Guru Granth Sahib

The Guru Granth Sahib (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ, pronounced [ɡʊɾuː ɡɾəntʰᵊ saːhɪb]) is the central religious scripture of Sikhism, regarded by Sikhs as the final, sovereign and eternal living Guru following the lineage of the ten human gurus of the religion. The Adi Granth, its first rendition, was compiled by the fifth guru, Guru Arjan (1564–1606). Its compilation was completed on 29 August 1604[failed verification] and first installed inside Darbar Sahib in Amritsar on 1 September 1604.[1] Baba Buddha was appointed the first Granthi of the Darbar Sahib. Later, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, added all 115 hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur and 1 of his hymns to the Adi Granth and affirmed the text as his successor.[2] This second rendition became known as the Guru Granth Sahib, and is also sometimes referred to as the Adi Granth.[3][4]

The text consists of 1,430 angs (pages) and 5,894 śabads (line compositions),[5][6][7] which are poetically rendered and set to a rhythmic ancient north Indian classical form of music.[8] The bulk of the scripture is divided into sixty[5][6] rāgas, with each Granth rāga subdivided according to length and author. The hymns in the scripture are arranged primarily by the rāgas in which they are read.[6] The Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhi script, in various languages, including Lahnda (Western Punjabi), Braj Bhasha, Kauravi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, and Persian. Copies in these languages often have the generic title of Sant Bhasha.[9]

The Guru Granth Sahib was composed predominantly by six Sikh gurus: Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It also contains the poetic teachings of thirteen Hindu Bhakti movement sant poets and two Sufi Muslim poets.[10][11]

The vision in the Guru Granth Sahib is of a society based on divine justice without oppression of any kind.[12][13] While the Granth acknowledges and respects the scriptures of Hinduism and Islam, it does not imply a moral reconciliation with either of these religions.[14] It is installed in a Sikh gurdwara (temple). A Sikh typically bows or prostrates before it on entering such a temple.[15] The Granth is revered as eternal gurbānī and the spiritual authority in Sikhism.[16]

Guru Nanak composed hymns, which were sung by his followers in rāga set to music.[17] His successor, Guru Angad, opened centers and distributed these hymns. The community would sing the hymns and his agents collected donations.[18] This tradition was continued by the third and fourth gurus as well. The fifth guru, Guru Arjan, discovered that Prithi Chand – his eldest brother and a competing claimant to the Sikh guruship – had a copy of an earlier pothi (palm-leaf manuscript) with hymns and was distributing hymns of the earlier gurus along with his own of hymns.[19] Guru Arjan considered these as spurious and became concerned about establishing an authentic anthology of approved hymns.[20]

Guru Arjan began compiling an officially approved version of the sacred scripture for the Sikh community. He sent his associates across the Indian subcontinent to collect the circulating hymns of Sikh gurus and convinced Mohan, the son of Guru Amar Das, to give him the collection of the religious writings of the first three gurus in a humble manner by singing the hymns registered in Guru Granth Sahib, 248.

O Mohan, your temple is so lofty, and your mansion is unsurpassed. O Mohan, your gates are so beautiful. They are the worship-houses of the Saints.

[20] As his associates returned with their collections, Guru Arjan selected and edited the hymns for inclusion in the Adi Granth with Bhai Gurdas as his scribe.[21][note 1] This effort yielded several drafts and manuscripts, some of which have survived into the modern era.[19][23]

The oldest surviving manuscript version of the Adi Granth is the Guru Nanak Dev University Manuscript 1245, which has been dated to c. 1599. Other early editions of the Adi Granth with some variations include the Bahoval pothi (c. 1600), Vanjara pothi (c. 1601) and Bhai Rupa pothi (c. 1603).[23]

Another early variant manuscript is called the Guru Harsahai pothi, preserved by Sodhis and is believed to be the one that existed before Guru Arjan's compilation and one he gave to his eldest brother Prithi Chand. It was initially installed in Amritsar, then was moved in the 18th-century and preserved in Guru Harsahai (35 kilometers west of Faridkot, Punjab) till 1969, when the state government requested it be displayed for the 500 years celebrations. It was moved for the first time in over 200 years and briefly displayed in Patiala for the event. Thereafter, the Sodhis consented to transfers. In 1970, however, during another such transfer, this early version of the Adi Granth manuscript was stolen.[19] However, photos of some pages have survived.

