The Eleventh Guru - Guru Granth Sahib ji (1708 - Present (and future))
Guru Granth Sahib ji
1708 - Present (and future)
• The Guru Granth Sahib,
or Adi Granth, is the religious text of Sikhism. It is a voluminous text of 1430 Angs, compiled and composed during the period of Sikh gurus, from 1469 to 1708. It is a collection of hymns (shabda) or baani describing the qualities of God and why one should meditate on God's name. Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708), the tenth guru, affirmed the sacred text Adi Granth as his successor, elevating it to Guru Granth Sahib. The text remains the holy scripture of the Sikhs, regarded as the teachings of the Ten Gurus. The role of Adi Granth, as a source or guide of prayer, is pivotal in worship in Sikhism.
The Adi Granth was first compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev (1563–1606), from hymns of the first five Sikh gurus and other great saints, or bhagats, including those of the Hindu and Muslim faith. After the demise of the tenth Sikh guru many copies were prepared for distribution by Baba Deep Singh.
It is written in the Gurmukhī script, in melange of various dialects – including Lehndi Punjabi, Braj Bhasha, Khariboli, Sanskrit and Persian – often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha.
During the Guruship of Guru Nanak, collections of his hymns were compiled and sent to distant Sikh communities for them to use in morning and evening prayers. His successor, Guru Angad, began the tradition of collecting his predecessors' sacred writings which was continued by the third and fourth gurus.
When the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan, was collecting the writings of his
Guru Granth Sahib
predecessor, he discovered that pretenders to the Guruship were releasing forged anthologies of the previous gurus' writings and including their own writings alongside them. In order to prevent spurious scriptures from gaining legitimacy, Guru Arjan began compiling a sacred book for the Sikh community. He finished collecting the religious writings of Guru Ram Das, his immediate predecessor, and convinced Mohan, the son of Guru Amar Das, to give him the collection of the religious writings of the first three Gurus. In addition, he sent disciples to go across the country to find and bring back any previously unknown writings. He also invited members of other religions and contemporary religious writers to submit writings for possible inclusion. Guru Arjan selected hymns for inclusion into the book and Bhai Gurdas acted as his scribe.
While the manuscript was being put together, Akbar, the Mughal Emperor, received a report that the manuscript contained passages vilifying Islam so while traveling north he stopped enroute and asked to inspect it. Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas brought him a copy of manuscript so far, and after choosing three random passages to be read, determined the report to be false. He also granted a request from Guru Arjan to remit the annual tax revenue of the district because of the failure of the monsoon.
In 1604, Guru Arjan's manuscript was completed and installed at the Harmandir Sahib with Bhai Buddha as the first granthi, or reader. Since communities of Sikh disciples were scattered all over northern India, copies of the holy book needed to be made for them.
However, in this very first transcription a number of minor changes were made by the copyists.
The sixth, seventh, and eighth Gurus did not write religious verses, however the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur did and the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh did as well.
In 1704, at Damdama Sahib during a one-year respite from the heavy fighting with Aurengzeb the Khalsa was engaged in at the time, Guru Gobind Singh and Bhai Mani Singh added the religious compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur to the Guru Granth Sahib to create a definitive version. During these months of "intense literary activity" they used the original volume prepared by Guru Arjan by borrowing it from the descendants of Dhirmal, the elder brother of Guru Har Rai and inserted Guru Tegh Bahadur's verses in the appropriate places. The religious verses of Guru Gobind Singh were not included in the Guru Granth Sahib, but some of his religious verses are included in the daily prayers of Sikhs. During this period, Bhai Mani Singh also collected Guru Gobind Singh's writings as well as his court poets and included them in a non-religious volume known as the Dasam Granth.
This final compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib had many copies made, however, the original was lost in the Sikh holocaust of 1762. The edition used in Sikh Gurdwaras today is based on the copies produced at Damdama Sahib by Bhai Mani Singh.
Meaning and role in Sikhism
Sikhs consider the Granth to be a spiritual guide for mankind, and it plays a central role in "guiding" the Sikhs' way of life.
Guru Granth Sahib
Its place in Sikh devotional life is based on two fundamental principles: that the text is divine revelation, and that all answers regarding religion and morality can be discovered within it. Its hymns and teachings are called Gurbani or "Word of the guru" and sometimes Guru ki bani or "Word of God". Thus, in Sikh theology, the revealed divine word is written by the past Gurus. The numerous holy men other than the Sikh Gurus whose writing were included in the Adi Granth are collectively referred to as Bhagats, "devotees", and their writings are referred to as Bhagat bani, "Word of Devotees". These saints belonged to different social and religious backgrounds, including Hindus and Muslims, cobblers and untouchables. Guru Granth Sahib is said to be the sole and final successor of the line of gurus.
Elevation of Adi Granth to Guru Granth Sahib
The Adi Granth was conferred the title of "Guru of the Sikhs" by the tenth Guru,
GuruGuru Granth Sahib
Guru Gobind Singh, 1708. The event, when Guru Gobind Singh installed Adi Granth as the Guru of Sikhism, was recorded in a Bhatt Vahi (a bard's scroll) by an eyewitness, Narbud Singh, who was a bard at the Guru's court. There are a variety of other documents attesting to this proclamation by the tenth Guru.
Thus, despite some aberrations, the Sikhs overwhelmingly accept that the Guru Granth is their eternal Guru. This has been the understanding and conviction of the Sikhs, since that October day of 1708.
Transliteration: "Sab sikhan kō hukam hai gurū mānyō granth"
Guru Granth Sahib
English: "All Sikhs are commanded to take the Granth as Guru."
