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Encyclopedia > Bengali alphabet

The Bengali script is an Abugida system of writing belonging to the Brahmic family of scripts whose use is associated with the Bengali, Assamese, Manipuri and Sylheti languages. While it is very similar to Devanagari, it is less blocky and presents a more sinuous shaping, and is derived from a precursor of that script called Nagari. The modern script was formalised in 1778 when it was first typeset by Charles Wilkins. There are some minor differences between the version of the script used for Assamese and the other languages: ra (Bengali র; Assamese ৰ) and va (Bengali not available; Assamese ৱ).


The script was originally not associated with any particular language, but was prevalent as the script of choice in east India. Among the various different regional variations within this script, only the Assamese and Bengali variations exist today in the formalized system. The script was used to write Sanskrit for centuries, especially when dealing with Hindu scripture such as the Mahabharata or Ramayana. It is still occasionally used for Sanskrit today. Srimanta Sankardeva used it in the 15th and 16th centuries to compose his oeuvre in Kamrupi of that time now some scholars referred to as Brajavali, used by Bhakti poets. It was also used by the later Ahom kings to write the Buranjis, the Ahom chronicles, in the Assamese language. Needless to say, it has a rich legacy of Indian literature written in it.


Clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular characters, so learning to read it is complicated by the size of the alphabet, which numbers about 500 or so characters. While effort at standardizing the script for the Bengali language continue in such notable centers as the Bangla Academies (unaffiliated) at Bangladesh) and Kolkata (West Bengal, India), it is still not quite uniform as yet, since different people continue to use a few older forms of letters, thus making for concurrent forms for the same sounds.


It seems likely that the standardisation of the script will be greatly influenced by the need to typeset it on computers. The large alphabet could be represented, with a great deal of ingenuity, within the Ascii character set, but certain irregular conjuncts were omitted. 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.


Bengali in Unicode

The Unicode range for Bengali is U+0980 ... U+09FF.



    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
980  
990  
9A0  
9B0   ি
9C0  
9D0  
9E0  
9F0   ৿


  • Free Bangla Unicode Fonts (http://www.nongnu.org/freebangfont/)
  • Free Bangla Unicode Interface (http://www.ekushey.org/projects/shadhinota)

Sample Text

The following is a sample text of script. The selection is a Bengali song, highly Sanskritized and later adopted as the India. It was written by a man who is acknowledged as the single most important and defining figure of Bengali literature, the Nobel Laureate and philosopher_saint poet Rabindranath Tagore (Thakur in Bengali).


Bengali Text of Jana Gana Mana:

জনগণমন-অধিনায়ক জয় হে ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতা!
পঞ্জাব সিন্ধু গুজরাট মরাঠা দ্রাবিড় উত্‍‌কল বঙ্গ
বিন্ধ্য হিমাচল যমুনা গঙ্গা উচ্ছলজলধিতরঙ্গ
তব শুভ নামে জাগে, তব শুভ আশিস মাগে,
গাহে তব জয়গাথা।
জনগণমঙ্গলদায়ক জয় হে ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতা!
জয় হে, জয় হে, জয় হে, জয় জয় জয়, জয় হে॥


জনগণমন-অধিনায়ক জয় হে ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতা!


  Results from FactBites:
 
Bengali alphabet - definition of Bengali alphabet in Encyclopedia (449 words)
The Bengali script is an Abugida system of writing belonging to the Brahmic family of scripts whose use is associated with the Bengali, Assamese, Manipuri and Sylheti languages.
The large alphabet could be represented, with a great deal of ingenuity, within the Ascii character set, but certain irregular conjuncts were omitted.
The selection is a Bengali song, highly Sanskritized and later adopted as the national anthem of India.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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