Ranjana

Ranjana

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Some scripts are so ornate and regal they rise above everyday use and ascend, as it were, into their own temple. They survive as calligraphy, or what we might nowadays call a display font, but more so — not merely a style of lettering but a script that epitomizes some of the most cherished expressions of cultural identity.

The Ranjana script developed during the 11th century and until the mid-20th century was used in an area from Nepal to Tibet by the Newar people, the historic inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, to write Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Newari. Many of the most famous Buddhist and Hindu texts produced in the region were written in Ranjana, which became one of the iconic scripts of Nepal.

After falling into disuse in the mid-20th century when the ubiquitous Devanagari script became the standard (partly because Ranjana does not adapt especially well to small type), Ranjana has recently seen revived interest and use because of its historical and cultural associations.

While still a minority script, used more for its display value than for everyday correspondence, it is used by many local governments for signage, it is used for formal and elaborate documents such as wedding invitations, and programs are held in the Kathmandu Valley to promote and teach the script, which is also taught in Tibetan and Bhutanese monasteries.

In Tibet, the script is called Lanydza or Lantsa, and it is most frequently used on the title pages of Tibetan texts, where the Sanskrit title is often written in Lanydza, followed by a transliteration and translation in the Tibetan script. The script is also used decoratively on temple walls, on the outside of prayer wheels, and in the drawing of mandalas. This usage gave the script a place of honor in Tibetan society, but that in turn made it a target: many original Sanskrit manuscripts written in Lanydza that had been preserved in the old monasteries of Tibet were destroyed following the Chinese takeover of Tibet.

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