The Bangla script is based on historical syllabic principles.
The name of the script is Bangla.
The Bangla script has forty-four graphemes representing thirty-five phonemes.
অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ও
ঐ and ঔ
ক, খ, গ, ঘ, ঙ, চ, ছ, জ, ঝ, ঞ, ট, ঠ, ড, ঢ, ণ ত, থ, দ, ধ, ন, প, ফ, ব, ভ, ম, য, র, ল, শ, ষ, স হ, ড়, »ঢ়, Ìয, ত্, ং, ঃ, ঁ
ক্ক, ক্ব, ক্ত , কৃ, ক্য, ক্ল, ক্স, ক্ট, ক্ম, ক্র খ্র, খৃ, খ্য, ক্ষ, ক্ষ্ণ, ক্ষ্ম, ক্ষ্য গৃ, গ্য, গ্ধù, গ্র, গ্ম, গ্দ, গ্ণ, গ্ল ঘ্ন, ঘ্র, ঘৃ, ঘ্য ঙ্ক, ঙ্গ, ঙ্খ, ঙ্ঘ, ঙ্ম চ্চ, চ্ছ, চ্ঞ, চ্ছ্ব, চ্য, ছ্য জ্জ, জ্ঝ, জ্ব, জ্জ্ব, জ্র, জ্য, জ্ঞ ঞ্চ, ঞ্ছ, ঞ্জ ট্ব, ট্র, ট্ট, ট্য ঠ্য ড্ড, ড্র ণ্ণ, ণ্ট, ণ্ঠ, ণ্ম, ণ্ব, ণ্ড ত্ন, ত্ব, ত্ম, ত্র, ত্ত, ত্ত্ব, তৃ, ত্য, ত্ম্য থ্য দ্দ, দ্গ, দ্ঘ, দ্ভ, দ্ব, দ্ম, দ্র, দৃ, দ্য, দ্ধ ধ্ব, ধৃ ন্ন, ন্ত, ন্দ, ন্ম, ন্ব, ন্ত্ব, ন্দ্ব, ন্ত্র, ন্দ্র, ন্ধ, ন্ধ্র, ন্থ, নৃ ন্য, ন্ধ্য প্য, পৃ, প্র, প্স, প্ট, প্ল, প্ন, প্ত, প্প ফ্ল, ফ্র বৃ, ব্র, ব্ল, ব্দ, ব্জ, ব্ব, ব্য ভ্য, ভ্র ম্প, ম্ফ, ম্ব, ম্ভ, ম্ল, ম্ম, ম্ন, ম্র, ম্প্র, ম্ভ্র, মৃ, ম্য য্য র্ক, র্খ, র্গ, র্গ, র্ঘ, র্চ, র্ছ, র্চ্ছ, র্জ, র্ঝ, র্ণ, র্ত, র্থ, র্দ, র্ধ, র্ন, র্প, র্ফ, র্ব র্ভ, র্ম, র্য, র্ল, র্শ, র্শ্ব, র্ষ, র্হ, র্দ্ধ, র্ধ্ব, র্ত্ত, র্ঘ্য, র্য্য ল্ল, ল্ক, ল্গ, ল্ট, ল্দ, ল্প, ল্ম, ল্ব, ল্য শ্চ, শ্ছ, শ্ল, শ্ব, শ্ম, শ্র, শৃ, শ্য ষ্ক, ষ্ট, ষ্ঠ, ষ্প, ষ্ফ, ষ্ম, ষ্ট্র, ষ্ক্র, ষ্প্র, ষ্ণ, ষ্য স্ক, স্খ, স্ট, স্ত, স্থ, স্ন, স্প, স্ফ, স্ব, স্ম, স্ত্র, সৃ, স্পৃ, স্মৃ, স্য হ্ণ, হল, হব, হ্র, হৃ, হ্ন, হ্য, হ্ম
In Bangla, several graphemes have secondary symbols or allographs, which are complementarily distributed. Allographs are generally added to the following positions of the primary graphemes.
1) Below 2) Above 3) Right side 4) Left side 5) Left Side and above simultaneously 6) Right side and above simultaneously 7) Right side and left side simultaneously 8) Right side, left side and above simultaneously.
