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The Chaupa Singh Rahitnama

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by SPN Reporter, Jun 17, 2004.

  1. SPN Reporter

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    What is a Rahitnama Among Sikhs Rahit means a discipline which they are required to follow in their daily life. It represents their life-style and is an index of their world-view. Nama means a writing or a manual. Rahitnama is, therefore, a codified statement of Sikhs' conduct in life. It is supposed to be a comprehensive list of do's and don'ts, prescribing how a follower should respond or behave in particular situations. While all the Gurus had stressed virtuous conduct in religious life, Guru Gobind Singh is credited with having said, "He alone is my Sikh who follows the rahit. In fact he is the Master and I am his disciple." Extensive references to man's conduct in Gurbani and the vars of Bhai Gurdas show that a distinct Sikh way of life had emerged by the end of the 17th century, with emphasis on internal as well as external rahit. The Guru says : "He who sports kes without the rahit of pahul, Is a fool and an imposter; I will not see him. He is a sinner, And he should drop his `garb'." The guidelines were perhaps not put together in a systematic manner. In 1699, however, when Guru Gobind Singh launched the Khalsa Order, promulgation of detailed injunctions for the initiates to follow was an imperative need. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that some kind of rahitnama was drafted. This was all the more necessary, since large numbers of disciples had to be initiated through the amrit ceremony by several teams or jathas of Panj Piaras, and uniformity of injunctions had to be ensured. This assumption is shared by all scholars including Piara Singh Padam and W H McLeod. Unfortunately, no such record is traceable. All the extant manuscripts of rahitnamas date back to a later period, although most of them claim to have been commissioned or approved by Guru Gobind Singh himself. Chaupa Singh's Rahitnama is no exception. Its extant versions have been dated between 1740 and 1765 CE.
     
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  3. SPN Reporter

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    Other Rahitnamas ::

    Pandit Tara Singh Narotam (1884) was the first to discuss the rahitnamas current in his time. He has listed 21 rahitnamas in the Sri Guru Tirath Sangrah. Chaupa Singh's rahitnama is mentioned at no. 14 in the list. Other authors include Bhai Desa Singh, Bhai Harnam Singh, Sainapat, Bhai Santokh Singh, Bhai Sukha Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, Kesar Singh, and Sarup Chand Bhalla. Besides, there are some anonymous works like Prem Sumarg or Param Sumarg, Sarb Loh Parkash Granth and Gobind Geeta which are wrongly attributed to Guru Gobind Singh himself. The next man to study the rahitnamas was Bhai Bhagwan Singh of Patna, whose list given in his Bar Bimal Bibek Baradhi Granth includes as many as thirty seven rahitnamas. Because of his work in this area he was known as Bhagwan Singh Rahitnamia. While the various attempts vary in size and differ in details, one thing is common to all of them. None of these were written during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh. Most of them appeared during the middle of the 18th century. The question of their approval by the Guru, therefore, does not arise. Also, they are neither uniform in content nor free from bias on the part of the author or the one who sponsored it. Chaupa Singh text is no exception.
     
  4. FireStorm

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    Excellent Post Sikh Reporter.

    You have rightly pointed out that Rahitnamas are NOT documents whose complete contents can be taken per se. They contents need to be seen and evaluated in the light of Gurmat.

    What qualifies, needs to be accepted. The rest can be safely rejected.
     
  5. SPN Reporter

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    Who was Chaupa Singh ?

