Wednesday, 21 August 2013



                 Sylheti Nagri Literature    Syloti-Nagri

Sylheti Nagari or Syloti Nagri (Silôṭi Nagôri) is the original script used for writing the Sylheti language.It is an almost extinct script, this is because the Sylheti Language itself was reduced to only dialect status after Bangladesh gained independence and because it did not make sense for a dialect to have its own script,its use was heavily discouraged. The government of the newly formed Bangladesh did so to promote a greater "Bengali" identity. This led to the informal adoption of the Eastern Nagari script also used for Bengali and Assamese. The Sylheti-Nagari Script is more older than The Bengali Language ,which history is just 1000-1200 years old.

The traditionally story of the origin of the Syloti-Nagri alphabet is about 5000 years back. In the time of Mahabharata,when Sylhet or Sreehatta was a part of  Bhagadatta's Kingdom  and also traces of Sylheti-Nagari Script can be found in Puranas.According to a late text, Kalika Purana (c.7th–8th AD), the earliest ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danav of the Danava dynasty, which was removed by Naraka who established his the Naraka dynasty. The last of these rulers, also Naraka, was slain by Krishna. Naraka's son Bhagadatta became the king, who, it is mentioned in the Mahabharata, fought for the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra with an army of kiratas, chinas and dwellers of the eastern coast.In the late 17th century, Persian became the official language of
the Delhi Sultanate and the Perso-Arabic script was used in all official documents.
The Sylheti language and alphabet continued to be used by the ordinary people for everyday matters. In the 1860s, a Sylheti by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim spent several years in Europe and learnt the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for the Syloti-Nagri alphabet and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet Town in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamgonj, Shillong and Calcutta. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s. Since then the Syloti-Nagri alphabet has been used mainly by linguists and academics.

During the Hindu reawakening at the time of Sri chaitanya (1486-1533), when sanskrit in Devanagari script was being widely used, Muslims started writing books in their newly devised Sylheti Nagri. A printing press with Sylheti Nagri typefaces was established in Sylhet sometime between 1860-1870 which helped spread the use of the script. Moulvi abdul karim designed the typeface and founded the Sylhet Islamia Printing Press, which was the first to print Sylheti Nagri. Later, other presses such as Sylhet Sharada Printing Press, Sialdah Hamidi Press in Kolkata, and General Printing Works on Gardiner Lane also printed books in Sylheti Nagri. Two primers, Sylheti Nagrir Pahela Ketab (The First Book of Sylheti Nagri) and Sylheti Nagri Likha (Writing in Sylheti Nagri), helped the script gain a footing.
The language of the puthis written in Sylheti Nagri and in dobhasi is identical, lacking the use of tatsama (Sanskrit) words. Many Persian and Arabic words are used in puthis written in Sylheti Nagri. In the fashion of dobhasi puthis, those written in Sylheti Nagri were paginated from right to left.
The earliest extant manuscript written in Sylhet Nagri is Talib Huson by Gholam Huson (1549). Other manuscripts include Ragnama (1727) by Fazil Nasim Mohammad, Noor Nosihat (Enlightened Teachings, 1819), Ragnoor and Sat-kanyar Bakhan by Syed Shah Noor (1730-1854), Bhedsar by Shah Huson Alam (1750-1850), Mushkil Taran, Hasar Taran, Ragbaul, Keyamatnama, Shitalangi Rag by Shitalang Shah (1800), Haruful Khaslat (1875) by Nasim Ali (1813-1920), Halot-un-Nobi (Account of the Prophet, 1855), Mahobbat Nama, Hasor Michil, Raddequfur by Munshi Mohammad Sadeq Ali etc. Puthis such as Kadinama, Chhadchhi Machhla and Sonabhaner Punthi by Abdul Karim were extremely popular. According to an estimate there are about 150 extant Sylheti Nagri texts, in print or manuscript, by about 60 people. Anonymous puthis include popular texts such as Harinnama, Hushiyarnama, Safatunnabi, Abu Sama, Nur Najat, and Penchar Galpa.
Sylheti Nagri is found inscribed on Afghan coins that were minted towards the close of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. Some deeds written in Sylheti Nagri are preserved in the Sylhet District Archives and Sub-Registry Office in maulvi bazar. [Muhammad Ashraful Islam]

Notable features

  • The alphabet is written in horizontal lines from left to right, but Sylheti books are paginated from right to left. This means that the front cover of a Sylhettan book is where the back cover of an English book would be.
  • This is a syllabic alphabet in which consonants all have an inherent vowel. Other vowels are indicated with diacritics or separate letters. The inherent vowel can be muted with a special diacritic called a hasanta.
  • Vowels can be written as independent letters, or by using a variety of diacritical marks which are written above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to.
  • When consonants occur together in clusters, special conjunct letters are used. The letters for the consonants other than the final one in the group are reduced. The inherent vowel only applies to the final consonant.