- Guru Gobind Singh,in October, 1708, Nanded
A close associate of Guru Gobind Singh and author of Rehit-nama, Prahlad Singh, recorded the Guru's commandment saying "With the order of the Eternal Lord has been established Panth: all the Sikhs hereby are commanded to obey the Granth as their Guru".(Rehat-nama, Bhai Prahlad Singh) Similarly Chaupa Singh, another associate of Guru Gobind Singh, has mentioned this commandment in his Rehat-nama.
Main article: Gurmukhī
Main article: Ragas in the Guru Granth Sahib
The Sikh Gurus developed a new writing system, Gurmukhī, for writing their sacred literature. Although the exact origins of the script are unknown, it is believed to have existed in an elementary form during the time of Guru Nanak. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Angad is said to have invented the script, and popularised its use among the Sikhs. It is stated in Mahman Prakash, an early Sikh manuscript, that the script was invented by Guru Angad at the suggestion of Guru Nanak during the lifetime of the founder. The word Gurmukhī translates as "from the mouth of the Guru". The script was used, from the outset, for compiling Sikh scriptures. The Sikhs assign a high degree of sanctity to the Gurmukhī language script; it is also the official script for the Indian State of Punjab.
Guru Granth Sahib
The end part of the handwritten Adi granth, by Pratap Singh Giani, located on the first floor of Harmandir Sahib
The Guru Granth Sahib is divided into fourteen hundred and thirty pages known as Angs (limbs) in Sikh tradition. It can be divided into three different sections:
1. Introductory section consisting of the Mul Mantra, Japji and Sohila composed by Guru Nanak
2. Compositions of Sikh Gurus followed by those of Different Bhagats who just know Only the God, collected according to chronology of Ragas or musical notes (see below).
3. Compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur.
The poems are divided on the basis of their musical setting in different ragas. A raga is a series of melodic motifs, based upon a definite scale or mode, that provide a basic structure around which the musician performs. The ragas are associated with different moods and times of the day and year. The total number of ragas in the Sikh system is thirty one, divided into fourteen ragas and seventeen raginis (less important or less definite ragas). Within the raga division, the songs are arranged in order of the Sikh gurus and Sikh bhagats with whom they are associated.
The various ragas are, in order: Raga Sri, Manjh, Gauri, Asa, Gujri, Devagandhari, Bihagara, Wadahans, Sorath, Dhanasri, Jaitsri, Todi, Bairari, Tilang, Suhi, Bilaval, Gond (Gaund), Ramkali, Nut-Narayan, Mali-Gaura, Maru, Tukhari, Kedara, Bhairav (Bhairo), Basant, Sarang, Malar, Kanra, Kalyan, Prabhati and Jaijawanti. In addition there are twenty-two compositions of Vars (Traditional ballads). Nine of these have specific tunes and the rest can be sung to any tune.
Sanctity among Sikhs
The Mool Mantar in the handwriting of Guru Har Rai
Sikhs observe total sanctity of the text in the Guru Granth Sahib. No one can change or alter any of the writings of the Sikh Gurus written in Adi Granth. This includes sentences, words, structure, grammar, meanings etc. This total sanctity was observed by the Gurus themselves. Guru Har Rai had disowned his elder son, Ram Rai, because he had attempted to alter the wording of one of Guru Nanak's hymn. Ram Rai had been sent to Delhi, by Guru Har Rai, to explain Gurbani to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. To please the Emperor he altered the wording of some hymns of Guru Nanak. The matter was reported to the Guru, who was displeased with his son and disowned him. Later when aged, Ram Rai was forgiven by Guru Gobind Singh
Translations of the Guru Granth Sahib are available. Sikhs reject the concept of a Sacred language and believe that the Guru Granth Sahib can be accessed in any language.
A Granthi reciting from Guru Granth Sahib
The Adi Granth is always placed in the centre of a Gurudwara and placed on a raised platform, known as Takht (throne). The Guru Granth is given the greatest respect and honour. Sikhs cover their heads and remove their shoes while in the presence of Guru Granth. Before coming into its presence, they bow before the Granth. The Guru Granth is normally carried on the head and as a sign of respect not touched with unwashed hands or put on the floor.
The Guru Granth Sahib is always the focal point in any Gurudwara. It is attended with all signs of royalty, as was the custom with Sikh Gurus, and is placed upon a throne,
Guru Granth Sahib
and the congregation sits on the floor. It is waved upon by a chaur (sort of fan) which is made of fine material to clean the air and a canopy is always placed over it. The devotees bow before the Guru as a sign of respect.
The Guru Granth Sahib is taken care of by a Granthi. He is responsible for reciting from Guru Granth and leading the Sikh prayer. The Granthi also acts as the caretaker of Guru Granth and collector of the devotees' money. This function may not be performed by any other person. Guru Granth Sahib is kept covered in silken cloths, known as Rumala, to protect from heat, dust, pollution etc. Guru Granth Sahib rests on a manji sahib under a rumala until brought out again.
The editing of Guru Granth Sahib is done by the official religious body of Sikhs based in Amritsar. It is the sole worldwide publisher of Guru Granth Sahib. Great care is taken while making printed copies and strict code of conduct is observed during the task of printing.
Before the late nineteenth century, only hand written copies of Guru Granth Sahib were prepared. The first printed copy of Guru Granth Sahib was made in 1864. Since the early 20th century Guru Granth Sahib has been printed in a standard 1430 pages.
Any copies of Guru Granth Sahib which are too badly damaged to be used, and any printer's waste which has any of its text on, are cremated with a similar ceremony as cremating a deceased person. Such burning is called Agan Bhet. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is currently printed in an authorized printing press in the basement of the Gurdwara Ramsar in Amritsar, with the waste printing being cremated at Goindval. However, unauthorised copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji have also been printed.
Panjab Digital Library, in collaboration with the Nanakshahi Trust, began digitization of centuries old manuscripts in year 2003.