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 are there two
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 language (what we speak). Gurmukhi is a script (how we write Punjabi).
Punjabi is an Indian
language, which belongs to the outer-circle of the Indo-Aryan languages
and distantly related English being a member of the same Indo-European
language family. It is a modern Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly
in the Punjab states of both India and Pakistan. It nearly resembles Hindi
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. (I will try to get examples of this, if you
have any please send to me).
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. Contrary to
another popular belief, Guru Ji did not invent Gurmukhi from scratch; he
modified the Landa (lahnda) script. He and polished the landa script to
reflect, pronunciation and the authentic tonal expressions to what is
known as Gurmukhi today. The Landa had been around for centuries before
the Guru Ji’s.
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
Also did you also know
that there are different dialects of Punjabi?
Here is a brief outline
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
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
Land between the rivers
of Beas and Satluj is called Doaba. Do Aaba literally 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.
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.
Information regarding Punjabi by Serjinder Singh
The cliché that Guru
Angad Dev Ji made the Gurmukhi alphabet is patently false(It was
propagated by the enemies of Sikhism known as Handalis who wrote the
distorted biography of Guru Nanak Dev Ji called Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala).
If one reads that part
of Guru Granth Sahib which is known Patti one finds that this
Gurbani written by the first Guru Ji mentions the letters of Gurmukhi by
the same names as we know them today. If Guru Angad Dev Ji made the
Gurmukhi alphabet how Guru Nanak Dev Ji could have mentioned it in his
bani several decades earlier. This script known as Gurmukhi or literally
the script used by Gurmukhs existed long before.
Word Gurmukh did not
necessarily refer to Gursikhs alone at that period of time but was used by
Naths and Sidhs as well. Guru Ji in his discussions with the Sidhs use
this word to address them as given in the Guru Granth Sahib under the bani
titled “Sidh Ghost”. All the relevant arguments in support of the
above are given in the textbooks of degree students in Punjab who study
the history of Punjabi language and script. In Ludhiana district of Punjab
there is a village named Hathoor. There is a sacred well where pilgrims
who were traders used to visit and used to get some bricks with their
names and details of donations given laid on the inside wall.
One of these is written
in Gurmukhi as we know it today and gives the date, which is in thirteenth
century, which is long before Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I am referring here to
the script, which is Gurmukhi.
As far as the language
is concerned in Punjab the language that is and was spoken is called
Punjabi. Now this Punjabi was similar to the Punjabi that we speak in our
homes even now. One can read the Saloks of Baba Farid in Guru Granth
Sahib, which even you born in the west would be able to understand because
these are in Punjabi. Baba Farid lived during the thirteenth century
couple of centuries before Guru Nanak Dev Ji. In their blind chauvinistic
aim to show that the Gurmukhi script belongs only to Sikhs and not to rest
of the Punjabis these bigots have created hatred against non-Sikhs and
alienated them from their own language and past and divided the population
of Punjab on religious lines.
The Majhi was called
Taxali Boli in earlier part of this century not because it is influenced
by other dialects. On the contrary it was considered by some egoist
intellectuals living around Lahore and Amritsar that the dialect they
speak should be considered standard Punjabi or authentic Punjabi and other
dialects were ridiculed.
Word Taxal means mint
where authentic coins are made. So, Taxali Boli like the authentic minted
coins means authentic or standard language. At present nobody subscribes
to this view. Respect shown for all dialects of Punjabi is same. In
addition to the dialects listed by you there are some more viz. Puadhi
which is spoken in the area between Chandigarh, Patiala and Ropar near the
foothills. Dogri or Pahari spoken in Jammu and Mirpur area is also
considered a dialect of Punjabi.
so far ?
The next argument
usually seems to be , why is Guru Granth Sahib so difficult to comprehend
, so it cannot be 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.
mentioned above any language is always in a state of flux, constantly
Regarding the Gurmukhi
script, it is derived from Brahmi used for Asoka’s edicts. The Landa
script is by and large Gurmukhi script without the vowel signs. In Panjabi
word Landa means an animal that has lost its tail. Thus the script, which
does not have its Siharees or Biharees or Hora, Kanna etc is similar to an
animal without a tail. That is why it is called Landa. The Landa script
has been in use and still is used for writing accounts in Bahee’s by the
traders in Punjab. Otherwise the Gurmukhi script was known long before
Guruji along with the vowel signs.
An Arab mathematician
mentions in tenth century of a mathematician from Punjab whom he saw using
a single letter for each numeral whereas till then the Romans and the
Arabs had been using several letters for one numeral. For instance, for
three one wrote III and for eight VIII. In Punjab at that time three was
written as 3 which is nothing but the first Gurmukhi letter of the Punjabi
word tin for three and 2 is the modified first letter of Punjabi word
Do(pronounced as though) for two. No one has noticed this but I can show
conclusively that all the nine numerals (which are known as Arabic
numerals in West, but Arabs call them Hindsa, meaning brought from Hind or
India)are the different letters derived from the Punjabi count words such
as Ik, Do, Tin, Chaar, Punj etc. Indeed the Arab mathematical mentions the
origin as Punjab of the Hindsas or numerals.
remember Punjabi is a LANGUAGE, Gurmukhi is SCRIPT
Many thanks to
Serjinder Singh and also Muhammad Afzal Upal for his information about
Punjabi dialects. see Punjabi home page taken