3 Tips to Improve your Gurbani Pronunciation

3 simple ways in which one could improve their Gurbani Ucharan....


 

 3 Tips to Improve your Gurbani Pronunciation

July 06, 2015: Today I’d like to talk about 3 simple ways in which one could improve their Gurbani Ucharan. When we read Gurbani, its important to pay attention to the words and how they are spelled. A small mistake in pronunciation could change the meaning entirely, so we should try our best to be shud(clear) when reading Gurbani. Correct pronunciation is even more important when someone else is listening, because that small mistake on our part could cause a larger misunderstanding for the listener(s) since they cannot see the words themselves. If you have taken santhiya, hopefully you will already know these things and pay attention to them. If you haven’t, I hope you can learn from this article and improve. Either way, I hope everyone can find something useful here.

I’m not going to write about any complex topics in here like viakran (grammar), parts of speech, singular/plural, masculine/feminine etc. or controversial stuff like whether or not we should pronounce bindis and all that. These are just 3 simple tips that I think everyone across the board can agree on, no matter your background. I’m not an expert by any means, these are just basic things I have learned and observed over the years so I wanted to share them for everyone’s benefit. Each “tip” is followed by examples from common Nitnem baanis.

1) Know the difference between laav/laa and dulaava/dulaiya. This is very important and unfortunately one of the most common mistakes I hear everyday. People just don’t seem to know the difference, or they don’t care to pay attention. .If you have taken santhia you should know that one makes an “ay” sound such as in “hay” or “bay” and the other makes an “ai” sound such as in “cat” or “mat”. Majority of the people I’ve heard read Gurbani mispronounce these and don’t differentiate between them I would like to very briefly narrate a sakhi here to explain the importance of this point. I’m sure you can find this saakhi online in much more detail if interested. But basically, once time Guru Sahib asked a sikh to recite Gurbani for him, and the sikh was doing a wonderful job and Guru sahib was very happy with him. Then he got to the line

ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੈ ਜਾਣੈ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੂਰਾ ||੩||
karathae kee mith karathaa jaanai kai jaanai gur sooraa ||3||
Only the Creator Himself knows His own extent; or the Brave Guru knows. ||3||

But he pronounced kai as ke. Guru sahib stopped him right there and ordered sikhs to give him some sort of punishment (according to some accounts he was “caned” or slapped), because by saying “kay”, the meaning of the line changed from “…. or the Brave Guru knows” to “…what does the Guru know?”, meaning the Guru knows nothing. This seemingly small mistake translated into a huge insult toward Guru Sahib.  Although I’m not sure how accurate this incident is because we know Guru Sahib is forever merciful, it still illustrates how important it is to pronounce Gurbani correctly, to the best of our ability.

More examples:

ਮੰਨੇ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਕਹੀ ਨ ਜਾਇ ||

ma(n)nae kee gath kehee n jaae ||

(Japji Sahib) Notice the first manae pauri in Japji Sahib uses Manae

ਮੰਨੈ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਮਨਿ ਬੁਧਿ ||

ma(n)nai surath hovai man budhh ||

(Japji Sahib) while the next 3 pauris use Manai. The difference is due to meaning.

ਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਹੋਆ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ||੧||

kehai naanak ana(n)dh hoaa sathiguroo mai paaeiaa ||1||
Says Nanak, I am in ecstasy, for I have found my True Guru. ||1||

(Anand Sahib) Many people say Kahay, correct pronunciation is kahai.

ਸੁਣਿ ਕੈ ਜਮ ਕੇ ਦੂਤ ਨਾਇ ਤੇਰੈ ਛਡਿ ਜਾਹਿ ||

sun kai jam kae dhooth naae thaerai shhadd jaahi ||
Hearing Your Name, the Messenger of Death runs away.

(Rehraas Sahib) first one is kai, second is kay. They have different meanings.

ਸੁਣਿ ਵਡਾ ਆਖੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ||
sun vaddaa aakhai sabh koe ||
Hearing of His Greatness, everyone calls Him Great.

(Rehraas Sahib)  Many people say aakhay, correct pronunciation is aakhai.

ਤਿਤੁ ਸਰਵਰੜੈ ਭਈਲੇ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਾਵਕੁ ਤਿਨਹਿ ਕੀਆ ||
thith saravararrai bheelae nivaasaa paanee paavak thinehi keeaa ||
In that pool, people have made their homes, but the water there is as hot as fire!

(Rehraas Sahib) many people say Sarvarray, correct pronunciation is sarvarrai.

 
2) Know the difference between Siharee and Biharee. The former has is an I sound, such as in “bit” or  kit”, while the latter has an ee sound such as in “beet, meet”. These are easy to overlook and people often say one in place of the other.

ਗਾਵਨਿ ਤੁਧਨੋ ਇੰਦ੍ਰ ਇੰਦ੍ਰਾਸਣਿ ਬੈਠੇ ਦੇਵਤਿਆ ਦਰਿ ਨਾਲੇ ||
gaavan thudhhano ei(n)dhr ei(n)dhraasan bait(h)ae dhaevathiaa dhar naalae ||
Indra, seated on His Throne, sings of You, with the deities at Your Door.

(Japji Sahib) Many people say devteeaa, correct pronunciation is devtia.

ਗਾਵਨਿ ਤੁਧਨੋ ਸਿਧ ਸਮਾਧੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਗਾਵਨਿ ਤੁਧਨੋ ਸਾਧ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ||
gaavan thudhhano sidhh samaadhhee a(n)dhar gaavan thudhhano saadhh beechaarae ||
The Siddhas in Samaadhi sing of You; the Saadhus sing of You in contemplation.

(Japji Sahib) Many people say bichaaray, correct pronunciation is beecharay.

