Guru Granth Sahib, Dasam Granth and the Sikh Rehit Maryada (Sikh code of conduct)

by Gursant Singh ⌂ @, Yuba City California USA, Thursday, May 17, 2012, 15:45 (3795 days ago)

This well written comment came from Devinder Singh, an Oxford University professor, at a forum from this link:

Devinder Singh says: "The Guru Granth Sahib is the supreme source of guidance for a Sikh (baptised Khalsa or not). It was initially compiled by Guru Arjan, with the help of Bhai Gurdas acting as scribe, and called the Adi Granth; it was installed in Darbar Sahib (the "Golden Temple" without all that hideous gold), Amritsar, with Baba Buddha ji being the first person to serve as Granthi. Guru Gobind Singh revised the Adi Granth slightly, by adding to it the compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadhur, and bestowed the succession of Sikh Guruship upon it.

Although Guru Gobind Singh is said to have written a lot, most of it appears to have been lost when he was pursued out of Anandpur by the Emperor Arungzeb's army. Guru Gobind Singh seems to have made no attempt to collate any of his compositions (for inclusion in the Guru Granth Sahib), or to give them any status. A posthumous effort to collect his scattered writings eventually resulted in the "Bachitar Natak Granth", which has been controversial since its inception; it's name was subsequently changed to the "Dasam Granth", to try and give it greater respectability. Gurtej Singh, the former National Professor of Sikhism, told me that the vast majority of Dasam Granth's contents are claimed by authors other the Guru Gobind Singh. Those who like to think that the "Dasam Granth" is entirely (or even mostly) the work of Guru Gobind Singh argue that he wrote under a different pen name. While this could be so in principle, just as Bhai Nand Lal use "Goya", it is highly unlikely as a large number of different names are used. Gurtej Singh reckons that only about 10 or 15% of the Dasam Granth's contents might be the work of Guru Gobind Singh, as it is not claimed by other authors. ... My take on the issue of the "Dasam Granth" is simply as follows: if any composition is consistent with the Guru Granth Sahib, I will treat it with respect; if it is odds with the Guru Granth Sahib, it goes in the trash.

The concept of the Saint Soldier, as lived by Guru Hargobind and his successors (most notably Guru Gobind Singh), is not at odds with the Guru Granth Sahib; one has only to read various verses from Kabir and Guru Nanak to realise this. It's formalisation by Guru Gobind Singh, in terms of the Khalsa baptism, however, is shrouded in a great deal of uncertainty. Although there are several early accounts of what an initiate was asked to recite (in terms of Nitnem) and do (in terms of personal discipline), there is a great deal of inconsistency between them. I've often wondered why Guru Gobind Singh didn't at least write down the details of the Amrit ceremony explicitly, given that it seems to be so central to Sikhism. I think it was because he didn't want anything to eclipse the supreme position of the Guru Granth Sahib: its contents are our eternal guide, whereas the rest is transient detail about how best to put the principles into practice under the given circumstances. Guru Gobind Singh's intention was for the Khalsa community to decide collectively on the latter, with the "Panj Piaras" being symbolic of this idea.

Although the verses of the Guru Granth Sahib give a fairly clear idea of things that are best avoided, pointless or abhorrent (such as booze, superstitions, idol worship, pilgrimage, sacred bathing, widow burning, bigotry, and so on), many started taking place at Gurdwaras that were run by Mahants. This gave rise to reform movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to get things back on track. The Sikh Rehat Maryada emerged from the related struggles to liberate the historical Gurdwaras from the control of the Mahants. The idea was to have an explicit document on conventions to be followed in Gurdwaras, Sikh ceremonies and daily practice to avoid slipping back into "munmat" (counter to the Guru's advice) ways. Despite its shortcomings, I think it's still a pretty good document. The sad reality, however, is that very few people/Gurdwaras follow it."

The History and Compilation of the Dasm Granth by Dr. Trilochan Singh

Some have asked about my position on Sri Dasm Granth which can be summed up in this important piece of work on the history of Sri Dasam Granth by Dr. Trilochan Singh, an authoritative exponent of Sikh history, theology, philosophy and culture. This work, in four parts, was published in The Sikh Review in 1955. And up till now this remains a benchmark work on the history and compilation of Sri Dasam Granth - copied from this website Patshahi10.Org

The History and Compilation of the Dasm Granth (Part 1)

Dr. Trilochan Singh
Guru Gobind Singh's mind was a towering Himalaya of light from whose teeming caverns there flowed a mighty river of songs in whose placid depths he set the reflected image of all the tragedy and bliss of life.

His imagination was a seraph, which sounded all depths and measured all heights. It touched the intangible, it saw the invisible, it heard the inaudible and it gave body and shape to the inconceivable. It gathered gems from all mines, gold from all sands, pearls from all seas and songs from every battle of dharma.

Guru Gobind Singh bequeathed to mankind a literary, historical and philosophic estate which time cannot destroy. He breathed into the nostrils of the heavenly Muse the breath of a new immortality. He sang of his God and his soul. He sang of creation and the rise and fall of civilization. He sang of the wars of dharma, of the heroes of the glorious past of India and of the figurative gods and goddesses of mythology. He sang of the lovers and martyrs of truth.

