SURDAS, one of the medieval Indian bhakta poets whose verses have been incorporated in the Guru Granth Sähib. Sürdãs, whose original name was Madan Mohan, is said to have been born in 1529, in a high-ranking Brãhman family. As he grew up, he gained proficiency in the arts of music and poetry for which lie had a natural talent. He soon became a celebrated poet, singing with deep passion lyrics of Divine love. He attracted the attention of Emperor Akbar who appointed him governor of the parganah of Sandilà. But Sürdãs’ heart lay elsewhere. He renounced the world and took to the company of holy men dedicating himself solely to the Lord. He died at Banãras. A shrine in the vicinity of the city honours his memory.
The Guru Granth Sahib contains one hymn by Bhakta Sürdäs, in the Sãrañg measure. In fact, it is not a complete hymn but a single line: “0 mind, abandon the company of those who turn away from God.” It is believed to be the refrain of a complete hymn composed by Sürdãs in which he described one who had turned away from God as an incorrigible sinner for whom there was no hope of redemption. Guru Arjan omitted the rest of the hymn probably because it ran counter to the Sikh belief in God’s grace even for the worst of sinners. He therefore composed a hymn to explain and supplement the single line of Sürdãs. Its refrain is : “Men of God abide with the Lord.”
Surdàs whose verse figures in the Guru Granth Sãhib is to be differentiated from the blind poet of the same name who wrote Sür Sagar.
Bhagat Surdas Ji is an example of this very principle. Bhagat Surdas only has one line in Guru Granth Sahib. He provides the following revelation.
shhaadd man har bimukhan ko sa(n)g || O mind, do not even associate with those who have turned their backs on the Lord.
To this Guru Arjan Dev Ji composed a Shabad in Bhagat Surdas Jis name. Guru Ji writes.
saara(n)g mehalaa 5 sooradhaas ||
Saarang, Fifth Mehl, Sur Daas:
ik oa(n)kaar sathigur prasaadh ||
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
har kae sa(n)g basae har lok ||
The people of the Lord dwell with the Lord.
than man arap sarabas sabh arapiou anadh sehaj dhhun jhok ||1|| rehaao ||
They dedicate their minds and bodies to Him; they dedicate everything to Him. They are intoxicated with the celestial melody of intuitive ecstasy. ||1||Pause||
dharasan paekh bheae nirabikhee paaeae hai sagalae thhok ||
Gazing upon the Blessed Vision of the Lord’s Darshan, they are cleansed of corruption. They obtain absolutely everything.
aan basath sio kaaj n kashhooai su(n)dhar badhan alok ||1||
They have nothing to do with anything else; they gaze on the beauteous Face of God. ||1||
siaam su(n)dhar thaj aan j chaahath jio kusattee than jok ||
But one who forsakes the elegantly beautiful Lord, and harbors desire for anything else, is like a leech on the body of a leper.
sooradhaas man prabh hathh leeno dheeno eihu paralok ||2||1||8||
Says Sur Daas, God has taken my mind in His Hands. He has blessed me with the world beyond. ||2||1||8||
Bhagat Surdas, whose earlier name was Madan Mohan, was born in 1586 Samvat 1529 AD in a Brahmin family of Kashi, the known Hindu centre of spiritual learning those days. His father’s name was pandit Ravidas. According to some other scholars, he was born in a village near Delhi. Besides having proficiency in Sanskrit, Persian and Sadh Bhasha (Language used by saints), he was a musicologist as well. Emperor Akbar was so impressed by his multi-faceted achievements that he appointed him the governor of Sandila, which is in the region of Avadh. Here his main responsibility was to collect revenue and transmit it to the government in Delhi, besides maintaining law and order. Since his heart was oriented towards Divine Name, he continued to utter, like Guru Nanak did during the days he functioned as keeper of stores at Sultanpur Lodhi, "tera, tera (yours, yours). So whatever he saw around seemed to him only His manifestation. He opened the doors of his official treasure to meet the requirements of the poor and the needy. Such deeds of nobility and altruism earned him kudos all around, but this was not liked by many who nurtured jealousy towards him. They complained to emperor Akbar that Surdas has squandered the royal treasure. As this news reached Surdas, he acquitted himself of his responsibilities as a ruler and devoted himself more intensely and deeply to the devotion of Absolute One. The emperor was aware of this peculiar trait of his saintly temper, so he requested him to take his charge again. But he declined the offer saying that henceforth he would serve the Lord alone. According to him so long as one does not surrender to God completely-in the form of his body, mind and wealth-it is not possible for him to achieve mystical oneness with Him. A sort of distance remains between the two, and this is more than death for a devotee.
Only a single verse of Surdas is found included in the Guru Granth Sahib under Sarang measure, on page 1253. It reads as follows,
It means: O man, give up the company of those persons who are not oriented towards God, because they are atheists, and have no faith in Him and the company of such self-centred people would bring no use. Gurbani hymns appearing on page 66 and 755 of SGGS endorse the viewpoint of Bhagat Surdas:
According to the Mahan Kosh (A Panjabi dictionary), two hymns by Surdas are there in the Guru Granth Sahib, but this statement does not seem to be correct because the second Hymn, on the same page of the Holy Book, is by Guru Arjan written in the name of Surdas. In this latter hymn, the seeker has been advised as to how to give up the company of the Manmukh (self-willed). It also teaches that man should try to achieve oneness with the Lord. One should surrender oneself completely before God and then try to seek out all joys from the glimpse of the Divine. In sum it can be said that the Guru has supplemented in his hymn what Surdas has hinted at in the preceding verse.
No authentic historical evidence is available to specify the date or year of his death. However, a memorial tomb is built at Kashi which the devotees visit to offer their respect and reverence for this holy man.
Saturated in devotion was Surdas Intoxicated with Name was Surdas