Devanagari script summary

Updated 13-Jan-2018 • tags devanagari, scriptnotes

This page provides basic information about the Devanagari script. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as I learned. For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.

Clicking on red text examples, or highlighting part of the sample text shows a list of characters, with links to more details. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.

Sample (hindi)

अनुच्छेद १. सभी मनुष्यों को गौरव और अधिकारों के मामले में जन्मजात स्वतन्त्रता और समानता प्राप्त है । उन्हें बुद्धि और अन्तरात्मा की देन प्राप्त है और परस्पर उन्हें भाईचारे के भाव से बर्ताव करना चाहिए ।

अनुच्छेद २. सभी को इस घोषणा में सन्निहित सभी अधिकारों और आज़ादियों को प्राप्त करने का हक़ है और इस मामले में जाति, वर्ण, लिंग, भाषा, धर्म, राजनीति या अन्य विचार-प्रणाली, किसी देश या समाज विशेष में जन्म, सम्पत्ति या किसी प्रकार की अन्य मर्यादा आदि के कारण भेदभाव का विचार न किया जाएगा । इसके अतिरिक्त, चाहे कोई देश या प्रदेश स्वतन्त्र हो, संरक्षित हो, या स्त्रशासन रहित हो या परिमित प्रभुसत्ता वाला हो, उस देश या प्रदेश की राजनैतिक, क्षेत्रीय या अन्तर्राष्ट्रीय स्थिति के आधार पर वहां के निवासियों के प्रति कोई फ़रक़ न रखा जाएगा ।

Usage & history

From Scriptsource:

Devanagari is a Northern Brahmic script related to many other South Asian scripts including Gujarati, Bengali, and Gurmukhi, and, more distantly, to a number of South-East Asian scripts including Thai, Balinese, and Baybayin. The script is used for over 120 spoken Indo-Aryan languages, including Hindi, Nepali, Marathi, Maithili, Awadhi, Newari and Bhojpuri. It is also used for writing Classical Sanskrit texts. Generally the orthography of the script reflects the pronunciation of the language.

From Wikipedia:

Devanagari (/ˌdeɪvəˈnɑːɡəri/ DAY-və-NAH-gə-ree; देवनागरी, IAST: Devanāgarī, a compound of "deva" देव and "nāgarī" नागरी; Hindi pronunciation: [d̪eːʋˈnaːɡri]), also called Nagari (Nāgarī, नागरी), is an abugida (alphasyllabary) used in India and Nepal. It is written from left to right, has a strong preference for symmetrical rounded shapes within squared outlines, and is recognisable by a horizontal line that runs along the top of full letters. In a cursory look, the Devanagari script appears different from other Indic scripts such as Bengali-Assamese, Odia, or Gurmukhi, but a closer examination reveals they are very similar except for angles and structural emphasis. ...

The Devanagari script is used for over 120 languages, making it one of the most used and adopted writing systems in the world. Among the languages using it – as either their only script or one of their scripts – are Awadhi, Bhili, Bhojpuri, Bodo, Chhattisgarhi, Dogri, Haryanvi, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Magahi, Maithili, Marathi, Mundari, Nepalbhasa, Nepali, Pali, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santali and Sindhi. The Devanagari script is closely related to the Nandinagari script commonly found in numerous ancient manuscripts of South India, and it is distantly related to a number of southeast Asian scripts.

Key features

Devanagari is an abugida. Consonant letters have an inherent vowel sound. Combining vowel-signs are attached to the consonant to indicate that a different vowel follows the consonant. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features, taken from the Script Comparison Table.

Actually, devanagari is based on orthographic syllables, so the vowel-sign is in fact attached to the syllable. An orthographic syllable includes clusters of consonants without intervening vowel sounds. These clusters are typically represented as partially merged forms, called conjuncts.

The devanagari block contains more characters than other indic scripts, partly because it serves as a pivot script for transliterations of other scripts.

Character lists

The Devanagari script characters in Unicode 10.0 are contained in 2 blocks (not counting shared characters, such as punctuation):

The following links give information about characters used for languages associated with this script. The numbers in parentheses are for non-ASCII characters.

For character-specific details see Devanagari character notes.


