Blast from the past: New language system of Gandhara civilisation discovered

Published: January 24, 2016
Slabs reveal Pushkarasani is a new language and script system of Gandhara civilisation. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

Slabs reveal Pushkarasani is a new language and script system of Gandhara civilisation. PHOTOS: EXPRESS


Another language system of the ancient and glorious Gandhara civilisation, which flourished in the northern areas of Pakistan and eastern parts of Afghanistan in the early first millennium BC to the 11th century AD, has been discovered recently.

The slabs were found from various areas. A particularly large one was discovered during routine construction work in Hund, one from Dir, a small piece from Sethi House in Peshawar, some from Buner and a few from Swat. Some of the slabs are in private houses and have not been reclaimed as no major work on scripts has been carried out during excavations.


According to University of Peshawar (UoP) Archaeology department head Dr Muhammad Nasim Khan, who is also currently working on ancient scripts, the slabs discovered from different areas reveal a new language system known as Pushkarasani. “The aberrant script present on slabs from Hund, Dir, Buner, Peshawar and Swat remains a mystery for us and will be challenging for epigraphists to decode,” he said.

Trail of the past

Muhammad Nasim said this language system used to be called the Kohi script. However, after years of study, newly discovered specimens revealed it is in fact a different language. Hence, it was renamed the Pushkarasani script.

Like the Kharoshthi language script, the direction of writing of Pushkarasani script moves from right towards the left. Even though there is more information that the recently discovered slabs bear resemblance to ancient languages like Brahmi and Kharoshthi, the Pushkarasani script is definitely completely new and needs detailed studies to decode it.

Moreover, while inscriptions collected from different parts of Gandhara civilisation are written in a very similar manner when compared to Pushkarasani script, paleography studies show these inscriptions actually do not belong to the same era of the civilisation.

The discovery

According to the researcher, Pushkarasani was engraved on different types of slabs, including schist, granite, marble and stone. One of the slabs, with half its portion lost, and is engraved with nine lines containing 78 signs, and is arranged in 45 different groups and framed with flowers and birds. Another marble slab discovered in Hund, the third and last capital of Gandhara civilisation, contains four-line inscriptions with 138 signs. The signs were arranged under 90 different groups. Muhammad Nasim said these scripts were in use between the first to eighth centuries AD.

The past and future

According to Muhammad Nasim, although the number of inscriptions discovered during the last few years is quite impressive, a large amount of work still needs to be decoded to assess the language engraved on the slabs. He said initial studies reveal the inscriptions are religious, which can give useful information about ancient times and lifestyle.

In the Gandhara civilisation, 64 languages existed; however, little evidence about them has been unearthed for archaeologists and epigraphists during hundreds of excavations conducted in the past.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Babloo
    Jan 24, 2016 - 8:33PM

    It resembles Sanskritic script. Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz
    Jan 24, 2016 - 8:41PM

    Can we relate this to arabic civilisation or anything islamic…Recommend

  • Suresh
    Jan 24, 2016 - 9:21PM

    Another reluctant evidence of the rich Hindu culture of sub-continent India! Destruction of Hindu cultural past and knowledge has taken place in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt for over 1400 years! People have long converted to Islam from this multi-millennium old Hindu religion to falsely place their faith in a brutal doctrine called Islam!
    Renounce Islam and come back to Hindu religion, to knowledge, to respect, tolerance, love for all humans, peace, heritage and enrichment of your souls!Recommend

  • hari
    Jan 24, 2016 - 9:45PM

    Ancient Indian civilization. It will help if you have good Sanskrit knowledge.Recommend

  • Usman778
    Jan 25, 2016 - 4:07AM

    That would be buddhist not hindu. And it was in the indus basin far from gangetic and peninsular deccan india. Stop cultural hegemony of pakistani historyRecommend

  • nadja
    Feb 7, 2016 - 9:25PM

    It is similar to Vincha script. Vincha s letters are from 4.500/ 5.000 years BC. Great!Recommend

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