The fever of the age, the misery of the people, the degradation of the country and its culture, the mute appeals of the oppressed became the problems of his life which he solved with the pen, the sword, the mind and his godlike spirit.

Guru Gobind Singh's mind was a resistless flood which deluged everything that came into contact with it with glory, strength and spiritual glow. He desired that his Sikhs should develop all sides of their personality. He himself developed on all sides the exhuberance of his powers without losing himself in their multiplicity.

It is, however, to be regretted that writers on Guru Gobind Singh have been led away by their just admiration for one aspect of his life to an unjust and even ignorant depreciation of various other equally important aspects of his life.

It becomes impossible for some devout Sikhs to understand that the Guru who was the creator of the Khalsa and who in many fundamental ways parted radically from Hinduism could write such secular writings as life stories of the avtars of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva such as his Triya Charitar and Chandi Charitar. It becomes equally difficult for non-Sikh writers to understand that a Guru who has written glowing accounts of Chandi, Lord Krishna, Buddha and the great ascetics Dattatreya and Paras Nath was not a worshipper or a devotee of any of these. While he had a profound respect for these personalities who were gifted with special, divine qualities, he condemned the worship of these heroes and sages of our country as deities and godheads.

There is another class of writers who do not understand Guru Gobind Singh's use of the sword of dharma and the great social and spiritual significance he attached to it. His autobiography explains the circumstances under which he had to use the sword in actual battles. When hordes of aggressors, generally numbering more than ten times his men, attacked his home and hearth without rhyme or reason, he had no other way out but to resort to the sword Extremist non-violence at such juncture had kept India in slavery century after century.[1]
Another negative argument, though without much grounds, is that since Guru Gobind Singh was always preoccupied with battles and conflicts with the rulers, how was it that he had so much time to write such monumental works. Such people should know that out of five of a Sikh's morning prayers three compositions are by Guru Gobind Singh. Such is the importance he attached to his poetic works.

Guru Gobind Singh was far more conscious of being a poet than being a warrior, or a prophet. The title of the prayer composed by him reads: Kabio ach Benti Chaupai, which means, The Prayer of the Poet in Chaupai Metre. In his autobiography, Apni Katha, the chapter describing his birth in the first person is entitled Ath Kabi Janam Kathnan.

No ruler in Indian history had as many as 50 poets and innumerable additional writers whose patronage was coveted by emperors like Aurangzeb. If Guru Gobind Singh found time to examine the works of 52 poets he could easily find time to write profusely. He rewarded two poets with 60,000 mohars each for translating some cantos of the Mahabharata into Hindi and Panjabi. He never gave even half this much reward to any of his warriors.

When the war clouds loomed heavily over Anandpur he asked those poets who could not handle the sword to leave. On their departure they were profusely garlanded, taken in procession on elephants, given rich gifts and presents. Above all they were given a salute of guns. According to a poet, the neighbouring rajas on hearing the salute were terror stricken and thought that Guru Gobind Singh was preparing an attack with unprecedented might.

While education was compulsory, military training was optional. Yet in that atmosphere the inspiration to become a poet was so great that labourers working in the stables took part in poetry contests. The military training was entrusted to some of the greatest military geniuses of the time. Among them were Guru Gobind Singh's maternal uncle Kirpal Chand, who was also the Guru's teacher from childhood, and five sons of Bibi Viro (daughter of Guru Har Gobind) named Sango Shah, Jit Mal, Gulab Chand, Ganga Ram and Mahri Chand. Each of these warriors was given a command of 500 to 800 soldiers. Sango Shah Avas the Commander-in-Chief in the battle of Bhangani; when he fell a martyr on the twelfth day of fighting, Guru Gobind Singh took the command in his own hands. The younger generation took arms so very eagerly that the poet Hir said, "A child siugh learns the use of the sword long before he learns to tie his turban."

While all other misunderstandings will become clear in their proper places, one misunderstanding created by the self-styled puritans called the bhasurias must be cleared here. They tried to prove that most of the Dasm Granth was written by the poets Ram and Shyam, names which occur in one or two compositions in the Dasm Granth. There is more than sufficient internal and external evidence in every composition to show that all the writings in the Dasm Granth were the works of Guru Gobind Singh. As we discuss each composition we will explain the purpose of each work and also give internal proofs of its authenticity.

The names Ram and Shyam are used in some places as pen names. Actually speaking, they were not pen names but poetic translations of Guruji's names. Guruji's name Gobind is an attributive name of God; so also are Ram and Shyam. In Sikh theology the three words govind, ram and syam mean the same thing as the following quotations from the Guru Granth prove:

Siyam sundar taj nind kiun ai (Guru Arjan: Suhi)

Siyam sundar taj an jo cahit jion, kusti tan jok (Surdas: Sarang)

govind govind govind har gurni nidhan

govind govind govind jap mukh ujla pardhan (Guru Bam Das: Var Kanra)
ram ram kirtan gae

ram ram ram sada sahae (Guru Arjan: Rag Gond)
In all the above quotations from the Guru Granth the words ram, syam and govind mean the same thing and so also do they in the Dasm Granth where they stand for Guru Gobind Singh. That is why two or sometime all three of these names occur in the same composition.[2]

This practice of writing a synonym for the proper noun in the Dasm Granth applies not only to his own name but to many other names also. In the Dasm Granth, Guru Gobind Singh writes Netra Trung for Naina Devi, Satdrav for Satluj, Dasmpur for Anandpur, Shah Sangram for Sango Shah, and Madra-desh for the Punjab.

