Malayalam is a Dravidian language with about 38 million speakers spoken mainly in the south west of India, particularly in Kerala, the Laccadive Islands and neighboring states, and also in Bahrain, Fiji, Israel, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, UAE and the UK.
Malayalam was first written with the Vatteluttu alphabet (വട്ടെഴുത്ത് Vaṭṭeḻuttŭ), which means 'round writing' and developed from the Brahmi script. The oldest known written text in Malayalam is known as the Vazhappalli or Vazhappally inscription, is in the Vatteluttu alphabet and dates from about 830 AD.
A version of the Grantha alphabet originally used in the Chola kingdom was brought to the southwest of India in the 8th or 9th century and was adapted to write the Malayalam and Tulu languages. By the early 13th century it is thought that a systemised Malayalam alphabet had emerged. Some changes were made to the alphabet over the following centuries, and by the middle of the 19th century the Malayalam alphabet had attained its current form.
As a result of the difficulties of printing Malayalam, a simplified or reformed version of the script was introduced during the 1970s and 1980s. The main change involved writing consonants and diacritics separately rather than as complex characters. These changes are not applied consistently so the modern script is often a mixture of traditional and simplified letters.
Malayalam is also regularly written with a version of the Arabic script by Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia, and occasionally by Muslims in Kerala.
When combined with vowel diacritics some consonants change shape. This doesn't happen in the simplified version of the script (in blue)
A chillu or chillaksharam represents pure consonants independently, without help of a virama. Unlike a consonant represented by an ordinary consonant letter, these consonants are never followed by an inherent vowel.
The simplified versions are shown in blue.
Manuṣyarellāvarum tulyāvakāśan̄n̄aḷōṭum antassōṭum svātantryattōtumkūṭi janiccavarāṇ. Anyōnyam bhrātrubāvattoṭe perumāṛuvānāṇa manuṣyannu vivēkabuddhiyum manaṣṣākṣiyum siddhamāyirikkunnat.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Online Malayalam dictionaries
The Bible in Malayalam (Unicode)
Online Malayalam transliterator
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