Sri Guru Granth Sahib- a morphological study
Dr. Mohinder Kaur Gill
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a voluminous scripture. It is a compilation of the Bani of more than one writer. It enshrines the writings of the Gurus written in the same tradition as also those of the Saint-poets connected with different faiths and traditions. But it is a great wonder that all of them are revered in the same way and enjoy the same exalted status. All of them occupy the same stage, singing the praises of God Almighty. This is the only scripture of the medieval times of its kind in which the writers of Bani coming from differentg classes of society have become one class of devotees of God and sing His praises in unison.
On the one hand the thematic unity reaches its peak in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, its morphological design draws a great picture of univty in diversity. The compilation methodology is wonderful. There are multi-dimensional forms of literature and folklore. Its morphology is neither based on Sanskrit poetics nor limited to a certain lay out. Certainly it seems to be philosophical but it is full of many concepts of philosophy. As a matter of fact Gurbani, in order to bring out the spiritual experiences in its mystic form, makes poetry in its various forms, its medium of expression. Thus the true form of Bani is discerned in the cohesion of philosophy, music, folklore and poetics.
It is evident that Gurbani has its own exclusive existence. From the ‘subject-matter’ point of view, it is concerned with Brahm’s unification. Consequently, the theme needs its own matrix, in which the matter could be fitted. The Gurus have made use of blank forms, whether literary or folk. The speciality of this use is that the blank forms have not brought with them their conduct or narrowness but they have been scraped or carved according to the needs of the Bani writers. These forms had to get moulded according to the experience of the Bani writers.
The literati have divided literature into three forms : Drish Kav (Having form) Shrav Kav (prose and poetry) and Champu (Mixture of prose and poetry). Shrav Kav is further divived into two forms: gad (prose) and pad (poetry). Being connecded with the formlessness philosophy of Divine, the Gurmat writing has been indifferent to Drish Kav. Champu is neither pure form of poetry nor that of prose. It is a mixture of the two. The folk styles can be reckoned under this differentiation. In short, the writing of Bani chooses the free style from Shrav Kav and from Champu literature, it chooses folk styles. The main reason thereof is the theme of Bani writing. The threads of this theme are woven like warp and woof. Transmigration of soul, philosophy of Karma (actions), life-death, mortality of the world, the soul groaning under the grip of senses, spiritual knowledge and supreme bliss, etc. are all the concepts which join together. This is the thematic identification of Bani writing. It should, however, be borne in mind that with regard to a particular concept, the writrer of Bani has his own emphasis or lack of it.
Having come to know what constitutes Bani, it would be appropriate to know about its order of form. The study in hand relates to the outer form or build-up of Bani. Ordinarily, the entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib is known as Bani.The question, however, arises as to what is the difference between Japuji, So Dar, Astpadi and Baramaha? This difference can be known firstly, from the contents thereof and secondly, the outer build-up of the writing. For the time being, I am going to try to understand the exterior form. The entire Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib can be divided into five parts for the purpose of our study:
Distinct form : Japu, Sukhmani, Anand, Dakhni Onkar
Compiled form: So Dar, Sohila.
Literary form: Pada, astpadi, varaan, pauri, Saloke, Kafi, Bawan akhri, Patti, Solhai, Sidhagosht.
Folk form: Chhant, Ghoriaan, Lavaan, Anjuliaan, Alahuniaan, Sadd, Mudavani, Paherai, Din-rain, Varsat, Ruti, Thiti, Baran Maha, Karhalai, Vanjara, etc.
Poetic form: Saloke, Gathya, Phunhai, Chaubolai, Swaiyya.
It would be appropriate here to indicate that, while the above division has been done, for the purpose of our study, for facile communication, the serial order of the Banis of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has also been taken into account. The Bani begins with ‘Japuji’. Being free of the limits of a raga or the indication of Mohalla, this Bani is quite distinct from other Banis of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Similarly, Sukhmani Sahib and Anand Sahib are distinct in form from other Banis. The writing of Japuji is in pauris (stanzas of a ballad). Nearly twenty types of pauris have been made use of. That is the reason for there being no uniformity in the pauris. In Sukhmani, saloka and pauri have been used. All the salokas are two-lined and the pauris are of ten lines. This form of writing has been done systematically. There are 40 pauris in the Bani called ‘Anand’.All the pauris are not of uniform build. The pauris of Dakhni Onkar are of four, six, seven, eight, nine, lines. Evidently, five types of pauris have been used in this Bani. As a whole, it can be said that distinctness cannot conform (to a certain pattern). Clearly, all the above Banis are distinct in their own way and it is also true that their form has not been repeated in toto. After Japuji, Sukhmani is in Gauri Raga, Anand and Dakhni Onkar are in Raga Ramkali.