Even in our own times Bhai Sahib Vir Singh's maternal uncle Pandit Hazara Singh wrote his name Hazoor Hari while his father Dr. Charan Singh wrote his name Charan Hari. Sardar Dharma Anant Singh, in his book Plato and the True Enlightener of Soul, writes the name of Sant Attar Singh as Mrigindus Atrus.

So Ram, Shyam and Govind are synonymous names of Guru Gobind Singh.

Almost all these works were written by Guru Gobind Singh between the ages of 16 and 35. In the Dasm Granth purely religious and philosophic compositions have 878 verses. But the introductions and the epilogues to all the secular verses are important religious compositions and number about 500. So the philosophic verses number nearly 1,378.

Akal Ustat and Gyan Prabodh were more than twice what we find in the Dasm Granth. Had they survived, the religious poems in the Dasm Granth would have been twice the number we have now. It is not out of place to conclude that Guru Gobind Singh's contribution to religious literature far exceeds any other Guru's contribution to the Guru Granth. Contributions by the other Gurus and by Kabir to the Guru Granth are: Guru Nanak, 974 verses; Guru Angad, 62; Guru Amar Das, 907; Guru Ram Das, 697; Guru Arjan, 2,218; Guru Tegh Bahadur, 116; and Kabir, 541 verses.

All the works were compiled by Guru Gobind Singh, but unfortunately almost all were lost in the sack of Anandpur and the battle of Chamkaur in 1704. The last four years of the Guru's life were spent in compiling the final version of Guru Granth Sahib and in making journeys east and south. A few months before his death the Guru sent his wife and Bhai Mani Singh to take care of the Sikhs in Delhi and Punjab. The divine mother was to stay at Delhi and Bhai Mani Singh was to tour Punjab.

After the passing away of Guru Gobind Singh the Punjab was in a very unsettled condition. Around 1714 Mata Sundri asked Bhai Mani Singh to take the religious leadership of the Sikh Panth in his own hands with Amritsar as his headquarters. He was also instructed to compile the works of Guru Gobind Singh into a collected volume. The following letter from Bhai Mani Singh written in April 1714 shows the appalling conditions of the time and the missionary zeal of the great saint-scholar. In the light of this letter the statement of the eminent historian Gyani Gyan Singh that Bhai Mani Singh was living with barely five or six Sikhs at Amritsar is not unbelievable. Bhai Mani Singh managed to live during these aweful times because of his profound influence on both the Muslims and Hindus;


(Translation of the letter; the photostat of the original given opposite page 57.)

The One prevaileth everywhere. May the Immortal be our saviour. Most revered divine mother, Mani Singh makes obeisance at thy feet. News further is that on coming here my body has been suffering from acute wind-ailment and my health has been deteriorating. I meditated on the songs of healing thrice. But there has been no slackness in the service of the Golden Temple. The Khalsa has lost its hold in the Punjab and the Sikhs are retreating to the forests and mountains. The whole of the Punjab is under the sway of the despots. Even in the villages the life of the young men and women is not safe. They are hunted and killed mercilessly. The enemies of the Guru have joined hands with them. The handaliyas (followers of an impostor guru) are spying on the Sikhs and are betraying them to the enemies.Almost everyone has left Amritsar. The clerks and accountants have fled. So far the Almighty has protected me. 1 cannot say what may happen tomorrow. The Master's words will come to pass. Binod Singh's grandson has passed away. Among the books I sent there is a volume of 303 Triya Charitar Upakhyan written by the master. Please give that volume to Sihan Singh who lives in the interior of the city. So far I have not been able to trace Shastra Nam Mala Puran. I have found the first part of Krishna Avtar but not the second part. If I get it I will send it. There is a rumour here that Banda has made good his escape. May the Lord protect him. Guru Angad's family at Khadur has sent five tolas of old for your adopted son's bride.[3] Please recover seventeen rupees from Jhanda Singh. I gave him five rupees to meet the expenses of the journey. He has some bad habits and he will squander the money. The accountants have not as yet given me the accounts, otherwise I would have sent a hundi from the big city (Lahore). If my health improves I shall come some time in October or November.
Baisakh 22.
Sd/ Mani Singh
Please reply in the bamboo stick.

