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The Brahmic or Indic scripts are a family of abugida (alphabetic-syllabary) writing systems. They are used throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, and parts of Central and East Asia, and are descended from the Brāhmī script of the ancient Indian subcontinent. They are used by languages of several language families: Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolic, Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian, Tai, and possibly influenced Korean (hangul). They were also the source of the dictionary order of Japanese kana.


Brahmic scripts are descended from the Brahmi script. Brahmi is clearly attested from the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ashoka, who used the script for imperial edicts, but there are some recent finds of earlier epigraphy in Tamil-Brahmi writing found on pottery in South India and Sri Lanka, dating back to the 6th century BCE or even earlier. Northern Brahmi gave rise to the Gupta script during the Gupta period, which in turn diversified into a number of cursives during the Middle Ages, including Siddham, Sharada and Nagari.

An inscription in Old Tamil script (Vatte- luttu) from the Later Chola period, circa 11th century AD. Old Tamil is a direct descendant of the Brahmi writing system

An inscription in Old Tamil script (Vatte- luttu) from the Later Chola period, circa 11th century AD. Old Tamil is a direct descendant of the Brahmi writing system.

The Siddham (kanji: 悉曇, modern Japanese pronunciation: shittan) script was especially important in Buddhism because many sutras were written in it, and the art of Siddham calligraphy survives today in Japan. The syllabic nature and dictionary order of the modern kana system of Japanese writing is believed to be descended from the Indic scripts, most likely through the spread of Buddhism.

Southern Brahmi evolved into Grantha and Old-Kannada Scripts among others, which in turn diversified into numerous scripts of Southeast Asia.

Bhattiprolu was a great centre of Buddhism during 3rd century BCE and from where Buddhism spread to east Asia. The present Telugu script is derived from Bhattiprolu Script or 'Kannada-Telugu script', also known as 'old Kannada script', owing to its similarity to the same.

Initially, minor changes were made which is now called Tamil brahmi which has far fewer letters than some of the other Indic scripts as it has no separate aspirated or voiced consonants. Later under the influence of Granta vetteluthu evolved which looks similar to present day Malayalam script. Still further changes were made in 19th and 20th centuries to make use of printing and typewriting needs before we have the present script.

Gari Ledyard has hypothesized that the hangul script used to write Korean is based on the Mongol 'Phags-pa script, a descendant of the Brahmic family via Tibetan.


Some characteristics, which may not be present in all the scripts are:

Halmidi Inscription Replica shows Kannada script which is thought to have emerged from Ashokan Brahmi around 4th or 3rd Century BCE as Proto-Kannada

Halmidi Inscription Replica shows Kannada script which is thought to have emerged from Ashokan Brahmi around 4th or 3rd Century BCE as Proto-Kannada.

* Each consonant has an inherent vowel which is usually short 'a' (in Bengali, Oriya, and Assamese, it is short 'o' due to sound shifts). Other vowels are written by adding to the character. A mark, known in Sanskrit as a virama/halant can be used to indicate the absence of an inherent vowel.

* Each vowel has two forms, an independent form when not part of a consonant, and a dependent form, when attached to a consonant. Depending on the script, the dependent forms can be either placed to the left of, to the right of, above, below, or on both the left and the right sides of the base consonant.

* Consonants (up to 5 in Devanagari) can be combined in ligatures. Special marks are added to denote the combination of 'r' with another consonant.

* Nasalization and aspiration of a consonant's dependent vowel is also noted by separate signs.

* The traditional ordering can be summarized as follows: vowels, velar consonants, palatal consonants, retroflex consonants, dental consonants, bilabial consonants, approximants, sibilants, and other consonants. Each consonant grouping had four consonants (with all four possible values of voicing and aspiration), and a nasalised consonant.


Below are comparison charts of several of the major Indic scripts; transliteration is indicated in ISO 15919; pronunciation is indicated in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Pronunciation is taken from Sanskrit where possible, but other languages where necessary. These lists are not comprehensive; some glyphs are unrepresented. Some pronunciations may be inaccurate or different from the ones listed, partly because the graphemically corresponding glyphs listed in the same column are not necessarily phonetically identical.


ISO k kh g gh c ch j jh ñ h h t th
IPA k kʰ ɡ ɡʱ ŋ c cʰ ɟ ɟʱ ɲ ʈ ʈʰ ɖ ɖʱ ɳ t̪ t̪ʰ
E. Nagari
Brahmi Brah kh.png
Burmese က ဉ/ည

ISO d dh n p ph b bh m y r l v ś s h
IPA d̪ d̪ʱ n̪ n p pʰ b bʱ m j r ɾ l ɭ ɻ ʋ ʃ ʂ s ɦ
E. Nagari   /      
Gurmukhi     ਲ਼   ਸ਼  


Vowels are presented in their independent form on the left of each column, and in their corresponding dependent form (vowel sign) combined with the consonant k on the right. A glyph for ka is an independent consonant letter itself without any vowel sign, where the vowel a is inherent.

