Use of Devanagari for Sanskrit

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Tue Sep 4 16:44:23 EDT 2007

Would those in 18th c. Bengal who knew Sanskrit at all have known Devanagari script as well as Bengali script?  If so, Devanagari publication would have the advantage (in sales for a publisher, in reaching a larger Indian audience for Western Orientalists) of getting a pan-North Indian readership. 

Or would the pandits have known Nagari as well as Bengali script, although people who read Sanskrit works for devotion or literary enjoyment may have often been monoscriptal?  Would the Calcutta Western Orientalists have been more oriented towards the pandits?

There were a lot of educated people in 18th and 19th century Calcutta whose primary language either of household or learning was not Bengali, were there not?  What were the relations of the Orientalists towards the more learned of them?

Was multiscriptalism as frequent among the literate as multilingualism among people in general?

In pushing through some old arrearages for cataloging at LOC I noticed that Isvarachandra Vidyasagar's Sons routinely published eds. of the same Sanskrit work in both scripts.  If the sons and the firm after him did so, quite likely he did do.  Unfortunately, I do not seem to be able to come up with a search strategy today that tracks these down.

The question also arises while Sanskritists on the Continent of Europe never published in any scripts but Nagari and Roman.

I seem to remember hearing that the Government of India at some point made a formal decision that the editions of Sanskrit works it subsidized would be only in Nagari.  But I haven't the slightest idea where I heard this, nor even if it's true.  And even if it's true, was the decision before or after the domination of Sanskrit publishing by Nagari?


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D., Senior Reference Librarian
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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