Sylheti Nagari

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Sylheti Nagari
Silôṭi Nagôri
ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ
Languages Sylheti language, Bengali language
Time period
1303 CE
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Sylo, 316
Unicode alias
Syloti Nagri

Sylheti Nagari (Silôṭi Nagôri) (ꠍꠤꠟꠐꠤ ꠘꠣꠉꠞꠤ) is an extinct script used for writing the Sylheti language in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Outside of Sylhet the script has been known to be used in Bangladesh's Mymensingh, Netrokona, Kishoreganj and in India's Assam. Developed from Bengali, Arabic, Kaithi and Devanagari scripts, Sylheti Nagari shows a fusion of Arabic and Persian symbols. The script was used for writing Sylheti, now a dialect of Bengali, rather than pure Bengali or Sanskrit languages.[1]

The traditional belief of Hinduism that the Brahmi script was delivered from Brahma led the Muslims of Sylhet to not use it in their writings and a need to create a script based on the Arabic and Persian scripts. This led to the birth of Sylheti Nagari.


The script has also been known as Jalalabad Nagari, Fūl (flower) Nagari,[2] Muslim Nagari, Muhammad Nagari. All of its names are suffixed with Nagari, which implies the script's connection to the Nāgarī 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:[3]

  • 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;[4]
  • A folk belief is that an intelligent Muslim invented the script from Bengali writing system for the purpose of mass education[5]

But scholars now validate the three hypotheses: By the followers of Shah Jalal, by Afghans or that the script is indigenous to Sylhet.[3]

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.[4] The total number of letters is 32, if ending "ŋ" is regarded as "০" the number is 33; 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 oi has sometimes been regarded as an additional vowel. It is to be noted that the vowels don't follow the sequence of Bengali alphabet.

Nagari glyph
Latin equivalent a İ u e ō


There are 27 consonants, with various symbols.

Nagari glyph
Latin equivalent k kh g gh ch chh j jh tt tth dd ddh t th d dh n p ph b bh m r l rr sh h


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.[3] 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.[3]


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.[3]


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,[4] but poetry was also abundant.

Computer font[edit]

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


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 9.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ "সিলেটি নাগরী", মোহাম্মদ আশরাফুল ইসলাম; বাংলাপিডিয়া, ১০ম খণ্ড; বাংলাদেশ এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটি, ঢাকা। মার্চ ২০০৩ খ্রিস্টাব্দ। পৃষ্ঠা ১৯৭। পরিদর্শনের তারিখ: মে ৬, ২০১১ খ্রিস্টাব্দ।
  2. ^ "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'।"
  3. ^ a b c d e "সিলেটি নাগরী:ফকিরি ধারার ফসল", মোহাম্মদ সাদিক; বাংলাদেশ এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটি, ঢাকা; ডিসেম্বর ২০০৮; ISBN 984-300-003029-0। পরিদর্শনের তারিখ: ৫ মে ২০১১ খ্রিস্টাব্দ।
  4. ^ 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।
  5. ^ "শ্রীহট্ট-নাগরী লিপির উৎপত্তি ও বিকাশ", আহমদ হাসান দানী; বাঙলা একাডেমী পত্রিকা, প্রথম বর্ষ, দ্বিতীয় সংখ্যা, ভাদ্র-অগ্রহায়ণ, ১৩৬৪ বঙ্গাব্দ; পৃষ্ঠা ১।
  6. ^ "সিলেট নাগরী", শ্রী পদ্মনাথ দেবশর্ম্মা; সাহিত্য-পরিষৎ-পত্রিকা, ৪র্থ সংখ্যা; ১৩১৫ বঙ্গাব্দ, পৃষ্ঠা ২৩৬।

External links[edit]