Sylheti Nagari

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Sylheti Nagari
Sylheti Nagari in Sylheti Nagari script - example.svg
The word Silôṭi Nagri in Sylheti Nagari.
LanguagesSylheti, Bengali-Assamese languages
Time period
1825 CE
ISO 15924Sylo, 316
Unicode alias
Syloti Nagri

Sylheti Nagari (ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ Silôṭi Nagri) is an endangered script used to write Sylheti.[1] The script was also used in Kishoreganj, Mymensingh and Netrakona in Bangladesh; and Barak Valley in Assam.[2] It is closely related to Kaithi, and has some Bengali, Arabic, Devanagari and Persian influences.[2] Although it has in recent times lost much ground to the Bengali script, the script is beginning to be reintroduced.[3][4]


The script has also been known as Jalalabadi Nagari, Ful Nagari, etc.[5] All of its names are suffixed with Nagari, which implies the script's connection to the Nāgarī script.



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

The specific origin of Sylheti Nagari is debated. The general hypothesis is the Muslims of Sylhet were the ones to invent it. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, however, is of the opinion that Shah Jalal brought the script with him when he arrived in the area in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The bulk of text written in Sylheti Nagari being influenced by Sufism seems to support this hypothesis. 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 Nagari'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]

  • Since the people of Sylhet were familiar with the Devanagari script, they fashioned Sylheti Nagari after it;
  • The script was invented by immigrant Bhikkhus from neighboring 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 immigrant Muslims;[7]
  • A folk belief is that a Muslim invented the script from Bengali writing system for the purpose of mass education[8]

But scholars now validate the three hypotheses: By the followers of Shah Jalal, by Afghans or that the script is indigenous to Sylhet.[6]


During the British colonial period, a Sylheti student by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim studying in London, England, after completing his education, spent several years in London and learned the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for Sylheti Nagari and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamganj, Shillong and Kolkata. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s during the Bangladesh Liberation War.[9][10]

Sylheti symbols[edit]

Similarities between Nagri Unicode and Bangla

Sylheti Nagari is characterized by its simplistic glyph, with fewer letters than Bengali. In addition, Sylheti Nagari didn't have any ligatures.[7] The total number of letters is 32; there are 5 vowels and 28 consonants.


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. It is to be noted that the vowels don't follow the sequence of Bengali alphabet. The vowels also have their own respective diacritics known as "horkot".

ꠢꠞꠚ Letter ꠢꠞꠇꠔ (Diacritic) Transliteration 1 Transliteration 2 IPA
a a /a/
i i /i/
u u /u/
e e /e/, /ɛ/
o ô /ɔ/
oi ôi /ɔi/


There are 27 consonants.

ꠢꠞꠚ Letter Transliteration 1 Transliteration 2 IPA Note
xo /xɔ/ Pronounced and transliterated respectively as /k/ and k after and before /i/, /u/ and /k/.
khô /xɔ́/ Pronounced and transliterated respectively as /k/ and k after and before /i/, /u/ and /k/. (Next vowels can have a rising tone, which is marked with the symbol ́ )
go /gɔ/ Like the g in "grow".
ghô /gɔ́/ Like the ghayn.
so /sɔ/ Like the ch in "chat".
chô /sɔ́/ Like the s in "start".
jo /zɔ/ Like the j in "jump".
jhô /zɔ́/ Like the z in "zero".
ṭo ṭô /ʈɔ/ Like the t in "tip".
ṭó ṭhô /ʈɔ́/
ḍo ḍô /ɖɔ/ Like the d in "drum".
ḍó ḍhô /ɖɔ́/
to /t̪ɔ/
thô /t̪ɔ́/
do /d̪ɔ/
dhô /d̪ɔ́/
no /nɔ/ Like the n in "net".
po /ɸɔ/ Like the p in "pack".
phô /fɔ́/ Like the f in "first".
bo /bɔ/ Like the b in "big".
bhô/vo /bɔ́/
mo /mɔ/ Like the m in "mad".
ro /ɾɔ/
lo /lɔ/ Like the l in "lack".
ṛo ṛô /ɽɔ/ Like the r sound in "hurry".
sho shô /ʃɔ/ Like the sh in "shark".
ho /ɦɔ/


Symbol Transcription IPA Note
This is called an "oshonto"; removing the 'o' sound at the end of a letter.
ngô /ŋɔ/ This is sometimes called "ummo" and pronounced as "ng".
Poetry mark 1
Poetry mark 2
Poetry mark 3
Poetry mark 4


Sylheti Nagari has its own numerals but also uses the Bengali numerals. The Nagri numerals are influenced by Bengali, Eastern Arabic and possibly English numerals.[11][12] Due to the numerals not being supported by Unicode, the following Sylheti numerals have been compared to other symbols in different languages which match the numbers.

