Siddhaṃ script

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The word Siddhaṃ in the Siddhaṃ script
Languages Sanskrit
Time period
c. 600–c. 1200 in India, and to the present in East Asia
Parent systems
Child systems
Assamese alphabet
Bengali alphabet
Tibetan alphabet
Sister systems
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Sidd, 302
Unicode alias

Final Accepted Script Proposal

Variant Forms

Siddhaṃ, also known in its later evolved form as Siddhamātṛkā,[1] is the name of a script used for writing Sanskrit from ca 600-1200. It is descended from the Brahmi script via the Gupta script, which gave rise to Tirhuta, the Assamese alphabet, the Bengali alphabet and the Tibetan alphabet. There is some confusion over the spelling: Siddhāṃ and Siddhaṃ are both common, though Siddhaṃ is preferred as "correct".[2] The script is a refinement of the script used during the Gupta Empire. The name arose from the practice of writing the word Siddhaṃ, or Siddhaṃ astu (may there be perfection) at the head of documents.

The word Siddhaṃ means "accomplished" or "perfected" in Sanskrit. Other names for the script include bonji (Japanese: 梵字) and Chinese: 悉曇文字; pinyin: Xītán wénzi.

Siddhaṃ is an abugida rather than an alphabet because each character indicates a syllable, but it does not include every possible syllable. If no other mark occurs then the short 'a' is assumed. Diacritic marks indicate the other vowels, anusvara, and visarga. A virama can be used to indicate that the letter stands alone with no vowel, which sometimes happens at the end of Sanskrit words.


Siddhaṃ manuscript of the Heart Sutra. Bibliothèque nationale de France
An early Siddham manuscript, dated to the first half of the 6th century (the so-called "Horiuzi Palm-leaf MSS" preserved in Hōryū-ji, Japan). It contains the Sanskrit text of the Heart Sutra and the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra. The final line is a Siddhaṃ alphasyllabary.
Chinese use of the Siddhaṃ script for the Pratisara mantra, from the Later Tang. 927 CE
Chinese use of the Siddhaṃ script for the Mahāpratyaṅgirā mantra. 971 CE

Many Buddhist texts taken to China along the Silk Road were written using a version of the Siddhaṃ script. This continued to evolve, and minor variations are seen across time, and in different regions. Importantly it was used for transmitting the Buddhist tantra texts. At the time it was considered important to preserve the pronunciation of mantras, and Chinese was not suitable for writing the sounds of Sanskrit. This led to the retention of the Siddhaṃ script in East Asia. The practice of writing using Siddhaṃ survived in East Asia where Tantric Buddhism persisted.

Kūkai introduced the Siddhaṃ script to Japan when he returned from China in 806, where he studied Sanskrit with Nalanda-trained monks including one known as Prajñā (Chinese: 般若三藏; pinyin: Bōrě Sāncáng, 734–c. 810). By the time Kūkai learned this script, the trading and pilgrimage routes over land to India, were closed by the expanding Abbasid Caliphate.

In Japan the writing of mantras and copying of Sutras using the Siddhaṃ script is still practiced in the esoteric schools of Shingon Buddhism and Tendai as well as in the syncretic sect of Shugendō. The characters are known as shittan (悉曇?) or bonji (梵字?, Chinese: Fànzì). The Taishō Tripiṭaka version of the Chinese Buddhist canon preserves the Siddhaṃ characters for most mantras and Korean Buddhists still write bījas in a modified form of Siddhaṃ. A recent innovation is the writing of Japanese language slogans on T-shirts using Bonji. Japanese Siddhaṃ has evolved from the original script used to write sūtras and is now somewhat different from the ancient script.

It is typical to see Siddhaṃ written with brushes like Chinese writing, and it is also written with a bamboo pen; in Japan, a special brush called a bokuhitsu (朴筆?, Chinese: pǔbǐ) is used for formal Siddhaṃ calligraphy. The informal style is known as "fude" (?, Chinese: "máobĭ").

