Sikh Research Institute has introduced Guru Granth Sahib: its Language and Grammar, a textbook for Learners of Gurbani!

The Guru Granth Sahib plays a crucial role in the life of a Sikh. Every Sikh yearns to engage with it at some level and benefit from its overarching Divine wisdom. Ever since the revelation of the Sabad (Gurbani) by the Guru, it has taken the center stage in a Sikh’s life, both personal and […]

The Guru Granth Sahib plays a crucial role in the life of a Sikh. Every Sikh yearns to engage with it at some level and benefit from its overarching Divine wisdom. Ever since the revelation of the Sabad (Gurbani) by the Guru, it has taken the center stage in a Sikh’s life, both personal and communal. In order to communicate with the Guru’s message at a more personal level, Sikhs have tried to produce many interpretations over the past centuries.

Consequently, there is a plethora of literature on Guru Granth Sahib available to the Panjabi-speaking audience, while there is a void in the English language for such resources. Committed to continually bringing out new educational tools and resources for the community, Sikh Research Institute has introduced Guru Granth Sahib: Its Language and Grammar, a textbook for learners of Gurbani. The book is primarily intended for use by English-speakers, especially the diaspora communities. It gives an overview of the languages of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Gurmukhi script, its pronunciation and grammar. Since, grammar serves as an important tool for the production of meaningful interpretations of Gurbani, this book seeks to introduce a basic approach for accessing the linguistics of the Guru Granth Sahib.

The lessons are appropriate for beginners to intermediate-level learners, who wish to develop a better understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib. The book is set up in a language course format, which can be used to take lessons, both in a classroom environment along with the Gurbani Language Course offered by the Sikh Research Institute, as well as through self-study. With the help of this book, readers should find it helpful in interpreting Gurbani independently to enhance their understanding of Gurmat (Guru’s wisdom) and thus experience the Guru’s message first hand.

The book tries to answer questions that many of us may have grappled with at some point in time:

  1. What is the language of Gurbani? Is it Panjabi?
  2. Is Gurbani in more than one language? How many and what possibly are they?
  3. That about its script? Where did it come from? What are its constituents and their character?
  4. Are there different ways of pronouncing Gurmukhi script, and in turn Gurbani, or is there meant to be a specific way?
  5. Is just knowing the vocabulary enough or is there also a grammar of Gurbani to learn?
  6. What is the meaning of an aunkar or a sihari at the end of some words?
  7. I am baffled by the heading of the Sabads, the different sets of numbers appearing in them, format of Sabads, structure of the Guru Granth Sahib etc. Where can I find an answer?


A walk through a few salient features of the book. The Book covers in brief, pretty much every aspect of the languages and the grammar of Gurbani in two sections. The first section deals with the languages, their script and pronunciation and the second section cover the grammar of Gurbani. First of the units in the first section offers an overview of the different languages appearing in the Guru Granth Sahib, with description and samples from the Guru Granth Sahib.


The script of the Guru Granth Sahib (Gurmukhi) is also discussed in some details; its background, formation, salient features, all its constituents and their character (consonants, vowels, symbols, punctuations marks etc.


One of the units in the book also touches numerals of Gurmukhi script in a more systematic manner, giving details in what different ways numerals have been used in the Guru Granth Sahib.


Articulation of individual letters as well as pronunciation of Gurmukhi as a script is dealt with in details. It is explained in both linguistic methodology and easy to understand articulation methods.


Lessons in grammar are delivered in a structured by tackling different parts of speech in a systematic manner with Gurbani examples and accompanying translation wherever applicable.

Almost all the lessons in the grammar section are accompanied by a table that sums up grammar patterns and the learnings of the respective lessons in an easy to understand format.


Appendices augment the information provided in the main sections of the book by giving general insights into the content of the Guru Granth Sahib. The first appendix gives an overview of the content, contributor, layout, structure, format, style of different rags and banis appearing in it.


Another appendix provides an adapted and translated key, of broad grammar patterns, from SGPC shabdarth, that can be memorized for one’s benefit.


Since correct pronunciation of Gurbani is of paramount importance, last appendix offers guidelines for the transcription of Gurmukhi script into roman that helps first time learners of Gurmukhi in exact pronunciation of the script.


Ways this book can be utilized:

  1. Understand the Guru Granth Sahib’s composition, layout, format, style etc.
  2. Learn about
    Different languages appearing in Gurbani
    Gurmukhi script, and issues related to its pronunciation
    Gurbani’s grammar and engage in a deeper research on it
  3. Parents can use it to learn basics of Gurbani language, and teach it to their children
  4. Discussion sessions in local Gurduara gurmat/sabad vicar classes.
  5. Classroom sessions in retreats and camps.
  6. As a collection in a personal, Gurduara or Gurmat School library
  7. As a gift, for lovers of Gurbani


The book is co-authored by Harinder Singh, CEO SikhRI, Jaswant Singh a scholar at the Sikh Centre, Singapore, and Surender Pal Singh, Research Associate SikhRI. It has been graciously reviewed by Harpreet Singh, Harvard University, Surinder Singh, Sikh School of Los Angeles, and Gurdit Singh.

Here we quote verbatim what our reviewers have to say about the book.

“Since its establishment as the centerpiece of Sikh life in 1604, the Guru Granth Sahib has contributed immensely to the self-definition of the Sikhs as a community. Even though the message enshrined in the scripture enjoys an unimpeachable authority over now a global community of practitioners, a serious textual study of its contents remains in a terrible state of neglect. A handful of scholars in the modern period began the work of illuminating the existence of a fascinating grammar, which can be helpful in taking the primary step toward understanding the Sikh discursive tradition. The present work is a much-needed attempt to articulate this grammar in English. It deserves to be on the bookshelf of every individual interested in the study of the Sikh scripture.”

– Harpreet Singh, Harvard University

“Understanding Gurbani grammar is an important step towards comprehending the intricacies of the Guru’s message in the Guru Granth Sahib. As a Gurbani teacher, I have always wanted a Gurbani grammar book in English that was comprehensive and easy to understand. I am glad that we finally have a very good resource in understanding the linguistics and grammar of the Guru Granth Sahib. So if anybody is interested in knowing the difference between ਨਾਨਕ, ਨਾਨਕਿ and ਨਾਨਕੁ, or is intrigued by Guru Arjan Sahib’s use of the words ਸਿਮਰਨ, ਸਿਮਰਨਿ, ਸਿਮਰਨੁ, ਸਿਮਰਉ, ਸਿਮਰਤ, ਸਿਮਰਹਿ or ਸਿਮਰਹਿ ੋਰ, then this book is a must read.”

– Surinder Singh, Sikh School of Los Angeles

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