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(GURMUKHI) SCRIPT OLDER THAN GURUS

SCRIPT OLDER THAN GURUS

Language is a means of communication and evolves with the culture of any region. There have always been questions about origin and adoption of a language and its script which are not easy to resolve. Some languages in the world can firmly establish their origin as antiquated, however others have to struggle.

Punjabi language and script is much older than the present Devnagri although the name Gurmukhi was coined much later. B.S.Goraya finds proofs of this in various sources.

It is an established fact that Punjabi language and script is as ancient as the region itself. Much before the dispersion of the Aryans not only a language but also a script had evolved. People of the Indus Valley Civilization too had a script, although till date it remains to be deciphered. During his sojourns to India Al Biruni had once recorded "These Hindus also write from left to right like the Greeks do and on the top of each letter there is a line and the letter is hanged downwards from the line. Most prevalent script is

'the Sidh Matrika' which is used in the midland (present UP) and in Kashmir as well."
ln Malwa country (Ujjain) there is a different script used, it is called 'Nagri' (the present Devnagri). Then  there is one more script which is created through the blend of these h^ln  scripts and is called 'Ardhnagri'This is prevalent in the Bhatti land (Punjab) and some parts of the Sindh. Al Biruni named some 11 scripts of this region. Nagri of the eleventh century is vasily available on many stone inscriptions at Malwa. lt has at least 10 letters which have striking similarity with the present Gurmukhi but differ from the present Devnagri. Besides, Gurmkhi inscriptions found on tomb at Athur dated at 147Q AD and discovery of Brahmi brick inscriptions from the Sherkot Mound dating 79 AD to 319 AD by Cunningham (1853) provide enough evidence to prove that Al Biruni's Ardhnagri is nothing but Gurmukhi, a name which was coined much later. Similarly signatures in Gurmukhi and Landey, of the pitgirims who must have visited the ghats during Pre-Nanak days, can be found in the ledgers of Hardwar Pandas.