In the middle of the 9th century, China experienced a series of purges of "foreign religions", thus cutting Japan off from the sources of Siddhaṃ texts. In time, other scripts, particularly Devanagari replaced Siddhaṃ in India, while in Bengal, Siddhaṃ evolved to become the Bengali alphabet, leaving East Asia as the only region where Siddhaṃ is used.

There were special forms of Siddham used in Korea that varied significantly from those used in China and Japan, and there is evidence that Siddham was written in Central Asia as well by the early 7th century.

As was done with Chinese characters, Japanese Buddhist scholars sometimes created multiple characters with the same phonological value to add meaning to Siddham characters. This practice, in effect, represents a 'blend' of the Chinese style of writing and the Indian style of writing and allows Sanskrit texts in Siddham to be differentially interpreted as they are read, as was done with Chinese characters that the Japanese had adopted. This led to multiple variants of the same characters.[3]

With regards to directionality, Siddham texts were usually read from left-to-right then top-to-bottom, as with Indic languages, but occasionally they were written in the traditional Chinese style, from top-to-bottom then right-to-left. Bilingual Siddham-Japanese texts show the manuscript turned 90 degrees clockwise and the Japanese is written from top-to-bottom, as is typical of Japanese, and then the manuscript is turned back again, and the Siddham writing is continued from left-to-right (the resulting Japanese characters look sideways).

Over time, additional markings were developed, including punctuation marks, head marks, repetition marks, end marks, special ligatures to combine conjuncts and rarely to combine syllables, and several ornaments of the scribe's choice, which are not currently encoded. The nuqta is also used in some modern Siddham texts.



Independent form Romanized As diacritic with Siddham kya.svg Independent form Romanized As diacritic with Siddham kya.svg
Siddham a.svg a Siddham kya.svg Siddham aa.svg ā Siddham kyaa.svg
Siddham i.svg i Siddham kyi.svg Siddham ii.svg ī Siddham kyii.svg
Siddham u.svg u Siddham kyu.svg Siddham uu.svg ū Siddham kyuu.svg
Siddham e.svg e Siddham kye.svg Siddham ai.svg ai Siddham kyai.svg
Siddham o.svg o Siddham kyo.svg Siddham au.svg au Siddham kyau.svg
Siddham am.svg aṃ Siddham kyam.svg Siddham ah.svg aḥ Siddham kyah.svg
Independent form Romanized As diacritic with Siddham k.svg Independent form Romanized As diacritic with Siddham k.svg
Siddham ri.svg Siddham kri.svg Siddham rii.svg
Siddham li.svg Siddham lii.svg
Alternative forms
Siddham aa1.svg ā Siddham i1.svg i Siddham i2.svg i Siddham ii1.svg ī Siddham ii2.svg ī Siddham u1.svg u Siddham uu1.svg ū Siddham o1.svg o Siddham au1.svg au Siddham am1.svg aṃ


Stop Approximant Fricative
Tenuis Aspirated Voiced Breathy voiced Nasal
Glottal Siddham h.svg h
Velar Siddham k.svg k Siddham kh.svg kh Siddham g.svg g Siddham gh.svg gh Siddham ng.svg
Palatal Siddham c.svg c Siddham ch.svg ch Siddham j.svg j Siddham jh.svg jh Siddham ny2.svg ñ Siddham y.svg y Siddham sh1.svg ś
Retroflex Siddham tt.svg Siddham tth.svg ṭh Siddham dd.svg Siddham ddh.svg ḍh Siddham nn.svg Siddham r.svg r Siddham ss.svg
Dental Siddham t.svg t Siddham th.svg th Siddham d.svg d Siddham dh2.svg dh Siddham n.svg n Siddham l.svg l Siddham s.svg s
Bilabial Siddham p.svg p Siddham ph.svg ph Siddham b.svg b Siddham bh.svg bh Siddham m.svg m
Labiodental Siddham v3.svg v
Conjuncts in alphabet
Siddham kss.svg kṣ Siddham llm.svg llaṃ
Alternative forms
Siddham ch1.svg ch Siddham j1.svg j Siddham ny.svg ñ Siddham tt1.svg Siddham tth1.svg ṭh Siddham ddh1.svg ḍh Siddham ddh2.svg ḍh Siddham nn1.svg Siddham nn3.svg Siddham th1.svg th Siddham th2.svg th Siddham dh.svg dh Siddham n2.svg n Siddham m1.svg m Siddham sh.svg ś Siddham sh2.svg ś Siddham v.svg v


