The alphabets of India all spring from two sources: (a) the Kharosthi, (b) the Brahmi alphabet.
Written in Sanskrit, Brahmi and Chinese characters, wooden tablets in the Kharoshti script, furniture and various cereals.
It was by this latter route that the traders brought back to India the Brahmi alphabet, the art of brickmaking and the legend of the Flood.
And wooden tablets were discovered, inscribed in Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan and the Brahmi script of Khotan, the arid conditions, here as elsewhere, having caused these and other perishable objects to remain remarkably well preserved.
The people of India already possessed their Brahmi alphabet, of these alphabets is drawn from this work and from the same author's Indische Palciographie in the Grundriss der indo-arischen Philologie, to which is attached an atlas of plates (Strassburg, 1896), and in which a full bibliography is given.
On the coins struck in India, the well-known Indian alphabet (called Brahmi by the Indians, the older form of the Devanagari) is used; on the coins struck in Afghanistan and in the Punjab the Kharoshthi alphabet, which is derived directly from the Aramaic and was in common use in the western parts of India, as is shown by one of the inscriptions of Asoka and by the recent discovery of many fragments of Indian manuscripts, written in Kharoshthi, in eastern Turkestan (formerly this alphabet has been called Arianic or Bactrian Pali; the true name is derived from Indian sources).
Was obtained, and also of commercial traffic from the distant west in the shape of records in Indian, Kharoshti and Brahmi scripts and an unknown script resembling Aramaic. The sacred grottoes known as the Halls of the Thousand Buddhas, south-east of Tung-hwang, were visited, with their frescoes and cave temples, and a large number of documents and examples of early Chinese art were recovered.
The history of the Brahmi alphabet is more difficult.
In the 1 In 1909 an inscription in Brahmi characters was discovered near Bhilsa in Central India recording the name of a Greek, Heliodorus.
Buhler, on the other hand, shows from literary evidence that writing was in common use in India in the 5th, possibly in the 6th, century B.C. The oldest alphabet must have been the Brahmi lipi, which is found all over India.