Balabodh (Marathi: बाळबोध, bāḷabōdha, Marathi pronunciation: [baːɭboːd̪ʱ], translation: understood by children[1]) is a slightly modified style of the Devanagari script used to write the Marathi language[2][3][4][5] and the Korku language.[6] What sets balabodha apart from the Devananagari script used for other languages is the more frequent and regular use of both ळ /ɭ/ (retroflex lateral approximant) and र्‍ (called the eyelash reph/raphar).[7]


The word balabodha is a combination of the words ‘बाळ’ /baːɭ/ and ‘बोध’ /boːd̪ʱ/. ‘बाळ’ is a neuter noun derived from the Sanskrit word bāla "child".[8] ‘बोध’ is a male noun and a tatsama meaning "perception".[8]

As far as the Marathi literature is concerned, Balbodh can be assumed to be composed of "bal" meaning primary and "bodh" meaning knowledge. So Maathi balabodha may be understood as the primary knowledge of Marathi language. In primary knowledge, Mulakshare (Basic Letters), consisting of 12 vowels अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ए ऐ ओ औ अं अ (like A, E, I, O, and U in English) and 36 consonants in five groups (क वर्ग ,च वर्ग, ट वर्ग , त वर्ग and प वर्ग) and 11 individual consonants, are taught to children and illiterate persons through recitation and writing on slates.


Retroflex lateral approximant[edit]

Indo-Aryan languages[edit]

Historically, the retroflex lateral approximant (ळ /ɭ/ ) existed in Vedic Sanskrit and was lost in Classical Sanskrit. Today the Indo-Aryan languages in which it exists are Oriya (ଳ), Marathi-Konkani (ळ), Gujarati (ળ), most varieties of Rajasthani, Bhili, some dialects of Punjabi language (ਲ਼), most dialects of Western Pahari, Kumaoni, Haryanavi, and the Saharanpur dialect of Northwestern Kauravi. Of these, Konkani, Rajasthani, Bhili, and Kumaoni, Haryanavi, and the Saharanpur dialect use the Devanagari script. The retroflex lateral approximant does not exist in most other Indo-Aryan Indian languages.[7]

South Indian languages[edit]

The retroflex lateral approximant (ळ /ɭ/ ) exists in many Dravidian languages such as Telugu (ళ), Malayalam (ള), Kannada (ಳ), and Tamil (ள). It was once present in Sinhala (as ළ).[7] It is present in many Indian languages including Vedic Sanskrit.[9]

Eyelash reph/raphar[edit]

The eyelash reph/raphar (रेफ/ रफार) (र्‍) exists in Marathi as well as Nepali. The eyelash reph/raphar (र्‍) is produced in Unicode by the sequence [ra] + [virāma ्] + [ZWJ] and [rra]+ [virāma ्] + [ZWJ].[10] In Marathi, when ‘र’ is the first consonant of a consonant cluster and occurs at the beginning of a syllable, it is written as an eyelash reph/raphar.[11]


Minimal pairs[12][edit]

Using the (Simple) Reph/Raphar Using the Eyelash Reph/Raphar
आचार्यास (to the teacher) आचार्‍यास (to the cook)
दर्या (ocean) दर्‍या (valleys)


Before printing in Marathi was possible, the Modi script was used for writing prose, and balabodha was used for writing poetry. When printing in Marathi became possible, choosing between Modi and balabodha was a problem. William Carey published the first book on Marathi grammar in 1805 using balabodha since printing in the Modi script was not available to him in Serampore, Bengal. At the time, Marathi books were generally written in balabodha. However, subsequent editions of William Carey's book on Marathi grammar, starting in 1810, did employ the Modi script.[13][14]

As primary style[edit]

On 25 July 1917, the Bombay Presidency decided to replace the Modi script with balabodha as the primary script of administration, for convenience and uniformity with the other areas of the presidency. The Modi script continued to be taught in schools until several decades later and continued to be used as an alternate script to Balabodha. The script was still widely used, until the 1940s, by the people of older generations for personal and financial uses.

However, the use of Modi diminished since then and now Balabodha is the primary script used to write Marathi (other than Modi script revival efforts).[15][16]

Korku language[edit]

In addition to Marathi, balabodha is also used to write the Korku language of the Munda subdivision Austroasiatic language family, which is spoken by the Korku people who live in parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Campbell, George L.; King, Gareth (2013). Compendium of the World's Languages. Routledge. p. 1071. ISBN 9781136258466. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014.
  2. ^ Bhimraoji, Rajendra (28 February 2014). "Reviving the Modi Script" (PDF). Typoday. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Professional Marathi Translation Service". Tomedes.
  4. ^ "Languages of India". RBC Radio. MARATHI. Archived from the original on 10 September 2013.
  5. ^ Savargaonkar, Nilesh. "Marathi Language". Marathi Script. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b Sebeok, Thomas Albert, ed. (1971). Current Trends in Linguistics. Walter de Gruyter. p. 425. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Masica, Colin P. (1993). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge University Press. pp. 97 and 437. ISBN 9780521299442. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014.
  8. ^ a b Molesworth, James Thomas (1857). A Dictionary, Marathi and English. Bombay [sic]: Bombay Education Society's Press. p. 593.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ Southworth, Franklin C. "Prehistoric Implications of the Dravidian element in the NIA lexicon, with special attention to Marathi" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 June 2011.
  10. ^ Indic Working Group (7 November 2004). "Devanagari Eyelash Ra". The Unicode Consortium. Archived from the original on 27 May 2014.
  11. ^ Kalyan, Kale; Soman, Anjali (1986). Learning Marathi. Pune: Shri Vishakha Prakashan. p. 26.
  12. ^ Naik, B.S. (1971). Typography of Devanagari-1. Bombay: Directorate of Languages.
  13. ^ Rao, Goparaju Sambasiva (1994). Language Change: Lexical Diffusion and Literacy. Academic Foundation. pp. 48 and 49. ISBN 9788171880577. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014.
  14. ^ Carey, William (1805). A Grammar of the Marathi Language. Serampur [sic]: Serampore Mission Press. ISBN 9781108056311.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: location (link)
  15. ^ Chhatrapati, Shahu; Sangave, Vilas Adinath; Khane, B. D. (1997). Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati papers. 7. Shahu Research Institute. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014.
  16. ^ "History Of Modi Lipi". Modi Lipi. Archived from the original on 25 October 2013.