Todays's Myanmar Alphabets
Myanmar script draws its source from Brahmi script which flourished in India from about 500 B.C. to over 300 AD. Myanmar script is basically similar to the Brahmi script. Both script systems are constructed with the components consisting of consonants, consonant combination symbols, vowel symbols related to the relevant consonants and diacritic marks indicating tone level (niggahita, visajjaniya). After the dissolution of King Asoka's Maurya Kingdom, the script changed gradually. The scripts which developed after Brahmi were named after kings such as Kusana, Gupta and Nagari in the north and Pallava, Kadamba, Calukya in the south. These Indian scripts spread to Tibet, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and such regions along with Indian beliefs and culture in the period A.D.. 100 to 800 A.D.
Pyu used the Kadamba writing as a base to develop their own script. Mon used the Pallava writing or their base. Rakhine used the Nagari script as base in their Sanskrit stone inscriptions. Myanmar writing originated in the Bagan period. Myanmar avoided the difficult Nagari and Pyu scripts, and chose the easier Mon letters and symbols.
The developers of Myanmar script took what was appropriate to the Myanmar language from Sanskrit, Pali, Pyu and Mon, and discarded the rest. Some consonants were retained to facilitate the study of Pali. The vowel mark (a_ mf), the tone mark (_ð), the characters > , I, Y , were invented.
Writing on a clay tablet of the Bagan period, the Thetsoe taung Hpaya stone is held to be 50 years older than Rajakumara's inscription of AD 1113.
Just as there is the relationship of the development of the scripts of the Pyu and Mon to the development of the Pyu and Mon urban states, so also is there the relationship of the development of Myanmar writing to the development of the Myanmar urban state. Though the Bagan state was in existence from ancient days it began to flourish only during Anawratha's reign in the 11th century.
After the Rajakumar stone inscription of the early 12th century no more Pyu writing has been found.
Mon stone inscriptions began to disappear after the latter part of the 12th century. However, Mon continued to be alive in Lower Myanmar. Middle Mon stone inscriptions began to be found around Hanthawady in the 15th century A.D. Mon writing is thriving in the Mon state today.
Reference: Myanmar English Dictionary. Myanmar Language Commission.
Myanmar Numbers compared to English