THE THIRTY-FIVE LETTERS PAIṄTĪS AKHARĪ
BY DR KAMALROOP SINGH (AKALI NIHANG)
"THE THIRTY-FIVE GURMUKHI CHARACTERS ARE GIVEN BELOW. THEY ARE CALLED THE VARAṆAMALA (vrxmwlw) OR THE PAIṄTĪS AKHARĪ (pYNqI AKr).
I HAVE GIVEN THE SOUNDS IN THE TRANSLITERATION SCHEME USING THE ACCEPTED INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION."
WHAT IS PAIṄTĪS AKHARĪ?
The Paiṅtīs Akharī is an acrostic bani about the Gurmukhi alphabet said to be by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is apocryphal as it is not in the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Guru describes the experience or attributes of Ik Oaṅkār with each letter, or the non-divisible advait Vahiguru, which is the ecstatic experience of non-duality.
The state of enlightenment or Nirvana is described, where the term turia is employed by Guru, he states that in actual fact there is no difference between the soul and the Super-soul, like water that merges back into water.
The cover shows the Thirty-Five letters of the Gurmukhi Alphabet written by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, and the Muhārnī, which is a special way to learn all the sounds in Gurbani.
By the Guru writing the letters at the top and alongside his Gurbani we can safely conclude that Gurmukhi script itself is considered holy and is a spiritual language. G. B. Singh (1950) concluded that it was more ancient than even Sanskrit (which has Fifty-Two letters), and provided detailed impressions of ancient rock carvings of glyphs to prove it. (See the table below)
G. B. Singh, Gurmukhī Lippīdā Jānam te Vikās, Chandigarh, 1950.
According to Prof Anurag Singh and the late Giani Sant Singh Maskeen some of them are also found in Turkmenistan. G. B. Singh has proved that development of all languages began with Runes and Hieroglyphics, which is a fascinating angle on the history of Gurmukhi.
In the tradition it is said each sound resonates from a certain chakra, and is said to purify them (see the diagram by Sant Sher Singh on the next page). Each letter and word must be perfected via special methods in order to perfect the banis, this is known as santhiā.
According to the poet Kankan, who was in the Court of the Tenth Master, it was Guru Nanak Dev Ji who first wrote his bani in a language easier than the Vedas. (1)
Previous to the Singh Sabha, Punjabi was written in Persian characters otherwise called Shahmukhi.
In the tradition, to use Gurmukhi for everyday purposes was considered a tankha (not within maryada), and to throw away Gurmukhi characters was considered a gross violation of rahit, due to the prāṇa or life force they carry. Therefore, any Gurbani no matter what language it is written in should never be placed on the floor or touched with unwashed hands, and the head should always be covered. In the tradition we see Gurbani as a mirror of the Universe, so the more we elevate Gurbani the more we are actually elevated in our lives. Sri Singh Sahib, Harbhajan Singh Yogi, in his Nitnem Namaa states that 'The Paintees Akharee gives the understanding of Yoga'. He also stated that it gives secret knowledge.
A similar but much longer bani by Guru Nanak Dev Ji about the Gurmukhi alphabet is called Paṭī Likhī meaning 'Writing in the Slate', and it is in the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In this composition the Guru states, 'No accounting is due from the Gurmukh who understands the riddle through these letters'. This also shows the status these letters had for him and also proves he actually standardised the system of Gurmukhi letters as we know it today.
On the final day of completing this document(16/1/16), I took a Hukamnāmā (or random edict or shabad) from Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and was amazed to see that it was in fact this composition the Paṭī Likhī (ang orp. 432).
There is also a Chanṅd or metre in the Sri Dasam Granth Sahib Ji where the end of each letter, at the end of the verses, is one of the Paiṅtīs Akharī, which is found in the Krishanāvatār.
(1) Kavi Kankan, Das Gur Kathā, Amritsar: Khalsa College, ms. 1797A
The thirty-five Gurmukhi characters are given below. They are called the varaṇamālā (vrxmwlw) or the Paint īs Akharī (pYNqI A`Kr).