Used to write:

Sylheti, an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken by around 10 million in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh and in parts of India. Sylheti is closely related to Bengali (Bangla) and most speakers are bilingual in Sylheti and Bengali.
Syloti-Nagri vowels and diacritics


  • The dvisvara sign can attach to consonants to form the diphthong /oi/ with the inherent vowel, or it can also combine with dependent or independent vowels to form other diphthongs. Those diphthongs can also be written with the independent vowel i.
Syloti-Nagri consonants

Bengali alphabet for Sylheti

Bengali alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti

Latin alphabet for Sylheti
Information about the Sylheti scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel


Information about Syloti-Nagri alphabet
Syloti-Nagri fonts
Sylheti Translation and Research - a London-based research organisation dedicated to studying the folk literature of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh:
Sylhet Nagri Texts Documentation Archive
Bengali and Sylheti Language Services

Indo-Aryan languages

Awadhi, Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Chakma, Dhivehi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Kotia, Kutchi, Maithili, Marathi, Marwari, Modi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Romany, Saraiki, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sourashtra, Sugali, Sylheti, Urdu

Languages written with the Bengali alphabet

Bengali, Garo, Manipuri, Mundari, Sylheti
Also used to write: Bishnupriya, Bodo, Chakma, Chiru, Koda, Nisi, Deori, Dimasa, Hajong, Koch, Khasi, Kudmali, Tiwa, Sauria Paharia, Miri, Chothe Naga, Thangal Naga, Moyon Naga, Maring Naga, Rabha, Rangpuri, Santali, Sadri, Oraon Sadri, Sulung, Panchpargania, Tippera, Kok Borok, Toto and Usui.

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

Ahom, Badaga, Balinese, Batak, Baybayin (Tagalog), Bengali, Brahmi, Buhid, Burmese, Chakma, Cham, Dehong Dai, Devanagari, Dhives Akuru, Ethiopic, Evēla Akuru, Fraser, Gondi, Grantha, Gujarati, Gupta, Gurmukhi, Hanuno'o, Javanese, Jenticha, Kaithi, Kannada, Kharosthi, Khmer, Khojki, Kulitan, Lanna, Lao, Lepcha, Limbu, Lontara/Makasar, Malayalam, Manpuri, Modi, Mongolian Horizontal Square Script, New Tai Lue, Oriya, Pahawh Hmong, Pallava, Phags-pa, Ranjana, Redjang, Shan, Sharda, Siddham, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sorang Sompeng, Sourashtra, Soyombo, Sundanese, Syloti Nagri, Tagbanwa, Takri, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Tikamuli, Tocharian, Tolong Siki, Tulu, Varang Kshiti.

Bibliography  Shivprasanna Lahiri, Sylheti Bhasatattver Bhumika (Introduction to Sylheti Dialect), Dhaka, 1961; Syed Murtaza Ali, 'Sylheter Nagrilipi O Bangla Sahitya' (Sylheti Nagri and Bangla literature), Sahitya Patrika, Dhaka, 1961; GA Chowdhury, Sylheti Nagri Parikrama (Introduction to Sylheti Nagri), 1978; Golam Kadir, 'Sylheti Nagri: Pathan-Pathan' (Readings in Sylheti Nagri), Dhaka Visvavidyalaya Patrika, June 1982; Dewan Nurul Anwar Hussain Choudhury, Amader Sangskrtik Svadhinata : Uttaradhikar O Musalmani Nagri (Our Cultural Independence: Heritage and Muslim Script), Dhaka, 2001.

