Devanagari is interesting because it's a completely rationalized alphabet. The symbols are organized by phonetic type and place of articulation, in the same way a modern linguist would lay them out, and they have been for thousands of years. Speakers of languages written in devanagari usually become incredibly frustrated when learning a language written in the Roman alphabet, because of the totally irrational and apparently random order the letters. The only other alphabet I know of that has the same level of organization is the Korean hangul script.

The reason for this order is the genius of the early Sanskrit linguists, one of whom, Panini, has a legitimate claim to being considered the greatest linguist of all time.

Devanagari is, for the most part, completely phonetical. There are 33 consonants and 10 vowels, plus two special characters. The alphabet is ordered logically, beginning with vowels (short before long, monophthongs before diphthongs). Then come anusvara and visarga; the former nasalises the preceding vowel, and the second aspirates a vowel (ah., for example, is pronounced somewhat like `aha'). Finally come the consonants, arranged into three groups: stops, classified into five groups arranged according to place of articulation (velar, palatal, cerebral/retroflex, dental, and labio-dental), with each group containing five members (unvoiced, aspirated unvoiced, voiced, aspirated voiced, nasal); four semivowels (ya, ra, la, and va, corresponding to the vowels i, r., l., and u, respectively); and four aspirants: palatal s'a, cerebral s.a, dental sa, and guttural ha.

a aa i ii u uu r. r.r l. e o ai au
m. h.
ka kha ga gha nga
ca cha ja jha nya
t.a t.ha d.a d.ha n.a
ta tha da dha na
pa pha ba bha ma
ya ra la va
s'a s.a sa ha

The vowel symbols in the alphabet are used only for word-initial vowels. Elsewhere, they are represented by a system of combining marks which follow, precede, or hang above or below the consonant in question. If a consonant has no vowel marked, -a is assumed; there is a mark known as virama which indicates a word-final consonant.

There are also other characters not used in Classical Sanskrit which appear in some devanagari variants. Urdu devanagari has `dotted forms' of many characters, which indicate sounds borrowed from non-Indic languages such as Dravidian and Persian. When devanagari is used to write particularly old Vedas (written in Vedic, a somewhat formalized version of the living language which later became the literary language Sanskrit), there is a long form of the vowel l.

Devanagari makes extensive use of ligatures. Whenever consonants occur without an intervening vowel, they are written with a ligature. Forms of ligature include: vertical (the first consonant appearing above the second), horizontal (with the main vertical stroke on all but the last consonant omitted), and special (where the combined form does not resemble the separate consonants; the two most common examples are ks.a and jnya, which are learned by children as separate letters). In addition, r is represented specially in combination with other consonants: r before a consonant cluster is indicated by a mark above the cluster (to the right of any vowel marker), while r after a cluster is indicated by a diagonal tick in the lower left. The presence of these ligatures makes computerization of the devanagari script nontrivial but not impossible; in particular, the free software package ITRANS handles most devanagari ligatures rather well.

Devanagari is assigned the Unicode range U+0900 through U+097f. This range includes the basic alphabet, as well as special characters such as OM, numerals, Urdu characters, vowel markers, anunasika, avagraha, stress accent marks, and punctuation.

Devanagari script has one serious problem as I see it. When used to write Sanskrit, it is actually too phonetically faithful, and represents the sounds so accurately that the morphemes can be obscured. The classic analogy is the /s/ which represents the plural, as in cats, but sometimes it is pronounced as a z, as in dogs. In either case, however, it is written as s, because this represents the phoneme, not the actual pronunciation.

In Sanskrit, however, these different sounds would be written out, as if in English we wrote cats and *dogz. Furthermore, it becomes more complicated than this, because of sandhi. Therefore if we apply devanagari principles to English, a sentence which we write as I have to go to the store might be written as *I hafta gotth' store, depending of course on accent and dialect.

All this makes Sanskrit easier to pronounce correctly, based on the written form, but it really obscures words and word relationships, at least in the written form.

The Devanagari script is used for writing classical Sanskrit and its modern historical derivative, Hindi. Extensions to Devanagari are used to write other related languages of India (such as Marathi) and of Nepal (Nepali). In addition, the Devanagari is used to write Awadhi, Bagheli, Bhatneri, Bhili, Bihari, Braj Bhasha, Chhattisgarhi, Garhwali, Gondi (Betul, Chhindwara and Mandla dialects), Harauti, Ho, Jaipuri, Kachchhi, Kanauji, Konkani, Kului, Kumaoni, Kurku, Kurukh, Marwari, Mundari, Newari, Palpa and Santail.

