Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tamil Brahmi Unicode Font: Adinatha

Adinatha Font Picture Courtesy: Virtual Vinod
History of Tamil Script Wikipedia

Brahmi Unicode and digitization

'Unicode Character Standard provides (encoding) a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.' This computer industry encoding standard encodes scripts rather than language. To be precise, 'more than one language shares a set of symbols that have historically related derivation, the union of the set of symbols of each such language is unified into a single collection identified in a single script.' The Unicode (the "Universal Alphabet") Consortium, a non-profit, charitable organization which develops, maintains and promotes the software internationalization standards and data, particularly the Unicode Standard.  The Consortium works closely with W3C and ISO. The latest electronic version of the Unicode Standard is Version 7.0. This standard specifies the representation of texts in modern software products and standards.

There are the collection of symbols (i.e., scripts serving as inventories of symbols) drawn to write Brahmi. Brahmi was added to the Unicode standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0. There is an Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi which lies within Supplementary Multilingual plane. Since from August 2014 two free licence (the Open Font Licence) fonts that support Brahmi are made available: 1. Noto Sans Brahmi from Google which covers all characters; 2. Adinatha which only covers Tamil Brahmi  (dialect of Brahmi)

Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font

Three Tamil epigraphy enthusiasts namely S/shri Shriramana Sharma Vinod Rajan and Udhaya Sankar have undertaken and brought out the free license Tamil Brahmi font to encourage its utilization among academicians, researchers and professionals as well as to promote its use and (computer) application in epigraphy and digitization. The team of researchers have worked out Adinatha within the Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi. They have imbibed from Early Tamil Epigraphy, the classic work by Iravatham Mahadevan for the shapes of glyphs.

The font is named after Adinatha, the first of the twenty-four tirthankaras who founded the Jainism philosophies and teachings. Only Jain Munis are credited for ushering Brahmi in ancient Tamilakam and applied Brahmi script to document and communicate with the rest of the world. Hence the Jain Munis are bestowed with honor and respect. Since the Unicode font includes both OpenType & Graphite table, they will promote digitization of the inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi in a wide variety of systems . The font package also includes an AAT version for compatibility with OS X applications that do not support OpenType. NHM Writer 2.0 renders software support to Tamil Brahmi.

Tamil Brahmi epigraph
Digitized version of the epigraph using Adinatha Tamil Brahmi font

If interested the font package may be downloaded  here. Also download the font manual or can be read from here.

History of Brahmi and Tamil Brahmi Scripts

The earliest script used in India was Brahmi. The best known inscriptions in Brahmi script are the lithic inscriptions of Ashoka (269 - 232 B.C. ruled over 37 years) discovered in the north central India dated to 3rd - 4th century B.C. The script was used to inscribe edicts in Prakrit language by the Mauryan ruler. As viewed by Iravatham Mahadevan, the Brahmi script was used in Andhra and Karnataka regions as well as in Tamilakam during 3rd century B.C. when Jain and Buddhist monks migrated to the Southern parts of India. Tamil Brahmi is the script variant (dialect) of the Brahmi script (Southern Brahmic alphabet) used in South India to write in Tamil, the language of administration in Tamilakam. Tamils have adopted the Brahmi script to suit the phonetic system of Tamil language and proscribed the imposition of Prakrit language.  

Inscriptions in rock shelters and caves near Madurai were the earliest breakthrough. 'Dates for Tamil-Brahmi as early as the 6th century have been claimed, but all dates before the 3rd century are uncertain or controversial.' Scholars like Iravatham Mahadevan and Y. Subbarayalu hold the view that Tamil-Brahmi was introduced in Tamil Nadu after 3rd century B.C. Few others like K.V. Ramesh, retired Director of Epigraphy, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  deliberate the period as Pre-Asokan.

The term `Tamil-Brahmi' is used when the script is in Brahmi but the language is Tamil. The Brahmi script was predominantly used for Prakrit from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. The Brahmi script was brought to the Tamil country in the third century B.C. by the Jain and Buddhist monks during the post-Asokan period.

The three more recent excavations in different places of Tamil Nadu have reignited debate on the date of Brahmi : 1. Urn with human skeleton in it along with miniature pots and Tamil-Brahmi in a rudimentary form inside an urn were discovered  at the Iron Age burial site at Adichanallur in 2005; 2. A cist-burial excavated in 2009 at Porunthal village, 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu 3. Kodumanal excavation, near Erode more than 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions were found in 2012. There are contentious views regarding the origin of Tamil Brahmi. Dr. Satyamurthy claims the Tamil Brahmi script discovered inside the urn at Adichanallur to 5th century B.C. Dr.Rajan considers the Porunthal Tamil script to 490 B.C. based on the paddy grain dating. The 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions excavated at Kodumanal also the team of three scholars including Dr.Rajan arrive at similar views.

