Like the Bible of Christianity, the Vedas of Hinduism or the Koran of Islam, the Guru Granth Sahib, also known as the Aadh Granth, is the main scripture of Sikhism. Compared to other religions, Sikhism is a religion of recent origin, founded in the 15th Century AD by its founder Sri Guru Nanak. It believes in the oneness of God and is opposed to idol worship.
During Muslim rule and the subsequent British rule of India, Hinduism owed as much to Sikhs as to Hindus for its survival and continuity. Whenever it became vulnerable to the outside attacks and threats, Sikhs stepped themselves into the role of the Kshatriyas and defended the land as well as the faith like true warriors of God.
Those who study the Guru Granth Sahib are bound to realize that with regard to the emphasis it lays on pure and unconditional devotion to God, on a life that is dedicated completely to the remembrance of God, to the chanting of His Glory, His words and His Name, and the importance and necessity of a true Guru in ones spiritual salvation, Sikhism stands apart as a purely devotional religion and is way beyond all the known religions as an expression of pure and unconditional love to God.
In its philosophy and emphasis it transcends all faiths. Because of its simplicity and unpretentious approach to God, it does not hurt, beyond tolerable limits, the religious sentiments or beliefs of any. And irrespective of the religion, the caste or the creed to which each belongs, it has the potential to appeal to all and inspire all.
Sikhism became a religion by itself due to the untiring work and sacrifices made by the subsequent nine Gurus. The Sikh Gurus were sensitive to the social problems of their times and rejected many evils of Hindu society, especially the caste system, the prevalent superstition and excessive ritualism. They made Sikhism a popular religion in many parts of northern India, especially the Punjab region and many parts of northern India.
The Gurus accepted the laws of karma and rebirth and also used the names of some devtaies (Hindu gods and goddesses) in their Kirtan (devotional songs) to extol the virtues of God or express their love for Him. It should however be remembered that Sikhism does not accept Hindu divinities and does not advocate worship of any divinities or idols other than God Himself in his Highest aspect. In its temperament and approach Sikhism stands apart from both Hinduism and Islam and lays down its own ground rules for the worship of God. The Sikh Gurus made selfless efforts to narrow the social and religious gap between the Hindus and Muslims through their teachings, and by their unequivocal emphasis on the importance of true love to God as the basis of all religious worship. This was done in a background of religious bigotry of the Mughal rulers. The latter Mughal emperors were opposed to the Sikh Gurus and persecuted them at the slightest opportunity.
The Guru Granth Sahib was originally compiled by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, and its present form which include the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was given shape by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The Scripture contains 5894 hymns of pure devotion composed in 18 ragas (musical patterns) by the Gurus and 15 Hindu and Muslim saints such as Kabir, Shiek Fareed, Ravidas. Dhanna etc. Of these Guru Nanak contributed 974 hymns. The hymns were originally composed in different languages such as Persian, mediaeval Prakrit, Hindi, Marathi, old Punjabi, Multani, and several local dialects.
The basic philosophy of Sikhism revolves mainly around three concepts: Naam, the name of God, Shabad the word of God and Sat Sang, the company of the pious and the holy. These are the simple means to salvation. Guru Granth Sahib Ji teaches that outward rituals and indulgence in the worldly pleasure only bring us pain. What is required is inner purification, true devotion and surrender to God. The true Guru is the Naam, the name of God by remembering which constantly one can achieve salvation. However a Guru, who has become completely absorbed in the contemplation of Naam and has become united with God in thought and deed, can also help us to cross the world of illusion and taste the sweetness of the Lord.
Special mention may be made of Japji Sahib, comprising of the thirty eight short verses of Guru Nanak Dev Ji which appear at the beginning of the Aadh Granth. It contains the essential teachings and beliefs of Sikhism and is considered to be very important. The compositions are rendered in various ragas (musical modes) and are sung by Sikh devotees as a mark of devotion and respect to the Guru.
Compiled in the sixteenth century and composed entirely in lyrical form, the hymns are mostly devotional in nature. During ceremonial occasions and functions, they are sung individually or in a chorus by the devotees with utmost devotion, love and humility. The Guru Granth Sahib can be truly called the essence of all religions, as it contains hymns and verses from Muslims and Hindus saints.
The Sikhs had ten Gurus in human form and after the tenth Guru it was declared that henceforth Guru Granth Sahib Ji would become the eleventh Guru and would remain so for ever as the living embodiment of the Gurus. Guru Sahib Ji resides in all the Gurudwaras, the Sikh places of worship and treated with great veneration as the "Guruji" Himself.