[The Guru is the Guru Granth Sahib Ji]
This article is not intended to start another revolving controversy that seems to rock and roll the Sikh Panth from time to time. I hope this is read and seen as a source of information and understanding for Sikhs [and non Sikhs ] born abroad and have lived most of their lives out of India and have had no close contact with the Punjab; hence have very little learning and understanding of the book called dasam granth. What, how and why the issues of dasam granth often bring unparalleled unrest among the Sikhs, whenever they surface, is the intention of this article.
I have felt this was very necessary, as I have noted in the debates over the nets in the last few years, almost all of the debate is monopolised by those who were born in India or have recently migrated from India. I note participation from Sikhs like me is lacking because of the lack of proper knowledge of the dasam granth in lands of our birth. I hope those Sikhs like me born abroad will find this helpful and informative. Finally, on my recent visit to Australia and Malaysia many people engaged me on this issue and asked why such controversy rages in the panth for almost the whole of last century, with no final resolution.
It has therefore become imperative that we understand first what the dasam granth is.How did the name Dasam Granth and its existence come about? Why and how do the contents in the dasam granth relate to Guru Gobind Singh ji? Are all the contents of the Dasam Granth authored by Guru Gobind Singh Ji or are there also in the contents writings of his contemporaries and other poets, some of whose names are unknown now. Or are many of the collections in the book also written by people who were no part of the Sikh faith and philosophy.
Is it right to offer the same respect to the dasam granth as Guru Granth Sahib and allow the dasam granth to be rested on a podium or manji sahib as an equal to the Guru Of the Sikhs-Guru Granth Sahib? Considering that ONLY the Guru Granth Sahib was declared a GURU by the Tenth Master himself. Is it right then to pay spiritual respect , with head bowed, and conduct paath pooja of the dasam granth , as seen in recent times in the UK. Some people have carried out an "akhand paath" of Dasam Granth.Do such acts adhere to the recognised Sikh maryada?Are these people right in doing what they are doing?
In the controversial dasam granth or book , which writings are truly related to Sikh teachings and Gurbani of the Sikh Gurus and which are simply for pleasurable reading to enhance some knowledge and bring about meaningful discussion for the individual and why some are simply full of mythological tales- are among the many questions that often arise and are asked by people caught in its controversies.
But for many abroad, this is a subject often of no interest or understanding simply because they know so little or have no knowledge about its back ground or origins.I aim to bring that understanding and knowledge so that every one reading can get a basic understanding of why this controversy rages in the Panth and why hairs are split between opposing groups, and the prime message of Guru Gobind Singh is often forgotten and bypassed in their zeal to score points over the opponent becomes the religious norm.
In my opinion,given the current developments of academic knowledge,understanding and education of Sikhs worldwide and their most needful missing component -unity, it is imperative that such irresponsibly unecessary controversies are closed for ever.
It is the duty of every Sikh to understand the issue and move towards a collective corrective direction over the dasam granth , so as not to allow opportunists to rock the peace and unity of the Sikh panth from time to time,seriously unsettling the community and raising unwarranted questions about the principles of the Gurbani and maryada.
Why must it be a duty for every Sikh to understand the controversy ?It is necessary for Sikhs to understand the controversy as the frequent resurgence of this subject causes great disruption and divides the panth every now and then.It has along with derawaad and unjustified rituals in the community misguidedly entrenched the belief in many parts of the community that it is equal to Guru Granth sahib;which has caused great confusion among the Sikhs, and very much misleads the Sikhs religious belief in the one Guru Granth sahib.
Although over the last three decades many authors agree that many of the writings in the dasam granth are neither related to Sikh teachings nor it is Gurbani of the Sikh Guru.That it simply should be regarded as additional knowledge for all.However, it has also become a point of contention that creates a very tense controversy from lack of research/knowledge/understanding and the many vested interests of parties that survive and consolidate their power base by keeping this issue alight.
