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Nusantara's Written Heritage: Decoding Indonesia's Ancient Scripts

The Scripts of Indonesia (Nusantara Scripts)

Edisi Indonesia: Aksara Nusantara

Nusantara scripts, also known as Aksara Nusantara, refer to the various indigenous scripts or writing systems used in Indonesia before the introduction of the Latin script. These scripts are derived from the ancient Brahmi script and have been used by different ethnic groups across the Indonesian archipelago.

The Javanese script (Aksara Jawa), the Balinese script (Aksara Bali), the Sundanese script (Aksara Sunda), the Buginese script (Aksara Bugis), and many others are examples of well-known Nusantara scripts. Each script has distinct traits, a distinctive phonetic structure, and a distinctive cultural significance.

These scripts have been employed historically for a variety of things, such as religious texts, literature, legal documents, historical records, and everyday communication. The use of Nusantara scripts, however, gradually decreased as Dutch colonial rule spread and the Latin script was adopted as a replacement.

Although these scripts are still taught and maintained as a part of the community's cultural heritage today, their regular use has significantly decreased. For official and everyday communication, as well as in education and the media, Indonesia now primarily uses the Latin script.

The Nusantara scripts are being revived and preserved as significant cultural and historical resources. Initiatives are being made to encourage their use in publications, cultural events, and artistic expressions. The knowledge and traditions connected to these scripts are also being preserved and documented through ongoing research and documentation projects.

Nusantara scripts are being preserved and promoted as a way to honor the linguistic and cultural diversity of Indonesia and to reaffirm the country's deep historical roots.

It's important to continue efforts to preserve and promote the knowledge of these scripts and the associated cultures and languages. By doing so, we can honor and celebrate the cultural heritage of these communities.

Alifuru script

Alifuru script is an Indonesian writing system that originated in Maluku. This script is from the Alifuru tribe's culture and is only used to write in the Tana language (a special language that is only used in traditional ceremonies).

Balinese script

Balinese script, also known as Hanacaraka, is one of the traditional Indonesian scripts that developed on the island of Bali. This script is mainly used to write Balinese, Sanskrit, and Kawi, but in its development, it was also used to write several other regional languages, such as Sasak and Malay, with additions and modifications. The Balinese script is a derivative of the Indian Brahmi script through the intermediary of the Kawi script and is closely related to the Javanese script. Balinese script has been actively used in Balinese literature and daily writing since the mid-15th century until now and is still taught in Bali as part of the local content, although its application in daily life has decreased.

Batak script

Surat Batak, also known as Surat na Sampulu Sia (nineteen letters), Si Sia-sia, or Batak script, is one of Indonesia's traditional scripts that developed in the Batak realm, North Sumatra. Batak letters consist of several variants used to write the five Batak language families: Karo, Pakpak, Mandailing, Simalungun, and Toba. This script is a derivative of the Indian Brahmi script through the intermediary of the Kawi script. Batak letters were actively used by the Batak people at least since the 18th century, but their use gradually faded in the 20th century. This script is still taught in North Sumatra as part of the local curriculum, but with limited application in everyday life.

Bima script (Mbojo script)

The Mbojo language (Bima-Dompu) has a certain type of graphical sign system (script) called the Mbojo script. The Mbojo script is related to the Bugis script. This is a sign of the connection between Bima and the Bugis. The Mbojo script is thought to have been in use since the 14th century. The Mbojo script has been used to write books and royal records in the Bima Kingdom. Then, in the 17th century, the people of Bima began to use Malay written in Arabic script. This is because at that time the people of Bima had embraced Islam. The Mbojo script has 18 main characters.

Buda script

The Buddhist script, or Gunung script, is a kind of archaic script that, based on its form, still has a close relationship with the Kawi script. This script used to be used in Java. This type of script is called the Buddhist script because it is considered to have originated from the pre-Islamic era, which in Sundanese and Javanese is referred to as the Buddhist Age. The word Buddha is based on the word Buddha. Manuscripts containing writings in Buddhist script are common in mountainous areas. Because of that, this type of script is also called the "Aksara Gunung" or "Mountain Script."

Buri Wolio (بُرِ وٚلِيٚ)

Buri Wolio is a writing system used to write Wolio, the official language of the Sultanate of Buton. Buri Wolio is based on the Arabic script. Buri Wolio consists of 15 original Arabic letters and seven additional letters modified to match the original Wolio phonemes.

Incung script

Incung Script, or Surat Incung, or Incung Letter (Kerinci language: Suhat Incoung), is a type of Abugida script used for writing by the Kerinci Tribe. This tribe inhabits the highlands of Jambi. Currently, it is within the administrative area of Kerinci Regency and Sungai Full City, Jambi Province.

