PAṬṬĪ, lit. a wooden tablet on which children learn to write the alphabet, is the name given to two hymns, in the Gurū Granth Sāhib, composed in the form of an acrostic, employing letters of the Gurmukhī alphabet. Paṭṭī by Gurū Nānak titled Rāgu Āsā Mahalā I Paṭṭī Likhī comprises thirty-five stanzas, each stanza introduced with a letter of the Gurmukhī alphabet. From stanza nine to thirty-three, the order followed is exactly that of the alphabet current today; elsewhere there are deviations. What was the order prevalent in Gurū Nānak's time is, however, uncertain. The main themes touched upon in this composition are the unicity of the Godhead, human ego and karma, the law of causality. God is one. He is the Creator of all that exists. Egocentricity is the cause of man's nescience, of his isolation from the Divine Essence. He who frees himself from ego realizes his true self; he alone can be called a learned one or paṇḍit (4). God is all-pervasive. He pervades all the places and dwells in the minds of all (13). Whereas God, who is the Primal Lord, is true and eternal (2), all other beings, though His own creation, are physically transient. Since life is transient, it must not be wasted away and one must seek ever the Lord's protection (14). God is all powerful, and He began his play by making the four ages or time cycles His dice-board and all beings His draughtsmen. He is the Primal Giver, and one must always remember Him and be absorbed in His Name (34). Comfort pervades the hearts of those who remain attached to His feet (15). Man will get peace by serving Him. Serving Him means serving one's fellow beings, for He is in them all (16). If man does not remember and serve God but remains lost in duality, it is the consequence of his own deeds. As one sows so does one reap. Those engaged in singing laudation of the Divine escape the bonds of transmigration. It is through His grace alone that one is so persuaded.

         Paṭṭī by Gurū Amar Dās follows Gurū Nānak's in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. It comprises eighteen stanzas, besides a couplet titled rahāu or pause. Some of the stanzas begin with Gurmukhī letters and some with vowels as well as with compounds from Sanskrit. At the beginning are vowel forms of ayo and aṅ, the latter expressing nasal sound. Then intervene the consonants k, Kh, gh and the nasal , followed by rīrī and lalī, representing letters of Vedic Sanskrit ri, ri, lri and lri. Next come the rahāu or pause lines summing up the central idea : "o my mind, what is the use of such calculations as thou hast learnt ! The debt that thou owest is still on thy head" (GG, 434).

         The composition, presenting the teachings of Sikh faith in terms of the karmic theory, revolves around three key words—Jiva, paṇḍit and Gurū. The individual being, jīva, is advised always to remember "the Creator for He alone can save him from Yama, the god of death (2). The tragedy of man, however, is that he remains oblivious of Him and thus wastes his opportunity continuing in the circuit of birth, death and rebirth (4). The learned Paṇḍit who teaches the young student how to write on Paṭṭī, the wooden tablet, is adjured to instruct him not only in the knowledge of the world, for that binds him as well as his pupil (5). Such a Paṇḍit is prey to greed (6), ego (7), lust and anger (8). Man engrossed in māyā remains caught in the cycle of transmigration, but the realization of God through the grace of the Gurū helps him attain liberation (11). It is man's forgetfulness of God that keeps him tied to the chain of transmigration (12). However, if man submit himself to the Gurū, he is exonerated of all his past sins (15) and ultimately gets liberated (18).


  1. Śabadārth Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib. Amritsar, 1964
  2. Kohli, Surindar Singh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961

Dharam Pāl Siṅghal