The Romanized copy of Bhai Mani Singh's letter to Mata Sundri ji

ih onkar akal sahae
puj mata ji de carnan par mani singh ki dandaut bandna. Bahoro samacar vacna ke idhar aon par sada sarir vayu ka adhik vikari hoe gaea hai-suast nahi hoea, tap ki kala do bar suni. par mandar ki seva men koi alak nahi. des vic khalse da bal chut gaea hai. sihgh parbatan babanan vic jae base hain. malechon ki des men dohi hai. basti men balak juva istri salamat nahi. much much kar marde hain. guru darohi bi unan de sang mil gae hain. handalie mil kar mukbari karde hain. sabi cak chod gae hain. mutsadi bhag gae hain. sade par abi to akal ki racha hai. kal ki khabar nahi. sahiban de hukam atal hain. binod singh de putrele da hukam sat hoe gaea hai. pothian jo jhanda singh hath bheji thi unan vic sahiban de 303 caritar upkhiyan di pothi jo hai so sihan sihgh nun mahal vic dena ji. Nam mala ki pothi di khabar abi mili nahi. karisnavtar purbaradh to mila utraradh nahi. je mila asi bhej devange. des vic goga hai ke banda bandhan mukat hoe bhag gaea hai. sahib bahudi karan ge. tola par sona sahibjade ki gharni ke abhukhan lai guru kiaa khandur se bheja hai 17 rajatpan bi jhanda singh se bhar panen. 5 rajatpan ise tosa dia is nun badraka bi hai. is se uth janven ge. mutsadion ne hisab nahi dia jo dende tan bade sahir se hundi kardi bhejde. asade sarir di rachia rahi tan kuar de mahine avange.
mili vaisakh 22.
daskhat manisingh
guru cak bunga.
juab pori main
The letter reveals the following facts:

1.Such secular works as Krishna Avtar, Triya Charitar and Shastar Nam Mala Puran were written by Guru Gobind Singh and not by any other poet. 2.The Sikh historians are mistaken when they believe that Bhai Mani Singh took charge of the Golden Temple in 1722. This letter, written five months after Baba Banda's arrest and two months before his execution, shows that Bhai Mani Singh was there much earlier, probably in 1713 or 1714. 3.Finding the Akal Ustat incomplete, Mr. Macauliffe said that "there is an obvious defect in the arrangement of the composition." There is, as a matter of fact, no defect. Mr. Macauliffe did not know the works were collected after strenuous efforts and more than what is there was not available until then.
Bhai Mani Singh completed the compilation in 1734, four years before he himself became a victim of the Moghul tyranny and his body was cut joint by joint.

Some of the prominent Sikhs such as Baba Binod Singh (mentioned in the letter and probably staying at that time with Bhai Mani Singh), Baba Gurbakhsh Singh and Sukha Singh prepared their own copies from the compiled copy. I have not seen the copies prepared by Baba Gurbakhsh Singh and Bhai Mani Singh but if a search is made I think they can still be found.

I have seen the copy prepared by Baba Binod Singh which contains 28 pages written in Guru Gobind Singh's own hand. Binod Singh's descendents presented this copy of the Dasm Granth to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's durbar and they received Rs. 125/- per month as a gift for it. It then came to the Patiala durbar and until 1947 the descendents of Baba Binod Singh were getting Rs. 25/- per month.

Baba Binod Singh was a direct descendent of Baba Dasu, son of Guru Angad. Baba Binod Singh was also one of the five apostles under whose guidance Banda Bahadur was supposed to work at the instructions of Guru Gobind Singh. So a copy prepared by Baba Binod Singh is an authentic and direct copy of the originally compiled version by Bhai Mani Singh. This Dasm Granth is at present in the Moti Bagh Palace, Patiala, and I had an opportunity to study it in detail some time ago.

Six years after the compilation of he book and two years after the death of Bhai Mani Singh a dispute arose among the scholars as to whether such philosophic writings as the Jap and Akal Ustat should remain side by side with secular writings or whether they should be kept in separate volumes. Such scholars maintained that it was not proper to discuss writings like Triya Charitar in the gurdvaras. No one, of course, doubted that the works were those of Guru Gobind Singh. The matter was decided in a strange way [4]

Bhai Mehtab Singh and Bhai Sukha Singh who were there said that if they succeeded in killing Massa Ranghar who was occupying Amritsar and using the Golden Temple as a pleasure house the Dasm Granth should remain intact. If, however, they died in the attempt, the books of the Dasm Granth should be separated. .Fortune most strangely favoured keeping the Dasm Granth in one volume.

According to Macauliffe the name of Dasm Granth was given to the collection much later. This is not correct. The title of Binod Singh's collections and of other older recensions is Dasm Patshah ka Granth, which means the same thing as Dasm Granth, Work of the Tenth Guru.

In 1896 leaders of the Singh Sabha movement found that copies of the Dasm Granth began to differ in the spelling of words. As the copyists knew only Panjabi and not Hindi and Persian they made many mistakes in writing these languages. So a committee of scholars was appointed which prepared an edition to be printed for the first time. They collected some 32 old texts of the Dasm Granth, but they unfortunately left the proof reading to the printers Messrs, Gulab Singh & Sons who in printing have made countless errors which even distort the meaning of the original. Either the scholars who prepared this or the publishers have made two grievous errors:
1.They have written on the title page "Sri Guru Granth Sahib Dasm Patshahi" which seems to be a distortion of Dasm Patshahi ka Granth which is found on most of the old recensions. This Granth was not installed as a guru so it is wrong to call it Guru Granth. 2.The first verse of the 33 swayas: jagat jot japai nis basar, has been omitted.
What is to be noted is that all the eminent scholars of the Singh Sabha movement accepted the whole of the Dasm Granth as the work of Guru Gobind Singh.

