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Deciphered and Undeciphered Scripts
The story of the decipherment of ancient scripts is very interesting. Ahokan Brahmi was deciphered as a result of the painstaking and time taking efforts of a number of scholars working as employees of the East India Company. They were:
· Charles Wilkins
· Captain A. Troyer
· W.H. Mill
· J. Stevenson
· James Princep
These scholars first tried to read early medieval Brahmi scripts and then worked on deciphering the old letters.
The final step in the decipherment of the 3rd Century BCE Maurya Brahmi was made by Princep in 1837.
Even though he managed to read these scripts, he was unable to identify the mention of King Piyadassi mentioned within the script. George Turner, an officer of the Ceylon Civil Service, identified him as King Asoka on the basis of references in the Pali Chronicle, the Dipavamsa.
Princep also played a role in the decipherment of Kharoshthi, along with other scholars like Christian Lassen, Alexander Cunningham and E. Norris. This was easier because of the availability of bi-script coins in Greek and Kharoshthi by the Indo-Greek Kings.
Apart from the Harappan script, there are some other scripts that are still currently unread and very difficult to read. These include an elaborate, calligraphic variation of Brahmi known as ornate or ornamental Brahmi which is found on short inscriptions in various parts of the country.
Another stylized, ornate form of the Brahmi script, referred to by scholars as Shankhalipi ( because its characters look like Shankhas or conch shells) is found in the inscriptions of the 4th-8th centuries CE in various parts of India except the extreme south. Both Ornate Brahmi and Shankhalipi seem to have been used mainly for names and signatures.
There is a script similar to Brahmi on terracotta seals at sites such as Chandraketugarh and Tamluk in Eastern India. An Undeciphered script similar to Kharoshthi has been found in Afghanistan.
These ancient scriptures hold keys to unlocking the rich culture that existed in the Asian subcontinent. Deciphering them would reveal various features and characteristics of ancient civilizations which were responsible for the exquisite planning in which they lived. They are of prime importance to us and must be preserved. All efforts must be taken to protect and decipher these scripts as knowing our past helps us sustaining our present and planning our future better.