The Guru Granth Sahib,

Sikhism . The Guru Granth Sahib (GGS)

By Harjinder Singh, UK

The Guru Granth Sahib is the most authoritative scriptures for Sikhs, it is considered to be the word of God, the first Guru - Guru Nanak declared that anything he declared was declared under the authority of the creator, God.

The Gurbani (Bani of the Guru) is very easy to understand and contains countless anecdotal references and analogies. Although various English translations of the Guru Granth Sahib are available - as well as Punjabi translations, the form and content of the Guru Granth Sahib remains unchanged. Sikhs are unanimously agreed upon keeping the original form and content and where there have been attempts to alter this, these have been met with great resistance and opposition.

The Language

The Guru Granth Sahib is written in its entirety in Gurmukhi which translated means from the mouth (Mukh) of the Guru. Gurmukhi was developed by the first Guru and then promoted by his successors, it was a language spoken and understood by all classes of people, the Guru hoped for the scriptures to be accessible by all. The Guru Granth Sahib also contains hymns which are written in a language known as Sahiskriti as well as Sant Bhasha, it also contains many Persian and Sanskrit words throughout. Though the language was known as Gurmukhi, recent political problems in India have led it to be officially known as Punjabi.

The Contributions

The Guru Granth Sahib contains hymns from seven of the ten Gurus - Guru Nanak (974 shabads - hymns), Guru Angad (63), Guru Amar Das Ji (907), Guru Ram Das Ji (679), Guru Arjan (2218), Guru Teg Bahadar Ji (116) and one couplet from Guru Gobind Singh. One sixth of it is composed of verses and hymns written by Bhagats of that region, the contributions from Bhagats are as follows : Bhagat Kabir (541), Bhagat Nam Dev (60), Bhagat Ravi Das (41), Bhagat Trilochan (4), Bhagat Dhana (4), Bhagat Farid (134), Bhagat Beni (3), Bhagat Jai Dev (2), Bhagat Bhikhan (2), Bhagat Sur Das (2), Bhagat Parmanand (1), Bhagat Sain (1), Bhagat Pipa (1), Bhagat Sadna (1), Bhagat Ramanand (1) and Bhagat Sundar (6). The Bhats were poets of the Guru's court. They wrote compositions praising the Guru and honoring his spiritual authority. Their contributions are as follows : Bhat Kal (49), Bhat Kalsehar (4), Bhat Tal (1), Bhat Jalup (4), Bhat Jal (1), Bhat Kirat (8), Bhat Sal (3), Bhat Bahil (1), Bhat Nal (6), Bhat Bhikha (2), Bhat Jalan (1), Bhat Kas (14), Bhat Gend (5), Bhat Sevak (7), Bhat Mathra (10), Bhat Bal (5) and Bhat Harbans (2). In addition to this, there are 3 compositions by Bhai Mardana - the companion of the first Guru and also 8 compositions by Bhai Sata and Bhai Balvanda, two Sikhs of Guru Arjan 's time.

The Form

The Guru Granth Sahib consists of 1430 pages, It begins with a Bani known as the Japji followed by the Sodar. It then resumes sections each known as a Rag - Musical composition. Within each of these Rags, the Bani is presented in Chronological order of Guru, followed by the Bhagats. Following the 32 Rags, a section known as the Rag Mala completes the Guru Granth Sahib. A check appears throughout the Guru Granth Sahib, the check states the number of verses in the current shabad, the number of shabads in the current sub-section, the number of sections in the current Rag etc. It causes for difficulty in anybody wishing to alter the Guru Granth Sahib as most changes in the way of additions or removals of lines can be detected by scrutinizing this check figure.

The History

Some record is believed to have been kept of the first Guru's Bani during his time - most probably by his companions - Bhai Mardana included. Baba Buda and Bhai Datu - both followers of the Guru are also recorded in history as having kept records of the Guru's Bani.

When Guru Angad was enthroned as the second Guru, he was given five paisas, a coconut and a 'pothi' - a book which it is believed had within it some of the hymns of Guru Nanak - this Pothi is not available today. This pothi might also have contained Shabads of the various Bhagats of that sub continent - such as Bhagat Kabir and Bhagat Farid - both of whom had great followings.

