Sri Guru Granth Sahib- Folklore in its metaphorphic presentation and likeness.
Dr.Joginder Singh Kairon
The Gurus have made use of the folk lore and its tradition in two ways in Gurbani. At one level, they wrote poetry in the commonly known meter, like Sohilai, Ghoriaan, Alahniyaan, Anjuliyaan, Sadd and Mundavani. The importance of this writing lies in the fact that the folklore addressed itself to the person, the Gurbani addressed it to God. If praise has to be done, it is not for a person but for the Timless One, who created the universe and sustains it. In this way they used the common idiom in the form of, Dates, Days, seasons, parts of the day. At the other level, Guruji metaphorised the folklore. This metaphorsis is so artistic and perfect that their creativity and the folk tradition intermingled. Actually, it is very difficult to separate the folk element from a writing or Gurubani. It is like the relationship of the soul with body and one can’t be separated from the other. The folk tradition used in Gurbani is easily identifiable because Gurujis have used the same names which were in common use in the Punjabi society and culture, like, as stated above, Sohila, ghoriyann, etc. But Guruji, while using it, gave new meanings to it, which is a great thing. It is very difficult to elaborate this in this small write-up, because while one has to see as to which new meanings have been given, one has also to see to which direction the reader is led by the use of this folk tradition.
The folk-lore as a form of folk-literature, folk beliefs, folk psychology,folk arts and many more forms thereof have enriched Gurbani on the one hand, while talking of the spiritual spheres, it shows the way to the common good. In order not to lengthen my paper, we will bring within the purview of our study the form of folk-literature myth because poetry and myth are closely related. As the music, dance, painting and sculpture are related to a ritual, myth is also related to ritual because for the performance of a ritual, the import of the myth has to be revealed. This revelation is made through poetry, play or through some episode. It is for this reason that in the process of the first stage of human evolution, myth could not be separated from other cultural forms. Some scholars are of the view that the myths have developed out of rituals. But some scholars believe that ritual is the remnant of myth or mythology. There is no doubt that the myth does not explain the import of a ritual. That is why to unrvel the mystery of soul, spirit, super-soul and many other universal phenomen, the human mind takes recourse to myth in an attempt to reach the Highest Power which has tied the entire creation with the thread of contentment.
By making use of puranic tales or myths here and there, the Gurus have given them new meaning. Breaking the old myths, some new forms have been created. In this endeavour, oftentimes, the writers of Gurubani made use of the old tales, myths and other folk tradition and then used the characters therein or the events related, giving new meanings or desired meanings. The reason for this perhaps is that the charaters and events of mythology and history had become part of the belief of the masses. This belief and devotion cannot be broken in one go. When a writer of Gurbani, keeps in view the peoples beliefs, and makes the mythological events and characters as the basis of his writing, it becomes more effective means of communicating with them and by bringing to light the new meanings of the myths, he lets the mythological beliefs continue to remain with them. This new idea gradually takes a form and the old belief is given up. It is for this reason the the writers of Gurbani had kept the characters of the Mahabharata and Ramayana and other folk heroes in their hymns. But the high virtue of Gurbani is that it tried to demolish the direct and indirect beliefs and they questioned the doubtful beliefs of the people, like –
Andhlai dehsir moond mundaya,
Ravan maar kya wada bhaya (SGGS p.350)
(Ten-headed foolish Ravana had his heads
Chopped off. What greatness was there in killing him?)
Jia upaye jugat hath kini
Kali maar kya wada bhaya (SGGS p.350)
(…..Lord Krishna killed the Black Snake.
What sort of bravery it was ?)
Naal kutumb sath vardata
Brahma bhalan Srisht gaya. (SGGS p.350)
(Brahama, the creator, went into the tube in
search of his own creator but found no exit).
Agai ant na paiyo ta ka Kans
Chhed kya wada Bhaya (SGGS p.350)
(……….What bravery was it in killing Kansa?)
Ratan upaye dharaai khir mathya
Hore bhaklaye ji asin kiya (SGGS p.350)
The ocean was churned and jewels taken out
Over which a great feud had occurred.
