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Dasam Granth - A Historical Perspective


Jun 1, 2004
Dasam Granth - A Historical Perspective
(Late) Principal Harbhajan Singh

It is admitted by all historians that in the lifetime
of Guru Gobind Singh, there existed no such
manuscript, now known as Dasam Granth. However, there
is a mention of a granth named Vidya Sagar, which is
supposed to have been a compilation of some writings
of the Guru and the poets at his court. This granth,
if it ever existed, is said to have been lost at the
battle of Anandpur Sahib in the year 1704 AD.
Therefore, to understand the issue of the Dasam
Granth, one has to fall back on the writings of the
Guru's near contemporaries and, above all, on the
irrefutable criterion of the ideology of Guru Granth
Sahib. It is an established fact that Guru Gobind
Singh, at the time of his demise, bestowed Guruship on
Granth Sahib.-1 What is even more significant is that
the Guru neither prepared any granth of his own,
equivalent in holy status to Adi Granth, nor thought
it fit to include any composition of his own in the

How the title changed?

The granth was given different names at different
times in the following
a) Bachittar Natak
b) Daswen Patshah ka Granth
c) Dasam Granth
d) Sri Dasam Granth
e) Sri Dasam Granth Sahib
f) Sri Dasam Guru Granth Sahib

These names are very misleading, and the pity is that
these have not been given by any responsible and
representative body, society, or the Panth as a whole,
but just by individuals, small organizations or
publishers. According to Dr Rattan Singh Jaggi, "There
is no unanimity among the historians regarding the
date of compilation of this granth, but according to
Sikh tradition the decision to compile it in one
volume was made conditional on the success of the
mission of Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh.
Later, it is said Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Sukha Singh
of Patna prepared their own Birs (volumes) by adding
more material to it. Uptil then, the granth was named
as Bachittar Natak, which later came to be named as
the granth of the Tenth Guru."-3

As Bachittar Natak

Bachittar or Vachittar Natak, according to Mahan Kosh
of Bhai Kahan
Singh, denotes one of the following:
a) Wonderful or strange drama;
b) That part of Dasam Granth which pertains to the
stories of Avtars (incarnations) and other historical
narratives, written in dramatic style;
c) Part of the granth comprising fourteen chapters,
wherein some happenings in the life of Guru Gobind
Singh have been incorporated.

A careful analysis of the inner evidence of the granth
helps us to find out which meaning of Bachittar Natak,
given in Mahan Kosh, is appropriate or inappropriate
for different parts of the granth. In the first place,
those portions of the granth about the authorship of
which there are no two opinions among Sikh scholars,
do not have any internal indication anywhere, showing
them as Bachittar Nanak.-4

Secondly, fourteen chapters, wherein some happenings
of the life of Guru Gobind Singh have been
incorporated, are clearly marked as Bachittar Natak,
both as a sub-heading and at the end of each chapter.

Thirdly, Charitro Pakhyan and Hakayats (stories in
Persian) are so obscene that they are not worthy of
even being spoken of as Bachittar Natak, which has not
been done in the granth either.

Fourthly, the rest of the writings can be called
Bachit1ar Natak, and they have been so indicated at
the end of most of the writings, in the sense, that
these are mythical and dramatic narratives.

As Dasam Granth

The contents of the so-called Dasam Granth may be
divided broadly into the following categories for the
purpose of our study:

i) Hymns, considered by all to be compositions of
Guru Gobind Singh 50
ii) Bachittar Natak (14 Chapters) 36
iii)Both of the Chandi Charittras and Chandi Di Var 53
iv) Chaubis Avtars, etc. 674
v) Charittro Pakhyan and Hakayats in Persian 615

(Note: The total number of pages indicated in this
article are taken from the published volume of Dasam
Granth as available in 1428 pages).

Out of 1428 pages, the Guru's hymns occupy only 50
pages and Charittro Pakhyan and Hakayats (which
neither claim to be Bachittar Natak, nor can their
contents entitle them to be so), cover 615 pages. The
composition that has been given the heading of
Bachittar Natak comprises only 14 chapters and each
chapter ends with the remark, "Iti Bachittar Natak
Granthe ...." (Here ends the Bachittar Natak Granth).
In the rest of the writings, Bachittar Natak is not
given as a heading of any composition, but "Iti
Bachittar JVatak Granth..." occurs at the end of most
of the chapters related to Avtar stories.

