Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib ji (ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ) 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 Sikh Guru Arjan Dev (1563–1606). Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, did not add any of his own hymns; however, he added all 115 hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru, to the Adi Granth and affirmed the text as his successor. This second rendition became known as Guru Granth Sahib and is sometimes also referred to as Adi Granth.
The text consists of 1430 angs (pages) and 5,894 śabads (line compositions), which are poetically rendered and set to a rhythmic ancient north Indian classical form of music. The bulk of the scripture is divided into sixty 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. The Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhī script, in various languages, including Lahnda (Western Punjabi), Braj Bhasha, Khariboli, Sanskrit, Sindhi, and Persian. Copies in these languages often have the generic title of Sant Bhasha
Guru Granth Sahib was composed predominantly by six Sikh Gurus: Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, and Guru Teg Bahadur. It also contains the poetic teachings of thirteen Hindu Bhakti Movement sant poets (saints) and two Muslim sufi poets.
The vision in the Guru Granth Sahib is of a society based on divine justice without oppression of any kind. While the Granth acknowledges and respects the scriptures of Hinduism and Islam, it does not imply a moral reconciliation with either of these religions. It is installed in a Sikh gurdwara (temple). A Sikh typically bows or prostrates before it on entering such a temple. The Granth is revered as eternal gurbānī and the spiritual authority in Sikhism.
Guru Nanak Dev composed hymns, which were sung by his followers in raga set to music. His successor Guru Angad Dev opened centers and distributed these hymns. The community would sing the hymns and his agents collected donations. This tradition was continued by the third and fourth gurus as well. The fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev, discovered that Prithi Chand – his eldest brother and a competing claimant to the Sikh guruship – had a copy of an earlier pothi with hymns and was distributing hymns of the earlier Gurus along with his own of hymns. Guru Arjan considered these as spurious and became concerned about establishing an authentic anthology of approved hymns.
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. 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. This effort yielded several drafts and manuscripts, some of which have survived into the modern era.
The oldest surviving manuscript version of the Adi Granth is the Guru Nanak Dev University Manuscript 1245 and has been dated to c. 1599 CE. Other early editions of Adi Granth with some variations include the Bahoval pothi (c. 1600 CE), Vanjara pothi (c. 1601) and Bhai Rupa pothi (c. 1603).
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) 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. 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. Many minor variations, and three significant Adi Granth recensions are known and these provide insights into how the Sikh scripture was compiled, edited and revised over time. 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.
In 1604, the first edition of the Sikh scripture, Adi Granth, was complete and officially approved by Guru Arjan. It was installed at the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple), with Baba Buddha as the first granthi, or reader. 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 raga tunes for 9 out of 22 Vars. The hymns of the ninth guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur after his beheading in Delhi, were added to the scripture by his son and successor Guru Gobind Singh.
In 1704 at Damdama Sahib, during a one-year respite from the heavy fighting with Aurangzeb – then the Mughal Emperor, Guru Gobind Singh and Bhai Mani Singh added the religious compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur to Adi Granth to create the final edition called the Guru Granth Sahib. 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. 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 elder brother. 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 CE rare copy of this manuscript is now preserved at the Toshakhana in Nanded, Maharashtra. The compositions of Guru Gobind Singh were not included in Guru Granth Sahib, and set into the Dasven Padsah ka Granth which is more popularly known as the Dasam Granth. The compilation and release of this definitive edition of the latter was completed by Bhai Mani Singh.
Main article: Writers of Guru Granth Sahib
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:
- The first view held by scholars such as Balwant Singh Dhillon states that there was a consistent “mother tradition”, where the hymns of Guru Nanak were carefully preserved as a single codex without any corruption or unauthorized changes, to which the later Gurus added additional hymns. The Sikh scripture developed in linear, pure form becoming first the Adi Granth and finally the closed version of the Guru Granth Sahib. According to this view, there were no pre-canonical diversity, the scripture developed in an organized and disciplined format, and it denies the existence of alternate hymns and texts that were cherished by Sikhs of an earlier era.
- The second view held by scholars such as Gurinder Singh Mann states that the scripture started from a single process, proceeded linearly, then diversified into separate textual traditions with some variations, over time. This school of scholars supports their theory by highlighting the similarities of the manuscripts and close match particularly between the three manuscripts called the Guru Har Sahai MS, the Govindval MS, and the Guru Nanak Dev University MS 1245. This theory is weakened by variations observed in 27 manuscript variants now dated between 1642 and 1692. The alternate formulation of this theory states that two branches developed over time, with the Peshawar pothi and Kartarpur pothi being the two branches.
