Our History

Sylheti Translation And Research came about as a collaborative effort in the 1990s between the Bangladeshi writer and journalist Matiar Chowdhury and British linguists James and Sue Lloyd-Williams who had a long standing interest in the language, culture and heritage of Sylhet.

Initial materials were produced for the first Brick Lane melas held in East London, then a SiloNagri Reading and Writing Workshop was held in Birmingham.

James had acquired in Sylhet Town a rather damaged copy of the puthi ‘Halot-un-Nobi’ printed in the Siloi Nagri script. He then found a Sylheti lady in Becton, East London, who lent him a copy of the same puthi in the Bangla (Bengali) script which he already knew; by comparing the two versions side-by-side he was able to decipher and learn the SiloNagri script.

When Sue soon afterwards produced the first computer font for the SiloNagri script (1997), there was much excitement and publicity in newspapers, radio and TV in Bangladesh and in Assam, and in the British Bengali press. As a result, Sylheti Translation And Research was contacted by two famous Sylheti researchers and collectors, the diplomat and senior government officer Muhammad Sadique (who was then posted to Sweden), and the late Professor Asaddor Ali. Both these men held large collections of precious SiloNagri puthi literature, both printed and hand written, some as much as 250 years old. These puthis were kindly loaned to Sylheti Translation And Research for photographing and transcription. As the news spread, various Sylheti people in different countries contacted us to tell about old puthis they owned, perhaps inherited from a grandparent, and wanted help in deciphering and translating.

From 2002-2008 Sylheti Translation And Research assisted David Kane in his doctoral research at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, on the performance of the Siloi Nagri puthi literature. His thesis, "Puthi-Poṛa: 'Melodic Reading' and its Use in the Islamisation of Bengal" (2008), includes the first full ethnographic description of puthi-poṛa as performed in Sylhet, Bangladesh.