Guru Granth Sahib

Background to the Guru Granth Sahib and our 400 year anniversary parkash utsav.

Guru Granth Sahib

The Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Guru in the year 1604. Guru Angad Ji, the second Guru, helped make it possible for Sikhs to read the hymns which Guru Nanak Dev ji, and the later Gurus composed. During his time, Punjabi, the language spoken by Sikhs, did not have a proper alphabet and there were a number of different ways in which Punjabi was written. Guru Angad chose one particular way and gave this alphabet a name. It was called Gurmukhi. Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi script.

Many hymns of the Gurus as well as hymns written by people who were not Sikhs had already been gathered together by the time of Guru Amar Das Ji, the third Guru. Guru Arjan Dev then used these collections and other hymns (including his own), to put together the book known as Adi Granth or ‘the first book’. This book was treated with great respect and kept at Harminder Sahib in Amritsar. Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the tenth Guru) added his father’s hymns to the Adi Granth and once finished, then announced that the finished book was to be the next and everlasting Guru.

The Guru Granth Sahib contains the holy song and teachings not only of Sikh Gurus but also 36 Hindu and Muslims Saints, who wrote them between the 12th and 17th centuries. It is therefore, a compilation of mystic poems by men of diverse faith and social strata, from various regions of India and spoken in different languages. It is generally assumed that the language of Guru Granth Sahib was pure Punjabi; but by far, the largest portion of the Granth was composed in mixed languages called Hindvi, a mixture of Hindi, Prakit, Braj, Punjabi and the current vocabulary of Persian and Arabic. It was composed in the Gurmukhi script of the Punjabi language.

These unique set of compilations combined with beautiful poetry makes the Guru Granth Sahib not only a great religious book but also a great work of art.

Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Gobind Singh (1 Hymn )

Having collected all the necessary materials for compositions, there remained a task of writing out in good calligraphic hand this vast material, in proper order, form and with editorial direction for study. The whole material was to be recast except for the Jap of Guru Nanak Dev Ji which stands at the head of the sacred volume, into ragas or musical Gurus.

The Jap Ji is recited in the morning. The Sodar is recited after sunset. The Sohila is recited before going to sleep. The second section is rather a long one; it has 31 sub sections named after the Ragas to which the hymn and the major pieces have been adapted. Raga literally means harmony. It has however certain particularities:

  • It has a season prescribed for singing
  • It has a time prescribed for singing
  • It has a particular rasa (flavour) of sentiment
  • It has a prescribed atmosphere and cultural climate as each raga is evolved in a particular region, or tribe or culture

Each Raga has a particular rasa, which has an effect of four elements.

The poetic words of Guru Granth Sahib maintain their solidity and vitality. Of the many varieties of style there are:

  • Slokas (couplets)
  • Do-padas (two stanza hymns)
  • Chau-padas (four stanza hymns)
  • Panch-padas (five stanza hymns)
  • Astpadi (eighyt stanza hymns) etc.

The language used is simple and plain yet poetic. The images of Guru Granth Sahib come from a variety of specific contexts: natural scenery, economics, politics and domestic life.

An extract:

Har charan kamval makrand lobhit mano andino mohi ahi piasai

My Lord, for Thine lotus feet, I am a bumble bee, always thirsty.

When the Guru writes of himself as a bumble bee, always thirsty at the lotus feet, his intense longing of the Lord is very well expressed.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji made all 31 Ragas (musical measures) at the time to suit his work. While Mohan’s Pothi (the collection of the hymns of the earlier Gurus) had only 14 ragas. Some of the popular ragas are:

  • Sri Rag
  • Gauri
  • Suhi
  • Soruth
  • Basant
  • Majh Rag
  • Asa
  • Bilawal
  • Ramkali
  • Jaijawanti

Guru Granth Sahib contains 1430 pages. Each copy that is made, no matter what part of the world its from, are all identical as each has the same number of pages. The script used in Gurmukhi. The standardisation of the page, length and numbering took place in the 19th century. The contributors of the Guru Granth can be divided into 2 groups. They are the Sikh Guru and non-Sikhs. The non-Sikhs can be considered the Hindu Bhagats and Muslim Sufis, Bhatts, Bards and others.

The other contributors of the Guru Granth are:

  • Kabhir
  • Sundar
  • Bard Satta and Balvand
  • Sadhna
  • Sur das
  • Nam Dev & Bhatts (Swaiyyas authors)
  • Sain
  • Jai Dev
  • Trilochan
  • Dhanna
  • Beni
  • Paramananand
  • Farid
  • Pipa
  • Bhikan
  • Mardana
  • Ravi Das
  • Ramananand

The contribution from the Sikh Gurus is as follows:

  1. Guru Nanak Dev Ji (974 Hymns and Salokas)
  2. Guru Angad Dev Ji(62 Salokas)
  3. Guru Amar Das Ji (907 Hymns and Salokas)
  4. Guru Ram Das Ji (679 Hymns and Salokas)
  5. Guru Arjan Dev Ji (2218 Hymns and Salokas)
  6. Guru Tegh Bahadur (116 Hymns and Salokas).

The scared volume consists of 33 chapters which fall under 2 sections. The first section contains there major sub sections:

  • The Jap Ji by Guru Nanak Dev Ji
  • The Sodar and So-Purakh (these are the compositions of Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan Dev Ji)
  • Sohila (also by the above 3 Gurus)

The Adi Granth (Guru Granth Sahib ji) is looked upon by the followers of the Sikh faith not only in the aspect of a book or scripture, but as an embodiment in visible form of the essebxe of the person of the ten Holy Gurus. Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1675-1708) divided the concept of Guruship into three:

  1. Personal Guru : which would end with him
  2. Religious Gurus: TheY would live forever in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji
  3. Temporal Guru: This Guruship was vested in the community of the Khalsa. Before his passing away, Guru Gobind Singh apotheosised the Granth Sahib as Guru.

The Guru Granth Sahib is therefore the central object of the worship in all Gurdwaras. It is draped in silk (Rumalas) and placed on a cot (Manji Sahib) with a canopy (Chanani) over it, placed on a dais (Takhat). A Granthie sits in attendance and waves a fly whisk (Chauri). Offerings are made by the worshippers going down on their knees. Where the Holy Granth is kept in state with an attendant waving the fly-whisk over it, with recitation and Kirtan, other due ceremonials are also performed.

It is always carried on the head and all worshippers stand up and bow in respect. Any Sikh man or woman may read in public from the Granth Sahib. It is opened at random first thing in the morning and the Hymn on the left hand side of the page is read out as Hukam and written out on the notice board for worshippers to read. This is known as the Hukam Nama or the order for the day.

Two of Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s greatest achievements were the building of Harmindir Sahib and the compiling of Guru Granth Sahib. Both these gave the Sikhs a distinct identity. The muslins had their Mecca, the Hindus had their Haridwar and the Sikhs now had the Harmindir Sahib or Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Muslims looked for an answer for all their problems in the Koran, the Hindus had their own Holy books. For Sikhs the Guru Granth Sahib Ji now had all the teachings they needed to learn. The Granth Sahib is laid to rest in a special room every night, and carried back to the place of worship each morning.