Gupta script

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Gupta script
(Late Brahmi script)
Barabar Caves Gopika Cave Inscription of Anantavarman 5th- or 6th-century CE Sanskrit in Gupta script.jpg
The Gopika Cave Inscription of Anantavarman, in the Sanskrit language and using the Gupta script. Barabar Caves in Jehanabad Bihar, 5th or 6th century CE.
Script type
Time period
c. 4th–6th century CE[1]
Directionleft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Sister systems
Tamil-Brahmi, Bhattiprolu, Sinhala, Tocharian
The theorised Semitic origins of the Brahmi script are not universally agreed upon.
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Gupta script (sometimes referred to as Gupta Brahmi script or Late Brahmi script)[6] was used for writing Sanskrit and is associated with the Gupta Empire of the Indian subcontinent, which was a period of material prosperity and great religious and scientific developments. The Gupta script was descended from Brāhmī and gave rise to the Śāradā and Siddhaṃ scripts. These scripts in turn gave rise to many of the most important Indic scripts, including Devanāgarī (the most common script used for writing Sanskrit since the 19th century), the Gurmukhī script for Punjabi, the Bengali-Assamese script, the Tibetan script and possibly also the distant origin of Hangul if based on Ledyard's theory.

Origins and classification[edit]

The Gupta script was descended from the Ashokan Brāhmī script, and is a crucial link between Brahmi and most other Brahmic scripts, a family of alphasyllabaries or abugidas. This means that while only consonantal phonemes have distinct symbols, vowels are marked by diacritics, with /a/ being the implied pronunciation when the diacritic is not present. In fact, the Gupta script works in exactly the same manner as its predecessor and successors, and only the shapes and forms of the graphemes and diacritics are different.

Through the 4th century, letters began to take more cursive and symmetric forms, as a result of the desire to write more quickly and aesthetically. This also meant that the script became more differentiated throughout the Empire, with regional variations which have been broadly classified into three, four or five categories;[7][8] however, a definitive classification is lacking, because even in a single inscription, there may be variation in how a particular symbol is written. In this sense, the term Gupta script should be taken to mean any form of writing derived from the Gupta period, even though there may be a lack of uniformity in the scripts.

Evolution from Brahmi to Gupta, and to Devanagari[9]
k- kh- g- gh- ṅ- c- ch- j- jh- ñ- ṭ- ṭh- ḍ- ḍh- ṇ- t- th- d- dh- n- p- ph- b- bh- m- y- r- l- v- ś- ṣ- s- h-
Brahmi 𑀓 𑀔 𑀕 𑀖 𑀗 𑀘 𑀙 𑀚 𑀛 𑀜 𑀝 𑀞 𑀟 𑀠 𑀡 𑀢 𑀣 𑀤 𑀥 𑀦 𑀧 𑀨 𑀩 𑀪 𑀫 𑀬 𑀭 𑀮 𑀯 𑀰 𑀱 𑀲 𑀳
Gupta Gupta allahabad k.svg Gupta allahabad kh.svg Gupta allahabad g.svg Gupta allahabad gh.svg Gupta allahabad ng.svg Gupta allahabad c.svg Gupta allahabad ch.svg Gupta allahabad j.svg Gupta ashoka jh.svg Gupta allahabad ny.svg Gupta allahabad tt.svg Gupta allahabad tth.svg Gupta allahabad dd.svg Gupta allahabad ddh.svg Gupta allahabad nn.svg Gupta allahabad t.svg Gupta allahabad th.svg Gupta allahabad d.svg Gupta allahabad dh.svg Gupta allahabad n.svg Gupta allahabad p.svg Gupta allahabad ph.svg Gupta allahabad b.svg Gupta allahabad bh.svg Gupta allahabad m.svg Gupta allahabad y.svg Gupta allahabad r.svg Gupta allahabad l.svg Gupta allahabad v.svg Gupta allahabad sh.svg Gupta allahabad ss.svg Gupta allahabad s.svg Gupta allahabad h.svg


The surviving inscriptions of the Gupta script are mostly found on iron or stone pillars, and on gold coins from the Gupta Dynasty. One of the most important was the Prayagraj (Allahabad) Prasasti. Composed by Harishena, the court poet and minister of Samudragupta, it describes Samudragupta's reign, beginning from his accession to the throne as the second king of the Gupta Dynasty and including his conquest of other kings. It is inscribed on the Allahabad pillar of Ashoka.


