Of the available Malayalam scripts, Vattezhuthu is the most ancient script. Devoid of consonants, this script is transformed from Brahmi Script, the most ancient script of India. A. R. Raja Raja Varma, in his famous work ‘Kerala Paanineeyam’, mentions that “Vattezhuthu” was the script used in Malayalam till the time of Thunchath Ezhuthachan. He details that the Vattezhuthu script was suitable to write Tamil but did not have consonants needed to transcribe Sanskrit words. During the ancient times, the official language as well as the trade language in Kerala was Tamil and hence the Vattezhuthu script was widely used.
The Vattezhuthu script system was also known as ‘Naanam Monam’. The name came from the eight syllable manthra ‘Om Namo Narayana’ which was used to start the royal charters.
The Vattezhuthu script was widely used from 8th century AD to 15th century AD. According to the linguist L. A. Ravi Varma, the original name of this script was ‘Vettezhuthu’ from the Malayalam word “Vettu” meaning cut as the letters were written by cutting into rocks or copper sheets using tools like the chisel.
The ancient script ‘Kolezhuthu’ was also used to write the Malayalam language. The inability of Vattezhuthu to write Sanskrit has paved the way for the introduction of a new script for the language, Grandha Script. The modern alphabets of Malayalam evolved from the Grandha script.
Naanam Monam is another name of the ancient Malayalam script ‘Vattezhuthu’. The ancient documents which started with Sanskrit encomiums praise like Swasthi, Sri etc. were substituted with ‘Namo Narayana’. These encomiums were wrongly pronounced colloquially as ‘Naanam Monam’ and eventually the script itself came to called Naanam Monam.