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Sikh History Timeline

Today in Sikh History – 12th November


12th November

1675 A day after the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadhur, the bodies of Bhai Mati Das, Sati Das, and Dayal Das were handed over to the Sikhs who cremated the bodies by the site of Jammu. This is the same site where Guru Har Krishan’s body was creamted earlier.
1708 Guru Gadhi was bestowed upon Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This is the actual date of this event, though it is observed on a different date by Guru Khalsa Panth.

==> SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB: No institutionalized religion is safe from erosion till its tenets and doctrines have been enshrined in some tangible, though, permanent form. Great religions of the world, therefore, have taken care to prepare or compile one volume which is sovereign and supreme in its authority. Assuredly, it will employ the medium of poetry to reach out to infinity. Such a volume then, is the Guru Granth, the sacred book of the Sikhs – a volume that takes its place alongside the world’s greatest scriptures, the Vedas, the Zind-Avesta, the Bible and the Koran. Its power is the power of the puissant and winged word, and no exegesis or commentary or translation can ever convey the full beauty of its thought and poetry. In all mystic literature the appeal of the numinous and the ineffable is inexplicable, if not incommunicable. And yet the great Sikh scripture is not a knot of metaphysical riddles and abstract theorizings. On the contrary, since for the most part it employs the idiom of the common people, and draws its imagery, metaphors and symbols from the home, the street and the market-place, its poetry has a rare kind of immediacy, concreteness and urgency. To see a Sikh congregation intoning the sacred hymns in unison is to see massed spiritual energy take shape before your eyes. That’s how the ordinary word changes into the logos and becomes oracular. The Sikhs indeed regard the Granth as a complete, inviolable and final embodiment of the message of the Guru. There is to be no word beyond the Word. And that’s how Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, spoke to the congregation shortly before his ascension.

"O Beloved Khalsa, let him who desireth to behold the Guru or Spiritual teacher,
obey the Granth Sahib. It is the visible body of the Guru."

The Guru Granth was first compiled by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, in A.D. I 604 in the city of Amritsar. Its second and last version was the handiwork of Guru Gobind Singh, and it was finalized at Damdama in the year 1705. He included the hymns of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in the new text. Since then, the authorized version has been transcribed and printed a number of times, and it abides. Its adoration or veneration is an article of faith with the Sikhs.

One of the greatest glories of the Guru Granth is its catholic character. It is a scripture completely free from bias, animus and controversy. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Granth in this respect is all the more astonishing when we think of the obscurantism, factionalism and fanaticism of the period in which it was composed. Perhaps, it is the only scripture of its kind which contains within its sacred covers the songs and utterances of a wide variety of saints, savants and bards. For it’s instructive to note that a fairly substantial part of the volume carries the compositions of Hindu bhaktas, Muslim divines and Sufi poets and God-intoxicated souls in quest of Truth and Love. Of course, their hymns and couplets rendered in their own language and idiom are so dovetailed as to find a complete correspondence with themes or motifs in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus. Obviously, the idea of Guru Arjan Dev was to establish the fundamental unity of all religions and mystic experiences. It was, so to speak, an integral congress of minds and souls, operating on the same spiritual beam. To have thus elevated the songs of the bhaktas, the sufis and the bhatts to the condition of the logos was to salute the power of the Word whatever form it might take to reveal the glory of God. For it may be noticed that the Guru Granth contains the compositions and utterances of the high-born Brahmins and the proud Kashatriyas, as also of the lowly Shudras and the unlettered Jats. This was done at a time when the caste-system in India had almost paralysed the conscience of man. The revolutionary egalitarianism which such a step symbolized was thereafter to become the creed of the Sikhs. Above all, a poetic and mystic collage bespeaks the essential humility of the Sikh mind, for humility has been given a place of pride in the table of virtues drawn up by the Gurus. The Guru Granth, then, is a sui generis scripture. It is indeed a magnificent compendium of the religious, mystic and metaphysical poetry written or uttered between the I2th and 17th centuries in different parts of India. It is also at the same time a mirror of the sociological, economic and political conditions of the day. The satire on the reactionary rulers, the obscurantist clergy, the fake fakirs and the like is open, uncompromising and telling. In showing the path to spiritual salvation, the Guru Granth does not ignore the secular and creature life of man.

