| ॐ नमो दशबलाय । ஓம்ʼ நமோ த³ஸ²ப³லாய |
वर्तितं विरजं चक्रं लोकनाथेन तायिना |
उत्पन्ना रतना त्रीणि लोके परमदुर्लभा ||
வர்திதம்ʼ விரஜம்ʼ சக்ரம்ʼ லோகநாதே²ந தாயிநா
உத்பந்நா ரதநா த்ரீணி லோகே பரமது³ர்லபா⁴
The dust-free (Dharma) Wheel was set rolling by the Lord of the World
And the three jewels, which are exceedingly rare, arose in the world.
People who may have attempted to learn any Indian script other than Tamil, would have surely faced the difficulty of learning the conjunct characters to represent consonantal clusters like /pra/, /ksha/ etc.
These conjunct characters are called Saṃyuktākṣara-s संयुक्ताक्षर ஸம்ʼயுக்தாக்ஷர in Sanskrit.
All the Brahmi-derived scripts’ consonants have an inherent ‘a’ in them. As discussed in previous lessons, a Virama (like that of Tamil /Pulli/) is used to remove the inherent vowel and represent the pure consonants (i.e க क – /ka/ & க் क् -/k/ )
When there is a necessity to represent a cluster of consonant sounds such as /kt/, /ktv/, /kr/, /ky/ and the like, since the times of Brahmi & Kharoshthi, the approach is to also cluster the consonants visually. These clusters are the Samyuktākṣara-s. All Indian Scripts excepting Tamil inherits the legacy of these conjunct characters from Brahmi. Tamil had disregarded the Conjunct formation of Brahmi at the intial stage, when Asokan Brahmi was adapted to write Tamil as Tamil-Brahmi. An explicit pulli was invented to do away will all the complex ligatures.
In Tamil, The Samyuktaksharas are prevented by placing the Pulli explicitly, to form the pure consonant. Any complex clusters, could be easily represented by using the Pulli to denote the pure consonants in the cluster. Consider லக்ஷ்ம்ய as opposed to लक्ष्म्य. But other scripts have complex shapes, forms and rules to produce these Samyuktasharas.
[As a side note, the other Script which shares the concept of Dot – / Ta. Pulli / is the Thai script. The Thai Virama is called Pinthu ( < Skt. Bindu (Dot) ). Thai Script (which is infact derived from the Pallava Grantha) also had reformed itself from all the conjunct formations. While the Tamil Pulli is placed above the Consonant, the Thai Bindu is placed below the Consonant. ]
Grantha as it goes, shares the same legacy as the other Indian Scripts. It uses the Samyuktasharas very extensively to denote complex consonantal clusters.. When combining with Vowel Signs, these samyuktashras are considered as a single written unit, and placed with the Vowel signs.
We will be just seeing a short introduction to the Concept of Samyuktasharas in this lesson.
In Grantha Script, the Samyuktākṣara-s are formed in three ways.
In this, the Samyuktakshara-s are formed by stacking the consonants on each other. Consider, the consonant cluser /kta/ – க்த क्त. The corresponding Samyuktasahra in Grantha can be formed as below
Here, the shapes of the consonants are fused together to form the Samyuktakshara-s. Consider /jna/ ஜ்ஞ ज्ञ. Even in Tamil, there is க்ஷ which is a combination of க்+ஷ.
Consonants such as /ra/, /ya/ morph themselves into special signs when occuring as a part of Samyuktakshara. The Special Samyuktakshara forms are as follows.
We will be seeing about each of these type of ligatures in detail, starting from the next lesson.