Research

Meetei Mayek

A study and revival of a native script

National Institute of Design
2006

The typefaces 'Pakhangba' and 'Sanamahi' were the outcomes of a project entitled 'Meetei Mayek: the ignored face'. The project investigates the history of the indigenous script of Manipur – 'Meetei Mayek' – and documents the current scenario of this script. The intention behind designing these typefaces is to revive a dying script. This is why they focus purely on anatomy, with no additional decorations. 'Pakhangba' is a humanist typeface based on the organic and calligraphic flow of the hand while writing. The construction of each letterform has been carefully studied, and is reflected in the elegant anatomy of 'Pakhangba'. 'Sanamahi', on the other hand, is geometric with bold and firm letterforms and is intended for display text. As they were the first two typefaces designed, 'Pakhanga' and 'Sanamahi' will be refined and revisited to include more weights and styles.

Background

In the beginning of the 18th century, as a result of political and cultural changes, the Bengali script replaced Meetei Mayek — the indigenous script of Manipur (a north-eastern state of India bordering Myanmar). Since then, the people of Manipur have been using the Bengali script for writing Meeteilon, the main spoken language of Manipur. This led to the introduction of new sounds in the Meeteilon from the Bengali script. Hence, during this period some new and modified letterforms were added for these sounds in Meetei Mayek. However after a number of conferences, the scholars have finally concluded that Meetei Mayek consists of 27 letteforms with their supplements. After almost 250 years, in 2005-06, the Government of Manipur officially approved the Meetei Mayek and included in the academic curriculum of Manipur Education. The new generation is learning Meetei Mayek instead of Bengali script to read and write Meeteilon.As the new generation is learning Meetei Mayek and it is slowly replacing the Bengali script, new typefaces will also be required for various forms of communication. At present there are only a few typefaces, of questionable quality. Very limited research has been done on Meetei Mayek from the typographic point of view. Besides, there is a need to develop a system or guideline for designing Meetei Mayek typefaces.