After ‘Japuji’ there are two such forms as can be called the Banis in the compiled form, So Dar and Sohila. The Bani of So Dar has been written in Mohalla 1, Mohalla 4 and Mohalla 5. The poetic style is not uniform in this Bani. For example ‘So Dar’ has 22 lines, Sun wada (18), Akha Jiwaan (18), Tit Sarwarai (6), Bhayee Prapat (10). Prima facie, Sodar is the Bani of more than one writers and has more than one form of pauri and in more than one ragas and their strains. Sohila also has been written by more than one writers. It has hymns of Moh.1, Mohalla 4 and Mohalla 5 and the number of lines of the hymns is not uniform and this Bani too has more than one raga-strain.
It can be said, as a whole, that the system of compiled Banis depicts variety of forms which indicate the writer, the raga-strain, number of lines and variety. The poetic form is that of hymns. There is ‘rahau’ in every hymn. Of these, Sohila can be said to be also in folk form. Literary form The literary forms used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib have their distinct characteristics. The content thereof cannot be classified in a particular form. Still, from the outer build, their distinct features can be recognized. They are less than folk forms in number. The literary forms used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are –
Pada, astpadi, varaan, pauries, saloka, kafi, bawan akhri, patti, Sidhagosht, Solhai, etc, which are more commonly known.
Keeping in view the form and build of Sirlekh (heading), these can be divided into four parts –
Number based: Saloka is generally of two lines, though it is not strictly so the contrary position also does exist. Pada: Chautuka (four lines), tituka, panchtuka, etc. Astpadi – A hymn of eight stanzas. Solhai – A hymn of sixteen lines.
Class based: Bawan Akhri, Patti.
Dialogue based: Sidhagosht.
Thought based: Varaan, pauries, Kafi.
The major portion of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is Raag based. The pada form has the top place in the raag based Bani. An attempt has been made to conduct the above study in the serial order of Banis in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.The pada form therein is not purely musicial but a form thereof, free-style. It has the traits of music but it is more in free style. It seems appropriate here to elucidate it further.
Music lends the deep emotion a form of an imagery. To give credible nuance to emotion is the special feature of music. Music has to lean on a particular side. Therefore it is three sided generally – time, listnener and the reader sitting in the wide world outside. The reader listens to the dialogue between the speaker and the listener. Indirect hearing is the distinct feature of music. Performance of music is accomplished through ‘address’. Its prelude assumes the form of address like ‘I..you, you, you or he…’. The emotion-filled wordy melody, personal touch and aesthetics, have the ‘moving’ effect. The elements of tunefulness and short spell are the main signs of identification.
The pada (hymn) in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is subject-based. In the free style, both seen and unseen can be described. In music, it is the state of mind. In free style, verse is the medium of presentation and it is constant and it does not have the vein of music flow. Music does not come into being without the element of self but for free style, it is not essential. In music there is ample scope for giving emotion filled expression but in free style only one sentiment can be expressed at one time.
There are varied pada forms appearing in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The first form is identified through the headings. For example, Ikpada, Dupada, etc. The second is that it is in accordance with ragas. The heading of the raga suggests that the writer is quite accomplished in expressing his experience in a particular form of melody to be sung in a particular tune. Rahau-line is essential to the build up of a hymn. It reveals the central idea of a hymn and it is repeated as the refrain thereof. The pada is such form which has in it the emotional level, the wonderous state, the variety of feeling and such writings as are free of emotion. The musical tone touches the heart of a listener. The pada has not only presented the artistic skill in its equipoise, it has not let the tendency to ‘show off’ come near it. The articulation of the burning light of experience is the essence of Bani writing.
The above traits can also be identified in Astpadi, Sohilai, Bawan akhri, patti, Sidhagosht and pauries. There are twenty two vaars in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.At the first glance the vaars seem to be in the form of salokas and pauris but the seed point of the vaars is dialectic tension. This tension continues without at any time reaching the point of peace. The main reason thereof is that its hero, Brahm, is ever and ever the Master of the Universe and in comparison the man, caught in the web of illusion, is helpless and powerless. Thus the centre-element is tension while that of the historical vaar (ballad) is conflict. Praise of the hero, tension of duality between Brahm and Maya, thoughtfulness, spiritual values, religious inspiration, imagining of supernatural rather than historical, creation of conflicting pairs, are the general features of a ballad. The main feature, however, is the praise. The vars sing of the glory of Brahm vis-à-vis the inner conflict of the human mind.
