TRUMPP'S TRANSLATION OF PORTIONS OF THE GURŪ GRANTH SĀHIB, first published in 1877 under the title The Ādi Granth, was the earliest attempt at rendering the Scripture of the Sikhs into another language. The translator, Dr Ernest Trumpp (1828-85), an eminent linguist proficient in several languages, western as well as eastern, was born on 13 March 1828 at Ilsfeldt, a village in Wurtemberg province of Germany. In 1849, owing to political disturbances in his country, he migrated to London where he was employed as assistant librarian at the East India House, later known as India Office. Sponsored by the Ecclesiastical Mission Society, Trumpp came to India around 1854 to study Indian languages and prepare their grammars and glossaries for use by Christian missionaries. Staying first at Karāchī, he learnt Sindhi, and published a Sindhi grammar and a reading book as well as a Persian translation of the common Prayer Book in 1858. From Karāchī Trumpp moved to Peshāwar where he took up missionary work and studied Pashto. He returned to his home in Germany in 1860.
It was in 1869 that India Office commissioned Dr. Ernest Trumpp to translate into English the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Gurū Granth Sāhib. He again came out to India, this time staying in Lahore where he set to work with his characteristic assiduity. He first engaged two granthīs or Sikh scripture readers to assist him and also consulted some granthīs at Amritsar, but was not satisfied with their interpretations. He then took hold of some old commentaries which explained vocabulary, and with their help started a direct study of the entire text, noting down as he proceeded grammatical forms and unfamiliar words. And thus, as Trumpp records in his preface to The Ādi Granth, "I gradually drew up a grammar and a dictionary, so that I could refer to every passage again, whenever I found it necessary for the sake of comparison." Having prepared his tools, he returned to his native town, Wurtemberg, in the spring of 1872 and got started on the translation. He combined this work with his duties as Assistant Professor of Oriental Languages at the University and his study of Ethiopic. By 1876, he had translated Japu, So Daru, So Purakhu, Sohilā, the Rāgas Sirī, Mājh, Gauṛī and Āsā, ślokas of Kabīr and Shaikh Farīd, Savaiyyās of the Bhaṭṭs and ślokas of Gurū Tegh Bahādur. Then adding a few introductory essays such as "The Life of Nānak according to the Janam-Sākhīs," "Sketch of the Life of the other Sikh Gurūs," " Sketch of the Religion of the Sikhs," "On the Composition of the Granth" and "On the Language and the Metres used in the Granth," he submitted his incomplete work for publication under a preface signed by him "Munich, 23 January 1877."
Dr. Ernest Trumpp was a great scholar in his own fields---linguistics, philosophy and religion. But he was a rulist, and he was a Christian. He failed to bring any measure of empathy to the study of the Sikh faith. As a result his approach was prejudiced and his conclusions offensive, even insulting. To him, "Sikhism is a waning religion, that will soon belong to history...;" "Nānak himself was by no means an independent thinker...;" and "The tenth Gurū, Govind Siṅgh, relapsed in many points again into Hinduism, he being a special votary of Durga..." He treated Sikhism as a part of the Hindu complex. This is clear from his translation of the very first line, the Mūl Mantra or the root formula, of the Gurū Granth Sāhib. He translates Ik Oṅkār simply as "om!" ignoring the significant figure 1 and the suffix kār . For him ajūnī and saibhaṅ are synonymous, both meaning " not produced from the womb." Further, his grammarian's passion kept him from studying the finer shades of Sikh thought. His comments on Sikh history turned out to be equally pejorative. For these reasons, his work did not receive the approval of the Sikhs. In the words of Max Arthur Macauliffe, it "gave mortal offence to the Sikhs by the odium theologicum introduced into it." It must, however, be remembered that Trumpp's The Ādi Granth inaugurated exploration in matters Sikh by Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. A major work that followed was Macauliffe's own The Sikh Religion. As the author records in the Preface, "One of the main objects of the present work is to endeavour to make some reparation to the Sikhs for the insults which he (Trumpp) offered to their Gurūs and their religion."
Another fortunate result of Dr Ernest Trumpp's labours was the discovery of a valuable text now commonly referred to as Purātan Janam Sākhī, the earliest known biography of Gurū Nānak. Trumpp found it among some manuscripts forwarded to him from India Office Library in 1872 in hope that some of them may be useful in the project entrusted to him.