Gurmukhi script summary

Updated 11 May, 2018 • tags gurmukhi, scriptnotes

This page provides basic information about the Gurmukhi script and its use for the Panjabi language. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as i learned. For character-specific details follow the links to the Gurmukhi character notes.

For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.

Clicking on red text examples, or highlighting part of the sample text shows a list of characters, with links to more details. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.

About the transcriptions.

Two types of transcription are used in this page: phonemic, and transliteration. The transliteration is based largely on ISO 15919, but with some changes mainly intended to ensure a one-to-one correspondence between characters. For example, two-letter sequences are handled by superscripting the second letter, such as ʰ in . Also, is used to indicate the inherent vowel, and the virama is shown using a diacritic, as in .

Sample (Panjabi)

ਆਰਟੀਕਲ: 1 ਸਾਰਾ ਮਨੁੱਖੀ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਆਪਣੀ ਮਹਿਮਾ, ਸ਼ਾਨ ਅਤੇ ਹੱਕਾਂ ਦੇ ਪੱਖੋਂ ਜਨਮ ਤੋਂ ਹੀ ਆਜ਼ਾਦ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਸੁਤੇ ਸਿੱਧ ਸਾਰੇ ਲੋਕ ਬਰਾਬਰ ਹਨ । ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਸਭਨਾ ਨੂੰ ਤਰਕ ਅਤੇ ਜ਼ਮੀਰ ਦੀ ਸੌਗਾਤ ਮਿਲੀ ਹੋਈ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਭਰਾਤਰੀਭਾਵ ਦੀ ਭਾਵਨਾ ਰਖਦਿਆਂ ਆਪਸ ਵਿਚ ਵਿਚਰਣਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ ।

ਆਰਟੀਕਲ: 2 ਹਰੇਕ ਵਿਅਕਤੀ ਨੂੰ ਭਾਵੇਂ ਉਸ ਦੀ ਕੋਈ ਨਸਲ, ਰੰਗ, ਲਿੰਗ, ਭਾਸ਼ਾ, ਧਰਮ, ਰਾਜਨੀਤਕ ਵਿਚਾਰਧਾਰਾ ਜਾਂ ਕੋਈ ਹੋਰ ਵਿਚਾਰਧਾਰਾ ਹੋਏ, ਭਾਵੇਂ ਉਸ ਦੀ ਕੋਈ ਵੀ ਜਾਇਦਾਦ ਹੋਵੇ ਅਤੇ ਭਾਵੇਂ ਉਸ ਦਾ ਕਿਤੇ ਵੀ ਜਨਮ ਹੋਇਆ ਹੋਵੇ ਤੇ ਉਸਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਵੀ ਰੁਤਬਾ ਹੋਵੇ, ਉਹ ਐਲਾਨਨਾਮੇ ਵਿਚ ਮਿਲੇ ਅਧਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਤੇ ਆਜ਼ਾਦੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਪ੍ਰਾਪਤ ਕਰਨ ਦਾ ਹੱਕ ਰਖਦਾ ਹੈ । ਇਸ ਤੋਂ ਵੀ ਅੱਗੇ ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਭੇਦ ਭਾਵ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਾਏਗਾ ਕਿ ਉਹ ਵਿਅਕਤੀ ਕਿਹੜੇ ਮੁਲਕ ਦਾ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਉਸ ਮੁਲਕ ਦਾ ਅੰਤਰਰਾਸ਼ਟਰੀ ਰੁਤਬਾ ਕਿਹੋ ਜਿਹਾ ਹੈ । ਇਸ ਗੱਲ ਦਾ ਵੀ ਖਿਆਲ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਾਏਗਾ ਕਿ ਉਹ ਵਿਅਕਤੀ ਕਿਸੇ ਆਜ਼ਾਦ ਮੁਲਕ ਦਾ ਹੈ, ਜਾਂ ਉਹ ਮੁਲਕ ਕਿਸੇ ਟਰੱਸਟ ਅਧੀਨ ਹੈ ਜਾਂ ਉਸ ਦਾ ਆਪਣਾ ਸਵੈਸ਼ਾਸਨ ਨਹੀਂ ਅਤੇ ਜਾਂ ਉਹ ਕਿਸੇ ਅਜਿਹੇ ਇਲਾਕੇ ਵਿਚ ਰਹਿੰਦਾ ਹੈ ਜਿਸ ਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਭੂਸੱਤਾ ਸੀਮਤ ਹੈ ।

Usage & history

From Scriptsource:

The Gurmukhi script is used primarily by followers of the Sikh religion in India to write the Punjabi language. Gurmukhi writing is historically derived from Brahmi, but its present form was developed in the 16th century by Guru Angad, successor to the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak. The word Gurmukhi means 'from the mouth of the guru'. Muslims in the Pakistani Punjab write Punjabi in the Persian script; use of the Persian script for writing Punjabi is called Shahmukhi.


From Wikipedia:

Gurmukhi (IPA: [ɡʊɾmʊkʰi]; Gurmukhi(literary means "from Guru's mouth"): ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ) is a Sikh script modified, standardized and used by the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad (1563–1606). It is used by Sikhs as one of two scripts to write the Punjabi language, the other being the Perso-Arabic Shahmukhi script used by Punjabi Muslims.

