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Mahala

The word ‘mahalā’ used in the titles within the Guru Granth Sahib indicates the Guru who has uttered the respective composition. There are different opinions on the etymology, meaning, and pronunciation of this word. Some scholars believe the Arabic word ‘halūl’ (مَحلَ) to be its source. They interpret it as ‘the place of alighting (descending),’ and pronounce it as ‘ma-halā (mahallā).’ On the other hand, some scholars connect it with the Sanskrit ‘mahalā,’ and interpret it as ‘body.’ They read it as ‘mahilā’ on the pattern of pahilā, gahilā, etc.

Regardless of the origin of this word, the real issue is related to its pronunciation, which in turn is connected to the break-down of the syllables of this word. Even though research on this topic should continue, the solution to this for now could be that we break-down and pronounce it as ‘ma-ha-lā’ instead of breaking it down and reading it as ‘ma-halā’ (mahallā) or ‘mah-lā’ (mahilā). Regarding the pronunciation of this word, ‘mahalā shabad dā shuddh ucāraṇ,’  ‘bāṇī biurā’ and the bibliography given in the latter can also be checked.

Numbers appearing with ‘mahalā’ in the Guru Granth Sahib are ordinal numeral adjectives. They depict the sequential order of ‘mahalā.’ Because of that, its correct pronunciation here is pahilā (first), dujā (second), tijā (third), etc. and not ik (one), do (two), tin (three), etc. Guru Arjan Sahib, the compiler of Guru Granth Sahib, has indicated this at many places. For example:

rāgu sirīrāgu mahalā pahilā 1 gharu 1. –Guru Granth Sahib 14
gūjarī mahalā 3 tījā. –Guru Granth Sahib 492