Combination of matras to a grapheme sometimes changes the sound value of the same grapheme (without matras) in Bangla. For Example:
Bangla Script Sound value In Bangla এ /e/ (Without Matra) ত্র /tr/ (In combination of Matra) ও /o/ (Without Matra) ত্ত /tt/ (In combination of Matra)
In non-initial positions, that is, in medial or final positions, the diacritic marks are used as substitutes for the vowel graphemes. These are attached to the consonant letters at various positions.
1. আ is substituted by া in the postposition. E.g, বাবা baba ' father'. 2. ই is substituted by preposed ি e.g. দিদি didi 'elder sister' 3. ঈ is substituted by ী in the postposition. E.g, নদী nodi ' river'. 4. উ is substituted by ু below the primary grapheme. E.g, ফুল phul 'flower'
There were also some other special vowel modifiers of 'উ' which were used previously. For Example:
গু gu রু ru শু ʃu হু hu
But in the above cases the recent trend is to use simple ' ু ' below the primary grapheme like -
গু gu রু ru শু ʃu হু hu
5. 'ঊ' Is substituted by ' ূ ' written below the primary grapheme. E.g. দূর dur ' distance'
There was also a special form of this vowel modifier used like the following form. E.g. রূপো = রুপো rupo ' silver' .
6. ' এ ' Is substituted by preposed ' ে ' e.g. তেল tel ' oil' .
7. 'ও' Is substituted by preposed ' ে ' and the post posed ' া ' simultaneously. E.g. ভালো bhalo ' good' .
8. 'ঔ' Is substituted by preposed 'ে ' and the posposed ' ৈ ' simultaneously. E.g. বৌ bou ' wife' / ' bride' .
Bangla clusters are divided into four categories, considering the shapes of the graphemes in clusters and their pronunciations. They are presented in the following:
1) Clusters written and pronounced alike. E.g. ক্ক [kk], দ্ভ [dbh], ম্ল [ml] etc.
2) Clusters written like the shape of the letters in isolation but pronounced differently. E.g. জজ [ʤ͡ ], শ্ম [ ʃ ], ত্ম [tt], etc.
3) Clusters written differently from the shape of the letters, but pronounced alike. E.g. ভ্র [bhr], ক্র [kɤ], র্গ [ɤg], etc.
4) Clusters written differently from the shape of the letters in isolation, and pronounced also differently. E.g. ক্য [k, kk], ক্ষ [mh], ন্ধ্য [ndh], etc.
There are three types of relationships existing between Bangla phonemes and their corresponding graphemes.
1) One grapheme for one phoneme. 2) One grapheme for more than one phoneme. 3) Several graphemes for one phoneme.
The vowels, diphthongs, consonants and cluster phonemes of Bangla along with their corresponding graphemes are presented below:
Phonemes Graphemes /i/ ই, ঈ /e/ এ য় /æ/ এ /a/ আ /ɔ/ অ /o/ ও /u/ উ, ঊ
Phonemes Graphemes /oi/ ঐ /ou/ ঔ
Phonemes Graphemes /p/ প /ph/ ফ /b/ ব /bh/ ভ /t/ ত, ত্ /th/ থ /d/ দ /dh/ ধ /ʈ/ ট /ʈh/ ঠ /ɖ/ ড, ড় /ɖh/ ঢ, ঢ় /k/ ক /kh/ খ /g/ গ /gh/ ঘ /ʃ/ শ, স, ষ /h/ হ /ʧ͡ / চ /ʧ͡ h/ ছ /ʤ͡/ জ /ʤ͡ h/ ঝ /m/ ম /n/ ন, ণ /ŋ/ ঙ, ং /ɤ/ র /Į/ ল / ˜/ ঁ
