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ALPHABET (GURMUKHI)

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ALPHABET (GURMUKHI) Punjabi alphabet is known as Gurmukhi. Since its characters were used for writing and transcribing the biography and hymns of Guru Nanak, it was given this name by the second Sikh Guru, Guru An gad Dev. It is a misnomer to call the Guru as the inventor of its characters, because before the advent of Guru Nanak, their usage had been prevalent according to in a tablet found at A thur in Ludhiana district. Even Guru Nanak himself based one of his poems entitled 'patti' on its characters. This Alphabet is also called 'Paint is Akhri' because it contains thirty-five letters.

The first three characters Ura, Ara and Iri are vowels. Sassa is sibilant, Haha is aspirate. There are twenty-five mutes, which include five Gutturals: kakka, Khakkha, gagga, ghaggha and ngannga, five Palatals: chachcha, chachcha, jajja, jhajjha and nyanya, five Cerebrals: tainka, thattha, dadda, chaddha and nana, five Dentals: tatta, thattha, dadda, dhaddha and nanna and five Labials: pappa, phappha, babba, bhabbha and mamma.
The last five letters are consonants like mutes, but they are also called semi-vowels. They are: yayya, rara, lalla, wawa and rara. The vowels, that is, the first three letters are made to represent ten vowel sounds with the aid of additional signs, which are known as laghan mat ran.

These are the short a inherent in each consonant, aa, i, ee, u, oo, ey, ai, o and auo.These laghan matran are: mukta, kanna, siari, biari, uankar, dulainkare, lan, dulaian, hora and kanaura respectively. When used with consonants, these signs represent the three vowels. There are three additional signs, viz., tippi, bindi and adhik. Tippi is a nasal sound and is joined with mukta, siari, uankar and dulainkare. Bindi is also nasal and is joined with kanna, biari, lan, dulaian, hora and kanaura. Adhik is placed between two letters, indicating the reduplication of the second.

The sha sound of Sanskrit and Persian are represented by putting a dot under khakkha, gagga, jajja and phappha respectively. Compound letters are avoided in Gurmukhi, with the exception of haha and rara, which are joined with consonants at their foot with the signs. Gurmukhi script is an evolute from the old Brahmi script like Devanagari and other scripts of the area like Sharda, Takri, Mahajani etc. Gurmukhi characters are even older than Devanagari.

References:
1. Grier son, G.A., Linguistic Survey of India,Vol IX, Part I, Delhi, 1968.
2. Singh, G.B., Gurmukhi Lippi da Janam te Vikas, Chandigarh, 1972.

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