Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Amardas had declared the distinctiveness of Sikhism asanew Faith. He had established a Manji order to initiate the disciples into Sikhism. He also prescribed ceremonies for birth, marriage and death. Guru Ramdas established the Massand system in 1977 and established the new township of Ramdaspur, later to be known as Amritsar. He also had the tank excavated, residential quarters and shops constructed. Guru Arjan built the Harmander Sahib (Golden Temple) in the middle of the tank in 1589, also undertaking a preaching tour in the Punjab. His eldest brother Prithichand, through jealousy,miscopied someof the compositions of the Gurus, adding the word ‘NANAK’ to spurious poems to suggest that they were original compositions, which they were not. It is said that as one of the court-singers—Rababis-sang a hymn composed by Prithichand’s son Mehervan,Guru Arjan was much surprised. He then decided to set the true compositions into the form of an authorised book for the benefit of all Sikh devotees; he sent his devotees to various places to bring back compositions of Indian saints and mystics, for inclusion in a universal Scripture.’
Guru Arjan travelled to Goindwal to collect the Mohan-Pothi of Guru Amardas. Then he took Bhai Gurdas to a quiet spot on the outskirts of Ramdaspur and dictated to him the compostions of the previous four Gurus and his own. To these he added those of fifteen Indian poets and some court-bards. Guru Arjan rejected those compositions of mystics which did not agree with Sikh doctrines. It took about a year to complete the new Scripture. The new volume was then bound and ceremoniously installed in the Harmandar Sahib, in 1604, Bhai Buddha being appointed
as the first ever reader (Granthi) of the Mi Granth. The originaL copy is now preserved at Kartarpur.
The contributors are, the first five Gurus, Fifteeen saints (Bha~ats)
in the following chronological order, Farid, Jaidev, Namdev, Trilochan, Parmanand, Sadhna, Beni, Ramanand, Dhana, Pippa, Sam, Kabir, Rayidas, Bhikhan, Surdas, Eleven minstrels (Bhatts) namely Kal, Jalap, Bhikha, Sal, Bhal, Nal, Bal, Gayand, Mathura, Kirat and Harbans. Three minstrels (rababis) Mardana, Satta and Baiwand, the grand son of Guru Amardas, Sunder.
Guru Arjas was a proficient and vigilant editOr. He numbered all the compositions to avoid the risk of interpolation. The order of compositions is as under:
(i) Compositions of Nitnem (daily prayers): Japji, Rehras, Kirtan Sohla (pp.1-13) A full note on Japji will be found later in this chapter. Rehras which means the correct path is the evening prayer. Kirtan Sohla which means the song of praise is the bed-time prayer. It contains five hymns of different Gurus.
(ii) Raga-wise, the compositions begin with couplets, then quatrains, then octets, These are followed by the longer poems and ballads (Vars), then the compositions of Bhagats (Bhagat-vani) pp.14-1352.
(iii) There are the Ragaless compositions ofGurus, Bhagats and Minstrels (Bhaus)-pp. 1352-1429.
(iv) Finally Ragmala-pp. 1429-30. The total number of hymns is 5894, the largest numberbeing of Guru Arjan: 2216.
The litho-graphed diction of the Adi Granth contains 1430 pages, with a list of contents, The compositions page-wise are as under:
28. Basant 1168-1196
|3. Kirtan Sohla||12-14||29. Sarang 1197-1253|
|4.Sri raga||14-93||30. Malar 1254-1293|
|5. Manjh||94-150||31. Kanra 1294-1318|
|8. Gujri||489-526||34. Jaijawanti 1352-1353|
|9. Devgandhari||527-536||35. Salok- 1353-1360|
|ll.Wadahans||557-594||36. Gatha 1360-1361|
|13. Dhanasri||660-695||38. Chaubole 1363-1364|
|14.Jaitsri||696-710||39. Salok Kabir 1364-1377|
|15.Todi||7 11-718||40. Salok Farid 1377-1384|
|17.Tilang||721-727||Guru Arjan 1385-1389|
|18. Suhi||728-794||42. Swayyas|
|19. Bilaval||795-858||Bhatts 1389-1409|
|20. Gaund||859-875||43. Saloks Gurus 1409-1426|
|21. Ramkali||876-974||44. Salokas Guru|
|22. Nutnarayan||975-983||Tegh Bahadur 1426-1429|
|23. Maligaura||984-988||45. Mundawani 1429|
|24. Maru||989-1106||46. Ragmala 1429- 1430|
The total number of each contributor’s works are as follows: Guru Nanak: 974 hymns, Guru Angad: 62 Salokas, Guru Amardas: 907 hymns, Guru Ramdas: 635 hymns, Guru Arjan: 2216 hymns Guru Tegh Bahadur: 115; Bhagats:Beni: 3,Bhikhan: 2. Dhanna: 3,Farid: 134,Jaidev: 2,Kabir: 541 Mardana: 3,Namdev: 60,Parmanand: 1 ,Pippa: 1, Ramanand: 1, Ravidas: 41, Sadhna: 1, Sam: 1, Satta and Baiwand: 8, Sunder: 6, Surdas: 1, Trilochan: 4,Bhatts: 123.