The Gupta alphabet is composed of 37 letters: 32 consonants with the inherent ending "a" and 5 independent vowels. In addition diacritics are attached to the consonants in order to change the sound of the final vowel (from the inherent "a" to other sounds such as i, u, e, o, au ...). Consonants can also be combined into compounds, also called conjunct consonants (for example sa+ya are combined vertically to give "sya").[10][11][12]

Independent vowels[edit]

Late Brahmi vowel diacritics
Gupta script vowel diacritics (Allahabad standard).[13][12]
Usage examples.[12]
Letter IAST and
Sanskrit IPA
Letter IAST and
Sanskrit IPA
Gupta allahabad a.svg a /ə/ Gupta allahabad aa.svg ā /aː/
Gupta allahabad i.svg i /i/ ī /iː/
Gupta allahabad u.svg u /u/ ū /uː/
Gupta allahabad e.svg e /eː/ Gupta allahabad o.svg o /oː/
ai /əi/ Gupta allahabad au.svg au /əu/
𑀋  /r̩/ 𑀌  /r̩ː/
𑀍  /l̩/ 𑀎  /l̩ː/


Stop Nasal Approximant Fricative
Voicing Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiced
Aspiration No Yes No Yes No Yes
Velar Gupta allahabad k.svg ka /k/ Gupta allahabad kh.svg kha /kʰ/ Gupta allahabad g.svg ga /g/ Gupta allahabad gh.svg gha /ɡʱ/ Gupta allahabad ng.svg ṅa /ŋ/ Gupta allahabad h.svg ha /ɦ/
Palatal Gupta allahabad c.svg ca /c/ Gupta allahabad ch.svg cha /cʰ/ Gupta allahabad j.svg ja /ɟ/ Gupta ashoka jh.svg jha /ɟʱ/ Gupta allahabad ny.svg ña /ɲ/ Gupta allahabad y.svg ya /j/ Gupta allahabad sh.svg śa /ɕ/
Retroflex Gupta allahabad tt.svg ṭa /ʈ/ Gupta allahabad tth.svg ṭha /ʈʰ/ Gupta allahabad dd.svg ḍa /ɖ/ Gupta allahabad ddh.svg ḍha /ɖʱ/ Gupta allahabad nn.svg ṇa /ɳ/ Gupta allahabad r.svg ra /r/ Gupta allahabad ss.svg ṣa /ʂ/
Dental Gupta allahabad t.svg ta /t̪/ Gupta allahabad th.svg tha /t̪ʰ/ Gupta allahabad d.svg da /d̪/ Gupta allahabad dh.svg dha /d̪ʱ/ Gupta allahabad n.svg na /n/ Gupta allahabad l.svg la /l/ Gupta allahabad s.svg sa /s/
Labial Gupta allahabad p.svg pa /p/ Gupta allahabad ph.svg pha /pʰ/ Gupta allahabad b.svg ba /b/ Gupta allahabad bh.svg bha /bʱ/ Gupta allahabad m.svg ma /m/ Gupta allahabad v.svg va /w, ʋ/

In Unicode[edit]

The Unicode standard considers the Gupta script to be a stylistic variation of Brahmi, and thus Gupta texts are encoded using Brahmi Unicode characters.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1100x 𑀀 𑀁 𑀂  𑀃   𑀄  𑀅 𑀆 𑀇 𑀈 𑀉 𑀊 𑀋 𑀌 𑀍 𑀎 𑀏
U+1101x 𑀐 𑀑 𑀒 𑀓 𑀔 𑀕 𑀖 𑀗 𑀘 𑀙 𑀚 𑀛 𑀜 𑀝 𑀞 𑀟
U+1102x 𑀠 𑀡 𑀢 𑀣 𑀤 𑀥 𑀦 𑀧 𑀨 𑀩 𑀪 𑀫 𑀬 𑀭 𑀮 𑀯
U+1103x 𑀰 𑀱 𑀲 𑀳 𑀴 𑀵 𑀶 𑀷 𑀸 𑀹 𑀺 𑀻 𑀼 𑀽 𑀾 𑀿
U+1104x 𑁀 𑁁 𑁂 𑁃 𑁄 𑁅 𑁆 𑁇 𑁈 𑁉 𑁊 𑁋 𑁌 𑁍
U+1105x 𑁒 𑁓 𑁔 𑁕 𑁖 𑁗 𑁘 𑁙 𑁚 𑁛 𑁜 𑁝 𑁞 𑁟
U+1106x 𑁠 𑁡 𑁢 𑁣 𑁤 𑁥 𑁦 𑁧 𑁨 𑁩 𑁪 𑁫 𑁬 𑁭 𑁮 𑁯
U+1107x 𑁰 𑁱 𑁲 𑁳 𑁴 𑁵  BNJ 
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Gupta numismatics[edit]