In the above lines, the Gurus have questiomed the doings of the great ones like Rama, Krishna, Ravana, Brahma, Vishnu and other mythological gods and goddesses, which created a make-believe feeling in the minds of the people and presented God in the form of human beings. Guruji says that if Rama had killed Ravana, did this act make him Great?
If we regard Krishna as God who creates everyone and controls the entire universe Himself, even the leaf of a tree cannot move without His Command and then we praise Krishna for his catching the Kali Nag (the black servant). What greatness is there in this act? Or in his killing of Kansa. Brahma, born out of the tube of the lotus grown in the navel of Vishnu, went out to find the origin of the creation or even his own, could not come out of the tube. The gods and demons, after churning the ocean, found the jewels over which there was a dispute and Vishnu assuming the form of Mohini to settle the dispute are such things as do not make Vishnu great. In my opinion Gurbani does not praise destruction; it only praises Almight God who can save the human beings from the ocean of births.
Ninda dushti tai kin phal paya
Haranakash nakheh bidarai
Prehlad jan sad Hari gun gavai
Hari jio laye ubarai. (SGGS p.601)
(Who gained by ridiculing God?
Harnaksha was torn apart by the nails.
Prehlad sang His praises
And Lord saved him.
Mann ray Prabhy ki saran bicharo
Jih simrat ganika si udhri
Takau jas urdharo. (rahau)
Atal bhyao Dhruva ja kai simran
Ar nirbhai pad paya
Dukh harta ih bidh ko suami
Tai kahai bisraya.l.
Jab hi sran gahi Kripanidhi
Gaj grah tai chhoota.
Mehma Naam kaha lai barnau
Ram kahat bandhan tih toota.2
Ajamal paap jag janai
Nimakh mahi nistara
Nanak kahat chet chintman
Tai bhi utrai para. (SGGSmp.632)
(Take shelter in God O my mind.
The prostitute remembered Him
And she was saved. Therefore keep
In mind His greatness.
Dhruva became immortal
By remembering Him
And attained the state of fearlessness.
This kind of remover of our pain
Is the Great Master
Why have you forgotten Him?
The elephant, when it went into the shelter
Of the Ocean of Kindness, it was saved
From the clutches of the octopus.
How can I explain the Greatness
Of the Great One?
By saying Ram the schackles are cut down.
Ajamal, the sinner known all over
Was saved and forgiven in a moment
Sayeth Nanak, keep Him in mind always
And you too would get across the ocean.
In every line of the above hymn, one myth has been taken as an instance to show as to how God forgives sinners and saves the devotees but there should be some means of this. For example, Ganika was a prostitute who was given a parrot by a Bhagat and as she taught the parrot to say Ram-Ram, she was saved. Dhruva, the son of King Utanpad, was ill-treated by his step-mother, began to meditate on God’s Name and he attained the highest state of devotion. Similary, a gadharva (singer in the court of Indira)had turned into an elephant by the curse of a sage and it was entangled by the octopuss. It remembered God who cut the entanglement to save it. According another tale, a Brahmin of Qannauj lived with a prostitute. They had a son who was named Narayan and repeatedly calling his son by name, he was liberated.
Myth has been beautifully described in Japuji –
Dhaul dharma daya ka poot
Santokh thaap rakhya jin soot
Jai ko boojhai hovai sachiar
Dhavlai oopar keta bhaar
Dharti hore parai hore hore
Tis tei bhaar talai kaun jore. (SGGS, p.3)
The prevalent myth that the earth stood on the horns of the ‘bull’ was demolished by Guruji and called ‘bull’ the son of righteousness and compassion on which the the earth stands.
Myth has its own science in the folklore. It can be said in the ordinary course that the myth is created when the human intellect is unable to unravel the mystery of the natural and universal phenomenon. Thus what is not understood by human mind, man tries to understand it through some explanation, and thus creates his own science and sometimes the science of myth also becomes the pure science. We can cite the example of this myth which Guruji has used to make his point. This myth in the folk tradition raises the question as to what the earth stands on. And some wise man would have said, ‘On the horns of the bull’. The next question ‘What does the bull stand on?’. What does the water stand on? Water stands on air. Then What the air stsands on? And the reply would be, ‘Air does not need anything to stand on’. Myths have been made use of in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at many places to bring home the Guru’s point of view. These myths have been taken not only from the Indian tradition but also from the semitic tradition alsop.
