Well, mzybe not so cool: Sanskrit script?

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Jan 5 20:26:17 UTC 2010

Op 05.01.10 17:34 schreef Walter Slaje:

>> The standardized use of Nagari for Sanskrit should be seen in the 
>> wider context of linguistic innovation in the nineteenth century.
> [...]
> This may be true in general, but I find it difficult to apply the 
> above criteria to Kashmir.
> [...]
> Second, Kashmir was never under British rule,
> and third, Hindi played no role there at all and can therefore not be 
> seen in the context of a linguistic innovation.
> The manuscripts in old Kashmiri I am aware of are written in Sharada.
> Modern Kashmiri is commonly written in the Urdu script - as a 
> successor to the Persian characters in use for Persian texts in late 
> medieval times, but significantly enough not in Devanagari.

I think a misunderstanding has crept in. I quoted Chatterji's book about 
Hindi merely for his argument how Hindi in Nagari script was 
popularized: namely, (a) that Nāgarī had already popularly been 
associated with 'devabhāṣā', i.e., Sanskrit, and (b) that this was an 
innovation during British rule. (The spread or non-spread of Hindi is 
not relevant here - the spread of Nagari is.)

Actually, what you mentioned in your earlier message ("Devanagari was 
not used in Kashmir until it was established under Hindu (Dogra) rule 
(second half of the nineteenth century)") only supports my assumption 
for the whole of India:

[before the 19th c.: diversity] Skt. in many scripts (e.g., in Sarada 
script in Kashmir, used for Kashmiri) --> [latter half of 19th c.: 
uniformity] Skt. in Nagari (a previously unknown and unused script, an 
innovation that was introduced from outside)

The interesting question is: why did the situation under Dogra rule 
change? My guess is that the Sanskritists of Kashmir simply wanted to 
join the newly established convention in British India, because they 
recognized its usefulness.

Meanwhile, to end on a more scurrilous note: the myth that Nagari is 
'Sanskrit script' seems thoroughly entrenched now. In Karnataka I knew 
three brothers in a brahmin family: the youngest was modern and signed 
his name in 'English script' (āṃgla lipi); the middle one was more 
conservative and signed his in Kannada script; the eldest and most 
orthodox thought that as a brahmin, he ought to sign his in 'Sanskrit 
script' - Nagari. I probably need not add that the eldest brother was 
not a great Sanskrit scholar.



Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Department fuer Asienstudien - Institut fuer Indologie und Tibetologie
Universitaet Muenchen
Tel. (+49-89-) 2180-5782
Fax  (+49-89-) 2180-5827

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