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All shabads in Gurbani are written in Gurmukhi (which means: from the mouth of the Guru). It is the language of Naad and the sounds reflect the sound current of Anahat: the unstruck sound of Infinity. When one recites these sounds through the words of the Shabad, it produces profound effects upon the consciousness and soul journey of a person. Among these are the vibratory stimulations of the brain which affect the pineal and pituitary glands. The words can be compared to a typewriter pressing the buttons of the meridians along the upper palate of your mouth to create the effects. For this reason, it is important to product the sounds accurately. Below is a guide to help you recreate the sounds:
Gurmukhi Transliteration Guide
Gurmukhi is phonetic, i.e. all of the sounds are the same wherever you see them in the text.
Vowels are more specific in Gurmukhi than in English. There are long and short vowels. Long vowels are held for a longer amount of time, with the emphasis of the syllables placed on them, rather than on the short vowels.
‘a’ as in up
‘i’ as in is or sit
‘u’ as in push or put
‘o’ as in oat
‘aa’ as in father
‘ay’ as in ate or say
‘ai’ as in at or apple
‘ee’ as in eat
‘oo’ as in soothe or ooze
‘au’ as in Kaur (combination of ‘a’ and ‘u’)
Some constants may be aspirated, i.e. with extra air to make the sound stronger. These are indicated with an ‘h’ after the letter. For example, ‘b’ indicates a regular sound of ‘b’ such as boy, whereas ‘bh’ indicates an aspirated sound. These sounds use your navel to produce the extra air and strong sound.
Notes on Aspirated Sounds:
One sounds with an ‘h’ is not aspirated to indicate the corresponding sound in English. This is ‘ch’ as in ‘chain.’ The aspirated sound of ‘ch’ is indicated with two ‘h’s as in ‘chh.’
English includes non-aspirated sounds with an ‘h’ after a letter, such as ‘thing’ or ‘those.’ There is no such sound in Gurmukhi, so when you see ‘th’ it means it is an aspirated ‘t.’
Some sounds in Gurmukhi are nasalized. These are indicated by an ‘n’ in parentheses. The sound doesn’t completely articulate the ‘n’ sound, it just creates a short ‘n’ in the nasal passage. This can be seen in the word ‘Too(n)’ which means ‘You.’ ‘Too’ is pronounced as it is in English, but ‘Too(n)’ has an added nasalized finishing sound.
Some sounds in Gurmukhi are made by flipping the tongue back from the back of the ridge just behind the arch of the palate, with the tongue flipping forward to complete the sound. These are indicated with a dot (.) or line (_) under the letter. For example, a retroflex ‘d’ would be indicated as ‘ḍ’ or 'd' They may also be indicated with a double letter such as ‘dd'
Additional Study Options to Learn Gurmukhi
Join Online Gurmukhi Classes
Siri Sevak Kaur has been teaching Gurmukhi for over 30 years and hosts online classes for beginners.
You can learn more about these on her website at www.sirisevak.com.
Watch this free Video Series on Youtube
Basics of Sikhi made this free video playlist to help understand how to learn Gurmukhi