Oriya alphabet

Oriya alphabet
Type Abugida
Languages Oriya
Time period c. 1060–present
Parent systems
Proto-Sinaitic alphabet [a]
Unicode range U+0B00–U+0B7F
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.

The Oriya script or Utkala Lipi (Oriya: ଉତ୍କଳ ଲିପି) or Utkalakshara (Oriya: ଉତ୍କଳାକ୍ଷର) is used to write the Oriya language, and can be used for several other Indian languages, for example, Sanskrit.



The Oriya script is developed from the Kalinga script, one of the many descendants of the Brahmi script of ancient India.[1] The earliest known inscription in the Oriya language, in the Kalinga script, dates from 1051.

Sample of the Oriya script as written from a Buddhist text from around 1060 AD, written by Sarahapada

The script in the Ashokan edicts at Dhauli and Jaugada and the inscriptions of Kharavela in Hati Gumpha of Khandagiri give the first glimpse of possible origin of Oriya language. From the point of view of language, the inscriptions of Hati Gumpha are near modern Oriya and essentially different from the language of the Ashokan edicts. A point has also been made as to whether Pali was the prevalent language in Orissa during this period. Hati Gumpha inscriptions, which is in Pali, is perhaps the only evidence of stone inscriptions in Pali. This may be the reason why the famous German linguist Prof. Oldenburg mentioned that Pali was the original language of Orissa.[2]

There are noticeable similarity found between Oriya and Thai scripts which gives idea about the Sadhavas, earlier traders of Kalinga who travelled to south Asian countries and ruled over there which leaves mark of Oriya script on the Thai script along with the cultural impact.[3][4]

The curved appearance of the Oriya script is a result of the practice of writing on palm leaves, which have a tendency to tear the leaves by many straight lines.[5]

Oriya is a syllabic alphabet or an abugida wherein all consonants have an inherent vowel embedded within. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the form of the inherent vowel. When the diacritics appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters. Also, when certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each consonant symbol.

Sample text

"Oṛiyā is encumbered with the drawback of an excessively awkward and cumbrous written character. ... At first glance, an Oṛiyā book seems to be all curves, and it takes a second look to notice that there is something inside each." (G.A. Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, 1903)

The Indic fonts used here and in the following tables are taken from INDOLIPI.

(Text taken from Bidhu Bhusan Das Gupta and Bimbadhar Das: Oriya Self-Taught, Calcutta 1967)

Translation (by Das Gupta and Das)

There lived in a certain village an old man named Chandrasekhar. He had two sons. The elder was called Shashibhusan and the younger Charubhusan. Charubhusan lost his father when he was only a year and a half old. So his mother was very much attached to him. His elder brother was older than he was by seven or eight years. So when Shashibhusan was at school, Charubhusan passed his time only playing about.

Oriya alphabet

Independent vowels


Dependent vowels

As in other abugida scripts, Oriya consonant letters have an inherent vowel. It is transliterated as ⟨a⟩, phonetic value [ɔ] as in Bengali. Its absence is marked by Halanta (Virāma):

For the other vowels diacritics are used:

Vowel diacritics may be more or less fused with the consonants, though in modern printing such ligatures have become less common.

Oriya VowelLig1.gif

Oriya VowelLig2.gif

Consonant ligatures

Clusters of two or more consonants form a ligature. Basically Oriya has two types of such consonant ligatures. The "northern" type is formed by fusion of two ore more consonants as in northern scripts like Devanāgarī (but to a lesser extent also in the Malayalam script in the south). In some instances the components can be easily identified, but sometimes completely new glyphs are formed. With the "southern" type the second component is reduced in size and put under the first as in the southern scripts used for Kannaḍa and Telugu (and to some extent also for Malayalam script). The following table shows the most commonly used ligatures. (Different fonts may use different ligatures.)

Special forms

⟨ẏ⟩ and ⟨r⟩ as components of a ligature are given a special treatment. As last member they become Oriya yvat.gif and respectively:

⟨r⟩ as first member of a ligature becomes Oriya Reph.gif (called Repha as in other Indic scripts) and is shifted to the end of the ligature:


The Oriya alphabet exhibits quite a few ambiguities which add to the difficulties beginners encounter in learning it.

Some of the letters of the script may easily be confounded. In order to reduce ambiguities a small oblique stroke is added at the lower right end as a diacritic. It resembles Halanta (Virāma) but it is joined to the letter, whereas Halanta is not joined. When the consonant forms a vowel ligature by which the lower right end is affected, this stroke is shifted to another position. This applies also to consonant ligatures baring the stroke (see table of consonant ligatures).

Oriya Dia1.gif

Some of the subjoined consonants, some other ligature components and variants of vowel diacritics have changing functions:

Open top consonants get a subjoined variant of the vowel diacritic for ⟨i⟩ as in

This same little hook is used in some consonant ligatures to denote ⟨t⟩ as first component:

The subjoined form of ⟨ch⟩ is also used for subjoined ⟨th⟩:

The subjoined form of ⟨bh⟩ serves also as a diacritic for different purposes:

The subjoined forms of ⟨ṇ⟩ and ⟨tu⟩ are almost identical:

The sign for the nasal ⟨ṁ⟩ may be used as a diacritic too:

Comparison of Oṛiyā script with its neighbours

At a first look the great number of signs with round shapes suggests a closer relation to the southern neighbour Telugu than to the other neighbours Bengali in the north and Devanāgarī in the west. The reason for the round shapes in Oriya and Telugu (and also in Kannaḍa and Malayāḷam) is the former method of writing using a stylus to scrutch the signs into a palm leaf. These tools do not allow for horizontal strokes because that would damage the leaf.

Oriya letters are mostly round shaped whereas in Devanāgarī and Bengali have horizontal line. So in most cases the reader of Oṛiyā will find the distinctive parts of a letter only below the hoop. Considering this the following tables clearly show a closer relation to Devanāgarī and Bengali than to any southern script, though both northern and southern scripts have the same origin, Brāhmī.

Vowel signs

Consonant signs

Vowel diacritics

The treatment of ⟨e⟩ ⟨ai⟩ ⟨o⟩ ⟨au⟩ is similar to Bengali, Malayāḷam, Sinhalese, Tamiḻ, Grantha and also to SE Asian scripts like Burmese, Khmer and Thai, but it differs clearly from Devanāgarī, Gujarātī, Gurmukhī, Kannaḍa, Telugu and Tibetan.


Oriya script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Oriya is U+0B00–U+0B7F. Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points.

Unicode.org chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+0B3x ି
1.^ As of Unicode version 6.0

See also


  1. ^ Ancient Scripts


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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