Cookie Consent

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation and analyze site usage. View our Privacy Policy for more information.

up arrow
Introduction to Shudh Ucharan

Gurbani Ji through the eyes of Guru Sahib

Gurbani Ji is held supreme for Guru Sahib Ji. Gurbani Ji was uttered by Guru Sahib themselves, ਅਖਰ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਖਿਓ ਆਪਿ ॥, hence all Akhars (letters) are of utmost respect. Since every letter and vowel was uttered from Guru Sahib Ji, we should see it with utmost respect and repeat all the letters, vowels, and pauses. ਸਾਜਨੁ ਮੀਤੁ ਸਖਾ ਕਰਿ ਏਕੁ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਅਖਰ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਖੁ ॥੩॥

The importance of proper/pure pronunciation of Gurbani is referenced in many different historical references and anecdotes. Guru Sahib constantly tells us the utmost importance of reading Bani with its proper pronunciation.

During a discussion with their leading court Poet (Bhai Nand Lal Ji), our Tenth Guru describes the three forms by which they will forever reside in this world. Within this, they describe Guru Granth Sahib Ji and its Bani as their very form, stating:

Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Bhai Nand Lal Ji
ਦੂਸਰ ਰੂਪ; ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਜੀ ਜਾਨਹੁ ॥
ਅਪਨੋ ਅੰਗ; ਮੇਰੇ ਕਰ ਮਾਨੋ ॥
ਰੋਮ ਰੋਮ ਅੱਛਰ ਸੋ ਲਹਹੁ ॥
ਬਾਤ ਜਥਾਰਥ ਤੁਮ ਸੋਂ ਕਹਹੁੰ ॥੮॥
[Guru Gobind Singh Ji states:] Oh my beloved! My second form is the True Guru - Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Regard the Guru and their Bani as my very limbs! [Oh beloved Bhai Nand Lal Ji] I speak these true edicts to you: regard each of the UTMOST PRAISEWORTHY CHARACTERS found in Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the VERY HAIRS OF MY BODY.

Due to countless affirmations like the above by the Gurus themselves, Sikhs treat Guru Granth Sahib Ji and its Bani with the utmost respect. In fact, we don’t even say pages of Guru Granth Sahib Ji - we say Ang (limb) number. So, if each lag (vowel, consonant and punctuation) is like the hair of Guru Sahib’s body, skipping even one small sihari, unkar or any other ਲਗ (character) is literally like cutting off a hair of Guru Sahib! YIKES!

Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib
The Establishment of Damdami Taksal

Sometimes while reading, we have accustomed ourselves to overlooking smaller punctuations like siharees, unkars, etc. as this is often the norm when reading Punjabi. However, Gurmukhi (the dialect uttered from the tongue of the Guru) is totally different.

Gurmukhi is not just limited to the words found in Punjabi, but instead utilizes the grammar, word roots and vocabulary found from a multitude of regional dialects/languages. As such, the meanings of Bani can be turned upside down by switching just one lag of Bani. In fact, this is exactly the reason the Damdami Tarsal (an educational institute started by Guru Gobind Sahib Ji) was established:

Imagine this - it's Hola Mahalla (a Sikh Festival) and Guru Gobind Singh Ji are sitting in meditation in their bungalow at Anandpur Sahib. While sitting, they hear one of their Sikhs reciting Bani and as he reads, he accidentally mispronounces a word. Guru Sahib Ji instructs him twice to “READ BANI PROPERLY!” However, the Sikh is so absorbed in the sound of the Bani, he doesn’t hear Guru Sahib. What happens next? Guru Sahib Ji actually orders their attendant to go slap the Sikh while he’s reading Bani!

At this point, that Sikh and the entire congregation have the same question that we all probably do. “Guru Ji, I thought reading Bani was supposed to bring us pleasure and help attain your happiness? But instead you just ordered the reader to be slapped!?”

Anandpur Sahib Hola Mahalla

The all knowing Guru Ji answers this by saying, “Oh my beloved followers! This Bani is my very form; my very limbs; the very hairs on my body. The pain this Sikh felt while being slapped is like the pain I feel every time Bani is misread.” Guru Sahib Ji then explains that the Sikh read:

instead of:
ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਜਾਣੈ;
ਕੈ ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ॥

He overlooked just a single ਲਗ (character) of Bani while reading, but this butchered the entire meaning! The line was supposed to mean that (ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ) The creator’s (ਮਿਤਿ) customs/practices/extent are only (ਜਾਣੈ) known by (ਕਰਤਾ) the creator himself, (ਕੈ) OR (ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ) by the brave Guru - Guru Nanak Dev Ji. In fact, this is why Guru Nanak came to this Earth!

To spread the eternal truth of these practices to the whole world. However, you stated (ਕੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ) meaning WHAT does the brave Guru know about these eternal truths/practices? One lag overlooked, and suddenly Guru Nanak Dev Ji is just an ordinary person who doesn’t recognize God! This perfectly illustrates why it’s so important that we learn the proper recitation of Bani and always read it in its full form as written.

Kai becomes Kay and reforms
This idea is supported throughout Gurbani. Bhai Gurdaas Ji states:
ਜੈਸੇ ਲਗ ਮਾਤ੍ਰ ਹੀਨ ਪੜਤ ਅਉਰ ਕਉ ਅਉਰ ਪਿਤਾ ਪੂਤ ਪੂਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਜਾਨੀਐ।
ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ ਜੀ : ਕਬਿੱਤ ੨੬੪ ਪੰ. ੧
If all the (ਲਗਾਂ) characters in a word are not properly pronounced, the word loses its literal meaning. It’s like calling a father the son, or a son the father. (Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Kabit 264)