There are 37 basic consonants in the Devanagari block.

list all

There are also 8 consonants with nukta, used to represent foreign sounds. These should not normally be used. Instead they should be represented by the base consonant followed by ◌़ [U+093C DEVANAGARI SIGN NUKTA​], eg. ख़ारीदारी k͟hārīdārī shopping.

list all

There are 8 more consonants for special use, including 4 for Sindhi implosives.

list all

As mentioned above, each consonant symbol has an inherent following vowel sound.

Combining characters

The main devanagari block has a fairly large number of combining characters (52 out of 158). All but six of those are vowel-signs. The remainder are 2 candrabindus, anusvara, visarga, nukta and virama.

The latter regularly combine with a vowel-sign attached to the same consonant or consonant cluster. The example below shows two combining characters that are positioned above the base character in a very common form of the verb 'to be'. One is [U+0948 DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN AI​], and the other the nasalisation mark [U+0902 DEVANAGARI SIGN ANUSVARA​].


Multiple combining characters over one base character.

Context-based glyph changes

Context-based shaping

The shape of a character when displayed can vary, often dramatically, according to the context.

One very common example in most indic scripts is the handling of 'conjunct consonants', ie. groups of consonants with no intervening vowel sounds. Since consonants in indic scripts have an inherent vowel sound, when two consonants are combined this way you have to indicate that the vowel of the initial consonant is suppressed. This is normally done by altering the shape of the first consonant, or merging the shape of the two consonants.

To tell the font to do this, in Unicode you add  ् [U+094D DEVANAGARI SIGN VIRAMA​] between the two consonants. This produces the change in the shapes of the glyphs that indicates to the reader that this is a conjunct. The actual outcome is font dependent. For the word below which contains a conjunct of two [U+0932 DEVANAGARI LETTER LA] characters (making a long L sound) you may see a 'half-form' used for the first LA (shown on the left) or you may see (as shown on the right) a ligated form.


Alternative representations of a geminated l consonant.

There are other types of context-based shaping, which are font specific. One is shown below. The width of the glyph for  ि [U+093F DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN I​] differs according to the base character to which it is attached.


Context-sensitive shaping of the glyph for i.

Context-based positioning

Combining characters need to be placed in different positions, according to the context.

The example on the left below displays the dot (anusvara) immediately over the long vertical stroke. The example to the right has moved the dot slightly to the right in order to accomodate the vowel sign.

अंधे    vs.    में

Context-sensitive placement of the anusvara diacritic.

In the following the image to the left shows the normal position of  ू [U+0942 DEVANAGARI VOWEL SIGN UU​], beneath the first letter. The example on the right shows that character displayed higher up and to the right when combined with the base character [U+0930 DEVANAGARI LETTER RA].

पूजा    vs.    परू

Context-dependent placement of the glyph representing ra.


Devanagari has a set of digits, that can be referred to as 'hindi' numerals. They are used regularly.


'Hindi' digits.

An interesting feature of large numbers written in India is that they apply groupings of two, rather than three, digits between commas (even when using european digits).


Two million, written with Indian comma separators.

Text layout


Text is normally written horizontally, left to right.

Text delimiters

Words are separated by spaces.

Devanagari uses standard Latin punctuation, but also has its own version of a full stop, [U+0964 DEVANAGARI DANDA], which can be seen in the sample text above. (Although an ASCII full stop is also seen after the lead-in text for each article.)

चाहिए ।

Devanagari danda, used like a Western full stop.

For boundaries of text above the sentence level there is [U+0965 DEVANAGARI DOUBLE DANDA].

Both of these characters (using the same code point) are used in a number of other indic scripts.


Justification is done, principally, by adjusting the space between words. (I have no information about whether high-end systems also adjust inter-character spacing slightly if inter-word doesn't resolve the issue, or to improve aesthetics.)

Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.

क़ानून की निग़ाह में सभी समान हैं और सभी बिना भेदभाव के समान क़ानूनी सुरक्षा के अधिकारी हैं । यदि इस घोषणा का अतिक्रमण करके कोई भी भेद-भाव किया जाया उस प्रकार के भेद-भाव को किसी प्रकार से उकसाया जाया, तो उसके विरुद्ध समान संरक्षण का अधिकार सभी को प्राप्त है ।

Last changed 2018-01-13 14:24 GMT.  •  Make a comment.  •  Licence CC-By © r12a.