Ulu scripts
Examples of the Ulu family of scripts: Incung (top), Lampung (middle), and Rejang (bottom)
Script type
Time period
c. 13th–present
DirectionLeft-to-right Edit this on Wikidata
RegionSumatra, Indonesia
LanguagesMalay, Bengkulu, Kerinci, Lampung, Rejang, Serawai, and others
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Baybayin scripts
Old Sundanese
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
 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.

The Ulu scripts, locally known as Surat Ulu ('upstream script')[1][a] are a family of writing systems found in central and south Sumatra, in the regions of Kerinci, Bengkulu, Palembang and Lampung, Indonesia. They were used to write manuscripts in Sumatran languages and Malay, such as the Tanjung Tanah Code of Law. The Malay writing was gradually replaced by the Jawi script, a localized version of the Arabic script.[2]


The terms "surat" and "ulu" are the origin of the name Surat Ulu. While "ulu" ('upstream') refers to the highland region where the rivers in South Sumatra and Bengkulu originate (the Barisan Mountains), "Surat" refers to the script. The user community first referred to this script family as Surat Ulu.[3][4][5][b][c]

The Rencong script (Dutch: Rèntjong-schrift) is another well-known naming system. "Rencong" is thought to be derived from the Old Malay word mèncong, which means oblique/not straight.[8][9] It could also be derived from the word runcing ('sharp'), as this script family was originally written with a sharp knife tip.[10] Regardless of its origin, Western scholars frequently use this term to refer to this family of scripts.[11][d]

The Kaganga script is another name for it. Mervyn A. Jaspan (1926-1975), an anthropologist at the University of Hull, coined the term to refer to all Brahmi script lineages, not just the Ulu scripts.[12] The name "Kaganga" is derived from the first three letters of the Pāṇini sequence, which is used in the Brahmi (Indian) script family.[11][3][e] This is equivalent to the word "alphabet," which is derived from the names of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (Α-Β, alpha-beta), and the word "abjad," which is derived from the names of the first four letters of the Arabic alphabet (ا-ب-ج-د, alif-ba-jim-dal).

Several tribes have their own names in addition to the three mentioned above. For example, this script family is known as the surat ʁincung among the Pasemah ethnic group.[14]


Rencong script was often written on tree bark, bamboo, horns and palmyra-palm leaves.[15]


The term "Rencong" is often confused with "Rejang", which refers to a specific Rencong alphabet that was used to write various dialects of the Rejang language and for writing Malay in the region.


This map below shows the distribution of various Rencong alphabets in South Sumatra:

Map showing distribution of Rencong scripts.


See also


  1. ^ The term Surat Ulu which refers to the Rencong or Ka-Ga-Nga script is found, among others, in the Mal. 6873, Mal 6874, Mal. 6884, Mal. 6877, and L.Or. 12.247 (Leiden University Library) manuscripts.[1]
  2. ^ "Surat ulu is a local name and a common term for its supporting community to refer to scripts known as rencong or Ka-Ga-Nga by Western scholars. According to Jalil (from the village of Muara Timput) and Meruki (from the village of Ujung Padang), and Pidin (from the village of Napal Jungur), several informants called the Pallava-derived local scripts as Surat Ulu. Westenenk's notes (1922:95), published in TBG edition 61,[6] demonstrate that the Surat Ulu term is a local term used by the community that supports the Ulu writing tradition."[7]
  3. ^ "Old people in southern Sumatra frequently refer to the Lampung script as the Ulu script..."[5]
  4. ^ Regarding the naming relationship between the Rencong script and Surat Ulu, L. C. Westenenk writes as follows:
  5. ^ According to Mohammad Noeh, these scripts are "referred to as the Ka Ga Nga writing, which is an ancient script system originating from India."[13]


  1. ^ a b Sarwono & Rahayu 2014, pp. 2.
  2. ^ Sarwono & Rahayu 2014, pp. 5.
  3. ^ a b "Aksara Kaganga Bengkulu – Kantor Bahasa Provinsi Bengkulu" (in Indonesian). 26 January 2017. Retrieved 2021-11-10.
  4. ^ Sarwono & Rahayu 2014, pp. 4.
  5. ^ a b Pudjiastuti 1996, pp. 46.
  6. ^ a b Westenenk, L. C. (1919). Aanteekeningen omtrent het hoornopschrift van Loeboek Blimbing in de marga Sindang Bliti, onder-afdeeling Redjang, afdeeling Lebong, residentie Benkoelen. Weltevreden: Albrecht & Co. pp. 448–459.
  7. ^ Sarwono & Rahayu 2014, pp. 4–5.
  8. ^ "Carian Umum". prpm.dbp.gov.my. Retrieved 2021-11-10.
  9. ^ "Hasil Pencarian - KBBI Daring". kbbi.kemdikbud.go.id. Retrieved 2021-11-10.
  10. ^ Pitri, Nandia (2019). "Batik Incung dan Islam di Kerinci". Jurnal Islamika: Jurnal Ilmu-Ilmu Keislaman. 19 (2): 27–39. doi:10.32939/islamika.v19i02.450. S2CID 226806123.
  11. ^ a b Sarwono & Rahayu 2014, pp. 1.
  12. ^ M. A. Jaspan (1964). Folk literature of South Sumatra: Redjang Ka-Ga-Nga Texts. Internet Archive.
  13. ^ Pudjiastuti 1996, pp. 2.
  14. ^ Mahdi, Sutiono (2014). Aksara base besemah : pelajaghan mbace nga nulis urup ulu (surat ghincung). Dewi Saputri. Bandung. ISBN 978-602-9238-64-8. OCLC 906670726.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ Miller, Christopher. (2011). Indonesian and Philippine Scripts and extensions not yet encoded or proposed for encoding in Unicode as of version 6.0: A report for the Script Encoding Initiative.