Sylheti numeral Bengali numeral Hindu-Arabic numeral Transcription IPA
0 shuinnô /ʃuinːɔ/
۱ 1 ex /ex/
۲ 2 dui /d̪ui/
3 tin /t̪in/
4 sair /saiɾ/
5 fas /ɸas/
d 6 sôy /sɔe̯/
V 7 hat /ɦat̪/
8 8 aṭ /aʈ/
9 nôy /nɔe̯/
۱০ ১০ 10 dôsh /d̪ɔʃ/


As noted before, Sylheti Nagari has been used outside of Sylhet. The script spread to such extents as Calcutta, and Shillong. It has been asserted from scholarly writings that the script was used in Bankura. But from various sources it has been seen that the script was in use in areas apart from the region of Sylhet such as Barisal, Chittagong, Noakhali etc.[6] From the description of Shreepadmanath Debsharma:

The script is thought to have spread to Chittagong and Barisal via river. Also a large number of immigrants in the United Kingdom from Sylhet have recently introduced the script there.[6]


Born out of a religious need, Sylheti Nagari 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. Apart from renowned literary works such as Haltunnobi, Jongonama, Mhobbotnama, Noor Noshihot, Talib Huson etc., 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] A reproduction of a traditional ballad written in Sylheti Nagari script is available at this source:


Cover of 19th century Haltunnobi by Sadek Ali

The simplistic nature of the script inspired a lot of poets, and the bulk of Nagari literature was born. The then Srihatta's Islamia Press, Sarada Press and Calcutta's General Printing Press used to print in Sylheti Nagari. The manuscripts were of prosaic quality,[7] but poetry was also abundant.

Computer font & Android Keyboard[edit]

The "New Surma" is a proprietary font. Noto fonts provides an open source font for Sylheti Nagari.

There is an android keyboard on google play store. Syloti Nagri Keyboard is the first android keyboard on Nagri letter. Developed by Sabbir Ahmed and Md Nurul Islam. They are from Metropolitan University, Sylhet.

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 brotherhood-ly 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.


Sylheti Nagari was added to the Unicode Standard in March, 2005 with the release of version 4.1.

The Unicode block for Sylheti Nagari 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 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points



  1. ^ "Sylheti". Ethnologue. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sirajul Islam and Ahmed A. Jamal, ed. (2012). "Sylheti Nagri". Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  3. ^ "সিলেটি নাগরী", মোহাম্মদ আশরাফুল ইসলাম; বাংলাপিডিয়া, ১০ম খণ্ড; বাংলাদেশ এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটি, ঢাকা। মার্চ ২০০৩ খ্রিস্টাব্দ। পৃষ্ঠা ১৯৭। পরিদর্শনের তারিখ: মে ৬, ২০১১ খ্রিস্টাব্দ।
  4. ^ Siloṭi Nagri . Retrieved on 02-03-2019.
  5. ^ "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'।"
  6. ^ a b c d e "সিলেটি নাগরী:ফকিরি ধারার ফসল", মোহাম্মদ সাদিক; বাংলাদেশ এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটি, ঢাকা; ডিসেম্বর ২০০৮; ISBN 984-300-003029-0 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.। পরিদর্শনের তারিখ: ৫ মে ২০১১ খ্রিস্টাব্দ।
  7. ^ a b c "হজরত শাহ্‌ জালাল ও সিলেটের ইতিহাস", সৈয়দ মুর্তাজা আলী; উৎস প্রকাশন, ঢাকা; জুলাই ২০০৩; ISBN 984-889-000-9; পৃষ্ঠা ১৪৮ (২০০)। পরিদর্শনের তারিখ: ০৬ মে ২০১১ খ্রিস্টাব্দ।
  8. ^ "শ্রীহট্ট-নাগরী লিপির উৎপত্তি ও বিকাশ", আহমদ হাসান দানী; বাঙলা একাডেমী পত্রিকা, প্রথম বর্ষ, দ্বিতীয় সংখ্যা, ভাদ্র-অগ্রহায়ণ, ১৩৬৪ বঙ্গাব্দ; পৃষ্ঠা ১।
  9. ^ Banglapedia
  10. ^ Archive
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "সিলেট নাগরী", শ্রী পদ্মনাথ দেবশর্ম্মা; সাহিত্য-পরিষৎ-পত্রিকা, ৪র্থ সংখ্যা; ১৩১৫ বঙ্গাব্দ, পৃষ্ঠা ২৩৬।

External links[edit]