Devanagari ( DAY-və-NAH-gər-ee; देवनागरी, IAST: Devanāgarī, Sanskrit pronunciation: [d̪eːʋɐˈn̪aːɡɐɽiː]), also called Nagari (Nāgarī, नागरी), is a left-to-right abugida (alphasyllabary), based on the ancient Brāhmī script, used in the Indian subcontinent. It was developed in ancient India from the 1st to the 4th century CE and was in regular use by the 7th century CE. The Devanagari script, composed of 47 primary characters including 14 vowels and 33 consonants, is the fourth most widely adopted writing system in the world, being used for over 120 languages.
The orthography of this script reflects the pronunciation of the language. Unlike the Latin alphabet, the script has no concept of letter case. 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, known as a shirorekhā, that runs along the top of full letters. In a cursory look, the Devanagari script appears different from other Indic scripts such as Bengali-Assamese, Odia or Gurmukhi, but a closer examination reveals they are very similar except for angles and structural emphasis.
Among the languages using it – as either their only script or one of their scripts – are Marathi, Pāḷi, Sanskrit (the ancient Nagari script for Sanskrit had two additional consonantal characters), Hindi, Nepali, Sherpa, Prakrit, Apabhramsha, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Braj Bhasha, Chhattisgarhi, Haryanvi, Magahi, Nagpuri, Rajasthani, Bhili, Dogri, Maithili, Kashmiri, Konkani, Sindhi, Bodo, Nepalbhasa, Mundari and Santali. 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 is a compound of "deva" देव and "nāgarī" नागरी. Deva means "heavenly or divine" and is also one of the terms for a deity in Hinduism. Nagari comes from नगरम् (nagaram), which means abode or city. Hence, Devanagari denotes from the abode of divinity or deities.
The use of the name devanāgarī emerged from the older term nāgarī. According to Fischer, Nagari emerged in the northwest Indian subcontinent around 633 CE, was fully developed by the 11th-century, and was one of the major scripts used for the Sanskrit literature.
Devanagari is part of the Brahmic family of scripts of India, Nepal, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. It is a descendant of the 3rd century BCE Brahmi script, which evolved into the Nagari script which in turn gave birth to Devanagari and Nandinagari. Both were used to write Sanskrit, until the latter was merged into the former. The resulting script is widely adopted across India to write Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi and its dialects, and Konkani.
Some of the earliest epigraphical evidence attesting to the developing Sanskrit Nagari script in ancient India is from the 1st to 4th century CE inscriptions discovered in Gujarat. Variants of script called Nāgarī, recognisably close to Devanagari, are first attested from the 1st century CE Rudradaman inscriptions in Sanskrit, while the modern standardised form of Devanagari was in use by about 1000 CE. Medieval inscriptions suggest widespread diffusion of the Nagari-related scripts, with biscripts presenting local script along with the adoption of Nagari scripts. For example, the mid 8th-century Pattadakal pillar in Karnataka has text in both Siddha Matrika script, and an early Telugu-Kannada script; while, the Kangra Jawalamukhi inscription in Himachal Pradesh is written in both Sharada and Devanagari scripts.
The Nagari script was in regular use by the 7th century CE, and it was fully 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, and an inscribed brick 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 of the Indic scripts. It has long been used traditionally by religiously educated people in South Asia to record and transmit information, existing throughout the land in parallel with a wide variety of local scripts (such as Modi, Kaithi, and Mahajani) used for administration, commerce, and other daily uses.
Sharada remained in parallel use in Kashmir. An early version of Devanagari is visible in the Kutila inscription of Bareilly dated to Vikram Samvat 1049 (i.e. 992 CE), which demonstrates the emergence of the horizontal bar to group letters belonging to a word. One of the oldest surviving Sanskrit texts from the early post-Maurya period consists of 1,413 Nagari pages of a commentary by Patanjali, with a composition date of about 150 BCE, the surviving copy transcribed about 14th century CE.
Under the rule of Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire, Thonmi Sambhota was sent to Nepal to open marriage negotiations with a Nepali princess and to find a writing system suitable for the Tibetan language. Thus he invented the Tibetan script, based on the Nagari used in Kashmir. He added 6 new characters for sounds that did not exist in Sanskrit.