There are three rescensions of the Adi Granth: the first original one prepared by Guru Arjan called Kartarpur-vali-bir, the second an unauthorised copy (containing two additional poems) prepared by Bhai
Banno called Khari-bir, the third prepared by Guru Gobind Singh called Damdame-vali-bir. Numerous copies of the third edition were subsequently prepared by devout Sikhs as a labour of love and supØed to
various Gurdwaras in the country. The first litho-garphed edition was prepared in 1904. The most authoritative edition is the one published by the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amntsar.2
The following distinctive aspects of the Adi Granth deserve attention. Dr. Trumpp called it th~ treasury of old Hindivi dialects:
Apabhramsa, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Santbhasa or saint-language, Hindi, Sindhi, Arabic and the Persian language, each have added to the richness and variety of its contents. The writers belonged to different parts of India and came from different centuries (from twelfth to the sixteenth). If we examine the prosody, we find flexibility and variety in both rhyme and rhythm. Hymns are classified according to the number of padas (verses). In addition, we have Salokas, Chhants, and Swayyas, there are special compositions like Patti (acrostic), Bawan-akhri (alphabet). Bara-mah (calendar), Pahary, Allahuni, Ghorian and Vars. The imagery of the Adi Granth is remarkable. The Gurus used images from nature and activities of daily life like farming, hunting, trading, fine arts and sports. The images from Nature refer to flora, fauna, and sky-scape, Changes of the seasons affect the moods of the seeker of truth. Bara-mah includes many images from the seasons:
When the Lord. her Master comes to her, Then is spring seemly, she becomes enraptured, (AG, 1107)
As the winter’s snow freezes the sap in the tree and bush, So an absence of the Lord kills body and soul.
0 Lord; Why comest Thou not? (AG, 1107)
There are many similes and metaphors which impress us by their originality.
You are the cage and I am your parrot, What can Yama (death)-the cat-do to me? (AG, 323)
Life is the bride, death the bride-groom, Who will take then in marriage? (AG, 1377).
The idea behind the use of images is not so much to beautify the poems,
as to emphasise the moral: –
Maya is like a wicked mother-in-law, who will not let me make
a home, Or let me meet my Lord and husband. (AG, 355)
Mythological references are only illustrative and do not indicate any Guru’s belief in mythological personages or their actions.
A unique feature of the Adi Granth is its intertwining of Revelation and Raga. Guru Nanak wrote of his revelation- during his disappearance form Sult.anpur for three days-in a hymn as under:
The minstrel(Nanak) was called to the presence of the Lord, On him the mantle of divine praise was conferred. God bestowed his nectar in a cup, The sustaining substance being Nectar of Truth. (AG, 150)
Guru Nanak did not claim divinity, only that he was a messenger of God:
As the Lord sends me His Word, so I deliver it. (AG, 722)
The Gurus understood power of music in men’s minds, it was for this reason that they conveyed their message in sacred and devotional music. This sublime music inspires the disciple to higher spiritual goals. This sacred music, called Kirtan promotes spiritual vision, and is quite different from ordinary wordly music that is meant for entertainment:
People consider it only as song, but in fact it is a means to
meditating on Divinity: (AG, 335).
