Sri Guru Granth Sahib: The technique of compilation/editing.
Dr. Mohinder Kaur Gill
Shri Guru Granth Sahib is the most voluminous compilation of medieval times. No other language has the pride of having such a Granth. On the one hand, it is the worshipful volume, on the other, it lays down high moral standards. It has incorporated in it the hymns of the Saint-poets spread over five centuries. Sheikh Farid (1173 AD) lived in Pak Pattan (Now in Pakistan). The last Guru of the Guru tradition, Guru Gobind Singh was born at Patna and breathed his last at Nanded in 1798 AD. The Guru family spread from Sheikhupura (Nankana Sahib) to Nanded. The Gurus moved from the Punjab to the South preaching the gospel and joined the tradition of Saints-Bhagats tradition spread from Nanded to Pak Pattan. The devotional singers and bards of the flourishing town of Amritsar, also have their Bani incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a pride of place with the Gurus themselves.
A question can arise as to which methodology was used to compile such a voluminous Granth after collecting the hymns of so many spiritual beings and sending it across to the people. The answer is clear; a talented one is original in thinking and free of any other influence or planning. It happens oftentimes that the planner lacks talent but he is distinct in his planning. Guru Arjan Dev had both high talent and judicious planning skill. Guru Arjun Dev Ji is a very fine example of fusion of talent and planning. Guru Arjan Devji collected the writings of the Saints-poets who had lived before him and the contemporary saints-poets. It was a very judicious selection of hymns, as the poems of the contemporary poets which did not conform to his pattern, were left out, as in the case of Sant Dadoo Dayal, Shah Hussain, Chhaju, Piloo, Kahna, etc. In the process of compilation, preference was given to own ideology. Gurmat (Sikh thinking) worships unification of Sargun and Nirgun forms of Brahm. Consequently, the numerical system set by the writers of Bani, the digital order, the heading style, invocation, meter, numbering, rahau (pause), etc. assumed the form of planning. Keeping in mind the order in which the hymns are placed- philosophical followed by the literary form and then folk – Guru Arjan Dev comes to the fore as an accomplished editor and a wise planner. To understand this planned-methodology-technique, it seems appropriate to go respectively into the above mentioned arrangements.
Placement of the Banikars (Writers of Bani) The Writers of the Bani of Sri Guru Granh can be divided into four groups:
Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru’s relative: Baba Sunder (Grandson of Guru Amardas)
Devotional singers-bards of Guru’s house – Mardana, Satta, Balwand and Bhats.
The Sufi saints-Bhagats of 12th to seventeenth centuries: Sheikh Farid (Multan, Pakpattan, now Pakistan) Kabir (Benaras), Namdev (Maharashtra), Ravidas (Benaras), Rama Nand (Benares), Jai Deva (Bengal), Trilochan (Maharashtra), Dhanna (Rajasthan), Sain (Rewa, Madhya Pradesh), Pipa (Rajasthan), Bhikhan (Lucknow), Sadhna (Sind),. Parmanand (Pandharpur, Rajstshan) Sur Das (Avadh, Uttar Pradesh) and Beni It is apparent that these Sufis-Saints-Bhagats Came from different parts of the country. To identify the writer of a particular hymn/hymns, Guru Arjan Dev had adopted two-three methods. For the Gurus, the word Mohalla sign was used respectively in the beginning of the Bani. At the end of the hymn, the name of the writer was given, as was customary, then, by writing ‘Nanak’, which became the nom de plume for the Guru-poets who who succeded ‘Nanak.’ It was the Guru Prampara (tradition) which was indicative of one mind, one light, and one attunement. The relative of Guru’s house, the singers-bards of the Guru’s house and the bhagats had their names written in the begining of their writing. This is the second way of identifying the writers of the hymns. At the end of the writings of the Bhatts, the third method was used. Swaiyyas have been written by the Gurus as also the Bhatts. The Guru’s swaiyyas have been given the heading of ‘Swaiyya Srimukhvak’ and those of Bhatts have been denoted as ‘Swaiye Moh. Pahlai kay, Doojai kai, Tijai kai, Chauthai kai and Panjwai kai.’ The word ‘Nanak has been used at the end of Gurus’ swaiyyas. The number of the Bhatts being more than one, the name of the particular Bhat has been given at the end of the swaiyya. It is clear that for the Gurus, it is order of Mohallas, for the saints-poets it is their name, and the collective heading for swaiyyas of Bhats and for Gurus’ swaiyyas the heading ‘Srimukhvak’ have been given respectively. The placement order of the Bani (hymns) The entire Bani writing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been arranged in thirty one Ragas (Classical meters of music). In the beginning are given the Banis of daily reading. At the end, have been placed hymns which are not connected with any Raga, which are called special Poetics (Kavi-Chhand Vishesh), like Saloke Sahskriti, Salok Kabir Jio kai, etc. It is clear that for Gurus, it is the Mohalla, and for the Saints-Bhagats it is name of the particular Saint and for Swaiyyas, the common heading and for swaiyyas of Gurus Srimukh Vak or Mohalla with the respective numeral has have been given. Arrangement of hymns The entire Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been arranged in thirty one Ragas (Musical measures). It begins with the hymns of daily recital and ends with the hymns not connected with any Raga which are indicative of Kavi-Chhand Vishesh (Special Poetics), like Saloke Sahaskriti, Saloke Kabir Jio, etc. The arrangement of the entire Bani in accordance with Ragas is a special arrangement in itself. In every Raga Guru Nanak’s hymns are given in the beginning. Also the form of the verse (Pada-roopa) has been indicated at first. The padas have been arranged accosrding to their form. For example pada can be ‘Dupada’ (Two stanza) or Tripada or Chaupada. It means, at the time of incorporating Bani, attention has been paid to the First Mohalla series as also the writers’ padas according to their ‘pad ank’ (serial number). After the padas, according to the Guru’s order, their Astpadians (eight-stanza hymns or octaves) and if in some Raga, the folk form has been used, preference has been given to it. Thereafter, the long verses like Sukhmani, Bawan Akhri, Dakhni Omkar have been entered in the particular Raga. At the end of a particular Raga has been given ‘Var’ provided it has been composed by some writer of the Bani. If Var has been written by more than one writer of Bani, the preference has been given to the Guru-series. At the end of a Raga is entered the Bhagatbani. Here also the time-factor, writer-wise, has been kept in view, except in the case of Sheikh Farid. For example, in the Bhagat Bani series Kabir, Sheikh Farid, Ravidas, Namdev, have been given place in that order. After the Bani covered under various Ragas, the hymns uncovered by any Raga has been given in accordance with form and Guru-series. At the end of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been given the catalogue of Ragas which does not indicate the name of its writer but it only gives the Rag-gharans (The family-tree of Ragas).
Invcocation (Mangal writing)
In accordance with the tradition of religious writings, we find five types of invocation given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
Ik Omkar (God is One)
One God is attainable through the Grace of True Guide.
One God’s Name is Truth (attainable) throught the Grace of True Guide.
One God whose Name is Truth and Who is Omnipotent is (attainable) through the Grace of the True Guide.
One God whose Name is Truth and Who is Omnipotent, Fearless, has no enmity towards any one, is Timeless Being, Unborn of the womb, and self ceated, is attainable through the Grace of the True Guide.
Wherever in the entire Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib right from Ik Omkar to Mundavani or Ragmala, the new text begins, the invocation is given in the beginning thereof; the main reason for this being that the Acharyas (Sage-writers), before beginning their work, invoked their Isht (Object of worship). In all the religious books, we find invocation in the beginning. This is confirmed also by the Kur’an and the Vedas. For example, in the beginning of Qur’an is given
‘Bismilla hi rehmanu rahim (Qur’an Majid)
(O Kind One Allaha, I begin with your kindness.)
And in the beginning of the Veda, the word ‘Oam’ is indicated (Oam is that word of invocation which has been used in both the Vedas and the Upanisads). The Acharys have held that the invocations are of three types-
© Deity’s invocation.
Only congregational invocation has been used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The congregational invocation is again of three sub-types:
Subject-wise invocation- It is used when a writer wants to write about a particular topic, praises the importance of it and also explains its characteristics. In Sri Guru Grant Sahib, from Ik Omkar to Gurprasad is the Mool Mangal (Root invocation). This praises God as also tells about His attributes. This root invocation has been stated in five ways-
Ik Omkar: In this One denotes that God is above species or castes, caste-less and the symbolic of Brahm. Omkar is the origin of the universe. Ik Omkar denotes both Brahm and Brahmand (Universe), being the symbol of both, is Above All.