This manuscript is claimed by the Sodhis to be the oldest and one written in part by Guru Nanak. However, this claim is first observed only much later, in texts attributed to the 17th-century Hariji, the grandson of Prithi Chand. Based on the evidence in the surviving photos, it is unlikely that Guru Nanak wrote or maintained a pothi. The features in its Gurmukhi script and the language suggest that the hymns are significantly older, and that the pre-canonical hymns were being written down in early Sikhism and preserved by the Sikh Gurus prior to the editing by Guru Arjan. The existence of Guru Harsahai manuscript attests to the early tradition of Sikh scripture, its existence in variant forms and a competition of ideas on its contents including the Mul Mantar.[24]

Many minor variations, and three significant Adi Granth recensions, are known; these provide insights into how the Sikh scripture was compiled, edited and revised over time.[23] There is a fourth significant version called the Lahori bir, but it primarily differs in how the hymns are arranged and the final pages of the Adi Granth.[23][note 2]

A folio from an early 19th-century manuscript copy of the Guru Granth Sahib (Schoyen Collection Norway)

In 1604, the first edition of the Sikh scripture, Adi Granth, was complete and officially approved by Guru Arjan. It was installed at the Golden Temple, with Baba Buddha as the first granthi or reader.[28] No hymns were added by Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai and Guru Har Krishan. In the Sikh tradition, Guru Hargobind is credited for adding the rāga tunes for nine out of 22 Vars. The hymns of IX Guru Tegh Bahadur, after his beheading in Delhi, were added to the scripture by his son and successor Guru Gobind Singh.[22]

In 1704 at Damdama Sahib, during a one-year respite from the heavy fighting with the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Guru Gobind Singh and Bhai Mani Singh added the religious compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur to the Adi Granth to create the final edition, called the Guru Granth Sahib.[29] Prior to Guru Gobind Singh, three versions of the Adi Granth pothi with minor variations were in circulation at Sikh shrines across the Indian subcontinent.[30] In addition, several unauthorized versions were in circulation, issued by sects founded by one of the sons or relatives of earlier Sikh Gurus such as Prithi Chand, Guru Arjan's elder brother.[30] Guru Gobind Singh issued the definitive final edition that included the hymns of his father, and closed the canon. This manuscript is called the Damdama bir, and a 1707 rare copy of this manuscript is now preserved at the Toshakhana in Nanded, Maharashtra.[30]

The compositions of Guru Gobind Singh were not included in the Guru Granth Sahib and set into the Dasven Padsah ka Granth, which is more popularly known as the Dasam Granth.[29] The compilation and release of this definitive edition of the latter was completed by Bhai Mani Singh.[31]

The Guru Granth Sahib contains predominantly hymns of the following Sikh Gurus: Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, and Guru Teg Bahadur.[32] It also contains hymns and verses of thirteen Hindu Bhakti movement sant poets (saints) and two Muslim saint poets. There are also adulatory verses for the Gurus such as Guru Nanak fused into some pages, those composed by bards (Bhatts). The hymns and verses are different lengths, some very long, others being just a few line verses.[10][32] Twenty-two of the thirty-one ragas contain the contributions of bhagats.[3] The following is a list of contributors whose hymns are present in the Guru Granth Sahib[33] as well as the number of hymns they contributed:[3]

In the 19th and 20th-century, several manuscript versions of the Adi Granth and the Guru Granth Sahib hymns have been discovered. This has triggered contesting theories about authenticity and how the canonical text of Sikhism evolved over time. There are five views:[34]

The entire Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhi script, which was standardized by Guru Angad in the 16th century. According to Sikh tradition and the Mahman Prakash, an early Sikh manuscript, Guru Angad Dev had taught and spread Gurmukhi at the suggestion of Guru Nanak Dev which has invented the Gurmukhi script.[36][37] The word Gurmukhī translates to "from the mouth of the guru". It descended from the Laṇḍā scripts and was used from the outset for compiling Sikh scriptures. The Sikhs assign a high degree of sanctity to the Gurmukhī script.[38] It is the official script for writing Punjabi in the Indian State of Punjab.

