Siddhaṃ script

Siddhaṃ (also Siddhāṃ[8]), also known in its later evolved form as Siddhamātṛkā,[9] is a medieval Brahmic abugida, derived from the Gupta script and ancestral to the Nāgarī, Assamese, Bengali, Tirhuta, Odia and Nepalese scripts.[10]

Siddhaṃ
𑖭𑖰𑖟𑖿𑖠𑖽
The word Siddhaṃ in the Siddhaṃ script
Script type
Time period
c. late 6th century[1] c. 1200 CE [2]
Directionleft-to-right 
LanguagesSanskrit
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Sister systems
Śāradā,[3][4][6] Tibetan script[5][6]
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Sidd, 302 , Siddham, Siddhaṃ, Siddhamātṛkā
Unicode
Unicode alias
Siddham
Unicode range
U+11580U+115FF

Final Accepted Script Proposal

Variant Forms
  1. The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The word Siddhaṃ means "accomplished" or "perfected" in Sanskrit. The script received its name from the practice of writing Siddhaṃ, or Siddhaṃ astu (may there be perfection), at the head of documents. Other names for the script include bonji (Japanese: 梵字) lit. "Brahma's characters" and "Sanskrit script" and Chinese: 悉曇文字; pinyin: Xītán wénzi lit. "Siddhaṃ script".

Siddhaṃ is an abugida rather than an alphabet, as each character indicates a syllable, including a consonant and (possibly) a vowel. If the vowel sound is not explicitly indicated, the short 'a' is assumed. Diacritic marks are used to indicate other vowels, as well as the anusvara and visarga. A virama can be used to indicate that the consonant letter stands alone with no vowel, which sometimes happens at the end of Sanskrit words.

History

Siddhaṃ manuscript of the Heart Sutra. Bibliothèque nationale de France
A reproduction of the palm-leaf manuscript in Siddham script, originally held at Hōryū-ji Temple, Japan; now located in the Tokyo National Museum at the Gallery of Hōryū—ji Treasure. The original copy may be the earliest extant Sanskrit manuscript of the Heart Sutra dated to the 7th–8th century CE. It also contains the Sanskrit text of the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra and the final line shows the Siddhaṃ abugida.[11]
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
Siddhaṃ Bijakshara A, Daishō-in, Miyajima
Mirror with bijaksharas, Miyajima

The Siddham script evolved from the Gupta Brahmi script in the late 6th century CE.[1]

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 had been closed by the expanding Abbasid Caliphate.[12]

In Japan, the writing of mantras and copying/reading 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.[13][14][15]

It is typical to see Siddhaṃ written with a brush, as with Chinese writing; it is also written with a bamboo pen. In Japan, a special brush called a bokuhitsu (朴筆, Cantonese: pokbat) is used for formal Siddhaṃ calligraphy. The informal style is known as "fude" (, Cantonese: "moubat").

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 Siddhaṃ's northeastern derivative called Gaudi evolved to become the Assamese, Bengali, Tirhuta, Odia and also the Nepalese scripts in the eastern and northeastern regions of South Asia,[16][17] leaving East Asia as the only region where Siddhaṃ is still used.

There were special forms of Siddhaṃ used in Korea that varied significantly from those used in China and Japan, and there is evidence that Siddhaṃ 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 Siddhaṃ 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 Siddhaṃ 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.[18]

With regards to directionality, Siddhaṃ 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 Siddhaṃ-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 Siddhaṃ 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 Siddhaṃ texts.

The script

Vowels

Independent formRomanizedAs diacritic with Independent formRomanizedAs diacritic with
a ā
i ī
u ū
e ai
o au
aṃ aḥ
Independent formRomanizedAs diacritic with Independent formRomanizedAs diacritic with
Alternative forms
ā i i ī ī u ū o au aṃ

Consonants

Stop Approximant Fricative
Tenuis Aspirated Voiced Breathy voiced Nasal
Glottal h
Velar k kh g gh
Palatal c ch j jh ñ y ś
Retroflex ṭh ḍh r
Dental t th d dh n l s
Bilabial p ph b bh m
Labiodental v
Conjuncts in alphabet
kṣ llaṃ
Alternative forms
ch j ñ ṭh ḍh ḍh th th dh n m ś ś v

