B. DASAM GRANTH
Guru Gobind Singh was a prolific poet. At Paonta Sahib, where mostof his literary activity took place, he employed 52~ poets who worked
for him in creative writing and translation. Being so occupied by his wars with the hill-chiefs, the Moghul emperor, and local governors, he had no time to compile a book of his own compositions. Later, when some one suggested that he include some of his own hymns in the Adi Granth, he rejected the suggestion, saying that his compositions were not his serious work, that he was merely experimenting with poetry and music, this humility being responsible for the non-incorporation of his hymns in that Scripture. Much of his own literary work and that of his court-poets was lost during the crossing a flooded Sirsa river during his escape from Anandpur fort in 1705.
Mats Sundri, the widow of Guru Gobind Singh once asked Bhai Mani Singh to compile a volume of the Guru’s poetry. She handed over to him all the copies she possessed of his poems. Bhai Mani Singh also collected copies from others. Bhai Mani Singh, who was a relative and had been a close companion of the Guru, spent many years sifting the materials and finally compiled a volume known as The Granth of the Tenth Master or the Dasam Granth, in 1721. There are three well-known editions of this Dasarn Granth, one in the custody of Sardar Gulab Singh Sethi of Delhi, another in Gurdwara Paina Sahib, and the third at Sangrur. Interestingly the sequence of composition differs in these three editions. Having had the privilege of examining six of the hand-written copies of the Dasam Granth at Gurdwara Takhat Sri HazurSahib, Nander, the author noticed one discrepancy: in some editions there were 32 Swayyas and not 33. So it should appear that some research is necessary to comfirm the authenticity of the text in these Dasam Granths. A work that could best be done by University Departments or the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Chandigarh. The present standard edition, contains 1428 pages and 17155 verses.
Controversy started soon after the compilation of the Dasam Granth as to its contents and authenticity. Some Sikhs suggested that certain compositions attributed to Guru Gobind Singh were actually works of his court-poets. According to Kahan Singh,~ this particular controversy was settled after Bhai Mani Singh’s death, when Bhai Mehtab Singh returned safely to Damdama Sahib in 1740. Earlier it had been agreed that if Metab Singh returned home after the killing of Massa Ranghar, the Muslim Chief who had desecrated the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar, then the extant Dasam Granth would be treated as being the authentic work of Guru Gobind Singh. On this basis Bhai Mani Singh’s compilation was regarded, as the authoritative one. However, today, there are two schools of thought-one which accepts Bhai Mani Singh’s
edition, and the other which excludes the compositions of Pakhyan Charitra and Hilcayat as being the work of court-poets. Generally speaking, the Sikh Panth accepts the Bhai Mani Singh edition as authentic. The object of the Guru in writing verses was to inspire Sikhs to defend the freedom of worship by martial arts and to fçllow the moral and spiritual path.
1.Jap Sahib: This contains 199 verses which praise the attributes of God.
More than 900 names have been used for the lord; some are positive, others are negative. For example, the first quotation contains both positive and negative aspects of God, while the second contains only negative ones:
(i) I salute that God who is Unborn:
I salute that Lord who is most Beautiful. (21)
(ii) Formless, Peerless, Beginningless, Birthiess,
Bodyless, Colourless, Desireless, Dauntless. (30)
ii Akal Ustat: This is one of the finest works of the Tenth Guru. The title- Akal Ustat means Praise of the Immortal Lord. Here, the Guru uses new names for God like Sarabloh (All-steel), Sarab-kal (All-death), Kharag-ketu (with a banner decorated by the imprint of the sword). This God is the embodiment of fearlessness and courage. The Guru rejects the idea of any chosen people, that is any group being favoured by theLord- The Jews, The Muslims, the Christians. The Akal Ustat includes Ten Swayyas found in the Nitnem. The Guru rejected idol-worship and also the traditional marks or symbols of holiness. He emphasised repeatedly the brotherhood of man and the need for serving our fellow-men:
All have the same eyes, ears, body and form, All are made of earth, air, fire and water;
Allah and Abhek are the same; the Puran and the Quran are the
All are created by God!
iii.BachitraNatak: The title means ‘The wonderful drama,’ itis a ‘Drama of Life’. It includes details of the Guru’s life and wonderful performances of legendary deities and popular heroes. The Guru begins the work with an invocation to The Sword-one of his Symbols for God.
I bow with love and devotion to the Holy Sword;
Let it assist me, that I may complete my work.
This composition is divided in to three pans: the first contains an autobiographical account of the Guru’s dynastic history and of hisbattles.
