There’s a lasting link between the 35-character alphabet used to write Punjabi and the Sikh religion.
The Sikh scriptures and the Punjabi language of many Sikhs were written in a script known as Gurmukhi. So to be fully initiated into the religion, you must know how to read it.
That has created a problem for the Sikh community of Livingston. Their children, many of whom speak only English, aren’t able to understand the temple’s priests — let alone some of their own family members.
The problem, increasingly common in many Sikh communities, is threatening to create a cultural, linguistic and religious divide between generations, said several local Sikhs and the Sikh media. It’s also a threat to the continuance of the religion among second- and third-generation Sikhs.
The movement isn’t confined to Livingston.
An article in the spring 2008 issue of The World Sikh News, a San Jose-based weekly newspaper, warned that the loss of knowledge of the Gurmukhi alphabet was widespread — and not just in the U.S.
Nanak Singh “Nishte” wrote that not only were huge numbers of Sikhs in India illiterate, but many others were learning to read other scripts instead of Gurmukhi.