Bawan Akhari moves along in accordance with the vowels-consonants in that order. Similarly Patti is written in the alphabetical order. Though these writings seem to be literary in nature, their basic message is as in the main Gurbani. Similalry, Goshat, though a dialogue form, has the message of praise of Allah, side by side crystalising the philosophy of Nanak. The Solhai depict the longer form of free style. Through this the creation of the universe in its gigantic form is highlighted.
As a whole, studying the literary forms of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, one feels fully convinced that the Gurus were conscious of the form-set-up too. The writers of Bani adopted those forms which had become more acceptable. For example, pada,astpadi and saloka. From the content point of view, these forms could be spiritual, critical in comparison as also worth rejection. The forms, though contemplative, were not devoid of contemporary social norms nor away from the basic thought. It appears proper now to take up the folk forms used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Many poetic forms connected with folk culture have been made the medium of expression. These are those forms which were commonly used in the folklore. The Gurus conveyed their message through the use of these forms, they tried to fathom the human mind on the one hand, they also made the people aware of the cultural ethos in an easy way, on the other. This paved the way for the Bani-content to come out of the thick layer of the elite to reach the common people.
It is worth mentioning here that Gurmat does not accept any ritualistic form of worship but it could not lose sight of the folk. It is perhaps for this reason that varied forms of folklore became part of writing Gurbani. To understand these folk forms in an easy way, we can divide them in five parts:
Ritualistic form: Under this come the rituals connected with birth, marriage and death, like Sohila, Chhant, Ghoriaan, Lavaan, Anjuliyaan, Alahuniyaan, Sadd and Mudavani.
Day-date based form: These are concerned with sense of time, embracing the longest period or the smallest bit of time. Such forms are – pehrai (three hours), day, night, seven days, dates, seasons and Baramaha (12 months or a year).
Divine-praise form: Although the entire Gurbani is based on Divine worship, there are some such forms as are in the nature of pure Divine-praise, like Arati and So Purakh.
Travel songs: In this folk tradition, the travelers use the hazards of travel symbolically cautioning the people about their ultimate destination. Such forms are – karhalai and wanjara.
Proverbial form: these forms are reflected in writings like Kuchaji, Suchaji, Gunwanti and Birhade.
A question can arise as to why the writers of Bani, who were disposed to spiritual and philosophical thought, adopted the folk forms as the medium of conveying their message? It is quite certain the Gurmat tradition too has a tradition of its own. Similarly the Gurus have their personal sub-consciousness. Its grip is quite strong. The lay out of Gurbani is the real proof of this fact. Something else is struck here that the Gurus are quite alive to the form distinction. The preaching of the gospel is down to earth in nature, close to the people. Being people-based, it does not lose touch with the folk language nor with the folk culture. Broadly speaking, the faith is for the people’s welfare. Perhaps it is for this reason that the people of faith have a far reaching vision. Through the use of folk-lore, on the one hand, the folk rites have got the written form, and on the other, the message conveyed has turned towards spirituality. The folk form incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib highlights the context and makes it Bani oriented in a wonderful manner. The word-building thereof is thus connected with folklore. The image of reality is created to come to the real point. In this way comes to the fore the Religious Code. Consequently an equation is reached between folk form writing and the religious world. In this way, one has a glimpse not only of folk life but also that of religious thought process. In fact, every aspect of life has its own code. When the Bani writers feel the need of using the philosophical code, Japuji, Sidhagosht, etc. are created. The philosophical code then initiates the dialogue. But when the same philosophy turns towards people at large, the Banis like Arati are created. The word order has the local touch and the symbolic existence is connected to some other world. The journey of folk forms begins with this world and ends in the other world. The writers of Bani highlight those forms of writing which have a particular approach like Aarti, Ghoriaan, Sohila, Alahniyaan, etc. These are the forms which occupy a special place in the human psyche. Even such forms are available in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as have no special build but the spirit thereof is so special. For example all the forms of division of time – pehrai, day and night, weekdays, dates, baramaha, season, etc, which had become part of people’s belief and seems to be so even today. Similarly, travels or professional including industrial writings are the products of the situation.Going to foreing lands, grappling with the hazards of travel, and achieving the purpose on reaching the destination are the cases in point. The Karhalai and Wanjarai impart information about the particular situation on one hand, and through this do not fail to to pass on the message of the Bani writers, on the other. The folk idiom is mostly concerned with the common people and their way of life, their virtues, but in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, this is the life-line of culture. Woman has been depicted in a symbolic way as Kuchaji, Suchaji and Gunwanti. Evidently, the Bani writers have made use of the folk tradition for the purpose of facilely conveying their message so that the true import of Gurmat could reach the people. There has been another advantage of this also. The centuries old folk tradition, by assuming the written form, has got established in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In this way the folk tradition has got the written form and acceptability for the first time. The oral and traditional beliefs have also come into Punjabi literature through Gurbani for the first time. According to the folk scientists, the folk form has its own original text, construction and context. In this sense, the folklore, after inclusion in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, has thrived. In all, through the folk models, the public vision becomes sees a new reality.