ISO a ā æ ǣ i ī u ū e ē
IPA ə ɑː æ æː i u e
Oriya କା         କି କୀ କୁ କୂ     କେ
E. Nagari কা অ্যা ক্যা     কি কী কু কূ     কে
Devanagari का अॅ कॅ कॉ कि की कु कू कॆ के
Gujarati કા         કિ કી કુ કૂ     કે
Gurmukhi ਕਾ         ਕਿ ਕੀ ਕੁ ਕੂ     ਕੇ
Tibetan ཨཱ ཀཱ         ཨི ཀི ཨཱི ཀཱི ཨུ ཀུ ཨཱུ ཀཱུ     ཨེ ཀེ
Telugu కా         కి కీ కు కూ కె కే
Kannada ಕಾ         ಕಿ ಕೀ ಕು ಕೂ ಕೆ ಕೇ
Sinhala කා කැ කෑ කි කී කු කූ කෙ කේ
Malayalam കാ         കി കീ കു കൂ കെ കേ
Tamil கா         கி கீ கு கூ கெ கே
Burmese က အာ ကာ         ကိ ကီ ကု ကူ ကေ အေး ကေး
Khmer កា         កិ កី កុ កូ     កេ
Thai อะ อา กา         อิ กิ อี กี อุ กุ อู กู     เก
Balinese ᬓᬵ         ᬓᬶ ᬓᬷ ᬓᬸ ᬓᬹ     ᬓᬾ
Baybayin               ᜃᜒ     ᜃᜓ     ᜃᜒ    

ISO ai o ō au r̥ r̥̄ l̥ l̥̄
IPA əi o əu r̩ r̩ː l̩ l̩ː
Oriya କୈ     କୋ କୌ କୃ
E. Nagari কৈ     কো কৌ কৃ কৄ কৢ কৣ
Devanagari कै कॊ को कौ कृ कॄ कॢ कॣ
Gujarati કૈ     કો કૌ કૃ કૄ
Gurmukhi ਕੈ     ਕੋ ਕੌ                
Tibetan ཨཻ ཀཻ     ཨོ ཀོ ཨཽ ཀཽ རྀ ཀྲྀ རཱྀ ཀཷ ལྀ ཀླྀ ལཱྀ ཀླཱྀ
Telugu కై కొ కో కౌ కృ కౄ
Kannada ಕೈ ಕೊ ಕೋ ಕೌ ಕೃ ಕೄ
Sinhala කෛ කො කෝ කෞ කෘ කෲ කෟ කෳ
Malayalam കൈ കൊ കോ കൗ കൃ
Tamil கை கொ கோ கௌ                
Burmese     ကော     ကော် ကၖ ကၗ ကၘ ကၙ
Khmer កៃ     កោ កៅ ក្ឫ ក្ឬ ក្ឭ ក្ឮ
Thai อาย กาย     โอ โก อาว กาว อฤ กฤ อฤๅ กฤๅ อฦ กฦ อฦๅ กฦๅ
Balinese ᬓᬿ     ᬓᭀ ᬓᭁ ᬓᬺ ᬓᬻ ᬓᬼ ᬓᬽ
Baybayin     ᜃᜓ                        

Note: Glyphs for r̥̄, l̥, l̥̄ and a few other glyphs are obsolete or very rarely used.


  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
E. Nagari

List of Brahmic scripts

Scripts derived from Brahmi.


The Brahmi script was already divided into regional variants at the time of the earliest surviving epigraphy around the 3rd century BCE. Cursives of the Brahmi script began to diversify further from around the 5th century CE and continued to give rise to new scripts throughout the Middle Ages. The main division in antiquity was between northern and southern Brahmi. In the northern group, the Gupta script was very influential, and in the southern group the Grantha and Old-Kannada Scripts with the spread of Hinduism spread Brahmic scripts throughout Southeast Asia.

  • Northern Brahmic
    • Anga Lipi, 6th century BCE
    • Gupta script, 5th century
      • Sharada, 8th century
      • Siddham, 7th century
        • Phagspa, 13th century
      • Nagari, 8th century
        • Eastern Nagari, 11th century
        • Devanagari, 13th century
        • Kaithi, Sylheti Nagari, 16th century
        • Modi, 17th century
    • Nepal
      • Bhujimol, 6th century
      • Ranjana, 12th century
        • Soyombo, 17th century
      • Prachalit
    • Mithilakshar, 15th century
  • Southern Brahmi (Tamil Brahmi, Kalinga, Bhattiprolu), 5th century BCE
    • Proto Kannada, 3rd century BCE
      • Kadamba or Pre-Old-Kannada, 5th century
    • Vatte- luttu
    • Grantha, 6th century
      • Dhives Akuru
      • Kawi script, 8th century
        • Batak, 14th century
  • Tocharian script ("Slanting Brahmi"), 7th century
  • Ahom, 13th century
  • Tai Tham (Lanna), 14th century
  • Meeitei Mayek


