The origins of the Manipuri alphabet, or Meetei Mayek as it is
know in Manipuri, are shrouded in mystery as many historical documents were
destroyed at the beginning of the 18th century during the reign of King Pamheiba.
Some believe the alphabet has been used for almost 4,000 years, while others
think it developed from the Bengali alphabet during
the 17th century.
Between 1709 and the middle of the 20th century, the Manipuri language was written
with the Bengali alphabet. During the 1940s and 50s,
Manipuri scholars began campaigning to bring back the old Manipuri alphabet. In
1976 at a writers conference all the scholars finally agreed on a new version of
the alphabet containing a number of additional letters to represent sounds not
present in the language when the script was first developed. The current Manipuri
script is a reconstruction of the ancient Manipuri script.
Since the early 1980s the Manipuri alphabet as been taught in schools in Manipur.
This is a syllabic alphabet in which consonants all have an inherent
vowel /a/.Other vowels are written as independent letters, or by using a variety
of diacritical marks which are written above, below, before or after
the consonant they belong to.
Each letter is named after a part of the human body.
Used to write:
Manipuri, or Meeteilon/Meitei, one of the official languages
of the Indian state of Manipur in north-east India and has about 1.6 million speakers. It
is a member of the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family and is also
spoken in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Bengali alphabet for Manipuri
Information about the Manipuri scripts and pronunciation compiled or corrected by Wolfram Siegel
Sample text in Manipuri
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)