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Newa Scripts: From Manuscript to Digital

Nepalbhasa was one of the major languages spoken in Feudal Kathmandu. Unlike the spoken Nepalbhasa, a generation of Newars grew up without the written aspect of language, as Newa scripts were in decline. After a long history of suppression from feudal rulers, the Newa scripts fell out of use due to fear of prosecution. However, the current transition to a federal republic has allowed for proper representation, or at the very least, sparking a dialog regarding cultures and indigenous languages. Newa scripts have seen a resurgence of sorts, as there’s a renewed interest in them amongst Newars and non-Newars alike.

Callijatra is a volunteer initiative for the preservation and mainstreaming of said Newa scripts. Newars have a number of scripts that are typified by their head, better known as ‘mo’ or ‘chhyan.’ Latin typography is differentiated by leg shapes and caps into serif, sans serif, and slabs. However, Nepal Bhasa scripts show a variation in their heads. Other variations are the Ranjana Lipi, the Bhujinmol Lipi, and the Prachalit Nepal Lipi. More than ten variations of the scripts have been seen in the Newa scripts lexicon. This presentation reviews the evolution and showcasing of these scripts, and explores how they are being mainstreamed. It will also showcase the developments in Newa script activism, which focuses on Newar and Non-Newars alike. Moving from a suppressed script to one that’s now being digitized into digital fonts and Newa Unicode by Google, a wave of renewed interest is saving a script that was in immense decline. Callijatra believes the interest in the scripts by people outside of its indigenous group could be the key in ensuring their life and longevity.


Ananda Maharjan


Ananda Kumar Maharjan is a graphic and type designer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Maharjan has designed various styles of Devanagari fonts. Currently, he is working on Ranjana script and Nepal Lipi (Newa) fonts. Maharjan has been working on education and the promotion of Ranjana Script and Nepal Lipi through the Callijatra project.


Sunita Dangol

Sunita Dangol is a communications professional with a deep interest in cultural preservation. Upon winning the Miss Newa pageant in 2011, she has pursued a varied range of works. In her career, Dangol has served as a professional RJ, emcee, TV presenter, and Newa language and script activist. Currently, Dangol is also one of the co-leads of Callijatra, a volunteer-led youth initiative working toward the preservation and mainstreaming of Newa scripts and Nepalbhasa. Her work with script preservation entails workshops, educational curriculum drafting, and online outreach. Dangol and Callijatra have been credited with kickstarting a renewed interest in Ranjana script in Nepal. She believes sharing culture encourages adoption and, through it, preservation.