In 1915 there arose an assumedly puritan school of thought at Bhasaur under Babu Teja Singh, a retired overseer, a good organizer but with a hopelessly shallow intellect. He and a few of his hired gyanis not only started a campaign against Dasm Granth but even compiled a Guru Granth of their own excluding the works of Kabir and other bhagtas. He even changed the mass prayer of the Sikhs. As a reformist, in the beginning he gathered some support but when he stooped to flagrant abuse of history and facts he was condemned by a proclamation from the Akal Takht and his activities were declared Singh's poets. The genius of one most un-Sikh-like.

This school has died an inevitable visible death and no Sikh scholar of importance believes that any part of Dasm Granth was written by Guru Gobind Singh's poets. The genius of one mind, the art style of one poet is visible in the whole of Dasm Granth.
That genius and style is of Guru Gobind Singh and no other.


[1]. Muhsin Fani, Guru Har Gobind's contemporary, declared that "both Guru Har Gobind and Guru Gobind Singh did not use the sword out of anger on any occasion. The wars they fought were not communal; they were fought against the Hindu rajas and the Moghul armies. In his armies there were Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs." Even Mahatma Gandhi, writing in his article, The Doctrine of the Sword, said: "I do believe that when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner remain a helpless victim to her own dishonour."

[2]. In the Guru Granth the name Gobind is written both as Govind and Gobind. But in Guru Gobind Singh's writings it always occurs with " b " as Gobind. Guru Gobind Singh spent most of his life in the Doaba area of the Punjab where the words with "v" are pronounced " b . " Guru Gobind Singh used it very often in his writings. He writes bade bade for vade vade; maru bajia for maru vajia; abigat for avigat; Bishnu for Vishnu; barn for varn, and innumerable other cases. So Guruji preferred to write his name as Gobind and not as Govind.

[3]. Mata Sundri saw a young boy who in features resembled her eldest son Ajit Singh so much that she adopted him much against the wishes and advice of Bhai Mani Singh and desired that all relatives and Sikhs should treat him as her son. She even arranged his marriage as poor compensation for her deeply cherished desire to have seen the marriage of Ajit Singh, who fell a martyr in the battle of Chamkaur. This adopted son proved so hopeless that he had to be publicly disowned. He even discarded the Sikh faith under the threats of the Muslim rulers. Latter he was involved in a crime and as punishment was tied to the tail of an elephant and met a terrible death.

[4]. To belittle the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh some people invented the story that he was cursed by the Sikhs for dividing the Guru Granth into parts authorwipe. It was Bhai Mani Singh who wrote the final version of Guru Granth Sahib as dictated by Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Mani Singh would never have dared to undo it. The fact that Bhai Mani Singh was in favour of having even Dasm Granth in one volume disproves this theory

Patshahi10.Org is pleased to present Part-2 of this important piece of work on the history of Sri Dasam Granth by Dr. Trilochan Singh, an authoritative exponent of Sikh history, theology, philosophy and culture. This work, in four parts, was published in The Sikh Review in 1955. And up till now this remains a benchmark work on the history and compilation of Sri Dasam Granth - Admin


GURU Gobind Singh's approach to Sikhism has a marked originality and uniqueness in expression while the works of the other Gurus are extremely subjective in nature and synthetic in composition, sometimes so complex that one verse contains innumerable ideas synthesized around the theme of nam.

Guru Gobind Singh's works are objective and analytical with only one idea and one theme in one verse. While the other Gurus wrote with the Guru consciousness of Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, out of utter humility, just addressed himself as poet.
The sole road to God, said Guru Gobind Singh, was through the power and sincerity of love and worship and by the subordination of nature to divine grace.

He preached vehemently against hypocrisy, idolatry and the worship of personal gods. He believed in the philosophy of the light and the religion of love.

jatr tatr disa visa hoe phaileo anurag

To the east and west, where thou seest, He pervades as supreme love.

Guru Gobind Singh admitted that the source whence all truth proceeds was the incarnate word of the divine logos. But his emphasis was on pure, virtuous and disciplined living.
Without purity and sincerity of mind no religious life was possible.

At all times Guru Gobind Singh was mystical, eloquent and sublime, evolving in his philosophic works a gurmat-advait-ism which so differs from the abstract, metaphysical and dry advait-ism of Shankracharya.

This is the simplest of all Guru Gobind Singh's compositions. The Sikhs sing it every morning and it is also used in the preparation of amrit (nectar of baptism). The theme is set in the first verse:

cakr cehan ar barb jat ar pat nahenjai, rup rang ar rekh bhekh kou kaih na sakat kaih. acal murat anbhau parkas amitauj kahijai kot indr indran sah sahan ganijai tribhavan mahip sur nar asur neti neti ban trin kahat. tav sarab nam kathai kavan karam nam barnat sumat.

