Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Typing Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit on the iPhone or iPad

This is a quick guide to configuring your iPad or iPhone so that you can type in languages that use the Devanagari script – languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Nepali, Sindhi etc.
There is a similar guide for Android users here.
Note that we don't need to download any fonts or apps or anything, as your iPhone or iPad (or any other iOS device) comes with this functionality built-in. We just need to turn it on and learn how to use it. That's what this guide aims to explain.

For starters, you need to enable the Devnagari keyboard on your device. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Launch the Settings app on your device by tapping the Settings icon.
  2. Tap General, scroll down and then tap Keyboard.


  4. On the Keyboard page, tap International Keyboards.

  5. Tap Add New Keyboard….

  6. Scroll down and select Hindi.

  7. That's it. Your iPad or iPhone is now ready for Hindi text input.

Here's how you use the keyboard you just configured:

  1. Whenever the keyboard pops up so you can enter something – for instance, as seen here when we start the Notepad app to create a new note – there is a globe icon that shows up on the left of the space bar.

  2. Tapping the globe icon lets you cycle through all your configured international keyboards. When the Hindi keyboard comes up, you can see the layout shown below. This is the common and universally supported INSCRIPT layout for Hindi input. If you don't know this layout, don't be scared. It's super-intuitive and easy to use as I explain below.

How are the keys laid out on the INSCRIPT keyboard?

If you're familiar with the Devanagari consonants and vowels and their order as we learn in school (अ,आ,इ,ई… and क,ख,ग,घ…) you will find it very easy to navigate this keyboard. For starters, these are the Devanagari vowels in order:
The vowels are laid out on the keyboard on the top and middle row on the left. For touch-typists, the areas on the top and middle rows "owned" by the left-hand – ie. the A-G and the Q-T sections on the QWERTY keyboard – are the basic vowels. To type the standalone vowel signs, you use the Shift key. Otherwise, the vowel signs are the combining ones.

Here's the combining vowels when the shift key isn't pressed:

And the standalone vowels when the shift key is pressed:


To give QWERTY positions of the vowels in their order:
  • अ is the D key. Lowercase-D translates to the Reph character which cuts the previous consonant's अ sound and prepares it for a combined consonant (demonstrated further below).
  • आ is the E key. Lowercase-E translates to the combining आ sound (demonstrated further below).
  • इ is the F key.
  • ई is the R key.
  • उ is the G key.
  • ऊ is the T key.
  • ए is the S key.
  • ऐ is the W key.
  • ओ is the A key.
  • औ is the Q key.
The consonants similarly flair out in Devanagari order from the middle-right-key (the K key on QWERTY). For the aspiration versions of the consonants, you tap the Shift key.

Here are the consonants in the Devanagari syllabary, usually read row-wise from left-to-right:
Technical Note for Linguist Nerds. Others Can Ignore:
The Wikipedia page has the technically super-correct arrangement so that it's easy to know how to pronounce these consonants, but the order above is the one we learn and memorise in school where the semi-vowels and others are lumped into one row after the labial sounds.
If you examine the layout, you can work out the pattern in which the consonants are laid out corresponding to their order in the syllabary. Here's the layout without the Shift key pressed:

And when the shift key is pressed:

Typing Some Sample Words

So for instance, to type आप, this is the sequence you'd follow:

To type हिन्दी, again you type it out exactly like you say it:
First, tap the ह.

Then goes the ि   to make it हि:

Followed by the न, we have हिन:

Now, we want to cut the न and turn it into न् to prepare it for joining with the following consonant and turning it into न्द. We do this by pressing the  ्  combining character (called a 'reph'). By the by, as you see below, the in-built Hindi dictionary is already suggesting an auto-correct for हिन – it's wondering if we're trying to say बिन :).

Tap द to join the waiting न् to form the compound consonant (or what we call संयुक्ताक्षर or जोडाक्षर) न्द.

We have हिन्द. We just add the long-ee  ी to get हिन्दी.

Et voilà!

Here's me typing out a sentence:

Now once you know the basic idea behind how the keyboard is laid out, play around. It just takes a bit of practice to get comfortable and gradually ramp up your speed on typing Hindi, or Marathi or Sanskrit or Sindhi on your device. There are some idiosyncrasies and exceptions in the layout of course — the nasals, the semi-vowels row and uncommon signs are strewn about – as you'll find out when you start playing with the keyboard but again, those are also easily learned and become second nature.

Also, just like the English keyboard, keeping some keys pressed provides multiple additional options for that key. For instance, to type the ऱ्य character in Marathi words like बऱ्याच or कैऱ्या, get ऱ which shows up as an option when you keep र pressed and then tap the reph character as described above to turn it into the Marathi र, ready to be joined to its य. Play around and explore the keyboard and you'll find other such characters that you can type.

Another cool trick: Apple has already added our new Rupee symbol (₹) to these devices. To type it, press the numerals key, then keep the $ (dollar sign) pressed, and the new Rupee symbol will show up as one of the options! Cool, huh!?

By the way, once you learn this keyboard, you can type on Macs, Windows or any other system that support Devanagari input because this INSCRIPT layout is the one that's supported by all systems by default as it's definitive – ie. the character is exactly what you type in and isn't something that needs to be guessed by an intelligent IME software component.

Happy typing! And I look forward to seeing more Devanagari tweets, iMessages, photo captions…

If you have any questions or need more clarification, fire away using the Comments section below.

हिन्दी – iPad या iPhone पर हिन्दी, मराठी, संस्कृत, नेपाली, सिंधी या अन्य किसी देवनागरी भाषा कैसे लिखें? यह पृष्ठ आपको सही तरीक़ा समझाएगा।
मराठी – iPad किंवा iPhone वर मराठी, संस्कृत, हिन्दीत, देवनागरीत कसे लिहावे हे समजण्यास वरील माहिती नीट वाचावी.


