History of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The history of a writing is not limited to the events, the time and the place of the writer, especially in those circumstances when the writing enjoys the status of Bani (scripture). Therefore in the history of Bani, the story of its concept would assume equal importance. Being the model of human psyche and its transformation at the same time, or having been connected with the background of mental make-up of the people, or with the potential of those times or the future, Bani is seen to be demolishing the traditional limits and restrictions. As against this, the history of any other writing could be considered to be expressive of the limits of the time and place of its writing. Therefore the historical relevance of any writing, its historic importance, etc. needs to be viewed by differentiation between history and the history of the writing. From academic angle, all these are connected with history also and free of it too. Therefore the history of a writing should not be limited to the known definitioin of history. If this view is accepted in the case of a general writing, it would be seem to be all the more difficult to talk of the history of Bani. Generally, the history of Bani is regarded as the history of Gurus or the history of the Bani writers. Of course, this is part of the history of Gurbani but from this angle also, it would only be the beginning of the history of Bani and it should be considered as the complete history of Bani or the conclusion thereof. This fact does come to the fore that the Bani included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, begins in 1170 AD (Bhagat Jai Dev) and ends 1675 AD (with the martyrdom of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur) and includes the Bani of fifteen Bhagats (Jai Dev, Farid, Trilochan, Namdev, Sadhna, Beni, Ramanand, Kabir, Ravidas, Pipa, Sain, Dhanna, Bhikhan, Parmanand and Surdas), six Gurus (Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur), four personages close to Gurus (Bhai Mardana, Baba Sundar Rai Balwand and Satta te bard) and Bhatts (Kalsahar, Jalap, Keerat, Bhika, Salh, Bhalh, Nalh, Gayand, Mathura, Balh and Haribans). The tone and tenor of the Bani, composed by the saints to express the Divine Truth, preceding the Gurus had not come to light in a determined manner. The Gurus collected these sundry and isolated hymns of the Divine word and included them in their own collection and presented it as an eternal word-model. This is known today as the ‘Achuk'(true and ever-lasting) Shabad-Guru (The Word-Guide), Sri Guru Granth Sahib being its source. It is thus very clear that the hymns written during the five centuries found their central tone in the tone set forth by the Guru Bani writers and now it is known as Gurmat or Sikh Philosophy. According to the inner evidence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the hymns of Six Gurus are the lights of the same lamp. In this way its history came to be called the ‘Jugat Prakashan’ (Design Light). It has been earlier termed as ‘Achuk Shabad’ model:
Joti oha, jugat sai, se kaya pher palatiai (SGGS, p.966)
(The same light and design got passed on to the body succeeding Gurus)
Accepting the remaining writers of Bani conforming to this main tenor, for the followers of the Sikh Faith, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the ever living Guru, Shabad-Guru. Giani Gian Singh records this as the representative of the traditional mind-set –
Agya bhayee Akal ki, tabhi chalayo Panth
Sabh Sikhan kau hukam hai, Guru manyo Granth.
Guru Granth Ji manyo, pragat Guran ki deh.
Jo Prabh kau milbau chahai, khoji sabad meh leh.
(The Panth was founded by the command Of the (Sovereign), the Timeless one.
All the Sikhs are ordained to
Accept the Granth as their Guru;
As Guru’s own body and presence.
Those desirous of attaining God
Should seek Him through the Word.
It is thus clear that the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the history of the Word. This is made clear by the explanation given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib in this regard. Guru Arjan Dev has defined Sri Guru Granth Sahib in such a way that the true form of the history of Shabad is available in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It is the sustenance of the entire human race and it cannot be ignored or parted with. Therefore, following the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the epitome of human welfare, is essential, as endowed to us:
Thal vich tin vastu paiyo, sat, santokh vicharo.
Amrit Nam Thakur ka paiyo, jis ka sabhs adharo.
Jai ko khavai, jai ko bhunchai, tis ka hoye udharo
Eh wast taji neh jayee nit nit rakhu urdharo.
Tam sansar charan lag tariai sabh Nanak Brahm pasaro.(p.1429)
(Three main things are placed in this platter, Truthfulness, contentment and meditation-deliberation along with the Nectar of His Name, the sustenance of everyone. Whosoever partakes of it, digests it (shares it with others) would attain salvation. Once partaken, this food (His Name) can’t be given up, bear this ever in mind. In this way can one get across the ocean (of life and death), and become aware, sayeth Nanak, of the entire creation of the Creator (Brahm).
