The Info List - Kawi Alphabet

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AKSARA KAWI (from Sanskrit
kavi "poet") is the name given to the writing system originating in Java
and used across much of Maritime Southeast Asia from the 8th century to around 1500 AD. It is a direct derivation of the Pallava script
Pallava script
brought by traders from the ancient Tamil Kingdom of the south Indian Pallava dynasty
Pallava dynasty
in India, primarily used for writing Tamil , Sanskrit
and Old Javanese language. Kawi is the ancestor of traditional Indonesian scripts, such as Javanese and Balinese , as well as traditional Philippine scripts such as Baybayin .


* 1 Overview * 2 See also * 3 Notes * 4 External links


Kawi is derived from the Pallava script
Pallava script
mentioned by scholars of Southeast Asian studies such as George Coedès and D. G. E. Hall as the basis of several writing systems of Southeast Asia. The Pallava script was primarily used to write middle Tamil .

The earliest known texts in Kavi date from the Singhasari
kingdom in eastern Java
. The more recent scripts were extant in the Majapahit kingdom, also in eastern Java, Bali
, Borneo
and Sumatra

The scripts are abugidas , meaning that characters are read with an inherent vowel. Diacritics are used, either to suppress the vowel and represent a pure consonant, or to represent other vowels.

The literary genre written in this alphabet is called Kakawin .

A well-known document written in Kawi is the Laguna Copperplate Inscription , found in 1989 in Laguna de Bay
Laguna de Bay
, in the metroplex of Manila, Philippines
Manila, Philippines
. It has inscribed on it a date of Saka era
Saka era
822, corresponding to May 10, 900 AD, and is written in Old Malay containing numerous loanwords from Sanskrit
and a few non-Malay vocabulary elements whose origin is ambiguous between Old Javanese and Old Tagalog . This document, among other discoveries made in recent years in the country such as the Golden Tara
Golden Tara
of Butuan
and 14th century pottery and gold jewellery artifacts found in Cebu
, is highly important in revising the ancient history of the Philippines .

The " Butuan
Ivory Seal " (The left hand image is the seal itself; the right hand image shows how a print from the seal would appear.) The Kawi lettering reads "Butban". The three square seal style characters are BA, TA and NA; the leftward curl underneath BA is the /u/ vowel diacritic, changing the syllable to BU; the small heart-shaped character under TA is the subscript conjunct form of BA which also removes the default /a/ vowel from TA; the large curl to the upper right is the Kawi virama , which indicates the default /a/ vowel on NA is not pronounced. The three blocks of characters together read ". In both Balinese script
Balinese script
and Javanese script
Javanese script
, which are descended from Kawi, the word is spelled in a very similar pattern, using a similar /u/ diacritic, conjunct form for B, and virama.


* Baybayin
* Hanunó\'o script * Tagbanwa alphabet
Tagbanwa alphabet
* Buhid script * Filipino orthography
Filipino orthography
* Vatteluttu


* ^ A B Prelimininary proposal for encoding the Kawi script
Kawi script
in the UCS * ^ De Casparis, J. G. Indonesian Palaeography: A History of Writing in Indonesia from the beginnings to c. AD 1500, Leiden/Koln, 1975 * ^ http://www.ancientscripts.com/kawi.html * ^ "Expert on past dies; 82". Philippine Daily Inquirer
Philippine Daily Inquirer
. 2008-10-21. Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2008-11-17. * ^ Laguna Copperplate Inscription
Laguna Copperplate Inscription
- Article in English Archived 2008-02-05 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
. * ^ Postma, Antoon. (1992). The Laguna Copper-Plate Inscription: Text and Commentary. Philippine Studies vol. 40, no.