Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Malayalam Script

It is believed that the modern Malayalam script evolved from ‘Grandha’ script which is also known as ‘Arya ezhuthu’. ‘Vattezhuthu’ was the script used to record Malayalam before the Grandha script was adopted for the purpose. The scripts called ‘Kolezhuthu’ and ‘ Malayanma’ were also used widely.

From 7th century AD onwards, ‘Grandhaksharam’, the Grandha script, was used to write Sanskrit. The Pallava kings, who ruled from the city at Kanchipuram, popularized Grandha script since the Tamil alphabets were not sufficient to record the Sanskrit language. This new script soon spread to Kerala too. During the reign of Pandya and Vijayanagara kingdoms, western Grandha script developed in the Malabar region and an eastern Grandha script version developed in the Tamil Nadu region. The western Grandha script grew and developed to form scripts of Dravidian languages like Tulu and Malayalam.

‘Vattezhuthu’ which had no aspirated consonants was not suitable to transcribe Sanskrit books. This led to the Grandha script gaining acceptability.  As a solution to this lacunae Ezhuthachan, the father of Malayalam Language, created a new group of alphabets in Malayalam by modifying the Grandha script. But it cannot be definitely said that  Ezhuthachan  created the Malayalam alphabet. For, according to the famous grammarian A. R. Raja Raja Varma, the Tulu language also used the same script and hence this group of alphabets was referred to as “Tulu Malayalam Aksharamala’.

The Grandha script evolved from Brahmi which was an ancient Indian script. The structure and completeness of the present day Malayalam script is indebted to the ‘Grandha’ script. The absence of consonants in ‘Vattezhuthu’, ‘Kolezhuthu’ and ‘Malayanma’ scripts that were needed to write Sanskrit led to the development of the present-day Malayalam script from ‘Grandha’ script. Western ‘Grandha’ script was known as Tulu – Malayalam (called as it was used to write both Tulu language and Malayalam language) and also as ‘Arya ezhuthu’ (because it was used to write Sanskrit which was the language of Aryans).  All of this points to the fact that the modern Malayalam alphabets evolved from the ‘Grandha’ script.  The Sanskrit words in ‘Vattezhuthu’ and Kolezhuthu were in the ‘Grandha’ script.

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