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Gurmukhī (ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ)
Punjabi script
Punjabi Alphabet.jpg
The traditional Gurmukhi letters
Time period
16th century CE-present
Parent systems
Sister systems
ISO 15924Guru, 310
Unicode alias

Gurmukhī (Punjabi: ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ, [ˈɡʊɾmʊkʰiː], Shahmukhi: گُرمُکھی‎) is an abugida developed from the Laṇḍā scripts, standardized and used by the second Sikh guru, Guru Angad (1504–1552).[1][2] Commonly regarded as a Sikh script,[3][4][5][6][7] Gurmukhi is used in Punjab, India as the official script of the Punjabi language.[6][7]

The primary scripture of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, is written in Gurmukhī, in various dialects and languages often subsumed under the generic title Sant Bhasha[8] or saint language, in addition to other languages like Persian and various phases of Indo-Aryan languages.

Modern Gurmukhī has thirty-five original letters, hence its common alternative term pentī or "the thirty-five,"[6] plus six additional consonants,[6][9][10] nine vowel diacritics, two diacritics for nasal sounds, one diacritic that geminates consonants and three subscript characters.

History and development[edit]

The Gurmukhī script is generally believed to have roots in the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet[11] by way of the Brahmi script,[12] which developed further into the Northwestern group (Sharada, or Śāradā, and its descendants, including Landa and Takri), the Central group (Nagari and its descendants, including Devanagari, Gujarati and Modi) and the Eastern group (evolved from Siddhaṃ, including Bangla, Tibetan, and some Nepali scripts),[13] as well as several prominent writing systems of Southeast Asia and Sinhala in Sri Lanka, in addition to scripts used historically in Central Asia for extinct languages like Saka and Tocharian.[13] Gurmukhi is derived from Sharada in the Northwestern group, of which it is the only major surviving member,[14] with full modern currency.[15] Notable features:

  • It is an abugida in which all consonants have an inherent vowel, [ə]. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they are applied to, are used to change the inherent vowel.
  • When they appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters.
  • To form consonant clusters, Gurmukhi uniquely affixes subscript letters at the bottom of standard characters, rather than using the true conjunct symbols used by other scripts,[15] which merge parts of each letter into a distinct character of its own.
  • Punjabi is a tonal language with three tones. These are indicated in writing using the formerly voiced aspirated consonants (gh, dh, bh, etc.) and the intervocalic h.[16]
Phoenician Aleph Beth Gimel Daleth He Waw Zayin Heth Teth Yodh Kaph Lamedh Mem Nun Samekh Ayin Pe Sadek Qoph Res Sin Taw
Aramaic Aleph.svg Beth.svg Gimel.svg Daleth.svg He0.svg Waw.svg Zayin.svg Heth.svg Teth.svg Yod.svg Kaph.svg Lamed.svg Mem.svg Nun.svg Samekh.svg Ayin.svg Pe0.svg Sade 1.svg, Sade 2.svg Qoph.svg Resh.svg Shin.svg Taw.svg
Brahmi Brahmi a.svg Brahmi b.svg Brahmi bh.svg Brahmi g.svg Brahmi dh.svg Brahmi ddh.svg Brahmi e.svg Brahmi v.svg Brahmi d.svg Brahmi dd.svg Brahmi h.svg Brahmi gh.svg Brahmi th.svg Brahmi tth.svg Brahmi y.svg Brahmi k.svg Brahmi c.svg Brahmi l.svg Brahmi m.svg Brahmi n.svg Brahmi nn.svg Brahmi sh.svg Brahmi o.svg Brahmi p.svg Brahmi ph.svg Brahmi s.svg Brahmi kh.svg Brahmi ch.svg Brahmi r.svg Brahmi ss.svg Brahmi t.svg Brahmi tt.svg
Gurmukhi (ਸ਼) ਖ*
IAST a ba bha ga dha ḍha e va da ḍa ha gha tha ṭha ya ka ca la ma na ṇa śa o pa pha sa kha cha ra ṣa* ta ṭa
Greek Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ϝ Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ϻ Ϙ Ρ Σ Τ
Possible derivation of Gurmukhi from earlier writing systems.[note 1] The Greek alphabet, also descended from Phoenician, is included for comparison.

