Can you identify this Sanskrit character?
February 12, 2013 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Can you identify a Sanskrit character? It's the first photo in this post. Thanks!
posted by zachawry to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Curious to know why you think it is a Sanskrit character?

Having said that, the closest match I can see is the right most character in the third row here.
posted by The Illiterate Pundit at 4:55 AM on February 12, 2013

It just seems....Sanskrity. ;)

And, it certainly isn't Japanese or Chinese, leaving Sanskrit as the only other option I could think of.
posted by zachawry at 5:22 AM on February 12, 2013

Although I'm not fluent, that doesn't look like any Devanagari character I've seen. (Devanagari is the alphabet in which Sanskrit is written.)
posted by Specklet at 5:34 AM on February 12, 2013

That is not Sanskrit. It may be in one of the many Indic and Southeast Asian scripts related to Devanagari, but it is not Devanagari.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on February 12, 2013

It does not look like any devanagari character to me either. But, if you had a really compelling reason to think that it is in fact Sanskrit, I suppose it's possible it's some sort of highly stylized form. A colon-looking thing that looks much like the one in the photo, called a visarga, is a feature of Sanskrit writing.

I really doubt it's Sanskrit. But I don't think it's outside of the realm of possibility. There are weird stylized Roman fonts that I would hesitate to recognize as such if carved into an ancient rock.

Then again, after squinting at it some more, it's so far off from any standard devanagari letter that I'm extremely doubtful.
posted by threeants at 7:17 AM on February 12, 2013

It sort of looks like Gujarati...sort of. The two dots on the right look like visarga in Gujarati. The problem is, I can't seem to get that character to look like any Gujarati syllable in my head.

Perhaps it's a conjunct of a couple consonants?
posted by Fortran at 7:19 AM on February 12, 2013

It's the seed syllable hrīh in Siddham script. There's another photo of the same symbol here.

This site has a more detailed explanation of Siddham script, in Japanese and English. (And this page explains how consonant-vowel combinations work.)
posted by nangar at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jayarava has an essay about the meaning of hrīh.
posted by nangar at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2013

Huh. So bonji (梵字)in Japanese refers to Siddham. I always thought it was Sanskrit.

Thanks a lot! (Blog post amended.)
posted by zachawry at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2013

zachawry, I think you're confusing language and script here. Buddhist scriptures are mostly in Pali (Japanese Wikipedia), though some of them are in Sanskrit. Most Indic scripts, like Siddham, can be used to write Sanskrit and Pali.

Seed syllables like this aren't actually in a language. They're sounds with a meaning based on the nature of sound. (I'm not Buddhist; this is the best I can do for an explanation.) The sounds can be represented in different scripts.

(Wikipedia says seed syllables are called 種子 (shuji) in Japanese.)
posted by nangar at 10:00 PM on February 12, 2013

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