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.
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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.
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This post was last updated: Jan. 4, 2010