Bengali – One Script, many languages

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Bangla – One Script, many languages

Many a times, people confuse Bengali language for Bengali script. However, Bengali script is used not only in the state of Bengal alone, but also in Manipuri, Assamese, Bishnupriya, Meitei, Garo, Mundari and Kokborok languages. The script has its inception from Eastern Nagari and Devanagri which have their history mingling with Sanskrit. One can easily find typographical difference other than the pronunciation differences. If you see the shaping of Bengali script, it is sinuous in nature, which means it hardy employs blocky shapes. This abugida script (vowel graphemes realize diacritic as an attachment to consonant graphemes). 

One would find Bengali script being employed by many languages belonging to Eastern Medieval Indian states. During British rule, the script underwent standardization by Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.. The basic purpose of the script was to help in writing Sanskrit. That is the reason why many Hindu scriptures like Ramayan, Gita, and Mahabharata etc are written in Bengali script.

Pali emerged as a major language as a successor of Sanskrit after medieval times and thus came into being vernacular languages, Assamese and Bengali eventually. Bengali script was majorly used by Ahom kings for Ahom chronicles and Buranjis. Even Shrimanta Sankardeva used the script for his compositions.

When it comes to standardization of Bengali script, Rabindranath Tagore has a big contribution. Bangla Academi located in Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, did a lot for standardization of the script which was different with irregular characters during Rabindranath Tagore’s time. The consonants were cluttered making the script complicated. Even the size of the characters and their combinations differed. Since the characters numbered 350 in all, it was even more difficult to read the Bengali script.  

The above mentioned notable centers though did a lot, still cannot do much to make the characters uniform. This was so because people would still employ the anarchical letter and thus the outcome was that the same sound had concurrent forms. This is the reason why out of so many different regional languages that incepted from Bengali script, the known and existing are only Bengali and Assamese.

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However, since the year 2001, there have been great many works happening to set the script on computers. It is indeed easier to standardize it and represent large alphabets using the ASCII character sets, thereby attaining ingenuity in the script and leaving behind conjuncts that are irregular. Thus, a great deal of work has been done to split the script into modern and traditional variants using the Unicode fonts on computer to make things simpler and better.

The government is trying on its level. The Bengal government has made spellings in the primary school books simpler as an effort to simplify the script. While reading the script on internet, one would find IPA transcriptions with Romanized scheme in Bengali phonology. Thus, efforts are being made to improvise the script wherever possible in order to make it standardized and more simple to read and learn.

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