The Batak script, natively known as surat Batak, surat na sampulu sia (the nineteen letters), or si-sia-sia, is a writing system used to write the Austronesian Batak languages spoken by several million people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The script may be derived from the Kawi and Pallava script, ultimately derived from the Brahmi script of India, or from the hypothetical Proto-Sumatran script influenced by Pallava.[1]

Surat Batak
ᯘᯮᯒᯖ᯲ ᯅᯖᯂ᯲
Surat Batak.svg
LanguagesBatak languages
Time period
c. 1300–present
Parent systems
Origins of Brahmi script unclear. On Aramaic origin hypothesis: Proto-Sinaitic alphabet
Sister systems
Direct family relationships unclear. Sister scripts on hypothesis of common Kawi origin: Balinese
Old Sundanese
ISO 15924Batk, 365
Unicode alias


The Batak magicians and priests or datu used the Batak script mainly for magical texts and divinatory purposes. It is unknown how many non-specialists were literate in the Batak script, but judging from the widespread tradition of writing love laments, especially among the Karo, Simalungun, and Angkola-Mandailing Batak, it is likely that a considerable part of the non-specialist population was able to read and write the Batak script. After the arrival of Europeans in the Batak lands, first German missionaries and, from 1878 onwards, the Dutch, the Batak script was, alongside the Roman script, taught in the schools, and teaching and religious materials were printed in the Batak script. Soon after the first World War the missionaries decided to discontinue printing books in the Batak script.[2] The script soon fell out of use and is now only used for ornamental purposes.


The Batak script was probably derived from Pallava and Old Kawi scripts, which ultimately were derived from the Brahmi script, the root of almost all the Indic and Southeast Asian scripts.


Batak is written from left to right and top to bottom. Like all Brahmi-based scripts, each consonant has an inherent vowel of /a/, unless there is a diacritic (in Toba Batak called pangolat) to indicate the lack of a vowel. Other vowels, final ŋ, and final velar fricative [x] are indicated by diacritics, which appear above, below, or after the letter. For example, ba is written ba (one letter); bi is written ba.i (i follows the consonant); bang is written baŋ (ŋ is above the consonant); and bing is baŋ.i. Final consonants are written with the pangolat (here represented by "#"): bam is However, bim is written the first diacritic belongs to the first consonant, and the second belongs to the second consonant, but both are written at the end of the entire syllable. Unlike most Brahmi-based scripts, Batak does not form consonant conjuncts.

Basic charactersEdit

The basic characters are called surat. Each consonant has an inherent vowel of /a/. The script varies by region and language. The major variants are between Karo, Mandailing, Pakpak/Dairi, Simalungun/Timur, and Toba:

Surat (Basic characters)
IPA a ha ka ba pa na wa ga dʒa da ra ma ta sa ja ŋa la ɲa tʃa nda mba i u
Transcription a ha ka ba pa na wa ga ja da ra ma ta sa ya nga la nya ca nda mba i u
Karo            1                        5    
Mandailing                      4        
Toba            2        3        
Simalungun                                6

Alternate forms:
^1   (used in Mandailing) ^2  ^3  ^4  ^5  ^6  


Diacritics are used to change the pronunciation of a character. They can change the vowel from the inherent /a/, mark a final [velar nasal] /ŋ/, mark a final velar fricative /x/, or indicate a final consonant with no vowel:

Batak Diacritics      Latin
Batak Diacritics with /ka/
Karo Mand. Pakp. Sima. Toba Karo Mand. Pakp. Sima. Toba
-a ka          
-ou   kou  
-u           ku          
-ng           kang          
-h       kah      

Ligatures with UEdit

The diacritic for U used by Mandailing, Pakpak, Simalungun, and Toba can form ligatures with its base character:

