The Persian Voice of the Guru: A New Transcreation Series - Sikh Research Institute

The Persian Voice of the Guru: A New Transcreation Series

Released: September 27, 2019 &

Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) is announcing the release of a new transcreation series, The Persian Voice of the Guru.

Persian is one of the many languages found in the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak Sahib, Guru Arjan Sahib, and several of the bhagats revealed bani (Wisdom) in the Persian language. In commemoration of #Nanakshahi550, The Persian Voice of the Guru is being introduced with an accompanying article that addresses common understandings and illustrates the role of Persian in the Guru Granth Sahib, followed by transcreations of six Sabads (excerpts from the Guru Granth Sahib) by Guru Nanak Sahib. The first transcreation is perhaps the best known Persian Sabadyak araj guphtam. Said to have been revealed in Mecca, in this Sabad Guru Nanak Sahib describes the nature of death and immortality. 

To help highlight the rich context layered within these sabads (excerpts from the Guru Granth Sahib), each transcreation will be accompanied by a commentary that walks one through the linguistic, historical, and religious context of Persian vocabulary within the bani. Many of these words may be new to a Panjabi-speaking audience and the Sabads may be unfamiliar. Recorded recitations of the Sabads will allow readers to immerse themselves in the Guru’s Word.

To bring the Guru’s voice and message to a wider audience, all releases of The Persian Voice of the Guru will have alternating lines of the original Gurmukhi script, transcription into the Roman script, English meanings, and transcription into the Perso-Arabic script. For the Sabads written in fluent Persian, the Perso-Arabic script will be styled for a modern-day Persian speaker to read and understand. For the Sabads infused with Persian vocabulary, the focus is transcription.

The line by line transcreations allow for the original Gurmukhi to stand on its own while still highlighting the complex relationship the use of Persian in the Guru Granth Sahib and other contemporary Sikh writings (such as the ghazals of Bhai Nand Lal Goya) the has with the broader Persian language and literary world. Pronunciations often differ from standard Persian because the Guru’s voice reflects the commoners’ vernacular, giving us a living recording of the way ordinary people spoke the language of the royal court in their respective eras of South Asian history.

SikhRI Creative Director, Inni Kaur says, “The Persian Voice of the Guru brings the beauty of Sabad to a wider audience. The careful commentary allows one to sit with the meaning and experience Guru Nanak Patshah’s message, across script and language. By looking at Sabad with new eyes, we deepen our relationship to Guru.” 

Guru Nanak Sahib employed the Persian language to explain commonly held Islamic beliefs, practices, and principles through a Sikh paradigm. Language acted as a bridge that allowed Guru Nanak Sahib to sing Divine Praises to the people through the words they knew best, inspiring listening and transforming lives. We hope to bring new opportunities for learning and transformation through the gift of a Persian Sabad every two weeks with the launch of The Persian Voice of the Guru. 

For any questions regarding the Persian Voice of the Guru series, please reach out to Asha Marie Kaur at asha.kaur@sikhri.org.

 

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