Ol Chiki
ᱚᱞ ᱪᱤᱠᱤ
Ol Chiki.svg
Script type
Directionleft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
LanguagesSantali language
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Olck, 261 Edit this on Wikidata, ​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 (Santali: ol 'writing', chemet' 'learning'), Ol Ciki, Ol, and sometimes as the Santali alphabet invented by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in the year 1925, is the official writing system for Santali, an Austroasiatic language recognized as an official regional language in India. It has 30 letters, the forms of which are intended to evoke natural shapes. The script is written from left to right, and has two forms (Chapa and Usara) of which latter is not Unicoded. In written Santali, unlike written English, the uppercase and lowercase forms are never mixed.

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 Pandit Raghunath Murmu for the Santali 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.

Before the invention of Ol Chiki script, Santali was written in Bangla, Devanagari, Kalinga and Latin script. However, Santali is not an Indo-Aryan language and Indic scripts did not have letters for all of Santali'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 Santali language and needed to decide how to transcribe it (in producing his widely followed and widely respected reference books such as A Santal Dictionary), he decided to transcribe Santali 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 Santali language because the Indic scripts lack a way to indicate important features of Santali 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 Santali language had also been similarly analyzed by various other authors, including Byomkes Chakrabarti in Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali and Baghrai Charan Hembram in A Glimpse of Santali Grammar. However, the Ol Chiki alphabet is considered (by many Santali) to be even more appropriate for the language, because its letter-shapes are deprived from the sounds of common Santali words and other frequent Santali morphemes[a]: nouns, demonstratives, adjectives, and verb roots in the Santali language.[4] In other words, each Santali letter’s name is, or is derived from, a common word or other element of the Santali language, and each letter’s shape is derive from a simple drawing of the meaning of that word or other element. For example, the Santali 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 Santali word for “writing.”

Ol Chiki forms

The image shows Ol Chiki Chapa/print and Usara/cursive form, with the Ol Chiki form of each letter written in the first row, and the same letter’s Ol Usara form in the second row
The image shows Ol Chiki Chapa/print and Usara/cursive form, with the Ol Chiki form of each letter written in the first row, and the same letter’s Ol Usara form in the second row

The existence of these two forms of Ol Chiki was mentioned by the script’s creator: Guru Gomke Pandit Raghunath Murmu (also known as Pandit Murmu) in his book Ol Chemed[5] which explains and teaches the Ol Chiki script[b]. In describing these two forms, Pandit Murmu notes that the two forms are never mixed, but are always used independently of each other; unlike English or other Roman-alphabet language, where both lowercase and uppercase are used in the same word, in Ol Chiki the two forms are never used in the same word. Instead, the form called Ol Chiki (Chapa) (Santali: Chapa 'print') used for digital publication of books, newspapers, typing on mobile devices or computers; the other form, called Ol Chiki (Usara) (Santali: Usara 'quick'), is used only in handwriting: therefore, Usara is sometimes called Ol Chiki handwriting or cursive form. Although Usara is not unicoded, it is still widely used in order to writing Ol Chiki more easily, as a running hand.

Ol Chiki (Chapa)

Ol Chiki Chapa, or printed form, is widely used in keyboarding, and in printing newspapers, books, etc.

Ol Chiki (Usara)

Ol Chiki (Usara) or Usara Ol (Santali: Usara = Quick, Ol = Writing), also known as Ol Chiki handwriting or Ol Chiki cursive form, is one of the two forms of Ol Chiki script: one of the basic ways of writing in the Santali language. Using Ol Usara allows writing very fast, which would not be possible by writing in Ol Chiki (Chapa). The Usara Ol is limited to pen and paper, and does not find any use online. It is used, for instance, when students in school are taking notes. The handwritten Ol Usara letters consist of all the letters, digits and punctuation used by Ol Chiki (Chapa), except that the shapes of letters in Ol Chiki (Usara) are substantially changed from their forms in Ol Chiki (Chapa). In Ol Chiki, for instance, the diacritic ahad is used with , , , , and , and all these can form cursive ligatures with in Usara/handwriting (but not usually in Chapa/printed text).[6]. Further, Ol Usara seldom uses several letter-shapes which are formed by combining the and four semi-consonants: , , , and with ahad. Similarly, in normal Ol Usara handwriting, the combination of with ahad is not found, because in Ol Usara, it is generally written in a shorter form, as .

