Archive for the ‘Insights’ Category

24 Gurbani Apps Which Have Changed the Sikh World

Our new Gurbani Apps website has been launched.

Gurbani software developers, please add your apps!

I’ve always been excited by new technologies, especially since technology has the power to transform lives worldwide and the way in which we live.

It’s coming to the end of 2011 now, so it’s a nice time to review what Gurbani Apps have been developed and are being developed, and perhaps where we could see them go in the future. I spent a few days looking through and using these apps, and I present my review here.

I feel compelled to mention volunteering and monetization. The truth is that the people building Gurbani applications today are few – you can probably count them on your fingers – so I would like to encourage the new generation of young people to learn computer programming (a good start is HTML, CSS, JavaScript & Python) and to also start actively contributing to the development of new Gurbani apps. This is the only way this digital Sikhi can continue to evolve into more beautiful forms. Basically…we need more active volunteers and that volunteer is YOU!

During my review, I was very happy to see that most of these apps, although released for free, have a monetization strategy in place either through PayPal donations, in-app advertising or by charging a nominal 69 pence for the app itself. This is necessary and Gurbani software developers should not shy away from this because if a Gurbani application can generate some money, this money can be reinvested into making the application better for everybody and marketing it more widely. Majority of the applications I have come across have been produced out of pure love and service, where the money is being reinvested into charitable or not-for-profit activities.

A notable example is the new game just released by SikhNet called Karma – The Ogre’s Curse, which SikhNet have spent over $90,000 and over 1.5 years developing, and have released for FREE! It is only through your generous donations that this game can continue development, and deserves the highest applaud and congratulations AND blessings AND love for their amount of dedication and investment of time and money. We want to see more of this =)!

Finally, to all the users of these wonderful Gurbani apps, please do donate generously to the developers of the apps this Christmas, so that we can see more exciting Gurbani app developments in 2012. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year from The Sikher Project and please remember the sacrifices of Guru Gobind Singh’s four Sahibzadeh, who died so we may live free – and may we use this freedom to contribute to others lives. And now for the review…

Web Applications

Out of all the apps in this category, SearchGurbani really stands out. Maninder’s constant dedication to continually developing and re-developing his website has resulted in an absolutely comprehensive and beautifully designed website offering all the Sikh Scriptures ever digitised – and you can search all of them easily – please bookmark SearchGurbani and share it with all your friends:

Desktop Software

We all love and adore STTM II, and its worldwide adoption is exemplary, but do we know about Search Gurbani Desktop Version for Windows, Linux AND Mac? Again, this is a completely comprehensive software offering all of the goodness of SearchGurbani.com but in a software form, which is sure to enthuse and inspire countless people worldwide:

Mobile Apps (iPhone)

The recent explosion of mobile apps has also overflowed into Gurbani app development. Out of all the software I came across, GurbaniAnywhere for iPhone is FANTASTIC, and in many ways better than Desktop Gurbani software – the time and care which has gone into this software is obvious. Unfortunately, we don’t see it (or any other app like it) available on the Android yet, although it has been planned for quite sometime:

 

This interesting app makes clever use of the iPhone rotate feature to offer a Hukamnama (orders from the Guru) and if you shake it between 4am and 9am, it will play the morning Sikh prayers, and if you shake it between 4pm and 9pm, it will play the evening Sikh prayers – very innovative!

 

iSikhi, I found to be quite dated compared to recent modern UI expectations. However, if you understand this history of iSikhi you’ll find it was a revolutionary effort, especially since it was one of the first to apps to support Gurmukhi fonts on the iPhone (even before iPhone itself supported them!) and as a result of this app, countless others app developers have been inspired to produce Gurbani apps. Great work Mandeep!

 

Recently we launched this, and in light of doing an objective review, this is not really an app, but rather a website designed to work with all mobiles phones – so not very useful for all those key moments where there is no internet connection:

 

Maninder is working on an iSearchGurbani app for the Android, iPad and iPhone. I’m excited to see what else he has up his sleeve in this soon-to-be-released Gurbani app!

