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Brāhmī is the modern name given to one of the oldest writing systems used in the Indian subcontinent and in Central Asia during the final centuries BCE and the early centuries CE. Like its contemporary, Kharoṣṭhī, which was used in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, was an abugida. The best-known Brahmi inscriptions are the rock-cut edicts of Ashoka in north-central India, dated to 250–232 BCE. The script was deciphered in 1837 by James Prinsep, an archaeologist, philologist, and official of the East India Company. The origin of the script is still much debated, with current Western academic opinion generally agreeing (with some exceptions) that Brahmi was derived from or at least influenced by one or more contemporary Semitic scripts, but a current of opinion in India favors the idea that it is connected to the much older and as-yet undeciphered Indus script. Brahmi was at one time referred to in English as the «pin-man» script, that is «stick figure» script. The Gupta script of the 5th century is sometimes called «Late Brahmi». The Brahmi script diversified into numerous local variants, classified together as the Brahmic scripts. Dozens of modern scripts used across South Asia have descended from Brahmi, making it one of the world's most influential writing traditions. One survey found 198 scripts that ultimately derive from it.
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