The primary scripture of Sikhism, Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhī, in various dialects often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha.

Key features

The Gurmukhi script is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden using vowel signs. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features, taken from the Script Comparison Table.

The following list describes some distinctive characteristics of Gurmuki script.

Character lists

The Gurmukhi script characters in Unicode 10.0 are in a single block:

The following links give information about characters used for languages associated with this script. The numbers in parentheses are for non-ASCII characters.

For character-specific details see Gurmukhi character notes.


As an abugida, the basic unit of text is the orthographic syllable. Consonant clusters occur at the beginning of orthographic syllables, however they are generally not marked specially.

Gurmukhi uses spaces to separate text into words.

Punjabi is unusual among major Indian scripts in that it is a tonal language with three tones: high rising falling (transcribed as á), low rising (transcribed as à), and level (not transcribed). The tones cover one or two syllables.d However, there appears to be a lack of clarity about the fine detail of how the tonal system works.b


Gurmukhi has a set of consonants that mostly map onto the traditional Brahmi phonetic matrix, though not all are used for articulatory distinctions. Each consonant has the inherent vowel transcribed as a and pronounced ə.

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ਸ਼śɕ, ʃ

Extended consonants

Six of the above consonants combine existing base characters with a low dot called nukta to represent extended sounds used for foriegn words, particularly Urdu or Persian. In the list above they are shown as single characters, such as [U+0A59 GURMUKHI LETTER KHHA], but Unicode Normalisation Form C produces pairs of characters, such as + [U+0A16 GURMUKHI LETTER KHA + U+0A3C GURMUKHI SIGN NUKTA].

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Tone-related consonants

Gurmukhi doesn't normally use tone diacritics. Instead, certain character combinations serve to indicate high and low tones. The level tone is not marked.

Five of the consonants – those nominally representing voiced, aspirated sounds in the Brahmi model – indicate changes in tone. The articulatory pronunciation is unaspirated and, when syllable-initial, unvoiced.

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The letters above indicate a low tone when at the beginning of a word or syllable, eg. ਘੋੜਾ gʰoṛā kòɽɑ horse, or medially between a short and long vowel, eg. ਪਘਾਰਨਾ pᵃgʰārnā pəɡɑ̀rnɑ to melt. They indicate a high tone when elsewhere, eg. ਕੁਝ kujʰ kúʤ something.o

In addition, the consonant [U+0A39 GURMUKHI LETTER HA] is only pronounced h when it occurs word initially, eg. ਹਰੀ hᵃrī həri green. In other locations it is unpronounced and indicates that the preceding vowel has a high tone, eg. ਮੀਹ mīh rain, and ਚੜ੍ਹ cᵃṛ͓h ʧə́ɽ climb. When used after a consonant, it appears subjoined below that consonant.d

When the letter ha follows a short i or u, it changes the vowel's phonetic value from [ɪ] and [ʊ] to [é] and [ó], respectively, and indicates a high tone.

According to Omniglot, the conjuncts ਗ੍ਹ gʰa, ਜ੍ਹ jʰa, ਢ੍ਹ ḍʰa, ਦ੍ਹ dʰa, and ਬ੍ਹ bʰa indicate a level tone when at the beginning of a word or syllable, and a low rising tone when elsewhere.o

The diacritic [U+0A51 GURMUKHI SIGN UDAAT​] can also be used in older texts to indicate a high tone.

(The sound h after a vowel can be produced using [U+0A03 GURMUKHI SIGN VISARGA​], but it is only rarely used.)

Vowel carriers

Three of the consonants listed above actually function as vowel-sign carriers for independent vowels (ie. vowels with no preceding consonant). See the section on vowels for more information.

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Although the last of these is pronounced purely as a vowel, it is regarded as a null consonant with an inherent vowel. The other two are never used on their own – in fact the Unicode Standard advises against using them at all, but advises authors to instead use the precomposed characters that are available in the Gurmukhi block.

Consonant clusters

As previously mentioned, clusters of consonants without intervening vowel sounds are generally not marked in Gurmukhi. There are just a few exceptions to that rule, and in each case the cluster is marked by a subjoined version of the second consonant.

The character h in non-initial position is used to indicate tones (see above). When the h follows a consonant, it is subjoined to it, eg. ਚੜ੍ਹ cᵃṛ͓h ʧə́ɽ climb.

Syllable initial clusters also occur with r and v, and are also indicated using subjoined forms, eg. ਪ੍ਰਬੰਧ prəbə́nd̪ government, and ਸ੍ਵਰਗ svərəg heaven. Subjoined v is much less common in modern text.

The way to indicate the above conjunct clusters is to add [U+0A4D GURMUKHI SIGN VIRAMA​] before the subjoined character.

The virama may also be used occasionally to suppress the vowel in Sanskritised text, or in dictionaries for extra phonetic information.w

Occasionally, a cluster ending with y is rendered using [U+0A75 GURMUKHI SIGN YAKASH​], eg. .ਕਲੵਚਰੈ.