    Chaupa Singh was a Chhibbar Brahmin from Kariala in Jhelum district of Punjab (now in Pakistan). He was a trusted member of the Guru's retinue. Guru Tegh Bahadur entrusted him with the care of infant Gobind Das (later Guru Gobind Singh), which gives him the title of Khidawa. It is also claimed that he participated in the ceremony of Khande da pahul when it was introduced for the first time, and that he was also the first recipient of the Pahul. There is, however, no historical evidence to support this claim. Kesar Singh Chhibbar, the author of Bansavlinama, who was also from the same Brahmin family and a relative of Chaupa Singh, says that Chaupa Singh wrote the first rahitnama, Budh Bibek, attributed to prominent learned Sikhs of the time called Muktas entrusted with this responsibility. The number of these muktas has been reported to be 14 by Kesar Singh and 25 by Koer Singh. The author of Gur Partap Suraj, however, mentions only 5 muktas, and Chaupa Singh is not among them. Their names are : Deva Singh, Ram Singh, Tehal Singh, Ishar Singh and Fateh Singh. This rahitnama, according to Kesar Singh, contained 1800 injunctions. This must be different from the present manuscript of Chaupa Singh Rahitnama, which appears to be a later work on the basis of language and style. A colophon towards its end suggests that this was in fact written by Gurbakhsh Singh, son of Dharam Chand Chhibbar, the Guru's treasurer. According to Kesar Singh Chhibbar's Bansavlinama, Chaupa Singh's grandfather Gotam became a Sikh and was followed in this allegiance by his two sons, Bhai Pera and Bhai Praga. The former was Chaupa Singh's father, while Praga served Guru Hargobind as a soldier with distinction and "... fathered a lineage which included several prominent servants of the Guru. While still a child, Chaupat Rai (which was the earlier name of Chaupa Singh) was dedicated by his parents to the service of Guru Har Rai. During the period of Guru Tegh Bahadur he was employed as a khidawa to the infant Gobind Das and according to the rahitnama he was also entrusted with the task of teaching him Gurmukhi and Takri letters." The name Chaupa Singh was apparently assumed later when he was initiated into the Khalsa Order. Chaupa Singh is also reported to have assisted in escorting the women of the Guru's entourage to Delhi after evacuation of Anandpur. He remained in Delhi until he was executed in 1723 CE among sixty Sikhs including Mata Sundri's adopted son Jit Singh on charge of killing a Muslim faqir. Other prominent members of the Chhibbar family (descendants of Bhai Praga) are Dargah Mal and Hira Mal who served Guru Har Rai, Bhai Mati Das and Sati Das who served Guru Harkrishan and Guru Tegh Bahadur and became martyrs with the Guru in Delhi, and Bhai Dharam Chand and Sahib Chand who served the Tenth Master as Treasurer and Divan, respectively. The Chhibbar family thus enjoyed a closeness to the Guru which is unparalleled in Sikh history. Kesar Singh Chhibbar who later wrote the Bansavlinama dasan patshahia da, was also a scion of this family.
     