Siddhaṃ alphabet by Kūkai (774–835)
k\cdotskṣ -ya -ra -la -va -ma -na
Siddham k.svg k Siddham kya.svg kya Siddham kra.svg kra Siddham kla.svg kla Siddham kva.svg kva Siddham kma.svg kma Siddham kna1.svg kna
Siddham rka.svg rk Siddham rkya.svg rkya Siddham rkra.svg rkra Siddham rkla.svg rkla Siddham rkva.svg rkva Siddham rkma.svg rkma Siddham rkna.svg rkna
Siddham kh.svg kh \cdots
\vdots     total 68 rows.
  • ↑ The combinations that contain adjoining duplicate letters should be deleted in this table。
Siddham ngka1.svg ṅka Siddham ngkha.svg ṅkha Siddham ngga1.svg ṅga Siddham nggha.svg ṅgha
Siddham nyca.svg ñca Siddham nycha.svg ñcha Siddham nyja1.svg ñja Siddham nyjha.svg ñjha
Siddham nntta.svg ṇṭa Siddham nnttha.svg ṇṭha Siddham nndda.svg ṇḍa Siddham nnddha.svg ṇḍha
Siddham nta.svg nta Siddham ntha.svg ntha Siddham nda.svg nda Siddham ndha1.svg ndha
Siddham mpa.svg mpa Siddham mpha.svg mpha Siddham mba.svg mba Siddham mbha.svg mbha
Siddham ngya1.svg ṅya Siddham ngra.svg ṅra Siddham ngla.svg ṅla Siddham ngva.svg ṅva
Siddham ngsha.svg ṅśa Siddham ngssa.svg ṅṣa Siddham ngsa.svg ṅsa Siddham ngha.svg ṅha Siddham ngkssa.svg ṅkṣa
Siddham ska.svg ska Siddham skha.svg skha Siddham dga.svg dga Siddham dgha.svg dgha Siddham ngktra.svg ṅktra
Siddham wca.svg vca/bca Siddham wcha.svg vcha/bcha Siddham wja.svg vja/bja Siddham wjha.svg vjha/bjha Siddham jny1.svg jña
Siddham sstta.svg ṣṭa Siddham ssttha.svg ṣṭha Siddham ddda.svg dḍa Siddham dddha.svg dḍha Siddham ssnya.svg ṣṇa
Siddham sta.svg sta Siddham stha.svg stha Siddham wda.svg vda/bda Siddham wdha.svg vdha/bdha Siddham rtsna.svg rtsna
Siddham spa.svg spa Siddham spha.svg spha Siddham dba.svg dba Siddham dbha.svg dbha Siddham rkssma.svg rkṣma
Siddham rkssvya.svg rkṣvya Siddham rkssvrya.svg rkṣvrya Siddham lta.svg lta Siddham tkva.svg tkva
Siddham ttsha2.svg ṭśa Siddham ttssa.svg ṭṣa Siddham sha.svg sha Siddham bkssa.svg bkṣa
Siddham pta.svg pta Siddham ttka.svg ṭka Siddham dsva.svg dsva Siddham ttsschra.svg ṭṣchra
Siddham jja.svg jja Siddham ttttta.svg ṭṭa Siddham nnnna.svg ṇṇa Siddham tta.svg tta Siddham nna2.svg nna Siddham mma.svg mma Siddham lla.svg lla Siddham vva.svg vva \cdots
Alternative forms of conjuncts that contain .
Siddham nntta1.svg ṇṭa Siddham nnttha1.svg ṇṭha Siddham nndda1.svg ṇḍa Siddham nnddha1.svg ṇḍha