I have given the sounds in the transliteration scheme using the accepted international convention. Many people from different countries read these documents, and unfortunately in European languages the sounds of letters change from language to language, for example the letter h in Spanish. Therefore to be clear, the international convention has been employed, which can be studied, and it is the most correct method to Romanise Gurmukhi. This system keeps the actual letters and language intact which is important for many reasons. Below that I have included a diagram that shows where the sound of each letter comes from when we repeat each line in the varaṇamālā. This corresponds to the chakra system of yoga. There are references to them in Gurbani, for instance Bhagat Kabir Ji writes "The Chakras of the coiled Kundalini energy have been opened".
I hope to run courses on this in the near future, as it is necessary to understand this to fully grasp the power and function of Gurbani, and to perfect our reading of it. Westerners generally have problems in pronouncing the last line of the varaṇamālā (ya ra la va Ra), especially the retroflex Ra. According to the tradition, this is for various reasons and is related to how sound is created and heard within the human body, but it can be rectified with practice and meditation.
Those who doubt the importance of the sounds of letters in the Sikh tradition, they should refer to verse nineteen of the Jap Jī Sāhib where the word or letter is praised by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The first letter Oaṛā (a) contains all the sounds in the varaṇamālā.
a A e s h
k K g G | (Gutturals)
c C j J \ (Palatals)
t T f F x (Cerebrals)
q Q d D n (Dentals)
p P b B m (Labials)
X r l v V
o a e sa ha
ka Ka ga Ga Va
ca Ca ja Ja Ya
qa Qa wa Wa Na
ta Ta da Da na
pa Pa ba Ba ma
ya ra la va Ra
Taken from Param Akharīkī Paintī Akharī
by Sher Singh (1942) (2)
The Paintīs Akharī is a rosary of the thirty-five letters of the Gurmukhi alphabet above. It is the spiritual explanation of each of the letters. Each sentence begins with each letter in turn. Bhai Kanh Singh Nabha says that this has been written by a Sikh, however, traditional organisations like the Nirmale, Taksal, Udasi, Sewa Panthi and Akali Nihang Singh Panths all believe this to be the work of the Guru. This includes great Sikh saints like Sant Baba Bhagwan Singh Ji. It is apocryphal and not in the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but as we shall see it is still found in ancient handwritten manuscripts..
(2) I was lucky enough to meet a student of Sant Sher Singh ‘Nirmala’, whose name is Sant Baba Giana Singh who is now over 105 years old and a master of Jhatka-Gatka. I went through this book at his Divine Feet, and he generously taught even more than what is contained within it. I am forever indebted to him.
In terms of ritualistic practice, this composition is for Japa, or to be repeated. Some great Sikh Masters say to read the Mūl Maṅtra before this composition and tofinish it with a Shaktī maṅtra (there are two different types), at the end to complete it, known as a paisachī . One of them sounds like an Udasi maṅtra at the end, while the other maṅtra is said to have been given to Guru Gobind Singh on revealing the Bhagauti. The Paiṅtīs Akharī was said to be practiced on the full moon, but othersbelieve this is against Gurmat or the thinking of the Guru, like Kanh Singh of Nabha. The Suṅdar Guṭkā published by Sant Mohan Singh contains apocryphal banīā that are nowconsidered by some as being false bānī and unworthy to read, such as the Paiṅtīs Akharī.
This bani was probably an oral tradition that got written down at a later point. The old manuscripts show that as certain letters have been changed like Abinashi to Avinashi. As this Paiṅtīs Akharī is not in the Adi Guru Granth Sahib Ji, this may give reason to believe that this composition was a part of the learning process, in order to recite Gurbani. Many ancient manuscripts like the one below contain this bani.
The Paiṅtīs Akharī in a manuscript from the 18th century. Photograph © by the author. (3)
Taken at Baba Bagel Singh Nihang Museum, Sri Bangla Sahib, Delhi.
(3) Prīchhiā Pātshāhī 10, New Delhi: Baba Baghel Singh Museum, Bangla sahib.