Ik Omkar Satgur Prasad: Ik Omkar is known through the Grace of the True Guide
Ik Omkar Satnam Gur Prasad. While Ik Omkar symbolizes Brahm, Satnam is His traditional Name. It can be attained through Guru’s kindness.
Ik Omkar Satnam Karta Purakh Gur Prasad. Brahm, the protector, True in all the ages, Creator of the Universe, is the Male- symbol of energy. He bestows His Kindness on the Universe.
Ik Omkar Satnam Karta Purakh Nirbhau, Nirvair, Akal Moorat, Ajooni Saibhagn Gurprasad-
Along with the form of Brahm, His special attributes are also given. Through this can one know the attributes-characteristics of Brahma.Apparently, these invocations are given in the beginning of a Bani and the Bani being the form of Brahm makes us know about His Attributes. The arrangement of Ragas-
There are thirty one main Ragas in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Mohalla 1 has been written in 19 Ragas, Moh.2 has written only salokas (couplets or short stanzas), Moh. 3 in 17, Moh. 4 and 5 in 30 ragas. Moh. 9 has written in 15 ragas, Moh. 6 has indicated only tunes Moh. 10 has written only one Saloka. From among the Bhagats, Kabir and Namdev have written in 18, Ravidas in 16, Trilochan and Beni in 3, Dhnna, Jai Dev and Farid in two, Bhikhan, Sain, Sadhna, Surdas and Parmanand in only one raga, one or two padas. There are shudh, chhaya lingat and sankiran (forms of ragas) ragas in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Rag Gauri, Wadhans, Tilang, Suhi, Ramkali, Nat, Maroo, Basant Kalyan, Prabhati, Bilawal, Gaund and Suhi ragas have combination of one or more ragas. Similary Raga Gauri-Poorbi Deepki and Rag Gauri Guareri, Sri, etc. fall in the category of Sankiran (limited). These ragas are sung according to the season and time.
There is no indication of notation of the ragas used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There is no distinct musical tone for a particular raga but there are some such ragas as have their own distinct tone, like Wadhans, Maroo, Jaijawanti, which are in sad tones. Assa, Sorath, Dhanasri and Bilawal by and large give an impression of happiness. Tilang has Arabic and Persian origin and vocabulary and in Basant there is bloom and Malhar and Sarang are for the rainy season.
Gurmat Sangeet and Classical Sangeet fundamentally differ. Gurmat sangeet lays stress on voice (vocal) and the classical on music (instrumental). The Gurmat sangeet is meant for Kirtan (Gurbani singing). The presence of raga in it is symbolic but its notation, in which a raga has to be sung, when, in which season, hour of the day, etc., are missing. The classical music lends melody to one tune. But in Gurmat Sangeet, the words give melody to the tune.
The singing of ragas had been limited to the royal courts. The Gurus were responsible for taking this rich heritage to the people. The ragas returned from the royal courts to people’s congregation. In this way aesthetics got added to the human mind. This also inculcated the spirit of fraternity. The music or raga is no one’s owned commodity. And its use as common heritage is the great contribution by the writers of Bani towards popularizing it. The musical arrangement as seen in Sri Guru Grant Sahib is quite intricate. There are many branches of one raga. It is related to the literary designs and folk music also. There is the use of ‘rahau’ (pause) and a numeral which is given under the heading of a group of hymns. This would be discussed threadbare later on.
Numeral and numeralisation- arrangement. Sri Guru Grant Sahib contains Guru-bani and Sufi-Sant-Bhagat Bani. Most of it is covered under the musical-raga system. Every raga has sub-division also like, pada, astpadian, etc. Next to the sub-division there are sections also, like dupada, tipadai, chaupadai, panchpadai,etc. Thus when in one raga, more than one Bani writers’ hymns are incorporated, there is more than one form of writing also. To separate them from one another, the numeral system has been made use of, so that the particular writer, his writing, the forms of his writing and the correct quantum of writing can be known.
The Mohalla numerical denotes the writer but how much of his writing is there in the raga, is indicated by the numerals. The forms of padas in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not uniform. Such differenciation is there in the case of Astpadis and salokas also. Whether the Bani is arranged under raga system, may be in padas, astpadies, Chhands or in any other form, the number of such padas, etc.is given. Not only that, even the number of ‘tukas’ (lines) in a hymns is also indicated. This is the reason that no outside interpolation could be possible in Gurbanai. This would be clear by this example:
Adi Granth P. Raga and mohalla Numeral
14-15 Sri Rag Moh. 1 4/33. Here 4 denotes the Numer of the stanzas and 33 the Number of hymns.