Grapheme Phoneme Conditions ক্ক kk চ্চ ʧ͡ ʧ͡ জ্জ ʤ͡ ʤ͡ ড্ড ɖɖ ন্ন nn দ্দ dd প্প pp ব্ব bb ল্ল bb ল্ল ll ক্ল kl ক্স kʃ ক্ট kʈ গ্দ gd গ্ন gn গ্ম gm গ্ল gl ঘ্ন ghn ঙ্ক ŋk ঙ্খ ŋkh ঙ্গ ŋg ঙ্ঘ ŋgh ঙ্ম ŋm চ্ছ ʤ͡ ʤ͡ জ্ঝ ʧ͡ ʧ͡ ড়্গ ṛg ণ্ট nʈ ণ্ঠ nʈh ন্ম nm ত্ম tn দ্গ dg দ্ঘ dgh দ্ভ dbh ন্ত nt ন্দ nd ন্ম nm প্ত pt প্ন pn প্ল pl Initially ppl Medially প্ট pʈ প্স pʃ ফ্ল phl ব্জ bʤ͡ ব্দ bd ব্ল bl ম্প mp ম্ফ mph ম্ব mb ম্ভ mbh ম্ল ml Initially mml Medially ম্ম mm ম্ন mn ল্ক lk ল্গ lg ল্ট lʈ ল্দ ld ল্প lp ল্ম lm শ্চ ʃʧ͡ শ্ছ ʃ ʧ͡ h শ্ল sl Initial ssl Medially ষ্ক ʃ k ষ্ট ʃʈ ষ্ঠ ʃʈh ষ্প ʃp ষ্ফ ʃph ষ্ক sk Initially ʃk Medially স্খ skh Initially ʃkh Medially স্ট sʈ - স্ত st - স্থ sth - স্ন sn Initially ssn Medially স্প sp Initially ʃp Medially স্ফ sph Initially ʃph Medially স্ল sl / ʃl - হ্ণ nh - হ্ল lh - ক্ক k Initially kk Medially চ্ছ্ব ʧ͡ ʧ͡ h - চ্ঞ ʧ͡ ʧ͡ - জ্ব ʤ͡ Initially জ্জ্ব ʤ͡ ʤ͡ Medially always. ট্ব ʈʈ - ণ্ব nn - ত্ব t Initially tt Medially দ্ব d Initially dd Medially ধ্ব dh Initially ddh Medially ন্ব nn Medially always ন্ত্ব nt - ন্দ্ব nd - ল্ব lb - শ্ব ʃ Initially ʃʃ Medially স্ব ʃ Initially ʃʃ Medially হ্ব ubh/obh - ক্ম kk Medially always গ্ম gm - ত্ম tt - দ্ম dd - শ্ম ʃ Initially ʃm In case of proper nouns ʃʃ Elsewhere ষ্ম ʃʃ Medially স্ম ʃ Initially ʃʃ Medially খ্র khr - গ্র gr Initially ggr Medially ঘ্র ghr Initially gghr Medially জ্র ʤ͡ ʤ͡r Medially দ্র dr Initially ddr Medially ধ্র dhr Initially ddhr Medially প্র pr Initially ppr Medially ফ্র phr Initially pphr Medially ব্র br Initially bbr Medially ভ্র bhr Initially bbhr Medially ম্র mr Initially mmr Medially শ sr Initially ssr Medially স্র sr Initially ssr Medially হ্র hr - ট্র ʈr Initially ʈʈr Medially ড্র ɖr Initially ɖɖr Medially ক্র kr Initially kkr Medially ত্র tr Initially ttr Medially ন্ত্র ntr - ন্দ্র ndr - ম্প্র mpr - ম্ভ্র mbhr - ষ্ট্র ʃʈr - ষ্ক্র ʃkr - ষ্প্র ʃpr Medially স্ত্র str - র্ক rk - র্খ rkh - র্গ rg - র্ঘ rgh - র্চ rʧ͡ - র্ছ rʧ͡ h র্জ rʤ͡ - র্ঝ rʤ͡ h - র্ণ rn - র্ত rt - র্থ rth - র্দ rd - র্ধ rdh - র্ন rn - র্প rp - র্ফ rph - র্ব rb - র্ভ rbh - র্ম rm - র্য rʤ͡ - র্ল rl - র্শ rʃ - র্শ্ব rʃ - র্ষ rʃ - র্হ rh - ক্ত kt - গ্ধ gdh - ঞ্চ nʧ͡ - ঞ্ছ nʧ͡ h - ঞ্জ nʤ͡ - ট্ট ʈʈ - ণ্ড nɖ - ষ্ণ ʃn - হ্ন nh - ব্ধ bdh - ন্ধ ndh - ন্ধ্র ndhr - দ্ধ ddh - র্দ্ধ rdh - র্ধ্ব rdh - ন্থ nth - স্থ sth - ত্ত tt - র্ত্ত rt - ত্থ tth - ত্ত্ব tt - কৃ kri Initially kkri Medially খৃ khri Initially গৃ gri Initially ggri Medially ঘৃ ghri Initially gghri Medially তৃ tri Initially ttri Medially দৃ dri Initially ddri Medially ধৃ dhri Initially ddhri Medially নৃ nri Initially nnri Initially পৃ pri Initially ppri Medially বৃ bri Initially bbri Medially মৃ mri Initially mmri Medially শৃ sri Initially ssri Medially হৃ hri - স্পৃ spri Initially ʃpri Medially স্মৃ srĩ Initially ssrĩ Medially ক্য k Initially kk