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Sanskrit, and related languages, can be written in a wide variety of scripts - including Brhm,

Karoh, Gupta, Tibetan, and with some modifications Roman (the one we use to write English).
Letters that use diacritics (the various dots, dashes and squiggles) when Sanskrit is transliterated
are not as similar as their Roman equivalents might suggest - ta and a are not the same! This is
partly why diacritics are important. The Sanskrit 'alphabet' is not strickly speaking either an
alphabet or a syllabary, but is what is known as an abugida or alpha-syllabary. It is made up of a
mixture of single letter (eg the vowels) and the single consonants combined with the short a. A
full syllabary would include all possible combinations of consonants and vowels, including
conjunct consonants and would includes thousands of items.

Siddha was the script used to write the Buddhist scriptures that were transmitted to China. The
practice of writing in the Siddh script was preserved in Japan by the Shingon school founded
by Kkai.

The Siddha Alphabet


li - the vowels

a i u e

ai o au a a
anusvra visarga
(nasalised) (aspirated)

Extra Vowels

Each consonant is assumed to be combined with the short a vowel. To indicate other vowels
modifying 'diacritic' marks are added. In the table below the vowels are combined with k. The set
of marks includes the virama which indicates no vowel. This is typically used at the end of
words in Sanskrit, for example the word samyak, meaning 'perfect'.
Vowels combined with k
Main consonant-vowel combinations

k k ki k ku k ke
virama
(no vowel)

kai ko kau ka ka k

Alternate vowel marks

u used with ra
Kli - the consonants
* indicates there is an alternative way to write the syllable - see below

unvoiced voiced nasal


plain aspirated plain aspirated
Velar

ka kha ga gha a
palatal

ca cha * ja jha a

retroflex

a ha a ha * a
dental

ta tha da dha na
labial

pa pha ba bha ma

semivowels

ya ra la va
spirants

a a sa ha
conjuncts

ka
Alternative
forms

ja a

Mastering the basic alphabet is not enough to be able to read and write Siddha, because there
is a special way of writing two adjacent consonants - such as rma, ttva, or jra. In the case of rma
(image left) you write the top half of r with the bottom half of m. Vowels are indicated as for
individual consonants. It's important to get the order correct - tna and nta are easy to mix up for
instance. It is possible to stack more than two consonants: ttva for instance (see below).

The table below, is based on one in John Stevens' "Sacred Calligraphy of the East". It shows how
the top and bottom half of the consonants look. There are a few irregular items, such as the
bottom of ra or a.

Note that some consonants are only shown with a top or bottom. This is as they appear in Sacred
Calligraphy of the East.

Combining Consonants
unvoiced voiced nasal
plain aspirated plain aspirated
Velar

ka kha ga gha a
palatal

ca cha ja jha a
retroflex

a ha a ha * a
dental

ta tha da dha na
labial

pa pha ba bha ma

semivowels

ya ra la va
spirants

a a sa ha
Examples of Common Conjuncts

rma rva ja jra kya ddha ttva