The script is an Abugida, which means that consonant-vowel combinations are represented as a unit. It is primarily used for writing the Kerinci language.

The Incung Script has its own set of characters, which are derived from the ancient Kawi script and modified to fit the phonetic sounds of the Kerinci language. It is traditionally written on bamboo or paper using a sharpened bamboo pen or quill.

The script holds cultural and historical significance for the Kerinci tribe, as it has been used for centuries to record traditional knowledge, historical events, and religious texts. Efforts have been made to preserve and promote the use of the Incung Script, including through education and cultural initiatives.

Javanese script (ꦲꦏ꧀ꦱꦫꦗꦮ)

The Javanese script, Aksara Jawa or Aksara Carakan, also called Hanacaraka and Dentawyanjana, is one of the traditional Indonesian scripts that developed on the island of Java. This script is mainly used to write Javanese, but in its development it was also used to write several other regional languages.

Read Also:  The Origin of Javanese Script

Jawi script (جاوي)

The Jawi script is a collection of letters based on the Arabic alphabet that are generally used to write text in Malay and other languages, such as Acehnese, Betawi, Banjar, Minangkabau, Musi, Palembang, and Tausug.

The Pegon alphabet used for Javanese, Sundanese, and Madurese is an alphabetic system that is still related but has several differences, namely additional letters for sounds that cannot be represented by the Jawi alphabet.

Kawi script

Kawi script (from Sanskrit: kavi, which means "poet") or Old Javanese script is a historical script used in the maritime Southeast Asia region, especially on the island of Java, from the 8th to 16th centuries.

Although no explicit instructions were found, the Kawi script was the precursor to more modern Indonesian scripts, such as the Javanese script, Balinese script, and Sundanese script.

Lampung script

Lampung script is one of the traditional Indonesian scripts that developed in the south of the island of Sumatra. This script is used to write the Lampung and Malay languages. The Lampung script is a derivative of the Brahmi script through the intermediary of the Kawi script. The Lampung script was actively used in literature and daily writing by the people of Lampung from the mid-17th century to the mid-20th century before its function was gradually replaced by Latin letters. This script is still taught in Lampung Province as part of the local content, but with limited application in everyday life.

Lontara script

One of the old Indonesian scripts that originated in South Sulawesi is the Lontara script, sometimes referred to as the Bugis script. In addition to being used to write the Bugis and Makassar languages, this script has also been added to or modified in other locales that have been impacted by the Bugis and Makassar languages, such as Bima in East Sumbawa and Ende in Flores.

Lontara Bilang-bilang is the code for the Lontara script used in Makassar literature for writing certain genres accompanied by the time of the event. This cipher substitutes the Lontara script with a form derived from Arabic numerals based on the Arabic alphabet number system. This cipher is an adaptation of a similar Arabic alphabet code that was used in the South Asian region in the 19th century AD.

Lota Script

The Lota script is a direct descendant of the Bugis script. The Bugis people who settled in Ende brought their civilization and culture, including their script. History records that the Lota script entered Ende around the 16th century, during the reign of King XIV of Goa, when I Mangnrangi Daeng Manrabia had the title Sultan Alaudin (1593–1639). In the process of adaptation, the Bugis script in Ende developed according to the Ende language system and became the Lota script.

Lota comes from the word palm. At first, the Ende script was written on palm leaves. In its development, it was written on paper. The Ende language is an open-syllable language. The word lontar changed to lota.

There are 8 Lota Ende scripts that are not found in the Bugis script, namely bha, dha, fa, gha, mba, nda, guns, and rha. On the other hand, there are six Bugis scripts that are not found in the Lota Ende script, namely ca, ngka, mpa, nra, nyca, and nya.

Makassar script

The Makassar script (also known as Ukiri' Jangang-jangang in Makassar language) is one of the historical Indonesian scripts that was used in South Sulawesi for writing the Makassar language between the 17th and 19th centuries, when its function was replaced by the Bugis Lontara script.

Makassar script is an abugida writing system consisting of 18 basic scripts. As with other Brahmi scripts, each consonant represents a syllable with an inherent vowel /a/ which can be changed by the use of certain diacritics. The direction of writing the Lontara script is left to right. This script is written without spaces between words (scriptio continua) with minimal punctuation. Consonant syllables, or syllables that end in a consonant, are not written in Makassar script, so the Makassarese text can inherently contain many ambiguous words that can only be distinguished by context.

