Underneath the Takri Iceberg

Shikha Magotra
“There is always a lot more to the story”
Takri is known for its complexity and ambiguity in writing forms available all over the regions of J&K, H.P. and Uttarakhand. Though it lost its existence after 20th century, the remains are too enormously and widely spread to actually lose and forgery it from the minds of the people of the regions. Each stone, copper plates, vessels, political letters, manuscripts, historical documents all over the north west India speak loudly of the the stories of Takri usage in pre-independent times.

Takri is the only regional script of India known to have the largest number of variations or, forms- 13, used for writing numerous languages spoken all over the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and UT of J&K till 20th century. With Chambeali and Jammu Dogri Takri as the most commonly recognised and privileged forms, Takri script has around 11 more forms namely Jaunsari, Sirmauri, Kochi, Kulvi, Mandeali, Kashtwari, Kangri, Gaddi, Garhi, Bhatteali and Kinnauri. Each and every form has its own alphabet but share same orthographic structure and thus, belong to a single script- Takri Script. It comprises enormous rich heritage of whole North-west India.
The complexity of the script has arisen because of these unrecognised numerous forms and therefore, we find difficult to read it. Now, very few people are left who could read and write in the script. One eminent personality I met with is Padmashri Dr. Vijay Sharma, a famous miniature artist who lives in a small town in Chamba, H.P. He is known to have expertise in almost all the forms of Takri. Also, he is actively working for preserving our cultural heritage since many years. Regarding this, he has translated many Takri documents into Devanagari which is published in his book titled “Takri Documents relating to the History of Western Himalayas” by Chamba Shilpa Parishad in 2010. Like the Takri script, his own personality also depicts an iceberg truly as one gets to see only the tip of it. And underneath, he holds multiple talents and is selflessly working for the Heritage.
Though the tip of Takri iceberg- Chambeali and Jammu Dogri Takri were the standard forms as they had the privilege of getting metal fonts developed and thus priced literature of these exists. Beside, we cannot ignore the more vast portion of the iceberg lying under the surface as it forms majority of the heritage.

From the last few years, the distinction between the two main forms of Takri- Chambeali and Dogri, has begun to diminish. People in Jammu have started accepting the chambeali form as their Dogri Takri script, which is not good for our culture preservation. Since Chambeali has already been the prominent form of Takri all over the mountains, others forms have begun to merge. But, this should not happen with Dogri as Jammu Dogri Takri is as prominent and main form of Takri as Chambeali is. Jammu Dogri Takri, which was modified and renamed as namay akkhar during Maharaja Ranbir Singh rule, has numerous printed literature present in the state itself. A printing press was built in the state and metal fonts were developed for printing the akkhars by Ranbir Prakash Press, Jammu. The political, mythological and literature books were published at that time using these metal fonts and are still preserved in Raghunath Library, Jammu; SPS library, Srinagar.
Both these forms of scripts form the basis of other forms of Takri. Each other form of Takri has certain inherent orthographic structure similar to either Chambeali Takri or, Jammu Dogri Takri. We must understand the distinction between these two basic forms of Takri and know our own culture otherwise this main form of Takri will vanish eventually.
It is like forgetting that we have two hands and start doing all using one only. What will happen?
Eventually, we will be left with the one only to work with which I think would be disaster. So, we must appreciate the other too but know our own script also and accept it. It is an important aspect and adds a wonderful different flavour to the dynamism of Takri class of scripts.
If we compare these two main variants of Takri, only 16 consents are similar in form. Others are completely different. In fact, the matras are “aa”, “ae”, “aei”, “o”, “au” are also differently written. Among vowels, all are different in form. Not a single vowel is same in both these variants. Technically, Jammu Dogri Takri is completely different from the chambeali form and we must recognise our own form/ script.
(The author is teaching Jammu Dogri Takri (Namay Akkhar) as Dogra Mittar online classes.)