Roman Urdu

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The Urdū Perso-Arabic alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Roman Urdū alphabets

Roman Urdu is the name used for the Urdu language written with the Roman script.

According to the Urdu scholar Habib R. Sulemani: "Roman Urdu is strongly opposed by the traditional Arabic script lovers. Despite this opposition it is still used by most on the internet and computers due to limitations of most technologies as they do not have the Urdu script. Although, this script is under development and thus the net users are using the Roman script in their own ways. Popular websites like Jang Group have devised their own schemes for Roman Urdu. This is of great advantage for those who are not able to read the Arabic script. MSN, Yahoo and some desi-chat-rooms are working as laboratories for the evolving new script and language (Roman Urdu)."[1]

Although the idea of romanizing Urdu had been suggested several times, it was General Ayub Khan who most seriously suggested adopting the Roman script for Urdu and all Pakistani languages during his rule of the country.[2][3][4] The suggestion was inspired to an extent by Atatürk's adoption of Roman for Turkish in Turkey.

Sample texts[edit]

Zabu'r 23 Dáúd ká Mazmúr[edit]

Roman Urdu[edit]

1Khudáwand merá chaupán hai; mujhe kamí na hogí.
2Wuh mujhe harí harí charágáhon men bithátá hai: Wuh mijhe ráhat ke chashmon ke pás le játá hai.
3Wuh merí ján ko bahál kartá hai: Wuh mujhe apne nám kí khátir sadáqat kí ráhon par le chaltá hai.
4Balki khwáh maut ke sáye kí wádí men se merá guzar ho, Main kisí balá se nahín darúngá; kyúnknki tú mere sáth hai: Tere 'asá aur terí láthí se mujhe tasallí hai.
5Tú mere dushmanon ke rúbarú mere áge dastarkhwán bichhátá hai: Tú ne mere sir par tel malá hai, merá piyála labrez hotá hai.
6Yaqínan bhalái aur rahmat 'umr bhar mere sáth sáth rahengí: Aur main hamesha Khudáwand ke ghar men sukúnat karúngá.[5]

(Kita'b I Muqaddas: Zabu'r 23 az Dáúd)

Nastaʿlīq (Perso-Arabic) Script[edit]

خداوند میرا چوپان ہے؛ مجھے کمی نہ ہوگی
وہ مجھے ہری ہری چراگاہوں میں بٹھاتا ہے: وہ مجھے راحت کے چشموں کے پاس لے جاتا ہے۔
وہ میری جان بحال کرتا ہے: وہ مجھے اپنے نام کی خاطر صداقت کی راہوں پر لے چلتا ہے۔
بلکہ خواہ موت کے سایے کی وادی میں سے میرا گزر ہو، میں کسی بلا سے نہیں ڈروں گا؛
کیونکہ تو میرے ساتھ ہے: تیرے عصا اور تیری لاٹھی سے مجھے تسلی ہے۔
تو میرے دشمنین کے روبرو میرے آگے دسترخوان بچھاتا ہے: تو نے میرے سر پر تیل ملا ہے، میرا پیالہ لبریز ہوتا ہے۔
یقیناً بھلائ اور رحمت عمر بھر میرے ساتھ ساتھ رہیں گی: اور میں ہمیشہ خداوند کے گھر میں سکونت کروں گا۔

کتاب مقدس کے زبور ۲۳ از داؤد))

Devanāgarī script[edit]

ख़ुदावन्द मेरा चौपान है; मुझे कमी ना होगी।
वह मुझे हरी हरी चिरागाहों में बिठाता है: वह मुझे राहत के चश्मों के पास ले जाता है।
वह मेरी जान बहाल करता है: वह मुझे अपने नाम की ख़ातिर सदाक़त की राहों पर चलाता है।
बलके ख़्वाह मौत के साये की वादी में से मेरा गुज़र हो, मैं किसी बला से नहीं ड़रूंगा; क्योंकि तू मेरे साथ है: तेरे अला और तेरी लाठी से मुझे तसल्ली है।
तू मेरे दुश्मनों के रूबरू मेरे आगे दस्तरख़्वान बिछाता है: तू ने मेरे सर पर तेल मला है, मेरा पियाला लब्रेज़ होता है।
यक़ीनन भलाई और रेहमत उमर भर मेरे साथ साथ रहेंगी: और मैं हमेशा ख़ुदावन्द के घर में सकूनत करूंगा।

(किताब-ए मुक़द्दस के ज़ुबूर २३ अज़ दाऊद)

Roman Urdu amongst Christians[edit]

Roman Urdu Bibles are used by many Christians from the South Asian subcontinent

Urdu was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in the 20th century and is still used today by some people in these Pakistani and Indian states. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdu. Thus Roman Urdu was a common way of writing among the Christians in these states up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdu Bibles, which enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdu. However, the usage of Roman Urdu in Christian contexts is declining in India with the wider use of Hindi and English in the states.