No other Guru or religious leader has written his autobiography, as Guru Gobind Singh has done. It reveals his character through his actions. It also provides a beacon for the Khalsa to follow. Dr. Mohan Singh wrote: It is a model of the art of self-portrayal and self-estimation, for its self-awareness, its simplicity of statement and its frugality of affectation. The battle of Chandi with the demons and is known as Chandi Charitra; the second part of the Bachitra Natak deals with twenty-four incarnation of Vishnu, seven incarnations of Brahma and two incarnations of Shiva. Though the Guru considers these incarnations, he does not worship them. He declares:
From the beginning I have not worshipped Ganesh.
Neither have I m~ titated on Krishana nor Vishnu;
I have heard abou~., .ut do not know them;
I meditate only on the Feet of the Lord! (Krishan Avtar)
iv. Chandi Charitra: This details of battles of Chandi with various demons. Apart from the standard version of Chandi in Bachitra Natak which is based on Bhagwat Puran, there are two other versions in Hindi, based on Markande Puran.
v. Chandi-di-var: also called Var Sri Bhagwati Ii Ki is in Punjabi and contains 55 verses. It is regarded as the first Var of its kind in Punjabi.
vi. Gian Prabodh: this contains stories from the Mahabharata and also some pithy sayings and aphorisms. It is a book of practical wisdom, explaining the essence of Raj-Dharam (political morality),Dan-Dharam (the principles of charity),Bhog-Dharam (the principles of family-life), and Moksh-Dharam (the code for salvation).
vii. Chaubis Avatar: Though technically a part of Bachitra Natak, it is also treated as an independent composition. Here are given the 24
incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu. There is also a supplement called MeMi-Mir-Badh, which gives an account of the Saviours who came to uphold truth and justice.
viii. Brahma Avatar: Like Chaubis Aviar, but dealing with the seven incarnations of Brahma followed by descriptions of eight kings. It contains 343 verses.
ix. Rudra Avtar: Deals with the two incarnations of India, namely as Datta Avtar and Paras Nath Avtar.
x. ShabadPatshashi Dasvin: This is a collection of ten hymns (Shabads, also called Shabad Hazare. They are for singing in the classical raga indicated for each Shabad. They deal with the futility of asceticism, idolatry and attachment. One hymn in the Khayal tells us of the Guru’s condition after escape from Chamkor to the Machiwara jungle. In this, Guru declares his faith in the essentiality of God, to care for the Children.
Go, tell our Beloved (God) about the condition of the disciples.
Without Him (God), the warmth of blankets is a painful malady. A house-holder’s life is like dwelling with serpents.
xi Sri Mukh Vak Swayyas: These are 32 quatrains on God and current religious practices. The Guru rejects the ritual and hypocrisy of all priestly classes:
Dropping oil in their eyes to induce wetting, They (ascetics) show people a flood of tears. When they know a follower to be a rich man, They serve him with dainty dishes. (30)
xii. KhalsaMehma: These are verses in praise of the Khalsa brotherhood.
xiii. Pachyan Charitra or Charito-pakhyan: These are 404 stories in verse, illustrating the noble and wicked sides of life. Some deal with bad women, some with their virtue and valour. The total number of verses is 7558. The stories have been culled from ancient Indian epics like Mahabharata, Raniayana, Panch-Tantra, and Persian works like Bagh-oBahar and Char Dervesh and folk-lore of the Punjab. Some critics feel that Guru Gobind Singh could not have written the lewd stories as he was a saintly person. However being a poet, he was also aware of the seamy side of life, and his purpose in telling these stories was to warn people against the temptations and vices of society. Moreover, there are also stories of true lovers like Sohni-Mahiwal and Heer-Ranjha, in which the Guru praises the lovers. Nowhere does the Guru commend the wiles of evil women or men. The epilog, known as Chaupai Benti contains 24 stanzas, forms a part of the Sikh evening prayer.
xiv. SriShastraNamMala: Thisis a listofarmaments, and deeds of those who used them well. The names of the weapons are spelt in the form of riddles.
xv. Zafar-Nama: It is actually the reply of Guru Gobind Singh to Aurangzeb’s letter to the Guru to meet him at the Moghul Court. It is written in Persian verse and in two pans, the first being an invocation to God to seek His blessing, and the second, the actual reply to Aurangzeb. The Guru gives a fair criticism of the emperor, mentioning both his good and bad qualities. Outwardly, the emperor was a pious Muslim, but at heart he was cruel and fanatical. With the blood of his brothers and the persecution of his father on his conscience, he could stifle his guilt and talk of peace and negotiations to lull his opponents into inactivity. The Guru emphasised the moral law that all iho are hypocritical and violent will eventually get their just punishment, for the wheel of providence grinds slowly and exceedingly small.
xvi. Hikayat: These are eleven stories in Persian verse, each with a moral lesson. Some of the stories are the same as in Pakhyan Charitra. These stories begin with the praise of God.
