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Bards & Bhatts

Bards/Bhatts in Adi Granth

Bards/Bhatts in Adi Granth

Details of their contributions are as follows :

click on the name for details: 

Name Guru Nanak Guru Angad Guru Amardas Guru RamDas Guru Arjun Dev Total
Kalshar 10 10 9 13 12 54
Jalap 5 5
Kirat 4 4 8
Bhika 2 2
Salh 1 2 3
Bhalh 1 1
Nal 16 16
Gyand 13 13
Mathura 7 7 14
Bal 5 5
Harbans 2 2
Total 10 10 22 60 21 123

As per chronicle

a) Mathura, Jalap and Kirat were sons of Bhika.

b) Salh and Bhalh were sons of Sokha.

c) gal was son of Tokha.

d) Haribans was son of Gokha.

e) Kalshar and Gyand were sons of Chokha.

The above mentioned nine Bhatts, combined with Bhikha and Nal make a group of eleven, who came to the congregation at Amritsar during the pontification of the 5th Guru. In this connection, it is very important to note that earlier Bhatt Bhikha had visited Goindwal and paid a tribute to Guru Amardas, in a Swaiya, which is very important and has since assumed the status of an historical document. It is a very pungent comment on the prevalent deteriorated state of religion in India and the dubious position of clergy. Indirectly it also establishes the fact that popularity of Sikh philosophy and the credibility of the house of Nanak had already spread far and wide. Bhikha says

I wandered all over the place
Searching for a hermit with Heavenly Grace.
I met many a mendicant, high flying on the ego fleet
Soft-spoken, polished, vainful and sweet.
In vain I wasted all my time.
None of them was spiritually fine.
Like an empty vessel or hollow pot,
They talked a lot, all but rot.
God in their hands was just a pawn
Shady deals were in their clan
At last I reached the rightful place,
With The Guru Amardas I found solace.

Adi Granth p.1395 

Bhatt Bani is a very important chapter of Adi Granth. Is it important because it is an eulogy to the Gurus or that’it contains social, economic and political events of the era, significant from historical point of view? No. Its significance lies in its relevant worth, for it has glaring clash of ideology. It is a well known fact that Sikhism does not believe in Avtarvad (incarnations) and in the entire Guru Bani, no where any credence has been given to it, except Bhatt Bani. It must be remembered that the composers of Bhatt Bani were all Vaishnavites, followers of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, who strictly believed in incarnation but at that time they were still in search of spiritual attainment. This fact is evident from the Swaiya of Bhatt Bhikha as quoted above, which highlights their search in this realm.

Let us consider it from another angle. After the Bhatts were able to establish contact with Guru Arjun Dev, they attended the congregations personally and enjoyed the blissful Kirtan sung in the’ Sangat, their belief in the house of Nanak became more resolute. Here they got set for the spiritual journey under the expert guidance of Guru Arjun Dev. Now came the time of writing the Swaiyas, they expressed their thoughts with all the sincerity at their command. They wrote in the light of their Pauranic knowledge, mythological background mingled with the new spiritual experience that they gained in the Guru’s court. It was here that they saw the grandeur and sublimity, the concept of Spiritual Temporal authority (Miri and Piri), together. Through their angle of vision, they saw the Gurus as incarnations of Vishnu, but they went to the extent of calling Guru Nanak as personified Bhagwan (God himself). This being a very neologistic expression in the Sikh exegesis, became extraordinarily conspicuous. One must remember that the Sikh ethos does not permit such expressions, which at the most may be termed as vagary or the poetic exaggeration. It is worth noting that the Gurus never called themselves Bhagwan and never liked to be addressed as such. Guru Gobind Singh went to the exted calling himself as the humblest servant of God (Akal Purakh). He says in autobiography : “I am the humblest servant of God. Whosoever calls i Parmeshwar, shall be condemned to Hell”. 

Main hoon Param Purakh ka Dasa
Dekhan aayon jagat tamasha
Jo ham ko Parmeshwar uncharhen,
Te sab Narak Kund men parhen

 -Guru Gobind Singh (Dasam Granth)

 The Bhatts loved the Gurus, treated them as revered Avtars and the accepted continuity of the same light in each one of them. According to them, it wa the same spirit which started with Guru Nanak and was passed on to the success Gurus. Their forms might have been different, but the spirit was the same. A important point which crops up at this stage is that, even though the Sikh culture accepts oneness of the spirit of the Gurus, the Bhatts saw Guru Nanak as the incarnation of Vishnu and the successor Gurus as the incarnation of Guru Nanak. The point which makes it more significant is that it was for the first time that this recognition was recorded in Sikh literature and the full credit goes to Bhatts. Moreover, the theory of incarnation (Avtarvad) as accepted and narrated by the Bhatts is different from what has been the conceptual attitude recorded in Gur Bani. Here we would like to quote the eminent Sikh scholar, Bhai Santokh Singb, who is considered an authority on the history of the Gurus. He has mentioned in his work Suraj Prakash that Bhatts were the incarnations of Vedas. As stated earlier, the , same expression has been repeated by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in his Mahan Kosh. Mr. Trumpp has also accepted this version.

If we consider the Bhatt Bani, vis-a-vis Guru Bani, we find a marked change and deviation from the utterances of the Gurus. While the Gurus in general condemned the Avtarvad, the Bhatts were staunch followers of this tradition and wrote their poetry with this very knowledge and belief, derived from Hindu mythology and Puranic definitions. This is the root point which distinguishes the Bhatt Bani from Guru Bani. The marked difference makes the Bhatt Bani as an appendage to Adi Granth. Of late there have been some voices of dissent asking for disintegration of Bhatt Bani from Guru Granth Sahib but these voices have died down now. On the other hand those who do not want disintegration consider the very idea as sacrilege.

No doubt, Bhatt Bani was written as eulogy to the Gurus, yet analysing it with the diversity of its underlying theme and the undertone atmosphere, it may be concluded that the compiler of Adi Granth was much above the parochial and sectarian approach. He was radical, open-minded and gave liberal space in the Holy Book, to the poetry which could be termed as diagonally opposite to the convictions of the Gurus. 


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