Sri Lanka - Brahmi script from AMP context 75: estimated age 700-500 BC (sic!)


1. Brahmi Palm leaf project

2. A free Brahmi font devised for viewing Pali

3. A free tool to convert CSCD texts to be viewed with the Brahmi font

4. Brahmi Leaf Book Project - Result :-)


1. Brahmi Palm leaf project

The idea for this project came a few months ago. I was thinking of a suitable present for my sister's (a devoted lay Buddhist) marriage. Something which could be a central part for her newly founded household in a spiritual sense. Something precious for her shrine room...

Finally i thought about compiling a palm leaf book with her favourite sutta for her. Getting "ola" leaves was no option, but i was nevertheless eager to produce a book, which should look and be in spirit, a remembrance of the ancient days, when India/Sri Lanka was full of Arahants :-)

Now, manufacturing the book is a story for itself, which i may post here another day for those who are interested, but one of my major concerns was the script... First I thought of Sinhala, because Sinhalese had been the first language which actually carried the Pali Canon through the centuries (starting in 80 AD, Aloka Vihara, Sri Lanka).

But then i had to think of an ancient variant of Sinhala and how to get a font sample? My connections to the Sri Lankan Archeological Department are virtually inexistant :-)

While pondering, i came to think of our Dhamma-King Asoka! Now, the Pali Scriptures (at least excerpts) have been found quite early, during the time of King Asoka, on his pillar/cave inscriptions. So i started a small web-recherche and googling up and down the internet i found some very interesting pieces of information. I faintly remembered to have read a long description of scriptual transition - theories pointing out the fact that Brahmi, as the earliest Indian script, contains several Semitic-like letters. Be that as it may, the most interesting stuff i found, you can see in the above picture (at the head of this page). Some potsherds with neat and nicely drawn Brahmi letters. For instance the middle one above reads something like "ta-yo-ku-the".

Now, if these potsherds are dating back to 500 BC it seems more likely than ever, that the writing at the time of the Buddha (at least among kings and official bodies) had been BRAHMI. So, keeping this in mind, King Pasenadi may well have composed his messages for Bimbisara, writing them in Brahmi on whatever kind of material :-) - or dispatched  his messenger after memorizing the message...

At this stage of investigation, i was determined to produce a "palm" leaf book written in Brahmi.

The textual basis of course are the CSCD texts in Aalekh (see here for details of encoding). My only problem was a Brahmi font. First I thought of creating one from the scratch, but my material on Brahmi fonts was quite limited and not the least sufficient. Luckily i found this FREE Brahmi font on the internet:

LIPI Brahmi (Ashokan) from the most generous Rabison Shakya..

Unfortunately though, it has its own character scheme and misses some consonant conjunctions which i would need to represent proper Pali words. So i needed a conversion tool, similar to the one Frank Snow created in 98 (you dont know his great tool? go here to find out)..

I rearranged and added to the free Brahmi font creating my own, optimized for viewing Pali texts.

2. A free Brahmi font devised for viewing Pali

Which you can download here. (AshokanBrahmi.TTF)

Next, i wrote a small C# proggy, which sole purpose is the conversion of Aalekh-CSCD files into texts for my Pali-Brahmi-font.

3. A free tool to convert CSCD texts to be viewed with the Brahmi font

This tool you can download for free here (CSCDToBrahmi.exe) -it will run on any windows (you will need the free framework 1.1 library from windows, though) or on any linux system (you will need to install the free mono library, though))

Et voila. After centuries again :-) some of our Pali scriptures appeared in ancient Brahmi letters. So much to proliferation. I hope the Gods enjoy this work, my sister and others who view those beautiful characters revive their past good kamma which they surely collected during the time of King Asoka :-) - what is sure however, is my increased reading ability of Brahmi texts by now.


Some additional Remarks:

.) I am no font expert or ephiphologist. If you are familiar and resourceful please consider to beautify and enhance my free Brahmi font. I will post any additions or changed Brahmi files on this page.

.) Some of the consonant conjunctions you find in my Brahmi script may not have been common in Ashokan texts. Any feedback on such seldom conjunctions and their various forms, would be a blessing!

.) The converted CSCD texts are in raw text format. All you have to do, is: install the font on your computer, open the converted text, select the newly installed Brahmi font, and READ :-)

.) ANY bug reports are highly appreciated! Send them to lenni_lop[at]yahoo[full stop]de

... finally: thanks for your interest.


4. Brahmi Leaf Book Project - Result :-)

So, you want to know how the result of the afore mentioned effort looks like? I made lots of pictures during the whole process of producing an ancient modern version of one of the most ancient and highly enlightening pali texts: the Parayana:

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