The Mohan Pothi

Guru Angad bought together the Bani composed by his predecessor, and recited them to Bhai Paira Mokha who scribed these to form another Pothi. This Pothi was passed to Guru Amar Das Ji when he was bestowed as the third Guru and in his time he also sought to bring together the Bani of the preceding Gurus into one Pothi. He commissioned the services of his grandson Bhai Sahansar Ram to this effect and recited the Bani to the scribe.

This pothi was kept by Sahansar Ram and was later passed to his father - Bhai Mohan. It henceforth became known as the Mohan Pothi. During the compilation of the Mohan Pothi, Bhai Datu and Baba Buda - both contemporaries of the first and second Gurus were asked to recite those Shabads that they had come to learn by heart, many more it is said were collated from pieces of paper and from the Pothi handed down from Guru to Guru.

It is said that Bhai Datu had in his possession a Pothi which contained many Shabads of the first Guru. The Mohan Pothi is in two volumes, the first volume is 600 pages and the second 448. It is in 14 sections and contains the Bani of the first three Gurus and Bhagat Kabir, Bhagat Trilochan, Bhagat Nam Dev, Bhagat Sain, Bhagat Ravi Das, Bhagat Jai Dev, but not Bhagat Farid. Notably it does not contain all the Shabads of Guru Nanak .

The Adi Granth

By the period of the fifth Guru - Guru Arjan , jealousy had grown amongst the Sikh disciples - particularly sparked by his elder brother Bhai Prithi Chand who had claimed ascension to the spiritual throne over Guru Arjan . Bhai Prithi Chand had allegedly composed his own Bani - some of it a corrupted version of previous Gurus' Bani - in an attempt to claim authenticity. As a result of this, in the year 1603, Guru Arjan sought to update the collection of Bani.

The Guru erected a tent by the side of the Harimandir Sahib - which was then under construction and called for Bhai Gurdas - a renown and respected Sikh scholar - for the purposes of scribing this new version. The Guru called for all previous Pothis to be submitted to him in the interests of the task at hand. The spot where this Pothi was compiled is marked today by Ramsar.

It is said that when the Guru sent messengers to Bhai Mohan - possessor of the previous Pothi, the latter was in deep meditation and did not wish to be disturbed. Every time the representatives returned to Bhai Mohan, he was found to be sitting in meditation and hence they returned in dismay. Bhai Mohan is said to be a very devout Sikh of positive character and good spiritual prowess. The Guru then decided upon visiting the Sikh personally. On that occasion he sang a shabad outside the door of Bhai Mohan - thereby awakening the Sikh out of his meditation, it was thus that the Guru acquired the Mohan Pothis.

This compilation was the most complete to date and added to it were the compositions of Bhagat Farid. This version became known as the Adi Granth. A ceremony was performed on the occasion when the Holy Granth Sahib was completed in the August of 1604 - It coincided with the completion of the Gurudwara - Harimandir Sahib. On that day, the Guru placed the Holy Granth Sahib on a Gadi (seat) that he would normally sit on and himself sat on a Gadi lower to that. Baba Buda was made the first Granthi (Custodian of the holy Granth) and the honorary position of Granthi remained in his family for some generations as it was passed from son to son.

At that time, the emperor of Hindustan was Akbar, he received complaints alleging that the fifth Guru had compiled a Holy Book which was detrimental - not only to the Hindu faith, but to Islam also. Emperor Akbar asked that the Guru appear before him to answer these complaints. The Guru however sent Baba Buda and Bhai Gurdas to answer the Emperor. The Emperor - who it is said was more liberal in his views of contemporary religions than other emperors - asked that such passages from the holy Granth be read to him as might convince him that the content of the Granth was not offensive. Baba Buda then read shabads from the Holy Granth that had been compiled by Bhagat Kabir and Bhagat Farid.

Akbar was pleased with the content which embraced an acceptance of God in Hinduism and Islam. He presented two Gold Mohars to the scripture and presented robes for the two representatives and a robe for the Guru. The Emperor later visited the Guru during a tour of the states.

The Damdama Granth

When Guru Gobind Singh was enthroned, he wished to complete the final version of this Granth and therefore, he compiled another version. On that occasion, the Guru added the Shabads of his father - Guru Teg Bahadar and one Salok (couplet) of his own. Before the tenth Guru passed away, he bestowed this version of the Granth as the final and everlasting Guru. It became known as the Guru Granth Sahib. translated in: Français | Italiano | Español | Português | Deutsch

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