The Dasam Granth embodies the philosophy and mission of Guru (3obind Singh. ~ is a gospel of the Holy Name, which the Guru explained to Pir Buddhu Shah of Sudhura as follows:
You are born of The Spirit. The ego is not the Spirit. The Spirit
gets involved within the senses, itis this that ties it to falsehood. We can only rid ourselves of falsehood with the help of The Truth. The Truth is of His Will in you. His Will and Grace are the two sides
of The Truth. His Grace flows when ydu obey His Will, it is then that falsehood vanishes and you move into the orbit of Truth
The Guru’s philosophy has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, it declares the supremacy of God and His moral law. He uses, the power of the sword against the negative forces, of tyranny, violence and bigotry. His heroic podtry is meant to inspire, not entertain. It is a poetry of higher ethics, aesthetically fulfilling and spiritually gratifying. Above all, it gives a clear picture of the real world, without any gloss or blackening. In the opening scene of Hussaini Jung (1695), his words are like the blows of a hammer:
Goaded by the tumultuous booming of drums, The doughty warriors gave a thunderous roar.
They jumped and leapt with their zeal afire and all intent.
As they plied their weapons with great excitement, inflicting grievous wounds. (Bachitra Natak)
-On the other hand, the Guru’s caustic criticism of meaningless ritual, greed and hypocrisy of so-called holy men; is vivid and compelling:
If one begins to serve a Massand, he says, bring all your offering~ to me;
Whatever money and property and have, present it to me at thi~ moment. (29)
Like ascetics, they close there eyes, heron-like and make a sho’~ of meditation to the public.
Like a huntsman they lower their heads, their fixed gaze putting even a cat to shame. (31)
The diction and imagery in the Dasain Granth show that the Guru igreat mastery over different languages. The phrases are neat and the ~bols perfect. The word points for sound-effect
~ You discover yourself in battle, the ground heaves under your feet, the guns blast, swords strike metal.
There is both imagery and resonance-an aesthetic vibration, which
– beyond the literal meaning of words. Just look at the following
You (the Sword) are the subduer of countries, the destroyer of armies
And of the wicked. On the battle-field, You adorn the brave
You are infrangible; Your lustre is splendid, Your radiance and brilliance dazzle even the sun.
The heroic strain-.–Bir rasa-cnds in the tranquillity of the s/ian:rasa (feeling of peace). The Guru’s insight into the psychology of lovers in the portrayal of Radha’s mind bypasses the traditional erotic detail.
Man’s nature has an exterior world and also an interior world that lies within him. With his outer or conscious personality, man deals with the empirical world, with his inner personality, he struggles with the problems of his own individuality; few men know more than a few fragments of their inner world which is the unconscious, or of lying in the darkness of unknowing. The un-conscious pan of human nature is the source and origin of the conscious, of all created things and manifestations, even of creation.
Perhaps some men wonder why the Tenth Guru wrote about the tricks and wiles of women. As a realist, he could not turn a blind eye to the ‘goings on’ of his age-the intrigue and lewdness and the seraglio, the perversions of widows, the sickly neglected children, the dabbling in necromancy, ghoulish tricks with corpses and above all, the unending procession of astrologers magicians, clowns, vagabonds, drug-addicts, all posing as priests or preachers.
Guru Gobind Singh was a fine singer and musicologist. He used new ragas like Adana, Kafi and Paraj, which were not included in the Adi Granth. His use of Khayat~ was also an addition to Sikh Sacred music. The Guru patronised musicians. Buddhu and Saddu who were rababis sang the Asa-di-var in his court. He used poetry for both secular and spiritual purposes. His heroic poetry was intended to end the traditional concept of non-violence-Ahimsa-then forced on people by both king and prie~sL Now the voice of conscience should inspire people to fight for freedom and justice. His devotional poetry was intended to inspire the people for spiritual attainment. One writer has remarked:
He gave us musical form that was martial and hymnal, sacred and
secular, simple and complex. In him, we find a saint singing
spiritual songs, a soldier listening to martial music, a householder singing of the virtue, of leading good life and of a painter creating wonderful sound pictures in music.
Finally, as the bulk of Guru Gobind Singh’s poetry in the Dasam
-. ~s in Brij-bhasha, be is considered as a great poet not only in Hindi e but also for his achievements in Punjabi and Persian poetry.