Shalu Sharma

Audio: Basic Hindi

Devanagari Hindustani: devanagari a compound of "deva" and "nagari", also called Nagari is an abugida (alphasyllabary) alphabet of India and Nepal. It is written from left to right, has a strong preference for symmetrical rounded shapes within squared outlines, and is recognisable by a horizontal line that runs along the top of full letters. In a cursory look, the Devanagari script appears different from other Indic scripts such as Bangla, Oriya or Gurmukhi, but a closer examination reveals they are very similar except for angles and structural emphasis.

Devanagari script (vowels top, consonants bottom) in Chandas font. / A 19th century Rigveda manuscript in Devanagari

The Nagari script has roots in the ancient Brahmi script family. Some of the earliest epigraphical evidence attesting to the developing Sanskrit Nagari script in ancient India, in a form similar to Devanagari, is from the 1st to 4th century CE inscriptions discovered in Gujarat.

The Nagari script was in regular use by the 7th century CE and fully it was developed by about the end of first millennium. The use of Sanskrit in Nagari script in medieval India is attested by numerous pillar and cave temple inscriptions, including the 11th-century Udayagiri inscriptions in Madhya Pradesh, a brick with inscriptions found in Uttar Pradesh, dated to be from 1217 CE, which is now held at the British Museum.

The script's proto- and related versions have been discovered in ancient relics outside of India, such as in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Indonesia; while in East Asia, Siddha Matrika script considered as the closest precursor to Nagari was in use by Buddhists. Nagari has been the primus inter pares [a first among equals] of the Indic scripts.

The Devanagari script is used for over 120 languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Pali, Konkani, Bodo, Sindhi and Maithili among other languages and dialects, making it one of the most used and adopted writing systems in the world. The Devanagari script is also used for classical Sanskrit texts. The Devanagari script is closely related to the Nandinagari script commonly found in numerous ancient manuscripts of South India, and it is distantly related to a number of southeast Asian scripts.

Devanagari script has forty-seven primary characters, of which fourteen are vowels and thirty-three are consonants. The ancient Nagari script for Sanskrit had two additional consonantal characters. The script has no capital or small letters as in Latin, and weighs all characters as equal. Generally the orthography of the script reflects the pronunciation of the language.

Devanagari vowels / Devanagari Consonants

Devanagari ScriptVariant letters: Some letters are two forms: the Classical, Northern or Kalikata (Calcutta) form is used in the north of India; while the Modern, Southern or Mumbai (Bombay) form is used in the south India and has become the standard form.

Devanagari special symbolsa / Devanagari variant letters


Colby Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Professor Emeritus