Voice of revolt in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Dr. Karanjit Singh
Revolt takes birth in mind before its voice is raised openly. The revolting mental make up is born when a person, society or country feels stifled in adverse social conditions and at the same time there is awareness about the economic, political, social and cultural causes thereof. It is such a time when social structure gets rotten and the human life is bent upon taking an important turn. It is important to note that such a tense situation, when a new way of life or cultural revolution has to take birth, does not develop overnight. Politial, economic and cultural upheavals have a long history behind it.
The second point to be borne in mind is that no revolt is merely an expression of protest or complaint. It has behind it some decisive thinking and it has before it a certain aim. Basically, behind the revolting mind, the forces which become active are guided by love for mankind. The person in revolt is desirous of freeing human society from inhuman conditions. Therefore creation of pro-human conditions remains his prime objective. Evidently, the entire process becomes a long march of struggle wherein those in revolt and their fellow travelers have to face countless hardships and often they have to make sacrifices also. The compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was done in such an environment. The conditions prevailing then are described in Sri Guru Granth Sahib –
Lab, paap, doye raja Mehta,
kood hoya sikdar
Kaam, neb sad puchhiai
beh beh karai bichar. (SSGS,p.468)
(Greed and sin are like the king and his minister Falsehood, the police officer, and passion the consultant with whom meetings are held. Greed and sin function in league with sexual desires and falsehood)
Kal kati rajai qasayee, dharam pankh kar udarya
Kood amavas sach chandrima, disai nahi keh chadhya.
(Kings have turned into butchers in this dark age which is like a knife. Righteousness has taken wings. The dark night of falsehood pervades all around and the moon of truth is not visible anywhere.)
In these conditions, the Gurus and their predecessors and some of the contemporary bhagats, of radical leanings, raised high the voice of revolt. Spread all over the country, these Bhagats became the symbols of revolt but could not launch a people’s movement of revolt, though they palyed a vital role in preparing the ground therefor. The Gurus raised this revolt in the form of a strong movement. They, after the first, the second, and the third, upto Guru Gobind Singh, all the Gurus continuously propagated this new ideology and fought for it. They explained the purpose of this movement –
Jau tau prem khelan ka chao
Sir dhar tali gali meri ayo.
It marag pai dharijai
Sir dijai kan na kijai. (SGGS, p. 1442)
(If you are desirious of playing the game of love, place your head on your palm, come to my lane.When you step out on this path don’t hesitate to lay down your life.)
Guru Arjan Dev completed the compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in 1604. As all of us know, the Granth contains not only the Bani of the Gurus but also that of the Bhagats in different regions of the country and the first Sufi saint of the Punjab, Baba Farid. Thus the Bani incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib takes in its embrace the period of four hundred years. The writings of the Gurus span over two hundred and fifty years. The entire period can be called the time of multi-dimensional tension. On the one hand there was confrontation between the political power and the common people because their mutual relationship was that of a exploiter and the exploited on the one hand, and it was the relationship of religious tension also, on the other, because Islam was the relgion of the rulers, and their subjects were Hindus. The third dimenion, the Hindu society itself was torn within because of the caste system which had stifled the life style. There were ceaseless invasions which caused the people, especially those of the Punjab, a great misery.
Paap ki janj lai Kabulon dhaya.
Jori mangai daan vei Lalo. (SGGS, p.722)
(He has come from Kabul leading the Marriage party of sin and forcibly seeking hands of women in marriage . )
Khurasan khasmana kiya, Hindustan daraya. (SGGS, 360)
(After subduing Khurasan, he threatened India)
These were broadly the adverse conditions in which the writers of the Adi Granth raise the voice of revolt. Of these the voice of Guru Nanak and that of Bhagat Kabir is loudest of all, thundering and challenging, instilling life in the dead.
We consider Guru Nanak’s bani as the pivot around which moves the Sikh thought process, though Bhagatbani and Faridbani are also important parts of this Bani. It does not mean that the Bhagats are relegated to a secondary place in importance. It only means that these revolting tenors scattered in the annals of history, assumed the form of a unified music and Guru Nanak laid the foundation of a thundering orchestra. To see this great effort reach the stage of fruition, Guru Nanak, to start with, revolted against the Indian tradition full of sham rituals. This is quite evident from his writings and his life.