Like present times certain literary style was prevalent even then. There was a practice among writers and poets to begin a stanza or verse with the alphabet of the tanguage in which they were writing. The order was maintained throughout. This method was prevalent in 30 letter Persian also. Guru Nanak too adopted this style to compose poetry in the then prevalent Punjabi parlance. ln Nanak's 'Patti' the order of 35 akhri is slightly different from today's prevalent order of Gurmukhi. Besides the pronunciation of each letter too iS given. Evidently the language existed before Guru's times. This also invallidates the claimi t h a t  Gurmukhi script was developed by Guru Angad who srrenecrfg6l Nanak There is another episode which confuabs this view- This is recorded in 'Bale w a li Jmansd+f- Once Guru Angad happened to get the 'horoscope' of Guru Nanak but letters of   this document he could not read since they were 'shastri'letters i.e. Devnagri. The Guru then enquires whether there was any one who could read the horoscope in Shastri letters. At that a Gurmukhi reader named Pairha was presented to him who knew Shastri letters as well. On Guru's advice Pairha prepared a 'janam patri', the horoscope, in Gurmukhitoo. Clearly a number of people knew Gurmukhi right in the times of the second Guru and the Nagri script was used by some Brahmins of Punjab.
Somehow, the above mentioned incident has been ignored by Giani Gian Singh (1822 - 1927), the writer of 'Twarikh Guru Khalsa' and proponent of the theory that Gurmukhi script was developed by the second Guru.
It is pertinent to mention here that a script evolves through phonetics of the specific region. As the languages vary from the place of origin so do the scripts. The original base however becomes a signature in all the scripts developed in a particular region. Gurmukhi could not be an exception. lt has remarkable similarity to the scripts of the lands around Punjab viz. fakri of the Himachal hills and some parts of the present Jammu, Sharda of the Kashmir and Landey or MahaJani of Punjab traders and money lenders. Sharda is the successor form of Sidh Matrika and was evolved in Kashmir. lts name is derived from the  Hindi goddess of learning and knowledge, Saraswati. This script was particularly in use mainly in Kashmir, Ganga-Yamuna Doab, in the Universities of Kanauj and Benares, and also in some parts of Punjab. lt is virtually extinct now and has been replaced by Devnagri. ln grapheme Gurmukhi is closer to Sharda than to Devnagri. lt may be mentioned here that prevalence of Sharda was at its peak during the period from 6th C. to 10 C. A.D. Gurmukhi and Takri are remarkably similar. ln fact all except ietters of Gurmukhi are similar to that of Takri while one 'rh' (as in Chandigarh) is the additional letter of Gurmukhi. Some writers like G.B. Singh feel that Takri might have been the old name of Gurmukhi, the script of the land of five rivers. Stone inscriptions found in the hill ranges around Punjab i.e. from Pinjore near Chandigarh to Jammu slightly differ from Gurmukhi. Landey also varies from one area to another yet an element of continuity always remains. This again, could be due to the fact that languages and scripts have varied with variations in the areas.
As for'Ardhnagri', it is betieved that it is nothing but Takri. a language of the Takk people of Takk desh i.e. Taxila (Taksh) City or University in the Punjab. Thus Ardhnagri' of Al Biruni is nothing but the soipt of the Taksh or he Takk people.
 Landey, the term in Punjabi means tailless animal; is actually the shorthand script mainly derived from Punjabi language. ln this script, there was no line above the alphabet. Traders had their own respective forms of Landey and these were known as Sarafi, Mahajani, Khoja, Arora, Lamavasi, Multani, Bahawalpuri, Prachi, Uchi, Rohri, Sindhi, Sarika, Thali, Kirki etc. Prevalence of English, Devnagri, Persian and Gurmukhi has overshadowed Landey which is now merely used by some aged accountants. Significantly Landey of areas around Delhi are closer to Devnagri while those of the Central Punjab are closer to Gurmukhi. '
 During pre-vedic and vedic period the area probably now known as U.P. had the privilege of having some centres of advanced leaming and the Punjabi Brahmins were influenced by the U.P- Brahmins. ln fact the Brahmins from. U.P. would not recognize Punjabi Brahmins. The  inferiority felt by the later inadverdently made them use the favourite script of the U.P. Brahmins. ln any case with the advent of lslam in Punjab the Hindu learning was on its decline in Punjab.  Gradually  Devnagri  absorbed the Sidh Matrika in U.P. and the Sharda in Kashmir too vanished almost simultaneously. 
Devnagri  was  evolved in the Malwadesh or Ujjain around 10 century AD. Surprisingly Gurmukhi is closer to the original Devnagri script in some ways.
Pundit Gauri Shankar, a renowned linguist opines. that Gurmukhi is much older than the present Devnagri. He also asserts that this is true of all the scripts of the Punjab. According to Pundit Ojha Devnagri ruled in the areas of present U.P., M.P. , Gujarat and Rajasthan. ln thr Punjab and Kashmir Shard a was used. 
DEVNAGRI DOES NOT SUIT PUNJABI:
Gurmukhi or say Ardhnagri or Takri has been in use in the land of five rivers for centuries.' These were developed in the region -keeping in view the phonetic sounds emerging from the Puniabi throat, Devnasri has  52 lefters and its present form came into being in the 17th c. AD. When compared with 35 letters of Gurmukhi it appears that there are some superfluous letters in Devnagri like sha, aksha, tra, gyawhich havevirtually been omitted from Gurmukhi. On the  also. Ram [it'urti fUenrotra, a linguist, suggests in his'Lipi Vikas', "lf Nagri is to be made the national script there is need of so much of modifications." Efforts have been made to use Persian as a script for Punjabi Language. Urdu, the language of the


