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|Spoken languages||Punjabi language|
|Time period||c. 1539–present|
|Sister systems||Old Kashmiri, Khojki|
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
Gurmukhi (Punjabi: ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ, IPA: [ɡʊɾmʊkʰi]) is the most common script used for writing the Punjabi language. An abugida derived from the Laṇḍā script and ultimately descended from Brahmi, Gurmukhi was standardized by the second Sikh guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji, in the 16th century. The whole of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji's 1430 pages are written in this script. The name Gurmukhi is derived from the Old Punjabi term "guramukhī", meaning "from the mouth of the Guru".
Modern Gurmukhi has forty-one consonants (vianjan), nine vowel symbols (lāga mātrā), two symbols for nasal sounds (bindī and ṭippī), and one symbol which duplicates the sound of any consonant (addak). In addition, four conjuncts are used: three subjoined forms of the consonants Rara, Haha and Vava, and one half-form of Yayya. Use of the conjunct forms of Vava and Yayya is increasingly scarce in modern contexts.
Gurmukhi is primarily used in the Eastern Punjab region of India, while the Shahmukhi script is officially used in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Gurmukhi has been adapted to write other languages, such as Braj Bhasha, Khariboli (and other Hindustani dialects), Sanskrit and Sindhi. Gurmukhi is the ecclesiastical script of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of the Sikhs.
- This is an abugida in which all consonants have an inherent vowel. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the inherent vowel.
- When they appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters.
- When certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.
- Punjabi is a tonal language with three tones. These are indicated in writing using the voiced aspirates consonants (gh, dh, bh, etc.) and the intervocal h.
There are two major theories on how the Proto-Gurmukhi script emerged in the 15th century. G.B. Singh (1950), while quoting Abu Raihan Al-Biruni's Ta'rikh al-Hind (1030 AD), says that the script evolved from Ardhanagari. Al-Biruni writes that the Ardhanagari script was used in Bathinda and western parts of the Punjab in the 10th century. For some time, Bhatinda remained the capital of the kingdom of Bhatti Rajputs of the Pal clan, who ruled North India before the Muslims occupied the country. Because of its connection with the Bhattis, the Ardhanagari script was also called Bhatachhari. According to Al-Biruni, Ardhanagari was a mixture of Nagari, used in Ujjain and Malwa, and Siddha Matrika or the Siddham script, a variant of the Sharada script used in Kashmir.
Pritam Singh (1992) has also traced the origins of Gurmukhi to the Siddha Matrika.
Tarlochan Singh Bedi (1999) writes that the Gurmukhi script developed in the 10-14th centuries from the Devasesha stage of the Sharada script. His argument is that from the 10th century, regional differences started to appear between the Sharada script used in Punjab, the Hill States (partly Himachal Pradesh) and Kashmir. The regional Sharada script evolves from this stage till the 14th century, when it starts to appear in the form of Gurmukhi. Indian epigraphists call this stage Devasesha, while Bedi prefers the name Pritham Gurmukhi or Proto-Gurmukhi.
The 10 Sikh Gurus adopted the Proto-Gurmukhi script to write the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scriptures of the Sikhs. Other contemporary scripts used in the Punjab were Takri and the Laṇḍā alphabets. Also Takri was a script that developed through the Devasesha stage of the Sharada script, and is found mainly in the Hill States, such as Chamba, where it is called Chambyali and in Jammu, where it is known as Dogri. The local Takri variants got the status of official scripts in some of the Punjab Hill States, and were used for both administrative and literary purposes until the 19th century. After 1948, when Himachal Pradesh was established as an administrative unit, the local Takri variants were replaced by Devanagari.
Meanwhile, the mercantile scripts of Punjab known as the Laṇḍā were normally not used for literary purposes. Landa means alphabet "without tail", applying that the script did not have vowel symbols. In Punjab, there were at least ten different scripts classified as Laṇḍā, Mahajani being the most popular. The Laṇḍā alphabets were used for household and trade purposes. Compared to the Laṇḍā, Sikh Gurus favoured the use of Proto-Gurmukhi, because of the difficulties involved in pronouncing words without vowel signs.
The usage of Gurmukhi letters in Guru Granth Sahib meant that the script developed its own orthographical rules. In the following epochs, Gurmukhi became the prime script applied for literary writings of the Sikhs. Later in the 20th century, the script was given the authority as the official script of the Eastern Punjabi language. Meanwhile, in Western Punjab a form of the Urdu script, known as Shahmukhi is still in use.
Although the word Gurmukhī has been commonly translated as "from the Mouth of the Guru," the term used for the Punjabi script has somewhat different connotations. The opinion given by traditional scholars for this is that as the Sikh holy writings, before they were written down, were uttered by the Gurus, they came to be known as Gurmukhi or the "Utterance of the Guru". And consequently, the script that was used for scribing the utterance was also given the same name. The term that would mean "by the Guru's mouth" would be "Gurmū̃hī̃," which sounds considerably different but looks similar in Latin script.