Sylhet Nagree
  Brief on Some Poets of Nagree Literature

Munshi Sadeq Ali
Munshi Sadeq Ali is a famous poet of Nagri literature. There is no disagreement on the place of his birth, that is village Daulotpur near Longla, but the opinions are different regarding the year he was born-1798,1800 or 1801. According to ‘Sylheter Nagree Lipi O Bangla Shahitya’ by Syed Mortuza Ali, this poet was born in 1801. Dewan Nurul Anwar Hossain Choudhury’s opinion is that birth of Munshi Sadeq Ali happened in 1800 A.D. or 1207 B.E. (Bengali Era). On the contrary Dr. S.M. Golam Quadir has said Sadeq Ali was born in 1798 A.D. He is in favor of considering 1205 B.E. instead of 1250 as appears in the brief identity given by the poet in his book Haltunnabi, a narrative account of the Prophet Muhammad (SM). Dr. Quadir apprehends that 1250 is a printing mistake rather it should be 1205 otherwise other events do not qualify the timeline. Last one has also been supported by Choudhury Golam Akbar Sahityabhushon.
The poet was a Hindu by birth. His name was Gour Kishore and Govind Sen was his father. He served as Munsef of the then Hingazia collectorate under Moulvibazar for eight years from 1823 to 1830. He lost his parents early and was brought up by his paternal uncle whose death influenced him so much that he finally converted himself to a Muslim in 1235 B.E. He married daughter of Hazir Thakur, a noble man and settled in Lamu village of Ita porgonah where his descendants are still living.
His famous books are-Haltunnabi, Hashor Micheel, Roddey Kufur and Mohabbat Naama. The poet composed Roddey Kufur probably at the age of fifty and Halunnabi at fifty seven followed by Mohabbat Naama and Hashor Micheel. Famous Haltunnabi was composed while he was staying in Tahaarlamua village near Rajnagar.
Deen Vobananda
Vobananda was born at Nortton under Longla more than two hundred years ago and attained extraordinary learning in Hindu scripture. Truly, his scholarly virtue is apparent from the language and details of his songs.
Vobananda was a henpecked man; was so attracted to his wife that he used to become extremely eager and restless on her absence even for a day. So, he avoided sending her to his in-law’s house. Once she was send there by his mother while Vobananda was out of home. On return he learnt that and madly reached her with wet clothes by swimming across a river in the dark night. Observing such deep affiliation for her, she told him that if he had similar attraction for the God then he would have found His closeness. Vobananda was moved with her words and had upsurge emotion for God. Having outburst of emotion he asked his wife, “what have you said, mother?” She repeated same words. Then Vobananda went into hidings in that dark night. He was seen for few days by some people singing while floating on a tree-trunk along the river Juri. Thereafter he was not seen for a long time.
Deen Vobananda is a famous devotee poet. A Brahmin and learned, proceeding the way of devotion, ultimately chooses Islam as his religion. His tomb still exists at Kashimnagar mouza under Dharmanagar subdivision of Triperra State. However, Poddyanath Bhottacharjee Bidyabinod and Md. Abdul Bari differ with his becoming a Muslim by analyzing different words; feelings, situations and other aspects of his lyrics. Moreover, there are several words found in his famous ‘Hari Bongsho’ which bear meaning and sense with the words used in southern part of Sylhet only. These words express different meanings in Sylhet and Karimganj areas. With this finding the scholars are definite that he was a man from southern Sylhet.
Whatever may be the debate regarding his place of birth and his ultimate religion, everyone is unanimous that he was an extraordinary poet.