Gutka Apps (iPhone, Android, Kindle)

Gutka apps offer files of the Sikh prayers (Banis), but not in a searchable form, so they are basic versions of apps, but nevertheless noteworthy.

iPhone                

Our good friend from Derby, Khushkaran Singh Bajwa, has done some very innovative work by releasing one of the first and most popular Nitnem Gutka apps for the iPhone. Please support his work, as I’m sure he has much more yet to offer the world of digital Gurbani:

 

This app really caught my attention for its beautiful graphics and attention to detail. A beautiful digital Gutka:

 

Android

Android apps are few in general, but these two seem to be pretty cool as basic Nitnem apps:

 

Kindle & eBook Readers

Read the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and Nitnem Banis on your Amazon Kindle, Kindle DX, Sony, Kobo, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Nook, and other e-book readers:

 

Gurbani Radio & Kirtan Apps

SikhNet Radio is a brilliant commercial-quality app available for iPhone, Android & Blackberry. You just have to LOVE SikhNet for all the excellent work they put into it. Please download/purchase this excellent app (for 69 pence on iPhone) and support them in the process, win-win!

 

Another great app by Khushkaran, offers Sikh radio channels from around the globe. Awesome app!

 

This is a simple app yet done exactly what is says on the tin – gives Amrit Bani Radio’s broadcast on SKY 0176 right to your phone. I liked the energy behind this app, comes from a good place – one to download!

 

Another forward-thinking developer, Inderpreet Singh, offers Sikh Sangeet which provides a number of categories of Sikh Kirtan, music and Katha (explanation of Sikh principles):

 

Finally, although not strictly an app, the work which went into the Gurbani Media Center is mind-blowing. Its feature rich and offers masses of all styles and genres of Kirtan. Just another reason to donate to SikhNet today:

Sikh Games

After spending over $90K and being 1.5 years in development, they are in need of donations after deciding to release this game for FREE! Please contact guruka@sikhnet.com or gmustuk@sikhnet.com directly to offer your kind donations to this project:

 

SuperSant has captured the imagination of thousands worldwide. This classic game has now been brought to the iPhone & Android with an incredible user interface and exciting graphics, I’m surprised to find its being offered for free – no strings attached! Tarnjit Dhesi, the force behind Share Charity and a number of Gurbani apps, is an active individual working to help bring Sikh principles to the masses in an easy to understand manner:

A Note to all Gurbani Software Developers

These are all great apps above, but I still feel we could do a lot more – especially for platforms that are not getting much love – like Mac, Linux, Android, Blackberry, Windows 7, Symbian and a growing list of others. We can also start developing much more sophisticated applications and one’s which exceed all the current boundaries of design and usability.

One problem however is that no Gurbani software developers are releasing the source code for their Gurbani applications into the public domain. The Sikher Project has been the first, and so far only organisation to fully open source all of our code and databases. This must happen in order for better applications to surface.

It is a reflection of the Sikh community’s current consciousness, to be closed and do projects privately (because we think we know what’s best for everybody) – and we are all guilty of this to different degrees – myself included. However, we must now become more open and we must open source all our applications and our Gurbani databases, the future depends greatly upon doing this! I cannot stress this enough – we MUST open source all our application source code and databases! I’ve been stressing this strongly for 7 years, but I still have yet to see some action.

As for The Sikher Project’s further contribution to open source, I am today officially announcing the launch of the GurbaniDB CSV Weekly Dump (every Friday at 10pm) of the GurbaniDB database (including latest translation updates), available here: http://ps71261.dreamhostps.com/db/ (Deprecated! Please use: http://sourceforge.net/projects/sikher/files/Database/). This is the same database which powers GurbaniDB’s search engine here: http://www.sikher.com/guru-granth-sahib/. This is being released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, meaning that all those who use this database must also attribute The Sikher Project and GurbaniDB, only use it for non-commercial purposes and must release their project under this same license: thus encouraging the Sikh world to move to open source!

I foresee something else happening too; increasingly we will start to make use of mobile application frameworks such as AppCelerator – http://www.appcelerator.com/, PhoneGap – http://phonegap.com/ and/or JQuery Mobile – http://jquerymobile.com/. The idea of mobile frameworks is simple: develop once, and deploy across multiple platforms and devices. Perfect! However, this requires one to develop apps using more open standards of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, instead of just going where the buzz is e.g. iPhone/iPad specific development. Future Gurbani app developers should make FULL use of these frameworks to create maximum impact for the minimum amount of work.

