Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Bhai Gurdas Ji writes as Guru Arjan Dev Ji dictates the bani.
Hand written version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji

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.

 

The Harminder Sahib was completed in 1601, Guru Arjan Dev Ji the fifth Guru of the Sikhs decided to enshrine the spiritual wisdom of the Gurus and saints in a holy scripture which would be installed in the Harminder Sahib. This was to strengthen the faith and to provide a source of inspiration. the other reason to do so was because Prithi Chand the Guru Ram Das Ji's bitter son was composing hymns of his own and claiming them to be compositions of Guru Nanak Dev ji and his successors. Guru Arjan Dev Ji collected the compositions of the first three Gurus which were held by Baba Mohan at Gowindwal. Guru ji then collected the hymns of the fourth Guru and selected some of the devotional hymns of Hindu and Muslim saints. To these Guru Ji added his own hymns.

In 1603 when all the compositions were collected the Guru selected a quite and shaded place at the banks of the sarovar Ramsar in Amritsar to complete his work. While Guru Ji dictated the sacred hymns, Bhai Gurdas Ji inscribed them in Gurmukhi script. The Granth Sahib was completed in july 1604.

The greatest glory of Guru Granth Sahib Ji is its universal scripture free from bias and prejudice. It is the only scripture of its kind which enshrines in it the hymns of saints without distinction of race, religion, caste or creed. In the Guru Granth Sahib are enshrined the hymns of six Gurus, thirteen Hindu bhagats (saints - Trilochan, Naamdev, Ramanand, Surdas, Baini, Sadna, Kabir, Ravidas,Parmanand, Ravidas, Sain, Dhanna, Pipa and Jaidev), five muslim divines (Sheikh Farid, Bhikhan, Mardana, Satta and Balwand), a Sikh devotee (Sundar) and twelve bards.

The original Kartarpur Guru Granth Sahib Ji    

A Total of 5894 hymns are enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

  976 hymns are by Guru Nanak Dev Ji
  61 by Guru Angad Dev Ji
  907 by Guru AmarDas Ji
  679 by Guru RamDas Ji
  2216 by Guru Arjan Dev Ji
  118 by Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji
  937 by the bhagats and bards.
 
The 1430 pages of Guru Granth Sahib Ji are divided into 33 sections. The first section up to page 13 consists of three prayers : Japji - the Sikh morning prayer, Sodar - the evening prayer and Sohela - the bedtime prayer. The next 31 sections from pages 14 to 1352 are named after well known classical Raags based on musical measures or modes e.g - Sri raag, raag Majh, raag Bilawal etc. The final section from pages 1353 to 1430 is a selection of salokes or verses. These salokes include Sanskrit salokes by Bhagat Kabir and Baba Faridand svaiyay (quatrains) by the bards as well as additional salokes by the Gurus.
Aadh Guru Granth Sahib consists of Shabads abs Shloks. The shabads are hymns of varying length, a common one being the chaupad of four verses and a refrain. Others have six verses and yet others have eight. The shloks are normally couplets, but may run to greater length. Commonly they occur within Vaars, which are collection of paudies or steps or verses, each one of which is preceded by two or more shaloks. Only one portion of Guru Granth Sahib does not fall into the above and that is Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Japji Sahib which is at the beginning.

The scripture is divided into three sections of unequal length. It starts with a brief liturgical section followed by a very length main text and concludes with another brief section and epilogue. The first section contains many of the prayers a devout Sikh will recite in a daily basis. The epilogue caontains works not accommodated in the main middle section followed by the Raag-Mala, a summary of various raags and measures used in the main text.

The main section is sub-divided into raags or measures stating with Siri Raag. This records all the works composed in Siri Raag and then moves on to the next raag, raag Manjh. All the works in Manjh are recorded and then the scripture moves on to raag Gauri, and from Gauri to Asa, and so on through a total of thirty one raags concluding with Jaijavanti.

Within each raag there is a secondary sub-division each being arranged according to the length of the composition. First comes the chaupads (four verses and a refrain), then ashtpadis (eight stanzas and refrain), then the chhant (normally four to six stanzas but appreciably longer in length). Next comes the works of the Gurus, that are in the appropriate measure but of greater length. Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Dakhani Onkar and Sidh Gosht are examples , both in raag Ramkali, or Guru Arajan Dev Ji’s masterpiece Sukhmani Sahib in raag Gauri. Still in the same raag we have the vaars, followed by the Bhagat bani, the most prolific of whom is Bhagat Kabir Ji.