Medially খ্য kh Initially kkh Medially গ্য g Initially gg Medially ঘ্য ghæ Initially র্ঘ্য rgh - চ্য ʧ͡ Initially ʧ͡ ʧ͡ Medially ছ্য ʧ͡ hæ Initially জ্য ʤ͡ Initially ʤ͡ ʤ͡ Medially ট্য ʈ Initially ʈʈ Medially ঠ্য ʈh Initially ʈʈh Medially ণ্য n Initially nn Medially ত্য t Initially ত্ম্য tt Medially tt Medially থ্য th Initially tth Medially দ্য d Initially dd Medially ধ্য dh Initially ddh Medially ন্য n Initially nn Medially ন্ন্য nn - ন্ধ্য ndh - প্য p Initially pp Medially ব্য b Initially bb Medially ভ্য bh Initially bbh Medially ম্য m Initially mm Medially য্য ʤ͡ʤ͡ Medially always. র্য্য rʤ͡ - ল্য l Initially ll Medially শ্য ʃ Initially ʃʃ Medially ষ্য ʃʃ Medially স্য ʃ Initially ʃʃ Medially হ্য h Initially ʤ͡ʤ͡ h Medially ক্ষ kh Initially kkh Medially ক্ষ্ণ khn - ক্ষ্ম kkh - ক্ষ্য kkh - জ্ঞ g Initially gg Medially ঙ্ক ŋk - ঙ্গ ŋg - হ্ম mh -
Bangla script like all other scripts of Indian languages has been derived from Brahmi, it is written from left to right. The movement of the strokes for writing each grapheme are also mostly from left to right and hangs from the line. The direction for writing each grapheme involves upstrokes as well as down strokes along with sharply reserved angles and often looped or arched angles.
In the set of Bangla graphemes there are no capitals. It is syllabary and modified to become an alphabet. Diacritic marks are used in the top, below, right and left sides of a grapheme to indicate non-initial vowels or sometimes consonants. There are some clusters in Bangla, which are transparent. E.g. ষ্ট / ʃʈ/. But there are also some clusters, which are not transparent. E.g. ক্ষ /kkh/, t /nʤ/ etc.
History of writing in the Indian subcontinent goes back to the days of the Harappans, who in the third millennium B.C had a script of their own. It was a variety of pictograph, and was most probably written from right to left, and boustrophedon. The script has not yet been deciphered though attempts are being made to unravel the mystery obscuring the importance of the characters. Then, there is a long gap. It is not before the third century B.C that we find evidences of the use of Brāhmī and Kharoshtī scripts in this subcontinent. They have been employed in the inscriptions of the Mauryan king As¹oka. Of the two, Brāhmī is regarded as the distant parent of practically all the present major Indian Scripts including Bengali.
The question on the origin of Brāhmī has given rise to controversy and speculation. From a comparative study of North Semitic and Phoenician alphabets and the Braāhmī script exemplified in the As¹okan epigraphs of the third century B.C., it has been surmised that the Brāhmī is based on North Semitic alphabet and that it had been evolved to suit local grammar. The time when this script was introduced is again a matter of speculation.
