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Bengali–Assamese script

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The text, from the 18th century Hastividyarnava, commissioned by Ahom king Siva Singha, says: sri sri mot xiwo xingha moharaja. The modern Bengali glyph "" currently used for ra is used in this pre-modern Assamese/Sanskrit manuscript for va, the modern form of which is "". Though the modern Assamese alphabet does not use this glyph for any letter, modern Tirhuta continues to use this for va.
LanguagesAssamese, Bengali, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Meitei, Sylheti, Santali, Kokborok, Garo, Hajong, Chakma, Chittagonian, Maithili, Angika, Kamtapuri and others.
Time period
c. 1100–present
Parent systems
Proto-Sinaitic alphabet [a]
  • Phoenician alphabet [a]
    • Aramaic alphabet [a]
      • Brāhmī
        • Gupta
          • Siddham
            • Bengali–Assamese
Child systems
Assamese, Bengali, Anga Lipi
ISO 15924Beng, 325
Unicode alias
Unicode range
U+0980–U+09FF (Bengali),
U+011480–U+0114DF (Tirhuta)
[a] The Semitic origin of Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The Bengali–Assamese script, also known as Eastern Nagari script,[1] is the fifth most widely used writing system in the world.[citation needed] It is the basis of the Bengali and Assamese alphabets, as well as the alphabets of Bishnupriya Manipuri, Kokborok (Tripuri), Meitei (Manipuri), Chakma, Santali, Kamtapuri etc.[2][not in citation given] Other languages, such as Angika, Bodo, Karbi, Maithili and Mising were once written in this script.[3] Modern Sylheti is often written using this script as well, as is Sanskrit in areas where the script predominates. The Tirhuta script of Maithili is very closely related, though it behaves slightly differently.


The Bengali—Asamese script was originally not associated with any particular regional language, but was prevalent as the main script in the eastern regions of Medieval India. The script was also used to write Sanskrit.[4] Epics of Hindu scripture, including the Mahabharata or Ramayana, were written in older versions of the Eastern Nagari script in this region. After the medieval period, the use of Sanskrit as the sole written language gave way to Pali, and the vernacular dialects of Pali eventually evolved into Bengali, Assamese and other related languages. Sankardev used the script in the 15th and 16th centuries to compose his oeuvre in Assamese and Brajavali the language of the Bhakti poets; and before him, Madhava Kandali used it to write the Assamese Ramayana in the 14th century. It was also used by the later Ahom kings to write the Buranjis, the Ahom chronicles, in the Assamese language. There is a rich legacy of East sub-continental literature written in this script, which is still occasionally used to write Sanskrit today.

Clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular characters; thus, learning to read the script is complicated by the sheer size of the full set of characters and character combinations, numbering about 500. While efforts at standardizing the script for the Bengali language continue in such notable centers as the Bangla Academy at Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi at Kolkata (West Bengal, India). It is still not quite uniform as yet, as many people continue to use various archaic forms of letters, resulting in concurrent forms for the same sounds. Among the various regional variations within this script, only the Bengali and Assamese variations exist today in the formalized system.[citation needed]

It seems likely that the standardization of the script will be greatly influenced by the need to typeset it on computers. Work has been underway since around 2001 to develop Unicode fonts, and it seems likely that it will split into two variants, traditional and modern.[citation needed]


In this and other articles on Wikipedia dealing with the Assamese and Bengali languages, a Romanization scheme used by linguists specializing in Assamese and Bengali phonology is included along with IPA transcription.


There are three major modern alphabets in this script: Tirhuta, Bengali, and Assamese. Modern Assamese is very similar to modern Bengali though Tirhuta is more different from both Assamese and Bengali. Assamese has at least one extra letter, , that Bengali does not, and the letter ক্ষ is not a conjunct as in Bengali, but a letter by itself. The alphabetical orders of the two alphabets also differ. Languages like Meitei and Bishnupriya Manipuri use a hybrid of the two alphabets, with the Bengali and the Assamese . Tirhuta carries forward some forms used in medieval Assamese.

