Multi-religiosity of Guru Granth Sahib Nanak Singh Nishter Scriptures generally belong to one community and faith and are a written document for their followers to follow and practice in life. They are revealed to the founder of a particular religion and are subsequently produced in written form. Almost all of them claim guide the entire human race and each proclaims to be the ultimate source for emancipation from the cycle of rebirth, salvation, entering paradise and other higher spiritual pedestals. In none of the Scriptures do non-believers of the respective faith or protagonists of other religions find a place. Guru Granth Sahib is different. The uniqueness of Guru Granth Sahib is that it is a multi-religious scripture. Out of the authors of its text, only 6 are the Sikh Gurus and the remaining 30 belong to different caste, creed, and religion, from nook and corner of the country, who have contributed in different communicative spoken languages of their time. All of them are sitting together in Guru Granth Sahib at one place and preaching how to become a good human being by following respective religions. A Muslim is advised to be a good Muslim and so it is for the Hindu and that too according to the ideals and precepts of their respective religions. It actually goes even beyond that. In a significant departure from the usually understood meaning of religiosity, the text of Guru Granth Sahib inspires to go to the extent of sacrificing oneself for the protection of the oppressed, freedom of faith and against forcible conversion. The contents of Guru Granth Sahib were revealed to these 36 pious souls during a span of 500 years from Hazrat Baba Sheikh Farid Ji (1175-1265) to Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji (1621-1675). It is a digest of teachings of different religious faiths and a vast multilingual library in itself for the benefit of entire mankind. It also serves as a living guide to leading life covering all aspects –from the routine to the spiritual. The beauty of Guru Granth Sahib is that, it does not start with any particular name of God but with the numerical “1” (One) -a unique name given to God. It continues the one line description of God with “Mangla Charan” (praising verse). This is written in full form and abbreviated form at the beginning of chapters and Ragas 525 times. Guru Granth Sahib is much more than a spiritual guide and a multi-religious teacher. It preaches honest living, unity of people of different religions and upholding dignity of all irrespective of caste, creed and gender. It is also a matchless treasure for protection of Indian civilization, classical ragas, reference to historical events, inspiration for sovereignty for individuals, religions and the country. Guru Granth Sahib is an un-imaginary literary collection which can serve as a source of guidance and inspiration for those whose souls are dead. If the teachings are diligently followed, it prepares us fully to meet the challenges of life. Religion of Guru Nanak Sahib The First Master -Guru Nanak Sahib denounced to be a Hindu or a Muslim. At the age of 11, when the Janevoo-the sacred thread for upper caste Hindus, ceremony was to be performed, he plainly refused, denying making a distinction between human beings. He proclaimed, “There is No Hindu and there is No Muslim”. On page 353 of Guru Granth Sahib, he unambiguously declared, “My caste and prestige is the True Name of God. Love of truth is my ritual, faith and self control.” hmrI jwiq piq scu nwau] krm Drm sMjmu sq Bwau] The Fifth Master, Guru Arjan Sahib Ji in the vastly read chapter of ‘sukhmani’ on page 266 does not claim Sikhism as the only best religion, but declares that, “Of all the religions, the best religion is to always remember God’s name and to do good deeds. Of all the religious rites, the best one is to remove the filth of evil thoughts by association and interaction with good people.” srb Drm mih sRyst Drm] hir ko nwmu jip inrml krmu] sgl ikRAw mih aUqm ikirAw] swDsMig durmiq mlu ihirAw] Religion of Guru Granth Sahib On page 8, in the first chapter “Jap”, Guru Nanak Sahib says, “Good deeds and bad deeds shall be examined in the court of the True Lord. According to their respective deeds, they shall be nearer or distant from the Lord i.e., reprimanded or rewarded.” cMigAweIAw buirAweIAw vwcY Drmu hdUir] krmI Awpo AwpxI ky nyVY ky dUir] Again on page 142, Guru Sahib says, “Test the truth, what is the worth of the religion? Take the poison in your hand and taste it and show how your religion can save you from death, the result of consuming poison? The sovereignty of the True Lord is prevailing throughout all the ages. He who submits to His Will becomes a noble in His Court.” jwqI dY ikAw hiQ scu prKIAY] mhurw hovY hiQ mrIAY cKIAY] scy kI isrkwr jugu jugu jwxIAY] hukmu mMny isrdwru dir dIbwxIAY] Sanctity of All Religions On page 853, the third Master, Guru Amardas Ji prays saying, “O’ God the world is like a house on fire, have mercy and save them from whatever ways and means i.e., different religions and faiths they are coming from.” jgqu jlMdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwir] ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir] Muslim preachers of Sikh ideology Bhai Mardana was 11 years older to Guru Nanak Sahib and used to visit the house of Guru Sahib with his relative Dolatan who was midwife to the infant Guru. He became the life long companion of Guru Sahib till he breathed his last at the age of 61 in 1520 at a place called Khurram on the banks of river Khurram in Afghanistan. Guru Sahib himself buried him in accordance with Muslim rites. Since childhood, he used to play the Rebab and perform Kirtan with Guru Sahib. Guru Nanak Sahib revolted against forcible conversion of people from one religion to another, invasion on the land, language and culture of other sections of society. The infamous Sajjan thug, who had his sarai (Travelers Inn) at village Talumbha between Lahore and Multan, became the disciple and then preacher and was respected as Sheikh Sajjan. In Pakistan, there is a Gurdwara built in his memory at that place. Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, has named one of its important buildings as “Sheikh Sajjan Guest House”. The third Master, Guru Amardas Ji established 22 Manjiyan (centres) for preaching Sikh ideology. The chief of one on the centres was a Muslim -Bhai Allah Yar Khan. During the period of the sixth Master, Guru Hargobind Ji, Bi Bi Kaulan - daughter of a Qazi of Lahore was the preacher. Guru Sahib built a Mosque at Hargobindpur in Gurdaspur district which is popularly known as “Guru Ki Maseet”. After partition of the country, the Muslim population migrated from that place and the Mosque was deserted. The Sikhs had converted the place into a Gurdwara and called it “Gurdwara Guru Ki Maseet”. In the year 2003 some Muslims came to settle in the village. Without being asked, the Sikhs vacated the place and handed over to the Muslims. Since then it has been restored to its previous glory of a heritage mosque as “Guru Ki Maseet”. For nearly five centuries -from the days of Bhai Mardana till 1947, Muslims were performing Kirtan in the Durbar of all the Gurus and at Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple. Only after the partition of the country the last Muslim Keertanya Bhai Chand left Harmandir Sahib and migrated to Pakistan. With this the golden era of Muslims preaching the Sikh ideology came to an abrupt end. However at Nankana Sahib and other historical Gurdwaras in Pakistan, particularly when Sikh pilgrims visit, Muslim bards perform Keertan with great devotion. Revolt for freedom of faith Guru Nanak Sahib revolted against forcible conversion of people from one religion to another, invasion on the land, language and culture of other sections of society. On page 1191, Guru Sahib says “The Aad Purakh (Hindu name for Primal Lord) is now being called Allah (Muslim name of the same Lord), now the turn of Sheikhs (Muslim divines) has come. Non-Muslim people and their religious places i.e., Hindus and temples have been imposed the Jazia tax. Such a practice has come into vogue. The ablution-pots, calls to prayer, Nimaz (Muslim prayer) and payer-mats are seen everywhere and the Banwari (God) appear in blue form. In every house, the indigenous language has been changed and now all the persons are accustomed to use the word ‘Mian’, an Arabic word for addressing a person.” Awid purK kau Alhu khIAY syKW AweI vwrI] dyvl dviqAw kru lwgw AYsI kIriq cwlI] kUjw bWg invwj muslw nIl rUp bnvwrI] Gir Gir mIAw sBnW jIAW bolI Avr qumwrI] Holiest place of worship The holiest place of worship of the Sikhs is Darbar Sahib popularly known as the Golden Temple at Amritsar. It was founded by the fifth Master, Guru Arjan Sahib to place this multi-religious Scripture Aad Granth Sahib i.e., the earlier name of Guru Granth Sahib. The multicultural approach of Guru Arjan Sahib is matchless. The shrine’s name has a Hindu name, being called Harmandir Sahib and the foundation stone for the shrine was laid by a Muslim savant, Saint Hazrat Mian Mir. This was certainly an unparalleled revolutionary step in the history of the world religions. The utmost beauty of the religious practice of the House of Guru Nanak is the practice of true Humanism and Secularism. Everyone is welcome and every one bows their heads in reverence to Guru Granth Sahib as their Living Guru (spiritual guide) which contains the gospel truth of Gurus, Hindus, Muslims and those from the underprivileged sections of society. This practice is on for the last four hundred years and will continue till eternity. In the temple of the Jews, non-Jews are not allowed and similarly non-Zoroastrians are not permitted into a Parsi temple. In Churches, non-Christians are not entitled to receive the sacred bread and wine during Communion Service. In the holy cities of Mecca and Madina, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter. Even today, in most of the Hindu temples, low caste Hindus and non-Hindus are not permitted to enter. The Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi, a Brahmin by birth was denied entry in Jaggan Nath Temple of Puri in Orissa, on the pretext that she had denounced Hinduism by marrying a non-Hindu. Another Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who posed himself wearing Janevoo (Hindu Sacred Thread) over his clothes at the pyre of his mother, was also denied entry in the same temple, because of his parentage. The utmost beauty of the religious practice of the House of Guru Nanak is the practice of true Humanism and Secularism. Everyone is welcome and every one bows their heads in reverence to Guru Granth Sahib as their Living Guru (spiritual guide) which contains the gospel truth of Gurus, Hindus, Muslims and those from the underprivileged sections of society. This practice is on for the last four hundred years and will continue till eternity. Compilation of the Text In olden days there