Contour and countenance, caste, class or lineage, He bas none. None can describe His form, figure, shape and semblance whatever; Immovable and self-poised is His being, Without fear, a luminous light sublime. The supreme Indra of Indras and King of kings consider Him to be; He is the sovereign of the three worlds. The demons, the mortals and the angelic beings, Nay, even the grass blades in the forests Proclaim Him to be boundless, endless and infinite. O, who can count all Thy names that are Thy glory? Through Thy enlightenment I will recount all Thy attributive names.
From here begins the song of the attributive names, not as a dry description or counting of names but as we read: "Salutation to the Immortal One, Salutation to the Merciful " the whole of our inner being begins to glow with the radiance and vision of His presence. The soul is etherialized into the perfume of devotion. The soul at first gropes for the recovery of some fragment of His vision and then it feels, in the throbs of an ampler joy, the assurance that it is touching the whole essence of the universe and it is one with truth and God.


This is one of the best works by Guru Gobind Singh from the literary as well as the philosophic point of view (discussed in detail in The Sikh Review, January 1954). Guru Gobind Singh's conception of religion and God is clearly given in it, Guruji vehemently opposed the idea of a chosen people or a blessed nation:

The Arabs of Arabia, The French of France, The Kureshis of Kandhar Meditate on Thee.

In the middle of the Akal Ustat are ten questions: What is the essence of atman? What are sin and virtue? What are karma and dharma? The verses from 211 to 230 fit more properly into some version of Chandi Charitar than in Akal Ustat. They are inconsistent with the development of thought in the Akal Ustat. Verses 20 to 30 form the daily prayer of the Sikhs. In the Akal Ustat the author's kindling vision goes deeper and deeper into the unchanging glory and the unconditioned self-completeness of God.


This is another ambitious work which is incomplete and a major portion of it is unfortunately lost. From a literary point of view it has the same perfection and grandeur of language and style as Akal Ustat. Out of 336 verses 125 form the introduction. At the end of the introduction Guruji gave the plan of the book which was to give the progressive evolution of religion in India in four stages. But first he discussed the four noble ways of life: 1. raj dharma (religion through political service); 2. dan dharma (religion of charity); 3. bhog dharma (religion through the pious life of a householder); 4. moksa dharma (religion of salvation). Guruji first gave from the history of ancient India the practice of the religion of charity. The purpose of this great work was to show that the highest religion of man was nam dharma (enlightenment through the word incarnate).


These were composed immediately after the organization of the Khalsa and can be said to be the first raihat-nama or the code of ethics of the Khalsa.

jagat jot japai nis basar, eh bina man naik na mania

Inspired with the fire of life, Awake with the perpetual song of His name day and night; Believing no other but the one and only God, Having no faith in the worship of tombs, idols and temple images, Completely lost in His beauty and infinite love, Absolutely discarding the lifeless beliefs in holy baths, alms giving, penances and austerities, Such a child of light, fully enlightened and a perfect figure of love, is the Khalsa.


These are short, popular poems which throw great light on Guru Gobind Singh's opinions on yoga, sanyasa and the religion of love. The most notable songs are two and both of them have a historical significance. After the battle of Chamkaur when he lost all four of his sons and he was without any company, shelter or succour, this optimist sang:

Far, far better are the love-lit straw beds of the Beloved Than the life of the palaces, Which, without Thee, O Beloved, are incessantly burning funeral pyres.

The other song was sung when Pundit Kesho Dutt, a great scholar, asked Guru Gobind Singh why he was almost deliberately giving all charity, gifts, wealth, honour and power to his Sikhs who were mostly low-caste people while he was ignoring the purer and higher castes. The Guru in his usual passionate fervour replied:

judh jite in hi hi kripa se…

All battles against tyranny have I fought with the loving grace of these people. I have been able to spread great gifts only through them. All evil and injury have I escaped Because the love of these people of undying faith was my sole protection. My home and heart are full with the joy and glory which they have given; I t is through their efforts and help I have gained great knowledge and acquired wide experience; I t is with the help of these common people that I have always defeated my enemies. For them was I born; Through them have I attained glory and greatness; Without them and without their loving support What am I? There are millions of creatures like me on earth.

Here is the champion of the cause of the common people whose humility and intense consciousness of the vitality of the common people was remarkable. No Marxist has ever sung such a song of the people as Guru Gobind Singh wrote 150 years before Marx was born and 60 years before the world ever heard of Rousseau and Voltaire. So strong was his faith in what is now known as democratic ideals that even when military dictatorship was expedient and even necessary he left, to quote Dr. Sinha, "the care of the flock as well as his army not to a single person but to the whole community. He placed his faith in the collective wisdom of the community and not in the devotion of a favourite disciple."


Chandi or Durga is a pre-Aryan deity. During the 12th and 13th centuries there was a great conflict between Durga worshippers and the followers of the Krishna cult as is clear from the lives of Chandi Das and Jaidev. Then there was a compromise. The Aryan Hindus also accepted her as a deity. The life of Chandi is in a number of Puranas, particularly Markande Puran, Devi Bhagwat and Padma Puran. There are three versions of Chandi Charitar besides a short version in the Triya Charitar. These versions are translations from three different Puranas:

1. First Chandi Charitar, 233 verses, translated most probably from Padam Puran.

2. Second Chandi Charitar (Hindi), 266 verses, mention is made at the end that it is translated from Markande Puran. It forms part of the Bachiter Natak Granth.

