The Beauty of JAP JI SAHIB

First, I must salute the team of scholars and their helpers for completing their project under review....

A book dedicated to 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak

Review by Dr. Bhai Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt. (Hons)


Next year in 2019 the followers of Guru Nanak everywhere in the world will be celebrating the coming of Guru to this world with his divinely inspired messages. As such, we are enthused to use this occasion as an opportunity to open our minds to the wisdom that Guru Nanak showered upon us and to share the same with our neighbors all over the world.

The composition of Jap Ji is among the masterpieces of the Guru’s compositions. As such, this composition is attracting the most attention of our writers today.  Jap Ji also serves as a prologue to the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), as the Jap Ji prefaces SGGS. As a result, Jap Ji is the most translated and rendered piece of Guru’s verses, the first one done right at the time of Guru Arjan (1563 – 1606). Similarly, every world language has been employed for its translation; the most recent translation gifted to me was done in Chinese.

Do we need all those translations? Yes, we need most of them as they communicate with different sectors of our neighbors. The present one that I like to recommend to you certainly deserves its place in the intellectual armamentarium.

First, I must salute the team of scholars and their helpers for completing their project under review. They constituted a team that had come to be known as AWAT or A Word A Thought.  For, the Jap Ji translation project they picked up several key words and deliberated on each word in the context in which it was used in the Guru’s hymns. They were brief so that the signals may be brought out without noise.

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Most of my friends and the readers of AWAT know well the contribution of this team. I did my part in bringing the project and their services to the attention of the readers of my blog and other writings. If you missed this information, please do visit and read it, reflect on it and share it with your friends if you are touched.

Then the AWAT team took the next step and selected 54 keywords from Jap Ji to complete this new book,  I am writing about. They named the book, The Beauty of JAP JI SAHIB. From their website where they have been posting the key words, you will realize that this project took years of labor.

What is different in this book on Jap Ji is the language, style and organization of different thoughts expressed in Jap Ji.  As we know Guru Nanak organized the Jap Ji composition into 38 stanzas that Guru did not elect to title except numbering each one of them. I cannot tell you why the translators and publishers started calling them pauries or steps when Guru Nanak reserved that term for many other verses in SGGS, and not use in Jap Ji.

For the language of the composition, the authors chose to retain original Gurmukhi and added English transliteration for the new youth in the West not familiar with Gurmukhi enough to read the Gurbani text. Then they added etymology to signify the origin of each keyword. That will help the reader to further grasp the meaning of the terms prevalent in the Guru period.  

I also like the format used for the etymology of each word. Here is one example.

Etymology: From Sanskrit satya (true, truth, promise) → Prakrit/Pali sachch → Sindhi sachu and Punjabi sach.

In the book, the literal translation of the verses composing each stanza are followed by a couple of paragraphs outlining the message contained in the stanza. The stanzas which were part of a common theme, were then combined in a section giving the summary and the central idea of the theme. I found the grouping of the thematic sections particularly helpful. For example, Guru Nanak’s description of five khands is discussed separately for each and then synthesized into the overview of the Khands’ theme.

The authors also stayed loyal to traditional style and meaning that will look familiar to the readers who are acquainted with katha or exegesis formats popular in the Sikh congregations today. Here the meaning of a term is supported with other verses from SGGS.

I will recommend the book on Jap Ji to members of Sikh congregations. I also recommend the book to other lovers of the world’s faiths, such as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians. They would be attracted to the message of peace, love, good deeds, sharing, and spiritual uplift.  Although the text is geared more towards a commoner rather than to scholars or a researcher, it will still be helpful to Sikh kathakaars in the Western world, and the priestly class in general for comparative religious studies.

You can purchase ‘The Beauty of Jap Ji Sahib’ and other books by AWAT (, from:


Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt. (Hons)
Emeritus Professor and Chairman, Dept of Pharmacology & Neuroscience, 

U. North Texas Health Science Center, USA


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