  1. Great post, you have pointed out some superb details, I will tell my friends that this is a very informative blog thanks.
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  2. Great post! One question: how does one type Kranti or Prana?

  3. Type क, then the reph character ( ् it's where d usually is on the QWERTY keyboard). The reph prepares क to be joined to another consonant. Follow the reph with a र and so on..

  4. Do you have a similar instruction set for android ?
    R R Kelkar

    1. Ranjan: Yes, I've put up similar instructions for Android. Please look at http://theweirdindian.blogspot.com/2013/05/typing-hindi-marathi-sanskrit-on.html.

  5. That's a great article, very informative and comprehensive. However, i would want to know where is the "ri" letter implemented, as in ritu meaning season?

    1. Thanks!

      For ऋ, press and hold the र key.. You can also find other symbols by pressing and holding other keys. Enjoy!

  6. What an informative post. It works great on my iPad, but do you have any suggestions for iMac as well? I am having problems writing half letters, some are available but some aren't. I tried installing Devnagri font as well, but in that I am missing the bindu for the nasal sound and the इ letter. I am at my wits' end, as I need to type in Hindi script in Excel for a project. I will appreciate a reply.

    1. Did you turn on the Devanagari keyboard? Go to  > System Preferences > Show All > Language and Text > Input Sources. Then tick the 'Devanagari' option. You will see a flag appear on the top right of the screen on the status bar. You can click that and pik the Indian flag whenever you want to type in Hindi.

      To type half-letters or joint-letters, follow the instructions above. Use the reph character (D on the QWERTY keyboard) to join the first letter to the second one.

      Again, you don't need to install any fonts or any extra software for iMacs. It's all built-in and standardized.

    2. I did all of that and it works on my iPad. Basically when I use the reph character to join to the second one, it separates the reph and it appears with its dotted circle format. Any suggestion on which font I should download from the internet to type Hindi in MS Word/Excel on iMac? I just downloaded GurbaniHindi and it seems to work fine, except I can't key map a few characters. Probably I wouldn't need those, but if you can suggest any other font, I'll appreciate that. Thx!

    3. Unfortunately, I don't use Microsoft Word or Excel. I use Google Docs for that which works fine with the Hindi keyboard.

    4. No worries. I finally figured it out in Devnagri font installed as a font. It works! Thank you for replying back.

    5. It was a great help to me. However, can you please tell me, I tried "ri", but its getting "र्ॠ" instead of "ॠ" ?
      Thank you.

  7. Have you seen new iOS7 keyboard for Hindi? It does not have hard L letter which is used in marathi and sanskrit. Please advice how to get that!

  8. hay, I just found out...as per your previous post - by pressing and holding L key...Thanks a lot!

    1. I tried, for hard L by pressing and holding L on Hindi key board. Drop down(up) comes up with hard L. But when I press it soft L prints. Why?

  9. Can someone tell me ..which fonts will be displayed good in gadgets like iphone and ipad for a game application in Hindi language?

  10. Is there a way to type the Om symbol? I've tried a bunch of things but it won't change them.

  11. how to get "Pra" in the word

    1. type प then type `reph then type र , it will come as प्र

  12. Yours is a wonderfully useful article!Thank you you very much.I couldn't find how to write upper RSFSR as in gardi,sardi,maryada?

    1. It's very simple - just follow the instructions for the न्द in हिन्दी above except with ra and da and you'll get a rafaar.

  13. Excellent Article. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Hi! I'm using i-phone 4 and my international keyboard section is not showing Hindi option. Any solutions?

  15. Any idea how to get script "r" above the line. Example Dard.

    1. Type द र ् द= दर्द
      After र type the combining reph ्

  16. This is a wonderful article. Is there a way to enter characters that are transliterated from Hindi to English? I am creating an English presentation and I want to properly spell English words with long vowels, etc. Thank you so much.

  17. My keyboard shows English Hindi and emoji as default. I want to remove Hindi. How do I do it ? I have not installed Hindi.

  18. Hi, How can I type a half character? I want the "vya" sound. I am using a Mac Air and have enabled Devanagari QWERTY keyboard. I can't see any option on the keyboard viewer either

    In Word, as soon as I start typing, the font auto changes to Kohinoor Devanagri

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Wonderful and useful article.
    1.Can I use this for Laptop with windows 7? If so How ?
    2. Do you have similar for Gujarati?

  21. thanks for your superb explanation One problem while writing waryawar for that rya I hold pressing r key options are there but not get selected word below on keyboard get typed How to do it

  22. I figured out how to write Sri or Shree in Hindi. It is made of 4 symbols, श ् र ी . श्री.

  23. Very nice article and detailed explanation. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Regards, Abhay Deshpande

  24. How to write, the letter Shre.


  25. You can get श्र by typing these characters in this order: श ् र
    You get श when you hold down स
    श्रि श्रधा श्रै

  26. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks!
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  27. This post was super helpful! As a relatively new student to Sanskrit with no backgroubd in Indian languages I was struggling on how to type Devanagari effectively. Now I can type with ease!

    Thank you so much!

  28. how do u write while in sanskrit

  29. How to type ङ in iphone? There is no such alphabet available in iphone’s hindi keyboard.

    1. I am also looking for the solution to type nga in the iOS key board. Did you get any answer

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  32. how do you write "prithvi" where the र is a curved hook under the प rather than a slanted line coming out of the left of the प like this प्र which I already know how to do.

    1. Looks like I figured it out. you type प then "shift र" (ृ) and it automatically joins them into पृ