World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Siddham script

Article Id: WHEBN0000327572
Reproduction Date:

Title: Siddham script  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Abugida, Devanagari, Brahmic scripts, Index of Japan-related articles (S)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Siddham script

"Siddham" redirects here. For the 2009 film, see Siddham (film).
The word Siddhaṃ in the Siddhaṃ script
Type Abugida
Languages Sanskrit
Time period c. 600–c. 1200 in India, and to the present in East Asia
Parent systems
(Aramaic alphabet [a])
Child systems Assamese script, Bengali script, Tibetan and its descendants
Sister systems Nāgarī
ISO 15924 ,
Unicode alias
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Siddhaṃ (Sanskrit सिद्धं, "accomplished" or "perfected"; Tibetan; Chinese: 悉曇文字; pinyin: Xītán wénzi; Japanese: 梵字, bonji; Middle Chinese (Baxter-Sagart): sit-dom mjun-dziH), also known in its later evolved form as Siddhamātṛkā,[1] is the name of a North Indian script used for writing Sanskrit during the period ca 600-1200 CE. It is descended from the Brahmi script via the Gupta script, which also gave rise to the Devanāgarī script as well as a number of other Asian scripts such as Tibetan script. There is some confusion over the spelling: Siddhāṃ and Siddhaṃ are both common, though Siddhaṃ is correct. The script is a refinement of the script used during the Indian 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.

Siddhaṃ is an abugida or alphasyllabary 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, the pure nasal (anusvāra), and the aspirated vowel (visarga). A special mark (virama) can be used to indicate that the letter stands alone with no vowel, which sometimes happens at the end of Sanskrit words. See links below for examples.


Many of the Buddhist texts which were 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. By the time Kūkai learned this script, the trading and pilgrimage routes over land to India, were closed by the expanding Islamic empire of the Abbasids.

In Japan the writing of mantras and copying of Sutras using the Siddhaṃ script is still practiced in the esoteric Buddhist schools of Shingon and Tendai as well as in the syncretic sect of Shugendō. The characters are known as shittan (悉曇?) or bonji (梵字?, Chinese: Fánzi). The Taisho edition of the Chinese Tripiṭaka preserves the Siddhaṃ characters for most mantras, and Korean Buddhists still write seed syllables 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 more typical to see Siddhaṃ written with brushes like Chinese writing, and is also written with a bamboo pen; in Japan, a special brush called a bokuhitsu (朴筆?, Chinese: Bóbǐ) is used for formal Siddhaṃ calligraphy.

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, leaving East Asia as the only region where Siddhaṃ is used.



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


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


k\cdotskṣ -ya -ra -la -va -ma -na
k kya kra kla kva kma kna
rk rkya rkra rkla rkva rkma rkna
kh \cdots
\vdots     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 \cdots
Alternative forms of conjuncts that contain .
ṇṭa ṇṭha ṇḍa ṇḍha

ṛ syllables

kṛ khṛ gṛ ghṛ ṅṛ cṛ chṛ jṛ jhṛ ñṛ \cdots

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 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.


Siddhaṃ is not yet encoded in the Unicode standard. A SMP Roadmap.


External links

  • Siddham alphabet on Omniglot
  • Examples of Siddham mantras Chinese language website.
  • Visible Mantra an extensive collection of mantras and some sūtras in Siddhaṃ script
  • Bonji Siddham Character and Pronunciation
  • SiddhamKey Software for inputting Siddham characters


  • Bonji Taikan (梵字大鑑). (Tōkyō: Meicho Fukyūkai, 1983)
  • 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).
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.