Sylheti Nagree
  Brief on Search Team Members
Sikandar Ali is a legend in the Syloti Nagree Puthi-paath arena. He was a regular puthi-pathak of Sylhet Betar during 1966-1992. He was capable of reading Nagree verses in verious methods. An inhabitant of Atgaon Dewaner Chak under Khadimpara U.P of Sylhet and a pupil of Dakshinkach Zahiria School.
He graciously donated the printed copy of Haltunnabi. Nagree Fonts were finalized incorporating the revisions suggested by him. He checked the proof of Haltunnabi by conducting puthi-pather aasor. He knew many persons having Nagree books and manuscripts in their possession and with his assistance, links and request several books were collected.
Sikandar Ali (1917 - 2009)
Abdul Quadir is an active volunteer for searching Nagree puthis and manuscripts in and around his locality. He is an inhabitant of Fatehpur (Haripur) having his residence very near Well # 6 of the gas field.
He has amazing speed and stamina in walking and capable of crossing every terrain on foot. Whole of Sylhet sadar, Jaintapur, Kanaighat, Guainghat areas are his haunting places. Due to his approach, local dialects and innocence, he is acceptable to all villagers specially the ladies, which has helped him in locating Nagree books and manuscripts for our mission.
Abdul Quadir
An inhabitant of Pirer Chak under Khadimpara U.P
Mr. Baada is providing active support to the search team. He has a baby taxi which can ply through the village roads and he charges bare minimum for this drive.
He also remains updated with the information on Nagri books through his personal network people. Accordingly, nagree puthi collection drives are organized. He has become acquainted with the requirements of the mission and contributing his best.
Md. Ilas Ali (Baada)
Mridul Nandy is an active volunteer for searching Nagree puthis and   manuscripts in and around Assam , Shillong & Jaintia Hills area.He is an inhabitant of Shillong having his residence in North-Eastern States of India,he has amazing ability to speak fluently in local languages of North-East like:khasi,Garo,Assamese,Nagamese,kokborok, Nepali.Whole of Shillong, Jaintia Hills, Silchar,Karimganj,Badarpur,Dharmanagar,Nagaon, Kailasahar areas are his haunting places.Due to his approach, local dialects and innocence, he is acceptable to all villagers specially the Sylheti, which has helped him in locating Nagree books and manuscripts for our mission.


Sylhet Nagree
  Brief on Research Scholars

Sylheti Nagree is the name of an alternative script of Bengali lingual literature for writing, reading and teaching. In greater Sylhet region, this script originated in the seventeenth century. This script was widely cultured there throughout eighteenth and nineteenth century. As a result, more than hundred books were composed, printed and circulated. Even, its pursuing continued till the earlier part of twentieth century. But this meaningful heritage almost remained unknown to the majority of Bengali speaking people.
Matters related to origination, development and fate of Sylheti Nagree have been followed in this book in light of historical focus. Analysis and considerations on sources and characteristics of raw material and ingredients of this unprecedented script have been done with the help of various references. Short discussions were made on reading and teaching methods of this script; and on the form and nature of regional language used in the literatures composed by this script.
This book accomplishes the effort of extracting the real identity and dignity of Sylheti Nagree script, language and literature by discussing the features, theme and extracts of several citable Nagree books.
Dr. Golam Quadir ( March 17, 1933 - February 05, 2011) was born at Chamardani, Dharmapasha under Sunamganj district. He read in various institutes of greater Sylhet upto graduation and obtained his Masters degree from Dhaka University in 1959.  He completed Ph.D in 1983. His career was dominated by teaching profession which continued after his formal retirement from Mymensingh A.M. College. Apart from this research work, he has several other publications.

Dr. Muhammed Sadiq, in his exceptional research "Sylheti Nagri: Fokiri Dharar Foshol", has once again attested that in the midst of darkness all around, someone remains awaked with the hope of light. Essentiality of light is established by discovery of light. He hasn't forgotten the smell of water at roots in the glorious-land even at exile far away from the boundary of Bengal. Being one of the best poets of wavy eighties, a son of greater Sylhet has not forgotten his obligation towards intellect practice. And more significantly selects the root-attached lighted legends and myths as the topic for educational research. Another word which should obviously be spelled that almost all researchers depend on instant desires in selecting the research-topic and even after commencing the task soon get surrounded by hesitation and doubt. Gradually the prospects and substance that lie in the subject become apparent to them.  Merely few out of these researchers transit to reality of life from the theme of the subject.
Prior to commencing or after the conclusion of the research, there exists no relevance of the academic project in determining the sought and substance of life. Dr. Sadiq is a bright and ideal exception in this respect. Remaining occupied with the administrative functions as part of service, he could still keep alive immense interest on Sylheti Nagree Lipi and spiritual literature of the Fakirs who have renounced the world. By moving, year after years, to different towns and villages of Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj and Moulvibazar he has collected samples on Sylheti Nagree Lipi and manuscripts, printed books and writings on the same.
Let Dr. Sadiq's book bring hope of revival to the multiple crisis-depressed readers. Let it spread the blended shadow of blue-antimony and ancient-memory by removing arrogant mesh that prevails; and reestablish the significance of essence in diversely-torn life. Readers, let us join this rediscovery and renewing second-acquaintance of root-touch light. There is no sign of completeness or end-point in this book, but has only announcement of a new beginning.

                   Sylheti- Nagari Script


The blog was posted by Mridul Nandy.




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