TRANSLATION OF THE PAIṄTĪS AKHARĪ
EAMkwr srb pRkwsI]
Awqm suD Ak®Y AibnwsI]
eIs jIv myN Byd n jwno]
swD cor siB bRhmu pCwno]
hsqI cItI iqRx lO AwdM]
eyk AKMfq bsY AnwdM]1]
au Aw eI sw hw]
oaṅkÁr sarab prakÁsÅ.
Átam shuD akrÄ abinÁsÅ.
Åsa jÅva meṅ Bed na jÁno.
sÁD chor saBi brahamu paChÁno.
hasatÅ chÅqÅ triNa lÖ Ádaṅ.
ek aKaṅwat basÄ anÁdaṅ.1.
u Á Å sÁ hÁ
Oankar is the Creator of all. From the sound Oaṅ all life sprang forth. Akār, Ukār, and Makār the three syllables, that give birth, preserve and destroy. Like God, generation – order - destruction. In numerology Oankar is 108 – the One, the Zero, and the Infinite. The soul is pure beyond actions and Eternal. Do not differentiate between any forms of life. Recognise a Saint or thief as the Creator. As the Elephant, Ant, Grass, are of the [same] basic elements. So, does the Unbroken One dwell Eternally in them.1.
u Á Å sÁ hÁ.
kwrx krx Akrqw khIey]
Bwn pRkws jgq ijau lhIey]
Kwn pwn kCu rUp n ryKM]
inribkwr AdYÍq AlyKM]
gwq gRwm sB dys idsMqr]
siq krqwr srb ky AMqr]
Gn kI inAweIN sdw AKMfq]
i|Awn boD prmwqm pMfq]2]
kw Kw gw Gw |w]
kÁraN karaN akaratÁ kahÅe.
BÁn prakÁs jagat jiu lahÅe.
KÁn pÁn kaChu rçp na reKaṅ.
nirabikÁr adÄvat aleKaṅ.
gÁt grÁm saB desh disaṅtar.
sati karatÁr sarab ke aṅtar.
Gan kÅ niÁÅṅ sadÁ aKaṅwat.
ViÁn boD paramÁtam paṅwat.2.
kÁ KÁ gÁ GÁ VÁ.
The Doer of all, [yet] said to be the One beyond-Creating.
The light that sustains the whole Universe.
Without garb, and with no form or outline.
Without pollution, non-divisible, and Indescribable.
In the body, cities, and in all countries.
The True Creator is in all.
Beyond all differences and always Eternal.
Beyond the intellect is the Soul, one who knows it is the true scholar.2.
kÁ KÁ gÁ GÁ VÁ.
cwp gÎwn kir jwih ibrwjY]
CwXw dYÍq sgl auT BwjY]
jwgq supn sKopq qurIAw]
Awqm BUpqkI eyhpurIAw]
Junqkwr Anhd GnGorM]
iqRkutI BIqir Aiq Cb jorM]
\wxq jogI ieAw rs bwqw]
sohM Sbd AmI rs mwqw]3]
cw Cw jw Jw \w]
chhÁp gÁna kari jÁhi birÁjÄ.
ChÁyÁ dÄvat sagal uQ BÁjÄ.
jÁgat supan saKopat turÅÁ.
Átam BçpatakÅ ehapurÅÁ.
JunatakÁra anahad GanaGoraṅ.
trikuqÅ BÅtari ati Chab joraṅ.
YÁNata jogÅ iÁ rasa bÁtÁ.
sohaṅ shabad amÅ ras mÁtÁ.3.
chÁ ChÁ jÁ JÁ YÁ.
Take the bow of self-knowledge and be at ease.
The shadow of duality will all get up and run.
In waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, and the Fourth State [Nirvana].
The Creator of the soul is this completion.
Within which you will see the divine lightening, unstuck sound, and thunder.
Within the meeting at the third eye is much glory.
Only an experienced yogi knows the essence within this bowl.
Who with the word Soham drinks in the elixir.3.
chÁ ChÁ jÁ JÁ YÁ.
twrx BRmn AGn kI sYnw]
siqguru mukiq pdwrQ dYnw]
Twkq duibDw inrml krxM]
fwir suDw muK Aupdw hrxM]
Fwpiq dYÍq AMDyrI mn kI]
xwsiq gur BRmqw sB qn kI]4]
tw Tw fw Fw xw]
qÁraN Braman aGan kÅ sÄnÁ.
satiguru mukati padÁraT dÄnÁ.