Hukam kiyai munn bhavdai
Rahe bhirai agge jawna. (SGGS, p. 479)
(One lives arrogantly making one’s own will prevail. But he has
to pass through a very narrow path in the next world.)
Walahu nikki pur salat, kanni na suniahe.(SGGS P.1377)
(The bridge that has to be crossed at the time of recknong is
smaller than the eye of a needle, unheard of).
In the Indian myths, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranic myths have been taken, as in Rag Assa Chhant, Sri Guru Ram Das says that this human body is like an ocean which contains many valuable treasures. Try to churn it to take out the precious jewel of His Name. The myth of ocean churning has been linked to body and soul when Gobind is shown as indistinct.
Samund virol sarir ham dekhya
Ik Wast anoop dikhayee.
Gur Govind Govin Guru hai
Nanak bhed na bhayee. (SGGS p.442)
(We have seen like the churning of ocean, that this body has in it wonderful things. And the wonder is that Gobind is the Guru and Guru is the Gobind – the true guide and God are one and the same)
Sair ki putri parhihar tyagi
Charan chalai vicharai. (SGGS p.437)
(The daughter of the ocean (lakshmi-wealth) has been given up by following the true path shown by the Guru)
The daughter of the oceaon who had come out on churning the ocean has been trampled underfoot by understanding the exhortation of the Guru). Not only myth has been used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, myth has been created also, like –
Satyug rath santokh ka dharam agai rathvau
Traitai rath jatai ka jore agai rathvau.
Duapar rath tapai ka sat agai rathvau.
Kaliyug rath agnika koor agai rathvau (SGGS, p. 470)
(The traits of four yugas (ages – satyuga, duapar, traita and Kaliyug have been explained. The satyuga is that of contentment and its charioteer is Dharma. The traita yuga is that of Jata (restraint) and Force is its charioteer. The Duapar yuga is of penance and truth is its charioteer. The Kaliyuga is that of fire and falsehood is its charioteer).
Satyuga sabh santokh sareera
Pag charai dharma dhyan jio.
Man tan Hari gavaih param such pavai
Hari hirday Hargun gyan jio. (SGGS p.445)
The satyuga gives contentment to body. All the four hoofs (of the bull) rest on righteousness.
Sing the praises of Hari in your mind and body and find the highest state of bliss by keeping Him in your heart all the time. This is the true understanding.
Taita jug aya antar jor paya jat manjam karam kamaye.
Pag chautha khisya trai pag f’fke man hirdai krodh jalai jio. (SGGS 445)
(The third age makes one force his will on others, though dobserving celibacy, discipline and other ritualistic deeds. The fourth hoof has slipped, three remain firm, and anger is burning the heart.
Jag duapar aya bharam bharmaya Hari Gopi Kan upaye jio. Taptapan tapeh jag pun arambhai, ati kirya karm kamai jio. Kirya karam kamai pag doie khskaye doe pag tikai tikai jio (p. 445)
(In the duapar yuga, one is utterly confused. Hari (Krishna) and Gopi were born in that age. There were hard penances and self-mortification and other rituals. Two hooves of the bull had slipped away and it stood precariously on two only).
Kaliyuga Hari Har kiya pag trai
khiskya pag chatha tikai tikai jior. (SGGS p.446)
(Lord created the fourth age, in which the third hoof of the bull also slipped away making it stand (dangerously balanced) on one hoof.)
Similarly, in the Assa-di-var, that the Gopis dance all the time (ghadis) in the dancing arena and Krishan is also there and moon and sun are the incarnations, who are made chracters in the dramas being played by the actors and th e entire (mineral) wealth and vegetation of the earth is taking part in it. According to Guruji, it is only a drama being enacted by Krishna and Gopis.
It can be said as a whole, that the hymns in Sri Guru Granth Sahib have been decorated with all the aspects of Punjabi culture, including the traditional myths, and the fine arts and His praises have been sung. The traditional myth also has been rejected by creating a similar myth, the Gurus and the Bhagats have brought in a wonderful revolution while projecting their views before the people. In this way Gurbani has given a new lead to the Punjabi thinking and rid the Punjab society of many of the superstitions and doubts and an attempt has been made to build a new and vibrant society.