The picture that emerges clearly is that, whereas
Bachittar Natak Granth is referred to many times
within the so-called Dasam Granth, there is not a
single instance where Dasam Granth, as such, is
mentioned within its text. It is an established part
of Sikh tradition that the different portions of this
granth lay scattered at different places, and were
collected together to form one volume -5 some decades
after the demise of the Tenth Master and consequent to
the success of the mission of Bhai Sukha Singh and
Bhai Mehtab Singh. It did not end here. To the first
collection were added, later on, more writings, and it
is these collections which came to be named first as
Bachittar JVatak then as Daswen Patshah ka Granth,-6
still later as Dasam Granth, and recently by some
publisher as Sri Dasam Guru Granth Sahib.

Decision for Compilation

What is an even more significant part of the
established Sikh tradition is that when the decision
to compile the different pothis or writings for the
first time into one volume was made, there was a
serious debate at Damdama (Bathinda), as to whether
the different parts of this granth merited at all to
be joined together in a single volume.-7 The
overwhelming opinion in this debate, even then, was
not in favour of compiling the different pothis or
writings in a single volume; only the minority opinion
favoured different pothis to be compiled toghether.8
Hence, there is not even a prima facie case for
assuming this granth to be an integrated, single
one-piece work, much less can it to be regarded as the
composition of a single author. A summary reference to
the analysis of the contents of the granth by Dr Jaggi
would confirm this conclusion.

Here it is relevant to state that Dr Ashta has
attributed the collection of the granth to Bhai Mani
Singh. This he bases primarily on a letter purported
to have been written by Bhai Sahib to Mata Sundri. Dr
Jaggi, whose thesis Dasam Granth ka Kartritva, which
has been commended by Dr H.P. Dwivedi, has examined
this issue in det" il and comes to the conclusion that
the letter is fake.

Internal Evidence

a) There are only four extant manuscripts of the Cii
anth which are recognized by scholars. All these
differ malc.ria]ly even as regards the subject matter,
number of pages, the headings of the chapters, the
number of verses in them, and their sequences and
arrangements, etc. There are too many variations to be
recounted here. 9

b) Pen-names of Ram, Sham, Kali and Gobind are found
in different compositions indicating them to be the
poet-authors of these.'10

IdeoIogical Contradictions

a) Within the granth

There are glaring contradictions within the text
itself on ideological issues which are fundamental to
Sikhism. For example, Sikhism stands for unalloyed

"0 man, worship none but God,
not a thing made by Him.
Know that He Who was in the beginning,
Unborn, Invincible, and Indestructible is God.
What if Vishnu, coming into this world
killed some of the demons,
And exercising great deceit
induced every one to call him God.
Hear, O fool !
How can he who was drowned in the ocean
of the world save thee?"11
"One Shiv was born, one died,
and one was born again;
There have also been many incarnations
of Ram Chander and Krishan.
How many Brahmas and Vishnus there have been !
How many Veds and Puranas !
How many collections of Sirnritis
there have been and passed away !..."12
"Some fasten an idol firmly to their breasts;
Some say that Shiv is God; ...
Some say that Ram is God; some say Krishan;
Some in their hearts accept
the incarnations as God;
But I have forgotten all vain religions
and know in my heart
That the Creator is the only God."13

As against this clear-cut ideology of Guru Gobind
Singh himself, 455 pages have been devoted in the
granth to idolise Chaubis Avtaars and 99 pages to
idolise the Avtaars of Brahma, Rudra, and other.

One item that requires particular notice relates to
the worship of gods and goddesses, particularly that
of Durga, Bhawani, Kali, Shiva, Sitla, etc., which are
all supposed to be the incarnation of Parbati Devi, or
Shiva, meaning the spouse of Shivji and not Shivji
himself. What has been said about the condemnation of
the Avtaars of Vishnu and the Devi, applies equally to
the mythical incarnation of other gods and goddesses.
In addition, we have the hymn clearly condemning the
worship of Devi by name, "Boundless is His Form, and
boundless His Voice; in the shelter of His Feet
dwelleth Bhavani."14

b) With the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib

i) Whereas in Guru Granth Sahib the invocation is
invariably to God alone, here the invocations are to
Bhagauti, Durga, etc.

ii) By far the most weighty objection for not
considering this granth to be a unified work, is
ideological. For the largest portion of it cuts across
the fundamentals of the Sikh ideology, as enshrined in
Guru Granth Sahib.

