Friday, January 07, 2022

Forgotten letters in Devanagari: How Hindi script is losing its alphabets, consonants due to multiple reasons

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It is an issue that I wanted to write about, for a long time. 

How the alphabets that are part of the main Hindi script, which are present in each primer, are not only made redundant but nearly forgotten. 

I clicked this photograph due to a particular reason. It is a house that still has Shankar written in original style, not anuswar, but with ङ i.e. ṅ 'ang' or 'anga', a nearly forgotten consonant along with others.

Till 1965, devanagari script was quite different, now many letters lost or mispronounced. ङ, ॡ, ञ, the two-ऋ & ॠ, ळ, ज्ञ [Jn] I clicked this photo because I doubt, a few years later, I would ever get to see this again. 

Interestingly, we had a Sanskrit teacher who forced us to mispronounce ङ. She insisted that this was just a variation of 'D' and should be read as ड़. When I tried to explain, she got so angry that she started giving me less than 50% marks in every test and exam.

She blatantly did it. It was like, how dare a student point out something to her. For three years, she remained angry with me though I had very politely said that 'we were taught this, and it is not ड़, which is just like the set of letters D, DH, etc that take these forms when dot is below them--ढ becomes ढ़  and ड becomes ड़, and these must not be confused with ङ.

But, then it's monarchy in schools too. The only Hindi word that is written using it is now, वाङ् मय. It is interesting if you go through old Hindi texts, I have an Atlas that wrote all the Chinese cities and their names using this consonant.

There are certain words were 'ang' can't be replaced by (.), yet it happens. This is because of the people in printing business, typesetting and modern systems, also about 'ease'. It's a long discussion but here it was just a brief post. Remaining is left for 'vidwans', I am a student and rest my case, put a full stop here.