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Devanagari letter र (R, more precisely ra in IAST or ISO 15919) and letter स (S, sa) are somewhat similar. The similarity is more apparent when comparing with sa:

Devanagari rā sa

What is the history and nature of this similarity (if not random)?

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Earlier forms of the script such as Brahmi 𑀭 = r, 𑀲 = s as well as related script (Gurmukhi ਰ = r, ਸ = s), reveal that it is a coincidence. It is interesting to note that Tibetan ར = r, ས = s which are are significantly similar to Devanagari, but Bengali র = r, স = s which are not so similar. Yet Tibetan and Bengali scripts are classified as examples of Siddham scripts. The drawings in that page suggest that the seeds of similarity were present in that script, and developed independently in Devanagari and Tibetan.

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  • that's Bengali so/sho, with an inherent vowel (the downstroke, cp. Arab. alef: "l"). The cho/so looks like a mirrored ri, whereas bho looks just like ri without the dot, and what would look like Devanagari Ra is actually ho (/ɦɔ~hɔ/). In the Siddham script, the horizontal stroke seen in Sa appears frequently to symbolize voicing or breathy voice (eg. jho), and there's a bare r marked by a ... dangling stroke. In Tibetan, Om is written in a conjunction of strokes: seems to contain syllabic r or h? This looks completely arbitrary, yes, still fascinating.
    – vectory
    Jun 17 '20 at 16:54

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