Telugu script: Onamaalu
From firstname.lastname@example.org (Sitaramayya Ari)
Organization Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, U.S.A.
Date 26 Feb 1996 17:00:32 -0500
The Telugu alphabet is called Onamaalu. There is a good reason and a
little bit of history for this.
Just as Buddhism was widely practised in the ancient Telugu country,
Jainism flourished in the Kannade country. The writers of the earliest
Kannada literature were Jains. They were the religious leaders and
educators of that day. Common folks sent their children to Jain gurus for
education. The gurus initiated the Aksharabhyasam of the children with a
prayer to the Thirthankaras and Siddhas. That prayer started with
The close ties with the Kannada country helped spread the Jain traditions
in the Telugu country. There is even a school of thought that the Jain
and Buddhist literature that existed before Nannaya was destroyed by
scholars and kings who embraced Hinduism. Even if the literature was
destroyed, the traditions survived and Aksharabhyasam continued to be
initiated with the prayer - Siddham Namaha.
In later years, between 10th and 14th centuries, Saivism became wide
spread in the Telugu country (Paa So wrote Basava Puranam during this
time). Now the religious leaders and teachers were the Saivites and they
initiated Aksharabhyasam with a prayer that started with "Onnamassivaaya."
But the Jain tradition did not die away. The initiation prayer generally
took the form of "Onnamassivaya Siddham Namaha." Over the years it became
O-Na-Ma-See-Vaa-Yaa-See-Dham-Namaha and the alphabet that was learnt with
this prayer came to be called "O-na-ma-lu."
Source: Mana lipi puttupoorvotharaalu by Thirumala Raamachandra.