Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Guru Angad Dev: A Linguist, Poet, Philosopher and Guru

by Dr. Sukhdev Singh

Guru Angad Dev was born on 31st March 1504 in Matte Di Sarai popularly known as Sarainaga in the Mukatsar district of Indian Punjab and was named Lehna by his parents.

Following the journey of his life as a preacher and a priest, Lehna, in his late twenties, reached from the village Sarainaga to Khadur, and from Khadur to Kartarpur where he joined Guru Nanak as his devout follower. Due to his unconditional and faithful commitment and devotion, Lehna qualified to be his Guru’s successor on 14th June 1539. Touching Lehna, Guru Nanak named him Angad which meant that he was adopted as a limb of his master’s body.

Lehna thus became Angad and was proclaimed as the second Guru in a ceremony held on 7th September, 1539. Then onwards, he is Guru Angad Dev who took over the task of developing and formalising the script for the Punjabi language to write the compositions of his master Guru Nanak for the common masses drawing a departure from the use of Landah or Mahajani script in practice to write in Punjabi. The Landah or Mahajani script was used by the traders and the elite of the day, though it was not a script exclusively for use to write in the Punjabi language. Thus, Guru Angad Dev is credited for formalising the script exclusively for the Punjabi language. The same script is now known as the Gurmukhi script and is used for the Punjabi language as the constitutionally recognised as state language in the Indian Punjab.

A script exclusively developed for representing the consonant and vowel sounds of a language is important for its development and distinctive recognition: it strengthens the language by reducing its dependence on the scripts created for the sounds of other languages. A language with its own exclusive script is more autonomous, independent and resilient against assimilation by other dominant languages. It serves as an important tool for recording the culture and knowledge resources of a linguistic community for communication and learning by the people at a distance in time and space.

Thus the development of a script for the Punjabi language was a significant step towards recognition of the Punjabi language as a distinct and independent language. Guru Angad Dev used this script to inscribe the writings of Guru Nanak and his own compositions raising the status of the Punjabi language worth writing in its own script.

 To popularise the script and spread the message of Guru Nanak, he set up schools for the children to learn to write and read in this script. By writing Guru Nanak’s and his own compositions in the Punjabi script and language Guru Angad Dev started the task and tradition of compilation and preservation of knowledge for the coming generations in their own language in the written form. The same compositions later became a part of Guru Granth Sahib.

While he set up schools for teaching and learning knowledge, he also set up Mull Akharas (Wrestling Rings) for physical exercise and skills.

To facilitate free food service to those staying and travelling to these schools and Akharas or anyone needy, he strengthened and popularised the practice of Langar i.e. community kitchen run with offerings and contribution from the community. The Guru supported himself for his personal needs by twisting grass in to strings for weaving cots. He lived a simple life till the end on 29th March, 1552 passing on the compilation of writings in the Punjabi script and the responsibilities of the Guru to Guru Amar Dass.

Dr. Sukhdev Singh

Retired Professor

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