Batak Script Description
   +      a + -u = u
   +     a + -u = u (Simalungun)
   +      ha + -u = hu (Mandailing)
   +      ha + -u = hu (Simalungun)
   +      ha + -u = hu
   +      ka + -u = ku (Mandailing)
   +      ba + -u = bu
   +      pa + -u = pu (Mandailing)
   +      pa + -u = pu (Pakpak, Toba)
   +      pa + -u = pu (Simalungun)
   +      na + -u = nu
   +      na + -u = nu (Mandailing)
   +      wa + -u = wu (Mandailing, Toba)
   +      wa + -u = wu (Pakpak, Toba)
   +      wa + -u = wu (Simalungun)
   +      ga + -u = gu
   +      ga + -u = gu (Simalungun)
   +      ja + -u = ju
Batak Script Description
   +      da + -u = du
   +      ra + -u = ru
   +      ra + -u = ru (Simalungun)
   +      ma + -u = mu
   +      ma + -u = mu (Simalungun)
   +      ta + -u = tu
   +      ta + -u = tu
   +      sa + -u = su (Pakpak)
   +      sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
   +      sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
   +      sa + -u = su (Simalungun)
   +      ya + -u = yu
   +      ya + -u = yu (Simalungun)
   +      nga + -u = ngu
   +      la + -u = lu
   +      la + -u = lu (Simalungun)
   +      nya + -u = nyu
   +      ca + -u = cu (Mandailing)


In Mandailing, the diacritic tompi can be used to change the sound of some characters:

ha  + tompi ka sa  + tompi ca
   +         +     
   +         +     
   +         +     

Placement of diacritics for Ng and HEdit

The diacritics for Ng ( ) and H ( ) are usually written above spacing vowel diacritics instead of above the base character.
Examples:   ping,   pong,   peh, and   pih.

Diacritic reordering for closed syllablesEdit

Vowel diacritics are reordered for closed syllables (that is, syllables where the final consonant has no vowel). Consonants with no vowel are marked by the Batak pangolat or panongonan diacritic, depending on the language. When they are used for a closed syllable (like "tip"), both the vowel diacritic and the pangolat/panongonan are written at the end of the syllable.

Examples of closed syllables using pangolat:

ta  +  vowel  +  pa  +  pangolat  =  syllable
  +   +   =  
ta + pa + pangolat = tap
  +   +   +   =  
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
  +   +   +   =  
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
  +   +   +   =  
ta + i + pa + pangolat = tip
  +   +   +   =  
ta + o + pa + pangolat = top
  +   +   +   =  
ta + u + pa + pangolat = tup

Punctuation and ornamentsEdit

Batak is normally written without spaces or punctuation (as scriptio continua). However, special marks or bindu are occasionally used. They vary greatly in size and design from manuscript to manuscript.

Examples Name Function

Bindu na metek (small bindu) Begins paragraphs and stanzas
Bindu panarboras (rice-shaped bindu) Variant of bindu na metek, serves same function
Bindu judul (title bindu) Separates a title from the body of the text
Bindu pangolat Trailing punctuation


Batak script was added to the Unicode Standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0.


The Unicode block for Batak is U+1BC0–U+1BFF:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1BFx ᯿
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


Unicode fonts for Batak must handle several requirements to properly render text:

Rendering Requirements Examples
Latin Trans. Image Unicode Text
Correct placement of one or more diacritics  ke   ᯂᯩ
ke (Mand.)   ᯄ᯦ᯩ
ping   ᯇᯪᯰ
reng   ᯒᯩᯰ
Ligatures with U hu (Mand.)   ᯄᯮ
hu (Sima.)   ᯃᯮ
gu   ᯎᯮ
lu   ᯞᯮ
Diacritic reordering for closed syllables tip   ᯖᯪᯇ᯲


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Uli Kozok. "Sejarah Aksara Batak". Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  2. ^ Kozok 2009:168.


  • Kozok, Uli (January 2009). Surat Batak: Sejarah Perkembangan Tulisan Batak : Berikut Pedoman Menulis Aksara Batak Dan Cap Si Singamangaraja XII (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Gramedia. ISBN 979-9101-53-0.

External linksEdit