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The word Siddhaṃ in the Siddhaṃ script
Type Abugida
Spoken languages Sanskrit
Time period c. 600–c. 1200 in India, and to the present in Japan
Parent systems
Child systems Tibetan and its descendants
Sister systems Nāgarī
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

Siddhaṃ (Sanskrit सिद्धं, "accomplished" or "perfected") — is the name of a North Indian script used for writing Sanskrit during the period ca 600-1200 CE. 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. 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 rastu (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.



Siddham alphabet by Kūkai(774–835)

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. In Japan the characters are known as shittan (悉曇 ?) or bonji (梵字 ?). 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 Japanese innovation is writing 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 ?) 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 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 Nasal Approximant Fricative
Voiceless Voiced
Unaspirated Aspirated Unaspirated Aspirated
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


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. The software Mojikyo also contains fonts for Siddham.

A siddhaṃ input system, SiddhaṃKey 1.0 has been produced but it has some limitations.

Siddhaṃ is not included in the Unicode 5.1 standard. As yet there is no firm proposal for a Siddhaṃ Unicode encoding but there is a draft layout and the script has been tentatively located at the 11380-113DF coderange in the SMP Roadmap.

External links


  • Stevens, John . Sacred Calligraphy of the East. (Boston: Shambala, 1995)
  • YAMASAKI, Taikō. Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. (Fresno: Shingon Buddhist International Institute, 1988)
  • Bonji Taikan (梵字大鑑). (Tōkyō: Meicho Fukyūkai, 1983)


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