All other Indic scripts, as well as the Sinhala script of Sri Lanka, the Tibetan script and the Southeast Asian scripts (Thai, Lao, Khmer and Myanmar), as historically connected with the Devanagari script as descendants of the ancient Brahmi script. The entire family of scripts shares a large number of structural features.

The Devanagari block of the Unicode standard is based on ISCII-1988 (Indian Standard Code for Information Interchange) which is an update of earlier ISCII standards from 1983 and 1986. In 1991, a new version of ISCII was published in IS 13194, which partially modified the layout and repertoire; thus, Unicode does not precisely follow the layout of the new standard. Unicode remains a superset of the ISCII-1991 repertoire, except for a number of new Vedic extensions defined in IS 13194:1991 Annex G Extended Character Set for Vedic.

Unicode encodes Devanagari characters in the same relative position as those coded in positions 0xA0 to 0xF4 in ISCII-1988. The same character code layout is followed for eight other Indic scripts in Unicode : Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. This parallel code layout emphasizes the structural similarities of the Brahmi scripts and follows the stated intention of the Indian coding standards to enable one-to-one mappings between analogous coding positions in different scripts in the family. Sinhala, Thai, Lao, Khmer and Myanmar depart to a greater extent from the Devanagari structural pattern, so the Unicode standard does not attempt to provide any direct mapping for these scripts to the Devanagari order.

The writing systems that employ Devanagari and other Indic scripts constitute a cross between syllabic writing systems as phonemic writing systems (alphabets). The effective unit of these writing systems is the orthographic syllable, consisting of a consonant and vowel (CV) core and zero or more preceding consonants, with a canonical structure of ((C)C)CV. The orthographic syllable need not correspond exactly with a phonological syllable, especially when a consonant cluster is involved, but the writing system is built on phonological principles and tends to correspond quite closely to pronunciation.

The orthographic syllable is built up of alphabetic pieces, the actual letters of the Devanagari script. The pieces consist of three distinct character types : consonant letters, independent vowels and dependent vowel signs. In a text sequence, these characters are stored in logical (phonetic) order.

Devanagari characters can combine or change shape depending on their context, such as its ordering with respect to other characters. A few Devanagari characters cause a change in the order of the displayed characters. This reordering is not commonly seen in non-Indic scripts and occurs independently of and bidirectional character reordering that might be required.

Be advised that the rules for correctly rendering Devanagari text from a stream of characters are horrifically complex.

Unicode's Devanagari code block reserves the 128 code points from U+0900 to U+097F, of which 112 are currently assigned.

NKo <-- Devanagari --> Bengali

Number of characters added in each version of the Unicode standard :
Unicode 1.1 : 104
Unicode 4.0 : 1
Unicode 4.1 : 1
Unicode 5.0 : 4
Unicode 5.1 : 2

Number of characters in each General Category :

Letter, Modifier         Lm :  1
Letter, Other            Lo : 72
Mark, Non-Spacing        Mn : 18
Mark, Spacing Combining  Mc :  8
Number, Decimal Digit    Nd : 10
Punctuation, Other       Po :  3

Number of characters in each Bidirectional Category :

Left To Right       L : 94
Non Spacing Mark  NSM : 18

The columns below should be interpreted as :

  1. The Unicode code for the character
  2. The character in question
  3. The Unicode name for the character
  4. The Unicode General Category for the character
  5. The Unicode Bidirectional Category for the character
  6. The Unicode version when this character was added

If the characters below show up poorly, or not at all, see Unicode Support for possible solutions.