All the Gurus merge their identity by signing themselves as Nanak, but the bani of Guru Nanak Dev Ji is preceded by the form Mahala I, Guru Angad Dev Ji’s by Mahala II and so on. Just as the organisation of the scriptures is a model of clarity so too is the message it communicates wholly consistant throught the entire work, the message of spiritual liberation through meditation on the divine Name.

 

The compilation of Guru Granth Sahib marked an important landmark in the history of the Sikhs. It became the sacred scripture of the new faith which engendered in the Sikhs the consciousness of being a separate community and faith. The hymns establish a deep spiritual unity between man and God.

 

In 1605 the emperor Akbar visited Guru Arjan Dev Ji at Amritsar, he was very pleased with the majestic beauty of the Harmindar. He was charmed by the sweet voice of the Guru and the delightful melodies to which the Guru sang the compositions. He requested the Guru secure peace for his soul. Guru Ji blessed him and told him to dwell on the name of the Divine.

Nothing has made the Sikh faith more alive and dynamic then the fact that its scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib is in the simple language spoken by the people and is available to all men and women.

The Guru Granth Sahib of Kartarpur was received by Guru Har Rai Ji in inheritnce from Guru Hargobind Sahib. The former passed it on to Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji. After Guru Harkrishan ji ascended to heaven the Granth Sahib remained in that family in the custody of Dhir Mal.

Sodhi Dhir Mal was the son of Baba Gurditta Ji, the eldest son of Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and the uncle of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Therefore Dhir Mal was Guru Gobind Singh Ji's cousin.

In 1706 Guru Gobind Singh Ji the tenth Guru of the Sikhs had reached Sabo Ki Talwandi or Damdama Sahib as it is known today. Guru Ji had had to vacate his beloved Anandpur Sahib, his two younger sons had been martyred at Sirhand and his two eldest sons had died in the midst of battle at Chamkaur, he had suffered heavy losses in men, but still Guru Ji was in buoyant mood. Guru Ji addressed the congregation that had gathered one day "I wish to recite the Gurbani which Guru Arjan Dev Ji had compiled with the help of Bhai Gurdas Ji. To see it, to read it and to think over what is written therein. That sacred volume is now lying with the descendents of Sodhi Dhir Mal in the town of Kartarpur, we have to bring it with due respect."

Some Sikhs were despatched to Kartarpur and went straight to the Sodhi household. The Sodhis thought that the Guru was trying to snatch away the scriptures from them and refused to part with them. Dhir Mal had died in 1677 and had he been alive he may have agreed, out of mature thought, but his grandsons had other ideas. Inspite of repeated requests theSodhis were adamant, "If Gobind Singh calls himself Guru, let him compile his own Granth just as Guru Arjan Dev Ji once did" they taunted.

 

Whether to re-write the Aadh Granth or not was the question that the Sodhis had raised before Guru Sahib Ji. There is no doubt that guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Guru Nanak in whom the same jote (spirit) prevailed. He had ascended the Guru's throne in regular line of succession after Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji. Had Guru Gobind Singh Ji not re-written the Aadh Granth his Guruship may hav been doubted the the Sikhs. Moreover, he himself had written in Bachittar Natak that all ten Gurus should be deemed as having the same jote. The challenge thrown by the Sodhis had therefore to be accepted in order to confirm the belief in the Sikhs in the competence of the Guru, particulary after so many sacrifices had taken place. Had he not done so, then the descendents of Dhir Mall would easily had mis-led the Sikhs.

Guru Ji announced his decision to re-write the Granth Sahib. A separate tent was set up and arrangements made to collect paper and ink. According to historical records, Guru Ji, after morning ablutions, would enter the tent and dictate the bani from memory to Bhai Manni Singh for nearly six hours a day. This strenuous but inspiring practice continued for three months until the whole 1430 pages were complete from begining to end. The compilation of the new Granth Sahib at Damdama Sahib was indeed an achievement of great significance. It gave Guru Ji the opportunity to include the compositions of the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji.

Guru Ji was very pleased when the task was completed and he arranged for an Akhand Path (continuous reading) of the Guru Granth Sahib.

It has been said by some that Guru ji must have collected copies of the Aadh Granth beforhand, but there is no evidence for this. Guru Ji had left behind all the literature he had at the time of leaving Chamkaur. The fact that Guru Ji had sent his Sikhs to Kartarpur shows that he had to copies available. It is therefore safe to say that Guru Gobind Singh Ji re-wrote the Aadh Granth Sahib through his spiritual powers.

 

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