Almanac in a near-extinct Adivasi script

Members of the Gunjala Gondi Language and Script Study Centre unveiling the calendar on Monday.  

Gunjala Gondi script, which could have easily been among the most written official languages of India if Gondwana existed in one piece, now has a calendar in its repertoire.

This is another step towards popularisation of the relatively obscure Gondi alphabet, after its inclusion in the Unicode Consortium last year.

Members of the Gunjala Gondi Language and Script Study Centre on Monday, unveiled the calendar, timing it in the International Year of Indigenous Languages as declared by UNESCO.

While showcasing Gondi culture in photographs, the calendar displays months and holiday list in Gondi script, and shares interesting tidbits about the script in English as well as Telugu. It also has Gondi alphabet with Telugu transcription for those interested.

Rediscovered in 2006

On the verge of historical extinction, the Gondi script was first rediscovered in 2006 during a survey by the National Mission for Manuscripts. A team of the Andhra Pradesh Government Oriental Manuscripts Library and Research Institute found a few manuscripts in Gunjala village in Adilabad district, but could not decipher it.

The script was identified by academic Jayadhir Tirumal Rao in 2010, when he visited the village as coordinator of the survey. It was one of the two scripts used by Gonds spread over six states, Prof. Tirumal Rao said.

“Only three elders of the village who were over 70 could read the script then. It was a highly developed script going by the use of secondary cardinal vowels. We need to revive it as Gondi children deserve education in their own language,” says G. Manoja, a professor from the Palamuru University, who was part of the team that worked on the script.

The study centre made successful efforts to teach the script in many tribal hamlets, taking the number of those conversant with it to 500 so far.

In 2014, the ‘Gunjala Gondi Lipi Font’ was developed under supervision by the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation (CDAST) of the University of Hyderabad. Two textbooks were also brought out later in Gondi script with joint efforts by the CDAST and ITDA of Utnoor. A third is under way, Prof. Tirumala Rao said, requesting the government to include Gondi language in primary school curriculum for Adivasi children. “We devised a code to transcribe Hindi into Gondi, so that when we type using Hindi keyboard, it is automatically transcribed into the Gondi font we have developed. We used the technique to bring out the two textbooks,” informed Sridhar Srikantham, font developer and designer of the calendar.

Script on keyboards

The script could be introduced in all keyboards and messaging applications, once it gets operational in Unicode family of fonts. It was introduced into Unicode Consortium last year, thanks to a proposal forwarded by Anshuman Pandey, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Linguistics of the University of California.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 16, 2021 8:01:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/almanac-in-a-near-extinct-adivasi-script/article26178311.ece

Next Story