Gurmukhi - The Sikh Alphabet


The word 'Gurmukhi' literally means from the mouth of the Guru. Gurmukhi has some similarities to older Indian scripts of the times, but it's thirty five characters and vowel modifiers were standardised by Guru Angad. Rather than use the Hindu scripts such as Sanskrit, Guru Angad Dev chose to make a new script the standard for the Sikhs. Sanskrit was only restricted to the priestly Hindu class, but the Gurus did not believe in this elitism. Guru Angad Dev spent his lifetime teaching the Gurmukhi script to the common people of Punjab. Gurmukhi is not only used by Sikhs but by Hindus as well as Muslims living in Punjab to represent their common spoken language, Punjabi. Sikhs are expected to make an effort at learning the Gurmukhi script and teaching it to their children in order to read the Guru Granth Sahib in its original written form.

Gurmukhi has 35 letters as well as nine vowel modifiers. In addition there are five special sound modifiers symbols. A vertical bar is used to indicate the end of a sentences. Two vertical bars indicate a longer pause between sentences or paragraphs. The table below presents the letters, numbers and vowel modifiers. The vowel modifiers are presented with English words, the sounds that they make being emphasised in capital letters.

The Gurmukhi Alphabet

Sound Modifying Symbols.

Sound Effect: reinforces the following letter.
Sound Effect: partial NUNNA character sound.
Sound Effect: nasal sound of the vowel modifier is appears with.
Sound Effect: produces partial RARA sound following the letter.
Sound Effect: produces partial HAHA sound following the letter.

Practice Paragraph

Aih mera ghar hae. Es vich mere mata pita bhain taae bhra rhendaae hun. Ghar ittaan taae lukarh da baniaa hae. Es vich chaar sawn valaae kumraae hun. Ik baethk hae. Ghar vich ik rsoiee aetaae doow guslkhanaae hun. Ghar daae aghaae bgheecha hae. Ous vich sundr phul hun. Phul lal peelaae taae chitaae rung daae hun.

This is my house. My mother, father, sister and brother live in it. The house is made of bricks and wood. It has four bedrooms. It has one drawing room. The house has one kitchen and two bathrooms. In front of the house is a small garden. In it are beautiful flowers. The flowers are red, yellow and white colored.



Punjabi and Gurmukhi

There appears to be a lot of confusion regarding Gurmukhi and Punjabi.

The assumption a lot of people seem to make is that there is a language called Punjabi (what we use everyday) and there is the language called Gurmukhi - the language used to write the Guru Granth Sahib.

So is there two languages ??

Did the Guru's use different language called Gurmukhi??

The answer is No.

Before going further ,apply some logic yourself, would you (if trying to convey a message to a lot people) write the message in new language , which everybody would have to learn before deciphering the message , OR would you write in the most commonly used language ??

Remember this - Punjabi is a language ( what we speak). Gurmukhi is a script (how we write Punjabi ).

There are 2 main scripts used , Punjabi speaking Muslims may write Punjabi in the Perso-Arabic script (as used to write Urdu, writing from right to left), this sometimes is referred to as Shahmukhi. 

Punjabi is also written using Urdu and Hindi scripts.
Punjabi speaking Sikhs write Punjabi in the Gurmukhi script , which was developed by Guru Angad dev ji.

However we must also remember that Punjabi itself has evolved along with time, as any language does. There will be differences between 16th and 17th century and now.
Also did you also know that there are different dialects of Punjabi ?

Here is a brief outline of them.

Spoken in the heart of Punjab i.e., Lahore , Sialkot, Gujaranwala, Gurdaspur, Amritsar. Most of the population of Punjab lives in this area and linguists also say that Majhi dialect is the "Tixali boli" i.e., it has been influenced by all other dialects

Spoken in the east Punjab area of Ludhiana, Ambala, Bathinda, Ganganagar, Maleerkotla Fazilka, Ferozepur. This area (Malwa) is the southern and central part of present day Indian Punjab. Also includes the Punjabi speaking areas of Haryana, viz. Ambala, Hissar, Sirsa, kurukhetra etc. (northern parts of Haryana mainly).

Land between the rivers of Beas and Satluj is called Doaba. Do Aaba lierally means "the land between two waters" in persian. It includes Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur.

The area where Pothohari is spoken extends in the north from Kashmir to as far south as Jehlum and Gujar Khan and includes the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. This dialect is similar to some extent to the Hindko dialect of Punjabi which is spoken in Peshawar, Nowshehra, Mansehra all these areas lie in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan where majority language is Pashto, but Hindko speakers area also found in sizable numbers.

The region where Jhangvi is spoken stretches from Khanewal to Jhang and includes the cities of Faisalabad, Chiniot. Jhangvi dialect is also called the ``Jangli'' dialect of Punjabi. 

The dialect spoken in Multan, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Daira Ghazi Khan, Muzafar Garh i.e., southern deserts of Punjab is called Multani (also Lehndi by some) and perhaps differs from Punjabi more than any other dialect. Those who closely know the dialect say that it is a very "mithi boli." This is the land of Muslim Sufis, perhaps "Shah Shams Sabazwari" who came to Multan in 1165 AD was the first in a long series of Sufis to base themselves in Multan. Multani becomes more and more different as you move down south, as the influence of Sindhi increases, it is also known as Siraiki there. Siraiki itself is Sindhi word and means northern.


The next argument usually seems to be , why is the Guru Granth Sahib so difficult to comprehend , so it cannot be the same language ?
Well the language used in it is not uniform , it contains Hindi, Braj Bhasha, Sanskrit, Marathi, Pharsee, Arabic and also the many dialects of Punjabi. Sometimes the words are pronounced the same as an existing Punjabi word yet the meaning maybe different due to the origin of the word.
Furthermore as mentioned above any language is always in a state of flux, constantly evolving.


So remember Punjabi is a LANGUAGE , Gurmukhi is a SCRIPT