In what scripts the oldest Sanskrit literature was written? When was Brahmi script used for it? I am aware that Vedas were orally memorized -- and were not written for a long time.

1 Answer 1


Assuming Manuscripts also count then:

1. Bakhshali manuscript

The Bakhshali manuscript is variously dated between 3rd century (acc. to carbon dating methods) to 9th century AD, and it was found in in the Gandhāra region. It was a mathematical text written Śāradā script (suitable for being found in Gandhāra).

2. Bower Manuscript

The Bower manuscript is dated to around the 5th-6th century AD. It was a text regarding Buddhism and Ayurveda mainly. It was found in northwestern China. It is not in pure Sanskrit but a type of mixed-Sanskrit called Hybrid Sanskrit. It was written in Gupta script (a form of Brahmi script).

3. Spitzer Manuscript

Arguably the oldest Sanskrit Manuscript. It's carbon dated to the 2nd century AD. It contains a treatise on Nyaya-Vaiśeṣika but it is more popular for containing a summary of the Parvas of the Mahābhārata. It was written in Brahmi script.

  • Does it mean that Brahmi script, at its inception during the time of King Ashok, was used for Pali and not Sanskrit?
    – Udghosh Yt
    Mar 11, 2023 at 17:33
  • 1
    @UdghoshYt We're not sure for certain but the first inscriptions in Brahmi were in prakrit.
    – Savitr̥
    Mar 12, 2023 at 3:34

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