Description and background
The Saurashtra Language is written in its own script. Because this is a minority language not taught in schools, people learn to write in Sourashtra Script through Voluntary Organisations like Sourashtra Vidya Peetam, Madurai. Sourashtra is the popular spelling and it refers to both the Sourashtra language and a person who speaks Sourashtram. Saurashtra is an area in Gujarat State in India, from where the present Sourashtras in Tamil Nadu are traditionally believed to have migrated some centuries back. Vrajlal Sapovadia describes the Saurashtra language and language as a hybrid of Gujarati, Marathi & Tamil.
The language has had its own script for centuries, the earliest one available from 1880. Dr. H.N. Randle has written an article 'An Indo-Aryan Language of South India—Saurashtra Bhasha' in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) 11 Part 1 p. 104-121 and Part II p. 310-327 (1943–46)Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies. This language is not taught in schools and hence had been confined to being merely a spoken language. But many great works like Bhagavath Gita and Tirukkural were translated into Sourashtram. It is now a literary language. Sahitya Akademi has recognized this language by conferring Bhasha Samman awards to Sourashtra Scholars.
Most Saurashtrians are bilingual in their mother tongue and Tamil and are more comfortable using their second language for all practical written communication though of late, some of them started writing in Sourashtram using Sourashtra script. There is an ongoing debate within the Saurashtra community regarding the use of the script for the Sourashtra language right from 1920 when a resolution was passed to adopt Devanagari Script for Sourashtra Language. Though some of the books were printed in Devanagari script, it failed to register the growth of the language.
But in practice because of lack of printing facilities, books are continued to be printed in Tamil Script with diacritic marks with superscript number for the consonants ka, ca, Ta, ta and pa and adding a colon to na, ma, ra, and la for aspirated forms, which are peculiar to the Sourashtra language. For writing Sourashtram using Devanagari Script, we require seven additional symbols to denote the short vowels 'e' and 'o' and four symbols for aspirated forms viz. nha, mha, rha and lha. We also require one more symbol to mark the sound of 'half yakara' which is peculiar to the Sourashtra language. The books printed in Devanagari Script were discarded because they did not represent the sounds properly.
The Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Allahabad by his letter No.123/5/1/62/1559 dated November 21, 1964 Communicated to Sourashtra Vidya Peetam, Madurai that the State Government were of the view that as only one book in Sourashtra Language had so far been submitted by Sourashtra Vidya Peetam for scrutiny, there was no point in examining the merits of only one book specially when the question regarding the usage of script - Hindi or Sourashtram, was still unsettled, and that the question of text books in Sourashtram might well lie over till a large number of books is available for scrutiny and for being prescribed as text books in Schools.
The Leaders in the Community could not realize the importance of teaching of mother tongue in schools and did not evince interest in production of textbooks in Sourashtram for class use. Now an awareness has arisen in the Community, and Sourashtra Vidya Peetam wants to teach the Sourashtra language through multimedia as suggested by Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in his 42nd Report for the year (July 2003 to June 2004). Of late in internet, many Sourashtra Yahoo groups in their website use the Roman script for the Sourashtra language.
Now the Sourashtra font is available in computers and this enabled the supporters of Sourashtra Script to print books in its own script. An electronic journal, printed in the Sourashtra Script. One journal, Bhashabhimani, is published from Madurai, in Sourashtra Script. Another journal, 'Jaabaali', is also published by the same Editor of Bhashabhimani from Madurai. The 'Zeeg' Sourashtra script practice Magazine is also published from Madurai only. All the three journals support the Sourashtra script only. There is no journal in Devanagari.
The letter order of Saurashtra script is similar to other Brahmic Scripts. The letters are vowels, consonants, and the compound letters which are formed essentially by adding a vowel sound to a consonant.
Vowels and Consonants
Saurashtra script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1.
The Unicode block for Saurashtra is U+A880–U+A8DF:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)