It is now very clear that the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not like the history of any other writing. Being a special writing, it is called Bani and defining Bani, Guru Amar Das has explained the difference between Sachi Bani (True Word) and kachi Bani (the false word) which is limited, connected as it is with cause and effect and its level is equal to that of the one who utters it:
Satguru bina hore kachi hai bani.
Bani tan kachi Satguru bajhon, hore kachi bani.
Kehandai kachai, sundai kachaio,
kachi aak wakhani. (SGGS, p. 920)
(Any other word than that of the Satguru (True Guide) is untrue.
Thus such words have no truth. Those who say such untrue
words are untruthful, those who listen to such words, are also untruthful as they talk of untruthfulness)
It, therefore, follows that :
‘Chit jinka hir laya maya,
bolan paye rawani.’ (p.920)
(Those cheated by illusion, go on talking tall uselessly) Thus ordinary writing can be termed as kachi bani (untrue writing) and it is of no use judging the True Word with the yard-stick of ordinary writing. Guru Arjan Dev has defined the Sachi Bani (True Word) in this way:
Dhur ki Bani aiyee, tin sagli chint mitayee.
Dayal Purakh Meharwana,
Hari Nanak Sach wakhana. (SGGS, p. 628)
This the Revealed Word, which destroys all worries
As (this is the Word of ) the Kind, Benevolent
The destroyer of evil, sayeth Nanak, verily.
Thus one can reach the conclusion that the historicity of Gurbani has to be found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib alone. An attempt in this direction is being made in this paper.
Attempts have, no doubt, been made in the West to bring to the fore the history of the scriptures, but these attempts have not led to unquestionable conclusions. There can be many reasons for this but the main reason that comes to view is that the writing of the scriptures of the occidental faiths was certainly done by their sages but the compilation or editing of those holy books came to the fore because of their higher intellectual or academic level. Thus these writings remained the subject of interest of the ordinary person just like other writings. But there is neither the need nor the possibility of applying this norm in the case of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Such attempts can become the cause of tension in the delicate psyche of the followers of the Sikh faith and can compel the two to remain in balance. It is not in the interest of the holy book and the adherents thereof because this would erode the national, linguistic,cultural and spiritual concerns and may lead to stagnation.
It is essential to determine the history of any scripture because the psyche, intellect and spiritualism connected therewith can be delineated easily through history. It has been accepted academically that in the context of history, spiritualism is the centre-point because it cannot be viewed separately from the social inter-action. Thus accepting spiritualism as the means of transformation as provided by Gurbani can be deemed to be a unique process. For this reason, in the context of historicity, the important concern would be to determine as to what type of human personality has been built by the Sikh philosophy? Man being a social animal, it would be necessary to see as to what kind of social moulds have been provided? There is no scope for answering these questions in greater detail here but it can be said by way of an allusion that self-reliant personality is the main concern of the Sikh thought and it can be named as Sikh culture. For delineation of the social outline, Bhagat Ravidas’s hymn ‘Begampura sehar ka nao’ (Where there is no worry, is the name of the town) can be kept before us. In this background, the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib becomes quite interesting and relevant.
If history is defined, it can be said that it is the story of the past glory and pride. History is the collection of the record of events of a particular time. If it is explained in a more detailed manner, history could be called the story of the struggle or fight by a particular section of people in a particular direction to achieve a particular objective. As against this, the Bani or the Word is not bound by such a restriction. Therefore Bani is the source of history. The source of history cannot be bound by the limitation of history. There is a great need today that a distinction should be drawn between the religions based on history and those based on Bani. History ordinarily is the tale of a person tied to an identity. The identity generally goes on distancing between the principles and gradually limits itself to the world-victory of the religious concerns or conversion. The Gurus have talked of sharing the spiritual association rather than of a religious community. That is why the human salvation is called the pivot of the Sikh faith. As Bhai Gurdas has said, ‘He embarked upon the path of leading the entire mankind toward salvation’ and this background can be easily discerned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This is expressed in the daily prayer – ‘Sarbat da bhala’ – the good of the entire mankind. In the words of the Fifth Guru, Arjan Dev,
‘Sagal sang ham ko ban aiyee,’
(We deal with every one in a spirit of amity.’ That the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib begins here can be easily construed.).