Differences and Similarities between Both Forms

These are various differences and similarities between these two forms of Ol Chiki script.

Sl.No Ol Chiki (Chapa) Ol Chiki (Usara)
1. It consists of 30 letters, 5 diacritical marks, and one special symbol called ahad or ohod. This is true of Ol Usara as well as of Ol Chapa
2. Use of ᱦ with ᱽ is not found or is negligible. The combination of ᱦ with ᱽ is not found, as it is generally written in a shorter form: ᱷ (ᱦ + ᱽ = ᱷ) This combination is likewise not found
3. Digits are from ᱐ᱼ᱙ No change in digits
4. 6 Diacritics (ᱸ , ᱹ , ᱺ , ~ , ᱼ , ᱽ ) are present No changes are made
5. Except for the period, all punctuation takes the same form as in English. Instead of using a period, Ol Chiki uses a symbol called muchad or mucăd. This is not changed in Ol Usara
Sl. Ol Chiki (Chapa) Ol Chiki (Usara)
1. Ohod is written with its component letters separate (not joined) Ohod is written with its component letters joined
2. ᱜ, ᱡ, ᱦ, ᱫ, and ᱵ does not form ligatures with ᱽ (ᱦᱽ use is not found, instead ᱷ Is used) ᱜ, ᱡ, ᱦ, ᱫ, and ᱵ form cursive ligatures with ᱽ (ᱦᱽ is not used; instead, ᱷ is used)
3. Words are written with letters separated from each other, as usual in printed documents, without any cursive form. Words are written in a cursive style with all letters joined.


The values of the Ol Chiki (Chapa) 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 ᱚᱹ 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 (.) 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 14.0


Mixing letters

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

Inventing a Lower Case for Ol Chiki

Since 2017, Santali graphic designer and typographer Sudip Iglesias Murmu who is a graphic designer and typographer by profession, has been working on the design of a lowercase alphabet for Ol Chiki, which would permit writing and keyboarding Ol Chiki in a two-case format (Using both uppercase and lowercase), as is done in many other written languages, including the Roman-alphabet languages such as English. 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 this system’s potential for speed, the circulation of a Usara documents is negligible, and Usara is yet to receive Unicode standardization, thus leaving it still neglected.

In hopes to remedy this situation and harmonized 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. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  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.
  4. ^ Hembram, Baghrai Charan (2012). A Glimpse of Santali Grammar. Noha Trust Bahalda Mayurbhanj odisha. p. 01.
  5. ^ Samal, A. P. Subhakanta (2022-01-14). PERSONALITIES OF ODISHA. Shubhdristi Publication. ISBN 978-93-5593-204-4.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Everson, Michael (2005-09-05). "L2/05-243R: Final proposal to encode the Ol Chiki script in the UCS" (PDF).
  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. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  9. ^ a b c "The Unicode Standard, Chapter 13.10: Ol Chiki" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. March 2020.
  10. ^ "Noto Sans Ol Chiki". Google Noto Fonts. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Nirmala UI font family - Typography". docs.microsoft.com. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  12. ^ News, Global Gov. "Ol Chiki Lower Case Letters Invented by Sudip Iglesias Murmu". PRLog. Retrieved 2022-06-02.
  13. ^ "Ol Chiki moulded into perfection by invention of lowercase letters - Ajanta Heritage & Culture". 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2022-06-02.
  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 two written forms, Ol Chiki (Chapa) and Ol Chiki (Usara)