Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Kharoṣṭhī script, also known as the Gāndhārī script, is an ancient alphabetic script used by the Gandhara culture of historic northwest India to write the Gandhari and Sanskrit languages (the Gandhara kingdom was located along the present-day border between Afghanistan and Pakistan between the Indus River and the Khyber Pass). It was in use from the middle of the 3rd century BC until it died out in its homeland around the 3rd century AD. It was also in use along the Silk Road where there is some evidence it may have survived until the 7th century in the remote way stations of Khotan and Niya.
Scholars are not in agreement as to whether the Kharoṣṭhī script evolved gradually, or was the work of a mindful inventor. An analysis of the script forms shows a clear dependency on the Aramaic alphabet but with extensive modifications to support the sounds found in Indic languages. One model is that the Aramaic script arrived with the Achaemenid conquest of the region in 500 BC and evolved over the next 200+ years to reach its final form by the 3rd century BC. However, no intermediate forms have yet been found to confirm this evolutionary model, and rock and coins inscriptions from the 3rd century BC onward show a unified and mature form.
The study of the Kharoṣṭhī script was recently invigorated by the discovery of the Gandharan Buddhist Texts, a set of birch-bark manuscripts written in Kharoṣṭhī, discovered near the Afghanistan city of Hadda just west of the Khyber Pass. The manuscripts were donated to the British Library in 1994. The entire set of manuscripts are dated to the 1st century AD making them the oldest Buddhist manuscripts in existence.
Kharoṣṭhī will be encoded in the Unicode range U+10A00—U+10A5F, starting in version 4.1.0.
- information on the Kharoṣṭhī alphabet by Omniglot
- A Preliminary Study of Kharoṣṭhī Manuscript Paleography by Andrew Glass, University of Washington (2000)
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