Ol Chiki
ᱚᱞ ᱪᱤᱠᱤ
Script type
CreatorRaghunath Murmu
Time period
1925 — present
DirectionLeft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesSantali language
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Olck (261), ​Ol Chiki (Ol Cemet’, Ol, Santali)
Unicode alias
Ol Chiki
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
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The Ol Chiki (ᱚᱞ ᱪᱤᱠᱤ) script, also known as Ol Chemetʼ (Santhali: ol 'writing', chemetʼ 'learning'), Ol Ciki, Ol, and sometimes as the Santhali alphabet invented by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925, is the official writing system for Santhali, an Austroasiatic language recognized as an official regional language in India. It is one of the official scripts of the Indian Republic. It has 30 letters, the design of which is intended to evoke natural shapes. The script is written from left to right, and has two styles (the print Chapa style and cursive Usara style). Unicode does not maintain a distinction between these two, as is typical for print and cursive variants of a script. In both styles, the script is unicameral (that is, it does not have separate sets of uppercase and lowercase letters).

The shapes of the letters are not arbitrary, but reflect the names for the letters, which are words, usually the names of objects or actions representing conventionalized form in the pictorial shape of the characters.

— Norman Zide, [1]


The Ol Chiki script was created in 1925 by Raghunath Murmu for the Santhali language, and publicized first in 1939 at a Mayurbhanj State exhibition.[2] Unlike most Indic scripts, Ol Chiki is not an abugida, but is a true alphabet: giving the vowels equal representation with the consonants.

Raghunath Murmu, Creator of Ol Chiki script

Before the invention of Ol Chiki script, Santhali was written in Bangla, Devanagari, Kalinga and Latin script. However, Santhali is not an Indo-Aryan language and Indic scripts did not have letters for all of Santhali's phonemes, especially its stop consonants and vowels, which make it difficult to write the language accurately in an unmodified Indic script.

For example, when missionary and linguist Paul Olaf Bodding, a Norwegian, studied the Santhali language and needed to decide how to transcribe it (in producing his widely followed and widely respected reference books such as A Santhal Dictionary), he decided to transcribe Santhali in the Roman alphabet: despite his observation that Roman script lacks many of the advantages of the Indic scripts, he concluded that the Indic scripts could not adequately serve the Santhali language because the Indic scripts lack a way to indicate important features of Santhali pronunciation (such as glottalization, combined glottalization and nasalization, and check stops) which can be more easily represented in the Roman alphabet through the use of diacritics.[3]

The phonology of the Santhali language had also been similarly analyzed by various other authors, including Byomkes Chakrabarti in Comparative Study of Santhali and Bengali and Baghrai Charan Hembram in A Glimpse of Santhali Grammar. However, the Ol Chiki alphabet is considered (by many Santhali) to be even more appropriate for the language, because its letter-shapes are derived from the sounds of common Santhali words and other frequent Santhali morphemes:[a] nouns, demonstratives, adjectives, and verb roots in the Santhali language.[4] In other words, each Santhali letter’s name is, or is derived from, a common word or other element of the Santhali language, and each letter’s shape is derive from a simple drawing of the meaning of that word or other element. For example, the Santhali letter “ol” (representing the sound /l/) is written with a shape originally derived from a simplified outline drawing of a hand holding a pen, because the name of this letter is also the Santhali word for “writing.”

Print and cursive styles

The image shows Ol Chiki Chapa/print and Usara/cursive styles, with the chapa style of each letter written in the first row, and the corresponding usara style in the second row

The existence of these two styles of Ol Chiki was mentioned by the script’s creator: Guru Gonke Pandit Raghunath Murmu (also known as Pandit Murmu) in his book Ol Chemed[5] which explains and teaches the Ol Chiki script.[b] Chhapa (Santhali for 'print') is used for publication, while usaraà (Santhali for 'quick') is used for handwriting.

Chhapa hand

Ol Chiki chhapa, or print style, is the more common style for digital fonts, and is used in the printing of books and newspapers.

Usaraà hand

Usaraà or usaraà ol is the cursive style, and is largely limited to pen and paper, though there are digital usaraà typefaces. Differences include the diacritic ahad, which in print style is used with , , , , and , all of which can form ligatures with in cursive.[6] Further, cursive usaraà seldom uses several letter-shapes which are formed by combining the letter and the four semi-consonants , , , and with ahad; instead, these are generally written in a shorter form, as .