Gurus considered divine worship through shabad kirtan as the best means of attaining that state of bliss -vismad- which resulted in communion with God. The Guru Granth Sahib is divided by musical settings or rāgas[5] into 1430 pages known as angs "limbs" in Sikh tradition. It can be categorized into two sections:

The word raga refers to the "color"[39] and, more specifically, the emotion or mood produced by a combination or sequence of pitches.[40] A rāga is composed of a series of melodic motifs, based upon a definite scale or mode of the seven svara psalmizations,[41] that provide a basic structure around which the musician performs. Gurbani raags are not time dependent.

Following is the list of all sixty rāgas under which Gurbani is written, in order of appearance with page numbers:

In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh conferred the title of "Guru of the Sikhs" upon the Adi Granth. The event was recorded in a Bhatt Vahi (a bard's scroll) by an eyewitness, Narbud Singh, who was a bard at the Rajput rulers' court associated with gurus.[42] Sikhs since then have accepted the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture, as their eternal-living guru, as the embodiment of the ten Sikh Gurus, the highest religious and spiritual guide for Sikhs. It plays a central role in guiding the Sikh's way of life.[4][43]

No one can change or alter any of the writings of the Sikh gurus written in the Guru Granth Sahib. This includes sentences, words, structure, grammar, and meanings. This tradition was set by Guru Har Rai. He sent his eldest son Ram Rai as an emissary to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi. Aurangzeb, a devout Muslim ruler, objected to a verse in the Sikh scripture (Asa ki Var) that stated, "the clay from a Musalman's grave is kneaded into potter's lump", considering it an insult to Islam. Ram Rai tried to please the emperor by explaining that the text was miscopied and modified it, substituting "Musalman" with "Beiman" (faithless, evil) which Aurangzeb approved.[44][45] The willingness to change a word led Guru Har Rai to bar his son from his presence, and name his younger son as his successor.[45]

The Guru Granth Sahib is always the focal point in any gurdwara, seated on a raised platform known as a Takht (throne), while the congregation of devotees sits on the floor and bow before the guru as a sign of respect. The Guru Granth Sahib is given the greatest respect and honour. Sikhs cover their heads and remove their shoes while in the presence of this sacred scripture, their eternal living guru. The Guru Granth Sahib is normally carried on the head and as a sign of respect, never touched with unwashed hands or put on the floor.[46] It is attended with all signs of royalty, with a canopy placed over it. A chaur (fan whisk) is waved above the Guru Granth Sahib.[47]

The Guru Granth Sahib is taken care of by a Granthi, who is responsible for reciting from the sacred hymns and leading Sikh prayers. The Granthi also acts as caretaker for the Guru Granth Sahib, keeping the scripture covered in clean cloths, known as rumala, to protect from heat and dust. The Guru Granth Sahib rests on a manji sahib under a rumala until brought out again.[46]

Left: A palanquin being prepared for the daily sukhasan ritual to carry the scripture to a bedroom; Right: The palanquin carrying the Guru Granth Sahib to the sanctum at dawn (prakash).

There are several rituals performed every day in major Sikh gurdwaras (temples) such as the Golden Temple. These rituals treat the scripture as a living person, a guru, out of respect. The rituals include:[48][49]

Ernest Trumpp – a German philologist, published the first philological study and a major but incomplete translation of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1877, after an eight-year study of the text and field interviews with Sikh intelligentsia of his time.[51][52] Trumpp included his criticism of the Sikh scripture in the preface and introductory sections, and stated "Sikhism is a waning religion, that will soon belong to history". Many in the Sikh community regarded these introductory remarks to his translation as extremely offensive.[53][54] According to the Indologist Mark Juergensmeyer, setting aside Ernest Trumpp's nasty remarks, he was a German linguist and his years of scholarship, translations, as well as field notes and discussions with Sikhs at the Golden Temple remain valuable reference works for contemporary scholars.[55] While Akshaya Kumar holds Trumpp's translation to be "literal and mechanical" emphasizing preciseness and fastidiously retaining the words as well as the syntax of the original verses, avoiding any creative and inventive restatement to empathize with a believer,[56] Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair noted the clear influence from the Brahmanical leanings of his Nirmala collaborators,[57] among the British-supported Sikh class which had been long enjoying British patronage as they helped to keep “hostile” elements under control,[58] who for example induced Trumpp to omit the numeral “one” in the phrase Ik Oankar in his translation,[57] in an attempt to bring the scripture closer to the Brahmanical-influenced interpretation of the sects that differed with the interpretation of the orthodox Khalsa. Trumpp's translation was seen to be a challenge to the administration's already-established view that the Sikhs were a distinct community,[57] prompting the Khalsa to commission its own translation. Trumpp, as well as other translators, were commissioned by colonial administrators.[56]

