The straight forward answer to this question is “Yes! Gurbani is written with grammar.”
(If you don’t feel like reading, please scroll below and watch the video.)
This realization of the presence of grammar within Gurbani came about quite recently, as I was struggling to make sense of certain words and verses in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). I began to ponder, if I should pronounce the words the way they are spelt or did Guru Ji purposely spelt them differently?
There are 2 thoughts about this from various quarters or groups which I will be sharing in greater detail with you in Part-2 of this series.
If you take a look at this verse in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (page-965). It is composed by our fifth Guru Arjan Dev Ji:
ਮਃ ੫ ॥ ਆਹਰ ਸਭਿ ਕਰਦਾ ਫਿਰੈ ਆਹਰੁ ਇਕੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਤੁ ਆਹਰਿ ਜਗੁ ਉਧਰੈ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋਇ ॥੨॥
M:5. Ahar Sabh Karda Fireiy Ahar Ek Na Hoe.
Nanak Jit Ahar Jug Udharey Virla Bujhey Koe. (Sggs: 965)
Notice, the word ਆਹਰ has been mentioned three times in the above verse. Observe closely and you will see the words are spelt in three ways – ਆਹਰ, ਆਹਰੁ and ਆਹਰਿ
The first ਆਹਰ without any vowel (mukta – plural), the second ਆਹਰੁ with a vowel (aungkar – singular) and the third ਆਹਰਿ also with a vowel (sihari – verb).
You see the pronunciation of all three words are the same but the grammar based understanding will prove that they are not meant to be pronounced they way they are spelt but rather understood differently.
With grammar connotations in place, what would the correct translation of this verse be then?
One performs all activity (plural), but is unable to perform the activity (singular) of the One. Says Nanak, the one activity (verb) that would save us, is understood only by a rare few.
Do you see the difference here?
Grammar In Gurbani (How & When)
Before I go further, you need to understand how and when did the first realization of grammar within Gurbani happen.
This concept of Gurbani with grammar understanding derived from the times of Principal Jodh Singh in the 1900’s. He was the principal of Khalsa College, Amritsar. During his time, he had a student named Sahib Singh (who later became known as Professor Sahib Singh).
According to facts found, Professor Sahib Singh was well versed in Sankskrit and Gurbani. In 1925, he used the grammatical approach to understanding Gurbani and came up with the translations of 8 Vaars out of the 22 contained within SGGS. This was the first attempt in translating Gurbani with grammar.
Then in 1938, Professor Sahib Singh published a 446-page complete text on Gurbani titled “Gurbani Vyakaran.”
The epitome of Prof. Sahib Singh’s 36-years of work came about when he completed the Punjabi translation of SGGS in 10-volumes known as “Darpan” – in 1961 which was entirely based on Gurbani grammar.
So, why is it that we were never taught Gurbani with grammar? Why were we kept in the dark about the importance of grammar within Gurbani?
I will attempt to answer these questions and more in Part-2 of this series.