Ambigrams at Amrita University

August 17, 2010
School of Engineering, Coimbatore

Stress and relax. One may perhaps sometimes think of these two words in the same context. But is it also possible to read these two words from the same letters? Apparently yes.

AmbigramsIt is possible when the words are written in the form of an ambigram,” informs S. Gowtham, final-year CSE student at Coimbatore campus.

Having worked on this art form for the past three years, Gowtham is now writing a book on ambigrams. He has also developed has a website,

Ambigrams are specially designed letters that make up words which can be read differently, when looked at from different orientations, such as angles of 90 or 180 degrees.

The words readable from other angles may be the same or may be different from the original words.


One such ambigram that Gowtham created in Tamil, is Kalaignar that can also be read as Muthalvar (Chief Minister).

“Many English ambigrams are available on the internet, but when it comes to Tamil, there are hardly any,” he ruefully states.

Gowtham created about 20 Tamil ambigrams, driven by his passion for the language. He presented these at the recent World Tamil Meet in Coimbatore during June 22-27.

“Tamil can be a very flexible language for ambigrams,” says Gowtham. “I want these ambigrams to become popular, to take Tamil to more people and help them understand its rich legacy.”

AmbigramsGowtham has also created dual-language ambigrams. The word reads in Tamil in the normal orientation and as its synonym in English, when turned 180 degrees. He designed a logo for a shoe company using this idea.

Gowtham has the idea of using this art for Natural Language Processing, text-compression and steganography. “I want to evolve this art into a technology that serves important applications, thus taking this work a step forward.”

He recently presented a paper titled Text Compression Using Ambigrams at the International Conference on Education Technology and Computer (ICETC 2010), in Shanghai, China. The paper will be indexed by IEEE Explore.

Having achieved quite a proficiency in representing English and Tamil words in this form, Gowtham aims to include 676 such combinations of letters in his book on ambigrams.


It was a professor of typography at Drexel University, John Langdon, who first created ambigrams. They shot into prominence when protagonists in best-sellers by Dan Brown such as the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons used them for passing secret messages.

Now an Amrita student is pushing the boundary for what they can be used for. We wish him the very best!

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