Roman Urdu and film industry[edit]

The Devanāgarī script in Bollywood film titles is used mostly by Hindi speakers while the Perso-Arabic script is used primarily by Urdu speakers. The language used in Bollywood films is Hindi, but can be understood by Urdu speakers alike. Since a significant number of Indians cannot read the Devanāgarī script as India has a diverse linguistic landscape and some people do not speak Hindi. English, which is written in the Latin alphabet, often becomes the way to communicate among Indians who speak different languages. For these reasons, the Roman script is used for most Bollywood film titles, alongside usual Hindi script and occasionally Urdu script, although instances of Urdu script used in Hindi films is becoming increasingly rare.

The similar circumstances are also applied with Pakistan's Lollywood filming industry, where, along with the Urdu name or title of the movie, a Roman Urdu title is always provided for viewers.

Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization[edit]

Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization is another system for Hindustani. It was proposed by Syed Fasih Uddin (late) and Quader Unissa Begum (late). As such it is adopted by The First International Urdu Conference (Chicago) 1992, as "The Modern International Standard Letters of Alphabet for URDU-(HINDUSTANI) - The INDIAN Language script for the purposes of hand written communication, dictionary references, published material and Computerized Linguistic Communications (CLC)".

There are significant advantages to this transcription system:

  • It provides a standard which is based on the original works undertaken at the Fort William College, Calcutta, India (established 1800), under John Borthwick Gilchrist (1789–1841), which has become the de facto standard for Hindustani during the late 1800.
  • There is a one-to-one representation for each of the original Urdu and Hindi characters.
  • Vowel sounds are written rather than being assumed as they are in the Urdu alphabet.
  • Unlike Gilchrist’s alphabet, which used many special non-ASCII characters, the proposed alphabet only utilizes ASCII.
  • Since it is ASCII based, more resources and tools are available.
  • Liberate Urdu–Hindustani language to be written and communicated utilizing all of the available standards and free us from Unicode conversion drudgery.
  • Urdu – Hindustani with this character set fully utilizes paper and electronic print media.

The Hamari Boli Initiative[edit]

Initiated in 2011, the Hamari Boli Initiative is a full-scale open-source Language planning initiative aimed at Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) Script, Style, Status & Lexical reform and modernization. One of primary stated objectives of Hamari Boli is to relieve Hindustani of the crippling Devanagari-Nastaliq Digraphia by way of Romanization[6]


Current system of Roman Urdu used on the Internet and other places have some serious shortcomings i.e. it does not represent the sounds of Urdu and Hindustani properly so only a person who knows the language can pronounce the words properly otherwise if a person does not know the language then he or she can not pronounce the words properly . A remedy for such shortcomings is that people use special characters or special schemes to represent the sounds which are not available in English Alphabet or Latin Alphabet but then such remedies increases the learning curve as a person then has to learn all these systems from scratch .

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The News International, September 8, 2003, [1]
  2. ^ Paving new paths to romanise Urdu script, Mushir Anwar, Dawn (newspaper), Nov 27, 2008
  3. ^ The Urdu-English Controversy in Pakistan, Tariq Rahman, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 177-207
  4. ^ The Language Movement: An Outline, Rafiqul Islam
  5. ^ World Bible Translation Center (pdf file)
  6. ^ The News International - Dec 29, 2011 -- "Hamari Boli (our language) is perhaps one of the very first serious undertakings to explore, develop and encourage the growth of Roman script in the use of Urdu/Hindi language"


  • Dua, Hans R. (1994b). Urdu. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 4863–4864).
  • Insha, Ibn e. (2002) Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitab. New Delhi: Kitab Wala. ISBN 81-85738-57-2.
  • B.S.I. Kita'b I Muqaddas. Bangalore: The Bible Society of India, 1994. ISBN 81-221-3230-8.

External links[edit]