Geminated consonants

Doubling or reinforcement of a consonant sound is indicated, unusually for an indic script, using a diacritic, [U+0A71 GURMUKHI ADDAK​]. It is typed before the consonant (In this way it resembles the small tsu in Japanese), and is placed to the left of the consonant it affects (not over it), eg. ਪੱਕੀ pəkki ripe.

The diacritic may appear over the right side of the preceding consonant, but if that consonant has a vowel sign or extension above the horizontal topline, it may be displayed on a short extension of the joining line. See the example below for the Gurmukhi MT font when displaying ਭੁੱਲ ਭੇੱਲ ਉੱਛਲ.

ਭੁੱਲ ਭੇੱਲ ਉੱਛਲ

Placement of the addak diacritic.

Geminated mm and nn may be written using a nasalisation diacritic associated with the preceding vowel, eg. ਲੰਮੀ ləmmi long.d



Like other abugidas, Gurmukhi consonants nominally carry an inherent vowel sound, usually transcribed as a and pronounced ə.

Unlike most other indic scripts, however, there is generally no indication when a consonant is not pronounced with a following vowel. (For the few occasions where this is made clear see the section Consonant clusters.) Generally speaking, the reader simply has to know whether an inherent vowel is pronounced or not, eg. ਉਤਸੁਕ utsuk curious.

The inherent vowel is generally not pronounced at the end of a word (see the previous example).

vowel signs

To add a vowel other than the inherent vowel to a syllable, a vowel-sign is added to a base consonant. The following vowel signs are available. They are all combining characters, typed and stored in memory after the base consonant.

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āɑ, ä

One vowel-sign is drawn to the left of the base character, two to the right, and the rest are either above or below.

Vowels i and u may be pronounced differently in certain contexts. With a high tone they represent é and ó, eg. ਕਿਹੜਾ kihṛā kéɽɑ who, and ਕੁਹੜਾ kuhṛā kóɽɑ leper.d

Combined with a preceding ah they produce ǽ and ɔ́, respectively, eg. ਕਹਿਣਾ kᵃhiṇā kǽɳɑ to say, and ਵਹੁਟੀ wᵃhuṭī wɔ́ʈi bride.d

Independent vowels

Independent vowels appear where there is no preceding consonant, ie. at the start of a word, or after another vowel.

There is a set of characters in the Unicode block that represent independent vowels.

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ạ̄ɑ, ä

The first character in the list above is actually classified as a null consonant with an inherent vowel (see the list of consonants above).

In fact, all independent vowels in Gurmukhi are graphically a combination of one of the following three vowel carriers and a vowel sign. However while it's also possible to type them in this way, the Unicode Standard actually provides the precomposed characters shown above and recommends that they be used instead.

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Two separate diacritics are used to indicate nasalisation.

[U+0A70 GURMUKHI TIPPI] is used with vowels a, i, u, and with final ū, eg. ਮੂੰਡਾ mūṃḍā muɳɖɑ boy.

[U+0A02 GURMUKHI SIGN BINDI​] is used for all other vowels, eg. ਸ਼ਾਂਤ śāṁt ʃɑ̃t peaceful.

These diacritics can also signal gemination of a following m or n.

Note that if a tippi is used in a location where bindi is more appropriate, some fonts may silently convert the shape to a dot.


The word emergency contains both bindi and tippi.


The Gurmukhi block includes the following combining characters, over and above the vowel signs described earlier.

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These are described elsewhere on this page.


Gurmukhi uses a couple of religious symbols.

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ek onkar
adi shakti

[U+0A74 GURMUKHI EK ONKAR] can have various different forms. Unicode classes it as a letter. The shape in the Unicode charts is highly stylised.

The stylised shape of ek onkar in the Unicode chart.

The other religious symbol, [U+262C ADI SHAKTI], is encoded in Unicode's Miscellaneous Symbols block.


Gurmukhi has its own set of decimal digits, however modern text tends to use European digits.w

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Text layout

Text direction

Gurmukhi script is written horizontally and left to right.

Text delimiters

Words are separated by spaces.

Gurmukhi generally uses western punctuation.


[U+0A03 GURMUKHI SIGN VISARGA​] is used very occasionally in Gurmukhi. In some cases it acts like a Sanskrit visarga, producing a voiceless h sound, but in others it represents an abbreviation, in the same way the period is used in English.w


Other features to be investigate in this section include: baselines, text delimiters, emphasis & highlighting, text decoration, abbreviations & ellipsis, hyphens & dashes glyph controls character transforms, quotations, repetition, line breaking, hyphenation, justification & alignment, first-letter styling, notes & footnotes, page layout


  1. [u] The Unicode Standard v10.0, Gurmukhi, pp475-479.
  2. [d] Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0, pp395-398
  3. [w] Wikipedia, Gurmukhi script
  4. [s] Sukhjinder Sidhu, Proposal to encode Gurmukhi Sign Yakash
  5. [o] Omniglot, Punjabi
  6. [b] Andrea Lynn Bowden, Punjabi Tonemics and the Gurmukhi Script: A Preliminary Study
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