The Hybrid Origin of Brāhmī Script from Aramaic, Phoenician and Greek Letters


  • Karan Damodaram Pillai School of Oriental and African Studies: University of London


The origins of Brāhmī script have been mired in controversy for over a century since the Semitic model was first proposed by Albrecht Weber in 1856. Although Aramaic has remained the leading candidate for the source of Brāhmī, no scholar has adequately explained a letter by letter derivation, nor accounted for the marked differences between Aramaic, Kharoṣṭhīand Brāhmī scripts. As a result, the debate is far from settled. In this article I attempt to finally answer the vexed questions that have plagued scholars for over a century, regarding the exact origins of Brāhmī, through a comparative letter by letter analysis with other Semitic origin scripts. I argue that Brāhmī was not derived from a single script, but instead was a hybrid invention by Indian scholars from Aramaic, Phoenician and Greek letters provided by a western Semitic trader.


Aramaic, Brāhmī, epigraphy, Greek, Sanskrit, Phoenician


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Author Biography

Karan Damodaram Pillai, School of Oriental and African Studies: University of London

Karan Damodaram Pillai, SOAS, University of London, is a medical doctor and MA History candidate at SOAS, University of London. His research interests include Indology, Dravidian linguistics, paleography and Sri Lankan, Tamil and Indian history.




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