Page:A Comparative Grammar of the Modern Aryan Languages of India Vol 1.djvu/87

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lations living on the coasts of the Bay of Bengal write on the Tâlpatra, or leaf of the fan-palm or Palmyra (Borassus flabelliformis). The leaf of this tree is like a gigantic fan,
and is split up into strips about two inches in breadth, or less, according to the size of the leaf; each strip being one naturally formed fold of the fan. On these leaves, when dried and cut into proper lengths, they write with an iron style or Lekhanî, having a very fine sharp point. Now, it is evident that if the long, straight horizontal Mâtrâ, or top line of the Devanagari alphabet, were used, the style in forming it would split the leaf, because, being a palm, it has a longitudinal fibre going from the stalk to the point. Moreover, the style being held in the right hand and the leaf in the left, the thumb of the left hand serves as a fulcrum on which the style moves, and thus naturally imparts a circular form to the letters. Perhaps the above explanation may not seem very convincing to European readers; but no one who has ever seen an Oṛiya working away with both hands at his Lekhanî and Tâlpatra will question the accuracy of the assertion: and though the fact may not be of much value, I may add, that the native explanation of the origin of their alphabet agrees with this. With the greater extension of the use of paper, which has taken place since the establishment of our rule, especially in our courts of justice, the round top line is gradually dying out, and many contractions have been introduced, which it is to be hoped may be by degrees imported into the printed character.

The Oṛiya letters have departed, however, less from the early type than those of their neighbours, the Telingas. The vowels have much of the Kutila type, though the practice of carrying the style on from the bottom of the letter to the Mâtrâ has caused a peculiar lateral curve which disguises the identity of