  6. SPN Reporter

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    The Manuscripts

    W H McLeod was able to trace only four copies of the rahitnama. He believes that because of the long-standing doubts attached to the text's credentials, not many manuscripts from the 18th century now survive. 1. Sikh Reference Library (SRL) Text Until 1984 the Sikh Reference Library in Amritsar had a manuscript (Catalogue No. 6124). The Library was, however, destroyed during the Blue Star attack on the Golden Temple Complex, and thus the manuscript was lost. This was the only surviving copy of the 18th century manuscript. However, Dr McLeod had made a copy of it and lodged it with the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. 2. The Khalsa College Text Held in the Sikh Reference Department of the Khalsa College Amritsar, it is a modern transcription of the combined Chaupa Singh / Nand Lal text (Manuscript no. SHR 277). It was copied from a manuscript held by Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo. In text it follows the Sikh Reference Library manuscript so closely that it could be its direct copy. The minor inconsistencies that exist could be expected from an inexperienced copyist. 3. The Guru Nanak Dev University Text (MS 1018) Scribed by one Harnam Singh Khatri in 1856-57, it comprises two separate collections brought together in a single binding, "The first part is obviously taken from an earlier manuscript which was evidently dismantled and divided." The second segment continues the Chaupa Singh Rahitnama and carries it to its conclusion. It also includes the Nand Lal Rahitnama at the end after recording a material account of the inauguration of the Khalsa. "In terms of script and general presentation Guru Nanak Dev University text is even neater and clearer than the Sikh Reference Library text." 4. The Piara Singh Padam (PSP) Text Piara Singh Padam seems to have transcribed and published the copy made by Randhir Singh as far as Chaupa Singh Rahitnama part is concerned. It is certainly not a copy of the Sikh Reference Library text. "There are numerous variants distinguishing the Piara Singh Padam text from the other versions. Four of the variants which deserve notice are : a) "The PSP text commences with an introductory prologue which the other manuscripts lack. This prologue offers an account of the rahit-nama's origin which conflicts with that of the manuscripts's colophon. It has obviously been appended to earlier version of the text. b) "The PSP text lacks the erratic passage comprising sections 113-116 which occurs in the other three manuscripts. c) "Like the SRL and Khalsa College versions the PSP text omits the portions which includes the account of Guru Gobind Singh's alleged hom ceremony (194-247). It also omits the lengthy series of anecdotes illustrating the condign punishment awaiting those who oppose or defame the Guru (248-280). In this latter respect it differs from all three of the other versions. d) "Whereas the PSP version concludes with the colophon, the other manuscripts append a supplement. This supplement adds further comment concerning the coming anarchy and records a blessing which the Guru allegedly bestowed on the descendants of a certain Bhai Mittu. The PSP text is slightly shorter than the other three, for in addition to the material noted above under (b)-(d) the text represented by the other three manuscripts is more prone to minor supplements. The word-count, however, is not important. What matters is that a comparison of the two texts plainly suggests a certain relationship and a clear priority. The overwhelming dominance of their common material indicates a common source, one in which the four major Chaupa Singh components had already been brought together. Indeed, as we have noted above, it is probably safe to assume that the manuscript utilised by Piara Singh Padam also included Nand Lal prose rahit-nama and that one can accordingly recognise a common source comprising five major components. The differences are nevertheless important. They signal a divergence, one which will require closer analysis in the later section. At this point it is sufficient to note that the language and glosses of the PSP version mark it as a late recension than the main text recorded in the other three manuscripts." 5. "Another version appears in a cyclostyled document edited by Shamsher Singh Ashok issued privately in October 1979 under the title Guru Khalsa de Rahitnamé." There is, however, no satisfactory evidence as to its authenticity. The Structure The text is divided into five parts in all rescensions : - Rahitnama I - Narrative I - Rahitnama II - Narrative II - Rahitnama Nand Lal The Piara Singh Padam recension has an introduction or a prologue in addition. The narrative part includes an anecdotal series and a linkage passage besides a brief resume of rahitnama. The Guru Nanak Dev University recension also includes description of the hom ceremony allegedly performed by Guru Gobind Singh to seek blessings of the Devi, which is missing in all other rescensions. In spite of this and minor variations all the four rescensions appear to share a common source or origin.
     
  7. SPN Reporter

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    Discussion

    Dr W H McLeod has conducted a detailed study of this rahitnama using the Guru Nanak Dev University text which, in his opinion, is the oldest and most comprehensive. The closeness of its author and the Chhibbar family to the Guru's house is an important additional merit that reinforces its claim to reliability. He laments, however, that this tradition "has attracted little attention in the intervening centuries". He quotes Kahn Singh who represents the view generally held by Sikh scholars : "Chaupa Singh : This respected person was the tenth Guru's tutor (Khidawa) and a loyal Sikh of the Satguru. He compiled a rahitnama which has been extensively corrupted by ignorant Sikhs." Dr McLeod has further himself ventured five reasons to explain this neglect : 1. Structure : Two rahitnama parts with intervening narratives and the added section attributed to Nand Lal in the extant text, cannot be regarded as the work of a single author. 2. Doctrine : Some of the injunctions indicate a clear bias in favour of Brahmins and against Muslims, which conflicts the `twentieth century orthodoxy'. The text also does not mention the five Ks and the marriage ritual. 3. Influence of the Devi cult : The rahitnama "relates as if it were authentic, the notorious story that Guru Gobind Singh was persuaded to seek the blessings of Mata Devi (the goddess Kali or Durga) on his new Panth by celebrating the traditional hom or fire ritual." This "inevitably detracts from the rahitnama's claims to authenticity in the eyes of the 20th century readers. All who share Singh Sabha inheritance must reject this story as spurious and with it any claims that the extant Chaupa Singh Rahitnama is reliable as history." Also, the Puranic cosmology introduced towards the end of the rahitnama, provides "another reason for treating the rahitnama as dubious in origin or corrupt in terms of its extant text." 4. Chhibbar Interests : There are "unctuous references to Chhibbar Brahmins which appear in both narrative portions of the Chaupa Singh text. These are plainly intended to serve a family purpose, asserting on behalf of its members a claim to special deference within the Panth ......How could Guru Gobind Singh possibly inspire or sanction such self-interested claims ?" 5. Language : "Piara Singh Padam questions the authenticity of the extant text on the grounds that its language and style are later than the usage current during the time of Guru Gobind Singh." Also its Lahndi content suggests "either a work composed in the area Northwards of Lahore or one which was subsequently revised there." "One might well have expected the Punjabi to be more strongly Majhi or Doabi with a positive tendency towards Braj" in a key work "prepared in the Darbar of Guru Gobind Singh and under his supervision".
     
