Sylheti Nagri

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Sylheti Nagri
ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ
Sylheti Nagari in Sylheti Nagari script - example.svg
The word Silôṭi Nagri in Sylheti Nagri
LanguagesSylheti, Bengali language[1]
Parent systems
ISO 15924Sylo, 316
Unicode alias
Syloti Nagri
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

Sylheti Nagri (ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ, Silôṭi Nagri), known in classical manuscripts as Sylhet Nagri amongst many other names (see below), is an endangered writing system of the Brahmic family historically used in areas of Bengal and Assam that were east of the Padma, primarily in the eastern part of the Sylhet region.[5][6] Literature in the Sylheti Nagri script was mostly common amongst lower class Muslims and has historically been mostly limited to writing puthis and signatures, having no presence in formal documentations.[7] Although in recent times it has lost much ground to the Bengali script, Sylheti Nagri is supposedly beginning to be reintroduced.[8][better source needed]

Etymology and names[edit]

Sylhet Nagri is a compound of "Sylhet" (ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ) and "nāgrī" (ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ). Sylhet is the name of the region in which the script was primarily used and originated from. Nagri means "of or pertaining to an abode (nagar)". Hence, Sylhet Nagri denotes from the abode or city of Sylhet. In recent times, it has come to be known as Sylheti Nagri although this name was not used in the classical manuscripts such as Pohela Kitab by Muhammad Abdul Latif.[9] Unicode name proposals were finalised as "Syloti Nagri".[8]

The script has been known by other names such as Jalalabadi Nagri (ꠎꠣꠟꠣꠟꠣꠛꠣꠖꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ) after the name of Jalalabad (Greater Sylhet), and Phul Nagri (ꠚꠥꠟ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ) amongst others.[10] Another popular term is Musalmani Nagri (ꠝꠥꠍꠟ꠆ꠝꠣꠘꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ) due to its prevalence amongst Muslims of eastern Bengal.[11]



This structure, namely "Nagri Chattar" (Nagri Square), built near Surma river in the city of Sylhet, Bangladesh consists of alphabets of this script.

The specific origin of Sylheti Nagri is debated. Talib Husan by Ghulam Husan is one of the earliest known works and dates back to 1559 CE or 1774 CE, depending on which calendar Husan used.[12] One hypothesis is that the Muslims of Sylhet were the ones to invent it for the purpose of mass Islamic education.[13] This is thought to have taken place during the 15th-century, when the Bengali Hindus led by Krishna Chaitanya, started a Sanskrit and Vaishnavist reawakening movement.[14] The script was also used in Greater Mymensingh, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam.[1]

On the other hand, according to Ahmad Hasan Dani it was the Afghans living in Sylhet during the Afghan rule who invented the script, since some of Sylheti Nagri's letters resemble the symbols on Afghan coins, and there were a large number of Afghans living in Sylhet at that time. Other less-supported hypotheses are:[6]

  • The script was invented by immigrant Bhikkhus from neighbouring countries such as Nepal. ;
  • The script could have been invented in the seventeenth—eighteenth century to facilitate the Muslim sepoys coming from the joint state of Bihar and other immigrant Muslims;[15]

According to Qadir (1999) and Professor Clifford Wright, the script descends from Kaithi script.[4]


Cover of 19th century Halat-un-Nabi by Sadeq Ali

The simplistic nature of the script inspired a lot of poets, though the bulk of Nagri literature was born in the late 19th century. Abdul Karim, a munshi who was studying and completing his education in London, spent several years in the English capital to learn the printing trade. After returning home in circa 1869, he designed a woodblock type for the script and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet town. Padmanath Bhattacharjee Vidyabinod, who wrote the first scholarly article on the script, is of the opinion that Abdul Karim's standardisation marks the start of the script's reawakening (nobojonmo) period.[16] Prior to Abdul Karim's intervention, not much is known about the popularity and usage of the script.[17] The manuscripts were of prosaic quality,[15] but poetry was also abundant.

Other Nagri presses were established in Sunamganj, Shillong and Kolkata such as the Sarada Press and Calcutta's General Printing Press in 16 Gardner Lane, Taltala.[11] It has been asserted from scholarly writings that the script was used as far as Bankura, Barisal, Chittagong and Noakhali.[6][page needed] From the description of Shreepadmanath Debsharma:

The script in prior times was used in Srihatta. With the advent of printing the script now has spread to all of the Srihatta district, Kachar, Tripura, Noakhali, Chittagong, Mymensingh and to Dhaka, that is, to the Muslims of the entire region of Bengal east of Padma.[5]

The script is thought to have spread to Chittagong and Barisal via river.

