sharda-scriptIn kashmir, the earlier Brahmi alphabet was replaced by its descendant, the Sharada, also called Kashmiri or Koshur, around 9th century when the alphabet makes its appearance in the coins and inscriptions of Kings in the Avantivarman (855-833). It was the only alphabet in use in the Valley from the 9th century till indicated by the epigraphic and numismatic records, only a limited number of which, however, has been preserved, though at one time Kashmir was very rich in epigraphic wealth as is attested to by Kalhana who utilized who utilized this enormous source for writing his Rajatarangani.

The advert of the Muslim rule led to the introduction of Persio-Arabic script, technically called nastalikh in the Valley by the Central Asian Sufi saints, scholars and Islamic missionaries. However, even with the introduction of the new mode of writing, the use of the Sharada script was not discarded. Its use continued unabated and soon became popular with the Sultans and Central Asian saints and scholars, just as the Persio-Arabic script was in no time mastered by the non-Muslim population of the valley. Henceforth, both the scripts came to be used side by side both in official and private documents. Many court documents belonging to the 15th and the subsequent centuries are written both in Sharda and Nastalikh and the popular use of both the scripts is amply demonstrated by the epitaphs on several graves discovered in different cemeteries in the Valley which are written both in Sharada and Nastalikh. For example, the famous epitaph of one Saed Khad inscribed on a grave in the cemetery near the western gate of Hariparbat in Srinagare is dated in the reign of Muhammud Shah (1484-1528). The Sharada epigraphic records of the Sultanate period belong to the reign of Shihab-ud-Din (1354-55 -1375, Sikandar (1389-1413), Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-70) and Hasan Shah (1472-1484 A.D.). the famous will or wasiyat-namah of the framous sufi saint Maqdoom Saheb is written both in Sharda and Nastalikh.

Thus both the Sharda and the Nastalikh scripts became the vehicles of communication for Kashmiri, Sanskrit and Persian languages. Many well-known Persian texts of Central Asia on folklore, literature, medicine, scince and technology were transcribed from Nastalikh into Sharda and several known Sanskrit and Kashmiri texts from Sharada into Nastalikh to facilitate their study.

It is not unlikely that besides  the Kashmir and the Kabul-Gandhara region, the practice  of the simultaneous use of Sharda and Nastalikh was followed in toher parts of Central Asia as well. Thus, like Brahmi and Karoshti in the earlier period, the Sharda script seems to have been a vital link in the chain of transmission of idea, knowledge and culture between Kashmir and Central Asia in the medieval period.

Information Courtesy: Gulshan Books. From the pages of “Kashmir Heritage – Folk Songs And Sharda Lippi” edited by Prof. K.L. Kalla

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