However, the prevalent view among Punjabi linguists is that as in the early stages the Gurmukhī letters were primarily used by Gurmukhs, literally those who follow or face the Guru, the script came to be associated with them. Another view is that as the Gurmukhs, in accordance with the Sikh belief, used to meditate on the letters ਵ, ਹ, ਗ, ਰ which jointly form ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ or God in Sikhism, these letters were called Gurmukhī, or "of the Gurmukhs". Subsequently, the whole script came to be known as Gurmukhī.
The Gurmukhi abugida contains thirty-five distinct characters. The first three characters are unique because they form the basis for vowels and are not consonants, and except for æṛa are never used on their own. See the section on vowels for further details.
The schwa ("ə"), used in this section, makes a sound like the unstressed "a" in "about."
|ੳ||uṛa||–||ਅ||æṛa||ə by itself||ੲ||iṛi||–||ਸ||səsa||sa||ਹ||haha||ha|
- (*) = ਙ (ngənga) and ਞ (neiia) are rarely utilized.
- (#) = ਞ (neiia) makes an "ñ" sound as in Spanish
- h superscript = aspirate consonant
- ִ (subscript dot) = retroflex consonant, as opposed to dental/alveolar consonant
- à – grave accent = tonal consonant.
- To differentiate between consonants, the Punjabi tonal consonants kà, chà, ṭà, tà, and pà are often transliterated in the way of the Hindi voiced aspirate consonants gha, jha, dha, dha, and bha respectively, although Punjabi does not have these sounds.
- Tones in Punjabi can be either rising or falling; in the pronunciation of Gurmukhi letters they are falling, hence the grave accent as opposed to the acute.
In addition to these, there are six consonants created by placing a dot (bindi) at the foot (pair) of the consonant (these are not present in Sri Guru Granth Sahib). These are used most often for loanwords, though not exclusively:
|ਸ਼||Sussa pair bindi||Sha|
|ਖ਼||Khukha pair bindi||Khha (xa)|
|ਗ਼||Gugga pair bindi||Ghha (ɣa)|
|ਜ਼||Jujja pair bindi||Za|
|ਫ਼||Phupha pair bindi||Fa|
|ਲ਼||Lalla pair bindi||Ḷa|
Lallay pair bindi was only recently added to the Gurmukhi alphabet. Some sources may not consider it a separate letter.
Three "subscript" letters are utilized in Gurmukhi: forms of ਹ(h), ਰ(r), and ਵ(v). ਰ(r) and ਵ(v) are used to make consonant clusters and behave similarly; subjoined ਹ(h) raises tone.
- Subjoined ਰ(r): For example, the letter ਪ(p) with a regular ਰ(r) following it would yield the word ਪਰ pər ("but"), but with a subjoined ਰ would appear as ਪ੍ਰ- (prə-), resulting in a consonant cluster, as in the word ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧ (prəbə́nd, "management, government")
- Subjoined ਵ(v): somewhat less common in modern usage. For example, ਸ followed by a regular ਵ would yield ਸਵ- (səv-) as in the word ਸਵੇਰ (səvēr, "morning"), but with a subjoined ਵ would produce ਸ੍ਵ (svə-) as in the word ਸ੍ਵਰਗ (svərəg, "heaven")
- Subjoined ਹ(h): behaves the same way as the regular ਹ(h) in non-word-initial positions. The regular ਹ(h) is pronounced at the beginning of words but not in other positions, where it instead raises the tone. The difference in usage is that the regular ਹ is used after vowels and the subscript version when there is no vowel, and is attached to consonants.
- For example: the regular ਹ is used after vowels as in ਮੀਹ (transliterated as mih, to show tonality, mī́, "rain"). The subjoined ਹ(h) acts the same way but instead is used under consonants: ਚ(ch) followed by ੜ(ṛ) yields ਚੜ (chəṛ), but not until the rising tone is introduced via a subscript ਹ(h) does it properly spell the word ਚੜ੍ਹ (chə́ṛ, "climb").
Gurmukhi follows similar concepts to other Brahmi scripts and as such, all consonants are followed by an inherent ‘a’ sound (unless at the end of a word when the ‘a’ is usually dropped). This inherent vowel sound can be changed by using dependent vowel signs which attach to a bearing consonant. In some cases, dependent vowel signs cannot be used – at the beginning of a word or syllable for instance – and so an independent vowel character is used instead.
