Introduction to the alphabet

Welcome to this introduction to the Telugu alphabet. This is the first chapter in a series of three to introduce you to the way Telugu is written. In this article we will take a sentence you are already familiar with if you followed the first steps tutorial. We will walk through each letter of this sentence and see how the symbols are used.

In the second chapter we will list the complete set of vowels and consonants and their combinations. These combinations might look a little numerous and/or confusing at first, but once you are used to the rules you will find them quite naturally.

The last section will introduce you to the consonant-consonant combinations, the symbols using the secondary form of consonants.

Let us start with this sentence:

atadu ramudu

It is the first exercise in lesson 1 of the Vakyanirmanam book. As mentioned above, you know this sentence very well if you have followed the tutorial.

Now, the first thing you need to know when you start to learn the alphabet is:


The symbols represent syllables


these syllables end with a vowel.


There are only a view exceptions to that, and I will show you those in a minute. However, let us stick with that for now and see what this means in our example. Here is the above sentence split up in syllables so they are more visible:

a-ta-du ra-mu-du

You see, the first symbol is 'a', a single vowel. In this case the vowel stands by itself. All other cases the syllables are formed by consonants followed by a vowel. Each of these syllables are represented by their own sign.

In order to understand how these combinations work, you must know that:


Each character in Telugu has a primary and a secondary form.
The primary form is used when this symbol forms the base of a character,
the secondary form is used when it is combined into another base.


So the primary form of the vowel is only used when the vowel stands by itself, which is only the case at the beginning of the word. In all other cases the secondary symbol of the vowel is combined into the primary symbol of the preceding consonant to form the symbol. Again, let us see what this means in our example.

Here is a list of the vowels with their primary and secondary forms used in the above sentence:


And this is the list of consonants used:


The first thing you probably have noticed is that all consonants have this trailing 'a'. This represents another basic rule: All consonants have the 'a' vowel included by default. This 'a' is replaced when another vowel is combined with that consonant.

In other words: The basic form to refer to a vowel is in combination with that default 'a'. Thus they actually represent syllables, not the pure consonants. But as soon as you combine these consonants with another vowel, this new vowel replaces the default 'a'.

Here is an example:

da + u = du

So the default 'a' in 'da' is replaced by the new vowel 'u' to form 'du'. Notice the secondary form of 'u' () being attached to the primary form of 'da'.

Now let us go on and combine our consonants with all the vowels we know so far. Here is a list of the possible combinations:

combined consonants example

Can you see the system in the table above? The primary form of the consonant forms the base of the symbol and the secondary form of the vowel is included as an add-on. Both together form the new combined consonant-vowel symbol (called gụnintamulu).

This table allows us to transliterate the rest of the characters in our example sentence:

atadu ramudu


So this is how the characters of this example are formed. If you want to know how the rest of the vowels and consonants are combined follow me to the next chapter...



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english meaning

hi. i do not know telugu. this site is extremely useful for a beginner like me. i heard one of my friends say , "Kothiki dorikindi kobbarichippa". could you please tell me its meaning??