In this paper, we propose a novel feature representation for binary patterns by exploiting the object shape information. Initial evaluation of the representation is performed for Bengali and Gujarati script character classification. The extension of the representation for word images is presented subsequently. The proposed feature representation in combination with distance-based hashing is applied for defining novel word image-based document image indexing and retrieval framework. The concept of hierarchical hashing is utilized to reduce the retrieval time complexity. In addition, with the objective of reduction in the size of hashing data structure, the concept of multi-probe hashing is extended for binary mapping functions. The exhaustive experimental evaluation of the proposed framework on a collection of documents belonging to Devanagari, Bengali and English scripts has yielded encouraging results. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.