Some other languages use a vowel অৗ to denote /ɯ/ which is not found in either Bengali or Assamese; and though the vowel diacritic (matra, ), is found in Tirhuta the vowel letter itself is absent.


The script presently has a total of 11 vowel letters, used to represent the seven vowel sounds of Bengali and eight vowel sounds of Assamese, along with a number of vowel diphthongs. All of these vowel letters are used in both Assamese and Bengali. Some of the vowel letters have different sounds depending on the word, and a number of vowel distinctions preserved in the writing system are not pronounced as such in modern spoken Bengali or Assamese. For example, the script has two symbols for the vowel sound [i] and two symbols for the vowel sound [u]. This redundancy stems from the time when this script was used to write Sanskrit, a language that had a short [i] and a long [iː], and a short [u] and a long [uː]. These letters are preserved in the script with their traditional names of "short i" and "long i", etc., despite the fact that they are no longer pronounced differently in ordinary speech.

Two additional modified Vowels, অ' and অ্যা, are not considered letters of the Eastern Nagari script, but are often used in Assamese and Bengali (respectively) to represent certain vowels when the intended pronunciation would otherwise be ambiguous.

Vowel Table
Vowels Vowel Diacritic
Assamese Bengali Bishnupriya
Manipuri [1]
Sylheti Hajong Rabha Rajbongsi
ô ô/o ô ô/a o o ô ô
অʼ ʼ o
a a a a꞉ a a a a
অ্যা/এ্যা ্যা æ
অৗ â â
ি i i i i i i i i
ইʼ িʼ î
i i i ī (i)
u u u u u u u u
উʼ ুʼ â
u u u ū (u)
ri ri ri ri ri
rii rii
li li
lii lii
ê e/ê e e ê e e ê
এʼ েʼ e
ôi ôi ôi ei oi oi ôi
û o u o/ô ô o o
ôu ôu ôu ou ou ôu ôu

Vowel signs can be used in conjunction with consonants to modify the pronunciation of the consonant (here exemplified by , kô). When no vowel Diacritic symbol is written, then the vowel "" (ô) is the default inherited vowel for the consonant. To specifically denote the absence of a vowel, a hôsôntô (্) may be written underneath the consonant.


The names of the consonant letters in Eastern Nagari are typically just the consonant's main pronunciation plus the inherent vowel "" ô. Since the inherent vowel is assumed and not written, most letters' names look identical to the letter itself (e.g. the name of the letter "" is itself ghô, not gh). Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in Modern Assamese and Bengali are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ can be written , , or (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called ; instead, they are called "dental nô", "cerebral nô" and niô. Similarly, the phoneme /ʃ/ in Bengali and /x/ in Assamese can be written as "palatal shô/xhô" , "cerebral shô/xhô" , or "dental sô/xô" , depending on the word.

Consonant Table
Consonant Assamese Bengali Bishnupriya
Sylheti Hajong Maithili
xo ko ka
khô khô khô khô xo kho kha
go go ga
ghô ghô ghô ghô go gho gha
ungô ngô ngô ngô ngo nga
so co ca
chô chô so so -
𑒕 - cha
zo jo ja
zhô jhô jhô jhô zo jho -
𑒗 jha
niô nia
ţô ţô to
𑒙 ţa
thô ţhô ţhô to ţha
đô đô do - da
ড় ŗô ŗô ŗo
dhô đhô đhô do - da
ঢ় rhô ŗhô ŗhô ro
no - -
ṭo to ta
thô thô thô thô ṭo tho tha
ḍo do da
dhô dhô dhô dhô ḍo dho dha
no no na
fo po pa
phô fo fo -
𑒙 pha
bo bo ra
bhô bhô bhô bhô bo bho bha
mo mo ma
zo - ya
য় yo
- ro va
(rô) ro ro ra
𑒪 la
o wo
şô şô - sha
şşô şşô - ssha
şô şo - sa
ho ho -
𑒯 - ha