- The third view held by scholars such as Piar Singh states that independent versions of the Sikh scripture developed in geographically distant regions of the Indian subcontinent. These versions developed because of the forgetfulness or creativity of the local Sikh leaders, errors made by scribes, attempts to adopt popular hymns of bhagats or adapt the hymns to local regional languages where Gurmukhi was not understood. It is these manuscripts that Guru Arjan collected and considered, then edited to produce an approved version of the Adi Granth. The Sikh scripture, according to this school, was thus a collaborative effort and there was no authentic version of the pre-canonical text in Sikhism.
- The fourth view builds upon this third view and is supported by scholars such as Jeevan Deol. According to this view, there were independent textual traditions in Sikhism before Guru Arjan decided to edit and redact them into the Adi Granth. These textual traditions developed in different parts of the Indian subcontinent, greatly influenced by the popularity of regional bhagats and their Bhakti movement ideas about nirguna and saguna forms of the divine, with Guru Arjan favoring the nirgun versions. The Adi Granth reflects the review, editing and compilation of complex and diverse textual traditions before him.
- The fifth view held by scholars such as Pashaura Singh develops and refines the fourth view. It states that the Sikh scripture emerged from a collaborative effort of Guru Arjan and his trusted associates, particularly Bhai Gurdas and Jagana Brahmin of Agra. His collaborators were his devout admirers, well versed in the Sikh thought, Sanskrit traditions and philosophical schools of Indian religions. The variant manuscripts support this theory, as does the handwriting analysis of the Kartarpur bir (manuscript) approved by Guru Arjan which shows at least four distinct scribal styles. The variations in the manuscripts also affirm that the Adi Granth did not develop in a linear way, i.e. it was not simply copied from a previous version.
The entire Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhi script, which was standardized by Guru Angad Dev in the 16th century. According to Sikh tradition and the Mahman Prakash, an early Sikh manuscript, Guru Angad Dev had taught and spread the Gurmukhi script at the suggestion of Guru Nanak Dev which has invented the Gurmukhi script. 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. It is the official script for writing Punjabi in the Indian State of Punjab.
- Introductory section consisting of the Mool Mantar, Japji and Sohila, composed by Guru Nanak Dev;
- Compositions of Sikh gurus, followed by those of the bhagats who know only God, collected according to the chronology of ragas or musical settings. (see below).
The word raga refers to the “color” and, more specifically, the emotion or mood produced by a combination or sequence of pitches. A raga is composed of a series of melodic motifs, based upon a definite scale or mode of the seven Swara psalmizations, that provide a basic structure around which the musician performs. Gurbani raags are not time dependent.
Following is the list of all sixty Raags under which Gurbani is written, in order of appearance with page numbers:
Meaning and role in Sikhism
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. Sikhs since then have accepted 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.
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 Guru Granth Sahib 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.
- Closing ritual called sukhasan (sukh means “comfort or rest”, asan means “position”). At night, after a series of devotional kirtans and three part ardās, the Guru Granth Sahib is closed, carried on the head, placed into and then carried in a flower decorated, pillow-bed palki (palanquin), with chanting to its bedroom. Once it arrives there, the scripture is tucked into a bed
- Opening ritual called prakash which means “light”. About dawn everyday, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken out its bedroom, carried on the head, placed and carried in a flower-decorated palki with chanting, sometimes with bugle sounding its passage. It is brought to the sanctum. Then after ritual singing of a series of Var Asa kirtans and ardas, a random page is opened. The first complete verse on the left page is the mukhwak (or vak) of the day. It is read out loud, and then written out for the pilgrims to read over that day.
Ernest Trumpp – a German philologist associated with Christian missionaries, published the first philological study and a major but incomplete translation of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1877, after an 8-year study of the text and field interviews with Sikh intelligentsia of his time. 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”. 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. 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, Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair noted the clear influence from the Brahmanical leanings of his Nirmala collaborators, among the British-supported Sikh class which had been long enjoying British patronage as they helped to keep “hostile” elements under control, who for example induced Trumpp to omit the numeral “one” in the phrase Ik Oankar in his translation, 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, prompting the Khalsa to commission its own translation. Trumpp, as well as other translators, were commissioned by colonial administrators.
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. 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. Macauliffe’s translation appeared embedded in the six-volume The Sikh Religion and was published by Oxford University Press in 1909. Unlike Trumpp who had disregarded the sensibilities and empathy for the Sikhs, Macauliffe used his creative editorial abilities to incorporate these sensibilities. 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. Macauliffe’s translation was well received by the Sikh community and considered by them as closer to how they interpret their scripture. 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. Macauliffe’s version has been widely followed by later scholars and translators. 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. He used considerable freedom in restating the archaic poetry into a “vaguely psalm-like translation”.
ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੋਵਨਿ ਆਕਾਰ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੋਵਨਿ ਜੀਅ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਉਤਮੁ ਨੀਚੁ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖ ਪਾਈਅਹਿ ॥ ਇਕਨਾ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਬਖਸੀਸ ਇਕਿ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਸਦਾ ਭਵਾਈਅਹਿ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੈ ਜੇ ਬੁਝੈ ਤ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੨॥
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਤਾਣੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਕਿਸੈ ਤਾਣੁ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਦਾਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਗੁਣ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਚਾਰ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵਿਖਮੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਸਾਜਿ ਕਰੇ ਤਨੁ ਖੇਹ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜੀਅ ਲੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜਾਪੈ ਦਿਸੈ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵੇਖੈ ਹਾਦਰਾ ਹਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਕਥਨਾ ਕਥੀ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਤੋਟਿ ॥ ਕਥਿ ਕਥਿ ਕਥੀ ਕੋਟੀ ਕੋਟਿ ਕੋਟਿ ॥ ਦੇਦਾ ਦੇ ਲੈਦੇ ਥਕਿ ਪਾਹਿ ॥ ਜੁਗਾ ਜੁਗੰਤਰਿ ਖਾਹੀ ਖਾਹਿ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਚਲਾਏ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਵਿਗਸੈ ਵੇਪਰਵਾਹੁ ॥੩॥
Hukmī hovan ākār hukam na kahiā jāī. Hukmī hovan jīa hukam milai vadiāī. Hukmī utam nīch hukam likh dukh sukh pāīah. Iknā hukmī bakhsīs ik hukmī sadā bhavāīah. Hukmai andar sabh ko bāhar hukam na koe. Nānak hukmai je bujhai ta haumai kahai na koe. ॥2॥
Gāvai ko tāṇ hovai kisai tāṇ. Gāvai ko dāt jāṇai nīsāṇ. Gāvai ko guṇ vadiāīā chār. Gāvai ko vidiā vikham vīchār. Gāvai ko sāj kare tan kheh. Gāvai ko jīa lai fir deh. Gāvai ko jāpai disai dūr. Gāvai ko vekhai hādrā hadūr. Kathnā kathī na āvai tot. Kath kath kathī kotī kot kot. Dedā de laide thak pāhi. Jugā jugantar khāhī khāhi. Hukmī hukam chalāe rāhu. Nānak vigsai veparvāhu.
|—Guru Granth Sahib Japji Sahib 2-3||—Transliteration|
Translation by Ernest Trumpp (1877)
One sings his (i.e. God’s) power, if one has power (so to do). Another sings (his) liberality, if he knows (his) sign. One sings his beautiful qualities and greatnesses. — Another sings a difficult thought of science. One sings: having made the body he reduces it to ashes. Another sings: having taken life he gives it again. One sings: he is known (manifest), (but) seen afar off. Another sings: being present he sees in the presence. There is no end of sayings and tellings. The story, story is told by crores, crores, crores. He (i.e. God) goes on giving, they taking become tired. For ages and ages they go on eating. The Lord goes on executing his order. O Nanak! he expands unconcerned. 
Translation by Max Arthur Macauliffe (1909)
Some sing His power according to their abilities; Some sing His gifts according to their knowledge of His signs; Some sing His attributes, His greatness, and His deeds; Some sing His knowledge whose study is arduous; Some sing that He fashioneth the body and again destroyeth it; Some that He taketh away the soul and again restoreth it; Some that He appeareth far from mortal gaze; Some that He is all-seeing and omnipresent. Millions of men give millions upon millions of descriptions of Him, but they fail to describe Him. The Giver giveth; the receiver groweth weary of receiving. In every age man subsisteth by His bounty. The Commander by His order hath laid out the way of the world. Nanak, God the unconcerned is happy. 
|—Guru Granth Sahib Japji Sahib 2-3||—Guru Granth Sahib Japji Sahib 2-3|
The first complete English translation of Guru Granth Sahib, by Gopal Singh, was published in 1960. A revised version published in 1978 removed the obsolete 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 Sikhnet.com.
The official versions of the Guru Granth Sahib are produced in Amritsar by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The SGPC printers are only authorized worldwide publisher of the scripture, states the Sikh religious body Akal Takht. 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. 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.
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 Guru Granth Sahib deemed unfit to be read from are cremated, with a ceremony similar to that for cremating a deceased person. Such cremating is called Agan Bheta. 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.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia