Jeevan Kumar

This International Mother Language Day (February 21) will be the most memorable day for India’s largest tribe ‘Gonds’ as the fonts of ‘Gunjala Gondi lipi’ were released by L. Narsimha Reddy, of Andhra Pradesh High Court at University of Hyderabad.

‘Gunjala lipi’ is a script for Gondi language. Recently a team of professors from the Centre for Dalit & Aadivasi Studies and Translation (CDAST), University of Hyderabad has developed the fonts from the old manuscripts with help from the local tribal and Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Utnoor.

The fonts of 'Gunjala Godni' with Telugu translation Photo: Jeevan Kumar

The fonts of ‘Gunjala Godni’ with Telugu translation.
Photo credit: Jeevan Kumar

Prof. J. Tirumal Rao, Prof. V. Krishna of CDAST and Dr. G. Manoja of Palamuru University are among the members of the team. “We came to know about ‘Gunjala lipi’ through a survey conducted by the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), New Delhi. Around ten manuscripts of Gunaja lipi were found in ‘Gunjala’ village of Adilabad district in 2006. They contained around 1000 pages altogether,” said Prof. Tirumal Rao.

“Kumra. Vithal Rao, Kotnaka. Jangu, Kotnaka. Vinayak Rao and Athram Kamala Bai of the Gunjala village are the only people who can read the script. Kamala Bai is the only women among them and she is 95. It would have been impossible to develop this font without their help” he added.

Local elders from ‘Gunjala’ village deciphered the ancient manuscripts. Later they were translated by the CDAST team. Typographer S. Sridhar Murthy helped them to finalise the fonts. Now translation of ‘Gunjala lipi’ is available in both Telugu and Hindi languages. This script was used at Gunjala for quite a long time. But only few people knew of it for it was complicated as well.

According to NMM a hand written document must be older than 75 years to be considered as a manuscript. The Gunjala manuscripts were proved to be more than hundred years old. Many historical events of Gondwana kings were written in them. One of the manuscripts contains a story of the war between British rulers and Gond king Ramji Gond which happened in 1740.

ITDA will be introducing the Gunjala lipi in 15 schools in Adilabad district. It was already introduced in Komuram Bheem Complex, Utnoor. “It will be very easy to learn for us in our mother tongue. Our language was incomplete without the script. Now we can say with pride that we have our own letters,” said Kotnaka Vinayak Rao.