Gurmukhi evolved in cultural and historical circumstances notably different from other regional scripts,[14] for the purpose of recording scriptures of Sikhism, a far less Sanskritized cultural tradition than others of the subcontinent.[14] This independence from the Sanskritic model allowed it the freedom to evolve unique orthographical features.[14] These include:

  • Three basic carrier vowels, integrated into the traditional Gurmukhi character set, using the vowel markers to write independent vowels, instead of distinctly separate characters for each of these vowels as in other scripts;[16][17]
  • a drastic reduction in the number and importance of conjunct characters[16][18][2] (similar to Brahmi, the letters of which Gurmukhi letters have remained more similar to than other scripts have,[19] and characteristic of Northwestern abugidas);[15]
  • a unique standard ordering of characters that somewhat diverges from the traditional vargiya, or Sanskritic, ordering of characters,[16][20] including vowels and fricatives being placed in front;[21][22]
  • the recognition of Indo-Aryan phonological history through the omission of characters representing the sibilants [ʃ] and [ʂ],[23] retaining only the letters representing sounds of the spoken language of the time;[2] these sibilants were naturally lost in most modern Indo-Aryan languages, though such characters were often retained in their respective consonant inventories as placeholders and archaisms[16] while being mispronounced,[23] the sibilants were often variously reintroduced through later circumstances, as [ʃ] was to Gurmukhi,[22] necessitating a new glyph;[23]
  • the development of distinct new letters for sounds better reflecting the vernacular language spoken during the time of its development (e.g. for [ɽ],[24] and the sound shift that merged Sanskrit [ʂ] and /kʰ/ to Punjabi /kʰ/);
  • a gemination diacritic, a unique feature among native subcontinental scripts,[14] which help to illustrate the preserved Middle Indo-Aryan geminates distinctive of Punjabi;[15]

and other features.

Historical geographical distribution of Sharada script[25]

From the 10th century onwards, regional differences started to appear between the Sharada script used in Punjab, the Hill States (partly Himachal Pradesh) and Kashmir. Sharada proper was eventually restricted to very limited ceremonial use in Kashmir, as it grew increasingly unsuitable for writing the Kashmiri language.[25] With the last known inscription dating to 1204 C.E., the early 13th century marks a milestone in the development of Sharada.[25] The regional variety in Punjab continued to evolve from this stage through the 14th century; during this period it starts to appear in forms closely resembling Gurmukhī and other Landa scripts. By the 15th century, Sharada had evolved so considerably that epigraphists denote the script at this point by a special name, Devāśeṣa.[25] Tarlochan Singh Bedi (1999) prefers the name Pritham Gurmukhī, or Proto-Gurmukhī.

The Sikh gurus adopted proto-Gurmukhī to write the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scriptures of the Sikhs. The Takri alphabet developed through the Devāśeṣa stage of the Sharada script from the 14th-18th centuries[25] and is found mainly in the Hill States such as Chamba, Himachal Pradesh and surrounding areas, where it is called Chambyali, and in Jammu Division, where it is known as Dogri. The local Takri variants got the status of official scripts in some of the Punjab Hill States, and were used for both administrative and literary purposes until the 19th century.[25] After 1948, when Himachal Pradesh was established as an administrative unit, the local Takri variants were replaced by Devanagari.

Example of the Multani variant of Landa script, a mercantile shorthand script of Punjab, from 1880[26]

Meanwhile, the mercantile scripts of Punjab known as the Laṇḍā scripts were normally not used for literary purposes. Landa means alphabet "without tail",[15] implying that the script did not have vowel symbols. In Punjab, there were at least ten different scripts classified as Laṇḍā, Mahajani being the most popular. The Laṇḍā scripts were used for household and trade purposes.[27] In contrast to Laṇḍā, the use of vowel diacritics was made obligatory in Gurmukhī for increased accuracy and precision, due to the difficulties involved in deciphering words without vowel signs.[2][28]

In the following epochs, Gurmukhī became the primary script for the literary writings of the Sikhs. Playing a significant role in Sikh faith and tradition, it expanded from its original use for Sikh scriptures and developed its own orthographical rules, spreading widely under the Sikh Empire and used by Sikh kings and chiefs of Punjab for administrative purposes.[21] Also playing a major role in consolidating and standardizing the Punjabi language, it served as the main medium of literacy in Punjab and adjoining areas for centuries when the earliest schools were attached to gurdwaras.[21] The Singh Sabha Movement of the late 1800s, a movement to revitalize Sikh institutions which had declined during colonial rule after the fall of the Sikh Empire, also advocated for the usage of the Gurmukhi script for mass media, with print media publications and Punjabi-language newspapers established in the 1880s.[29] Later in the 20th century, after the struggle of the Punjabi Suba movement, from the founding of modern India in the 1940s to the 1960s, the script was given the authority as the official state script of the Punjab, India,[6][7] where it is used in all spheres of culture, arts, education, and administration, with a firmly established common and secular character.[21]

