Gurmukhi : Literally "from the mouth of the
is the name of the script used in writing primarily Punjabi and,
secondarily, Sindhi language. It is used in the Sikh scripture and in
is an evolute from the old Brahmi script like Devanagari and other
scripts of the area like Sharda, Takri, Mahajani etc. Gurmukhi characters
are even older than Devanagari.
word Gurmukhi seems to have gained currency from the use of these
letters to record the sayings coming from the mukh (literally mouth or lips)
of the (Sikh) Gurus. The letters no doubt existed before the time of Guru
Angad Dev(even of Guru Nanak) as they had their origin in the Brahmi, but
the origin of the script is attributed to Guru Angad Dev.
Guru Angad invented the present form of the
Gurmukhi script. It became the medium of writing the Punjabi language in
which the hymns of the Gurus are expressed. This step had a far-reaching
purpose and impact. Firstly, it gave the common people a language that is
simple to learn and write. Secondly, it helped the community to dissociate
itself from the very reserved and complex nature of the Sanskrit religious
tradition so that the growth and development of the Sikhs could take place
unhampered and unprejudiced by the backlog of the earlier religious and
social philosophies and practices.
the Punjabi language was written in the Landa or Mahajani script
This had no vowel sounds, which had to be imagined or construed by the
reader in order to decipher the writing. Therefore, there was the need of a
script which could faithfully reproduce the hymns of the Gurus so that the
true meaning and message of the Gurus could not be misconstrued and
misinterpreted by each reader to suit his own purpose and prejudices. The
devising of the Gurmukhi script was an essential step in order to maintain
the purity of the doctrine and exclude all possibility of misunderstanding
and misconstruction by any person.
Guru Angad Dev ji started the schools and also developed the Gurmukhi
language in order to make education available to the downtrodden and the
underprivileged of the society at that time. Guru Angad was a great teacher
who personally taught Punjabi in Gurmukhi script to children. He provided
education and means of communication to common folk who would no longer be
dependent on the religious or political establishment to pursue their own
economic, educational or spiritual goals. This was his way of empowering
people to have higher goals in life.
imperfect Punjabi alphabet existed at the time of Guru Nanak, but Guru Angad modified and polished it. Since the Guru Angad had adopted the
modified alphabet, it was called 'Gurmukhi'- meaning that which is spoken
through the mouth of the Guru. Gurumukhi became the medium of writing in
which the hymns of the Gurus were expressed and it also suited to the
language of the people. Although the origins of the Punjabi Alphabets are
unclear, it is clear that Guru Angad popularized the use of this simplified
Gurumukhi script among the Sikhs starting around 1541.
invention of Gurumukhi helped the early Sikh community to dissociate
itself from the Sanskrit religious tradition. Sanskrit language was used by
the Brahmins, the upper castes and it was the language of the Vedas, the
Hindu religious texts. People of lower castes and untouchables were barred
from reading any spiritual literature. This maintained the status of the
superiority of the upper castes.
Gurmukhi enabled the Sikhs to grow and develop
their own unprejudiced spiritual literature. Creating this new script was
significant for many reasons. It gave the people who spoke this language an
identity of their own, enabling them to express their thought without any
restrictions. The guru also saw the need of a script which could faithfully
reproduce the hymns of the Gurus keeping its purity and which would also
prevent misinterpretation or misconstruction by any reader to suit his own
purpose and prejudices.
step by Guru Angad Dev helped secure the unhindered development and
growth of Sikhism. Guru Angad also initiated the writing of the first
authorized biography of Guru Nanak completed in 1544, as well as having a
number of copies of Guru Nanak's hymns written out in the new Gurmukhi