Although Sanskrit is now almost exclusively written in the Devanagari script, the Grantha script was used to write Sanskrit in the Tamil-speaking parts of South Asia until the 19th century. Scholars believe that the Grantha script was used to write the first Vedic books in the 5th century. In the early 20th century, it began to be replaced by the Devanagari script in religious and scholarly texts, and the normal Tamil script (with the use of diacritics) in popular texts.
The Grantha script was also historically used for writing Tamil-Sanskrit Manipravalam, a blend of Tamil and Sanskrit which was used in the exegesis of Sanskrit texts. This evolved into a fairly complex writing system which required that Tamil words be written in the Tamil vatteluthu and Sanskrit words be written in the Grantha script. By the 15th century, this had evolved to the point that both scripts would be used within the same word - if the root was derived from Sanskrit it would be written in the Grantha script, but any Tamil suffixes which were added to it would be written using the Tamil vatteluthu. This system of writing went out of use when Manipravalam declined in popularity, but it was customary to use the same convention in printed editions of texts originally written in Manipravalam until the middle of the 20th century.
In modern times, the Grantha script is used in certain religious contexts by orthodox Tamil-speaking Hindus. Most notably, they use the script to write a child's name for the first time during the naming ceremony, and to write the Sanskrit portion of wedding invitations and announcements of a person's last rites. It is also used in many religious almanacs to print traditional formulaic summaries of the coming year.
Erstwhile Tulu script, was called Grantha Lipi.
It is suggested that Tamil was also written using the Grantha script at some point in time, but currently Tamil has its own script system.
The current Tamil scripts and the Grantha script have commonness, with the signs for voiceless aspirated (such as /kh/), voiced (/g/), and voiced aspirated stops (/gh/) left out.
See also: Tamil alphabet
The below glyps denote the late form of Grantha Script, which can be noticed by its similarity with the Modern Tamil Script
For other vowels diacritics are used:
There are also a few special consonant forms with Virāma:
Northern type ligatures
Southern type ligatures
Their components are easy to recognize. Therefore only a few examples are given here:
‹ya› and ‹ra› as noninitial components of a ligature become and respectively.
‹ra› as initial component of a ligature becomes (called Reph as in other Indic scripts) and is shifted to the end of the ligature.
Example 1: Taken from Kālidāsa's Kumārasambhavam
Example 2: St. John 3:16
Rendering of the facsimile given on top of this page. By comparing the old print from 1886 with the modern version given below one may see the difficulties the typesetter had with Grantha.
Note: As in Devanāgarī ‹e› and ‹o› in Grantha stand for [eː] and [oː]. Originally also Malayāḷam and Tamiḻ scripts did not distinguish long and short ‹e› and ‹o›, though both languages have the phonemes /e/ /eː/ and /o/ /oː/. The addition of extra signs for /eː/ and /oː/ is attributed to the Italian missionary Constanzo Beschi (1680 - 1774).
The Tamiḻ letters ஜ ஶ ஷ ஸ ஹ and the ligature க்ஷ ‹kṣa› are also called "Grantha letters", as they were introduced from Grantha into the Tamiḻ script to render Sanskrit words. The letters ழ ற ன and the corresponding sounds occur only in Dravidian languages.