The term Gurmukhī[edit]

The prevalent view among Punjabi linguists is that as in the early stages the Gurmukhī letters were primarily used by the Guru's followers, Gurmukhs (literally, those who face, or follow, the Guru, as opposed to a Manmukh); the script thus came to be known as Gurmukhī, "the script of those guided by the Guru."[14] Guru Angad is credited in the Sikh tradition with the creation and standardization of Gurmukhi script from earlier Śāradā-descended scripts native to the region. It is now the standard writing script for the Punjabi language in India.[30] The original Sikh scriptures and most of the historic Sikh literature have been written in the Gurmukhi script.[30]

Although the word Gurmukhī has been commonly translated as "from the Mouth of the Guru," the term used for the Punjabi script has somewhat different connotations. This usage of the term may have gained currency from the use of the script to record the utterances of the Sikh Gurus as scripture, which were often referred to as Gurmukhī, or from the mukh (face, or mouth) of the Gurus. Consequently, the script that was used to write the resulting scripture may have also been designated with the same name.[2]

The name for the Perso-Arabic alphabet for the Punjabi language, Shahmukhi, was modeled on the term Gurmukhi.[31]



The Gurmukhī alphabet contains thirty-five base letters (akkhar, plural akkharā̃), traditionally arranged in seven rows of five letters each. The first three letters, or mātarā vāhak ("vowel carrier"), are distinct because they form the basis for vowels and are not consonants, or vianjan, like the remaining letters are, and except for the second letter aiṛā are never used on their own;[27] see § Vowel diacritics for further details. The pair of fricatives, or mūl varag ("base class"), share the row, which is followed by the next five sets of consonants, with the consonants in each row arranged by manner of articulation, and the rows by place of articulation, from the back to the front of the mouth.[32] The arrangement, or varaṇmālā,[32] is completed with the antim ṭolī, literally "ending group." The names of most of the consonants are based on their reduplicative phonetic values,[21] and the varaṇmālā is as follows:[6]

Group Name
(Articulation) ↓
Name Sound
Name Sound
Name Sound
Name Sound
Name Sound
Mātarā Vāhak
Mūl Varag
 – aiṛā
 – sassā
Occlusives Tenuis Aspirates Voiced Stops Tonal Nasals
Kavarg Ṭolī

[ kə̀ ]
Chavarg Ṭolī
[ t͡ʃə̀ ]
Ṭavarg Ṭolī
[ ʈə̀ ]
Tavarg Ṭolī

[ t̪ə̀ ]
Pavarg Ṭolī

[ pə̀ ]
Approximants and liquids
Antim Ṭolī

The nasal letters ਙ /ŋəŋːaː/ and ਞ /ɲəɲːaː/ are not used in modern Gurmukhi. They cannot begin a syllable or be placed between two consonants, and the sounds they represent occur most often as allophones of [n] before specific consonant phonemes.

The pronunciation of ਵ can vary allophonically between /ʋ/ preceding front vowels, and /w/ elsewhere.[33][34]

The most characteristic feature of the Punjabi language is its tone system.[6] The script has no separate symbol for tones, but they correspond to the tonal consonants that once represented voiced aspirates as well as older *h.[6] To differentiate between consonants, the Punjabi tonal consonants of the fourth column, ਘ kà, ਝ chà, ਢ ṭà, ਧ tà, and ਭ pà, are often transliterated in the way of the voiced aspirate consonants gha, jha, ḍha, dha, and bha respectively, although Punjabi lacks these sounds.[35] Tones in Punjabi can be either rising, neutral, or falling;[6][36] in the pronunciation of the names of the Gurmukhī letters, they are at the beginning of the word and as such produce the falling tone, hence the grave accent (à) as opposed to the acute. The tone changes to a rising one (á) and precedes the letter when it is in syllabic coda positions,[6] and falling when in stem-medial positions after a short vowel and before a long vowel.[6] The letters now always represent unaspirated consonants, and are unvoiced in initial positions and voiced elsewhere.[6]

Supplementary letters[edit]

In addition to the 35 original letters, there are six supplementary consonants in official usage,[6][9][10] referred to as the navīn ṭolī[9][10] or navīn varag, meaning "new group," created by placing a dot (bindī) at the foot (pair) of the consonant to create pair bindī consonants. These are not present in the Guru Granth Sahib or old texts. These are used most often for loanwords,[6] though not exclusively, and their usage is not always obligatory:

Name Sound
Name Sound
Name Sound
ਸ਼ sasse pair bindī
[səsːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]
ਖ਼ khakkhe pair bindī
[kʰəkʰːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]
ਗ਼ gagge pair bindī
[gəgːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]
ਜ਼ jajje pair bindī
[d͡ʒəd͡ʒːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]
ਫ਼ phapphe pair bindī
[pʰəpʰːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]
ਲ਼ lalle pair bindī
[ləlːeː pɛ:ɾᵊ bɪnd̪iː]

The character ਲ਼ /ɭ/, the only character not representing a fricative consonant, was only recently added to the Gurmukhī alphabet. It was not a part of the traditional orthography, as the distinctive phonological difference between 'l' and 'ɭ', while both native sounds, was not reflected in the script,[24] and its usage is currently not universal. Previous usage of an older glyph to represent this sound, [ਲ੍ਰ], has been attested.[34] Other characters, like [ਕ਼] //, are also on rare occasion used unofficially, chiefly for transliterating old writings in Persian and Urdu, the knowledge of which is less relevant in modern times.

Subscript letters[edit]

Three "subscript" letters, called pairī̃ akkhar, or "letters at the foot" are utilised in Gurmukhī: forms of ਹ(h), ਰ(r), and ਵ(v).[21]

The subscript ਰ(r) and ਵ(v) are used to make consonant clusters and behave similarly; subjoined ਹ(h) introduces tone.

Subscript letter Name, original form Usage
੍ਰ pairī̃ rārā
ਰ→ ੍ਰ
For example, the letter ਪ(p) with a regular ਰ(r) following it would yield the word ਪਰ /pəɾᵊ/ ("but"), but with a subjoined ਰ would appear as ਪ੍ਰ- (/prə-/),[6] resulting in a consonant cluster, as in the word ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧਕ (/pɾəbə́nd̪əkᵊ/, "managerial, administrative"), as opposed to ਪਰਬੰਧਕ /pəɾᵊbə́nd̪əkᵊ/, the Punjabi form of the word used in natural speech in less formal settings (the Punjabi reflex for Sanskrit /pɾə-/ is /pəɾ-/) . This subscript letter is commonly used in Punjabi[35] for personal names, some native dialectal words, loanwords from other languages like English and Sanskrit, etc. It may also appear in writing simply as a shape resembling a slanted comma.[21]
੍ਵ pairī̃ vāvā
ਵ→ ੍ਵ
Used occasionally in Gurbani (Sikh religious scriptures) but rare in modern usage, it is largely confined to creating the cluster /sʋə-/[35] in words borrowed from Sanskrit, the reflex of which in Punjabi is /sʊ-/, e.g. Sanskrit ਸ੍ਵਪ੍ ਨ /s̪ʋɐ́p.n̪ɐ/→Punjabi ਸੁਪਨਾ /'sʊpᵊna:/, "dream," cf. Hindi-Urdu /səpna:/.

For example, ਸ with a subscript ਵ would produce ਸ੍ਵ (sʋə-) as in the Sanskrit word ਸ੍ਵਰਗ (/svəɾəgə/, "heaven"), but followed by a regular ਵ would yield ਸਵ- (səv-) as in the common word ਸਵਰਗ (/səʋəɾəgᵊ/, "heaven"), borrowed earlier from Sanskrit but subsequently changed. The natural Punjabi reflex, ਸੁਰਗ /sʊɾəgᵊ/, is also used in everyday speech.

੍ਹ pairī̃ hāhā
ਹ→ ੍ਹ
The most common subscript,[35] this character does not create consonant clusters, but serves as part of Punjabi's characteristic tone system, indicating a tone. It behaves the same way in its use as the regular ਹ(h) does in non-word-initial positions. The regular ਹ(h) is pronounced in stressed positions (as in ਆਹੋ āho "yes"), word-initially in monosyllabic words, and usually in other word-initial positions,[note 2] but not in other positions, where it instead changes the tone of the applicable adjacent vowel.[6][38] The difference in usage is that the regular ਹ is used after vowels, and the subscript version is used when there is no vowel, and is attached to consonants.

For example, the regular ਹ is used after vowels as in ਮੀਂਹ (transcribed as mĩh (IPA: [míː]), "rain").[6] The subjoined ਹ(h) acts the same way but instead is used under consonants: ਚ(ch) followed by ੜ(ṛ) yields ਚੜ (chəṛ), but not until the rising tone is introduced via a subscript ਹ(h) does it properly spell the word ਚੜ੍ਹ (chə́ṛ, "climb").

This character's function is similar to that of the udāt symbol (ੑ U+0A51), which occurs in older texts and indicates a rising tone.