QÁkat dubiDÁ niramal karaNaṅ.
wÁri suDÁ muK aupadÁ haraNaṅ.
WÁpati dÄvat aṅDerÅ man kÅ.
NÁsati gur BramatÁ saB tan kÅ.4.
qÁ QÁ wÁ WÁ NÁ.
All loss is from the ignorance caused by the army of sin.
The True Guru gives the treasure of liberation.
Who covers and gets rid of doubt and purifies.
Who puts the ambrosia into the mouth which dispels pain.
Who stops duality and the darkness of the mind.
The Guru rids all the doubt within the whole body.4.
qÁ QÁ wÁ WÁ NÁ.
qwrxgurU ibnw nih koeI]
sRiq isimRiq sB bwq proeI]
Qwn AdYÍq qbI jwie prsY]
mn bc krm gurU pg drsY]
dwird rog imty sB qnkw]
gur kruxw kr hovY mukqw]
DMn gurdyv mukiq ky dwqy]
nwnw nyq byd ijs gwqy]5]
qw Qw dw Dw nw]
tÁraNagurç binÁ nahi koÅ.
srati simriti saB bÁt paroÅ.
TÁn adÄvat tabÅ jÁi parasÄ.
man bach karam gurç pag darasÄ.
dÁrid rog miqe saB tanakÁ.
gur karuNÁ kar hovÄ mukatÁ.
Daṅna guradev mukati ke dÁte.
nÁnÁ net bed jis gÁte.5.
tÁ TÁ dÁ DÁ nÁ.
In this worldly ocean the Guru is the only boat.
This is recorded in the Shastras and Simritis.
Whose place is none duality which is found if we strive [for it].
Mind, words and deed, should be offered to the vision of the Guru’s feet.
All pain and disease is then rid of from the body.
The Guru is merciful and grants liberation.
Praise the Guru the giver of liberation.
The Vedas sing you are not this not that.5.
tÁ TÁ dÁ DÁ nÁ.
pwrbRhm sB mwih smwnw]
sWiq isDWiq kIE bKXwnw]
Pws ktI dYÍq gur pUry]
bwjy sbd Anwhd qUry]
bwxI bRhm swQ BXo mylw]
BMg dYÍq hau sdw Akylw]
mwn Apmwn doaU jr gey]
joaU Qy soaU pun Bey]6]
pw Pw bw Bw mw]
pÁrabraham saB mÁhi samÁnÁ.
sÁṅti siDÁṅti kÅo baKayÁnÁ.
PÁs kaqÅ dÄvat gur pçre.
bÁje shabad anÁhad tçre.
bÁNÅ braham sÁT Bayo melÁ.
Baṅg dÄvat hau sadÁ akelÁ.
mÁn apamÁn doç jar ge.
joç Te soç pun Be.6.
pÁ PÁ bÁ BÁ mÁ.
The great Creator is in everything all around.
This is explained from the knowledge of Oneness that creates peace.
The perfect Guru cuts the noose of duality.
The Shabad resounds with the unstruck sound and flutes.
When meeting with the word of the Creator [bani].
Duality is destroyed and Oneness is eternal.
Honour and dishonour are have both been burnt away.
Merging into the original form is the only true charity.6.
pÁ PÁ bÁ BÁ mÁ.
Xw ikrXw kau soaU pCwnY]
AdYÍq AKMf Awp kau mwnY]
riv rhy sB mih purK AlyKM]
Awid Apwr Anwd AByKM]
VwV imtI Awqm drswnw]
pRgty gXwn joiq qb Bwnw]
ilvlIn Bey Awqm mD AYsy]
ijau jl jlih Byd khu kYsy]
vwsdyv ibn Avr n koaU]
nwnk EA M sohM Awqm soaU]7]
Xw rw lw vw Vw]
yÁ kirayÁ kau soç paChÁnÄ.
adÄvat aKaṅw Áp kau mÁnÄ.
ravi rahe saB mahi puraK aleKaṅ.