For your next Gurbani app you can also try using the GurbaniDB Cloud API (REST & JSON-RPC supported) which has some VERY easy to use functions (so easy that even I can use them!) and we have provided simple code examples in PHP & Python – sign up here as a software developer today to get INSTANT access to the GurbaniDB Cloud API, and download the GurbaniDB Cloud API User Guide here: http://media.sikher.com/files/GurbaniDB_Cloud_Documentation_v2.docx

To your highest success and enlightenment,

Jasdeep Hari Bhajan Singh Khalsa.
Founder & Director of The Sikher Project

Posted by on December 8th, 2011 No Comments

Search the World’s Most Accurate Guru Granth Sahib

After 6 long years of work, the launch of the world’s most accurate Guru Granth Sahib search engine called GurbaniDB (which stands for Gurbani Database) in English and 52 other languages is imminent. The plan is to launch for Vaisakhi 2011 in April.

Update: GurbaniDB has been launched. You may searchGuru Granth Sahib here

In a previous post on the Collaborative Translation System I briefly introduced this system/search engine with some screenshots, but now I want to go into more of the juicy details, because this is nothing short of a revolution in eGurbani which will change the future of the Sikh way of life for generations to come.

Summary of GurbaniDB’s Features

  • Powered by GurbaniDB.org data, which is the world’s most accurate database of the Guru Granth Sahib
  • The world’s first Gurbani database to correctly archive Guru Granth Sahib into all 60 Raags (moods/melodies) with pop-up descriptions of each Author and Melody. Melody data has been kindly provided by an expert in Indian Musicology, Professor Surinder Singh from Raj Academy
  • Search the Guru Granth Sahib in English, Gurmukhi and 52 other languages, including 22 transliterations
  • Translators can contribute their improvements to the translations by registering an account. All translators are assigned to a specific language and managed by a Project Manager who is an expert in English and a native language e.g. Spanish. The Project managers are responsible for maintaining the quality of their translation language and managing their team.
  • Additional back-end tools and dashboards are provided to all translators and project managers to allow them to co-ordinate translation efforts more easily
  • Software developers can access the ‘GurbaniDB Cloud‘ via JSON-RPC requests, allowing them to receive all the latest updates to translations easily and allowing them to develop the next generation of Gurbani software with a verified source of Gurbani data

Vision for the GurbaniDB Search Engine


It has always been my view that the Sikh Gurus gave the Guru Granth Sahib for the benefit of the whole world, not just to the Sikhs. So with this in mind, it’s always been my vision to make the Guru Granth Sahib available in a language people can understand, at a price they can afford and in a form that they can use.

Therefore, the Guru Granth Sahib must be translated into every language of the world, and we will not stop until this is done. And since language tends to evolve into new forms and it is unknown how many languages there really are (probably close to 7000), this aim will never be complete and so this organisation must continue to exist way beyond our own lives.

However, we must always start somewhere. So the aim of this new system/search engine is to create the very best translations in just 52 languages (not including English). However, very  importantly, everyone must understand that all these 52 translations will just be translations of the English translation by Sant Singh Khalsa’s, instead of the original Gurmukhi words. Before you get concerned by this, there are two very good reasons for doing this:

  1. One is that most of the people who will come forward to become volunteer translators will be native speakers of their own language e.g. French, Spanish etc, but will not be versed in Gurmukhi or Punjabi, so cannot understand the original language of the Guru Granth Sahib anyway
  2. Secondly, by creating a translation of a translation which is considered to be the world’s standard and which is of a high quality (i.e. Sant Singh Khalsa’s English translation), will help create 52 more world standard translations of a high quality in all the world’s languages

So basically, its the best trade-off we have right now to help create translations quickly, get the most people involved and keep them to a high standard without diluting the message of the Guru Granth Sahib. One day, we shall open up this platform so that any person can start their OWN translation of Guru Granth Sahib and user’s can rate its quality. But for now, the mission is to stay focussed on creating 52 high quality translations in all the world’s languages to be as close to Sant Singh Khalsa’s English translation as possible, so that we have some sort of solid base for the future.

The beauty of this is you don’t need to know Gurmukhi to get involved, you just need to know English, be a native speaker of another language and have some understanding of the flavour of the Guru Granth Sahib’s message and effect. The Project Managers, who shall be interviewed to assess their skills and passion and who shall be recruited to work full-time (both paid and unpaid) on GurbaniDB, shall be responsible for maintaining the quality of an entire language and will be experts in English, a native speaker of the language they manage and have a deeper understanding of the message of the Guru Granth Sahib to ensure that the translation is of the highest quality. Overall, with recruited Project Managers and many volunteer translators working together, the vision of GurbaniDB will be realised.