The Gurus mentioned the benefits of Kirtan in the Adi Granth:
Kirtan is like a price-less diamond; it is an ocean of bliss and virtue. (AG, 449)
Kirtan creates an environment of peace and spiritual ethos. It can lead to communion with God. Many people who have experienced this rasa (relish) of Kirtan have felt blissful. The Kirtan-experience may link one’s consciousness with the Universal Reality, for the divine light lives in the mind, to
which the senses are only servants. All cooperate to create the ecstatic state which Guru Arjan describes in the following lines:
Within him (the disciple) a torrent of nectar uniformly rains.
As the soul drinks, hears and reflects on the Holy Name, So it rejoices and delights, day and night, and sports with the Lord for ever. (AG, 102)
According to the Guru, the disciple while engrossed in his reflections of the glory of God, unconsciously realises his own identity with the Lord, and by singing His praises, imperceptively unites with the object of his glorification.
It may be noted that the hymns, though sung in the Hindustani classical raga with the appropriate or indicated rhythm(tala), create devotion in the singer and the listener. That is why, when the Guru was asked about his best raga or favourite melody,he answered:
Of all the ragas, brother, that one is the best,
Which attracts your mind to the Lord: (AG, 1423)
Any raga or hymn is good if it strengthens the spirit of devotion and holiness.
The compositions of the Granth are classified according to the list of ragas mentioned earlier. Raga Jaijawanti was added by Guru Tegh Bahadur. Ragmala at the end mentions the families ofeighty four ragas andraginies outofwhich only twenty fourareactually used, while therest are outside the classification. No difference is made in the Granth between a raga and a ragini. Some musical instruments, like the Rabab, Vaja, Khartal (cymbals), Pakhawaj, Mridang are mentioned in the Grant/i. The Gurus encouraged the participation of the sangat (congregations) in chorus-singing.
The Guru Granth Saltib begins with a statement of basic creed, which defines God. It is called the Mool Mantra; it is also written at the beginning of each raga. Guru Granth Sahib ends with a hymn by Guru Arjan in which he sums up its contents as of Truth, Contentment and Wisdom-all of which if practised by the individual in daily life, will lead to salvation. The last verse is a prayer seeking God’s grace, as under:
I cannot earn your grace; you alone have made me worthy of you.
I am virtue-less and without merit: you have been kind to me;
Out of your compassion, You have blessed me and enabled me to meet my True Guru.
Nanak says, I live on His Holy Name, it nourishes my body and soul. (AG, 1429)
It is difficult to do justice to the contents of the Guru Granth Sahib in few lines. It is aguide to the Sikh way of life. Its goal is of the ideal man, who attains perfection by linking himself with God. The Guru observed that the divine Spark in man, is strengthened through prayer and public service. Frequent remembrance of the Holy Name may produce godly qualities and rid man of selfishness and vice. The Granth rejects the old methods to spiritual attainment, such as by fasting, pilgrimage, penance and ritual sacrifice. It supports normal family-life and social commitment. It promotes the freedom and equality of all human beings and universal brotherhood. It recommends leading of a pure life whilst fighting temptations and imperfection of this world. Keeping company with holy persons is of a great value to a disciple because he learns from them how to conduct himself. Such people are beautifully described by Guru Nanak in the following lines:
In this world, rare are the persons who the Lord tests and then welcomes to His Mansion.
They rise above caste and colour, they forsake wordly love and greed.
They are imbued with theLord’s Nameand are likepurgedpilgrimspots, free form the filth and disease of ego.
Nanak washes the feet of those, who by the Guru’s grace, adore the Lord. (AG, 1345)
The message of Guru Granth Sahib is not limited to the achievement and liberation of the individual. It includes in its compass the perfecting of the qualities ofa human being and the ushering in of a golden age for all mankind. It is important that an individual, through his own efforts, works to improve his family and community, so acting as a catalytic agent in the amelioration of the conditions of society as a whole. His example, altruism and sacrifice could eventually transform the quality of life for the average man and the tone of society. Such an achievement, though difficult, should be the goal of a Sikh. Guru Arjan declares:
An ideal man is liberated while striving for the salvation of others.
Nanak says, I bow with respect to such a person. (AG, 295).
