THE SIKH RELIGION
ITS GURUS, SACRED WRITINGS AND AUTHORS
LIFE OF GURU NANAK
The Guru and Mardana went to Kamrup,[l] a country whose women were famous for their skill in incantation and magic. It was governed by a queen called Nurshah in the Sikh chronicles. She with several of her females went to the Guru and tried to obtain influence over him.
Then the Guru uttered the following verses:–
You buy saline earth, and want musk into the bargain:
Without good works, Nanak, how shall you meet your Spouse?
The Guru continued as follows:–
Nurshah observed that her people’s spells were of no avail, however much they tried. The Guru, on
[1. In the time of the Guru it is believed that Kâwarû, or Kâmrûp, included at least the present districts of Goalpâra and Kâmrûp.
2 Kallar, impure nitrate of soda found in sandy soils in India.
‘Fungar vice cotis, acutum
Reddere quae ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi.’–HORACE.
beholding their fruitless efforts, uttered the following hymn in the Suhi measure entitled Kuchajji, or the woman of bad character:–
[1. Literally-who knoweth my name?
2. That is, they are fortunate. The mango is an evergreen, and its leaves always afford shelter.
3. It is my own fault that I possess not virtue.
4. And forgotten the Giver.
5. The Orientals believe that very old men hear noises in their heads. The kulang is a large stately Indian bird.
6. Grey hair has come.
7. In the Granth Sâhib the present world is called one’s father’s’ house, and the next world one’s father-in-law’s.]
In Thee, O Lord, are merits; in me all demerits: Nanak bath this one representation to make.
Every night is for the virtuous woman; may I though unchaste obtain a night also!
Nurshah grew weary of her efforts. She felt that her ill success was the result of her sins. Her women then, beating drums, stood in front of the Guru, and began to dance and sing. He on that occasion composed the following hymn:–
[1. She has grown grey in sin, and is not desirable to her Husband.
2. The madîras were struck with a stick, and somewhat corresponded to European triangles.
3. Even saints dance for pleasure, and not for the love of God in this age.
4. This is described as a custom of this degenerate age. The proper course would be for the disciple to feed his master.
5. A bribe must be paid to the judge.]
In action they are dogs; shall they be accepted at God’s gate?
If man by the favour of his guru deem himself a guest in this world,
He shall acquire some honour in God’s court.
Again the Guru uttered the following verses:–
When the Guru had uttered these verses, Nurshah thought she would tempt him with wealth. Her attendants brought pearls, diamonds, gold, silver, coral, sumptuous dresses, all things precious the state treasury contained, and laid them at his feet. The Guru rejected all the proffered presents, and uttered the following hymn, which he sang to Mardana’s rebeck:–
2. Literally–we are white outside.
3. Sri Râg ki Wâr.
4. The Indian husband is deemed as a god by his wife.
5 A species of collyrium.
6. Suhâgan, from the Sanskrit su, good, and bhâg fortune, is applied to a wife whose husband is alive. Her lot is happy, and her state deemed holy in comparison with that of a widow.]
[1. Who have God for their spouse.
2. That is, salvation. Also translated–from whom the wealth of love is obtained.
3. That is, let these be thy blandishments.
4. This is the reply of the favourite wives showing how they won God as their Spouse.
5. Sahij. This word has many meanings in the Granth Sâhib. It means natural disposition, easily, slowly, divine knowledge, divine tranquillity, God, &c. In some of its meanings it is derived from sah, with, and ja, born.
Nurshah and her women, on hearing this hymn, twisted their head-dresses around their necks in token of submission, and fell at the Guru’s feet. They asked how they could obtain salvation. The Guru told them to repeat God’s name, conscientiously perform their domestic duties, renounce magic, and they should thus secure future happiness. It is said that they became followers of Guru Nanak, and thus secured salvation.
The Guru, on leaving Kamrup, entered a wilderness. There Kaljug came to tempt him. Mardana became sore afraid. The Guru remonstrated with him; asked why he was afraid of Kaljug; if he felt fear it ought to be the fear of God.
The Guru then sang the following hymn:–
[1. Kaljug here means Satan.
2. Dar ghar, the abode of fear, is explained by the gyânis to mean God.]
Mardana inquired who Kaljug was, by what signs he was known unto men, and what prerogative he exercised? The Guru replied:–
Kaljug offered the Guru the wealth of the world if he would abandon his mission. He said, ‘I possess everything. Say but the word, and I will build thee a palace of pearls, inlay it with gems, and plaster it with fragrant aloes and sandal. I will bring thee very beautiful women, and give thee the wealth of the world, the power of working miracles, and confer upon thee the sovereignty of the East and of the West. Take whatever pleaseth thee.’ The Guru informed him that he himself had renounced all sovereignty. What could he do with what Kaljug offered him, which moreover belonged to others? Then the Guru uttered the following stanza:–
May it not be that on beholding them I may forget Thee and not remember Thy name!