was a Gurukul system in India and some other parts of the world. Seekers of truth had to converge at these centres where there were teachers, several saints and sages to impart training in the ways of the world and prepare them to meet challenges of life. Guru Nanak Sahib broke this mould too. This teacher-visionary Guru wandered most parts of the then accessible and inaccessible world, covering forty thousand miles in forty years, teaching people at their own centres of learning. This remarkable feat was achieved despite the constraints of unavailability of proper conveyance systems. Guru Granth Sahib is much more than a spiritual guide and a multi-religious teacher. It preaches honest living, unity of people of different religions and upholding dignity of all irrespective of caste, creed and gender. It is also a matchless treasure for protection of Indian civilization, classical ragas, reference to historical events, inspiration for sovereignty for individuals, religions and the country. Guru Granth Sahib is an un-imaginary literary collection which can serve as a source of guidance and inspiration for those whose souls are dead. If the teachings are diligently followed, it prepares us fully to meet the challenges of life. I will not be wrong if I say that no travel writer has covered such a distance. There is need for scholars –Sikhs and others to rediscover Guru Nanak Sahib as a World Traveler. To continue his mission, Guru Nanak introduced the concept of Guru (teacher-guide) in Shabad (knowledge) and a unique succession system of Gurus to carry out the mission. His nine successors carried on the mission in person and the tenth Guru conferred the Guruship to the Holy Scripture Guru Granth Sahib (a collection of Shabads) in 1708. This event marks the beginning of an unending Guruship –this Guru being the all-time Guru till eternity. For preparation of the Scripture, the first Master, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) started collecting the revelations and teachings of many pious souls from their places, in their original different folk languages, even though they had passed away more than 250 years prior to his birth. The first Five Gurus continued the process of compiling and collecting the material for 135 years from 1469 to 1604 for inclusion in this Scripture. The fifth Master, Guru Arjan Sahib Ji got it inscribed over a period of five years under his personal supervision from 1599 to 1604. Out of the 36 contributors, 7 are Muslims, 6 are Sikh Gurus, 2 are so-called untouchables, 1 is a Sikh and the remaining are Hindus from different denominations. Its chapters are arranged in 31 Indian Classical Ragas and consist of 1430 pages of large size. The verses of the ninth Master, Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji were added in the year 1705, before conferring Guruship in the year 1708. It has a unique numbering system for every line, hymn and chapter giving the total number with the headings of the name of author. In all editions available, the lines and page numbers are the same. Script of the Text To transcribe the multilingual collection in one easy to read script in accordance with the first Guru’s instructions, the second Master, Guru Angad Sahib Ji invented a script known as Gurmukhi, leaving aside several existing scripts. This is a scientific and simplified script made perfectly phonetic to suit the different spoken languages inscribed in Guru Granth Sahib. A person of common intellect does not require more than one week for learning Gurmukhi and proficiency can easily be gained through usage. Conclusion Conceptions of God vary widely. Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. Concepts held by individual believers and religions vary so widely that there is no clear consensus on the name and nature of God. Moreover different beliefs have caused conflicts and hatred against other believers. Such a trend continues even till this day. To create international understanding for the worship of God and equality of human beings, Guru Granth Sahib insists upon the oneness of the Absolute Creator, irrespective of different names and condemns the barriers of geographical boundaries, languages and rituals, which have caused a gulf between followers of other religions. The secret of effectiveness of Gurbani lies in the words of wisdom and practical experience gained by the 36 pious souls over a period of five centuries, through God’s revelations. These religious souls practiced what the preached and attained communion with God to impart Universal Truth and not just text-book philosophical ideas. The multi-religious nature of Guru Granth Sahib prevents the Sikhs from any communal hatred and ill feelings in the name of religion. The brutalities of the Mughal emperors for about two centuries, leading to the near-extinction of the community could not make the Sikhs, anti-Muslim. Similarly, the countrywide genocide and plundering of the Sikhs in the eighties of the twentieth century by the Hindu rulers and Hindu masses could not make them, anti-Hindu. It is the duty of the Sikh world to realise the responsibility of sharing the multi-religious message of Guru Granth Sahib all over the world in different languages for the brotherhood of all human beings and fatherhood of God. The Gurus gave us Gurbani and offered several sacrifices, to light the lamp which would dispel the darkness of ignorance for all mankind for all times. This is the only way as desired by our Gurus.