PAINTĪS AKKHĀRĪ, Iit., a poem based on paintīs or thirty five letters, is a composition in the form of an acrostic utilizing for successive verses the thirty-five characters of the Gurmukhī alphabet. The poem is sometimes attributed to Gurū Nānak but mistakenly, for it is not included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Had it been Gurū Nānak's work it would have formed part of the holy corpus. It seems to have been composed by a Vedāntin sādhū, apparently after 1604, the date by which the compilation of the Gurū Granth Sāhib had been completed. No historical account concerning the preparation of the Holy Book refers to Paintīs Akkharī having reached the hands of the compiler, Gurū Arjan, the Fifth Gurū. The Nasīhat Nāmā and Prāṇ Saṅglī or the manuscripts of the sūfī saints such as Pīlū, Shāh Husain, Kāhnā and Chhajjū which did reach him were rejected. Gurū Nānak's own poem in this style, called Paṭṭī, is incorporated in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, wherein the letters are pronounced in Gurmukhī style as sassā, hāhā, kakkā, etc., and not in the Devanāgrī style as sā hā, kā, etc., as happens in the Paintīs Akkharī. Philosophically and religiously also the two poems have nothing in common.

         The verses in Paintīs Akkharī are arranged in the order of the Gurmukhī letters as they occur in the alphabet. The poem has seven stanzas, each with six to nine lines. The Name Nānak occurs once at the end of the composition. Stylistically, it is marked by simple versification nowhere reaching the sublimity of Gurū Nānak's poetry. Its contents relate to monistic metaphysics, i.e. the concept of monism, of supremacy of knowledge obtained through the true Gurū and the experience of bliss in the realization of 'That I am.' It preaches the complete identity of Īśvara and jīva, of a saint and a thief; and does not accept duality in any form. As for Brahm, Paintīs Akkharī says that He is present everywhere. He is the essence of the spirit, a non-doer and immortal. The One, indivisible and without a beginning, resides in an elephant, in an ant, and in all things from a straw to a mountain. He is the cause of causes and is still a non-doer. He is the light from which all light emanates.

         As the true jñāna or realization dawns, all ignorance born of duality vanishes. The ruler of the body, viz. the jīvā (soul) transcends the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep and attains to the fourth, turyā, which is the state of Nirguṇa (unattributed) Brahman and which signifies the end of duality, of the notion of the empirical subject and object. The symphony of the sounds of unstruck music is heard, but only a yogī who has the ecstatic realization of unity with the Divine experiences this bliss.

         The true Gurū alone can grant the supreme gift of muktī or liberation, for he gives true light, removes doubts and washes away the sins. He purifies the Jīva by banishing doubt and annuls duality. One can realize advaita(non-duality) only when one surrenders oneself to the Gurū completely. By the Gurū's grace are banished evil and malady. As one is rid of ignorance, of the false sense of duality, one experiences the supreme bliss. As one realizes one's true self, all suffering ends and true knowledge dawns. One merges with Brahman as water merges with water. There is none without Vāsudeva, O Nānak, He is the One, He is I, He is that.

         The Paintīs Akkharī is one of the oldest acrostics on Gurmukhī characters. It was popular reading in Sikh homes until the rise of the Siṅgh Sabhā, which discouraged the recitation of this non-scriptural text. Older people still read it daily and derive solace from it.


  1. Sāhib Siṅgh, Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib Darpan. Jalandhar, 1962-64
  2. Kohli, Surindar Singh. A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961

Tāran Siṅgh