The Guru Granth Sahib clarifies many of the basic concepts of Sikhism. Its concepts of God and the Guru are fundamental. God is the Eternal Unity, Unique, Infinite, Perfect, Formless, Timeless, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Tr4nscendent and Immanent. There is also a personal God whom one can love and adore. The spiritual connection between man and God is compared to a Bride’s longing for and devoted to her husband. It is impossible to know the extent of His creation or power. Whole of the creation is a play of the Lord. The world is a great arena in which God tests the potential of human beings.
The concept of Guru is also very significant. A Sikh Guru is not God in human form, but a messenger or prophet sent by God, for a specific mission. A guru is therefore that ideal person who by example inspires individuals with sublime thoughts and noble actions. A Guru guides the disciples in both secular and spiritual tasks. He teaches a devotee how to link his own consciousness to the Holy Name. There evolves an intimate relationship between Guru and Sikh. Guru Ramdas even equates the two in the following line.:
The Guru is the Sikh, and Sikh is the Guru. (AG, 444)
Guru Gobind Singh called his Khalsa Guru-Khalsa.
Another important clarification in the Guru Granth Sahib is its concept of Ego or Haumai. Man’s selfishness and aggressiveness are the causes of most of his motivation and action. Self-conceit or I-am-ness gives rise to five main vices: Lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride. An egoist thinks only of himself and his own interest and does not care about others. Hence exploitation, violence and wickedness. How can man be free from self-centredness? The scripture speaks of the cure:
Self -centredness is to be replaced by God centredness. Service to God is also service to man. Only then will man start to think more of his duties than of his rights. He performs acts of charity and benefit for others, so that improves the link between God and himself.
The Guru declares:
The ancient Hindu doctrine of Karma is accepted in Sikhism. It make sense of life and makes man feel responsible. The Guru says:
The body is a field for action; action is a seed sown by the body; Man has to reap the consequences of his own actions. (AG, 78)
So thinkfirst, forone’s deeds, produceresults. Man has a limited free-will and with it he must do his best even under adverse circumstances. Man has no control over his own heredity, but has a restricted power over his own environment. Man has a mind and a conscience which can guide him in his choice of action. Stifling his own conscience is the same as acting contrary to its advice; he alone can suffer, through the law to Kanna which is also subject to Divine Grace. Guru Nanak says:
Births take place through Karma, but salvation is only attained
through Grace: (AG, 2)
The Guru Granth Sahib illuminates other current religions. It offers constructive criticism on their practices. It explains their deviation on account of the malpractices of their priestly class and the ignorance of he believers. The Gurus admonished the begging preachers and the Yogis because, by pretending holiness, they became parasites. The Gurus wanted man to put up a constant struggle to face life’s challenges, only then would man be able to buildup his strength and character. The Guru Grant/i Sahib emphasises honest means as the source of earning one’s living. Some materialistic and secular activities may also have moral and holy aspects. The Guru Granth Sahib also stresses the overcoming of one’s ego through humility and voluntary service. Physical well being is necessary, because the body is atemple of God. The acceptance of normal comforts and amenities does not constitute a hurdle on the spiritual path. A spiritofdetachmentwill enableadisciple to do his daily chores, without tenseness or worry. The Gurus believed in an individual transformation through character-development and spiritual uplift. To them. Greater than Truth is Truthful conduct, for it demonstrates a respect for human values.
The Guru Granth sahib also stresses the need for
By shedding his Ego, man may unite with God. (AG, 750)
keeping of good’ and holy company as a way of reform for the individual. The Guru says:
Just as a bitter Arinda plant, being next to a sweet-smelling
sandal-wood tree becomes fragrant like its neighbour, So a sinner, who associates with saints may become a saint, (AG, 861)
No poet can be a stranger to his own age. The period of the Gurus was one of social decadence and moral degradation. Ignorance, superstition and violence were the wa)V of the times. Higher classes exploited lower classes. The Guru wrote:
Greed is the King, sin his minister, falsehood the officer, and
Lust the lieutenant who is called and consulted. (AG, 468)
Even the learned and the virtuous became victims to this mammon and hypocrisy:
The foolish Pandits show wisdom in argument, themselves love riches.
The ascetics having lost their way now wander about and forsake their families, All think themselves perfect, none consider their own deficiencies.