Although the script vastly extended across Bengal, its use "was restricted to a certain class of Muslims", in particular the Muslim women.[18]

The Sylheti Nagri script was written in the Dobhashi dialect of the Bengali language. Like the rest of Muslim Bengal, Bengali Muslim poetry was written in a colloquial dialect of Bengali which came to be known as Dobhashi, and has had a major influence on the current Sylheti language. Manuscripts have been found of works such as Rag Namah by Fazil Nasim Muhammad, Shonabhaner Puthi by Abdul Karim and the earliest known work Talib Husan (1549) by Ghulam Husan.[1]

The Munshi Sadeq Ali is considered to have been the greatest and most popular writer of the script. The script has also been used in the daily lives of the inhabitants of Sylhet apart from using in religious literature. Letters, receipts, and even official records has been written using this script.[citation needed] Apart from renowned literary works such as Halat-un-Nabi, Jongonama, Mahabbatnama or Noor Noshihot, it has been used to write medicine and magical manuscripts, as well as Poems of the Second World War.

The script, never having been a part of any formal education, reached the common people with seeming ease.[6] Although it was hardly used in comparison to the Bengali script, it was common for lower-class Sylheti Muslims to sign their names in this script.[7] Many Sylheti Nagri presses fell out of use during the Bangladeshi Liberation War and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, including Islamia Press in Sylhet town which was destroyed by a fire.[citation needed]

Modern history[edit]

Many Sylheti Nagri presses fell out of use during the Bangladeshi Liberation War and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, including Islamia Press in Sylhet town which was destroyed by a fire.[citation needed] It gradually became very unpopular the script is used mainly by linguists and academics.[19][20] Research on the script multiplied to its greatest extent in post-colonial Pakistan and Bangladesh.[18] In the 19th century, Munshi Ashraf Hussain, a researcher of Bengali folk literature, contributed immensely to Sylheti Nagri research.[21] In the 2010s, Md. Salik Ahmed, Md. Nizam Uddin and Md. Mamunur Rasid translated the last juz' of the Qur'an into the Sylheti language for the first time using both the Eastern Nagari and Sylheti Nagri scripts.[22]


The Sylheti Nagri script can be divided into vowels and vowel diacritics/marks, consonants and consonant conjuncts, diacritical and punctuation marks. Vowels & consonants are used as alphabet and also as diacritical marks. The script is characterised by its simplistic glyph, with fewer letters than Bengali. The total number of letters is 32; there are 5 vowels and 28 consonants.[15]


The widely accepted number of vowels is 5, although some texts show additional vowels. For example, the diphthong ôi has sometimes been regarded as an additional vowel. The vowels don't follow the sequence of Bengali alphabet. The vowels also have their own respective diacritics known as "horkot".

  • "" /ɔ/ sounds as the default inherent vowel for the entire script.
  • When a vowel sound occurs syllable-initially or when it follows another vowel, it is written using a distinct letter. When a vowel sound follows a consonant (or a consonant cluster), it is written with a diacritic which, depending on the vowel, can appear above, below, before or after the consonant. These vowel marks cannot appear without a consonant and are called horkot.
  • An exception to the above system is the vowel /ɔ/, which has no vowel mark but is considered inherent in every consonant letter. To denote the absence of the inherent vowel [ɔ] following a consonant, a diacritic called the oshonto () may be written underneath the consonant.
  • Although there is only one diphthong in the inventory of the script: "" oi /oi/, its phonetic system has, in fact, many diphthongs. Most diphthongs are represented by juxtaposing the graphemes of their forming vowels, as in ꠇꠦꠃ /xeu/.
Letter Diacritic Transcription IPA
a /a/
i /i/
u /u/
e /e/
ô /ɔ/
N/A ôi /ɔi/


There are 27 consonants. The names of the letters are typically just the consonant sound with the inherent vowel /ɔ/. Since the inherent vowel is assumed and not written, most letters' names look identical to the letter itself, i.e. the name of the letter is ghô.

There is a difference between the pronunciation of and ṛo. Although in ordinary speech these are pronounced the same as /ɾɔ/.