ṛ syllables

Siddham kri.svg kṛ Siddham khri.svg khṛ Siddham gri.svg gṛ Siddham ghri.svg ghṛ Siddham ngri.svg ṅṛ Siddham cri.svg cṛ Siddham chri.svg chṛ Siddham jri.svg jṛ Siddham jhri.svg jhṛ Siddham nyri.svg ñṛ \cdots

Some sample syllables

Siddham rka.svg rka Siddham rkaa.svg rkā Siddham rki.svg rki Siddham rkii.svg rkī Siddham rku.svg rku Siddham rkuu.svg rkū Siddham rke.svg rke Siddham rkai.svg rkai Siddham rko.svg rko Siddham rkau.svg rkau Siddham rkam.svg rkaṃ Siddham rkah.svg rkaḥ
Siddham ngka1.svg ṅka Siddham ngkaa.svg ṅkā Siddham ngki.svg ṅki Siddham ngkii.svg ṅkī Siddham ngku.svg ṅku Siddham ngkuu.svg ṅkū Siddham ngke.svg ṅke Siddham ngkai.svg ṅkai Siddham ngko.svg ṅko Siddham ngkau.svg ṅkau Siddham ngkam.svg ṅkaṃ Siddham ngkah.svg ṅkaḥ

Siddhaṃ Fonts

Siddhaṃ is still largely a hand written script. Some efforts have been made to create computer fonts though to date none of these are capable of reproducing all of the Siddhaṃ conjunct consonants. Notably the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Texts Association have created a Siddhaṃ font for their electronic version of the Taisho Tripiṭaka, though this does not contain all possible conjuncts. The software Mojikyo also contains fonts for Siddham, but split Siddham in different blocks and needs different fonts to render one document.

A siddhaṃ input system relies on the CBETA font, Siddhamkey 3.0 has been produced.


Siddham script was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.

The Unicode block for Siddham is U+11580–U+115FF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1158x 𑖀 𑖁 𑖂 𑖃 𑖄 𑖅 𑖆 𑖇 𑖈 𑖉 𑖊 𑖋 𑖌 𑖍 𑖎 𑖏
U+1159x 𑖐 𑖑 𑖒 𑖓 𑖔 𑖕 𑖖 𑖗 𑖘 𑖙 𑖚 𑖛 𑖜 𑖝 𑖞 𑖟
U+115Ax 𑖠 𑖡 𑖢 𑖣 𑖤 𑖥 𑖦 𑖧 𑖨 𑖩 𑖪 𑖫 𑖬 𑖭 𑖮 𑖯
U+115Bx 𑖰 𑖱 𑖲 𑖳 𑖴 𑖵 𑖸 𑖹 𑖺 𑖻 𑖼 𑖽 𑖾 𑖿
U+115Cx 𑗀 𑗁 𑗂 𑗃 𑗄 𑗅 𑗆 𑗇 𑗈 𑗉 𑗊 𑗋 𑗌 𑗍 𑗎 𑗏
U+115Dx 𑗐 𑗑 𑗒 𑗓 𑗔 𑗕 𑗖 𑗗 𑗘 𑗙 𑗚 𑗛 𑗜 𑗝
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. Rajan, Vinodh; Sharma, Shriramana (2012-06-28). "L2/12-221: Comments on naming the "Siddham" encoding" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, page 1215, col. 1

External links


  • Bonji Taikan (梵字大鑑). (Tōkyō: Meicho Fukyūkai, 1983)
  • Chaudhuri, Saroj Kumar (1998). Siddham in China and Japan, Sino-Platonic papers No. 88
  • Stevens, John. Sacred Calligraphy of the East. (Boston: Shambala, 1995).
  • Van Gulik, R.H. Siddham : An Essay on the History of Sanskrit Studies in China and Japan (New Delhi, Jayyed Press, 1981).
  • Yamasaki, Taikō. Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. (Fresno: Shingon Buddhist International Institute, 1988).