Concepts in sikhism

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Sukhmani is a theological statement of the major tenets of Sikhism expressed in a devotional poetic form. Recited by the Sikhs as a part of their morning prayer, it is one of the easier texts in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is similar in syntax and structure, though its essential meaning will elude one not attuned to the spiritual experience and the idiom and phraseology of gurbani. The language character is close to Khari Boli, the Hindi that had evolved in the areas lying northwest of Delhi, with a distinct inclination towards Punjabi. The expression here, however, is poetic in its overtones and shares a common character with the variety of Hindi or Bhakha that was used by religious teachers all over northern India. While this language has evolved out of Braj, it is closer to Punjabi in its grammatical form. This will be substantiated by comparing it with the language of a poet writing in pure Braj, such as Surdas, who flourished around the same period as Guru Arjan. To indicate the differences of the language of Sukhmani from Braj even Bhakha, a few examples may be given:

Thivai (3.2) is Punjabi, so is ditha (7.7). Khate (12.5) is pure Punjabi. In niki kiri (17.5), niki (small) is Punjabi. Ohi (23.4)) is Punjabi, of which the Braj equivalent would be vehi, Hoi (past verbal form) is Punjabi. Bhau (18.7) for bhaya (fear) is an especial form given in gurbani and occurring frequently. The Punjabi character of language is especially decipherable in the forms of verb ending in the past tense. Kathia (8.7), pachhata (17.8), jata (19.8), in the sense of jania, japia (20.2), rahia (20.3), aradhia (salok 24) are some of the examples. Other verb forms to illustrate this point are utarasi (19.7) which, however, is also Rajasthani; bahai (15.2); lae (13.5) and laini (15.5). Here and there pure Hindi forms may be seen: hovat (21.1), tumari (20.7) and biapat (21.1). Japat rhyming with it in the same stanza is Punjabi with a Hindi ending.

The language of the Sukhmani can be best described as a synthesis of the Bhakha and Punjabi. In the more philosophical and meditative of their compositions, the holy Gurus are inclined to use a variety of Hindi with Punjabi overtones, while in the more deeply intimate pieces such as the chhants and pauris of Vars, Punjabi, in its dialectical variations, has been employed. This principle, by no means absolute, is only broadly applicable.


1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1975

2. Sahib Singh, Sukhmani Sahib Satik. Amritsar, 1939

3. Narain Singh, Giani, Sukhmani Sahib. Amritsar, n. d.

4. Sodhi, Teja Singh, Katha Dip Sagar (Sukhmani Sahib) Satik. Amritsar, 1959

5. Arshi, Sahib Singh, Sukhmani da Alochanatmak Adhyan. Jind, 1973

6. Macauliffe, Max Arthur, The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors. Oxford, 1909

7. Teja Singh, The Psalm of Peace.

G. S. T.

SUNN (L. M. Joshi), a Punjabi form of the Sanskrit term sunya (Pali, sunna) is derived from the root svi which is connected with the root su; both these roots mean ‘to swell’, ‘to expand’ or ‘to increase’. From the etymological standpoint the term sunya is often used in the sense of ‘zero’ or ‘cipher’ (Arabic, sifr), a symbol of naught. However, ‘zero’ again, when used by a mathematician with a figure, increases the value of that figure ten times.

The word sunya belongs to the religious and philosophical terminology of India. Its meaning has to be explored in relation to two other cognate words, viz. sunyata and sunyavada. The words sunya and sunyata have attained widespread currency chiefly through the agency of Buddhist literature: while ‘sunyavada’ is the name given one of the systems of Buddhistic thought, the word sunya means void, empty, a lonely place or solitude. The word sunyata means voidness, emptiness, vacuity or nothingness. The word ‘sunyavada’ has been translated as ‘the ism of void’ or ‘the doctrine of empty’. The barrenness of this translation is inherent in the pejorative force which gave birth to this name in anti-Buddhist circles. It is on the authority of anti-Buddhist Brahmanical sources that Monier-Williams described ‘sunyavada’ in 1899 as ‘the (Buddhist) doctrine of the non-existence (of any spirit either supreme or human), Buddhism, atheism.’

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