Himachal Pradesh scholars trying to revive ancient Tankri script

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Feb 16 14:31:06 UTC 2006

Thursday February 9, 06:02 PM
Himachal Pradesh scholars trying to revive ancient Tankri script

By Rajiv Kimta

Kullu, Feb.9 (ANI): Tankri, once a full-fledged script of the Pahari
language, spoken by people residing in the mountains, is being revived by
the natives of Kullu. Many of these people are taking lessons to
familiarise themselves with this ancient script. Many scholars are trying
to revive the script and also salvage whatever they can of the ancient

"This Tankri script has suffered due to the 'language policy' of the
British who accorded the status of official script and language to Urdu in
their official administration. This made everyone clamour for the Urdu
script schools and that was justified then as learning in Urdu language
and script meant an assurance of a job. Soon after the introduction of
Urdu in 1846 policy of the British, the Tankri script using schools closed
down and people forgot this script," says Khub Ram Khushdil, a teacher at
the workshop. Recently, a 10-day workshop was organised to acquaint people
with the Tankri script and expose them to the ancient manuscripts, which
use the script.

The students were informed about the language and how it has been
neglected. The Tankri scrip, once held sway in the mountains. Pahari, the
extensively spoken language of Himachal Pradesh, especially in Kullu,
Lahaul, Spiti, and Kangra, is of Sanskrit origin. Studies have revealed
that people living in mountain areas in Himachal Pradesh, who are also
known as "Pahari" used Tankri or Thakari. During the Muslim rule, later
on, the Persian script came into fashion. Much later these dialects
adopted the Devanagari script.

Linguists also say that during feudal times, Kullu literature was written
in Tankri script and reached its peak in the17th century. Khushdil says
that in the pre-British times when the valley was still under princely
rule, Tankri was the script of the royal courts. Tankri inscriptions are
also found on slabs, temples and sculptures. One of the students, who
delved deep into the history of the script has evolved a roadmap for
Tankri's revival.

"From the old course we have books and records which are related to the
Ayurveda, herbs and medicines apart from many other things. Lots of these
books are scripted in Tankri and so that makes the preservation and
revival of this script so essential. We are planning to approach the
Government of India's Mission Pandulipi (manuscript) project with our
resources and for further promotion we shall adopt the Guru-Shishya (the
ancient Teacher-Disciple equation) Parampara (tradition)," says Shashi
Sharma, one of the students. For the students the 10-day long classes was
a highly gratifying experience.

"I am so impressed that I have promised myself that I would peel every
crust of disuse that has accumulated on this heritage script of ours and
will try to help it to regain and keep it to its glory," said Deepak
Sharma. There are 400 registered languages in India but Hindi in the
Devanagari script is the official language. The Indian Constitution
recognizes 17 regional languages, of which the most widely spoken are
Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu , Malayalam, Kannada and Urdu.


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