The values of the Ol Chiki letters are as follows:

Letter Name IPA[7] Transliteration Shape[1]
ALA-LC[8] Zide[7] Deva.[6] Beng.[6] Odia[6]
la /ɔ/ a burning fire
at /t/ t t ତ୍ the Earth
ag /k’/, /g/ g k’ ଗ୍ vomiting mouth, which produces the same sound as the name of the letter
ang /ŋ/ blowing air
al /l/ l l ଲ୍ writing
laa /a/ ā a working in the field with a spade
aak /k/ k k କ୍ bird (sound of a swan)
aaj /c’/, /ɟ/ j c’ ଜ୍ person pointing towards a third person with the right hand (saying “he”)
aam /m/ m m ମ୍ person pointing towards a second person with the left hand (saying “you”)
aaw /w/, /v/ w w ওয় ୱ୍ opening lips
li /i/ i i bending tree
is /s/ s s ସ୍ plow
ih /ʔ/, /h/ h ହ୍ hands up
iny /ɲ/ ñ ñ ଞ୍ person pointing towards himself/herself with the left hand
ir /r/ r r ର୍ sickle used for cutting or reaping
lu /u/ u u vessel used for preparing food
uch /c/ c c ଚ୍ peak of a mountain which is usually high
ud /t’/, /d/ d t’ ଦ୍ mushroom
unn /ɳ/ ଣ୍ picture of a flying bee (which Is described by Santali speakers as making this sound)
uy /j/ y y য় ୟ୍ a man bending towards the ground to cut something
le /e/ e e overflowing rivers changing course
ep /p/ p p ପ୍ person receiving with both hands
edd /ɖ/ ଡ୍ a man with two legs stretching towards his chest and mouth
en /n/ n n ନ୍ threshing grains with two legs
err /ɽ/ ड़ ড় ଡ଼୍ a path that turns to avoid an obstruction or a danger
lo /o/ o o a mouth when sounding this letter
ott /ʈ/ ଟ୍ camel hump
ob /p’/, /b/ b p’ ବ୍ curly hair
ov /w̃/ ଙ୍ nasalized
oh /ʰ/ h (C)h ହ୍ a man throwing something with one hand

Aspirated consonants are written as digraphs with the letter :[9][6] ᱛᱷ /tʰ/, ᱜᱷ /gʱ/, ᱠᱷ /kʰ/, ᱡᱷ /jʱ/, ᱪᱷ /cʰ/, ᱫᱷ /dʱ/, ᱯᱷ /pʰ/, ᱰᱷ /ɖʱ/, ᱲᱷ /ɽʱ/, ᱴᱷ /ʈʰ/, and ᱵᱷ /bʱ/.

Other marks

Ol Chiki employs several marks which are placed after the letter they modify (there are no combining characters):

Mark Name Description
găhlă ṭuḍăg This baseline dot is used to extend three vowel letters for the Santal Parganas dialect of Santali:[9] ᱚᱹ ŏ /ɔ/, ᱟᱹ ă /ə/, and ᱮᱹ ĕ /ɛ/. The phonetic difference between and ᱚᱹ is not clearly defined and there may be only a marginal phonemic difference between the two. ᱚᱹ is rarely used. ALA-LC transliterates ᱟᱹ as "ạ̄".[8]
mũ ṭuḍăg This raised dot indicates nasalization of the preceding vowel: ᱚᱸ /ɔ̃/, ᱟᱸ /ã/, ᱤᱸ /ĩ/, ᱩᱸ /ũ/, ᱮᱸ /ẽ/, and ᱳᱸ /õ/. ALA-LC transliteration uses "m̐" after the affected vowel.[8]
mũ găhlă ṭuḍăg This colon-like mark is used to mark a nasalized extended vowel. It is a combination of mũ ṭuḍăg and găhlă ṭuḍăg: ᱚᱺ /ɔ̃/, ᱟᱺ /ə̃/, and ᱮᱺ /ɛ̃/.
relā This tilde-like mark indicates the prolongation of any oral or nasalized vowel. Compare /e/ with ᱮᱻ /eː/. It comes after the găhlă ṭuḍăg for extended vowels: ᱮᱹᱻ /ɛː/. It is omitted in ALA-LC transliteration.[8]
ahad This special letter indicates the deglottalization of a consonant in the word-final position. It preserves the morphophonemic relationship between the glottalized (ejective) and voiced equivalents of consonants.[9] For example, represents a voiced /g/ when word initial but an ejective /k’/ when in the word-final position. A voiced /g/ in the word-final position is written as ᱜᱽ. The ahad is used with , , , , and which can form cursive ligatures with in handwriting (but not usually in printed text).[6] ALA-LC transliteration uses an apostrophe (’) to represent an ahad.[8]
phārkā This hyphen-like mark serves as a glottal protector (the opposite function as the ahad.) It preserves the ejective sound, even in the word-initial position. Compare ᱜᱚ /gɔ/ with ᱜᱼᱚ /k’ɔ/. The phārkā is only used with , , , and . It is omitted in ALA-LC transliteration.[8]


Ol Chiki has its own set of digits:

Digit 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Ol Chiki
Persian ۰ ۱ ۲ ۳ ۴ ۵ ۶ ۷ ۸ ۹


Some Western-style punctuation marks are used with Ol Chiki: the comma (,), exclamation mark (!), question mark (?), and quotation marks (“ and ”).