In addition to the three subscript letters, there is a half-form of the letter Yayya, /j/ ਯ→੍ਯ, also used exclusively for Sanskrit borrowings, and even then rarely. Only the subjoined /ɾ/ and /h/ are commonly used;[18] use of the subjoined /ʋ/ and conjunct /j/, already rare, is increasingly scarce in modern contexts.

Vowel diacritics[edit]

To express vowels (singular, sur), Gurmukhī, as an abugida, makes use of obligatory diacritics called lagā̃.[21] Gurmukhī is similar to Brahmi scripts in that all consonants are followed by an inherent 'a' sound (unless at the end of a word when the 'a' is usually dropped). This inherent vowel sound can be changed by using dependent vowel signs which attach to a bearing consonant.[6] In some cases, dependent vowel signs cannot be used – at the beginning of a word or syllable[6] for instance – and so an independent vowel character is used instead.

Independent vowels are constructed using three bearer characters:[6] ūṛā (ੳ), aiṛā (ਅ) and īṛī (ੲ).[22] With the exception of aiṛā (which represents the vowel [ə]), the bearer consonants are never used without additional vowel signs.[27]

Vowel Transcription IPA Closest English equivalent
Ind. Dep. with /k/ Name Usage
(none) muktā
a [ə] like a in about
ਕਾ kannā
ā []~[äː] like a in car
ਿ ਕਿ sihārī
i [ɪ] like i in it
ਕੀ bihārī
ī [] like i in litre
ਕੁ auṅkaṛ
u [ʊ] like u in put
ਕੂ dulaiṅkaṛ
ū [] like u in spruce
ਕੇ Lāvā̃
e [] like e in Chile
ਕੈ dulāvā̃
ai [ɛː]~[əɪ] like e in sell
ਕੋ hoṛā
o [] like o in more
ਕੌ kanauṛā
au [ɔː]~[əʊ] like o in off

Dotted circles represent the bearer consonant. Vowels are always pronounced after the consonant they are attached to. Thus, sihārī is always written to the left, but pronounced after the character on the right.[27] When constructing the independent vowel for [], ūṛā takes an irregular form instead of using the usual hoṛā.[21][22]


Gurmukhi orthography prefers vowel sequences over the use of semivowels ("y" or "w") intervocally and in syllable nuclei, as in the words ਦਿਸਾਇਆ disāiā "caused to be visible" rather than disāyā, ਦਿਆਰ diār "cedar" rather than dyār, and ਸੁਆਦ suād "taste" rather than swad,[33] permitting vowels in hiatus.[39]

In terms of tone orthography, the short vowels [ɪ] and [ʊ], when paired with [h] to yield /ɪh/ and /ʊh/, represent [é] and [ó] with high tones respectively, e.g. ਕਿਹੜਾ kihṛā (IPA: [kéːɽaː]) 'which,' ਦੁਹਰਾ duhrā (IPA: [d̪óːɾaː]) 'repeat, reiterate, double.'[6] The sequence of [əh]+[ɪ] or [ʊ] yield [ɛ́] and [ɔ́] respectively, e.g. ਮਹਿੰਗਾ mahingā (IPA: [mɛ́ːŋgaː]) 'expensive,' ਵਹੁਟੀ vahuṭī (IPA: [wɔ́ːʈiː]) 'bride.'[6]

Other signs[edit]


Ṭippī ( ੰ ) and bindī ( ਂ ) are used for producing a nasal phoneme depending on the following obstruent or a nasal vowel at the end of a word.[18] All short vowels are nasalized using ṭippī and all long vowels are nasalized using bindī except for dulenkaṛ ( ੂ ), which uses ṭippi instead.