The episode given in the Janam Sakhis, about Guru Nanak’s disappearance in the stream (Veyin Nadi) for three days and meeting God, like the accounts given in mythology, in our modern language, means that the attainment of Divine knowledge just as Budha attained light under a tree in Bodhgaya.The first words uttered by Guru Nank were ‘ Na koyee Hindu na Musalman’ (There is no Hindu or Musalman.The meaning of these words is not limited to saying that the religious discrimination is of no use, all of us are human being, and common father of all of us is God and all of us are brothers; there can be another dimension to these meanings that Guru Nanak’s first concern is not for any other worldly faith or doctrine but man and his destiny.
These words of Guru Nanak were a severe blow to the caste-system in Hinduism. The caste division of the brahminic faith, worship of gods and goddess in all its intricacies and the custom of offereing sacrifices, were also given a severe blow by Budha in the fifth-sixth century BC but later on Budhism was banished from the country and during Guru Nanak’s time its name had been effaced. Brahmin enjoys the highest place in the caste system and thus Brahmin becomes the target of Guru Nanak’s wrath. The Brahmin tells lies and wastes time in controversies. He advises others but does nothing virtuous himself; he trades in wealth only.
Pandit wachahe pothiaan na boojhai vichaar.
An kau mati dei chalahe maya ka vepaar.
Kathni jhooti jag bhavai rehni sabad su saar.
Ketai pandi jotki beda kareh bichar.
Vad virodh salahnai vadai avan jaan.
Bin gur karam no chhutsi kahe sune aakh vakhaan. (SGGS, p.546
Kabir ridicules the Brahmin who is proud of his caste, so arrogant, rolling in wealth, and evil doer. If these lines are not a hard slap on his face, what else?
Jo too Brahmin brahmini jaya,
tau aan vaat kahe nahi aya.
Tum kat Brahmin ham kat sood,
ham kat lohu tum kat doodh (SGGS, p.324)
(If you are a Brahmin born of a Brahmin mother, why din’t you come out (of her wormb) by some other way? How come that you are a Brahmin and I am a sudra? Does blood flow in my veins while milk in yours?)
Gurbani believes only in One God and the entire humanity is His offspring. Therefore no one is high or low, all are equal. High and low cast is an erroneous belief. It is not true:
Eik pita eikas kai ham barik
(We are the children of One God)
Fakkad jati fakkad nao.
Sabhna jio ika chhao. (SGGS, p. 83)
(The concept of caste or high lineage is a farce.
All the beings are equally blessed by Him.)
But the contemporary scene did not reflect this truth. There were high and low, bramins and khatri, vaish and sudra. Guru Nank is very clear in this; on which side he is. He sides with the down trodden and those considered low. By doing so one becomes entitled to God’s blessing.
Neecha andar neech jati,
neechi hoo ati neech.
Nanak tin kai sang sath,
wadya sio kya rees. (SGGS, p. 15)
(Nanak says he is with those who are the lowest among the low in the low castes. He has nothing to do with the so called highly placed.)
We are accountable for our deeds at the time of reckoning. Caste or class have no meaning there. It has been stated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
‘Jati janam na poochhiai
sach ghar lehu bataye.
Sa jati sa pati hai
jehai karam kamaye.
Thus human life and human society become the ocal points.
The attitude of the Gurus and Bhagats is quite different from that of the adherents of the Indian traditional philosophy. Before the advent of Gurus, this world was termed as a place of miseries and getting rid of these miseries was stated to be the main purpose behind all the rituals. Budhist tradition too is not different from this.But according to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, this world has a real and meaningful existence because it is the Creation of God. This world is not merely a mirage. Its creator Himself is True and therefore what He has created is also True. The Creator abides in the creation. Therefore it is not the expanse of falsehood and whatever is visible, is His manifestation. The following lines confirm this:
Aap satt, kiya sabh satt.
Apai janai apni miti gatt. (SGGS, 284)
Eh jag sachai ki hai kothdi,
sachai ka vich vaas.
(SGGS, 463) Jo disai so taira roop
Gun nidhan Govind anoop.
Bhagat Namdev says in Raga Assa – Sabh Gobind hai sabh Gobind hai
Gobnind bin nahi koyee.
Soot eik mani sat sahans jaise
Ote pote Prabhu soyee.1. rahau.
Jal tarang ar phen budbuda
Jal te bhinn na hoyee. (SGGS p.287)
(God pervades everywhere; no place is without Him, just as one thread passes through thousands of beads to keep them together; He is present everywhere, in the woof and in the warp. The waves and bubbles are not different from water.)
The difference between the Creator and the creation is only that the Creator is formless and without attributes and the creation has form and attributes. Guru Arjan Dev says-
“Nirgun aap sargun bhi ohi.
