Guru Granth Sahib Translation Project


Sri Guru Granth Sahib

ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ਤਾਂ ਪਰਉਪਕਾਰੀ ਜਾਂ ਪੰਚ ਰਾਸੀ ਤਾਂ ਤੀਰਥ ਵਾਸੀ

Contemplate and reflect upon knowledge, and you shall become a benefactor to others. When you conquer the five vices (lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego), then you shall become pious like a dweller at the sacred shrine of pilgrimage. humbly attempts to earnestly contemplate, reflect upon and translate in plain understandable English language, the infinite wisdom embodied in Gurbani verses enshrined in Shri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). Any translation work cannot be completed without surmounting certain foreseen and unforeseen challenges. The associated responsibility of undertakers of such a venture indisputably increases multifold when the source being translated is as important and as unique as SGGS. The script of Shri Guru Granth Sahib is in Gurmukhi but the actual languages used are many. The terminology comes from most of the languages prevailing in India at that time, including Arabic, Persian, the scholarly language of Sanskrit, the language of poetry Braj Bhasha and, of course, Punjabi – the native language of Punjab, which itself is a captivating assortment of the languages of the many invaders who found their way into Punjab.

Much of the Sikh teaching is adorned in the metaphoric framework of Indic mythology. Although this mythology is not intrinsic to the Sikh message, nonetheless, for a student to derive proper meaning, the teaching was justly presented in the contextual fabric of the language, vocabulary, and culture of the times. Another unique facet of SGGS is that the entire teaching is in the form of inspired, divine poetry, and like all good poetry that is not entirely rhyming, the reader needs to pause briefly to make sense of the metaphoric language, along with its many possible meanings and applications. A literal translation will just not work.

Further, let us not forget that SGGS deals with eternal themes like the nature of God, the sense of self, the Creator and Creation and mankind’s delicate but pivotal place in it. Now a genuine seeker, who has no firsthand assimilation of such deep and ostensibly abstract concepts, cannot grasp them easily. However, by making use of similes, allegories, metaphors, analogies, hyperboles, and personification, it becomes relatively easier to make a good sense of it. That’s why one finds their extensive use in the verses of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Even though Sikhs arose in Punjab, they never really stayed limited to their place of origin and travelled far and wide in due course of time. The past century has seen a substantial emergence of Sikh communities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, with an impressive presence in the European Union, East Africa and South-East Asia. That’s a ‘sea change’ – literally. Now one can witness generations of Sikhs being raised outside Punjabi ambience all across the world. As many as three million Sikhs now live outside Punjab and India. On center stage of our translation mission is this younger audience with limited or no knowledge of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Obviously, for this new generation of Sikhs growing up outside the cultural and linguistic setting of Punjab and Punjabi language, discovering and nurturing a sense of intimacy with the Guru’s message is by far not simple at all. So, any translation project, then has to absolutely account for all those aforementioned aspects in order to present the work in a plausibly understanding manner.

Our team of volunteers fully realize that several translations of Shri Guru Granth Sahib in English are available and apparently some more may concurrently be in progress. And we, here at celebrate them all. In fact, we take this opportunity to recognize, thank, and applaud all the pioneering works of translation carried out by numerous authors / groups. Their work, in one way or the other, laid the foundation for our own inspired venture. Some of these sources that served as our Gurmukhi references are the works by Professor Sahib Singh, Bhai Vir Singh, Bhai Harbans Singh, Bhai Manmohan Singh, and Shabdarth by SGPC. For English translation, Dr. Sant Singh’s work served as the starting point. Specifically, Mr. Daljit Singh Jawa’s English translation proved immensely helpful for our venture. Extending the path paved by these pioneers, team modestly offers its own share of contribution and fervently strives to recapture the real spirit and beauty of the verses in Shri Guru Granth Sahib.

A renowned English writer, W.H. McLeod, who studied the Sikh Scriptures, eloquently observed, “The world is poorer for its ignorance of the Sikh Scriptures. Although it is doubtlessly true that translation can rarely recapture the charm of a choice original, it is equally true that competence is always attainable and that a skilled translator who senses the power of the original Punjabi will occasionally reproduce its spirit and beauty as its literal meaning. Already there are promising beginnings. We must hope that they prosper”. Attaining competence while reproducing the Gurbani spirit and at the same time avoiding excessive dependence on literal translation, is admittedly a herculean task that requires experience in multitude of faculties like knowledge of Punjabi, Gurmukhi Grammar, a thorough understanding of Gurbani, cited mythological stories and metaphors. Fortunately, with Almighty’s blessing, a dedicated group of individuals meeting and exceeding those requisites, have relentlessly devoted their time and energy for the last several years. We hope their commitment is ostensibly evident in the finished product.

The message SGGS conveys is universal and so should its reach be. Although primarily English is considered as the chosen language for mass reach, we did not stop at English translation. Our team extended the translation scope to other Indian and foreign languages. Accordingly, besides Punjabi & English, other languages where the translation work is either complete or in active progress, are Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Odia, Urdu, Urdu Master, Urdu Raw, Bengali, Thai, Arabic, Persian, Malaysian, Russian, and French. The website (and the app – soon to be made available) will present options to choose the language so that the reader can understand the SGGS message in the language he or she can comprehend the best.

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