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Bharati Braille is the adaptation of the six dot system for the languages of India. The history of Bharati Braille dates back to the period prior to India's independence. Schools for the blind had already been established in the country during the later part of the nineteenth century and Braille had found acceptance as an appropriate medium for educating the blind. The complexities of the writing systems of Indian languages had somewhat hindered the development of Braille specific to the Indian environment.
It is interesting to observe here that Braille can be viewed as a script for writing a language. Indian languages are based on a writing system which is essentially phonetic in nature. Hence some scholars had recommended Braille as one of the scripts that could be used for writing text in the different Indian languages. In fact India had made a recommendation to UNESCO to consider a universal standard for Braille, based on a Phonetic representation of sounds using the six dot system.
At a conference held at Beirut in 1951, a body of world scholars examined the possibility of a phonetically derived system of six dots that could be used for most of the languages of India, pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bharati Braille was a result of this exercise.
The languages of India are phonetic in nature in that the writing system employed is based on the sound produced by the consonants and vowels. In almost all the scripts used for Indian languages, the written shapes correspond to syllables, which may be just a vowel, a consonant vowel combination or a series of consonants and vowels. In practice, children in India are taught to recognize more than ten thousand individual shapes. Surprisingly all these shapes could be derived from a much smaller set of shapes and in practice, about two hundred letters and ligatures would be adequate to represent more than fourteen thousand syllables in common use.
This idea was the basis of transliteration where Roman letters with specific diacritic marks i.e., symbols written above or below a letter, are used to write text in Indian languages. Roman transliteration had been in use for many years and the idea behind Bharati Braille was to use the 63 cells as a special script to represent text uniformly in all the Indian languages.
A look at the languages and the writing systems of India tells us that in practice, up to sixteen vowels are required along with about thirty seven consonants. This is almost all the cells available to us in the six dot system, if we set apart line 5 for retaining the punctuation marks. Readers may want to review the basic principle behind the assignment of cells to the letters of the English alphabet to understand the concept of a line. In Bharati Braille, almost all the cells are required to represent the basic letters used in the writing systems of the country. Interestingly, since all the languages are based on a common phonetic system, Bharati Braille would be applicable to each language if the consonants and vowels used include the consonants and vowels across all the languages.
It turns out that Bharati Braille achieves this uniformity in remarkable way and the recommendations apply to all the regional languages of India along with Urdu and Sinhalese. The basic idea behind Bharati Braille may be summarized as below.
1. The six dot system is viewed as another script to write the languages of India. The compromise effected is that a syllable will always be represented through its consonants and vowels by explicitly writing the consonants and vowels one after the other. Ligatures are therefore eliminated. True, this would mean that more cells would be required but considering the fact that one gets uniformity and grade-1 braille in English also follows this convention, the system is indeed viable.
2. Bharati Braille assigns the cells to the basic sounds of the Indian languages (these are called aksharas) in a manner where vowels and consonants that find direct equivalents in English are given the same representation as in English. This way, with minimal effort one would able to read both English text and indian language text. This arrangement is essential if the visually handicapped are required to communicate with their counterparts in other countries.
3. Bharati Braille retains all the basic conventions relating to the representation of numerals, punctuation and special symbols just as in standard English Braille.
There are no concepts in Bharati Braille like the lines in English Braille. One has to necessarily learn the cell assignments for the different vowels and consonants and hence the initial period of training has to be prolonged. Another point to keep in mind is that since all the Indian languages share the same Braille representation, it will be difficult to identify when a language switch is occurring in multilingual texts. This issue is still being examined and possibly one of the cells might be used to indicate a change of context. But for most persons, bilingual text would be adequate where one of the languages will be English and the context would be sensed from the text itself. If needed, text in different languages may always put on separate lines on a printed page of Braille.
The aksharas of Indian languages are divided into vowels and consonants. Across the many different languages of the country, one finds up to sixteen vowels and about forty consonants. The assignment of the cells is therefore applicable across all the languages though it must be stated that a few cells have to interpreted based on the language. This is a consequence of the fact that we have only sixty three cells available to us and reserving ten cells for punctuation leaves us in a tight situation. Across the languages, fifteen vowels and thirty three consonants are common (with the exception of Tamil) and so the basic assignment in Bharati Braille corresponds to these.
halanth consonant consonant vowel
halanth cons1 halanth cons2 .... final_consonant vowel
discussion of Bharati Braille is provided in a separate page A reference chart for looking up the akshara corresponding to a cell
is included here. The chart is useful not only for standard English Braille
but also for Bharati Braille in all the Indian languages.
Using the IITM multilingual editor for
preparing documents in Bharati Braille is explained in a separate page
There is an on-line quiz you can take to check your understanding of
Braille codes. This quiz is available for standard English Braille as well
as Bharati Braille in different languages. Quiz English Braille Quiz Bharati Braille
A reference chart for looking up the akshara corresponding to a cell is included here. The chart is useful not only for standard English Braille but also for Bharati Braille in all the Indian languages.
Using the IITM multilingual editor for preparing documents in Bharati Braille is explained in a separate page
There is an on-line quiz you can take to check your understanding of Braille codes. This quiz is available for standard English Braille as well as Bharati Braille in different languages.
Quiz English Braille
Quiz Bharati Braille
Bharati Braille codes for
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