  8. Admin Singh

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    Dont you think Rehat Maryada should be amended with changing times... Why is there always a conflict. Rehat Maraya devised in 1925 may be valid for those times but can the same be said to today... just a thought.
     
  9. FireStorm

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    Yes and NO, I think

    Yes to all the points which seem to be created on hearsay.

    No to things whihc are the basis of sikhi like Kesh, 5 K's, Baani etc.
     
  10. Admin Singh

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    Hearsay ?? Could you please be a little bit more precise as to what comprises hearsay and should not be part of the Maryada ?

    Thankyou
     
  11. SPN Reporter

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    Some Comments on Chaupa Singh Rahitnama

    What do think about the following observations?

    1. Chaupa Singh Rahitnama is among the earliest attempts made to codify the rahit or lifestyle of a Sikh. It is also the most comprehensive among the available rahitnamas with details far greater than those in any other such attempt made so far.

    2. Although the injunctions do not appear in a logical sequence, they deal with almost every aspect of a Sikh's life. The coverage includes personal and social behaviour, caste, sangat, Guru Granth Sahib, rituals, food, weapons and warfare, salutations, women's' duties, travel and pilgrimage, false teachers, enemies of the Guru and attitude towards Muslims, besides a large number of sundry injunctions.

    3. The early origin of a rahitnama, and the closeness of its author to the Guru should normally guarantee its acceptability. This has not, however, been the case with the Chaupa Singh Rahitnama. Sikh scholars, by and large, neglected it.

    The reasons are :

    a) The extant manuscript of the rahitnama appears to have been scribed sometimes in the middle of the 18th century, over 50 years after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh. The original text written by Chaupa Singh and approved by the Guru, if there was any, is not traceable.

    b) Large scale interpolations are suspected to have taken place, so that there are injunctions that conflict with the doctrine preached in Guru Granth Sahib, and by Guru Gobind Singh himself.

    c) It is difficult to justify the inclusion of the two narrative parts in the rahitnama. These have little to do with rahit and appear to have been introduced to promote the vested interests of Brahmins in general and the Chhibbar family in particular. The story of the worship of devi by Guru Gobind Singh as well as apocalyptic references in these narratives are clearly out of place. The former (devi story) has been vehemently denied and rejected by recent research. The latter (so-called prophecies) are in fact a commentary on the situation that prevailed half a century after Guru Gobind Singh's demise, which again shows that the available text of the rahitnama was recorded sometimes in the middle of the 18th century, and not during the Guru's life-time.

    4. A desirable feature of the rahitnama is the support most of the injunctions derive from the verses in Guru Granth Sahib profusely quoted in it. No such support is, however, available in case of suspected interpolations. The devi worship story and the doctrinal conflict are the more important objections. These are, therefore, dealt with in greater detail in the following paragraphs.
     
  12. Neutral Singh

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