Vatteluttu script

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Vatteluttu 6th century.jpg
Tamil inscriptions in Vatteluttu script on Red ware Potteries (6th century AD), Boluvampatti, Coimbatore District.
LanguagesVarious forms of Tamil and Malayalam
Time period
used from the 5th century until the 9th century, except in Kerala, where it lasted until the 10th century
Parent systems
Child systems
Sister systems
Malayalam, Grantha, Kolezhuthu, Malayanma
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The Vaṭṭeḻuttu, also spelled Vattezhutthu (literally "Round Script", Tamil: வட்டெழுத்து, vaṭṭeḻuttu, Tamil pronunciation: [ʋəʈːeɻʉt̪ːʉ]; Malayalam: വട്ടെഴുത്ത് vaṭṭeḻuttŭ) was an abugida writing system in southern India and Sri Lanka in the later half of the first millennium AD. Vatteluttu was the common script for writing various forms of the Tamil language in the region of the Pandyas and Cheras until the 9th century, after which it came to be replaced by the present-day Tamil script everywhere except in Kerala.[1][2][3]

It is known that the Tamil Script became current in the Chola and Pandya kingdoms by the 10th century. Southern Grantha (Pallava Grantha) script - formerly used writing Sanskrit in south India - evolved into modern Malayalam script in Kerala.[4]

Derived from the Tamil-Brahmi script, the Vatteluttu was developed in southern India and was extensively used for writing various forms of Tamil and Malayalam. The early cave inscriptions discovered from southern India, in Tamil-Brahmi script (Damili script), have supplied some of the connecting links between Brahmi script and Vatteluttu.[5][2]

Vatteluttu is attested from the 6th century AD.[6]

Vatteluttu was adopted by the Kodungallur Cheras (from 9th century) and their successor-states in Kerala. Kodungallur Chera epigraphs in Old Malayalam are composed mostly in Vatteluttu. After the Kodungallur Chera period (12th century) the Vatteluttu went on evolving and gradually developed into "Kolezhuttu" in Kerala. Use of Vatteluttu - albeit in a decadent form - continued among certain classes in Kerala, especially Muslims and Christians up to the 19th century[3]

Inhabitants of Kuccaveli, located north of Trincomalee, used the Vatteluttu between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, attested to on rock inscriptions found there.[7]


Old Malayalam royal charter on copper plate in Vatteluttu (9th century AD). Owned by Old Syrian Christian Seminary, Kottayam.
Tamil inscriptions in Vatteluttu script in Brahadeeswarar temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. It was built c. 1000 CE during the Chola empire era.

The following image shows the divergent evolution of the Tamil script and the Vatteluttu script. The Vatteluttu script is shown on the left, and the Tamil script is shown on the right.

Divergent evolution of Tamil script and Vatteluttu script. (The earlier is near the centre and that later is towards the sides.) Tamil Brahmi is in the central column, Vatteluttu is on the left and Tamil script is on the right.

Here are the characters used in Vatteluttu:

Vatteluttu script sample

See also[edit]


  • Sivaramamurti, C, Indian Epigraphy and South Indian Scripts. Bulletin of the Madras Government Museum. Chennai 1999


  1. ^ Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta The Colas, (Madras, 1935 & 1937. Revised 2nd ed. 1955) p.7
  2. ^ a b I. Mahadevan, 'Corpus of Tamil Brahmi Inscriptions', Seminar on Inscriptions, (Madras, 1968), pp. 57-78
  3. ^ a b A. C. Burnell, Elements of South Indian Palaeography, pp. 48-49
  4. ^ Agesthialingom, S. & S.V. Shanmugam (1970). The Language of Tamil Inscriptions. Annamalainagar, India: Annamalai University.
  5. ^ T. V. Mahalingam, South Indian Palaeography, (Madras, 1967), pp 201-311
  6. ^ Coulmas, Florian (1999-03-12). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. ISBN 9780631214816.
  7. ^ Manogaran. The Untold Story of Ancient Tamils in Sri Lanka. p. 31.