  1.  2200- year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on Samanamalai T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu March 24, 2012 
  2. Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font in Virtual Vinod.
  3. Brahmi (Unicode Consortium)
  4. Brahmi Script (Wikipedia)
  5. Is Tamil-Brahmi pre-Asokan?
  6. NHM Writer 2.0
  7. Palani excavation triggers fresh debate TS Subramanian August 29, 2011  
  8. Porunthal excavations prove existence of Indian scripts in 5th century BC: expert. Kavita Kishore. The Hindu. October 15, 2011.
  9. Rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script' unearthed at Adichanallur T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu February 17, 2005.
  10. Tamil Brahmi in Virtual Vinod.
  11. Tamil Brahmi (Wikipedia)  
  12. Tamil-Brahmi script found in village. T..Subramanian. June 28, 2009. 
  13. Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription (Wikipedia) 
  14. Unicode (Wikipedia)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gatti Mudali Dynasty of Salem Region Part 2: Attur Fort

Attur Fort Long View Wikipedia
A Sone Wall of Fort of Attur. Wikipedia
A Construction of Fort of Attur: Wikipedia
A View of the Backside of the Fort Wikipedia

Attur Fort: Various Buildings
The two part series brings out the history of Gatti Mudali dynasty, who ruled parts of Salem, Karur and Erode districts in the 17th century as chieftains underneath the Madurai Nayak dynasty. They held two important strategic forts to guard against invasion from Mysore kingdom: one at Omalur (near Salem) and the other at Attur (near Salem). The part one of the two part series details the history of Gatti Mudalis. This post forms the part two which features of Attur Fort held by Gatti Mudalis.

Attur Fort lies on the banks of River Vasishta (வாசிஷ்டா நதி). Located at Attur (ஆத்தூர்) 32 miles east of Salem, it was built by a local Palayakarar, C.Lakshmana Nayakan (17th Century) and later held by Gatti Mudali, the local Chieftain of this region. Gatti Mudalis strengthened fort with the treasure discovered by him in a bush, while he was hunting.  The iron pot in which the treasure was found still preserved.  The river divides this town into two halves and the land in the south-eastern of the river is known as Pudupet and the north-western part addressed as Attur. During 16th-17th centuries this town was addressed as 'Anantagiri' and till 18th century.  

In 1699 Anantagiri was occupied by  Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore (1673 - 1704 A.D.) as per the treaty concluded by "Lingurajayah with Aurachee". Afterwards Hyder Ali (1721 - 1782 A.D.) the sultan and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore  seized this fort and held it till 1768 and lost it when Colonel Wood attacked the fort with his British troops. Eventually in the same year Hyder Ali took back the control of the fort after the encounter with colonel Wood. In 1792 there was restoration of peace and Anantagiri served as the garrison for 23rd Madras Battalion with Captain Campbell as the commander. Since Madras Battalion moved to Sankagiri fort, the fort continued to be employed as ordnance depot from 1799 as per the scheme implemented by Lord Robert Clive. The British detachment was housed till 1824 and afterwards the fort ceased to be British armed forces station. Later ASI, Chennai Circle took charge of the fort and maintain it till now. The fort is surrounded by  slums and the people misuse it.

Fort Architecture

The town houses the impressive square shaped fort, built on the north-western side of the river.  The fort occupied about 62 acres. Known as Anantagiri Fort aka Attur Anantagiri Fort, the fortification includes 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide sloped rampart or embankment built with well fitted cut stone with mortar and with glacis or artificial slope to protect the rampart, angled bastions (angular structure with two faces and two flanks projecting outward from the rampart) specifically designed to cover each other from fire protection  and gun batteries. The glacis to the east is overgrown by trees. The south side of the fort is guarded by the river and the other sides are protected by a ditch. The fort gate is in the center of the eastern face. Some of the fort’s important landmarks include a Vishnu temple (appears to be the later construction), a Shiva temple and a shrine of Muniyappan, the guardian of the fort; three fairly large and one modestly small bomb proof chambers in the middle of the fort. It is learned that Gatti Mudalis have used one of the chambers with hemispherical vault or dome as their Kacheri (administrative block). Some other large chamber with the provision of inner court seems to be the harem or residential domain of Gatti Mudalis. The pleasure manor of Gatti Mudali decorated with pillared roof with obtuse pointed arches is located on the south face of the rampart. Adjacent to this there is a concealed water gate leading to the river and this structure is comfortably hidden and  well defended. Similar water gate provision was also made on the northern part of the fort and leads to the ditch. Some of the parts of the fort are in dilapidated condition.  The ditch and ramparts are undergoing more and more damages. Two years back an amount of Rs.7 lakhs were allocated for the renovation of Kachery and the other hall. However the fencing work for the fort is completed in total. 

John Murray's Tomb
There are few Tamil, Grantha, Sanskrit and Telugu inscriptions found in damaged state in this fort. An inscription by Anne Murray wife of John Murray, Commander of the first batalion of the East India Company informs   about the death of John Murray in May 6, 1799.

long felt demand of residents of Attur, historians and scholars is to state government for announcing this monument as tourist place.  
  1. Attur Fort
  2. Attur Fort - A Well Preserved 300 years old Fort  Salem Tourism Blog
  3. Google Plus. Aragalur Pon.Venkatesan
  4. Historic Fort. The Hindu 
  5. ஆத்தூர் கோட்டை
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