enter image description here

Clip from Angkor Thom, about 1200 CE.

Some early Cambodian inscriptions are written in Sanskrit.

Is it true that these Sanksrit insciptions do not use the Devanagari script but instead the Khmer script?

Added. The inscription taken above is from the east gate of the region of the royal palast at Angkor Thom. It is written in old Khmer. In the meantime I learned that it is an oath of allegiance to king Suryavarman I from 1011 C.E.

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    Sanskrit alphabets are derived from sounds of "Damaru of Shiva". Brahman appeared as and is Shabda Brahman. So, script was designed by Brahman.
    – The Destroyer
    Jan 3, 2016 at 16:22
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    Whoever voted to close this question as off-topic should explain the reason. I think Sanskrit language questions are allowed on this site.
    – The Destroyer
    Jan 3, 2016 at 16:24
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    @AnilKumar Devanagari is not a divinely created script. It's true that the sounds of Sanskrit are said to have originated from the sound of Shiva's drum, but Sanskrit was originally a spoken language. Various different scripts, including Brahmi and Devanagari among many others, have been used to write Sanskrit. Devanagari is not of divine origin, it's just called that because in modern times it's the script that's most commonly used to write Hindu scripture in. It's not the script of the gods, it's the script used to talk about the gods. Jan 3, 2016 at 20:15
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    @KeshavSrinivasan When Hayagriva stole Vedas, what could be the script it contained? Forget about Aryan invasion theory and western theories. What Script did Krishna and Rama used during their times? All these stories are History. What script was used for Sanskrit in previous Chaturyugas and Manvantaras?
    – The Destroyer
    Jan 4, 2016 at 4:17
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    @AnilKumar, I voted to close because I don't see how this question, the discussion and answers are relevant to Hinduism. The question is more suited for history.stackexchange under the language tag. However, 'Was Sanskrit really the language/script used to write the very first Ramayana or Mahabharata?' would be a valid question on this site, but that's been already asked here. So my vote to close stands. Jan 8, 2016 at 1:55

4 Answers 4


Sanskrit originated as an oral language i.e. it was never penned down for the most of it's life. Hence, it doesn't have a writing system of it's own. During it's life cycle, various scripts have been used to write Sanskrit including many regional Indian tongues and most recently Roman script . The earliest occurrence of Sanskrit in written form is in Brahmi script .

As wikipedia states,

Brahmi evolved into a multiplicity of Brahmic scripts, many of which were used to write Sanskrit. Roughly contemporary with the Brahmi, Kharosthi was used in the northwest of the subcontinent. Sometime between the fourth and eighth centuries, the Gupta script, derived from Brahmi, became prevalent. Around the eighth century, the Śāradā script evolved out of the Gupta script. The latter was displaced in its turn by Devanagari in the 11th or 12th century, with intermediary stages such as the Siddhaṃ script. In East India, the Bengali alphabet, and, later, the Odia alphabet, were used.

In the south, where Dravidian languages predominate, scripts used for Sanskrit include the Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, the Malayalam and Grantha alphabets.

It is very possible that in Cambodia, Sanskrit was written in Khmer script because Sanskrit has been penned down in the regional tongue/script for millennia.


Sanskrit was originally written in Brahmi script. Devanagari evolved from Brahmi. Khmer is also a derivative of Brahmi.. I am not aware of a record of Devanagari being derived from Khmer. It is likely that Khmer is a variety of Prakrit rather than Sanskrit.

  • I added one example in question.
    – Jo Wehler
    Jan 3, 2016 at 16:29
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    @JoWehler It looks closer to Tamil. See ancientscripts.com/tamil.html . According to the wikipedia link I posted in the answer, Khmer was derived from Pallava which is a Southern-Indian/South-east Asian script.
    – user1195
    Jan 3, 2016 at 16:43

I assume that the inscription from Angkor Thom is written in Khmer script. I tried to encipher some consonants.

enter image description here

red = ta, green = lo, blue = tha


No, the inscription is written in old Khmer. I can't make out most of the text. What I can make out however appears to be names of divisions and rulers.

"Sruk Kandal" = middle division "Mratang" = title

This is probably a list detailing offerings to the temple and who offered them. Are you sure it's from Angkor Thom? It uses the virama, which is usually only used in older inscriptions.

As for your other question, the Khmer script is derived from Pallava. The vast majority of Sanskrit inscriptions from medieval Cambodia is written in the Pallava derived script. I only know of one inscription that uses a North Indic Nagari style script. It's in the national museum in Phnom Penh.

  • The inscription is taken from the east gate of the region of the royal palast at Angkor Thom. I agree with you that the inscription is written in old Khmer. I made this photo when I visited the place this year. In the meantime I learned that it is an oath of allegiance to king Suryavarman I from 1011 C.E. I will edit my question. - Could you please add a reference to the Nagari script from Phnom Penh national museum, thanks.
    – Jo Wehler
    Jun 24, 2016 at 19:31

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