Ádi apÁr anÁd aBeKaṅ.
RÁR miqÅ Átam darasÁnÁ.
pragaqe gayÁn joti tab BÁnÁ.
livalÅn Be Átam maD Äse.
jiu jal jalahi Bed kahu kÄse.
vÁsadev bin avar na koç .
nÁnak oaṅ sohaṅ Átam soç.7.
yÁ rÁ lÁ vÁ RÁ.
This action is recognised by those spiritual souls.
Who recognise themselves as Undivided and Unbroken.
In the Sun, in all forms is the Indescribable Being.
Before the beginning, unreachable, beyond boundary, with no garb.
All conflicts are resolved in self-realisation.
The lamp of knowledge then shines forth.
The connection with the soul occurs in the centre.
When water merges with water, how can one know the difference?
There is none other than Vasdev.
Says Nanak the soul is Oaṅ & Soham.7.
yÁ rÁ lÁ vÁ RÁ.
WITH THE BLESSINGS OF THE JATHEDARS OF BUDDHA DAL
The previous head of the Shiromani Khalsa Panth Akali Buddha Dal Panjwa Takht Chalda Vahir Chakrvarti, Vishav, Singh Sahib 96 Crori Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh Nihang Singh, was in jail with Rajoana Sahib due to the SGPC and Akali Dal making their own puppet leader Balbir Singh. Please visit www.babasurjeetsingh.com to spread awareness about this injustice.
This is what the Chinese government have done to his holiness the Dalai Lama and the Pancham Lama. We cannot allow this to happen to the head of the Khalsa Panth.
The current head is now 96 Crori Jathedar Akali Baba Prem Singh Nihang Singh from Sachkhand Hazur Sahib.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Dr. Kamalroop Singh, I am a Sikh and a member of the Khalsa, and belong to the Nihang Singh order, under the leadership of 96 Crori Singh Sahib Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh Nihang. I began my journey back in 1995, when I met some inspirational Sikhs. I have been reading about and practising as a Sikh from a young age, I took initiation into the Khalsa in 1999.
I have travelled around India and stayed with the Nihang Singhs and Sants, and I also took basic santhia from the Dam Dami Taksal in Amritsar. After finishing my degree in Chemistry I completed an MPhil and PhD in Sikh Studies. My chosen subject was the Dasam Granth Sahib, my thesis was titled ‘Dasam Granth Re-examined’. A book titled ‘ The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh: Essays, Lectures and Translations’ has been published with Gurinder Singh Mann, by Oxford University Press. ‘Dasam Granth Questions and Answers’ has been published which was written with Mann Sahib also, please see it at www.archimedespress.co.uk.
I am a linguist and have worked for the Crown Prosecution Services and taught languages at the School of African and Oriental Studies. I have been a consultant to a number of museums and galleries around the world, and I regularly travel and teach about related subjects.
Many thanks to Dharama Kaur Khalsa who requested a translation of this bani to be made. We first discussed this was about ten years ago when I visted Espanola with Nihang Giani Sukha Singh! Please forgive any mistakes beloved Sadh Sangat jio and pray that I may continue serving the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib. Das, Kamalroop Singh.
Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Bhāī Bāle valī Janamsākhī, Amritsar: Chattar Singh Jivan Singh, 2000.
G. B. Singh, Gurmukhī Lippī dā Jānam te Vikās, Chandigarh, 1950.
Kavi Kankan, Das Gur Kathā, Amritsar: Khalsa College, ms. 1797A.
Kohli, Surinder Singh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961.
Nabha, Kanh Singh, Mahan Kosh, Amritsar 2001.
Sahib Singh, Adi Bīṛh Bāre, Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 2002.
Shackle, C., An Introduction to the Sacred Language of the Sikhs, n. d.
Pothī Paiṅtīs Akhārī, Lahore: J. S Sant Singh & Sons, 1937.
Prīchhiā Pātshāhī 10, New Delhi: Baba Baghel Singh Museum, Bangla sahib.
Ṭīkā Paiṅtīs Akhārī, Sant Dal Singh Ji Gyani, Lahore: Khalsa Press, n.d.
You can download a PDF here.