3. Third version Durga-di-var, 55 verses, translated most probably from Devi Bhagwat.
The Chandi Charitars have become more popular than other secular works by Guru Gobind Singh because they are the shortest compositions in the Dasm Granth and are available in all brief selections in complete form. All the other selections are bulky. These are the only writings available in Panjabi and the Panjabi version is written in a very popular form of poetry called the var.

There are three grievous misunderstandings about which a great deal of fuss has been made by those who used every false argument trying to prove that Guru Gobind Singh was a worshipper of Durga and he derived all his strength for fighting from her and not from the one unmanifested God as is believed by the Sikhs.

While the motive for creating the misunderstanding is one and the same, the misunderstandings about Guru Gobind Singh's conception of Durga are three:

1. In one place Guru Gobind Singh wrote, "I bow to the bhagauti," and bhagauti, some say, means Chandi or Durga. So it-is implied that Guru Gobind Singh meditated on Durga.

2. At the end of all these three Chandi Charitars is written what we call the mahatam or the powers that can be attained by reciting the writings. This implies that the Sikhs should recite the Chandi Charitar to attain those powers.

3. The third misunderstanding is created by distorted histories which were mostly written in the 18th century, about 100 years after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. These histories carry the invented story that in the 1698 A. D., Samvat 1755, Guru Gobind Singh actually worshipped Durga with elaborate ceremonies asking for courage and power to fight the enemy.

These three views about Guru Gobind Singh have become so popular that even those who know nothing much about Guru Gobind Singh can talk loudly and emphatically about these things.

1. There are two distinctly different words even in the original Sanskrit Puranas from where the Chandi Charitars have been translated. These are bhagauti and Bhagvati. Throughout the Markande Puran, Padam Puran, Devi Bhagwat and Vishnu Puran, these two words occur frequently and everywhere Bhagvati means Durga and bhagauti means sword. Nowhere in these Purans is the word bhagauti used to mean Durga. Everywhere, throughout the Puranic literature, bhagauti means the sword and nowhere does it mean Durga.[1]

In the whole of Dasm Granth the word bhagauti occurs in two lines in the text which are:

(1) pritham bhagauti simar cai guru nanak lai dhyae
Remembering the supreme sword first, meditate on Guru Nanak.

(2) lai bhagauti durg sah vajragan bhari
Durga caught hold of the bhagauti (sword) which glimmered like a flashing flame.

These are the only two lines in the whole of Dasm Granth in which the word bhagauti occurs and by no stretch of the imagination can it be interpreted as Durga.

The name of Durga occurs in the Dasm Granth over 120 times and innumerable popular names for Durga are repeatedly used such as Chandi, Chandika, Bhavani, Durga, Mahamai, Devi, Ambaka, Jambhha, Mundardani, etc.

Guru Gobind Singh gave many new attributive names to God as the wielder of the sword of dharma, and the sword became for him the righteous spirit of God in which was ingrained his deep rooted faith in the ultimate victory of good over evil. Those names are: Asdhuj (one who has the sword on His banner), Asket (wielder of the sword), Aspan (with
the sword in hand) and Kharagpan (with the sword in hand). Other words which occur signifying God's sword-spirit of dharma are khag, tegan, sri as, kirpan, sarbloh (all-steel), maha loh (great steel) and bhagauti.

2. The second point of confusion is about some lines occurring at the end of Chandi Charitar giving the fruit of reciting the Chandi song.

These lines are:

a. First Chandi Charitar:
"For whatever purpose a person reads this life of Chandi, it shall definitely be granted to him."

b. Second Chandi Charitar:
"Even if a foolish person reads the life of Chandi, immense wealth will be bestowed on him. If a coward reads it he will be able to fight most bravely; if a yogi reads it he will attain siddhi and if a student reads it he will attain knowledge."

c. Third Panjabi version Durga ki var:
"He who recites Durga's life will not take birth again."

All these are not the opinions of Guru Gobind Singh. They are the opinions of the writers of the original which Guru Gobind Singh faithfully translated. To dissociate himself and his ideal from it, Guru Gobind Singh either added a short introduction or an epilogue to each of these versions of Chandi. Guru Gobind Singh's opinions, giving his own faith were:

(a) In the First Chandi Charitar he said:
deh siva bar mohe ehai, shubh carman te kabhu na taro, na daro ar so jab jae laro, niscai kar aprni jit karo, ar sikh hau apne hi man kau eh lalac hau gun tau ucro, jab av kd audh nidan banai at hi ran mai tab jujh maro

Give me this power, O Almighty: From righteous deeds I may never refrain, Fearlessly may I fight all the battles of life, Full confidence may I ever have In asserting my moral victories, May my supreme ambition and learning be To sing of Thy glory and victory. When this mortal life comes to a close May I die with the joy and courage of a martyr.