26-39 Sri Rag Moh3 4/31/64. There are 31 Padas of Moh.3 and by adding 34 padas the total comes to 64.
39-42 Sri Rag Moh.4, 4/33/31/6/70 – 4 denotes (Fourth Nanak-Guru Ram Das) 33 of Moh.1, 31 of Moh.3, 6 of Moh.4 and total comes to 70
This numeral system is found in all the ragas. It is possible to know at the end of a raga as to how many hymns of a Bani writer are there in it. The number goes on increasing. The increase in number is shown at the end of every hymn, and at the end the total is struck, not only of a particular writer of Bani but also of all the writers of Bani. In this way, the form of writing form of the pada, the particular Bani writer, the total number of verses, etc. all the details are given. The same system is seen in the case of astpadians. The long Banis (verses) like Baramaha, at the end of which number 14/1 is given, where 14 denotes the number of stanzas and 1 is that of the verse. At the end of Sukhmani Sahib, 8/24 is indicated, where 8 means the eight stanzas and 24 stands for all the astpadis. At the end of Gauri Thiti, number 17 denotes the number of pauries.
In short, the Bani of Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been arranged in such a way that the writer, the hymns, their types, total number of hymns, poetic forms, ragas and their types, number of hymns of a particular Bani writer in a raga, the total number of hymns in a raga, have all been indicated by numerals in the series. This numeral-numeralisiation system introduced in the Granth Sahib has helped in a big way in maintaining the original form of it.
The arrangement of the hymns in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is raga based, but along with the ragas, sub-headings have also been given. These sub-headings have been given in their literary form and also symbolize the folk form. For example, in raga Gauri, Gauri Sukhmani Moh.5, gives three indications. First, raga, second particular Bani and third, particular Bani writer. In the same way in Gauri Guareri Moh.1, Gauri Cheti Moh.1, indicates combination of two ragas. In the heading ‘Sri Rag Moh.1 Astpadian’, two new points are seen – ghar 1 and astpadian which would be discussed later. The astpadians are indicative of the particular form. The indication of folk forms has been given by using the particular name, like
(a) Pehrai Sri Rag Moh. 1
(b) Ramkali Moh.1 Ruti.
It is clear that the form of the hymn can be given in the beginning or at the end of the heading but it does not go unindicated. This is about those headings which are very clear. There are some such headings also in Sri Guru Granth Sahib which have relationship with some other writing of some other writer. For example,
(a) Eik suan kai ghar gavna.
This heaing is at p.91 of the Adi Granth. This is Kabir’s hymn. There is another hymn by Guru Nank Dev at p.24, which begins as ‘Eik suan doi suani nal’. It is clear that Kabir’s hymns has to be sung in the same sub-tune in which Guru Nank Dev’s hymn has been earlier indicated to be sung.
(b) Sri Rag Bani Bhagat Beni jio ki-pehryaan kai ghar gavna:
This full heading is a pointer to the Bani of Sri Rag Moh. 1 . This hymn of Beni has to be sung in that sub-trune.
There are many more headings of this type given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This is the second type of headings. The third type of headings are indicate of the ‘tal’ (beat):
Partal: This indication has been used at many places along with the sub-tune. In ‘Partal’ the beat of ‘sthai’ (refrain of singing) remains the same. But in the antra (high pitch), beat changes.
Assa Moh. 5 Birharai Ghar Chhantan ki jati: ‘Birhari Chhant’ symbolize the emotions of the female suffering the pangs of separation. ‘Chhantan ki jati’ is the ‘laya’ (cadence) in which it is to be sung.
Under the fourth type, the heading is indicative of the ‘count’:
Assa Sri Kabir Jio ki tipadai 4, dotukai 7, iktuka. It shows that there are four tipadais of Kabir, of which there are seven of two lines and one of one line.
Rag Assawari ghar 16 kai 2 Moh. 4 sudhang: Sudhang means Sudh-ang, i.e. Shudh. Further comes also the mixed form of Assaawari (chhaya-lingat).