GurbaniDB Cloud

The GurbaniDB Cloud deserves a special mention. Cloud computing has made something beautiful possible: all data is available in one place instantly from anywhere. So we decided to use this concept in GurbaniDB. All the GurbaniDB data exists virtually in a cloud somewhere (in a MySQL database) and so all the Gurbani data in the search engine, including the latest translation updates, can be accessed instantly by Gurbani software developers to create high-quality Gurbani applications that are being updated almost in real-time (I say ‘almost’ because until a language is mature enough, it won’t be made available to software using the GurbaniDB Cloud and also, there is a small lag in accessing the data).

Before the existence of GurbaniDB it was virtually impossible for a Gurbani software developer to find a database of the Guru Granth Sahib (and other Sikh scriptures) in order to create some software. I know this very well, because as part of The Sikher Project I tried very hard for many years to create the very first Open Source Gurbani Seacher software called Sikher Version 1.0 (which was to be made available on Windows, Linux and Mac). The problem to completing it was always the lack of access to Gurbani data. Also, those who had that Gurbani data were not willing for me to use it, even though it was for the benefit of mankind. The concept of the GurbaniDB Cloud will eliminate this problem forever. So, if you’re ever inspired to create Gurbani software there are no longer any barriers to doing this.

To get access to the GurbaniDB Cloud, all you will have to do is sign up – it just helps us keep track of how many developers are using it and how heavily, although there are no restrictions to its use.

Just the beginning…

This is a revolution, but its just the beginning of the revolution, so the best it still yet to come.

Sat Naam,

Jasdeep Hari Bhajan Singh Khalsa.

Founder & Director of The Sikher Project

Posted by on March 19th, 2011 1 Comment

The Future of eGurbani

Mool Mantra - The Root Chant from the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Mool Mantra - The Root Chant from the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

eGurbani is a term to describe the digital version of Gurbani, the word of the Guru, primarily referring to the Sikh Holy Scripture, the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Some interesting thoughts for you.

With the advent of digital mobile devices like the Kindle, the iPhone and the iPad, naturally eGurbani is becoming more accessible and available in a variety of digital formats. Although digital is the future, I think as Sikhs we would agree that nothing can replace the physical presence of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh Holy Scripture, in the form of paper and ink. The physical presence of the Guru on a throne and in an environment which is full of sanctity, reverence, incense and serenity is irreplaceable.

However, we do need to make our Guru, our teacher more accessible to the world. The Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais and Jews have very successfully done this with their own scriptures. The Sikhs are lagging way behind and have been very lazy and selfish in this regard, keeping the Guru to ourselves as if we own the Guru.

Many proponents of eGurbani think that the distribution of eGurbani should be controlled carefully and kept under close supervision – but this is an old mentality and against the principles of Sikhism, the modern era of openness and of the modern technological trend of Open Source community development. It is time for us to evolve as a community and realise that the word and teachings of the Guru are for the good of all, a concept known in Sikhism as “Sarbat Da Bhallah“.

The Sikh Holy Scripture contains within it many gems, rubies and diamonds that the world is crying out for. It contains the medicine that medicine cannot cure. It contains the love that is today is our greatest recession. It contains the peace that has eluded humanity for millennia. But most of all, it contains the secrets to the deepest parts of our psyche which can help to cure the deep depression that flows through society. It can help to temper the inner temper of the modern man and woman. It has a grace. It has an essence. It has a value beyond value itself.

The Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji can help to bring the broken world back together, if only people knew about it and could relate to it. The following would be method of creating a worldwide translation and transliteration project for Gurbani:

  • Co-operation and partnership with Sikh temples or Gurdwaras
  • The Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji can help to unite all the divisions we have within our religion today since all will agree that the Guru is the centre of our lives
  • All members of the organisation contribute 1/10th of their earnings, called Dasvandth, to the cause and receive an equal amount of funding worldwide
  • The aim of the organisation would be to make the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji available in a language that people can understand, at a price they can afford and in a form that they can use
  • The Guru would be published in various formats such as audio, film, online (eBooks and websites), mobile, DVDs/CDs/Blueray and of course the traditional prayer book
  • The world’s languages are currently 6,912 (according to SIL Ethnologue) and the project should initially target the macro languages, working its way to the micro languages including different forms of sign language and Braille

In order to create a revolution we must learn to think in a revolutionary way, to exceed and rise above all trends, to create our own trend. In order for us to survive as a human species we must evolve our hearts and minds and access the depths of our soul, our being, our way of seeing. It is only then we can survive the times. In this life there is nothing more revolutionary I have come across than the teachings of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib, which is a form of music, poetry and art that enters into the heart and transforms it completely whether a person understands the ancient sounds or not. The Guru transcends understanding of the mind to bring about understanding of the realm of heart. Only a true Guru can do this, only a Sat Guru, and which more eternal Guru exists than the Word of all word, the Shri Guru Granth Sahib.

Sat Naam – Truth Is Your Identity.

Posted by on September 15th, 2010 No Comments

The Intricacies of Scripture Translation

Sat Naam everyone,

It’s been a long time since I posted any news – so I am going to make this a regular update from now on. Today I had a really interesting discussion with a university professor in charge of translation studies and it gave me an interesting vision about what the future of the Sikher project might look like, which I’d just like to share with you.

Much of the major faiths, especially Christianity and Islam, have always been extremely organised and put a lot of funding towards their translation activities so that their scriptures are available in many different languages. They have organised teams of natives across the world that have scriptural knowledge and created custom software to allow a translator to see all previous translations of a given line of scripture. This approach ensures a translation can be understood by natives speaking a particular language, and also ensures the translation is consistent with previous ones.

Another fascinating idea was about cultural context and interpretation of scripture. Some cultures who do not have such a developed language, for example Eskimos, may not have ever seen a sheep, therefore in order to translate a line of scripture containing the word ‘sheep’ into that native language, the word sheep must be turned into the word ‘seal’. Only now could an Eskimo native be able to relate to the line and understand it. Of course for scriptural translation this may seem a little blasphemous, especially if looking at it from a Sikh perspective of respecting the original word of the Guru, however if all translations are just a means to understand and relate to the original scripture, then it makes sense to do this for less developed languages because the message of the scripture can then be understood by the native speaker and can travel further than it would have otherwise.

However, the impact of cultural context is not just limited to less developed languages, it can even be seen in our most modern and widely used English translation of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji by Dr Sant Singh Khalsa. For example, take the following line from Japji Sahib by Guru Nanak Dev Ji:
ਗਾਵਹਿ ਖੰਡ ਮੰਡਲ ਵਰਭੰਡਾ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਰਖੇ ਧਾਰੇ ॥
gaavehi khandd manddal varabhanddaa kar kar rakhae dhhaarae ||
The planets, solar systems and galaxies, created and arranged by Your Hand, sing

The use of the words ‘planets’, ‘solar systems’ and ‘galaxies’ are only understood in a modern cultural context with our current scientific understanding of the universe, therefore the original words ‘khandd’, ‘manddal’ and ‘varabhanddaa’ could never have exactly meant ‘planets’, ‘solar systems’ and ‘galaxies’ – however today in modern English this is how we can appreciate the original words in Gurmukhi. A translation can never be perfect, and I am not here to say any translation is wrong, my point is simply to show the power and importance of cultural context in translations. In my personal opinion, if a translation can give a person even a glimpse about the meaning of the original line then it is a successful translation and will inspire the reader to search for the deeper meanings behind the scripture.

So what does all this mean for the Sikher project? Well, firstly I hope to learn more about the intricacies of translations and as a result I’m getting involved with some translation communities and projects. Secondly, I have deep desire in my heart to create a worldwide translation project which is well organised and funded, I think it would be fantastic to have a translation of Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in all the major languages of the world, the most influential languages today being English, Spanish, Russian, French and German – as was the original promise of the Sikher 1.0 software. Thirdly, I’m already working on a few open source software projects that will help speed this vision along and which I shall announce when the time is right.

My basic motivation is this: if the Sikh scriptures, the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, has so many gems, jewels and rubies within it which could enrich the lives of thousands with happiness, health and prosperity, then how best to deliver that message to the world? As always, I welcome everyones’ thoughts.

Sat Nam.

Posted by on April 13th, 2010 No Comments

 

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