jI aAieaA: n<*
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is the name of the script used in writing primarily Punjabi and,
secondarily, Sindhi language. The word gurmukhi seems to have gained
currency from the use of these letters to record the sayings coming
from the much (lit. mouth or lips) of the (Sikh) Gurus. The letters
no doubt existed before the time of Guru Angad (even of Guru Nanak) as
they had their origin in the Brahmi, but the origin of the script is
attributed to Guru Angad. He not only modified and rearranged certain
letters but also shaped them into a script. He gave new shape and new
order to the alphabet and made it precise and accurate. He fixed one
letter for each of the Punjabi phonemes; use of vowel-symbols was made
obligatory, the letters meant for conjuncts were not adopted and only
those letters were retained which depicted sounds of the then spoken
language . There was some rearrangement of the letters also.
is commonly accepted that Gurmukht is a member of the Brahmi
family. Brahml is an Aryan script which was developed by the Aryans
and adapted to local needs. According to an opinion, the Brahmi script
was introduced between the 8th and the 6th centnries BC. It does not
concern us here whether the script was foreign or local, but it
has now heen established, on the basis of internal evidence, that
whatever be its name, the Aryans did have a system of writing which
must have been borrowed freely from local scripts. The Iranians
ruled in the Punjab in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. They brought
with them Aramaic script, which helped in the growth of Kharosthi
largely used in the Punjab, Gandhar and Sindh between 300 BC
and 3rd century AD. But even then Brahmi, which in its development
in the Punjab had undergone several changes, was commonly used
along with Kharosthi . There are coins of the Bactrian kings and
inscriptions of the Kushan rulers having both scripts on them. Brahmi
was, of course,
more popular on account of its simple curves alternated with straight
strokes. Hence, in due course, it replaced Kharosthi and became the
single script with composite features effected by various local and
neighbourly influences. With the growth of literary and cultural
activity during the Gupta period (4th and 5th century AD), the Brahmi
script improved further and became more expansive and common.
Immediately later, it developed, especially in northern India,
fine curves and embellished flourishes with a small headline over
each letter, and became rather ornamental. This stage of Indian script
was called Kutil, meaning curved. From Kutil evolved the Siddhamatrika
which had the widest use in northern India. Some scholars think that
these two scripts existed simultaneously. From the sixth century to
the ninth, Siddhamatrika had a very wide use from Kashmir to Varanasi.
With the rise of regional languages taking the place of Sanskrit
and Prakrit, regional scripts grew in numnber. Ardhanagari (west),
Sharda (Kashmir) and Nagari (beyond Delhi) came into use, and later
both Sharda and Devanagari, an offshort of Nagari, started their
inroads into the land of the five rivers. This is evident from
the coins of the Ghaznavids and Goris minted at Lahore and Delhi.
It is also known that the common (non-Brahman and non-official)
people used a number of scripts for their temporal and commercial
requirements. Of these Lande and Takre characters were most prevalent.
is on account of these currents that scholars have tried
to establish relationships of Gurmukhi with Devanagri (G.H. Ojha),
Ardhanagan (C.B. Singh), Siddhamatrika (Pritam Singh), Sharda
Diringer) and Brahmi (generally) . Some ascribe it to lande and
some others to Takn, a branch of Sharda used in Chamba and Kaligra.
The fact is that it is dervied from or at least allied to all these
and others mentioned above in their historical perspective. Regionally
and contemporarily compared, Gurmukhi characters
have direct similarities with Gujrati, Lande, Nagan, Sharda and Takn:
they are either exactly the same or essentially alike.
aara, haha, chacha, naana, dadda, nanna, naa, lalla letters of Gurmukhi
had undergone some minor orthographical changes before AD 1610.
Further changes came in the forms of aaraa, haaha, and lalla in the first
half of the nineteenth century. The manuscripts belonging to the
eighteenth century have slightly different forms of these letters.
But the modern as well as old forms of these letters are found
in the orthography of the same writers in seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. Another reform carried out is the separation of
lexical units of the sentence which previously formed one
jumbled unit; lately punctuation marks borrowed from English have
been incorporated besides the full stop (|) which existed
Gurmukhi script is semi-syllabic in the sense that 'a'
is included in the consonant signs in some situations. This 'a'
is not pronounced at the end of the syllable. Thus, kl (in punjabi)
and RAM in punjabi is Ram, that is, k in (kal ) represents k+a, while
l represents only l. Other vowels after consonants are shown by
vowel symbols which also happen to be the first three letters of
the Gurmukhl alphabet Of these, the first and the third are not
used independently. They always have a diacritic attached to them.
the second letter is used without diacritics also, and in that case
it is equivalent to 'a' as in English 'about'. With diacritics
a total of ten vowels are formed, viz., u, u, o, a, a, ai, au,
i, l and e. Of these vocalic diacritics, 'i' occurs before a consonant
(although pronounced after it), u and u are written below;
a and l after a consonant; and e, ai, o and au over a consonant.
Similarly, the nasalization sign is also used over a consonant
though in fact it nasalizes the vowel. Of all the vowel-marks,
called lagari in Punjabi, a is the oldest, though initially just a dot
was used for it. The vowel-marks l and u are found in Asokan edicts and
Gurmukhi letters have uniform height and can be written
between two parallel horizontal lines, with the only exception of e
(the first letter of the alphabet) the top curve of which extends beyond
the upper line. From left to right, too, they have almost uniform
length, only of ( aira) and us (ghaggrha) may be slightly longer
than the rest. However, the placing of vowel-symbols under and
over the letters, a characteristic of all Indian scripts, creates
some problems in printing and typing. No change is effected in the
form of the letter when a vowel-symbol or diacritic is attached to
it, the only exception
being e to which an additional curve is added which represents
two syllables. This is the only example of a single graphic form
representing multiple sounds (and this form has a theological background);
otherwise there is no Gurmukhl letter representing more than one
phoneme, and there are no digraphs.
has played a significant role in Sikh faith
and tradition. It was originally employed for the Sikh scriptures.
The script spread widely under Maharaja Ranjit Singh
and after him
under the Punjab Sikh chiefs, for administrative purposes. It played
a great part in consolidating and standardizing the Punjabi language.
For centuries it has been the main medium of literacy in the
Punjab and its adjoining areas where earliest schools were
attached to gurdwaras. Now it is used in all spheres of culture,
arts, education and administration. It is the state script of
the Punjab and as such its common and secular character has been
alphabet has also crossed the frontiers of its homeland.
Sikhs have settled in all parts of the world and Gurmukhi has accompanied
them everywhere. It has a brighter fixture, incleed, in and outside
the land of its birth. Till recently, Persian script was largely
used for Punjabi and there was initially a considerable amount of
writing in this script, but it is becoming dated now. However, in
the Pakistan Punjab Punjabi is still studied, at postgraduate level,
in Persian script now called "ShahMukhi".