Independent vowels are constructed using three bearer characters: Ura (ੳ), Aira (ਅ) and Iri (ੲ). With the exception of Aira (which represents the vowel 'a') they are never used without additional vowel signs.
|ਅ||(none)||ਕ||Muktā||A||a||[ə]||like a in about|
|ਆ||ਾ||ਕਾ||Kannā||AA||ā||[ɑ]||like a in car|
|ਇ||ਿ||ਕਿ||Sihārī||I||i||[ɪ]||like i in it|
|ਈ||ੀ||ਕੀ||Bihārī||II||ī||[i]||like i in liter|
|ਉ||ੁ||ਕੁ||Onkaṛ||U||u||[ʊ]||like u in put|
|ਊ||ੂ||ਕੂ||Dulankaṛ||UU||ū||[u]||like u in Spanish uno|
|ਏ||ੇ||ਕੇ||Lāvā̃||E||ē||[e]||like e in Chile|
|ਐ||ੈ||ਕੈ||Dulāvā̃||AI||e||[ɛ]||like e in sell|
|ਓ||ੋ||ਕੋ||Hōṛā||O||ō||[o]||like o in Spanish amor|
|ਔ||ੌ||ਕੌ||Kanōṛā||AU||o||[ɔ]||like o in off|
Dotted circles represent the bearer consonant. Vowels are always pronounced after the consonant they are attached to. Thus, Sihari is always written to the left, but pronounced after the character on the right.
Ṭippi ( ੰ ) and bindi ( ਂ ) are used for producing the velar nasal /ŋ/ like the "n" sound in words ending in ‘ing’, or for a \m\ before certain consonants (-mb, -nk, -nd, etc.). In general, Onkar ( ੁ ) and Dulankar ( ੂ ) take bindi in their initial forms and ṭippi when used after a consonant. All other short vowels utilize ṭippi and all other long vowels are paired with bindi. Older texts may not follow these conventions.
The aforementioned bindi ( ਂ ) is also used for nasalisation.
The use of addak ( ੱ ) indicates that the following consonant is geminate. This means that the subsequent consonant is doubled or reinforced.
The halant (੍) character is not used when writing Punjabi in Gurmukhi. However, it may occasionally be used in Sanskritised text or in dictionaries for extra phonetic information. When it is used, it represents the suppression of the inherent vowel.
The effect of this is shown below:
- ਕ – Kə
- ਕ੍ – K
The visarg symbol (ਃ U+0A03) is used very occasionally in Gurmukhi. It can either represent an abbreviation (like period is used in English) or it can act like a Sanskrit Visarga where a voiceless ‘h’ sound is pronounced after the vowel.
Gurmukhi has its own set of numerals that behave exactly as Hindu-Arabic numerals do. These are used extensively in older texts. In modern contexts, they are being replaced by standard Latin numerals although they are still in widespread use.
The schwa ("ə"), used in this section, makes a sound like the unstressed "a" in "about."
The Unicode block for Gurmukhī is U+0A00–U+0A7F. Gray areas indicate non-assigned code points.
Unicode.org chart (PDF)
Digitization of Gurmukhi manuscripts
Panjab Digital Library has taken up digitization of all available manuscripts of Gurmukhi Script. As the script is just 500 year old hence a lot of literature written in all these years is still traceable. Panjab Digital Library has digitized over 5 million pages from different manuscripts and most of them are available online.
Gurbaksh (G.B.) Singh. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Chandigarh: Punjab University, 1950.
Ishar Singh Tãgh, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Vigyamulak Adhiyan. Patiala: Jodh Singh Karamjit Singh.
Kala Singh Bedi, Dr. Lipi da Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995.
Kartar Singh Dakha. Gurmukhi te Hindi da Takra. 1948.
Piara Singh Padam, Prof. Gurmukhi Lipi da Itihas. Patiala: Kalgidhar Kalam Foundation Kalam Mandir, 1953.
Prem Parkash Singh, Dr. "Gurmukhi di Utpati." Khoj Patrika, Patiala: Punjabi University.
Pritam Singh, Prof. "Gurmukhi Lipi." Khoj Patrika. p. 110, vol.36, 1992. Patiala: Punjabi University.
Sohan Singh Galautra. Punjab dian Lipiã.
Tarlochan Singh Bedi, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999.
- Punjabi Wikipedia in Shahmukhi Script
- Punjabi Wikipedia in Gurumukhi Script
- Punjabi Computing Resources
- Free Online Gurmukhi Typewriter
- Utility to write in Gurmukhi using Transliteration
- Punjabi Computing Resource Centre
- Saab – A free Unicode 4.0 OpenType Gurmukhi font
- Gurmukhi pseudo text generator
- Free online Punjabi (Gurmukhi) lessons
- Gurmukhi in Guru Granth Sahib
- Learn Gurmukhi
- Omniglot's guide to Gurmukhi
- Test for Unicode support in Web browsers
- Unicode script chart for Gurmukhi (PDF file)
- The Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi language, Literature and Culture, Punjabi University, Patiala
- E-Book on Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi
- -----Golden Temple Amritsar Travel Guide
- ----- Yatra Sri Hemkunt Sahib
- ----- Learn Gurmukhi, Muharni, and how to count in Gurmukhi/Punjabi