Javanese is one of the earliest languages in Indonesia to possess a literary tradition. As a result of contact with Indian merchants, speakers of Javanese adapted the Pallava script, a variant of the Brahmi script, during the 4th centruy CE to write their own language. By the 8th century CE, this Indian prototype has evolved into a distinctive script known as the Kawi script. The transition from Kawi into Javanese during the 13th century BCE was more stylistic than structural. Only the visual composition of the script changed. The way the script worked remained unchanged.
Like other Brahmi-derived scripts, the Javanese script is a syllabic alphabet. Each "letter" in reality represent a consonant followed by a standard vowel, /a/ in Javanese's case. A letter of this type is called an aksara. The following is the chart of the basic aksaras in the modern Javanese script.
In addition, a small set of letters called aksara murda or aksara gedhe is used to write titles and names of respectable people. In such cases, aksara murda letters will replace all regular aksara letters that have corresponding murda letters. Aksara murda letters originated from letters borrowed from Pallava to represent sounds found in Indian languages but not in Javanese, and so they evolved to become honorific variants. The aksara murda letters are in the following chart:
In order to change the inherent vowel of /a/ to some other vowel, extra strokes called sandangan are written next to the letter. Often grouped with the sandangan but serves a different function is the patèn, which actually mutes the vowel so that the letter only stands for its consonant.
Initial vowels are usually written with the ha letter followed by the sandangan marks. However, there is also an optional set of letters called aksara swara used to write initial vowels without sandangan.
The patèn is one of the two ways to suppress the inherent vowel in a letter. Another way is an alternate set of letters called pasangan. which when juxtaposed to an aksara letter will result in a consonant cluster where the aksara letter stands for the first consonant and the pasangan the second in the cluster. The following is the "regular" pasangan letters.
Just like aksara letters, the pasangan letters contain a "regular" set and a murda set. The following are the pasangan murda letters.
The images on this page was created with the Javanese font from Jason Glavy that can be downloaded from http://www.geocities.com/jglavy/asian.html.