The Syloti-Nagri alphabet is related to the Kaithi alphabet of Bihar. The exact origins of the alphabet are unknown and the earliest surviving manuscripts dates from either 1549 or 1774 (the date is given within the manuscript though the text is not clear at that point).
The traditionally story of the origin of the Syloti-Nagri alphabet is that it was developed around the beginning of the 14th century by Saint Shahjalal and his 360 saintly companions, most of whom were Arabic speakers. Other scripts used at the time were deemed unsuitable for the Sylheti language.
In the late 17th century, Persian became the official language of the Delhi Sultanate and the Perso-Arabic script was used in all official documents. The Sylheti language and alphabet continued to be used by the ordinary people for everyday matters.
In the 1860s, a Sylheti by the name of Moulvi Abdul Karim spent several years in Europe and learnt the printing trade. After returning home, he designed a woodblock type for the Syloti-Nagri alphabet and founded the Islamia Press in Sylhet Town in about 1870. Other Sylheti presses were established in Sunamgonj, Shillong and Calcutta. These presses fell out of use during the early 1970s. Since then the Syloti-Nagri alphabet has been used mainly by linguists and academics.
Sylheti, an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken by around 10 million in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh and in parts of India. Sylheti is closely related to Bengali (Bangla) and most speakers are bilingual in Sylheti and Bengali.
Information about the Sylheti scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel
Information about Syloti-Nagri alphabet
Sylheti Translation and Research - a London-based research organisation dedicated to studying the folk literature of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh: http://www.sylheti.org.uk
Sylhet Nagri Texts Documentation Archive
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