PATTI, lit. a wooden tablet on which children learn to write the alphabet, is the name given to two hymns, in the Guru Granth Sahib, composed in the form of an acrostic, employing letters of the Gurmukhi alphabet. Pattt by Guru Nanak titled Rdgu Asd Mahald IPatfiLikhi comprises thirty-five stanzas, each stanza introduced with a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet. From stanza nine to thirty-three, the order followed is exactly that of the alphabet current today; elsewhere there are deviations. What was the order prevalent in Guru Nanak`s time is, however, uncertain. 

The main themes touched upon in this composition are the unicity of the Godhead, human ego and karma, the law of causality. God is one.He is the Creator of all that exists. Egocentricity is the cause of man`s nescience, of his isolation from the Divine Essence. He who frees himself from ego realizes his true self; he alone can be called a learned one or pandit (4). God is all pervasive.

He pervades all the places and dwells in the minds of all (13). Whereas God, who is the Primal Lord, is true and eternal (2), all other beings, though His own creation, are physically transient. Since life is transient, it must not be wasted away and one must seek ever the Lord`s protection (14). God is all powerful, and He began his play by making the four ages or time cycles His diceboard and all beings His draughtsmen.

He is the Primal Giver, and one must always remember Him and be absorbed in His Name (34). Comfort pervades the hearts of those who remain attached to His feet (15). Man will get peace by serving Him. Serving Him means serving one`s fellow beings, for He is in them all (16).

If man does not remember and serve God but remains lost in duality, it is the consequence of his own deeds. As one sows so does one reap. Those engaged in singing laudation of the Divine escape the bonds of transmigration. It is through His grace alone that one is so persuaded.

Patti by Guru Amar Das follows Guru Nanak`s in the Guru Granth Sahib.It comprises eighteen stanzas, besides a couplet titled rahdu or pause. Some of the stanzas begin with Gurmukhi letters and some with vowels as well as with compounds from Sanskrit. At the beginning are vowelforms of ayo and an, the latter expressing nasal sound.

Then intervene the consonants k,kh, gh and the nasal n, followed by nri and laH, representing letters of Vedie Sanskrit ri, ri, Iri and Iri. Next come the rahdu or pause lines summing up the central idea: “0 my mind, what is the use of such calculations as thou hast learnt! The debt that thou owest is still on thy head” (GG, 434).The composition, presenting the teachings of Sikh faith in terms of the karmic theory, revolves around three key wordsJiva, pandit and Guru. The individual being, jiva, is advised always to remember the Creator for He alone can save him from Yama, the god of death (2).

The tragedy of man, however, is that he remains oblivious of Him and thus wastes his opportunity continuing in the circuit of birth, death and rebirth (4). The learned Pandit who teaches the young student how to write on patti, the wooden tablet, is adjured to instruct him not only in the knowledge of the world, for that binds him as well as his pupil (5).Such a Pandit is prey to greed (6), ego (7), lust and anger (8). Man engrossed in mdyd remains caught in the cycle of transmigration, but the realization of God through the grace of the Guru helps him attain liberation (11).

It is man`s forgetfulness of God that keeps him tied to the chain of transmigration (12). However, if man submits himself to the Guru, he is exonerated of all his past sins (15) and ultimately gets liberated (18).

References :

1. Sabaddarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1964
2. Kohli, Surindar Singh, A Critical Study ofAdi Granth. Delhi, 1961