Punjabi is the language of the Sikhs. As you can tell, its name originates from Punjab, the land of five rivers. Punjabi is spoken primarily in Punjab, although many Punjabi descendents also speak it around the world. Like all other languages, Punjabi has its own alphabet. This alphabet is called “Gurmukhi.”
The literal definition of Gurmukhi is “from the mouth of the Guru.” Gurmukhi is used in the Sikh scriptures, or Guru Granth Sahib Ji. It is believed that Gurmukhi is evolved from the old Brahmi scripts and therefore would be a member of the Brahmi family. Gurmukhi was widely used to record the sayings coming from the Guru’s mukh, or mouth. This is how Gurmukhi got its name.
The Gurmukhi script was made by the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji. I want to point out that Punjabi had been around for some time when Guru Angad Dev Ji made Gurmukhi. At that time, Punjabi was said but it was an unorganized language because it didn’t have a proper alphabet. In order to invent Gurmukhi, Guru Angad Dev Ji had to take many steps.
Guru Ji retained and slightly modified certain letters of the Brahmi scripts. These letters depicted sounds of Punjabi. Guru Ji also created some other letters for each of the Punjabi phonemes. Once Guru Angad Dev Ji was done in making the letters, he rearranged them into what we have today.
However, the letters aren’t all the Gurmukhi Sikhs have. Guru Angad Dev Ji also made numbers as part of the Gurmukhi script.
These are only the first 10 numbers in the Gurmukhi script. In order to right greater numbers, we just repeat the figures until we have the desired number.
The Gurmukhi script is special in the sense that in some cases an ‘ a ‘ is added to a consonant. This ‘ a ‘ is added to consonants as long as it isn’t pronounced at the end of the syllable. For example, ‘ j ‘ and ‘ l ‘ combine to become ‘ jal ‘ in Punjabi. In this case, the ‘ j ‘ becomes ‘ ja ‘ and the ‘l’ stays as ‘ l .’ Another way that a vowel can be used after a consonant is by using the first three letters of the Gurmukhi script.
The first and third letters can’t be used independently and they need a vowel sign, which changes their pronunciation. The second letter of the script can also be used with these vowel signs. In the Gurmukhi script there are 10 different ways to say a letter. Out of these 10 vowel signs, only Sihari comes before the consonant but, like the others, it is pronounced after it.
Like specific vowel signs, Gurmukhi also has nasalization signs. What I mean by this is that these signs are used to nasalize the sound of the vowels. There are two basic nasalization signs in Gurmukhi: the Tippee and the Bindee. Out of these two, the Tippee is used more often and is portrayed as a half-circle that is concave down and is located above the end of the letter. The Tippee is used with :
The Bindee is portrayed as a dot above or slightly after the vowel sign. The Bindee is used with :
Both the Tippee and the Bindee create a half ‘ n ‘ sound.
Another sign that is used in Gurmukhi is called the Adhak. Some people confuse the Adhak with the Tippee because the Adhak is portrayed as a half-circle that is concave up and is located above the end of the letter. The only difference in look between the Adhak and the Tippee is the direction of the concavity. The job of the Adhak is to create the sound of a double consonant. In other words, it emphasizes the consonant that it is placed before.
Guru Angad Dev Ji has created a beautiful script for Sikhs. This is shown with the proportions of the letters. All of the letters have the same height with the exception of ooraa, the first letter, whose top curve extends above the line. The width of all the letters is also the same.
Since its induction, Gurmukhi has played a major role in Sikh faith and traditions. Although the script was originally used only for Sikh books, it spread under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
This was because Maharaja Ranjit Singh used it for administrative purposes by putting Gurmukhi on the monetary coins of his kingdom. Another reason that Gurmukhi was spread was due to the fact that it has been the bare minimum for literacy in Punjab and nearby areas where schools were attached to Gurdwaras.
Gurmukhi has been very important to the Sikhs. This is because, without Gurmukhi, Punjabi would still be a Persian script. The Punjabi language has extended throughout the world today because Sikhs have settled in many countries and Gurmukhi has followed them. Today Punjabi is used in culture, arts, education, and administration. Punjabi is also the state language of Punjab.