Kaladhar jin sagli mohi. (SGGS, p. 287)
According to Gurmat, Sargun is not worthy of worship as it is mortal. In the world manifestation, the ideal relationship is that of mutual love and affection because this world is a reality and therefore one cannot turn his back towards it. Living in the world, doing your duties towards it, the way to salvation has to be found in the family life. This salvation is not the fulfilment of the desire to go to heavan. This salvation means getting rid of selfishness, self-orientation, and self-centred thinking. When this relationship of truth is established with the creation, all its concerns become man’s own concerns. To transform its social, economic, religious and political structure based on injustice and inequality, is to make this world a place fit to lead a life of truth and spirituality which become the main concerns of man. In other words, man has to bring in such a revolution whereby he can get free of all types of bondage, or all types of fears.According to Guru Tegh Bahadur, one has to fear none and frighten none.
“Bhai kahoo ko det neh,
na bhai manta aan’
This spirit has to be inculcated. This is what the Gurus had done. They fearlessly and strongly condemned the unjustified religious, political and moral yardsticks which had kept the people terrified.
Kal kati, rajai qasayee,
dharma pankh kar udrya. (SGGS,145)
(In this dark age of dagger brandishing, the rulers have become butchers and righteousness has taken wings)
Rajai sinh, muqqadam kuttai.
Jai jagayen, baithe suttai. (SGGS, 1288)
(The rulers have become tigers and the law officers have become dogs)
Qadi kood bole mal khaye,
Brahman nhavai jia ghaye (SGGS, 662).
(Qadi tells lies and partakes of filth. The Brahman bathes his body (for purification) but kills others.)
Keping in view the contemporary scene, that age was called the Kaliyuga (Dark age). Its beautiful portrayal had been done in 1539 by Guru Angad:
Nao faqirai patishah, moorakh pandit nao.
Andhai ka nao parkhoo eiway karaai guao.
Illat ka nao chaudhury, koodi poorai thao.
Nanak Gurmukh janiai, kali ka ehu niao. (SGGS,1288)
(A beggar is called a king A foolish man is called a pandit A blind man becomes an evaluator A mischievous one becomes a leader And falsehood rules supreme. One having Guru’s guidance knows The ways of the dark age (kaliyuga).
What Baba Farid had said, much before Guru Nanak, about the unequal division of economic resources, holds good even today –
Farida ikna atta agla ikna nahi lone
Agai gaye sijhapsan chota khasi kaun ? (SGGS, 1380
(Some have their godowns full of food grains but others do not have even salt. They would be judged on the day of reckoning. Who would then be punished?)
As we have said before, the revolt against society is for the good of society. A study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib shows that Gurbani condemns the social structure based on ego, passion, anger, greed, attachment, pride, on the one hand after a due analyis of the situation, on the other hand, it exhorts for building a social structure wherein the people have no ego. There are two big pillars of ego-free society – earning a living by one’s own toil and serving humanity. This is the way to attain God:
‘Ghal khaye kichh hathahu dei.
Nanak rahu pachhanai sei. (SGGS, p.1245)
Sewa kart hoye nihkami.
Tis kau hote parapet Suami. (SGGS, p.286)
Selfless service leads one to God. This precisely was done practically by Guru Nank towards the final years of his life at Kartarpur. In our opinion, Guru Nanak, presented a model of human conduct; the social structure he wanted to build. A society, in which everybody works and the needs of every one are fulfilled. Honest earning and selfless service break the spell of ego and brings one near Satguru (True guide).
Mairai man satgur ki sewa lag.
Jo disai so vinsna, man ki mat tyag. (SGGS, 50)
(Serve the True Guide, O my mind. Whatever you are visualizing would all perish. Give up your own wisdom- and follow the teachings of the Guru).
The concept of dignity of labour and the dignity of human service has been forgotten today. Capitalism has made a mockery of this ego-free social structure through its blandishments. Work and workers are looked down upon. The concept of service has been limited only to sweeping the floors in Gurdwaras or serving langar (community kitchen). Doing such work at home is considered an insult. All these developments point to the decline of the Sikh values. With these words, for the time being, I wish to conclude this paper, that the Gurus had revolted against the evils and false values and exhorted the people to inculcate such a spirit as promoted values which helped society and fostered mutual love and affection. They created a saint-soldier who began to struggle for man’s economic freedom and good of all. Guru Granth Sahib has the true doctrine of this concept. What has been the result of this struggle, what has been its impact on the history of the Punjab and that of India for the future, much has been written about this and would continue to be written.