The period/fullstop (.) is not used, because it is visually confusible with the găhlă ṭuḍăg mark (ᱹ).;[6] therefore, instead of periods, the script uses single or two Ol Chiki short dandas:



Main article: Ol Chiki (Unicode block)

Ol Chiki script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1.

The Unicode block for Ol Chiki is U+1C50–U+1C7F:

Ol Chiki[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1C7x ᱿
1.^ As of Unicode version 15.1


Mixing the two letter styles

Although Ol Chiki (Chapa) and Ol Chiki (Usara) are normally never mixed, and the original inventor never mentioned mixing these letter styles, there have been some works that mix both forms, using them like English capital and small letters. However, this innovation is yet to be accepted officially.[12]

The invention of a lower case for Ol Chiki

Since 2017, Santali graphic designer, typographer, and film producer Sudip Iglesias Murmu has been working on design principles to provide a lowercase alphabet form for Ol Chiki, which would permit Ol Chiki writing and keyboarding to use a two-case, or bicameral, format (Using both uppercase and lowercase), as is done in many other written languages, including the Roman-alphabet languages such as English (all of which were once unicameral scripts, but evolved into a bicameral stage over time). As the development of a lowercase form is contributed to developing a standardized cursive form (in those writing systems which use one), the evolution of lowercase is likely to allow standardizing cursive to the point of making it type able alongside more rigid "block" printed letterforms forms So far, only Ol Chiki (Chapa) letters are used in keyboarding, typesetting, and publishing (in effect, producing capitals-only text for the entirety of all printed or keyboarded documents). In writing quickly by hand, Ol Chiki (Usara) is used: but, despite Ol Usara’s potential for reaching high speed, the circulation of Ol Usara documents is negligible, and Ol Usara is yet to receive Unicode standardization, thus leaving it still neglected.

In hopes to remedy this situation and to harmonize the two scripts, Sudip Iglesias Murmu has innovated by creating a series of lowercase letters, which he has integrated with the already existing font of Ol Chiki. According to him, providing lowercase letters increases the efficiency of keyboarding, both for Ol Chiki (Chapa) and for Ol Chiki (Usara), and allows keyboarding to reach the same speed that can be obtained when typing Santali in Roman-alphabet letters, which are likewise case-sensitive. However, his work is yet to be accepted officially.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Ol Chiki Script". A portal for Santals. 2002. Archived from the original on 8 August 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  2. ^ Hembram, Phatik Chandra (2002). Santhali, a Natural Language. U. Hembram. p. 165.
  3. ^ Hembram, Baghrai Charan (2012). A Glimpse of Santali Grammar. Noha Trust Bahalda Mayurbhanj odisha. p. 05. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 23 June 2022.
  4. ^ Hembram, Baghrai Charan (2012). A Glimpse of Santali Grammar. Noha Trust Bahalda Mayurbhanj odisha. p. 01.
  5. ^ Samal, A. P. Subhakanta (14 January 2022). PERSONALITIES OF ODISHA. Shubhdristi Publication. ISBN 978-93-5593-204-4. Archived from the original on 26 September 2023. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Everson, Michael (5 September 2005). "L2/05-243R: Final proposal to encode the Ol Chiki script in the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 July 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b Zide, Norman (1996). Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William (eds.). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. pp. 614-615. ISBN 978-0195079937.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Santali (in Ol script)" (PDF). ALA-LC Romanization Tables. Library of Congress. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 December 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "The Unicode Standard, Chapter 13.10: Ol Chiki" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. March 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Noto Sans Ol Chiki". Google Noto Fonts. Archived from the original on 8 January 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Nirmala UI font family - Typography". docs.microsoft.com. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  12. ^ Ajanta HC (11 August 2021). "Ol Chiki Lower Case Letters Invented by Sudip Iglesias Murmu". PRLog (Press release). Mumbai. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Ol Chiki moulded into perfection by invention of lowercase letters - Ajanta Heritage & Culture". 9 August 2021. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  1. ^ smallest unit of meaningful speech sound
  2. ^ The process is described in Ol Chemed (A Santali Primer), and also in his book Ronod (A Santali Grammar in Santali), in his description of Ol Chiki's chapa and usara styles.