One needs to understand the background history and origins of this controversial granth, in a simple language.I hope this article will also assist readers to decide and conclude with clarity- what is really the Bani of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and what is not the bani in the dasam granth.Some have called to name the non- bani portions of the dasam granth as 'kachi bani', I do not think such moves are wise, as they create a lot of confusion, if not now, in later Sikh history.Labelling Gurbani as Kachi or otherwise does not hold water, as Gurbani cannot be kachi or pakki.It simply is Gurbani or not Gurbani.The use of such poor phrases and definitions in Punjabi is one of the roots causes of many misunderstandings among Sikhs relating to Sikh issues.
[Dasam granth is NOT the GURU]
The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji along with three other Sikhs by the Moghuls left a permanent, though painful, but a strong impression upon the psyche of the child Guru Govind Rai.An impression that unlike in normal cirumstances was to grant him the boon to defy against all odds, militarily and spiritually. Abuse of power by the moghuls made Guru Gobind Singh Ji ensure he was to not only become militarily capable but also spiritually and religiously challenging towards the misdeeds of the tyranny by the Moghuls.Literature of heroic deeds and weapons of self defence became his allies and were promoted.He also had an interest to read the historical tales of the hindu vedic avtaars, the alleged heroics of the devtas- holymen against the rakshaks- demons, which he found in the then existing hindu mythological tales.Irrespective of what one says, he appears to have found such reading helpful in his preparation to strike against the root of the evility of the Moghul rule, that was bent on committing excessive tyranny in the name of religion against those who did not ascribe or agree with them.
As he matured and became a teenager, he was determined to recreate an unmatched and never to be denied in a million identity of a heroic race of people, in a language that would be easy for the ordinary person to read and understand.This would also facilitate for the simple people to understand that the power of the Guru Ji was equivalent and more than that of the devtas that the ordinary people had come to understand and revere in their folklore stories.It was necessary to prepare the people to recognise that the message Guru Gobind Singh had brought was no ordinary message,but one that had the powers and backing of the Almighty.Using examples of such heros from mythology and appropriate messages he needed to create the trust and power of the subdued person in his personal ability to challenge and overthrow the demons of the moghul empire.An example of this approach is seen in the bachitter natak,where he has linked his back ground to the historical heros, to recreate such heros from down trodden people of the time.
To create an effective literature as Guru Gobind Singh Ji desired and had perhaps planned for, it required one to be not only sensational but perceptive with great conception and empiricism.To have all the above qualities to generate a greatly inspiring literature, requires uninterupted time and lastly a peaceful place where all these skills could be put to work without outside disturbances.But Guru Gobind Singh Ji had very little of such peaceful opportunities and times in the Punjab of the day.
Initially,Guru Gobind Singh lived at Anandpur sahib in relative peace; then at Paonta Sahib for four years; then back at Anandpur sahib;where constant harrasment from the hill rajas and conflicts with them arose.In between these conflicts, he found some time for his literary and hunting hobbies.It is a well known fact that he had soon gathered an entrouge of 52 poets of repute at his darbar; and conducted daily discourse of Gurbani and discussions with the people.
It cannot be ruled out that he asked some of his darbari poets to collect and collate old historical literature from sanskrit, braj, farsi, kalinga and other languages and re- write it in the simple language of the people to promote an awareness.Some of the more prominent stories were talked about,analytically criticised and reffered to by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his discourses in the sangat.An example here is the shandd 863/64 in the latter half of the Chaubis Avtaar-relating to ram avtaar "...Pae gahe jab te tumre.... ".
This preserved piece of historical literature was reffered to as Samund Sagar in the writings of Kesar Singh Chibber in the Bansawali-nama written in 1769.In 1776, Sarup Das Bhalla finds same commonality over the same piece in his book Mahima Parkash when he refers to it as Vidya Sagar Granth.It is important to understand that all the literature that was collected and collated in writing and orally in the darbar of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was lost in 1705,when Guru Gobind Singh left Anandpur sahib;the moghul forces entered Anandpur sahib and are believed to have destroyed all.Some was also lost at the crossing of river Sirsa.
In 1708, before his worldly departure, Guru Gobind Singh clearly ordained the Sikhs to entrust their future in the Guru Granth Sahib and seek guidance only from their Shabad Guru- Guru Granth sahib and no one else.Guru Granth Sahib was the Shabad Guru and Master of the Sikhs, no one else.
But the real life leadership of the Sikh Panth in that period fell upon Mata Sundari Ji,Bibi Sahib Kaur, and the old but not ancient patriarch- a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Mani Singh Ji.
