How Vattezhuth, the traditional Dravidian script, is being reclaimed in Kerala


Written by Vishnu Varma
| Kochi |

Updated: October 29, 2020 6:19:05 pm

A royal constitution in Vattezhuth script issued by Perumal king of Kerala to Joseph Rabban, a Jewish service provider, describing a Jewish colony in Cranganore (present-day Kodungallur) in early 11th century (credit score: Sarah Welch/Wikimedia)An historical Dravidian script that’s believed to have flourished for over ten centuries, that ebbed and flowed with shifts in royal dynasties and kingdoms, and is broadly accepted as having given start to the fashionable Tamil and Malayalam scripts — Vatteluttu, or Vattezhuth, is being slowly salvaged from the annals of historical past via a concerted effort by researchers, linguists and tech consultants in Kerala.
In Kerala, there are innumerable information of the Vattezhuth, or spherical writing, script within the type of stone inscriptions, edicts and palm-leaf manuscripts that lie ready to be learn just because there aren’t sufficient consultants who can decode the textual content. There are a choose few living at the moment who’ve the experience to deal with the script, however their data and know-how stay centralised because of age and varied different elements. And so, there stays an imminent hazard that if nothing’s achieved, the historic significance of Vattezhuth and its tips to our wealthy previous might be misplaced eternally.
It’s in that context that there are actually makes an attempt to encode Vattezhuth into unicode in order that language consultants world wide can study and perceive the script higher. Similarly, this week, a whole bunch in numerous elements of the world tuned right into a digital seminar collection on the probabilities and the historic relevance of Vattezhuth put collectively by the Malayalam division at St Joseph’s College in Irinjalakuda, Kerala. This is the one faculty in Kerala and maybe even in India providing a three-year UGC-approved vocational course in Malayalam and manuscript administration wherein college students study to know intricate manuscripts.
“The principal idea is to unify and streamline studies and research around Vattezhuth. A person decoding the script can read it differently from another person. And so, we can get the text right only through regular discussions and exchanges. At the academic level, there is no such opportunity or space. Since we are the only college running a course on manuscript management, we thought we are the right people to organise a seminar series,” mentioned Litti Chacko, the pinnacle of the Malayalam division at St Joseph’s.
The first section of the seminar collection, which concluded earlier this week, centered on Malayalam. Subsequent collection, later this 12 months, would solid the highlight on Tamil and Kannada languages, whose origins of the written phrase additionally lay in Vattezhuth.
Murukesh S, an assistant professor of Malayalam on the NSS College in Nenmara, mentioned Vattezhuth is believed to have been in use from the eighth century to the 18th century, a interval throughout which among the most interesting literature together with royal declarations in your entire South Indian area have been written.
“This script is proof that it has been subject to changes over generations and old kingdoms getting dismantled and new ones being formed. There have been changes to structures of each letter as time passed,” he mentioned.
“For example, language experts have claimed that the word ‘keralam’ originated from the word ‘cheralam’ meaning land ruled by the Cheras. But when we studied Vattezhuth, we realised that the letters ‘ka’ and ‘cha’ look similar. So the word ‘keralam’ could have been misunderstood as ‘cheralam’. It’s a huge thought. Also, the word ‘keralam’ has found mention in one of King Ashoka’s BC-era edicts. So it could have been some kind of royal name,” added Murukesh, who was one of many audio system on the seminar.
Being a script that was native to the ‘thamizhakam’ area for hundreds of years and used extensively by rulers of Chola, Pandya and Chera kingdoms, Vattezhuth had a politics of its personal that rose and fell with regime-changes, he identified. Apart from letters, it additionally had symbols used to point quantities of cash, timber and rice.
“Today, we cannot read it like reading a newspaper. Sometimes, even a line of the text can take days or weeks to read because it was written 500 or 1000 years ago. Some of the letters are very similar in form. If experts can come together, the process can be easier,” he feels.
“The problem is that knowledge about our prehistoric scripts is not getting decentralised. It’s not reaching everyone. If we have to learn more about our history, culture and lineage, we need to understand the scripts better.”
As a part of widening the scope of Vattezhuth analysis, Chacko mentioned an online portal that includes high-res pictures of inscriptions and manuscripts, is within the works. Following the seminar collection, there are additionally calls for from contributors for a ebook that goes past an instructional degree to pack all of the details about Vattezhuth.
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