The Gurus are categorical on this point. "May that
mouth burn, which says that God incarnates."15

"0 Brother, fools worship gods and goddesses. They
know not that these mythical deities can give them
nothing. To beg anything from them is just like
putting stone idols in water, where they only sink.
How can they enable anyone else to swim across the

Bhagat Namdev in Guru Granth Sahib also says,
"They who worship Bhairav, shall become sprites; they
who worship Sitla, ride donkeys and scatter dust. For
myself I take the name of One God."17

Except for 50 pages, the granth contradicts the
ideology of Guru Granth Sahib. As 674 pages are
devoted to extolling Avtaars, etc. and 53 pages praise
Chandi and Durga (Chandi Chritras and Var Durga ki).
And, 615 pages relate to the utterly obscene Charittro

The conclusive evidence is that whereas the 50 pages
in every way synchronise with the bani of Guru Granth
Sahib, the main body of the granth relating to Devis
and Avtaars and Charittro Pakhyan are evidently in
contradiction to that ideology. Hence, when the acid
test is applied, except the 50 pages of the bani, the
writings in the granth are difficult to accept as
creations of the Tenth Master.


First, this is a granth which never existed as such in
the time of the Tenth Master, nor is there any
verifiable injunction by the Master in this regard.

Second, it was decades after the demise of Guru Gobind
Singh that it was joined together in one volume, just
because of a chance development.

Third, the very naming of the granth has been varying,
and the first name, Bachittar Natak, supported by
internal evidence, hardly suggests that the graiith
has a religious import. These names have been changed
from time to time. Fourth, the different jarts of it,
especially the 50 pages and the bulk of the granth
relating to Avtaars, Devis and lhe Charittro Pakhyan
are entirely contradictory in content. In fact, about
the Charittro Pakhyan, the S.G.P.C. has conveyed that
it is not the writing of Guru Gobind Singh, but is a
reproduction of some mythical stories." According to
known tradition, even originally the majority opinion
was against the different pothis being compiled into
one volume. Hence, it passes one's comprehension how
this granth can logically be regarded as a single
piece of work or the composition of a single author,
much less of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib.

It is obvious that the material of the granth needs to
be sifted in order to separate the grain from the
chaff, and the only criterion for that is t.he bani of
Guru Granth Sahib. But this sifting should not he left
to the judgement of an individual or an organisation,
howsoever respected and highly placed it may be. It is
a matter of vital importance, and a decision on it.
should be the responsibility of the Panth.


l. Wahi (Record) of Narbudh Bhatt; Koer Singh,
Gtirbilas Patshahi Das (1745 AD), Chapter 21; Kesar
Singh Chhiber, Bansawlinama, (1769 AD), Chapter 10;
Sarup Das Bhalla, Mehma Parkash (1776 AD), p. 459
2. Dr Rattan Singh Jaggi in his scholarly thesis Dasam
Granth ka Kartritva, (i.e., Authorship of Dasam
Granth) has conclusively shown that Guru Ciobind Singh
did not give an equal status to his own writings with
that of the Adi Granth. He described his composition
as a play.
3. Rattan Singh Jaggi: Dasam Granth ka Kartritva, p.
4. Jap, Akal Ustat minus 20 stanzas (211 <a 230) in
the praise of Devi Durga; Swavyas; Shabads, and
5. Bhai Kahn Singh: Mahan Kosh, p. 6! 6
6. Dr Rattan Singh Jaggi: op. cit., p. 13
7. Bhai Kahn Singh: op. cit, p. 616
8. Ibid.
9. Dr Rattan Singh Jaggi: op. cit., Chapter 4 and
Appendix, pp. 100-101
10. Ibid., pp. 49-66
11. Macauliffe, M.A.: The Sikh Religion, Vol. V., pp.
325-326. Shabad Hazare
12. Ibid., Akal Ustat, p. 272
13. Ibid., Swayyas, pp. 318
14. Ibid., Akal Ustat, p. 262
15. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1136
16. Ibid., p. 637
17. Ibid., p. 874; Macauliffe, Vol. VI., p. 57
18. Letter No. 36672, dated 3.8.1973, from the Dharam
Parchar Committee of the S.G.P.C., Amritsar.

AOSS Jan-Mar !999

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