Were I to become a Sidh and work miracles; could I command the wealth of the universe to come to me;
Could I disappear and appear at pleasure, and were the world to honour me;
May it not be that on beholding these things I may forget Thee and not remember Thy name!
Were I to become a monarch on my throne and raise an army;
Were dominion and regal revenue mine–O Nanak, they would be all worthless–
May it not be that on beholding these things I may forget Thee and not remember Thy name!
Then Kaljug went round him in adoration, fell at his feet, and took his departure.
On the way Guru and Mardana sought shelter in a village, but were not allowed to remain there. The villagers began to play practical jokes on them. The Guru on that occasion uttered the following verses:–
Then the Guru composed the following hymn in the Rag Malar:–
[1. Sri Râg.
2 That is, I have become a faqir and dishonoured my family.]
The Guru and Mardana did not remain long in that village. Mardana asked the Guru what his decision was regarding its inhabitants. He replied, ‘O Mardana, may they remain here! ‘
The inhabitants of the next village at which they arrived showed them great attention. They remained there, however, for only one night, and departed next morning. The Guru when leaving said that the village should be abandoned. Then Mardana remarked, ‘Sir, the village in which we were not allowed to sit down, thou hast blessed; and that which bestowed great attention and kindness on us thou hast cursed.’ The Guru replied, ‘Mardana, if the people of the former village remove to another, they shall ruin it; but if the people of the latter village remove to another, they shall save it.’
The Guru returned from Kamrup by the great river Brahmaputra, and then made a coasting voyage to Puri on the Bay of Bengal, where Vishnu or
[1. That is, the condition of the body is as changeable as the seasons.]
Krishan, under the name of Jagannath, lord of the world, is specially worshipped. When the lamps were lit in the evening the Guru was invited by the high priest to stand up and join in the god’s worship, which was of a gorgeous and imposing character. In that rich temple offerings to the god were made on salvers studded with pearls. On the salvers were placed flowers and censers. A fan was employed to excite the flames of the incense, while the lamps around threw light over the temple. But the use of these articles showed artificial worship, while the expanse of the firmament, the sun and the moon, the procession of the stars, the natural incense of the sandal, the winds and forests, were the fitting accessories of Nanak’s purer worship of the God of creation. The Guru therefore, instead of accepting the high priest’s invitation to adore the idol, raised his eyes to heaven, and gave utterance to the following hymn:–
[1. Maliânlo, literally–the wind from the Malay tree.
2. In the original, chauri, a flapper made from the tail of the yak or Thibetan cow, and used in India to brush away flies.
3 The following is Dr. Trumpp’s translation of these two verses:–
The dish is made of the sky, the sun and moon are made the lamps, the orbs of stars are, so to say, the pearls.
The wind is incense-grinding, the wind swings the fly-brush, the whole blooming wood is the flames (of the lamps).
While the present author was engaged in translating the sacred writings of the Sikhs at their request, one Bhâi Gurumukh Singh projected a rival translation, which was to surpass all others. His modus operandi was to alter Dr. Trumpp’s words here and there, and thus produce what he perhaps deemed would be an original version. He circulated the following as his translation of these lines:–
[1. That is, or transmigration.
2. Thou hast man, spiritual eyes, but no material eye,
3. Thy manifestations are many yet Thou hast no bodily form.
4. Also translated–In this way Thou hast enchanted the world.
5. In memory of the circumstance recorded in the text the Sikhs repeat several prayers in the evening. The prayers are collectively called Ârati, and consist of this hymn and some others, which will be noted in their proper place. The word Ârati originally meant waving lamps at night before an idol.
6. The Sârang, or pied Indian cuckoo, the Cuculus Melanoleukos is supposed to drink water only when the moon is in the mansion of Arcturus, so, when its time comes to drink, it is naturally thirsty. This bird is also known under the names châtrik and papîha. Its love is celebrated in song and story. It is in full voice on the approach of the Indian monsoon, when its plaintive strains are heard clearest at night. It is said that they make love’s unhealed wounds bleed anew.
While at Jagannath, Guru Nanak met a Brahman who kept his eyes and nose closed so as to receive no pleasure from these organs. He averred that in that state he with his mental eyes saw the secrets of the world. Nanak hid his lota and the Brahman could not find it, so Nanak by the following hymn in the Dhanasari measure twitted him on his want of omniscience:–