It was caste-pride and the desire for exclusiveness that led to the exploitation of the under-privileged sections of society. Even the Yogis begged food from door to door and then cast lustful glances at those women who gave them alms:
They have filth within which is not cleansed, by wearing the garb
of an ascetic. (AG, 525)
Moreover, the priests and ascetics prescribed costly rituals and sacraments to cheat the people, though they themselves often led immoral lives. The Gurus exposed their machinationas and advocated the direct approach to God. God does not need or want incense or flowers or coins, given as offerings. He onJy wants devotion and compassion. The Gurus also rejected the deification of deadrulers, both reflected flattery and subservience. For their bold stand against current evil practices and for the innovations made by them, they had to face continuous opposition from the various vested interests. The enemies of Guru Amardas filed a
petition, before Emperor Akbar, that their own religious practices were endangered. The emperor listened to the Guru’s defence and then rejected the complaint. The Gurus initiated enlightened modes of worship and service; they started the Free Kitchen, established new townships and constructed wells and tanks. Prayers and voluntary service were linked together to provide abetter quality of life for the people. The Guru Grant/i Sahib recommends selfless service oranonymous contribution in cash or kind for public welfare schemes:
Voluntary service without any expectation of reward,
Is a path to spiritual attainment. (AG, 286)
The Guru Granth Sahib wasformallygiven the status of Permanent Guru by Guru Gobind Singh and renamed the GURU GRANTH SAHIB. According to Sikh belief, The Guru, is not a person, but the divine light within him. Bhai Nandlal, the poet-laureate of Guru Gobind Singh’s Court, has given a three-fold interpretation of the word Guru. He quotes the words of the Tenth Guru as under:
Of me as Guru, there are three forms, listen Nandlal carefully, Nirgun (God), Sargun (historical Guru), Guru-sabad (Gurbani), I hope this explanation is enough.
The light of the Word that shone in the Ten Gurus was their real Guru personality. God speaks to man through the Guru:
God abides in The Guru and through him proclaims the Sabad
(revelation) (AG, 1279)
The Guru is an encyclopaedia of spiritual knowledge and wisdom:
This Scripture is an abode of God! (AG, 1226)
A prophet is immortal, because he lives in the Word and in God. That is why Guru Grant/i Sahib is so revered as a perpetual embodiment of the historical Gurus. When any one bows to the Grant/i, it shows his respect for the message of the Gurus which is enshrined therein, as The Word.
The Guru Granth Sahib is not only a book of synthesising different moral philosophies, but also a universal Scripture due to the catholicityof its outlook and its respect for different religious traditions. Emperor Akbar examined it carefully and found its teachings so commendable that he bowed to it with great reverence and made it an offering of gold coins. it is a repository of many centuries of indian religious heritage. Itis abook of Divine Wisdom and Sublime Thought.
Many non-Sikh writers and philosophers of international status have expressed an appreciation of the Guru Grant/i Sahib. Prof. Arnold Toynbee wrote: The Guru Grant/i Sabib is a part of mankind’s common spiritual treasure. Itis important that it should be brought within the direct reach of as many people as possible. In the coming religious debate, Guru Nanak’ s Sikh religion and its Scripture The Guru Granth Sahib will have something of special value, to say to the rest of the world. Miss Pearl Buck, the Nobel Prize Winner, who wrote an introduction to an English translation of Guru Grant/i Sahib expressed her appreciation in the following words: The hymns in Guru Granth are an expression of man’s loneliness, his aspirations, his longings, his cry to God and his hunger for communication with that Being. I have studied the scriptures of other great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same poweE of appeal to the heart and mind, as I find in the Guru Grant/i Sahib. It speaks to me of life and death, of time and eternity, of the temporal human body and its needs, of the mystic human soul and its longings, of God and the indissoluble bond between them. The late Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an eminent philosopher, wrote admiringly of the Guru Grant/i Sahib as follows:
We find in the Guru Grant/i Sahib a wide range of mystical emotion, intimate expression of the personal realisation of God and rapturous hymns of divine love.
As long as mankind lives, it will derive peace, wisdom and inspiration from this scripture. It is a unique treasure, a noble heritage for the whole human race.