The poetry of the Granth is in itself a subject worthy of the highest consideration. The language principally employed is the language of the saints, evolved during the medieval period-a language which, allowing for variations, still enjoyed wide currency in Northern India. Its appeal lay in its directness, energy and resilience. Based upon the local dialects, it was leavened with expressions from Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian, Arabic and Marathi etc.

Another outstanding feature of the Guru Granth is the precision and beauty of its prosody. Whilst a great deal of it is cast in traditional verse forms (shlokas and paudis), and could best be understood in the context of the well-known classical ragas, several hymns and songs make use of popular folklore and metres (alahanis, ghoris, chands, etc.). The inner and integral relationship between music and verse has been maintained with scholarly rectitude and concern. This complete musicalisation of thought in a scientific and studied manner makes for the unusually vigorous yet supple discipline of the Granth’s metrics and notations. The entire Bani whose printed version in its current form comes to 1430 pages, is divided into 33 sections. Whilst the first section comprises the soulful and inspiring song of Guru Nanak called the Japujia, also a few selected paudis or couplets, the final section is a collection of assorted verses including the shlokas and the swayyas of the bhatts. The remaining 31 sections are named after the well-known classical ragas such as Sri, Majh, Gauri, Gujri, Devgandhari, Dhanasari, Bilawal, Kedara, Malhar, Kalyan, etc. The division, thus, is strictly based on musicology. Further more, each psalm or song is preceded by a number (mohalla) which denotes the name of the composer-Guru from Guru Nanak onwards. It may be noted that the apostolic succession extends from the First to the Tenth Guru, and the Gurus are often referred to reverentially by their place in the order. What’s more, each Guru speaks in the name of the Founder Guru whose spirit informs his nine successors. The House of Nanak is indeed a spiritual decagon, based upon a geometry of vision. The major hymns – Japuji (Guru Nanak), Anand (Guru Amar Das) Sukhmani or the Psalm of Peace (Guru Arjan Dev), Rehras (Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev) are widely recited solo and in congregation by the faithful as morning and evening prayers. Their soothing and ambrosial airs have brought solace and cheer to millions of people all over the world. The Sikh philosophy as embodied in the Guru Granth is chiefly a philosophy of action and deed and consequence. Though in its essentials, it is completely in tune with the ancient Indian thought regarding the genesis of the world and the ultimate nature of reality, it moves away from quietism, passivity and abstractions. The emphasis is on shared communal experience, on purposive and idealistic involvement. The extinction of the ego or self is the corner-stone of Sikhism. A person finds fulfillment or vindiction by immersion in the sea of life. Thus the paths of renunciation, abdication, aloofness flagellation etc., are abjured. A Sikh is enjoined upon to be an insider, not an outsider. Obviously then, the Sikh philosophy is that of "the Everlasting Yea". Which is not to deny the importance or value of contemplation, stillness, inwardness etc. The ideal Sikh cultivates these qualities in the midst of business and engagement. He too regards the world as ultimately maya or illusion and the life of man as a tableau of light and shade, but the Divine goal may not be achieved except through an acceptance of the reality of this unreality, and a proper disposition of the allotted role in the phantasmagoria of life. To that extent, the relative concreteness or solidity of the world is to be endorsed as a measure of understanding. So long as man has a role to play, the artifact of the stage or the theatre has to be taken for granted. For it has thus pleased the Creator to effect the world and people it with multiples of His Self. And the whole creation moves according to a predestined plan. Many a time has the grand show on earth been mounted and dismantled. It’s not given to creature man to fully comprehend the essence of reality. God, according to the Adi Granth, is Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient. He is the Initiator, and the End. He is Self-Creator and Self-Propeller. The soul too in its essence symbolizes this trinity. It has lost its state of bliss as a result of the ego and the id. Caught in the meshes of power and self, it has lost its native and true moorings, and is being tossed about by the whirligig of time. A soul thus alienated from the Lord keeps spinning through aeons and aeons of suffering. The road to heaven lies through His Grace.

The idea of the soul as the Lord’s consort is repeated in the Guru Granth. The mystique of the marriage is invoked time and again to emphasize the indissoluble and ineluctable nature of the union. Man is ordained wife and commanded to live in the Will of the Lord. Any Infidelity or transgression is inconceivable. The nuptial and spousal imagery of the hymns is sensuously rich, apposite and striking. It will thus be seen that the Guru Granth offers a perfect set of values and a practical code of conduct.

-Ref. "Guru Granth Ratnavali," (pp. 28) by Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh




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