ਮੋ ਰੱਛਾ ਨਿਜ ਕਰ ਦੈ ਕਰਿਯੈ ||ਸਭ ਬੈਰਨ ਕੋ ਆਜ ਸੰਘਰਿਯੈ ||
mo raashhaa nij kar dhai kariyai ||sabh bairan ko aaj sa(n)ghariyai ||
Give me Your Hand and protect me. Destroy all my enemies today.

(Chaopei Sahib) We often hear kareeyai and sanghareeyai, correct pronunciation is kariyai, sanghariyai.

ਦੇਹ ਨਿਮਾਣੀ ਲਿਵੈ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਕਿਆ ਕਰੇ ਵੇਚਾਰੀਆ ||
dhaeh nimaanee livai baajhahu kiaa karae vaechaareeaa ||
The body is dishonored without devotional love; what can the poor wretches do?

(Anand Sahib) We often hear vecharia, correct pronunciation is vechareea.

ਥਾਲ ਵਿਚਿ ਤਿੰਨਿ ਵਸਤੂ ਪਓ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੋ ||
thhaal vich thi(n)n vasathoo peeou sath sa(n)thokh veechaaro ||
Upon this Plate, three things have been placed: Truth, Contentment and Contemplation.

ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਨਾਮੁ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਕਾ ਪਓ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਸਭਸੁ ਅਧਾਰੋ ||
a(n)mrith naam t(h)aakur kaa paeiou jis kaa sabhas adhhaaro ||
The Ambrosial Nectar of the Naam, the Name of our Lord and Master, has been placed upon it as well; it is the Support of all.

(Rehraas Sahib) We often hear people pronounce them both the same way, but they are both pronounced differently.

ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਲਗੀ ਪਿਆਸ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਸੇ ਖਾਹਿ ||
jin ko lagee piaas a(n)mrith saee khaahi ||
Those who feel thirst for You, take in Your Ambrosial Nectar.

(Rehraas Sahib) Most people say “Say-ee”. but its actually “say-i”.

ਰਖੇ ਰਖਣਹਾਰਿ ਆਪਿ ਉਬਾਰਿਅਨੁ ||
rakhae rakhanehaar aap oubaarian ||
O Savior Lord, save us and take us across.

(Rehraas Sahib) We often hear ubareean. The whole pauri has siharees, so correct pronunciation is ubarian, savarian

 
3) Pause between words. I learned this from my Dad and I’ve never heard any one else mention it, but it makes quite a difference. When one word ends with a certain letter and the next word starts with the same letter, if we speak too fast we tend to blur the words together into one word. However, if we pause even for a short amount, there is a clear space and the letters are pronounced separately. Examples:

ਸਹਸ ਸਿਆਣਪਾ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਤ ਇਕ ਨ ਚਲੈ ਨਾਲਿ ||
sehas siaanapaa lakh hohi th eik n chalai naal ||
Hundreds of thousands of clever tricks, but not even one of them will go along with you in the end. (Japji Sahib)

ਜੇ ਹਉ ਜਾਣਾ ਆਖਾ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਹਣਾ ਕਥਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ||
jae ho jaanaa aakhaa naahee kehanaa kathhan n jaaee ||
Even knowing God, I cannot describe Him; He cannot be described in words. (Japji Sahib)

ਪੰਚੇ ਸੋਹਹਿ ਦਰਿ ਰਾਜਾਨੁ ||
pa(n)chae sohehi dhar raajaan ||
The chosen ones look beautiful in the courts of kings. (Japji Sahib)

ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਤੁਧੁ ਵਸਿ ਕੀਤੇ ਕਾਲੁ ਕੰਟਕੁ ਮਾਰਿਆ ||
pa(n)ch dhooth thudhh vas keethae kaal ka(n)ttak maariaa ||
Through You, we subdue the five demons of desire, and slay Death, the torturer. (Anand Sahib)

ਜਿਨ ਨਰ ਨਾਮ ਤਿਹਾਰੋ ਕਹਾ ||ਦਾਰਿਦ ਦੁਸਟ ਦੋਖ ਤੇ ਰਹਾ ||੨੪||
jin nar naam thihaaro kehaa ||dhaaridh dhusatt dhokh thae rehaa ||24||
One, who repeats Your Name, Will be relieved from poverty and saved from attacks of foes. (Chaopei Sahib)

ਹੂਜੋ ਸਦਾ ਹਮਾਰੇ ਪ੍ਨਛਾ || ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਸਿਧੁਜ ਜੂ ਕਰਿਯਹੁ ਰ੍ਨਛਾ ||੫|| ੩੮੧||
hoojo sadhaa hamaarae paashhaa || sree asidhhuj joo kariyahu raashhaa ||5|| 381||
Remain always on my back. Protect me, a graceful (Lord) with sword on Your Banner! (Chaopei Sahib)

ਰਿ ਰਾਸਿ ਮੇਰੀ ਮਨੁ ਵਣਜਾਰਾ ||
har raas maeree man vanajaaraa ||
The Lord is my capital; my mind is the merchant. (Anand Sahib)

ਸੁਣਤੇ ਪੁਨੀਤ ਕਹਤੇ ਪਵਿਤੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਰਪੂਰੇ ||
sunathae puneeth kehathae pavith sathigur rehiaa bharapoorae ||
Pure are the listeners, and pure are the speakers; the True Guru is all-pervading and permeating. (Anand Sahib)
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Just paying attention to these three things will force you to focus on what you’re reading and help keep your mind from wandering. As we implement these tips our Gurbani pronunciation will become clearer and more understandable. They can also help us when trying to read Larrivaar Gurbani (the original form where words are written without spaces in between). At the same time let us not forget that the most important aspect of all is reciting with love. May Guru Sahib accept our best effort and forgive all our mistakes.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

-Vikram Singh

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