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Amarnama

AMARNAMA, a Persian work comprising 146 verses composed in AD 1708 by Bhai Natth Mall, a dhadi or balladeer who lived from the time of Guru Hargobind to that of Guru Gobind Singh, Nanak X. The manuscript of the work in Gurmukhi script obtained from Bhai Fatta, ninth in descent from Bhai Natth Mall, through Giani Gurdit Singh, then editor of the Punjabi daily, the Prakash, Patiala, was edited by Dr Ganda Singh and published by Sikh History Society, Amritsar/ Patiala in 1953. The Amarnama opens with the words "ath Amarnama tat Godavari Sri Mukhvak Patshahi 10" (This Amarnama was written on the bank of the River Godavari by the Tenth Lord, Guru Gobind Singh) and ends with the words "iti Sri Amarnama Mukhvak Patshahi Dasam sati sampurann (Thus this Amarnama of the Tenth Master was completed). In spite of these statements and in spite of the fact that the author at places uses the first person and directs the Sikhs, as Guru, to follow certain rules of conduct, the work clearly is not the composition of Guru Gobind Singh but that of a poet who, with a view to imparting authenticity to it, attributed it to the Guru. It seems that Natth Mall and his son had accompanied Guru Gobind Singh to the Deccan and entertained Sikhs at the afternoon assemblies reciting heroic poetry. From events narrated in the Amarnama it can easily be surmised that the author was an eyewitness to most of them.

The Amarnama is not a work of any high literary merit. The author, a Punjabi, possessed very little knowledge of Persian and his verse is desultory. However, it is historically very valuable, not only because it is a composition coming from one of Guru Gobind Singh's contemporaries and his companions but also because the author had personal knowledge of the events described in it. The work briefly refers to Guru Gobind Singh's meeting with Banda on 3 September 1708, on the occasion of the solar eclipse, the fighting between the Sikhs and Banda's men, the lodging of complaints by Hindus against the Guru before Emperor Bahadur Shah, Bhai Nand Lal's presence in the Emperor's camp at Nanded, the Guru's generous and lavish distribution of charity among the needy, and the despatch ofBanda Singh with five Sikhs to the Punjab. Among Guru Gobind Singh's precepts recorded in the text, primacy attaches to Sikhs receiving the rites of amrit, i.e. baptism of the double edged sword, disregarding Brahmanical counsel (12728). They must at all stages of their life, in childhood and in youth and before the end comes, seek to remain baptized (14244). Animals must not be slaughtered in the Muslim way of halal (132). As Sikhs engage in amusement and festivity, they must in the afternoon listen to bards reciting ballads (135).

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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