«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»
The Guru Granth gives the autobiographical episodes from the life of Bhakta Kabir and Namdev. The Bhaktas record their own experiences. Guru Arjun describes a num-ber of experiences from his own life. How God protected him against so many Imperial attacks on his people, and how those who tried to kill his only son 231 Hargobind were punished and Hargobind was protected by divine intervention. The word malechha (barbaric) was used by Hindus for Muslims. But Guru Arjun uses it for the Brahmin who tried to poison his infant son Hargobind. These are historical as well as biographical incidents. The purpose of recording these incidents is to glorify the Gracious concern of God for His devotees.”
GURU NANAK’S PERSONALITY AS REVEALED IN HIS WORKS
To my amazement I found that the Greeks who invented the scientific study of history had very little idea of applying their historical methods to the biographies of their great men.
In the earlier works like Life of the Phi-losophers by Diogenes Laertius, Encomium of Plato by his nephew Speusippus (his only sister’s only son and successor) we find only strings of anecdotes and incidental comments with little or no chronological comments and no coherent thread running through them.8 But it is in his dialogues the historical, cultural background and the personality of Plato leaps to life. Here we meet his relatives, friends, foes, critics, and the tyrants who provoked him to present revolutionary ideas.
The same is true of Guru Nanak. His oldest biogra-phy Janamsakhi of Bala tradition gives much more historical material on Guru Nanak than we find on Plato’s biographical source books. In Plato’s early biographies no one is sure of either the year or the date of his birth. His age is calculated as 81 by some and 84 by others. We are on much surer ground on Guru Nanak’s date of birth and death. As in Plato, so in Guru Nanak, his personality, his genius, his character and the people whom he 232 meets and debates vital issues of life leap to life. We meet the exact types of yogis, ascetics, Pundits, priestly Brahmins and Mullas, Rajas and Nawabs, kings and ministers that existed around him. He gives such a vivid portrayals of the last invasions of Babar and its devastating consequences in Punjab that no history of Punjab gives these accounts.
Either unable to study the works of Guru Nanak or unwilling to do so, Hew McLeod not only makes mislead-ing comments about Adi Guru Granth but he caricatures Guru Nanak’s personality high-lighting his prejudiced and malevolent attitude towards Guru Nanak’s life and thoughts. The more are the works of Guru Nanak studied with good translations and commentaries by unbiased scholars, the more will the absurdities of Hew McLeod’s conjectural caricatures of Guru Nanak stand exposed. Falsehood can only be exposed in the Light of Truth and not by mere condemnation.
OVER HUNDRED AUTHENTIC CODICES (BIRS) OF
GURU GRANTH AVAILABLEGuru Arjun prepared the first compiled copy of Adi Granth and a copy known as Banno’s copy was prepared during his life time. The original was prepared from a number of manuscripts out of which three manuscripts survived. Two are with Bhalla families and can still be seen and studied. One manuscript consisting of the hymns of Bhatts was with the Sodhi descendents of Prithi Mal uptil recently. It appears Prithi Mal or his successors bought it from the Bhalla families. During the decades of peace enjoyed by Guru Hargobind at Amritsar and Kartarpur a number of copies were prepared and autographed by the sixth Guru and sent to distant Sangats. Preparing copies of Adi Granth was a continuous practice in the durbars of the five successors of Guru Arjun. Even during the two and half years of his guruship, the Child Guru, Sri Harikrishan got prepared a number of copies. Two autographed copies are available. One is in Patna along with a Hukamnama of the eighth Guru.
233 Guru Gobind Singh got a number of copies prepared at Damdama a place specifically built for Scriptural studies at Anandpur. In all these, the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur were included. The author of this book has two copies dated 1705 A.D. and 1707 A.D. (autographed by Guru Gobind Singh).
Randhir Singh research scholar who had studied and recorded his notes in a book and Gian Singh Nihang who prepared notes on over a hundred codices (Birs) studied both these codices (Birs). Both of them found the 1705 A.D. codex the best and textually the most correct out of those studied by them.9 There no doubt exist many authentic and correct copies.
A copy prepared under the supervision of Guru Hari Rai was given by the Guru to Ram Rai when he went to meet Aurangzeb. The copy is still preserved in the dera of Ram Rai.
It is an exact copy of the first copy prepared by Guru Arjun. A half complete copy (upto Dhanasari Rag) was with Bhai Bidhi Chand. It is kept preserved by Bidhi Chand’s descendents.
The Sikh Guru desired authentic copies to be pre-served with due reverence and respect but they did not allow the Sikhs to have any fetishtistic attitude towards any particular codex (Bir).
The original recension was taken from Amritsar to Kartarpur by Guru Hargobind for fear that the Minas (Prithimal’s descendents) who remained in control of the Golden Temple complex for nearly sixty years might de-stroy it. So an exact copy was left in the Harimandar, which was removed by them and replaced by their own voluminous Bani.
In 1700 A.D. Guru Gobind Singh sent Bhai Mani Singh to Amritsar who restored the authentic version on the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun. The Minas left the Harimandir lock, stock and barrel for ever.10 In the early years of this century Bhai Manna Singh a devotee of Baba Sham Singh, who could recite the Guru Granth from memory studied the text of the present Kartarpur recension. He found some textual differences with currently available copies. He published these in the 234 form of a tract. Bhai Jodh Singh has published his notes.
Although his explanation of many discrepancies is not satisfactory, there is still need for checking it thoroughly. This can be done by comparing it with a number of authentic texts and particularly those recensions which are copies of the original recension or were compared with this recension earlier. No one has so far applied his mind in this direction.
We have authentic text certified and authenticated by all the five successors of Guru Arjun. There are some errors of omission and commission by scribes limited to orthographic signs which are not pronounced but are si-lent and have only grammatical singificance.
