Sylhet has a rich heritage of literature in the Siloṭi Nagri script going back at least 200 years. Books in Siloṭi Nagri, whether manuscript or printed, are known as puthis. This literature has been largely unknown and neglected since Sylhet’s incorporation from Assam into East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1947, and is only recently being rediscovered.
Puthis were written as poetry, not prose, consisting of long narrative sections called boyans, composed in the poyar metre (pairs of rhyming lines each with 14 beats), interspersed with songs in the tripodi metre (pairs of lines each divided into 3 feet) or ragas (shorter songs in a Bengali folk or classical Indian style). Many Sylhetis even today are able to read from memory large sections of the most popular puthis. At one time there was hardly a household in Sylhet that did not own printed versions of one or another of these puthis.
The purpose of the literature was to give moral and Islamic instruction to the people and never just to entertain. Some puthis were written by Sufi pirs (spiritual leaders) to instruct their disciples, others were written or printed for a much wider audience.
To see some examples of the puthi literature, including transcriptions and an English translation, click here.