Most of the southeast Asian scripts have roots in the Dravidian scripts, except for a few found in south-central regions of Java and isolated parts of southeast Asia that resemble Devanagari or its prototype. The Kawi script in particular is similar to the Devanagari in many respects though the morphology of the script has local changes. The earliest inscriptions in the Devanagari-like scripts are from around the 10th-century, with many more between 11th and 14th century. Some of the old-Devanagari inscriptions are found in Hindu temples of Java, such as the Prambanan temple. The Ligor and the Kalasan inscriptions of central Java, dated to the 8th-century, are also in the Nagari script of North India. According to the epigraphist and Asian Studies scholar Lawrence Briggs, these may be related to the 9th-century copper plate inscription of Devapaladeva (Bengal) which is also in early Devanagari script. The term Kawi in Kawi script is a loan word from Kavya (poetry). According to anthropologists and Asian Studies scholars John Norman Miksic and Goh Geok Yian, the 8th-century version of early Nagari or Devanagari script was adopted in Java, Bali (Indonesia), and Khmer (Cambodia) around 8th or 9th-century, as evidenced by the many inscriptions of this period.
The letter order of Devanagari, like nearly all Brahmic scripts, is based on phonetic principles that consider both the manner and place of articulation of the consonants and vowels they represent. This arrangement is usually referred to as the varṇamālā "garland of letters". The format of Devanagari for Sanskrit serves as the prototype for its application, with minor variations or additions, to other languages.
The table below shows the consonant letters (in combination with inherent vowel a) and their arrangement. To the right of the Devanagari letter it shows the Latin script transliteration using International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration, and the phonetic value (IPA) in Hindi.
Table: Consonants with vowel diacritics. Vowels in their independent form on the left and in their corresponding dependent form (vowel sign) combined with the consonant 'k' on the right. 'ka' is without any added vowel sign, where the vowel 'a' is inherent. ISO 15919 transliteration is on the top two rows.
A vowel combines with a consonant in their diacritic form. For example, the vowel आ (ā) combines with the consonant क् (k) to form the syllabic letter का (kā), with haland removed and added vowel sign which is indicated by diacritics. The vowel अ (a) combines with the consonant क् (k) to form क (ka) with haland removed. But, the diacritic series of क, ख, ग, घ ... (ka, kha, ga, gha) is without any added vowel sign, as the vowel अ (a) is inherent.
As mentioned, successive consonants lacking a vowel in between them may physically join together as a conjunct consonant or ligature. When Devanagari is used for writing languages other than Sanskrit, conjuncts are used mostly with Sanskrit words and loan words. Native words typically use the basic consonant and native speakers know to suppress the vowel when it is conventional to do so. For example, the native Hindi word karnā is written करना (ka-ra-nā). The government of these clusters ranges from widely to narrowly applicable rules, with special exceptions within. While standardised for the most part, there are certain variations in clustering, of which the Unicode used on this page is just one scheme. The following are a number of rules:
The pitch accent of Vedic Sanskrit is written with various symbols depending on shakha. In the Rigveda, anudātta is written with a bar below the line (◌॒), svarita with a stroke above the line (◌॑) while udātta is unmarked.
The end of a sentence or half-verse may be marked with the "।" symbol (called a daṇḍa, meaning "bar", or called a pūrṇa virām, meaning "full stop/pause"). The end of a full verse may be marked with a double-daṇḍa, a "॥" symbol. A comma (called an alpa virām, meaning "short stop/pause") is used to denote a natural pause in speech. Punctuation marks of Western origin, such as the colon, semi-colon, exclamation mark, dash, and question mark are in use in Devanagari script since at least the 1900s, matching their use in European languages.
The following letter variants are also in use, particularly in older texts.
A variety of Unicode fonts are in use for Devanagari. These include Akshar, Annapurna, Arial, CDAC-Gist Surekh, CDAC-Gist Yogesh, Chandas, Gargi, Gurumaa, Jaipur, Jana, Kalimati, Kanjirowa, Lohit Devanagari, Mangal, Kokila, Raghu, Sanskrit2003, Santipur OT, Siddhanta, and Thyaka.
The form of Devanagari fonts vary with function. According to Harvard College for Sanskrit studies:
Uttara [companion to Chandas] is the best in terms of ligatures but, because it is designed for Vedic as well, requires so much vertical space that it is not well suited for the "user interface font" (though an excellent choice for the "original field" font). Santipur OT is a beautiful font reflecting a very early [medieval era] typesetting style for Devanagari. Sanskrit 2003 is a good all-around font and has more ligatures than most fonts, though students will probably find the spacing of the CDAC-Gist Surekh font makes for quicker comprehension and reading.
The Google Fonts project has a number of Unicode fonts for Devanagari in a variety of typefaces in serif, sans-serif, display and handwriting categories.
