscription found in present Dinajpur in Bangladesh written in Brahmi establishes that the Brahmi script was in vogue in ancient Kamrup.
The revelations also strongly indicate that the antiquity of the Assamese script is far older than is generally thought of. The history of the Indic scripts, therefore, needs to be written from Kamrupi script onwards, Sarma says.
This particular rock inscription was unearthed in 1931, and since then it was being believed that the inscription was a part of the Maurya kingdom, and therefore the inscription did not belong to Kamrup.
“But the truth is that during the 3rd century BC, present Dinajpur in Bangladesh was a part of ancient Kamrup and not of the Maurya kingdom. On page 10 of the Rangpur Gazette, on page 22 of the Maimansing Gazette, in books like Early History of Kamrupa, Ancient India: History and Archaeology, History of Civilization of Assam, Assam: The Indian Conflict, etc., we find that present-day Dinajpur never belonged to the Maurya kingdom during the 3rd century BC,” Sarma says.
Besides, Sarma adds, scholars like NK Bhattasali and Partigeer also reiterated the same fact. “Contrary to that, those who argue that Dinajpur belonged to the Maurya kingdom, referred only to Divyavadana, Mahavamsa, Hiuen Tsang, Lama Taranath, etc., but these evidences are open to grave doubts and therefore any conclusion based on those can hardly be termed as definite and final,” he says.
Elaborating, Sarma says, “Emperor Ashoka wrote his first inscription in the Khorosthi script and not in the Brahmi script. Again, those inscriptions written in Khorosthi were in the southern and western parts of India. So, the Brahmi script in which Ashoka wrote his inscription must have been borrowed from the eastern part of India. The inscription in Dinajpur is free from any trace of either Ashokan administration or Buddhism. Had this inscription been written in some borrowed script from another part of India, the inscription could not have been free from Ashoka’s influence.”
Another eminent historian, Vincent A Smith had also clearly mentioned in his book on Ashoka that, “Ashoka could not influence Kamrup.”
According to Sarma, Dr Buhler, Dr Dani and Dr Ojha always ignored the origin of the Assamese script. “Our books on Assamese script are also not free from the theory put forward by these scholars. So, these hidden facts concerning the origin of the Assamese script, remain concealed. As a result of such a distorted theory of the Assamese script, its independent status has not yet been recognized by either the Central Government or the State Government. That is why it has been put under the Bangla script in the Unicode Consortium and Department of Electronics and IT (DEIT) of the Government of India.”
The State Government in particular, has failed to take any initiative to restore the dignity of the Assamese script in the DEIT and Unicode Consortium, Sarma rues.
The Mahasthan Brahmi inscription (3rd century BC) is a fragmentary inscription in Brahmi characters, discovered at Mahasthan in Bogra district of Bangladesh, and is also the earliest epigraphic record in Bengal.
It is a small record of seven lines, incised on a circular stone, parts of which are broken. The inscription is palaeographically datable to the Mauryan Age (3rd century BC).