Visrams (or, Bisrams) are pauses when reading or speaking Gurbani, similar to a comma, question mark or full stop. There are 3 types of visrams;
1. Alap Visram - a very short pause (approx. ¼ second). Note, Alap means 'little'.
2. Adh Visram - a short pause (approx. ¼ - ½ second). Note, Adh means 'half'.
3. Puran Visram - a medium pause, similar to a full stop (approx. ½ - 1 second), identified by double vertical line ॥. Note, Puran means 'complete'.
Effectively using pauses in speech makes it easier to understand what is being said. If you do it right, you (and any listeners) will not be aware be overly aware of the pauses, and you will communicate more persuasively and clearly. If you do it wrongly, you may seem less believable and reliable. Pausing also helps your mind 'catch up' to your mouth, it gives you time to think. By reading out loud, your voice and brain become one.
Visrams are not marked or visually identifiable in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and are remembered through regular reading and practice. If we do not apply the correct visram while reading Gurbani, the meanings can be lost and Gurbani can be interpreted inaccurately. For example, in the following Gurbani verse;
ਗੁਰੁ ਅਰਜੁਨੁ ਘਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਭਗਤ ਉਤਰਿ ਆਯਉ ॥੧॥
Gur Arjan gẖar Gur Rāmḏās bẖagaṯ uṯar ā▫ya▫o. ||1||
~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 1407
ਜੇ ਇਸ ਪੰਗਤੀ ਦਾ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮ 'ਘਰਿ' ਉਤੇ ਕਰੀਏ ਤਾ ਅਰਥ ਬਣੇਗਾ ਕਿ ਗੁਰੂ ਅਰਜਨ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਘਰ, ਗੁਰੂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਜੀ ਭਗਤ ਉਤਰ ਕੇ ਆਏ| ਤਾਂ ਕੀ ਪੁੱਤਰ ਦੇ ਘਰ ਪਿਤਾ ਨੇ ਅਵਤਾਰ ਲਇਆ? ਕਿਤਨਾ ਫਰਕ ਪੈ ਗਿਆ ਅਰਥ ਵਿਚ | ਇਸ ਪੰਗਤੀ ਦਾ ਸ਼ੁਧ ਉਚਾਰਣ ਇਸ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਹੈ:
ਗੁਰੁ ਅਰਜੁਨੁ, ਘਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ; ਭਗਤ ਉਤਰਿ ਆਯਉ ||
If we apply the visram in the above verse at 'ghar', the meaning will be, "In Guru Arjan Sahib Ji's house, Guru Ramdas Ji has been born" But this meaning is flawed as everyone knows that Guru Arjan Sahib Ji is the son of Guru Ramdas Ji and the actual meaning should be "In the house of Guru Ramdas Ji, Guru Arjan has been born.". The verse should be read with a pause after Guru Arjan, and the meaning will correctly flow - "Guru Arjan, was born in the house of Guru Ramdas Ji".
So to ensure our Gurbani reading is accurately paused and pronounced, the placing of the visram is crucial. For example,
ਸੋਚੈ, ਸੋਚਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ; ਜੇ ਸੋਚੀ ਲਖ ਵਾਰ ॥
The Alap Visram ( , ) is placed after the word ਸੋਚੈ ie. a very short pause is needed here.
An Ardh Visram ( ; ) is placed after ਹੋਵਈ ie. a longer pause is required here.
The main objective of these pauses is to communicate the essential meaning of the sentence and to reduce vagueness. There are subtle pronunciation details of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji that are learnt through correct Santhiya and Ucharan.
In Japji Sahib below, read along from the start and click on a single word in each ਪੰਗਤੀ (line) before its double vertical line full stop (except for ॥ਜਪੁ॥) to test where you think the main Ardh Visrams (short pauses) should be. There are 384 Visrams in Japji Sahib including Ik Onkar.
Gurmat Gyan (Knowledge)
Other Gurbani Contributors