Diacritic usage Result Examples (IPA)
Ṭippī on short vowel (/ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/), or long vowel /u:/, before a non-nasal consonant[6] Adds nasal consonant at same place of articulation as following consonant
(/ns/, /n̪t̪/, /ɳɖ/, /mb/, /ŋg/, /nt͡ʃ/ etc.)
ਹੰਸ /ɦənsᵊ/ "goose"
ਅੰਤt̪ᵊ/ "end"
ਗੰਢ /gə́ɳɖᵊ/ "knot"
ਅੰਬmbᵊ/ "mango"
ਸਿੰਗ /sɪŋgᵊ/ "horn, antler"
ਕੁੰਜੀ / kʊɲd͡ʒiː/ "key"
ਗੂੰਜ /guːɲd͡ʒᵊ/ "roar"
ਲੂੰਬੜੀ /luːmbᵊɽiː/ "fox"
Bindī over long vowel (/a:/, /e:/, /i:/, /o:/, /u:/, /ɛ:/, /ɔː/)[6]
before a non-nasal consonant not including /h/[34]
Adds nasal consonant at same place of articulation as following consonant (/ns/, /n̪t̪/, /ɳɖ/, /mb/, /ŋg/, /nt͡ʃ/ etc.).
May also secondarily nasalize the vowel
ਕਾਂਸੀ /kaːnsiː/ "bronze"
ਕੇਂਦਰ /keːd̯əɾᵊ/ "center, core, headquarters"
ਗੁਆਂਢੀ /gʊáːɳɖiː/ "neighbor"
ਚੌਂਕ /t͡ʃɔːŋkᵊ/ "crossroads, plaza"
ਜਾਂਚ /d͡ʒaːɲt͡ʃᵊ/ "trial, examination"
Ṭippī over consonants followed by long vowel /u:/ (not stand-alone vowel ),
at open syllable at end of word,[6] or ending in /ɦ/[34]
Vowel nasalization ਤੂੰ /t̪ũː/ "you"
ਸਾਨੂੰ /saːnũː/ "to us"
ਮੂੰਹ /mũːɦ/ "mouth"
Ṭippī on short vowel before nasal consonant (/n̪/ or /m/)[6] Gemination of nasal consonant
Ṭippī is used to geminate nasal consonants instead of addhak
ਇੰਨਾ /ɪn̪:a:/ "this much"
ਕੰਮ /kəm:ᵊ/ "work"
Bindī over long vowel (/a:/, /e:/, /i:/, /o:/, /u:/, /ɛ:/, /ɔː/),[6]
at open syllable at end of word, or ending in /ɦ/
Vowel nasalization ਬਾਂਹ /bã́h/ "arm"
ਮੈਂ /mɛ̃ː/ "I, me"
ਅਸੀਂ /əsĩː/ "we, us"
ਤੋਂ /t̪õː/ "from"
ਸਿਊਂ /sɪ.ũː/ "sew"

Older texts may follow other conventions.


The use of addhak ( ੱ ) (IPA: ['ə́d̪:əkᵊ]) indicates that the following consonant is geminated,[18][6] and is placed above the consonant preceding the geminated one.[21] Consonant length is distinctive in the Punjabi language and the use of this diacritic can change the meaning of a word, for example:

Without addhak Transliteration Meaning With addhak Transliteration Meaning
ਦਸ das 'ten' ਦੱਸ dass 'tell' (verb)
ਪਤਾ patā 'aware' (of something) ਪੱਤਾ pattā 'leaf'
ਸਤ sat 'essence' ਸੱਤ satt 'seven'
ਕਲਾ kalā 'art' ਕੱਲਾ kallā 'alone' (colloquialism)

Vowel suppression[edit]

Station sign in the Latin and Gurmukhī scripts in Southall, UK

The halant ( ੍ ) character is not used when writing Punjabi in Gurmukhī. However, it may occasionally be used in Sanskritised text or in dictionaries for extra phonetic information. When it is used, it represents the suppression of the inherent vowel.

The effect of this is shown below:

ਕ – kə
ਕ੍ – k


The danda (।) is used in Gurmukhi to mark the end of a sentence.[27] A doubled danda (॥) marks the end of a verse.[40]

The visarg symbol (ਃ U+0A03) is used very occasionally in Gurmukhī. It can represent an abbreviation, as the period is used in English, though the period for abbreviation, like commas, exclamation points, and other Western punctuation, is freely used in modern Gurmukhi.[40][27]


Gurmukhī has its own set of digits, used exactly as in other versions of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. These are used extensively in older texts. In modern contexts, they are sometimes replaced by standard Western Arabic numerals.

Numeral Name IPA Transliteration Number
ਸਿਫ਼ਰ [sɪfəɾᵊ] sifar zero
ਇੱਕ [ɪkːᵊ] ikk one
ਦੋ [d̪oː] do two
ਤਿੰਨ [t̪ɪnːᵊ] tinn* three
ਚਾਰ [t͡ʃaːɾᵊ] chār four
ਪੰਜ [pənd͡ʒᵊ] panj five
ਛੇ [t͡ʃʰeː] chhe six
ਸੱਤ [sət̪ːᵊ] satt seven
ਅੱਠ [əʈʰːᵊ] aṭṭh eight
ਨੌਂ [nɔ̃:] nauṃ nine
੧੦ ਦਸ [d̪əsᵊ] das ten

*In some Punjabi dialects, the word for three is trai,[41] (IPA: [t̪ɾɛː]) spelled ਤ੍ਰੈ in Gurmukhī.


Gurmukhī script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 1991 with the release of version 1.0. Many sites still use proprietary fonts that convert Latin ASCII codes to Gurmukhī glyphs.

The Unicode block for Gurmukhī is U+0A00–U+0A7F:

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+0A3x ਿ
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Digitization of Gurmukhī manuscripts[edit]

Gurmukhi can be digitally rendered in a variety of fonts. The Dukandar font, left, is meant to resemble informal Punjabi handwriting.

Panjab Digital Library[42] has taken up digitization of all available manuscripts of Gurmukhī Script. The script has been in formal use since the 1500s, and a lot of literature written within this time period is still traceable. Panjab Digital Library has digitized over 5 million pages from different manuscripts and most of them are available online.

Internet Domain names in Gurmukhi[edit]

Punjabi University Patiala has developed label generation rules for validating international domain names for internet in Gurmukhi.[43]


  • Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Masica, Colin (1993). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-29944-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bāhrī, Hardev (1997). Siṅgh, Harbans (ed.). Gurmukhī (3rd ed.). Patiala, Punjab, India: Punjab University, Patiala, 2011. pp. 181–184. ISBN 978-8173805301.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Grierson, George A. (1916). "Pañjābī". Linguistic Survey of India. Volume IX: Indo-Aryan family. Central group, Part 1, Specimens of Western Hindi and Pañjābī. Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. pp. 624–629.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Following books/articles have been written on the origins of the Gurmukhī script (all in the Punjabi language):

  • Gurbaksh (G.B.) Singh. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Chandigarh: Punjab University, 1950.
  • Ishar Singh Tãgh, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Vigyamulak Adhiyan. Patiala: Jodh Singh Karamjit Singh.
  • Kala Singh Bedi, Dr. Lipi da Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1995.
  • Kartar Singh Dakha. Gurmukhi te Hindi da Takra. 1948.
  • Piara Singh Padam, Prof. Gurmukhi Lipi da Itihas. Patiala: Kalgidhar Kalam Foundation Kalam Mandir, 1953.
  • Prem Parkash Singh, Dr. "Gurmukhi di Utpati." Khoj Patrika, Patiala: Punjabi University.
  • Pritam Singh, Prof. "Gurmukhi Lipi." Khoj Patrika. p. 110, vol.36, 1992. Patiala: Punjabi University.
  • Sohan Singh Galautra. Punjab dian Lipiã.
  • Tarlochan Singh Bedi, Dr. Gurmukhi Lipi da Janam te Vikas. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Gurmukhi character ਖ [kha] may have been originally derived from the Brahmi character denoting [ṣa], as the Sanskrit sounds /ʂə/ and /kʰə/ merged into /kʰə/ in Punjabi. Any phonemic contrast was lost, with no distinct character for [ṣa] remaining.
  2. ^ Word-initial /h/ in unstressed positions may also often be elided and yield a falling tone; for example, in the words ਹਿਸਾਬ hisāb /hisabᵊ/ ("account, estimate") and ਸਾਹਿਬ sāhib /sahibᵊ/ (an honorific, "sir, lord," etc.). Unstressed short vowels may be reduced to yield h(a)sāb /hasaːbᵊ/ and sāh(a)b /saːhabᵊ/, and further h-elision in unstressed initial positions may yield near-homophones only distinguished by tone: ਸ੍ਹਾਬ sā̀b /sàːbᵊ/ and ਸਾਬ੍ਹ sā́b /sáːbᵊ/ respectively. Word-initial /h/ may also produce a tone without being elided.[37]