It would be appropriate, to conclude, that the morphology herein is not intricate but mixed. It has its roots both in its literary heritage as also in the folk tradition. The centuries old poetics plays its tune, and the ancient belief finds acceptability through Bani. Every form of writing has its own history and the special features. Sri Guru Granth Sahib being the anthology of different forms of writing, on the one hand it is so rich in the varied forms of writing but untouched by their theoretical value, on the other. This is the principle underlying the compilation. The ragas have been used, but the raag-gharanas (tradition) and the theoretical knowledge thereof are not indicated. Folk forms have been used but the theoretical insight into their models is not given.The Bani of many Bani writers is incorporated, but there is complete silence about their personality, faith or religious tradition. The same condition obtains about the lieterary school. Whether it is in accord with the Sanskrit poetics or that of Apbhransh (corrupted form of the word), nothing is known. But one thing which can be said about its founder writer-teacher, Sri Guru Nanak Dev, is that he was fully conscious of giving it the true and certain form of Gurmat. The tradition assumes a particular line when the future writers also follow the same line. The theme determined by Guru Nank has been adopted by the Gurus who succeeded him.Guru Nanak made the literatry poetic moulds the part of writing of Gurbani and the future writers of Bani made use of those moulds to further the tradition. The Gurmat School not only remained consiouus of its own substance, its morphology and communication methodology, it also established its own identity.
Another thing which is very essential to be understood about the morphology, whatever mould the Bani writer may use, the journey from this world to the other world is clearly seen therefrom. On the one hand, there are details about the worldy life, on the other, we find the code of conduct for a spiritual life as spelt out in Gurabani, which is its main identification. This has been kept in view and put into practice by all the Bani writers. And the Bani written by the Saint-poets has also not lost sight of this.The third symbol of identification of morphology is the repetition. All the Bani writers has written in the forms of pada, astapadi,and Salok. Similarly other forms of writing have been used by more than one Bani writer but it is worth knowing that no Banikar goes away from the all embracing-meaning, the main point of view. This is the system followed in Bani writing. This enthuses the student of Bani to know the mind-set of Bani writers and inspires him/her to keep the Bani and literature in balance, does not stray from the oral tradition and tampering Bani writing with the folk culture, gives it the new look. It creates the state of powerful light of knowledge and making one feel swinging in the highest state of Bliss, has come to the share of Gurbani alone.
Let us bear in mind that the pada form (hymn) is purely dedicated to the yearning and burning passion to attain God; the astpadi aims at His praise; the saloka, the analytical bent of mind; the pauri sings in high pitch the greatness of Brahm in all His variegated forms; the longer verses are dedicated to the philospic aspect; Chhant is full of festive-forms like marriages, Ghoriaan and lavaan are connected only with marriage celebrations. Alahuni and Sadd are related to the death rites.Pehrai(hours), Din-rain (day and night), seven days of the week, season, dates, Baramaha are the exhortations expressed in terms of time. The karhalai and wanjarai depict the hazards of travel and the wandering of the human soul. In short, the morphology of Sri Guru Grant Sahib presents on one hand the variegated nature of Brahm under a systematic order; on the other, it presents full attunement with One Brahm Light, of which humanity is an integral part. Harmony is its main trait. The all-embracing burning light of knowledge to become rasik-bairagi (detachment in enjoyment) is its attainment.