Max Arthur Macauliffe – a British civil servant, was next to publish a major but incomplete translation of the Guru Granth Sahib, covering the same ground as Trumpp but interspersed his translation between Janamsakhis-based mythical history of the Sikh Gurus.[59][60] A major source of his historical information was Suraj Prakash of Santokh Singh, and his primary translation advisor was the prominent Khalsa Sikh scholar Kahn Singh Nabha – the author of Gurmat Prabhakar and Hum Hindu Nahin.[61][62] Macauliffe's translation appeared embedded in the six-volume The Sikh Religion and was published by Oxford University Press in 1909.[60] Unlike Trumpp who had disregarded the sensibilities and empathy for the Sikhs, Macauliffe used his creative editorial abilities to incorporate these sensibilities.[60] While Trumpp criticized Sikhism and the Guru Granth Sahib, Macauliffe criticized Hinduism and wrote an introduction that presented the hymns of Sikh Gurus as Christian-like with affinities to "Protestant virtues and ethics", presumably for a British audience, states Indologist Giorgio Shani.[63] Macauliffe's translation was well received by the Sikh community and considered by them as closer to how they interpret their scripture.[60] Post-colonial scholarship has questioned Macauliffe's accounting for and incorporation of Sikh traditions as "uncritical" and "dubious", though one that pleased the Sikh community.[60] Macauliffe's version has been widely followed by later scholars and translators.[60] According to Christopher Shackle – a scholar of Languages and Religion, Macauliffe's approach to translation was to work with Khalsa Sikh reformists of the 1890s (Singh Sabha) and exegetically present the scripture in a "progressive monotheism" fold that deserved the support of the British administration as a distinct tradition, and of the native Sikh clergy.[56] He used considerable freedom in restating the archaic poetry into a "vaguely psalm-like translation".[64]

The first complete English translation of the Guru Granth Sahib, by Gopal Singh, was published in 1960. A revised version published in 1978 removed archaic English words such as "thee" and "thou". In 1962, an eight-volume translation into English and Punjabi by Manmohan Singh was published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. In the 2000s, a translation by Sant Singh Khalsa appeared on major Sikhism-related websites such as 3HO/Sikh Dharma Brotherhood's[64]

Official versions of the Guru Granth Sahib are produced in Amritsar by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The SGPC printers are the only authorized worldwide publisher of the scripture, states the Sikh religious body Akal Takht.[68] Prior to 2006, Jeewan Singh Chattar Singh & Sons used to print the official versions and were the oldest publisher in Amritsar. However, in 2006, the Akal Takht banned them from printing the Sikh scripture after a sting operation showed that they were printing and mishandling the scripture as well as selling an illegal copy of the Sikh scripture to a Muslim seer.[69] A subsidiary of the SGPC, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, is the authorized printer and supplier of the Guru Granth Sahib to Sikhs outside of India. These facilities are a part of the Gurudwara Rakabganj in New Delhi.[70]

The original Guru Granth Sahib is in the possession of the Sodhi family of Kartarpur village, and is placed at Gurdwara Thum Sahib. The Sodhis are descendants of Guru Arjan Dev and Kartarpur was founded by him in 1598. Since the early 20th century, it has been printed in a standard edition of 1430 Angs. Prior to the late nineteenth century, only handwritten copies were prepared. The first printed copy of the Guru Granth Sahib was made in 1864. Any copies of the Guru Granth Sahib deemed unfit to be read from are cremated, with a ceremony similar to that for cremating a deceased person. Such a cremation is called Agan Bheta. The Guru Granth Sahib is currently printed in an authorized printing press in the basement of the Gurudwara Ramsar in Amritsar; misprints and set-up sheets, and printer's waste with any of its sacred text on, are cremated at Goindval.[71]