It appears from the history that for the next decade or so, in very uncertain and unsettled times,no attention was paid to the writings of the Vidya Sagar or any other literature relating to Guru Gobind Singh Ji or his own writings.
However,it appears by 1733, Bhai Mani Singh through great personal effort managed to salvage and collect from here and there about 14 to 15 different pieces of writings relating to Guru Gobind Singh ji's period.But it is also very clear from history that there is absolutely no evidence if all these were collected into ONE book or granth form in the same period.Among the collection was bachitter natak;chandi charitter ;ram avtaar; krishan avtaar etc.However, the whole collection was known simply as bachitter natak granth; although as said there is no evidence if these were binded into a granth at that point of history
In 1740, six years after Bhai Mani Singh's shahidi, a very messy controversy arose over the issue of binding a granth from the collection of Bhai Mani Singh Ji.Who is originally responsible for binding this book,later to become known as the dasam granth, no records exist.The manner in which it is said the issue was "resolved " at Damdama Sahib by Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh, calls for a very serious evaluation of the whole issue by any intelligent thinking Sikh, even to this day.It can argued that the solution arrived at by Bhai Mehtab Singh and Sukha Singh was far from satisfactory- thus we see debates and disturbingly divided opposition among Sikhs to this day, over the alledged dasam granth
After this incident of the binded granth- the centre of serious controversial disruption in the Panth in 1740- the binded granth was addressed as Dasam Patshah da Granth.Subsequent copies were made and appeared of this granth, with some alteration of the writings, additions were made to some stories in it and some stories changed by those making the copies, some of which are named and some unamed.Some shandds were also interefered with here and there as it perhaps suited the writers objectives.
However, in all, four birs have remained the pillars and centre stage of the controversy and as a record.They are the Bhai Mani Singh Wali Bir;Motibagh wali Bir, Sangrur wali bir, and Patna sahib wali bir.None of them are similar to each other in the contents
In 1897, the Gurmat Granth Parcharak Sabha of Amritsar explored and studied about 30 - 32 such birs that were available and arrived at the conclusion that has presented us the present format of the dasam granth.They decided to standardised the dasam granth to its present 1428 pages, dividing the dasam granth into 15 chapters or headings and created one book- dasam granth.
The matter was again left really unresolved, plunging the Panth into a deeper depth of a controversial future time bomb.Currently, the Sikh Panth is effectively divided into two opposing views over the dasam granth.There are heated arguments and unease over people conducting paath pooja,bowing to the dasam granth and worst of all; lastly and the most disturbing aspect ...is sitting it as an equal to Guru Granth sahib, clearly the only shabad Guru Sikhs should trust in and believe as ordained by Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself.Some are now very misguidedly refering to it as Sri Guru Dasam Granth sahib!
Where does that leave Guru Granth Sahib- which Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly ordained as the Guru Of The Sikhs in 1708 when he sang a self-composed hymn:
"Agya bhai Akal ki, tabhi chalayo Panth, Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai, Guru Maneyo Granth , Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh, Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le, Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe, Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe."
Translation of the above:
"Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created. All the Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru. Consider the Guru Granth as embodiment of the Gurus. Those who want to meet God, can find Him in its hymns. The pure shall rule, and impure will be no more, Those separated will unite and all the devotees shall be saved."
The message from the Guru sahib ji is very very clear, let there be no doubt about that.But comming back to the issue under discussion, one section of the community believes the whole of the dasam granth contains the writings of Guru Gobind Singh, therefore it should be revered as the "Guru".Those who toe this school of thought are mostly followers of the sant samaj- meaning all those who call themselves sadhs and sants -old deras or new deras- and their followers who are mesmerised by folklore and age old rituals, which have the trappings of brahminism and are often unfounded 'blind leading the blind practices'. It includes sympathists who are acamedicians and litararists and have strong belief in the sant tradition, in addition and despite Guru Granth Sahib's clear message.The damdami taksaal falls into this school of thought.Their argument is that the old references to vedic history and era and puranic mythology helps those who read and communicate with Guru Granth sahib, to understand it more clearly and better.But there is no scientific evidence nor any factual studies to support this claim.They also claim that because all the stories in the dasam granth were collected and collated by Bhai Mani Singh Ji, therefore one should not question it's authenticity and his sincerity.
