Book of John in Telugu – 1860


Repha-TeWhile writing the “Telugu Notes” for the Aksharamukha convertor, I suddenly remembered seeing the usage of Repha in Telugu script somewhere. Modern Telugu doesn’t use any Repha symbol. But its sister script, Kannada preserves the usage of Repha till to this day.


For those who do not know what exactly a Repha is, It is basically a special symbol to denote pre-consonantal /ra/. Such as in these words sarva, varga etc. Many Brahmic Scripts possess a repha.


Back to what I was speaking about, yeah so, I recollected that I has seen the usage of Telugu Repha in old version of a Telugu Bible that was published in 1860.. On searching my pdf dumps in my PC, I found the file which I had downloaded, probably from long time ago.


The Title of the book itself had a prominent Repha :


yōhānu vrāsina suvārta – యోహాను వ్రాసిన సువార్త 


The word final symbol appearing the end of the title is the Repha. BTW the title means “Gospel written by John


It was interesting to note the usage of Repha in the Telugu script. Modern Telugu script does not use Repha at all. But it seems that Repha had been used in Telugu published until 1860. So, within a short time Repha seems to have fell out of use in favor of the usual otttu conjuncts.


Other examples of Repha from the book:


yordānu, arthamiccē

 యొర్దాను, అర్థమిచ్చే


Telugu_Repha_Sarpa  Telugu_Repha_parnasalaku

sarpa, parṇaśālalu  

 సర్ప, పర్ణశాలలు

The usage of Repha seems to near universal in the Text. But, there are are also some inconsistencies in the usage of the Repha, where consonant clusters appear with and without repha
In  the above cases <rcu – ర్చు> appears with and wihout the repha.

But, however the Repha seems not to be used either with /va/ or /ya/ for some strange reasons. All clusters with /va/ & /ya/ appear without the repha.

tarvāta, āścaryapadutunnāru – తర్వాత, ఆశ్చర్యపదుతున్నారు

That has been overdosage of Repha 🙂

Another interesting thing that I noted was the usage of archaic composite /o/ vowel signs for /na/ and /va/. At present only /ma/, /ya/ & /gha/. retain this composite form. 

ఘొ ఘో మొ మో యొ యో

gho ghō mo mō yo yō


The Kannada script still retains this composite /o/ for all its consonants.



pōvunō – పోవునో


voka – వొక


sahōdarininni – సహోదరినిన్ని


Forgot about this, the Front page of the book says,



ādima grēku bhāsalōnuṁci tenugulō raciṁcabaḍinadi

ఆదిమ గ్రేకు భాసలోనుంచి తెనుగులో రచించబడినది


The Language is referred to as Tenugu, rather than Telugu :-/


One could imagine the difficulty associated with typesetting a very complex script such as Telugu in those days. To end with the concluding note, the book was published in Chennai (a.k.a Madras) :-). 


I always though that Chennai could have been a shared capital between Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh like Chandigarh. But politics turned it otherwise.. Hmm….

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