xplained by Guru Gobind Singh Ji

Twelfth Story from Sau Sakhi (100 Stories)

One day, a Sikh was reading the Bani of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Dakhnee Oangkaar, and came to the Pangti (line in Gurbani),

ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੈ ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ ॥੩॥

The greatness of the Creator, the Creator knows, and the True Guru knows. ||3||

Instead of reading Kay (ਕੈ with Dulavaa), he read Kae (ਕੇ with Lavaa). When Guru Gobind Singh Ji heard the Sikh mispronouncing Gurbani (The Guru’s Words), they told a nearby Sikh, “Bring that Sikh here, and hit him with a stick.” The Sikh was brought, and Guru Sahib said, “Make him sit further away from me.” Another Sikh asked, "O' Guru Sahib, why did You order to hit this Sikh? What has he done?” Guru Sahib said, “Whoever reads even one Pangti of Gurbani, that person will be saved. This Sikh was reading Dakhnee Oangkaar and mispronouncing Gurbani; how can he be saved?”

Guru Gobind Singh Ji laughed and spoke to the Sikh who was reading the Gurbani, “You were reading Gurbani without understanding what it means.” Guru Sahib taught the Sikh the right way of pronouncing the Pangti above and shared its meaning as well. They said, “the right meaning of this Pangti is, ‘the greatness of the Creator, the Creator knows, and the True Guru knows. The Sikhs learn about the greatness of the Creator from the True Guru.’ By mispronouncing the Kay to Kae, the meaning changes to ‘The greatness of the Creator only the Creator knows, what does the True Guru know?’ If this were the case, then what is the point of going to the True Guru?” Guru Sahib further explain, “O' Gursikhs, read Gurbani with the correct pronunciations, and you shall be liberated. If you have mispronounced Gurbani, then re-read it correctly. One must have the true desire to read Gurbani; only then can one understand the essence of Gurbani.”

History of Santhiya

This was the message of Guru Gobind Singh Ji on the importance of reading Gurbani correctly. Guru Sahib recited the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Damdama Sahib, while Bhai Mani Singh Ji wrote it. At this time, Guru Sahib also taught Santhiya (teaching correct pronunciation of Gurbani) alongside with the meanings of Gurbani. It took nine months, nine days, and nine Gharee (1 gharee = 24 minutes, thus 3.6 hours) to complete this. A group of 48 Singhs learned the full Santhiya with meanings, after which they attained Bidey Mukti (liberation from the ego of this physical body). From these 48  Sikhs, Baba Deep Singh Ji and Bhai Mani Singh Ji were given the duty to spread the Santhiya and meanings of Gurbani. To date, we have institutions such as the Damdami Taksaal and others who continue to teach Gurbani Santhiya.

One of the 52 hukams (orders) of Guru Gobind Singh Ji is to memorize Gurbani and to learn the meanings of Gurbani from learned Gursikhs. In Bhai Desa Singh Ji Rehatnama, Bhai Sahib writes,

ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ ਅਖਰ ਜੋ ਹੈ ਭਾਈ।। ਸਿੰਘ ਸਿੰਘ ਤੇ ਸੀਖਹਿ ਜਾਈ।। 

The alphabets of Gurmukhi, o brothers, every Sikh should learn, and that too learn from other Sikhs. 

Guru Angad Dev Ji, alongside Baba Buddha Ji (Devout Sikh who served the first six Gurus), taught Gurmukhi to the Sangat (congregation). These are those same alphabets that Guru Nanak Dev Ji fashioned. Why is this so significant, you may ask? Gurmukhi was the script that everyone, regardless of caste, could read and write. Gurmukhi brought those who felt unworthy for Vaheguru closer to Vaheguru. The thought that I, too, can learn the language and read the words of the True Guru was liberating for them.

In present times, many do not see the importance of learning Gurmukhi and doing Santhiya. This may be mainly due to a lack of time. We fail to note that in order to understand Gurbani, we have to read it in its original form, Gurmukhi.

Why Can’t I Just Read The Transliterations?

Transliterations are full of flaws. Many Gurmukhi alphabets can’t be found in Roman alphabets, such as ਝ, ਛ, ਧ, ੜ, ਘ, ਣ, ਢ, and many more. Try reading a Gurmukhi Pangti and then the transliterations, listen to how you sound and whether you can understand what you are saying. Both versions sound different. It's challenging to find perfect-sounding Roman alphabets to match the sound of  the Gurmukhi alphabet. 

What if I just read the English translations?

If translations and transliterations were effective, then why did Guru Sahib Ji go through the trouble to create Gurmukhi? Why did they not just use Persian or Sanskrit alphabets to write Gurbani? Translations are the authors' understanding of Gurbani and are not entirely correct. These are useful for beginners to understand Gurbani, but this should just be a stepping stone until one moves on to Gurmukhi. To entirely depend on the English translations can be detrimental to one’s Sikhi as well. An example of this is the same Pangti shown above,

ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੈ ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ ॥੩॥

Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa: Only the Creator Himself knows His own extent; He alone knows the Brave Guru. ||3||

Bhai Manmohan Singh: The Creator's extent, only the Creator knows, or knows the valiant Guru,

Both of these translations have different meanings, and the one which best explains this Pangti is by Bhai Manmohan Singh Ji. There are many instances where the English translations do not do justice to the meaning of Gurbani. Why does this occur, you might ask? Because the English vocabulary itself is limited. Often, English words are used to explain different words in Gurbani. When this happens we lack appreciation for the art of poetry used and, perhaps, completely miss the original message of Gurbani.

There are many translations done in Gurmukhi which are far better than English translations. Some of these include,

  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan is a full translation of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which considers the grammatical aspect of Gurbani. This grammatical aspect is never found in English translations.
  • Sri Ameer Bhandaar Steek tells us the historical context of many Shabads in Gurbani. It is easier for us to read a Shabad when we understand the context and why Guru Sahib wrote it. This also helps us apply Gurbani to situations in our life.
  • Fareedkot Teeka is one of the oldest translations done of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Even the language can be pretty challenging to understand as there is a mix of Hindi within it.

These translations are accessible through iGurbani on your phone or laptop. There are many more Gurmukhi translations of Gurbani which exist. On top of that, we also have dictionaries in Gurmukhi, now available in English, which define all words used in Guru Granth Sahib Ji and other Granths as well. There is truly no reason not to learn Gurmukhi and read Gurbani in its original form. Some apps which include these dictionaries are Isher Micro Media and Punjabi Kosh.

A quote by the very famous George Orwell, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their understanding of their history.”

Gurmukhi is a part of Sikhi, a part of the Khalsa Panth. If we seek Khalsa Raj, then perhaps we have to start with the fundamentals, our language and written script.

Where can I do online Santhiya?

With the advancement of technology, those who can't physically attend Gurbani Santhiya classes, or have time constraints, can do their Santhiya online

Online Santhiya Links:

  • Damdami Taksaal Online Santhiya  
  • Nihung Santhia
  • Gursevak Website
  • Basics of Sikhi - Learn Gurmukhi
  • Baba Darshan Singh Ji Calgary Santhiya

There is so much more we can speak about when it comes to Gurmukhi, but I encourage you to do some reading and contemplation on your own. Sangat Ji, it is never too late to learn the beautiful script that Guru Nanak Dev Ji Themselves fashioned. Take a step closer to getting to know and love our Guru.

This article is a transcribed version of the video

You can help spread the message of Sikhi to people around you by using the leaflet created by the Basics of Sikhi team.
You can also check out our other leaflets on the Downloads page.
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