Letter Transcription 1 Transcription 2 IPA Note
/k~x/ Like the k in "kite" or the kh in "Khartoum"
depending on its position within vowels.
khô xɔ́ /k~x/ Like the k in "kite" or the kh in "Khartoum"
depending on its position within vowels.
/g/ Like the g in "garage".
ghô gɔ́ /g/ Like the g in "good".
chô /t͡ʃ~s/ Like the ch in "chat" or the s in "sun".
chhô sɔ́ /t͡ʃ~s/ Like the ch in "check" or the s in "soon".
/d͡ʒ~z/ Like the j in "jungle" or the z in "zoo".
jhô zɔ́ /d͡ʒ~z/ Like the j in "jump" or the z in "zebra".
ṭô ʈɔ /ʈ/ Like the t in "tool".
ṭhô ʈɔ́ /ʈ/ Like the t in "tower".
ḍô ɖɔ /ɖ/ Like the d in "doll".
ḍhô ɖɔ́ /ɖ/ Like the d in "adhere".
t̪ɔ // Like the t in "soviet'".
thô t̪ɔ́ // Like the th in "theatre".
d̪ɔ // Like the th in "the".
dhô d̪ɔ́ // Like the th in "within"
/n/ Like the n in "net".
ɸɔ /p~ɸ~f/ Like the p in "pool" or the f in "fun".
phô fɔ́ /ɸ~f/ Like the f in "food".
/b/ Like the b in "big".
bhô bɔ́ /b/ Like the b in "abhor".
/m/ Like the m in "moon".
ɾɔ /ɾ/ Like the r in "rose".
/l/ Like the l in "luck".
shô ʃɔ /ʃ/ Like the sh in "shoe".
ɦɔ /ɦ/ Like the h in "head".
ṛô ɽɔ /ɽ/ Like the r in "hurry".


Symbol Transcription IPA Note
This is called an "oshonto" and used to cancel the inherent vowel of a consonant letter.
ngô /ŋ/ This is sometimes called "umo" and pronounced as "ng".
Poetry mark 1
Poetry mark 2
Poetry mark 3
Poetry mark 4

Sample texts[edit]

The following is a sample text in Sylheti, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations:

Sylheti in Sylheti Nagari script

ꠗꠣꠞꠣ ১: ꠢꠇꠟ ꠝꠣꠘꠥꠡ ꠡꠣꠗꠤꠘꠜꠣꠛꠦ ꠢꠝꠣꠘ ꠁꠎ꠆ꠎꠔ ꠀꠞ ꠢꠇ ꠟꠁꠀ ꠙꠄꠖꠣ ‘ꠅꠄ। ꠔꠣꠁꠘꠔꠣꠁꠘꠞ ꠛꠤꠛꠦꠇ ꠀꠞ ꠀꠇꠟ ꠀꠍꠦ। ꠅꠔꠣꠞ ꠟꠣꠉꠤ ꠢꠇꠟꠞ ꠄꠇꠎꠘꠦ ꠀꠞꠇꠎꠘꠞ ꠟꠉꠦ ꠛꠤꠞꠣꠖꠞꠤꠞ ꠝꠘ ꠟꠁꠀ ꠀꠌꠞꠘ ꠇꠞꠣ ꠃꠌꠤꠔ।

Sylheti in phonetic Romanization

Dara ex: Hoxol manuṣ ṣadínbábe homan ijjot ar hox loia foeda óe. Taintainor bibex ar axol asé. Otar lagi hoxlor exzone aroxzonor loge biradorir mon loia asoron xora usit.

Sylheti in IPA

/d̪aɾa ex | ɦɔxɔl manuʃ ʃad̪ínbábɛ ɦɔman id͡ʑd͡ʑɔt̪ aɾ ɦɔx lɔia fɔe̯d̪a ɔ́e̯ ‖ t̪aɪnt̪aɪnɔɾ bibex aɾ axɔl asé ‖ ɔt̪aɾ lagi ɦɔxlɔɾ ɛxzɔne arɔxzɔnɔɾ lɔgɛ birad̪ɔɾiɾ mɔn lɔia asɔɾɔn xɔɾa usit̪ ‖/


Clause 1: All human free-manner-in equal dignity and right taken birth-take do. Their reason and intelligence exist; therefore everyone-indeed one another's towards biradri attitude taken conduct do should.


Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Fonts and keyboards[edit]

In 1997, Sue Lloyd-Williams of STAR produced the first computer font for script. The New Surma is a proprietary font. Noto fonts provides an open source font for the script. Syloti Nagri was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2005 with the release of version 4.1, and is available on Apple devices.[23] Other fonts include Mukter Ahmed's Fonty 18.ttf, developed from manuscripts to include traditional Sylheti numbers. As a routine project of the Metropolitan University, Sylhet, Sabbir Ahmed Shawon and Muhammad Nurul Islam (under the name CapsuleStudio) developed and launched the Syloti Nagri Keyboard, also for Google Play, on 9 December 2017.[24] Different keyboards and fonts are available now:

  • Syloti Nagri Notes, by the UK-based Sureware Ltd on Google Play.[25]
  • Multiling O Keyboard, with additional app Sylheti Keyboard plugin by Honso, on Google Play.[26]
  • Google's GBoard has also made Sylheti (Syloti Nagri) available as an input from April 2019.[27]


Syloti Nagri was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2005 with the release of version 4.1.

