'Vatteluttu' in modern Vatteluttu typeface[1]
Script type
LanguagesTamil, Malayalam
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Koleluttu (script)[3]
Sister systems
 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.

Vatteluttu, popularly romanised as Vattezhuthu (Tamil: வட்டெழுத்து, Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Malayalam: വട്ടെഴുത്ത്, Vaṭṭeḻuttŭ, IPA: [ʋɐʈːeɻut̪ːɨ̆]), was an alphasyllabic writing system of south India (Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and Sri Lanka used for writing the Tamil and Malayalam languages.[4][5]

Vatteluttu belonged to the group of Tamil-Malayalam scripts among the Southern Brahmi derivatives.[4][6] The script was used for centuries in inscriptions and manuscripts of south India.[7]


Three possible suggestions for the etymology of the term 'Vatteluttu' are commonly proposed. Eluttu (ezhuthu) is literally 'written form' in this context; and affixed here it means 'writing system' or 'script'.

The three suggestions are:

The script was also known as Tekken-Malayalam or Nana-mona.[8] The name "Nana-mona" is given to it because, at the time when it is taught, the words "namostu" etc. are begun, which are spelt "nana, mona, ittanna, tuva" (that is, "na, mo and tu"), and the alphabet therefore came to be known as the "nana-mona" alphabet.[8]


Vatteluttu probably started developing from Tamil-Brahmi from around the 4th or 5th century AD.[2][9][10] The earliest forms of the script have been traced to memorial stone inscriptions from the 4th century AD.[2] It is distinctly attested in a number of inscriptions in Tamil Nadu from the 6th century AD.[4] By the 7th to 8th centuries, it had developed into a completely separate script from Tamil-Brahmi.[6] Its use is also attested in north-eastern Sri Lankan rock inscriptions, such as those found near Trincomalee, dated to between c. the 5th and 8th centuries AD.[11]

Vatteluttu was replaced by the Pallava-Grantha script from the 7th century AD in the Pallava court. From the 11th century AD onwards the Tamil script displaced the Pallava-Grantha as the principal script for writing Tamil.[6][2] In what is now Kerala, Vatteluttu continued for a much longer period than in Tamil Nadu by incorporating characters from Pallava-Grantha to represent Sanskrit loan words in early Malayalam.[6][3] Early Malayalam inscriptions (c. 9th and 12th century AD) are composed mostly in Vatteluttu.[3][12] The script went on evolving in Kerala during this period and from c. the 12th century onwards.[3]



Evolution of Vatteluttu (script)

The script continuously went on evolving during its period of existence (in such a way that the date of a record may be fixed approximately by reference to the script alone).[3][8]

Vatteluttu ISO Equivalent letter in
Tamil Malayalam
Vatteluttu ISO Equivalent letter in
Tamil Malayalam
Vatteluttu ISO Equivalent letter in
Tamil Malayalam


Not yet added to unicode but proposals have been made to add it.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Vatteluttu".
  2. ^ a b c d e Rajan, K. (2001). "Territorial Division as Gleaned from Memorial Stones". East and West. 51 (3/4): 359–367. JSTOR 29757518.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Narayanan, M. G. S. (2013) [1972]. Perumāḷs of Kerala: Brahmin Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks. pp. 379-80 and 398. ISBN 9788188765072.
  4. ^ a b c d Coulmas, Florian (1999). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Blackwell Publishing. p. 542. ISBN 9780631214816.
  5. ^ a b Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. "Tamil Language". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ a b c d Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003). The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge University Press. pp. 78, 84–85. ISBN 978-1-139-43533-8.
  7. ^ a b c Freeman, Rich (2003). "The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala". In Sheldon, Pollock (ed.). Literary Cultures in History. University of California Press. p. 481. ISBN 9780520228214.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Rao, T. A. Gopinatha. Specimens of Vatteluttu Inscriptions. Travancore Archaeological Series. Vol. XVI (1911 ed.). Government of Travancore. pp. 283–84.
  9. ^ Mahadevan, Iravatham (2003). Early Tamil Epigraphy: From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century AD. Harvard University Press. pp. 210–213. ISBN 978-0-674-01227-1.
  10. ^ Salomon, Richard (2004). "Review: Early Tamil Epigraphy: From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century AD". The Journal of the American Oriental Society. 124 (3). Harvard Oriental Series: 565–569. doi:10.2307/4132283. JSTOR 4132283.
  11. ^ Manogaran, Chelvadurai (2000). The Untold Story of Ancient Tamils in Sri Lanka. Chennai: Kumaran Publishers. p. 31.
  12. ^ Veluthat, Kesavan. "History and Historiography in Constituting a Region: The Case of Kerala." Studies in People’s History, vol. 5, no. 1, June 2018, pp. 13–31.
  13. ^ "Roadmap to the SMP". Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 21 August 2023.