There is no unquestionable tradition or methodology before us with regard to the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The reason thereof seems to be that Sri Guru Granth Sahib has not been presented as a model of ‘Achuk Shabad’ and no other context is at all possible except this. Under the western influence and on the basis of the hand-written Birs (volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib),some attempts have certainly been made to write the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib but these attempts have created some doubts. Possibilities of erosion have emerged. Dr. G.B. Singh could be considered the first learned person to attempt this. After him, Dr. Macleod did make some attempts. While doing so, he adopted the Christian approach, which is based on academic excellence, and tried to apply this to Gurbani. The result has been that instead of highlighting the importance of Gurbani in the context of myth, tradition and history, he mixed up everything to reach the conclusions as he desired. One of the results of this was that Macleod had been regarded for some in the Sikh academic world with respect, though his desire was to easily establish himself as a scholar through the medium of English considered as means of attaining wisdom. Under the influence of this acceptance by the Sikh academics, the researchers of Gurbani by questioning some aspects of Gurbani enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, erroneously consider themselves having made some academic achievements. In support of their such erroneous beliefs, they are making use of some hand-written volumes, which had been seen and used by Sri Guru Arjan Dev and Sri Guru Gobind Singh. In these circumstances, it has been decided that no such question should be raised on the basis of such manuscripts. The reasons seems to be that the method of collection of Bani adopted by Sri Guru Nanak Dev, was also followed by Sri Guru Arjan Dev in 1604 AD while compiling the volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This had also decided once for all the question of kachi (fake) and sachi (true) bani. It is thus clear that only kachi (fake) bani was not included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Making an issue about the fake bani excluded from the manuscripts, while compiling Sri Guru Granth Sahib, seems to be toally uncalled for. For the second time, a decision with regard to this aspect was taken by Sri Guru Gobind Singh himself when he included the hymns of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur in the new volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Tradition has safeguarded this fact in the words – Guru Manyo Granth (The Granth Shall be the Guru hereafter). For the third time, the Granth Sahib was accepted as the Guru in the same manner and today the Ever Living Granth Sahib is with us in the printed form. Thus the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib be accepted as the history of the Eternal Word. Three references can be quoted in support of this:
Instead of regarding Gurabani as poetry, it should be taken as
the revelation of Truth as ordained by God, as is clear from these lines:
Jaisi mai awai Khasam ki Bani
Taisra kari gyan wai Lalo. (p.722)
(As the Divine Word is revealed to me,
I state it explicitly, O Lalo, my friend)
This is the path to the destination so modeled as ordained in Gurbani.
Keeping in view the immutability of the Word and accepting it
as the unfailing means of transforming the human mind, it has
been regarded as “Guru”. This has precluded human
interference and as a matter of principle, the Word has attained
Bani Guru, Guru hai Bani,
Vich Bani Amrit sarai.
Guru Bani kahai, sewak jan manai
Partakh Guru Nistarai. (SGGS, p. 982)
(The Word is Guru, and Guru the Word
And in the Word are all the nectars
The Word is obeyed by the devotees
As they perceive Guru in the Word.
In the source form, Bani has been accepted as the code of conduct and the path to be followed. It has been termed as a treasure, which can’t be exhausted. It is the spiritual model which transforms the sons into worthy sons and which is the source of human salvation. Therefore it is something (a model) which cannot be given up. The role of history could be termed as the one which inculcates the spirit of salvation in the humans. Such a role is defined as Sat (Truthfulness) Santokh (Contentment) and Gyan (Enlightnment), which have the same importance for a human being as is food for living. Therefore the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib can be called the Base Model and it has been defined in ‘Mundavani’ by Sri Guru Arjan Dev.
It can be concluded that a person and personal supremacy assumes importance in history. In the same manner, history often moves ahead with a person and events connected with him. In Gurbani the way of proceeding from a principle to a person has been shown. For instance, the principle is the union with God and the person, or the body composed of five elements is simply the opportunity thereof. With this, instead of getting salvation after death, the way to attain salvation while still living has been shown.As a result of this, the dread of death is changed to the equipoise of martyrdom. Thus Gurbani favours the doctrine-based history and the history of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is connected with ‘Sach Patijai'(Know it as true). In the doctrinal sense, it cuts across the traditional boundaries of history and inspires us to take right decisions at the right time. While history unfolds the events of a given time,Gurbani is the everlasting source of history. It can be called the Shabad (Word) Model.