The Unicode block for Syloti Nagri, is U+A800–U+A82F:

Syloti Nagri[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Islam, Muhammad Ashraful (2012). "Sylheti Nagri". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  2. ^ Daniels, P.T. (January 2008). "Writing systems of major and minor languages". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Masica, Colin (1993). The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 143.
  4. ^ a b "Documentation in support of proposal for encoding Syloti Nagri in the BMP" (PDF). 1 November 2002: 5. In the opinion of Qadir (1999) and of Professor Clifford Wright of SOAS (personal communication), Syloti Nagri is a form of Kaithi, a script (or family of scripts) which belongs to the main group of North Indian scripts. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ a b "সিলেট নাগরী", শ্রী পদ্মনাথ দেবশর্ম্মা; সাহিত্য-পরিষৎ-পত্রিকা, ৪র্থ সংখ্যা; ১৩১৫ বঙ্গাব্দ, পৃষ্ঠা ২৩৬।
  6. ^ a b c d Sadiq, Mohammad (2008). Sileṭi nāgarī : phakiri dhārāra phasala সিলেটি নাগরী:ফকিরি ধারার ফসল (in Bengali). Asiatic Society of Bengal. OCLC 495614347.
  7. ^ a b George Grierson (1903). Language Survey of India - Vol. V Pt 1. p. 224. Among the low class Muhammadans of the east of the district... the script is hardly used
  8. ^ a b Constable, Peter; Lloyd-Williams, James; Lloyd-Williams, Sue; Chowdhury, Shamsul Islam; Ali, Asaddor; Sadique, Mohammed; Chowdhury, Matiar Rahman (1 November 2002). "Proposal for Encoding Syloti Nagri Script in the BMP" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Sylhét Nāgrir Pahélā Kétāb o Doi Khūrār Rāg". Endangered Archives Programme.
  10. ^ "শ্রীহট্টে নাগরী সাহিত্য (জন্মকথা)", এম. আশরাফ হোসেন সাহিত্যরত্ন; শ্রীহট্ট সাহিত্য-পরিষৎ-পত্রিকা, ১ম বর্ষ ৩য় সংখ্যা; ১৩৪৩ বঙ্গাব্দ; পৃষ্ঠা ৯৮। উদ্ধৃতি: "সহজ ও সুন্দর বলিয়া জনসাধারণ ইহার অপর এক নাম দিয়াছিলেন সিলেটে 'ফুল নাগরী'।"
  11. ^ a b Achyut Charan Choudhury. "Srihatter Musalmani Nagrakkar". Srihatter Itibritta Purbangsha.
  12. ^ "The Siloṭi Nagri script". STAR.
  13. ^ Ahmad Hasan Dani (1958). "শ্রীহট্ট-নাগরী লিপির উৎপত্তি ও বিকাশ". Bangla Academy (in Bengali): 1.
  14. ^ Islam, Muhammad Ashraful (2012). "Sylheti Nagri". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Ali, Syed Murtaza (2003) [First published 1965]. Hajarata Śāh Jālāla o Sileṭera itihāsa হজরত শাহ্‌ জালাল ও সিলেটের ইতিহাস (in Bengali). Utsho Prokashon. p. 148. ISBN 984-889-000-9.
  16. ^ Bhattacharjee Vidyabinod, Padmanath (1908). Sylhet Nagri.
  17. ^ Chanda, Anuradha (2006). SILET NAGARIR PAHELA KITAB O DAIKHURAR RAG (in Bengali). Dey's Publishing. pp. 16–17.
  18. ^ a b Bhattacharjee, Nabanipa. "Producing the community". Communities cultures and identities a sociological study of the Sylheti community in contemporary India. Jawaharlal Nehru University. pp. 58–66.
  19. ^ "Sylheti language and the Syloti-Nagri alphabet".
  20. ^ "Sylheti unicode chart" (PDF).
  21. ^ Saleem, Mustafa (1 September 2018). নাগরীলিপিতে সাহিত্য প্রয়াস (in Bengali). Prothom Alo.
  22. ^ "SYLOTI BOOKS DESCRIPTION". Syloti Language Center.
  23. ^ "Unicode Data-4.1.0". Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  24. ^ "Syloti Nagri Keyboard". Google Play.
  25. ^ "Syloti Nagri Notes".
  26. ^ "Sylheti Keyboard plugin". Google Play.
  27. ^ Wang, Jules (18 April 2019). "Gboard updated with 63 new languages, including IPA". Android Police. Retrieved 15 January 2020.

External links[edit]