     Based on ISCII 1988

U+0901   ँ   Devanagari sign candrabindu Mn NSM 1.1
aka anunasika
ref U+0310   ̐   combining candrabindu (Combining Diacritical Marks)
U+0902   ं   Devanagari sign anusvara Mn NSM 1.1
aka bindu
U+0903   ः   Devanagari sign visarga Mc L 1.1

     Independent vowels

U+0904   ऄ   Devanagari letter short a Lo L 4.0
U+0905   अ   Devanagari letter A Lo L 1.1
U+0906   आ   Devanagari letter aa Lo L 1.1
U+0907   इ   Devanagari letter I Lo L 1.1
U+0908   ई   Devanagari letter ii Lo L 1.1
U+0909   उ   Devanagari letter U Lo L 1.1
U+090A   ऊ   Devanagari letter uu Lo L 1.1
U+090B   ऋ   Devanagari letter vocalic r Lo L 1.1
U+090C   ऌ   Devanagari letter vocalic l Lo L 1.1
U+090D   ऍ   Devanagari letter candra e Lo L 1.1
U+090E   ऎ   Devanagari letter short e Lo L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian short e
U+090F   ए   Devanagari letter E Lo L 1.1
U+0910   ऐ   Devanagari letter ai Lo L 1.1
U+0911   ऑ   Devanagari letter candra o Lo L 1.1
U+0912   ऒ   Devanagari letter short o Lo L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian short o
U+0913   ओ   Devanagari letter O Lo L 1.1
U+0914   औ   Devanagari letter au Lo L 1.1


U+0915   क   Devanagari letter ka Lo L 1.1
U+0916   ख   Devanagari letter kha Lo L 1.1
U+0917   ग   Devanagari letter ga Lo L 1.1
U+0918   घ   Devanagari letter gha Lo L 1.1
U+0919   ङ   Devanagari letter nga Lo L 1.1
U+091A   च   Devanagari letter ca Lo L 1.1
U+091B   छ   Devanagari letter cha Lo L 1.1
U+091C   ज   Devanagari letter ja Lo L 1.1
U+091D   झ   Devanagari letter jha Lo L 1.1
U+091E   ञ   Devanagari letter nya Lo L 1.1
U+091F   ट   Devanagari letter tta Lo L 1.1
U+0920   ठ   Devanagari letter ttha Lo L 1.1
U+0921   ड   Devanagari letter dda Lo L 1.1
U+0922   ढ   Devanagari letter ddha Lo L 1.1
U+0923   ण   Devanagari letter nna Lo L 1.1
U+0924   त   Devanagari letter ta Lo L 1.1
U+0925   थ   Devanagari letter tha Lo L 1.1
U+0926   द   Devanagari letter da Lo L 1.1
U+0927   ध   Devanagari letter dha Lo L 1.1
U+0928   न   Devanagari letter na Lo L 1.1
U+0929   ऩ   Devanagari letter nnna Lo L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian alveolar n
U+092A   प   Devanagari letter pa Lo L 1.1
U+092B   फ   Devanagari letter pha Lo L 1.1
U+092C   ब   Devanagari letter ba Lo L 1.1
U+092D   भ   Devanagari letter bha Lo L 1.1
U+092E   म   Devanagari letter ma Lo L 1.1
U+092F   य   Devanagari letter ya Lo L 1.1
U+0930   र   Devanagari letter ra Lo L 1.1
U+0931   ऱ   Devanagari letter rra Lo L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian alveolar r
* half form is represented as "Eyelash RA"
U+0932   ल   Devanagari letter la Lo L 1.1
U+0933   ळ   Devanagari letter lla Lo L 1.1
U+0934   ऴ   Devanagari letter llla Lo L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian l
U+0935   व   Devanagari letter va Lo L 1.1
U+0936   श   Devanagari letter sha Lo L 1.1
U+0937   ष   Devanagari letter ssa Lo L 1.1
U+0938   स   Devanagari letter sa Lo L 1.1
U+0939   ह   Devanagari letter ha Lo L 1.1

     Various signs

U+093C   ़   Devanagari sign nukta Mn NSM 1.1
* for extending the alphabet to new letters
U+093D   ऽ   Devanagari sign avagraha Lo L 1.1

     Dependent vowel signs

U+093E   ा   Devanagari vowel sign aa Mc L 1.1
U+093F   ि   Devanagari vowel sign i Mc L 1.1
* stands to the left of the consonant
U+0940   ी   Devanagari vowel sign ii Mc L 1.1
U+0941   ु   Devanagari vowel sign u Mn NSM 1.1
U+0942   ू   Devanagari vowel sign uu Mn NSM 1.1
U+0943   ृ   Devanagari vowel sign vocalic r Mn NSM 1.1
U+0944   ॄ   Devanagari vowel sign vocalic rr Mn NSM 1.1
U+0945   ॅ   Devanagari vowel sign candra e Mn NSM 1.1
aka candra
U+0946   ॆ   Devanagari vowel sign short e Mn NSM 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian vowels
U+0947   े   Devanagari vowel sign e Mn NSM 1.1
U+0948   ै   Devanagari vowel sign ai Mn NSM 1.1
U+0949   ॉ   Devanagari vowel sign candra o Mc L 1.1
U+094A   ॊ   Devanagari vowel sign short o Mc L 1.1
* for transcribing Dravidian vowels
U+094B   ो   Devanagari vowel sign o Mc L 1.1
U+094C   ौ   Devanagari vowel sign au Mc L 1.1