The fifth type headings are very fine in nature. In Gauri Rag at pp.204, 205, 206 and at many other pages numerals are given under the headings. For example,
Rag Gauri Moh. 5 (p.205)
2 Gauri Poorbi Moh.5 (p.212)
Countless teekas (translations) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are available but no translator has paid attention to this aspect. Four major schools of Classicial Indian Music have been recognished by the Indian Musicologists:
1. Gurmat (introduced by the Gurus)
These numerals are indicative of the ‘mat’ (school) so that the hymns may be sung to the tune of the particular ‘mat.In the above indicated numerals, the first is the Krishan mat and second is the Hanuman to the tune of which the hymn should be sung. The Acharya has linked it to the current of ‘murki’. These numeras demand a further and deeper study. But it is clear that the Gurus were very much consious of musicological aspect of singing.
Ghar-parbandh (Sub-tune arrangement) In Siri Guru Granth Sahib 1 to 17 ‘ghars’ have been indicatged with the headings. To understand these ‘ghars’ it is necessary to keep in mind the seven basic tunes. For example – sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha ni.
All these are Shudh tunes. Of these ‘sa’ and ‘pa’ tunes are constant, neither rising high nor going down and thus remain unchanged. Of he remains five ‘surs’Re, ga, ma dha ni, ma are shudh and tibra (shrill). The rest are shudh but komal (soft). It is clear that these surs (tunes) rise high and go down:
Re ga dha ni all the four are ati komal (very soft), komal (soft), and shudh komal. Consequently,
4X3 = 12 (Komal-sof)
1 X 3 = 3 (………..)
+ 2 (constant tunes)
17 in all.
As a whole, the leading tune of a raga is defined by the word ‘ghar’. This needs further resarch. ‘Rahau’ parbandh (Pause system)
Rahau enjoys a special place in Gurmat Sangeet. ‘Rahau’ is a multi-meaning word. Broadly, it is understood to have two meanings. The first is the main strain of the hymn or Sthayee, which the singers sing again and again or stop at it. It is the line which is sung after the antra (high pitch). The second meaning is the ‘central idea’ of the hymn, as ‘Sukhmani Sukh Amrit Prabhu Naam.
Bhagat Jana kai man bisraam. Rahau (SGGS p.262)
More than one ‘rahau’ have been used in a hymn in Guru Granth Sahib. Where two ‘rahaus’ have been used, the first one is interrogatory and the second one is clarificatory. (See p.175 – “Kin bidhi kusal hote mairai bhai.” Wherein three ‘rahaus’ have been used, the first one is inspirational, the second one is the limitation of the seeker and the third one is suggestive. At p.154-155 four ‘rahaus’ have been used where the first three have the same import and the fourth lays emphais on divine design. At p.81-82, in Ramkali ki Var Moh.3 rahau has been used to mean ‘sing again and again’. In fact ‘rahau’ is related mainly to the raga and it has not been used in the ‘Japu’ and or in the hymns not covered under any raga. However, it being the central idea, is confirmed by and large in many cases.
To conclude, it can be said that in a Very Big Volume like Sri Guru Granth Sahib, to understand its format-arrangement, two types of study is imperative. First, the compilation and secondly, the methodology of form. Without understanding the compilation-methodology, its form-system cannot be fathomed. Through the knowledge of compilation methodology, the basic principles working therein can be understood. The writer of the Adi Granth, numeral-arrangement,Bani-enumeration-system,invocation-system, Raga-system, numeral-numeralisation, heading system, ‘ghar’ system, rahau-system, present the Fifth Master as a conscious planner, on one hand, and an accomplished artiste on the other. His fine vision reaches the peak when he not only indicates the ragas, their types but also the main tune according to ‘mat’. Similarly not only he gives an idea of ‘tal’ etc. (beat), to add melody to singing, gives indication of ‘partal’ etc. The ghar-prabandh of raga, rahau-system and its number (heading) are intimately connectged. In this way, Gurmat Sangeet becomes highly melodeous and artistic. Different types of poetics, Kav-chhands used in variety of ways, shows deep insight into musicology. To bring together at one place people holding different religious views clearly shows that he had the spirit of national unification. The firm believer in the ‘Common Weal’, Guru Arjan compiled Sri Guru Granth Sahib with all embracing and eternal zeal, which is a Unique contribution to mankind.