Conjuncts

Siddhaṃ alphabet by Kūkai (774–835)
kkṣ-ya-ra-la-va-ma-na
k kya kra kla kva kma kna
rk rkya rkra rkla rkva rkma rkna
kh
    total 68 rows.
  • ↑ The combinations that contain adjoining duplicate letters should be deleted in this table.
ṅka ṅkha ṅga ṅgha
ñca ñcha ñja ñjha
ṇṭa ṇṭha ṇḍa ṇḍha
nta ntha nda ndha
mpa mpha mba mbha
ṅya ṅra ṅla ṅva
ṅśa ṅṣa ṅsa ṅha ṅkṣa
ska skha dga dgha ṅktra
vca/bca vcha/bcha vja/bja vjha/bjha jña
ṣṭa ṣṭha dḍa dḍha ṣṇa
sta stha vda/bda vdha/bdha rtsna
spa spha dba dbha rkṣma
rkṣvya rkṣvrya lta tkva
ṭśa ṭṣa sha bkṣa
pta ṭka dsva ṭṣchra
jja ṭṭa ṇṇa tta nna mma lla vva
Alternative forms of conjuncts that contain .
ṇṭa ṇṭha ṇḍa ṇḍha

ṛ syllables

kṛ khṛ gṛ ghṛ ṅṛ cṛ chṛ jṛ jhṛ ñṛ

Some sample syllables

rka rkā rki rkī rku rkū rke rkai rko rkau rkaṃ rkaḥ
ṅka ṅkā ṅki ṅkī ṅku ṅkū ṅke ṅkai ṅko ṅkau ṅkaṃ 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 has 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 Siddhaṃ, but split Siddhaṃ in different blocks and requires multiple fonts to render a single document.

A Siddhaṃ input system which relies on the CBETA font Siddhamkey 3.0 has been produced.

Unicode

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

The Unicode block for Siddhaṃ is U+11580U+115FF:

Siddham[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
 0123456789ABCDEF
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 𑗜 𑗝
U+115Ex
U+115Fx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Notes

  1. Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Delhi: Pearson. p. 43. ISBN 9788131716779.
  2. Its usage survives into the modern period for liturgical purposes in Japan and Korea.
  3. https://archive.org/details/epigraphyindianepigraphyrichardsalmonoup_908_D/mode/2up,p39-41
  4. Malatesha Joshi, R.; McBride, Catherine (11 June 2019). Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography. ISBN 9783030059774.
  5. Daniels, P.T. (January 2008). "Writing systems of major and minor languages". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. Masica, Colin (1993). The Indo-Aryan languages. p. 143.
  7. Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography, R. Malatesha Joshi, Catherine McBride(2019),p.27
  8. Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, page 1215, col. 1 http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/monier/
  9. Rajan, Vinodh; Sharma, Shriramana (2012-06-28). "L2/12-221: Comments on naming the "Siddham" encoding" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-19.
  10. "Devanagari: Development, Amplification, and Standardisation". Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, Govt. of India. 3 April 1977. Retrieved 3 April 2018 via Google Books.
  11. e-museum 2018   Ink on pattra (palmyra leaves used for writing upon) ink on paper Heart Sutra: 4.9x28.0 Dharani: 4.9x27.9/10.0x28.3 Late Gupta period/7–8th century Tokyo National Museum N-8.
  12. Pandey, Anshuman (2012-08-01). "N4294: Proposal to Encode the Siddham Script in ISO/IEC 10646" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
  13. SM Dine, 2012, Sanskrit Beyond Text: The Use of Bonji (Siddham) in Mandala and Other Imagery in Ancient and Medieval Japan, University of Washington.
  14. Siddhaṃ : the perfect script.
  15. Buddhism guide: Shingon.
  16. Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy.
  17. Handbook of Literacy in Akshara Orthography, R. Malatesha Joshi, Catherine McBride(2019)
  18. Kawabata, Taichi; Suzuki, Toshiya; Nagasaki, Kiyonori; Shimoda, Masahiro (2013-06-11). "N4407R: Proposal to Encode Variants for Siddham Script" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.

Sources

  • Bonji Taikan (梵字大鑑). (Tōkyō: Meicho Fukyūkai, 1983)
  • Chaudhuri, Saroj Kumar (1998). Siddham in China and Japan, Sino-Platonic papers No. 88
  • e-Museum, National Treasures & Important Cultural Properties of National Museums, Japan (2018), "Sanskrit Version of Heart Sutra and Viyaya Dharani", e-Museum
  • 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.)
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