Kushan Empire signet in Gupta Brahmi script, showing Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. The seal reads Damputrasya Dhanguptasya ("[Seal of] Dhangupta son of Dama). 3rd century CE.
Coin of Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) with the name of the king in Gupta Brahmi script 380–415 CE.
Coin of Alchon Huns ruler Mihirakula. Obv: Bust of king, with legend in Gupta script (Gupta allahabad j.svg)Gupta allahabad y.svgGupta allahabad tu.jpgGupta allahabad mi.jpgGupta ashoka hi.jpgGupta allahabad r.svgGupta allahabad ku.jpgGupta allahabad l.svg[14] (Ja)yatu Mihirakula ("Let there be victory to Mihirakula"). Rev: Dotted border around Fire altar flanked by attendants.[15][16][17]

The study of Gupta coins began with the discovery of a hoard of gold coins in 1783. Many other such hoards have since been discovered, the most important being the Bayana (situated in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan) hoard, discovered in 1946, which contained more than 2000 gold coins issued by the Gupta Kings.[18] Many of the Gupta Empire's coins bear inscriptions of legends or mark historic events. In fact, it was one of the first Indian Empires to do so, probably as a result of its unprecedented prosperity.[7] Almost every Gupta king issued coins, beginning with its first king, Chandragupta I.

The scripts on the coin are also of a different nature compared to scripts on pillars, due to conservatism regarding the coins that were to be accepted as currency, which would have prevented regional variations in the script from manifesting on the coinage.[7] Moreover, space was more limited especially on their silver coins, and thus many of the symbols are truncated or stunted. An example is the symbol for /ta/ and /na/, which were often simplified to vertical strokes.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy. p. 32.
  2. ^ "Epigraphy, Indian Epigraphy Richard Salmon OUP" – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography, R. Malatesha Joshi, Catherine McBride(2019),p.27
  4. ^ Daniels, P. T. (January 2008), Writing systems of major and minor languages
  5. ^ Masica, Colin (1993). The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 143.
  6. ^ Sharma, Ram. 'Brahmi Script' . Delhi: BR Publishing Corp, 2002
  7. ^ a b c Srivastava, Anupama. The Development of Imperial Gupta Brahmi Script. New Delhi: Ramanand, 1998
  8. ^ Fischer, Steven Roger. A History of Writing. UK: Reaktion, 2004
  9. ^ Evolutionary chart, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol 7, 1838 [1]
  10. ^ Fischer, Steven Roger (2004). History of Writing. Reaktion Books. p. 123. ISBN 9781861895882.
  11. ^ Publishing, Britannica Educational (2010). The Culture of India. Britannica Educational Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 9781615302031.
  12. ^ a b c "Gupta Unicode" (PDF).
  13. ^ Das Buch der Schrift: Enthaltend die Schriftzeichen und Alphabete aller ... (in German). K.K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei. 1880. p. 126.
  14. ^ The "h" (Gupta ashoka h.svg) is an early variant of the Gupta script.
  15. ^ Verma, Thakur Prasad (2018). The Imperial Maukharis: History of Imperial Maukharis of Kanauj and Harshavardhana (in Hindi). Notion Press. p. 264. ISBN 9781643248813.
  16. ^ Sircar, D. C. (2008). Studies in Indian Coins. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 376. ISBN 9788120829732.
  17. ^ Tandon, Pankaj (2013). Notes on the Evolution of Alchon Coins Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, No. 216, Summer. Oriental Numismatic Society. pp. 24–34. also Coinindia Alchon Coins (for an exact description of this coin type)
  18. ^ Bajpai, KD. 'Indian Numismatic Studies. ' New Delhi: Abhinav Publications 2004
  19. ^ Puri, Baij Nath (1987). Buddhism in Central Asia. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 187 Note 32. ISBN 9788120803725.
  20. ^ Fleet, John Faithfull (1960). Inscriptions Of The Early Gupta Kings And Their Successors. pp. 150-158.

Further reading[edit]

  • Carl Faulmann (1835–1894), Das Buch der Schrift, Druck und Verlag der Kaiserlichen Hof-und Staatsdruckerei, 1880

External links[edit]