     Various signs

U+094D   ्   Devanagari sign virama Mn NSM 1.1
aka halant (the preferred hindi name)
* suppresses inherent vowel
U+0950   ॐ   Devanagari om Lo L 1.1
U+0951   ॑   Devanagari stress sign udatta Mn NSM 1.1
aka vedic tone svarita
* mostly used for Rigvedic svarita, with rare use for Yajurvedic udatta
* used also in Vedic texts written in other scripts
U+0952   ॒   Devanagari stress sign anudatta Mn NSM 1.1
aka vedic tone anudatta
* used also in Vedic texts written in other scripts
U+0953   ॓   Devanagari grave accent Mn NSM 1.1
U+0954   ॔   Devanagari acute accent Mn NSM 1.1

     Additional consonants

U+0958   क़   Devanagari letter qa Lo L 1.1
U+0959   ख़   Devanagari letter khha Lo L 1.1
U+095A   ग़   Devanagari letter ghha Lo L 1.1
U+095B   ज़   Devanagari letter za Lo L 1.1
U+095C   ड़   Devanagari letter dddha Lo L 1.1
U+095D   ढ़   Devanagari letter rha Lo L 1.1
U+095E   फ़   Devanagari letter fa Lo L 1.1
U+095F   य़   Devanagari letter yya Lo L 1.1

     Additional vowels for Sanskrit

U+0960   ॠ   Devanagari letter vocalic rr Lo L 1.1
U+0961   ॡ   Devanagari letter vocalic ll Lo L 1.1
U+0962   ॢ   Devanagari vowel sign vocalic l Mn NSM 1.1
U+0963   ॣ   Devanagari vowel sign vocalic ll Mn NSM 1.1

     Generic punctuation for scripts of India
These punctuation marks are for common use for the scripts of India despite being named "DEVANAGARI".

U+0964   ।   Devanagari danda Po L 1.1
aka purna viram
* phrase separator
U+0965   ॥   Devanagari double danda Po L 1.1
aka deergh viram


U+0966   ०   Devanagari digit zero Nd L 1.1
U+0967   १   Devanagari digit one Nd L 1.1
U+0968   २   Devanagari digit two Nd L 1.1
U+0969   ३   Devanagari digit three Nd L 1.1
U+096A   ४   Devanagari digit four Nd L 1.1
U+096B   ५   Devanagari digit five Nd L 1.1
U+096C   ६   Devanagari digit six Nd L 1.1
U+096D   ७   Devanagari digit seven Nd L 1.1
U+096E   ८   Devanagari digit eight Nd L 1.1
U+096F   ९   Devanagari digit nine Nd L 1.1

     Devanagari-specific additions

U+0970   ॰   Devanagari abbreviation sign Po L 1.1
U+0971   ॱ   Devanagari sign high spacing dot Lm L 5.1

     Additional vowel for Marathi

U+0972   ॲ   Devanagari letter candra a Lo L 5.1
* Marathi

     Sindhi implosives
These are added from Amendment 3 to 10646:2003.

U+097B   ॻ   Devanagari letter gga Lo L 5.0
U+097C   ॼ   Devanagari letter jja Lo L 5.0

     Glottal stop

U+097D   ॽ   Devanagari letter glottal stop Lo L 4.1
* used for writing Limbu in Devanagari
* a glyph variant has the connecting top bar

     Sindhi implosives
These are added from Amendment 3 to 10646:2003.

U+097E   ॾ   Devanagari letter ddda Lo L 5.0
U+097F   ॿ   Devanagari letter bba Lo L 5.0
Some prose may have been lifted verbatim from,
as is permitted by their terms of use at

De`va*na"ga*ri (?), n. [Skr. dvanagari; dva god + nagara city, i. e., divine city.]

The character in which Sanskrit is written.


© Webster 1913.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.