A standard transliteration convention was codified in the ISO 15919 standard of 2001. It uses diacritics to map the much larger set of Brahmic graphemes to the Latin script. The Devanagari-specific portion is nearly identical to the academic standard for Sanskrit, IAST.
The is the academic standard for the romanisation of Sanskrit. IAST is the de facto standard used in printed publications, like books, magazines, and electronic texts with Unicode fonts. It is based on a standard established by the Congress of Orientalists at Athens in 1912. The ISO 15919 standard of 2001 codified the transliteration convention to include an expanded standard for sister scripts of Devanagari.
The National Library at Kolkata romanisation, intended for the romanisation of all Indic scripts, is an extension of IAST.
Compared to IAST, Harvard-Kyoto looks much simpler. It does not contain all the diacritic marks that IAST contains. It was designed to simplify the task of putting large amount of Sanskrit textual material into machine readable form, and the inventors stated that it reduces the effort needed in transliteration of Sanskrit texts on the keyboard. This makes typing in Harvard-Kyoto much easier than IAST. Harvard-Kyoto uses capital letters that can be difficult to read in the middle of words.
ITRANS is a lossless transliteration scheme of Devanagari into ASCII that is widely used on Usenet. It is an extension of the Harvard-Kyoto scheme. In ITRANS, the word devanāgarī is written "devanaagarii" or "devanAgarI". ITRANS is associated with an application of the same name that enables typesetting in Indic scripts. The user inputs in Roman letters and the ITRANS pre-processor translates the Roman letters into Devanagari (or other Indic languages). The latest version of ITRANS is version 5.30 released in July, 2001. It is similar to Velthuis system and was created by Avinash Chopde to help print various Indic scripts with personal computers.
The disadvantage of the above ASCII schemes is case-sensitivity, implying that transliterated names may not be capitalised. This difficulty is avoided with the system developed in 1996 by Frans Velthuis for TeX, loosely based on IAST, in which case is irrelevant.
ALA-LC romanisation is a transliteration scheme approved by the Library of Congress and the American Library Association, and widely used in North American libraries. Transliteration tables are based on languages, so there is a table for Hindi, one for Sanskrit and Prakrit, etc.
WX is a Roman transliteration scheme for Indian languages, widely used among the natural language processing community in India. It originated at IIT Kanpur for computational processing of Indian languages. The salient features of this transliteration scheme are as follows.
It has been designed for representing not only Devanagari but also various other Indic scripts as well as a Latin-based script with diacritic marks used for transliteration of the Indic scripts.
ISCII has largely been superseded by Unicode, which has, however, attempted to preserve the ISCII layout for its Indic language blocks.
The Unicode Standard defines three blocks for Devanagari: Devanagari (U+0900–U+097F), Devanagari Extended (U+A8E0–U+A8FF), and Vedic Extensions (U+1CD0–U+1CFF).
InScript is the standard keyboard layout for Devanagari as standardized by the Government of India. It is inbuilt in all modern major operating systems. Microsoft Windows supports the InScript layout (using the Mangal font), which can be used to input unicode Devanagari characters. InScript is also available in some touchscreen mobile phones.
This layout was used on manual typewriters when computers were not available or were uncommon. For backward compatibility some typing tools like Indic IME still provide this layout.
Any one of Unicode fonts input system is fine for Indic language Wikipedia and other wikiprojects, including Hindi, Bhojpuri, Marathi, Nepali Wikipedia. Some people use inscript. Majority uses either Google phonetic transliteration or input facility Universal Language Selector provided on Wikipedia. On Indic language wikiprojects Phonetic facility provided initially was java-based later supported by Narayam extension for phonetic input facility. Currently Indic language Wiki projects are supported by Universal Language Selector (ULS), that offers both phonetic keyboard (Aksharantaran, Marathi: अक्षरांतरण, Hindi: लिप्यंतरण, बोलनागरी) and InScript keyboard (Marathi: मराठी लिपी).
The Ubuntu Linux operating system supports several keyboard layouts for Devanagari, including Harvard-Kyoto, WX notation, Bolanagari and phonetic. The 'remington' typing method in Ubuntu IBUS is similar to the Krutidev typing method, popular in Rajasthan. The 'itrans' method is useful for those who know English well (and the English keyboard) but not familiar with typing in Devanagari.
Thousands of manuscripts of ancient and medieval era Sanskrit texts in Devanagari have been discovered since the 19th century. Major catalogues and census include: