Brāhmī

(‘that which is related to Brahmā’)

Brāhmī is the śakti or power of Brahmā, the creator, considered as his consort. See BRAHMĀṆĪ for details.

Brāhmī is also the name of a script, one of the earliest in recorded history, and, considered as the mother of the devanāgarī script as also the allied scripts, like those of Tibet, Burma, Sri 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 Brāhmī script. The North-Western edicts are in the Kharoṣṭhī script.

The Brāhmī 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 Hindu tradition holds that it has come from Brahmā, the Creator, himself; and hence the name Brāhmī. The similarities with the script of Indus valley civilization seem to support the theory of its Indian origin.

But, one thing is certain: 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.

See also KHAROṢṬHĪ.