Liberal Arts Blog — “Mul Mantra”

Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is Joy of Music Day

Today’s Topic — the “Mul Mantra” — the Sikh equivalent of the “Gayatri Mantra” for Hindus or Al Fatihah for Muslims

The “Mul Mantra” is the distillation of Sikhism. It affirms the oneness of all creation. As “Al Fatihah” is the opening prayer of Islam’s sacred text (the Quran), so the “Mul Mantra” is the beginning of the sacred text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, compiled by Guru Arjan (1563–1606). The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak (1469–1539) — see the first image below. The language of the mantra is Punjabi — see the second image below. The most sacred place for Sikhs is the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India — third image. The symbols of Sikhism are the five Ks — the kesh (uncut hair under the turban), the kara (iron bracelet), the kirpan (a dagger), kachera (undergarment), kanga (a small wooden comb). Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. Ik onkar sati nam Karta purakh nirvu — there is one god, truth by name

2. Niver akal murat ajuni sepan — creator, fearless, without hatred in timeless form unborn self-existent

3. Gur prasad — by the grace of the guru


1. India — 21 million, 76% in the Northern Indian state of Punjab where they are a majority of the population.

2. United States — roughly 700,000. Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations and former Governor of South Carolina is the best known American Sikh but she converted to Christianity at the time of her marriage.

3. United Kingdom — roughly 500,000 and Canada, 450,000, concentrated in British Columbia.

PUNJABI — spoken by 125 million, Punjab = “land of five waters”

1. Pakistan — 91 million Punjabi speakers of total population of 212 million, 95% of Pakistani punjabis are Muslim.

2. India — 33 million

3. UK — 700,000

Mul Mantar

Guru Nanak

Golden Temple


Guru Granth Sahib



APPENDIX: Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People — Past Posts in This Series

This is the list of songs with which, before COVID, I used to greet tourists from around the world at the North Bridge in Concord or wherever I else I happened to meet them — eg. waiting in line at grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

4/9/20 — Nkosi — South African National Anthem

4/16/20 — Sweet Mother — unofficial national Anthem of Nigeria

4/23/20 — Jambo — the Swahili equivalent — Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

4/30/20 — Sakura — Japan — the cherry blossom song

5/7/20 — Arirang — Korea (North and South)

5/14/20 — Chuang Tian — China — Li Bai — Gong Linna

5/21/20 — Ode to Joy — German — Beethoven/Schiller

5/28/20 — La Marseillaise — French — France plus many more french-speaking nations

6/4/20 — Volare — Italian — Domenico Modugno

6/11/20 — Arrorro and Cielito Lindo — Spanish speakers

6/18/20 — La Garota de Ipanema — Brazil and other Portuguese speakers

6/22/20 — Gayatri Mantra — Hindus

7/2/20 — Pokarekare Ana — Maori — New Zealand

7/9/20 — Aseda Yede Ma Onyame — Ghana

7/16/20 — “Al Fatihah” — most sacred Islamic prayer (Arabic)

7/23/20 — “Tavaszi Szel” — Hungarian Folk Song

7/30/20 — “Modeh Ani” — the Jewish Waking Up Prayer

8/6/20 — “Stolat, Stolat” — Polish Birthday Song

8/20/20 — “Lang Zal Ze Leven” — Dutch Birthday Song

8/27/20 — “Oh Danny Boy” — Ireland

9/3/20 — “Mul Mantra” — most sacred Sikh prayer

I feel strongly that the core humanities curriculum of every school in the world should consist of the most beloved songs of the world’s peoples. Music unites. The opportunity cost of any other texts is infinite. Why not give every 18 year old the keys to hearts of seven billion people? I am not sure this is the perfect list. But I have spent 10 years testing the hypothesis. And the results are not scientific but they are pretty convincing. Proposals welcome.


Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.