masses, as it was once known, is basically Hindustani written in Persian script. A language of the bazaar, the monastery and the salons, Urdu's flowering does not go beyond the 13th century. ln its script Persian too has some superfluous letters like se, swad, seen, zal,zoi,ze,ze he, and re. These duplicate letters might have some meaningful distinctions in sound but Punjabis are seldom able to distinguish these accents. Evidently Gurmukhi is a phonetic scriptwith 35 letters for allthe primary phonetic sounds. There is no superfluous letter. Each letter is distinct in shape, leaving no room for confusion. lts alphabet is in accordance with scientific sequence of phonetic sounds. lt has been termed as the easiest of all scripts of India. The size of its lefters has a remarkable uniformity. As a result its tYPe is aesthetically pleasant. Languages like Brij, Sanskrit and Persian have also been written in it with ease. Now we come to the issue of the name of the Puniabi scriPt i.e. Gurmukhi. Before Guru Nanak adopted the Punjabi language to disseminate his message it had been termed as Jaftki, Jattka, Gwaru, Hindvi, Hindku and such aspersive terms. Guru revived the script of the People's language which had lost its original name and was on the verge of extinction. Guru Nanak gaye a new meaning to the Ardhnagri or the Takri which had been discarded bY the Brahmins of the Punjab since the Guru turned the manmukhs or the ignorants into learned, the Gurumukhs. The script through which he provided the new awakening came to be known as Gurmukhi. lt is likely that some changes and improvements were made by the script of Punjabi or the Takkior in otherwords language of the fle rivers. Indubitably it is the Ardhnagri of Al Biruni. Only a parochial outlook can shun itforthe reason that its name was given by the Guru or his disciples. "Indian lliterature is one though written in many languages" this aphoristic slogan of Sahitya Akadmi  has been challenged by thinkers w  feel that literature is language bas  and is intrinsically linked with t  language in which it is writte  Opposing the above view itcan be sal  that there are as many literatures i  India as there are languages whi  have flowered into literature. But t  we cannot also deny that there  specific Indianness, some commq culturat characteristics which like { thread holds the multicolored 0"4  of varied tanguages. llll  other ', iand Devnagri has no specific letters to cope with the special Punjabi style of pronunciation. Bha as in 'bhara', gh (ghar), jh (jhanda), dh (dhaaga), dh as in 'dhan' are a few examples.

Gurmukhi has 'dolavan' and 'kanohra'which have no Parallel in Devnagri. ln Gurmtrkhi there is an additional letter'rh' which is missing in Devnagri, hence pronunciation of word such as 'gorha' 'ghorha' 'kharkhu' etc. is not Possible in languages using Devnagri. To stress a particular letier in Devnagri it is to be repeated while in Gurmukhithe use of the symbol 'adhik' does the job and thus saves space and time. Besides the Devnagri script has limitations and weaknesses from printing point of view also. Ram Murti Mehrotra, a linguist, suggests in his 'Lipi Vikas', "lf Nagri is to be made the national script there is need of so much of modifications." Efforts have been made to use Persian as a script for Punjabi Language. Urdu, the language of the masses, as it was once known, is basically Hindustani written in Persian script. A language of the bazaar, the monastery and the salons, Urdu's flowering does not go beyond the 13th century. ln its script Persian too has some superfluous letters like se, swad, seen, zal, zoi, ze, ze he, and re. These duplicate letters might have some meaningful distinctions in sound but Punjabis are seldom able to distinguish these accents. Evidently Gurmukhi is a phonetic script with 35 letters for all the


primary phonetic sounds. There is no superfluous letter. Each letter is distinct in shape, leaving no room for confusion. lts alphabet is in accordance with scientific sequence of phonetic sounds. lt has been termed as the easiest of all scripts of India. The size of its lefters has a remarkable uniformity. As a result its type is aesthetically pleasant. Languages like Brij, Sanskrit and Persian have also been written in it with ease. Now we come to the issue of the name of the Puniabi script i.e. Gurmukhi. Before Guru Nanak adopted the Punjabi language to disseminate his message it had been termed as Jattki, Jattka,

Gwaru, Hindvi, Hindku and such aspersive terms. Guru revived the script of the People's language which had lost its original name and was on the verge of extinction. Guru Nanak gave a new meaning to the Ardhnagri or the Takri which had been discarded bY the Brahmins of the Punjab since the Guru turned the manmukhs or the ignorants into learned, the Gurumukhs. The script through which he provided the new awakening came to be known as Gurmukhi. lt is likely that some changes and improvements were made by the script of Punjabi or the Takki or in other words language of the fle rivers. Indubitably it is the Ardhnagri of Al Biruni. Only a parochial outlook can shun it for the reason that its name was given by the Guru or his disciples.
 "Indian literature is one though written in many languages" this aphoristic slogan of Sahitya Akadmi  has


been challenged by thinkers who feel that literature is language based and is intrinsically linked with the language in which it is written Opposing the above view it can be said that there are as many literatures India as there are languages which have flowered into literature. But then we cannot also deny that there specific Indian-ness, some common cultural characteristics which like thread holds the multicolored bead of varied languages.
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Anonymous said...

Thank you. This one of the best articles available on the Gurmukhi script.

Can another such , follow-up article not be posted , too ?

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