script deriva- tion period of deriva- tion usage notes ISO 15924 Unicode range sample
Anga Lipi Brahmi 6th century BCE Angika U+0900–U+097F देवनागरी
Baline- se Old Kawi 11th century Balinese language Bali U+1B00–U+1B7F
Bayba- yin Old Kawi 14th century Tagalog, other Philippine languages Tglg U+1700–U+171F ᜆᜄᜎᜓᜄ᜔
Buhid Old Kawi 14th century Buhid language Buhd U+1740–U+175F ᝊᝓᝑᝒ
Burm- ese Vatte- luttu 11th century Burmese language, numerous modifications for other languages including Chakma, Eastern and Western Pwo Karen, Geba Karen, Kayah, Mon, Rumai Palaung, S'gaw Karen, Shan Mymr U+1000–U+109F မြန်မာအက္ခရာ
Cham Vatte- luttu 8th century Cham language Cham U+AA00–U+AA5F
Devana- gari Nagari 13th century Numerous Indo-Aryan languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Bhili, Konkani, Angika, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili, Kurukh, Nepal Bhasa and sometimes Sindhi and Kashmiri. Formerly used to write Gujarati. Sometimes used to write or transliterate Sherpa Deva U+0900–U+097F देवनागरी
Eastern Nagari Nagari 11th century Bengali language (Bengali script variant), Assamese language (Assamese script variant) Beng U+0980–U+09FF বাংলা লিপি
Guja- rati Nagari 17th century Gujarati language, Kutchi language Gujr U+0A80–U+0AFF ગુજરાતી લિપિ
Gurmu- khi Sharada 16th century Punjabi language Guru U+0A00–U+0A7F ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ
Hanu- nó'o Old Kawi 14th century Hanuno'o language Hano U+1720–U+173F
Java- nese Old Kawi 16th century Javanese language Java U+A980–U+A9DF
Kanna- da Kada- mba 12th century Kannada language, others Knda U+0C80–U+0CFF ಕನ್ನಡ ಅಕ್ಷರಮಾಲೆ
Khmer Vatte- luttu 11th century Khmer language Khmr U+1780–U+17FF, U+19E0–U+19FF អក្សរខ្មែរ
Lao Khmer 14th century Lao language, others Laoo U+0E80–U+0EFF ອັກສອນລາວ
Lepcha Tibe- tan 18th century Lepcha language Lepc U+1C00–U+1C4F
Limbu Lepcha 18th century Limbu language Limb U+1900–U+194F
Lontara Old Kawi 17th century Buginese language, others; mostly extinct, restricted to ceremonial use Bugi U+1A00–U+1A1F
Malaya- lam Grantha 12th century Malayalam language, Konkani language Mlym U+0D00–U+0D7F മലയാളലിപി
Oriya Kalinga 12th century Oriya language Orya U+0B00–U+0B7F ଓଡ଼ିଆ ଲିପି
Rejang script Old Kawi 18th century Rejang language, mostly obsolete Rjng U+A930–U+A95F
Saura- shtra Grantha 20th century Saurashtra language, mostly obsolete Saur U+A880–U+A8DF
Sinhala Grantha 12th century Sinhala language Sinh U+0D80–U+0DFF ශුද්ධ සිංහල
Sunda- nese script Old Kawi 14th century Sundanese language Sund U+1B80–U+1BBF
Tai Le Tai Lü language Tale U+1950–U+197F
New Tai Lue Tai Tham 1950s Tai Lü language Talu U+1980-U+19DF
Tagba- nwa Old Kawi 14th century Palawan, nearly extinct Tagb U+1760–U+177F
Tamil Vatte- luttu 8th century Tamil language Taml U+0B80–U+0BFF தமிழ் அரிச்சுவடி
Telugu Old Kanna- da 13th century Telugu language Telu U+0C01–U+0C6F తెలుగు లిపి
Thai Khmer 13th century Thai language Thai U+0E00–U+0E7F อักษรไทย
Tibe- tan Sidd- ham 8th century Tibetan language, Dzongkha language, Ladakhi language Tibt U+0F00–U+0FFF དབུ་ཅན་
Tai Viet Tai Dam language Tavt U+AA80–U+AADF

Graphical Timeline

Graphical Timeline

* Here Proto-Indic, Proto-Dravida,Proto-KanTel are hypothetical scripts used to bridge the gap between Indus and Brahmi scripts and is used for continuity only.

* Proto-KanTel is used as generic to mean common Kannada and Telugu oldscripts. Kannada and Telugu scripts deviated from Old-Kannada around (12.c-13.c)CE.

* The Graph shows the timeline of the respective scripts and not necessarily their decendancy.

Published - March 2011

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