Fortunately, from the third century B.C onwards, one can find inscriptional documents indicating development of the Bra?hmi? script from Old or Archaic Brāhmī (3rd century B.C. - 1st century B.C) to Middle Brāhmī (1st century A.D. - 3rd Century A.D.) and then to Late Brāhmī(4th century A.D. - 6th century A.D.) These stages are illustrated in West Bengal and Bangladesh by 1) The maharsthangarh inscriptions, 2) Brāhmī and Khorosmī Brāhmī inscriptions from the lower reaches the Gangā in West Bengal and (3) Copper plate inscriptions of the Imperial Guptas from Northern part of West Bengal and North - western section of Bangladesh and those of Dharmaditya, Gopachandra and Samāchāradeva from West Bengal and Bangladesh, respectively.
Epigraphs from Eastern India of the 4th - 6th Centuries A.D. exhibit certain characteristic features of letters, which have led to the theory of the development of eastern variety of Gupta script. The test letters are ma, la, sha, sa and ha. Forms of the letters used in the written documents of eastern India during the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries A.D, are however, noticeable in contemporary inscriptions from other parts of India and sometimes in epigraphs datable to an earlier period.
Epigraphic records from Bangladesh of the second half of the seventh century A.D, demonstrate remarkable developments. The Tippera copper plate of the reign of Lokanātha dated in the year (3) 44 (of the Gupta sanivat), the Kailan inscription of Sridharana Rāta and the Astafpur copper plates of the time of Devakhaḍga fully illustrate the new trends. The letters seem to hang down from wedge shaped solid triangles with right hand verticals bending down at the bottom. The script had been described by Prinsep and Fleet as Kumila. The term Siddhamātika used by Al Beruni to designate the script of Northern India has been preferred to that of Kumila. Inscriptions from Bangladesh of the seventh century A.D bear the looped variety of ka, curved from, with the upper limb merged with the head - mark, ṭa developing a downward tick at the end of flat - top, ṇa with outer arms growing longer, ra developing a tail at the bottom, sa bearing a triangular loop and la an inner curl at the left hook. Acute angles in pa and ma get sharpened. Medial vowel marks for i and i hand down to the bottom of the parent letters. A tick at the right end of medial ā lengthens down. Left curves of the initial vowels u and o extend upwards.
The next stage of development is illustrated by the copper plate inscriptions from khalimpur of the reign of Dharmapāla, from Monghyr and Nalanda of the time of Devapāla and from Jajjibanpur of the reign of Mahendrapāla. These epigraphs belong to the ninth century A.D. They are characterized by ā, with vertical line on the right, au with an upward curve on the right of having rounded angles, and a tailed variety of flat topped e. Of the consonants, kha has sometimes been represented as open mouthed with a bar joining the right vertical, that possesses a head-mark from which the globe hangs down.
The Siddhamāmrikā is said to have been prevalent in Bengal upto the end of the tenth century. It is mentioned as Siddham in Chinese sources. In the beginning of the eleventh century, Al Beruni, while enumerating sub-regional scripts, mentions inter alia
Gauri (i.e. Gandi) used in Pūrvadesā or the Eastern country. The Gandi has been regarded as the same script to which is given the appellative Proto - Bengali characteristics of Ganḍi which were in existence in rudimentary forms, in written documents from West Bengal and Bangladesh datable to the period between A.D. 875 and A.D. 1025. In some epigraphs it is considered as belonging to the second quarter of the eleventh century A.D. Flattening of head - marks becomes prominent in comparison to the wedge shaped serifs. An important landmark in the development of the Bengali script is the Ramganj copper plate inscription of Mahāmānḍalika is¹varaghosa datable in the last quarter of the eleventh century A.D. It is the earliest document from Bengal which bears the letter m, a with a tick rising upwards. The full vowel i develop a tick at the right end of the upper horizontal bar above and ā curved hook below. Initial e approaches the modern Bengali character.
One of the folia of a manuscript dated in the 39th regnal year of Harivarmadeva (C. A.D. 1073 - 1127) contains the forms of full vowels while another bears those of the consonants. The full vowel i has been formed by connecting two circles and adding a short diagonal tick over the horizontal bar. Ī develop a tail below. ū has been formed by appending a tail to the form of u. This is the solitary record of early medieval engel which bears the forms for [ṛi, ḷ and ḷi, and the Full fledged from for n, elsewhere found invariably in conjunct with consonants. Mature forms of Proto - Bengali, the immediate precursor of Bengali script, are fully illustrated in the inscriptions of the Varman Sena and Deva rulers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and manuscripts of those days.
About the fourteenth century the characteristics of typical Bengali script began to develop. A copper plate inscription of the reign of Vijayamānikya I of Tripura, dated in the year 1410 of the S¹aka era (=A.D. 1478), Illustrates forms of Bengali letters prevalent in the fifteenth century A.D. The letters hang down from long horizontal lines. The medial vowel marks for i and i approximate those used in modern Bengali, the lunate member in medial i being distinguished from the vertical bar. Among consonants, pa, na and ligature hu (h with medial u) attain to modern forms. S¹a has been represented with a pair of circles. Either dissecting the triangle for VA or incising a pellet within the triangle or by an unqualified triangle has formed Ra. These features can be traced in the inscriptions of the Malla rulers and in manuscripts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The code of Gentoo law, published from London in 1776, bears a chart of the Bengali alphabet. The forms of vowels and consonants are those, which had been prevalent in Bengal in the second half of the eighteenth century. The vowels are sixteen in number including [i, long ḷi, anusvāra and visarga. The consonants number thirty-four, the last letter being Khiya (Ksha). The chart of the Bengali alphabet, appended to the China Monuments, published from Amsterdam in 1667, also shows separate existence of Khiya (Ksha). This tradition can be traced from an earlier period. Ksha is treated as an independent letter even in the early Buddhist text Lalitavistara. Medieval texts like the Ekaksharakosha allude to sixteen vowels including anusva?ra and visarga and thirty-four consonants, the last being Ksha.
The script, used in Bengal for writing materials in Sanskrit and Sanskritic languages and in Bengali, is characterized by certain peculiarities. Identical forms for ba and va have been used since the seventh century A.D with very few exceptions. The fact that distinction had not been made of, pronunciation led to the omission of square ba. ḍa, ḍha, and (i) ya, which are now treated as separated letters, do not figure in medieval texts not even in the code of Gentoo law. But inscriptions and manuscripts dated between the fifteenth and end of the eighteenth century clearly indicate that innovations were made in the medieval period to qualify their phonetic values distinct from those of ḍa, ḍha, and ya. Ishwar chandra Vidyasagar reformed the Bengali alphabetical system in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the first edition of Varḥa - Parichay(a), First Part, appearing in Samvat 1912 (A.D. 1856) Vidyasagar writes in the preface that the letters ḍa, ḍha, and (i) ya should be treated as independent consonants; for both in form and pronunciation they are distinct from ḍa, ḍha, and ya.
The Earliest record from Bengal bearing numerical notation a terracotta seal from Chandraketugorh (North 24 pgs, West Bengal) datable to about the second century A.D was found. It bears the notation for go. Copper plate inscriptions from North Bengal (Northern part of West Bengal and North - Western part of Bangladesh) bear dates with different symbols. For example, in writing 113, three different symbols denoting 100, 10 and 3 have been used. The earliest attempt at using the decimal system is traceable in the Egra copper plate of the reign of S¹as¹ānka (first half of the seventh century A.D.) which bears the sign for hundred (100) followed by a pair of blobs, which are irrelevant. Unambiguous use of the system is found for the first time in the Asrafpur copper plate inscription (second half of the seventh century0 where numerical notations used for writing thirteen (13) are one (1) and three (3) respectively. Inscriptions of the thirteenth century from Bengal bear signs indicating fractions comparable to symbols once used to denote annas when sixteen of them made a rupee, and four (4) and its multiples resembling symbols used for denoting fractions of measurements relating to flat areas of land.
Forms of Bengali letters went through constant changes through the hands of scribes and copyists till the advent of printing press. They are still undergoing changes in compliance with introduction of new printing technology. These changes are perceptible in the forms of conjuncts like tra, kra, kta, etc.
Copyright CIIL-India Mysore