One fact is indeed intriguing. Hew McLeod suggests on the basis of Archive documents collected by Nahar Singh that the original copt of Kartarpur Bir was forcibly taken by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and never returned till the British government procured it and gave it to him. But I have quoted documents from the same Archives in which a letter from Sodhi Sadhu Singh states that he never gave the original or even a copy to Ranjit Singh, but he was offering a copy to the British Govt. of which micro-films are available. This is a matter which needs further investigation and research.
Scholars should also go beyond Bhai Jodh Singh’s notes to assess the nature of the present Kartarpur recension. It is not difficult to assess whether it is the original one, or partially original and partially re-written after probable damage done to it or it is not at all the original. Comparison of the text with the recensions prepared in Guru period or with those which are alleged to be copies of the original will throw ample light on the issue.
Merely rejecting outright as Hew McLeod has done or accepting it uncritically is wrong attitude which will lead to doubts and confusion, which Hew McLed intends to create.
CANONIZED WORKS OF BHAI GURDAS AND BHAI NAND LALLThe works of Bhai Gurdas were blessed by Guru Arjun as “Key to Guru Granth” and the key though different from the lock that conceals the treasures, becomes very important.
Bhai Nand Lall’s works were blessed by Guru Gobind Singh as “Testament of Life”. The writings of both these authors are considered Pramanik Bani. Writings accepted at par with Gurbani and is recited in Kirtan Katha and all the functions of Sikh Temples. Every word of their work is considered authentic and authoritative. Sikh scholars, with few exceptions, have sadly neglected the proper study of these works. The author of this books took up the translation with commentary of the complete works of Bhai Gurdas some years ago which will be completed in about seven volumes. He has gone half-way so far.
The translation of three out of nine works of Bhai Nand Lall is also complete. When after publication these works are introduced to the Western World, every serious occidental scholar of Sikhism will come to the conclusion that it is not possible to understand Sikhism without studying Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Nand Lall.
GURU NANAK OF FAITH AND
GURU NANAK OF HISTORYIn the west two terms have been coined “Christ of Faith and Christ of History”. The same concepts and arguments are applied to “Guru Nanak of Faith and Guru Nanak of History”.
The word ‘faith’ for which the Sikhs use the word sidq is not blind faith nor is the word ‘history’ conceived to be mere secular and temporal history. Faith in Sikhism is never ‘blind faith’ in any sense of the word nor is it a mere opinion. Nor can it be identified with theoretical knowledge. At the earlier stage it is based on moral and intuitional perceptions of a higher life. At the second stage it is based on aesthetic and spiritual perceptions of the good and evil, love for truth, wisdom, justice. Through prayers meditations and practical religious life this Faith becomes a conviction based on inner 236 experience of God and Truth.
‘History’ in Sikhism is not a basket of randomly collected facts and events, reported by persons who do not understand them. History is a phenomenon which understands andinterprets the destiny of Man and Society, the fundamental meaning of the rise and fall of nations and civilizations and the process of moral and spiritual evolution.” The biographies of Great men and the history of the society in which they live are inter-related. ‘Society’ is a spiritual structure whose materials are personal lives and teachings of Enlightened Sages. If a social order is not related to a moral and spiritual order it will collapse just as Communist social order has totally collapsed today.
Man cannot be a purely earthly being; his destiny lies in the supramundane sphere. Religion as revealed in Sikhism; is an experience of moral and spiritual values. It is a choice of value, an appreciation or adoration of value. It is also a Faith in Supreme Love, Truth and Beauty. Neither is faith in Sikhism, blind or merely intellectual, nor is his-tory understood as a chain of secular and temporal events. In Sikhism, Guru Nanak of Faith is the Guru Nanak of history, and Guru Nanak of history is the Guru Nanak of Faith. The two are inseparable from each other.
IMPACT OF ISLAMIC THOUGHT AND CULTURE ON GURU GRANTH
AND ITS IMPACT ON PUNJABI MUSLIM CULTUREIn order to build up his theory that Sikhism is nothing more than a petty sect of Hinduism, Hew McLeod repeatedly, asserts that the influence of Islamic thought, and lanugage on Guru Granth is marginal and negligible. But those who have studied Islamic influence on the basis of Punjabi language, literature and culture hold exactly the opposite opinion, and they are right.
The eminent scholar Fredrick Pincott, a contemporary of Dr Ernest Trumpp, wrote four learned essays and one small book on the intimate relation between Islam, more so Sufism and Sikhism, between the year 1880-1908. His essays on the subject justified the inclusion of an essay 237 on ‘Sikhism’ in Hughe’s Dictionary of Islam and Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition. A comprehensive essay on Hughe’s Dictionary of Islam was contributed by Fredrick Pincott and an essay in Islamic Encyclopaedia was contributed by Sir Mohammed Iqbal.
It is noteworthy to record the difference between the attitude and scholarly labours of Fredrick Pincott on one side and Trumpp and McLeod on the other. While Trumpp and McLeod have studied only selective janamsakhts, Pincott has studied and quoted from all the janamsakhts available in India Office Library. While Ernest Trumpp laboured only on the first quarter of Adi Granth, Hew McLeod’s study is extremely superficial in which he picks up at random terms and doctrines to suit his criticism. McLeod has no time and patience to find explana-tion of his querries within the Sacred Scriptures, though it was available with abundant textual evidence, but he takes a negative attitude and passes puerile and pungent remarks which he never substantiates. He repeatedly asserts his pet themes in the scriptures even though there is nothing of the kind there. He arrogantly and in an authoritarian manner rejects many factual truths but at-tributes false notions and ideas which are alien to the very spirit of Sikhism. We are summing up briefly Fredrick Pincott’s thoughts based on his works of great impor-tance.11