  1. ^ Masica 1993, p. 143.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bāhrī 1997, p. 181.
  3. ^ Mandair, Arvind-Pal S.; Shackle, Christopher; Singh, Gurharpal (December 16, 2013). Sikh Religion, Culture and Ethnicity. Routledge. p. 13, Quote: "creation of a pothi in distinct Sikh script (Gurmukhi) seem to relate to the immediate religio–political context ...". ISBN 9781136846342. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  4. ^ Mann, Gurinder Singh; Numrich, Paul; Williams, Raymond (2007). Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 100, Quote: "He modified the existing writing systems of his time to create Gurmukhi, the script of the Sikhs; then ...". ISBN 9780198044246. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  5. ^ Shani, Giorgio (March 2002). "The Territorialization of Identity: Sikh Nationalism in the Diaspora". Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. 2: 11. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2002.tb00014.x. ...the Guru Granth Sahib, written in a script particular to the Sikhs (Gurmukhi)...
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Harjeet Singh Gill (1996). Peter T. Daniels; William Bright (eds.). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. pp. 395–399. ISBN 978-0-19-507993-7.
  7. ^ a b c Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 53.
  8. ^ Harnik Deol, Religion and Nationalism in India. Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-20108-X, 9780415201087. Page 22. "(...) the compositions in the Sikh holy book, Adi Granth, are a melange of various dialects, often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha."
    The making of Sikh scripture by Gurinder Singh Mann. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2001. ISBN 0-19-513024-3, ISBN 978-0-19-513024-9 Page 5. "The language of the hymns recorded in the Adi Granth has been called Sant Bhasha, a kind of lingua franca used by the medieval saint-poets of northern India. But the broad range of contributors to the text produced a complex mix of regional dialects."
    Surindar Singh Kohli, History of Punjabi Literature. Page 48. National Book, 1993. ISBN 81-7116-141-3, ISBN 978-81-7116-141-6. "When we go through the hymns and compositions of the Guru written in Sant Bhasha (saint-language), it appears that some Indian saint of 16th century..."
    Nirmal Dass, Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth. SUNY Press, 2000. ISBN 0-7914-4683-2, ISBN 978-0-7914-4683-6. Page 13. "Any attempt at translating songs from the Adi Granth certainly involves working not with one language, but several, along with dialectical differences. The languages used by the saints range from Sanskrit; regional Prakrits; western, eastern and southern Apabhramsa; and Sahiskriti. More particularly, we find sant bhasha, Marathi, Old Hindi, central and Lehndi Panjabi, Sgettland Persian. There are also many dialects deployed, such as Purbi Marwari, Bangru, Dakhni, Malwai, and Awadhi."
  9. ^ a b c "Let's Learn Punjabi: Research Centre for Punjabi Language Technology, Punjabi University, Patiala". Punjabi University, Patiala. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Kumar, Arun; Kaur, Amandeep (2018). "A New Approach to Punjabi Text Steganography using Naveen Toli" (PDF). Department of Computer Science & Technology, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India. ISBN 978-8-193-38970-6.
  11. ^ Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 88.
  12. ^ Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 94-99, 72-73.
  13. ^ a b Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 68-69.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 83.
  15. ^ a b c d e Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 594.
  16. ^ a b c d e Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 84.
  17. ^ Masica 1993, p. 150.
  18. ^ a b c d Masica 1993, p. 149.
  19. ^ Masica 1993, p. 145.
  20. ^ Masica 1993, p. 470.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bāhrī 1997, p. 183.
  22. ^ a b c d Grierson 1916, p. 626.
  23. ^ a b c Masica 1993, p. 148.
  24. ^ a b Masica 1993, p. 147.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Pandey, Anshuman (2009-03-25). "N3545: Proposal to Encode the Sharada Script in ISO/IEC 10646" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
  26. ^ Pandey, Anshuman (2009-01-29). "N4159: Proposal to Encode the Multani Script in ISO/IEC 10646" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
  27. ^ a b c d e f Bāhrī 1997, p. 182.
  28. ^ Grierson 1916, pp. 624, 628.
  29. ^ Deol, Dr. Harnik (2003). Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab (illustrated ed.). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge. p. 72. ISBN 9781134635351. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  30. ^ a b Shackle, Christopher; Mandair, Arvind-Pal Singh (2005). Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Sikh Scriptures. United Kingdom: Routledge. pp. xvii–xviii. ISBN 978-0-415-26604-8.
  31. ^ Bashir, Elena; Conners, Thomas J. (2019). A Descriptive Grammar of Hindko, Panjabi, and Saraiki (Volume 4 of Mouton-CASL Grammar Series). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG. p. 18. ISBN 9781614512257.
  32. ^ a b Jain & Cardona 2007, pp. 71-72.
  33. ^ a b Masica 1993, p. 100.
  34. ^ a b c d Grierson 1916, p. 627.
  35. ^ a b c d Jain & Cardona 2007, p. 596.
  36. ^ Masica 1993, p. 118.
  37. ^ Bashir, Elena; Conners, Thomas J. (2019). A Descriptive Grammar of Hindko, Panjabi, and Saraiki (Volume 4 of Mouton-CASL Grammar Series). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG. pp. 72–74. ISBN 9781614512257.
  38. ^ Grierson 1916, p. 628.
  39. ^ Masica 1993, p. 190.
  40. ^ a b Holloway, Stephanie (19 July 2016). "ScriptSource - Gurmukhi". ScriptSource. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  41. ^ Bhatia, Tej (1993). Punjabi: A cognitive-descriptive grammar. Routledge. p. 367. ISBN 9780415003209.
  42. ^ Panjab Digital Library
  43. ^ "Now, domain names in Gurmukhi". The Tribune. 2020-03-04. Retrieved 2020-09-09.

External links[edit]