Western Arabic numerals 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Bengali numerals
Assamese names xuinno ek dui tini sari pãs soy xat ath no
শূন্য এক দুই তিনি চাৰি পাঁচ ছয় সাত আঠ
Bengali names shunnô æk dui tin char pãch chhôy shat nôy
শূন্য এক দুই তিন চার পাঁচ ছয় সাত আট নয়
Meitei names shunya ama ani ahum mari manga taruk taret nipa꞉n ma꞉pan
শুন‍্য অমা অনি অহুম মরি মঙা তরূক তরেৎ নীপান মাপন
Sylheti names shuinno ex dui tin sair fas soe shat/hat noe
শুইন্য় এখ দুই তিন ছাইর ফাছ ছয় সাত/হাত আট নয়
Maithili names shūnya ek du tīn chari pãch chhau sat aţh nau
শূন্য এক দু তীন চাৰি পাঁচ ছৌ সাত আঠ নৌ


There are two Unicode blocks for Bengali–Assamese script, called Bengali and Tirhuta. The Bengali block is U+0980–U+09FF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+09Bx ি
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

The Tirhuta block is U+11480–U+114DF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1148x 𑒀 𑒁 𑒂 𑒃 𑒄 𑒅 𑒆 𑒇 𑒈 𑒉 𑒊 𑒋 𑒌 𑒍 𑒎 𑒏
U+1149x 𑒐 𑒑 𑒒 𑒓 𑒔 𑒕 𑒖 𑒗 𑒘 𑒙 𑒚 𑒛 𑒜 𑒝 𑒞 𑒟
U+114Ax 𑒠 𑒡 𑒢 𑒣 𑒤 𑒥 𑒦 𑒧 𑒨 𑒩 𑒪 𑒫 𑒬 𑒭 𑒮 𑒯
U+114Bx 𑒰 𑒱 𑒲 𑒳 𑒴 𑒵 𑒶 𑒷 𑒸 𑒹 𑒺 𑒻 𑒼 𑒽 𑒾 𑒿
U+114Cx 𑓀 𑓁 𑓂 𑓃 𑓄 𑓅 𑓆 𑓇
U+114Dx 𑓐 𑓑 𑓒 𑓓 𑓔 𑓕 𑓖 𑓗 𑓘 𑓙
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. "In fact, the term 'Eastern Nagari' seems to be the only designation which does not favour one or the other language. However, it is only applied in academic discourses, whereas the name 'Bengali script' dominates the global public sphere." (Brandt 2014:25)
  2. "Already the fact that most Bengalis will refer to the script of their language exclusively as the 'Bengali script', though it is used for many other languages as well, e.g. Assamese, Bishnupriya, Chakma, Meitei, Santali, etc. gives a glimpse of the dominant role of the Bengali language in the eastern part of South Asia (Brandt 2014:25–26)
  3. Prabhakara, M S Scripting a solution Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Hindu, 19 May 2005.
  4. "(T)he script used today for Assamese and Bengali was, by origin, linked to the region and not any one specific modern language. Historically, it was in fact used for Old and Middle Indo-Aryan. Today it is used not only for other modern languages (e.g. Bishnupriya) but also still for Sanskrit." (Brandt 2018:7)

External links[edit]


  • Banerji, R D (1919). The Origin of the Bengali Script. University of Calcutta. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  • Bora, Mahendra (1981). The Evolution of Assamese Script. Jorhat, Assam: Assam Sahitya Sabha. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  • Brandt, Carmen (2014). "The identity politics of language and script in South Asia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2017. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  • Brandt, Carmen; Sohoni, Pushkar (2018). "Script and identity – the politics of writing in South Asia: an introduction". South Asian History and Culture. 9: 1–15. doi:10.1080/19472498.2017.1411048.
  • Verma, Thakur Prasad (1976). Development of Script in Ancient Kamrupa. Asam Sahitya Sabha. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png