A factor which holds strong in favour of this school is the continuation of seating the dasam granth parallel to the Guru Granth Sahib at Takhats' Patna sahib and Nander sahib.Various reasons contribute to this practice although clearly contrary to the Shiromani Rehat Maryada of the Sikh panth.The SGPC has failed to persuade these two takhats to adhere to the Guru Ji's final Hukam of 'Guru Maniyo Granth'.While the two have failed to beleive in the concept of panch pardaan, Panth pardaan and the final hukam of the Guru Ji.
But the other school of thought which is formed mainly of enlightened and academic Sikhs holds a totally opposing view and does not believe that all the writings are that of Guru Gobind Singh Ji or can be attributed to him or any part of the Gurbani wholly.This school of thought accepts only 7% of the contents of the dasam granth sahib are associated with Gurbani.The rest is a collection of poetry, shabads and old folklore of various other writers and from many languages and parts of the country and has been added to mislead Sikhs and dilute the Gurbani, in the unsettled period after the demise of Bhai Mani Singh ji.A strong point for this school is that as Sikhs we believe in one Jot Of Guru Nanak- and subsequently all Gurbani ends with Nanak in Guru Granth Sahib, but this is not the case in the alleged dasam granth.Therefore, apart from a small number of writings, nothing else is the writing of Guru Gobind Singh ji.
With two such opposing views, one can see how the Sikh panth cannot arrive at any conclusive decision over the issue of the dasam granth and is torn apart often embroiled in an almost internal civil war like situation over this sensitive issue.
Below, I reproduce the contents of the dasam granth and give their break down.
No. Title Pages Total Pages % of dasam granth
1] Jaap 1-10 10 0.7%
2]Akal Ustat 11-38 28 1.9%
3]Bachitter Natak 39-73 34 2.4%
4]Chandi Charitter1 74-99 26 1.8%
5]Chandi Charitter2 100-119 20 1.4%
6]Var Bhagauti Ji Ki 119-127 9 0.7 %
7]Gian Parbodh 127-155 28 1.9%
8]Chaubis Avtar 155-611 456 32%
9]Brahm Avtar 611-635 24 1.7%
10]RudR Avtar 635-709 74 5.2%
11]Shabad,Swaiye,etc 709-711 3 0.6%
12]Shashter Nam Mala 717-808 91 6.4%
13]Chitro Pakhian 808- 1388 580 40.6%
14]Zafarnama 1389- 1394 6 0.4%
15] Hakaiitaan 1394- 1428 34 2.4%
From the above, the writings that the Sikh panth has accepted are Jaap Sahib, Akal Ustat, Bachitter Natak, some Shabads and Swaiye, [Khalsa Mahima Benti Chaupaii] and Zafarnama.The total content of the accepted material forms only about 7% , which is spread over about 100 pages in the dasam granth.
The rest of 93% material of the dasam granth has been rejected and is neither accepted as bani, nor as the writings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji or is of any relevance to Sikhs and Sikh Gurus or their teachings.
I now leave it to the readers to decide how a book that is 93% irrelevent, has engaged the Sikh panth in countless controversies, divisions and now near usurping the unquestionble Guru Granth Sahib's position, due to the misinformed section of the community.
How can a book clearly with 93% non Sikh,non Gurbani and non Guru related material be sat next to Guru Granth Sahib , or even addressed as 'guru' dasam Granth ?
All feedback will be appreciated-Chaan Pardesi@aol.com.
My sources are the Guru Granth Sahib , dasam granth and various Sikh literature from the 18th century.Although, I pay less importance to the Prachin Panth Prakash, by Rattan Singh Bhangoo , as I believe it is over rated and relied upon blindly without factual evidence.Bhangoo was inspired to write by the drunken british Resident General of Ludhiana, who had also asked a hindu and a muslim to write on the same subject, but later rejected the other two and accepted the Rattan Singh Bhangoo version.This is based solely upon oral tradition, which is therefore questionable.
Gurcharan Singh, Kulim
London, United Kingdom
Kamuning Hills, Malaysia