Learning to Pronounce Gurbani

Sikhi is beautiful in many ways. The equality bestowed on women through the Guru Granth Sahib along with the historical precedent of establishing women’s rights through civic movements has served to empower Sikh women for centuries and across the globe.  Unlike some other faiths, which bar women for certain religious practices, Sikh women are allowed to publicly participate in all elements of the divan service, along with reading from the Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult for Sikhs to find resources to help them in reading the Guru Granth Sahib well. Luckily, in the digital age, there are several resources to help with that. Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal writes about a couple good websites to help in your Sikh journey.  

Learning to Pronounce Gurbani

by Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal

For years many Sikh youth and adults have been looking for gurbani learning resources and tools to enable them to recite Gurus’ hymns treasured in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

The good news is that a recently released software program will meet these needs!

Two essential learning resources, in particular,  include Sri Granth, a catalogue of the words included in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), and Ektuhi, an audio pronunciation guide.

As I have written before, there is an important rite required of every Sikh to be connected to the Guru. It  is known as a rite of “GurCharni Lago” a time honored Sikh rite of initiation. It consists of first time initiation of recitation from SGGS in public in a well solemnized ceremony. It is the first ceremony of initiation into Guru Sikhi.

All rites of commitment have a reason. Here, the reason being that every adherent must avail an opportunity to publicly commit himself/herself to the spiritual mentor and set the life goals consistent with that commitment. Further, the aspirant prepares for the day of commitment with a forward outlook, and the community buys into it by investing in its preparation and public exhibition of community support.

To be able to fulfill this commitment, the aspirant must learn how to read the script and the language of SGGS.

A problem that may come with migrating out of Punjab is a challenge of learning to read gurmukhi may develop. As a result, a significant population of Sikhs are unable to read and recite SGGS. The absence of this ability renders their relationship with their Guru wanting or at least questionable. Thus, they need real help. provides a complete list of words in Gurmukhi in the Guru Granth, but the list comes short in failing to provide a correct pronunciation of the words. Our children, our youth and many adults who are illiterate as far as reading of correct Punjabi, to date, have therefore been handicapped. They could not read or, as we call it, to recite SGGS.

Sometime ago, our community technologists produced electronic versions of SGGS; the foremost example being the web site, This site has SGGS to read the verses which have translations attached to the verses along with dictionaries for the meaning of each word. Others, more recently, produced audio versions of SGGS where you can catch audio of the SGGS hymns but you cannot correlate as to which worlds are being recited.

What has been lacking till to date is a word by word audio of the Guru Granth recitation with  simultaneous pronunciation of each word that is highlighted at the same time. In such a combination of both, the faithful could recite SGGS correctly while they are reading it.

To my knowledge this is the first time that the modern technology has been thus employed mercifully through many man hours donated by the designer/producer. He has successfully produced an electronic teaching tool of reciting Gurbani accurately.

The tool is also well suited for Gurbani dissemination that may be used to bring others in the fold of Gur-Sikhi.

Of course one has to go beyond to understand the message which this particular software does not provide yet, but the translations and exegeses are readily available elsewhere.

I know Sardar Satpal Singh Purewal through emails and now through phone conversations. He lives in Seattle, Washington, USA, and is the creator of this much sought after software.

I learnt from Purewal Sahib what a demanding and tedious job it was to complete the project.  It consumed several years of perseverance and selfless labor. It took Sardar Purewal several years and a good chunk of money. He is not a rich person; he lives on relatively meager income.

Sardar Purewal began by taking his idea to the Sikhs’ premier organization, Shromni Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee popularly known as SGPC. He sought help from at least three successive presidents of SGPC over time. Every one promised help and even offered to take over the project but nothing ever materialized.  He contacted whole host of other Sikh organizations, no one stood by him all the way. He had to start single handedly.

To complete his project, not only Sardar Satpal Singh had to teach himself software technology and employ wisely the software technology he mastered but to also negotiate with software developers as well as their owners to use their tools and their platforms for a wide and free distribution of the product. Towards procuring the artists needed, he had to find suitable persons who could appropriately read and pronounce the hymns of SGGS accurately, and willing to spend years on the project.

GGS2There were volunteers as well as technologists to hire who could do one or the other component. He found those who could recite Gurbani with attractive voice but did not possess the skills of correct pronunciation. Others could pronounce the words that were grammatically correct, but lacked attractive voice. Still there were others who could do both but they refused to adhere to the SGPC version of SGGS.

Eventually the inventor of the software found a Sikh scholar who was conversant with both, in addition to a gift of zeal to serve the community. He could recite Gurbani with attractive voice and compose the pronunciation that appropriately followed the Guru Granth grammar.

It was our respected Bhai Sahib Gyani Jagtar Singh Jachak of New York. I really admire Bhai Sahib’s devotion to this project.

The software is ready to download and use. It will assist you to read and pronounce Gurbani correctly. Each word when read and pronounced is highlighted at the same time. If you wish to stop at any world, you can readily do so. You can also go back and forth on the text.  You can change the color of the text and its background. You can change the font and its size.

Besides a variety of Gurmukhi fonts, you may use Hindi fonts and even Urdu fonts. Thus you can share the Guru Granth with your Indian and Pakistani friends.

With this new software, you can select different banis and pages of SGGS you like to recite. It will help you reciting your Nitnem.

There are some exegeses of Gyani Jachak on the same web site that you may take advantage of. There is excellent search engine that will find any word of interest and its pronunciation at the same time.

How about projecting the SGGS pages on the screen during the akhand paath so that the audience sangat can get something out of it. Yes, traditionalists may oppose it in the beginning because the recitation through this software takes nearly 100 hours instead of traditional 48 hours of Akhand Paath recital. But, in time, the faithful may succeed in modifying the tradition in favor of benefiting the sangat.

Sardar Purewal is working presently on the next version where you may click on any word that is being read and being recited to connect it to various dictionaries to instantly learn the meaning of the same word.

To me it is a breakthrough and a challenge to distribute it widely so that our new generation can take advantage immediately.

Best for the last.

To download the software and the program please go to the web site and download various tools at no cost. It is all free through the courtesy of Sardar Satpal Singh Purewal.

Purewal Sahib, the community will salute you and remember you from the deep of their heart for this priceless gift. We will be looking forward to your next version also.

Harbans Lal

This article was originally published on Sikh Chic

All photos in the article are by Gurumustuk Singh.