Pegon script (أكسارا ڤَيڮَون)

The Pegon alphabet is an Arabic alphabet modified to write Javanese, Madurese, and Sundanese. The word pegon comes from the Javanese word pégo, which means "to deviate". Because the Javanese language written in Arabic letters is considered unusual, Besides that, it could be because the Pegon alphabet is written in italics (cursive fonts).

The Pegon script is still related to the Jawi alphabet. The main difference with Jawi is that in Pegon there are several additional letters to represent several Javanese consonants that cannot be represented by the standard Arabic alphabet or the Jawi alphabet. The Sorabe alphabet, which was used to write the Malagasy language in Madagascar, is believed to have descended from the Pegon alphabet.

Rejang alphabet

Rejang script is one of the traditional Indonesian scripts, originating from the southern part of Sumatra and Bengkulu. This script is sometimes also known as the Kaganga script, which is a designation that stems from the first three letters of the Rejang script; this is similar to the term 'Hanacaraka' for the Javanese script. It is believed that this script is rooted in the Palawa script.

The Rejang script has a close connection to the Palawa script, which is believed to be its precursor. The Palawa script was used by the ancient peoples in the region before evolving into the Rejang script. The Rejang script is an abugida writing system, where consonants have an inherent vowel sound that can be modified using diacritical marks.

The Rejang script has been used traditionally for various purposes, including writing manuscripts, religious texts, historical records, and personal correspondence. However, like many other traditional scripts in Indonesia, its usage has declined over time, and efforts are being made to revitalize and preserve its knowledge.

Ulu scripts

Ulu Script, also known as Rencong Script or Kaganga Script, is the name for the Brahmi script family that developed on the southern island of Sumatra. This term not only refers to the Incung script, Lampung script, and Rejang script, but also refers to similar scripts that were used by the people of Rawas, Lintang, Ogan, Lakitan (in South Sumatra), Pasemah, Lembak (in South Sumatra and Bengkulu), Serawai (in Bengkulu), and Krui (in Lampung).

The Ulu Script also includes similar scripts used by other communities in different areas of South Sumatra, Bengkulu, and Lampung. These scripts were utilized by the people of Rawas, Lintang, Ogan, Lakitan (in South Sumatra), Pasemah, Lembak (in South Sumatra and Bengkulu), Serawai (in Bengkulu), and Krui (in Lampung).

The Ulu Script and its various regional variations reflect the rich diversity of cultures and languages in the southern part of Sumatra. These scripts have historical and cultural significance and were used for writing various texts, including manuscripts, historical records, and religious texts.

Satera Jontal (Aksara Samawa)

The Satera Jontal script derives its name from the combination of "Satera," meaning "sastra" (literature), and "Jontal," meaning "lontar" (palm leaf). It is called Satera Jontal because the script is written on a palm leaf comb using burning coals.

The availability of palm leaves in the forests of Sumbawa made them readily accessible writing material for the ancient Samawa people. By utilizing burning coals, they would create markings on the palm leaf combs, forming the Satera Jontal script.

This form of writing on palm leaves holds historical and cultural significance for the Samawa people of Sumbawa. It was used for various purposes, including recording literature, historical events, religious texts, and traditional knowledge.

Efforts to preserve and document the Satera Jontal script are crucial in order to safeguard the cultural heritage and linguistic diversity of Sumbawa. By recognizing and valuing these unique writing systems, we can contribute to the preservation and appreciation of Indonesia's rich cultural tapestry.

Standard Sundanese Script

Aksara Sunda Baku, or Standard Sundanese Script, is a writing system used to write contemporary Sundanese and is the result of an adaptation of the Old Sundanese Script. Currently, the Standard Sundanese script is also commonly referred to as the Sundanese script.

The people's ability to write in the Sunda region has been known to exist since around the 5th century AD, during the Tarumanagara Kingdom. This was revealed in the inscriptions, most of which were discussed by Kern (1917) in his book entitled Versvreide Beschriften; Inschripties Van Den Indischen Archipel.

Old Sundanese script

Aksara Sunda Kuno (Old Sundanese script) or Aksara Sunda Buhun (Sundanese Buhun script) is a script that developed in the western region of the island of Java in the 14th to 18th centuries and was originally used to write  Old Sundanese language. The Old Sundanese script is a development of the Pallawa script, which has reached the level of modification of its distinctive form as used in ejection texts in the XVI century.

The use of the Old Sundanese script in its earliest form is found in inscriptions found in Astana Gede, Kawali District, Ciamis Regency, and the Kebantenan Inscription found in Jatiasih District, Bekasi City.

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