(b) The second Chandi Charitar is a part of the Bachiter Natak Granth. The Bachiter Natak has a collective introduction in which Guru Gobind Singh repeatedly wrote that he did not believe in the worship of gods and goddesses. In verses 92 and 93 Guruji said, "It is through Thy power, O God, that Durga destroyed the demons like Sumbh, Nisumbh, Dhumer and Lochan, Chand and Mund. It is through Thy power, O God, that Rama destroyed Ravana." And he concludes, Also “so sahib pae kaha parvah rahi eh das tiharo—With such a supreme One as my Lord, what care I, Thy servant, for anything or anyone?"

In the next stanza Guruji commented on the avatars and goddesses who were instrumental in killing all these and said,

"Kahe ko kur kare tapasa inki kou kaudi ke kam na aihai—Why indulge ye in the futile worship of these deities? Their worship is not worth a kaudi (one-twentieth of a penny)

(c) The third Panjabi version has a long introduction, a part which forms the national prayer. In it the Guru invoked the grace and blessings of God and the nine Gurus.

taihi durga saj kai daita da nas karaya, taitho hi bal ram lai nal bana dehsir ghaia, taitho hi bal krishan lai kans kesi pakad giraya, bade bade muni devte kai jug tini tan laia, kini tera nht na paya.

It is Thou who created Durga and had the demons destroyed, From Thee derived Rama all the strength to kill the ten-headed Ravana. From Thee derived Krishna all his strength to catch Kans by the hair and dash him to the ground. Great seers and sages in all ages strained hard in penance to know Thee. None, none has attained Thy end.

In these short prologues and epilogues Guru Gobind Singh made his own opinion about Durga quite clear. He took these figures simply as historical persons of note and nothing else.

3. The third question is, did Guru Gobind Singh actually worship Durga for strength before the creation of the Khalsa in 1698? This story was introduced to some partially unreliable records in order to distort or discredit the great creation of the Khalsa which
in its dramatic way of imparting the spiritual powers and responsibility of the Guru to the people was historically unique.

By this time Guru Gobind Singh had fought about eight or nine of his major and minor battles. If he had managed to fight all the severe battles without invoking Chandi so far, where was the necessity of invoking the strength of Chandi for one or two more battles? How was it that Guru Har Gobind fought all his battles without even thinking of Chandi?

Even the places where Guru Gobind Singh rested for a while became sacred to the Sikhs and were worshipped by them. How is it that no Sikh, not even stray individuals, ever pay homage to Durga nor do they ever worship her? In the Zafarnama, which was written only six years later, Guru Gobind Singh called himself an idol breaker.

In 1698 a Muslim reporter of Aurangzeb's who witnessed the creation of the Khalsa quoted the speech of Guru Gobind Singh in his despatch to Aurangzeb as follows:
"Let all embrace one creed and obliterate the differences of religion. Let the four Hindu castes who have different rules of guidance abandon them all, adopt the one form of adoration and become brothers. Let no one deem himself superior to another. Let no one pay heed to the Ganges and other places of pilgrimage which are spoken of with reverence in the Shastras or adore incarnations such as Rama, Krishna, Brahma and Durga but believe in Guru Nanak and other Gurus. Let men of four castes receive my baptism, eat out of one dish and feel no disgust or contempt for another."

In none of his philosophic compositions did he invoke Durga, nor did he invoke the goddess when writing his letters to Aurangzeb. Everywhere it is the invocation of God as the protector of the good through the sword of dharma.

The Durga worship story is generally placed in history in Baisakh 1755 Samvat. We learn from the Dasm Granth that Guru Gobind Singh completed his Ramayan (Life of Lord Rama which forms a part of Bachiter Natak Granth) in Baisakh 1755. The epilogue which he wrote to this Ramayan in this very month in which he is alleged to have worshipped Durga is as follows:

paen gahe jab te tumre, tab te kou atikh tare nahi aneo, ram raJiim puran kuran, anek kahai'n mat ek na rnaneo, simrit sastar bed sabai balm bhed kahain ham ek na janeo sri aspan kiipa tumri kar main na kaheo sab tohe bakhaneo. dohra: sagal duar kau chad kai gaheo tuharo duar bauhe gahe kl laj as gobihd das tuhar.

Ever since I took refuge at Thy feet, O God, I have brought no other god under the eye of my faith. Rain and Rahim are various deities of the Puran and Quran. They describe the One so differently; But I believe in none, I have faith in none but Thee, O God. The Vedas, Shastras and Simritis give various forms of worship; I believe in none and I have faith in none of them. O Glorious Weilder of the sword of dharma, It is only through Thy grace I have been able to write all this. dohra: After leaving all other doors, O God, I have come to Thy door. O make me Thine for having once called me Thine own. I, Gobind, am just a humble servant of Thine.

These verses express the thoughts and the moods, the faith, the philosophy and the spiritual ideal to which he was inwardly attached in the very month in which he is alleged to have worshipped Durga. By comparing Guru Gobind Singh's translation with the original in Sanskrit written by Rishi Markande I have noticed that Guru Gobind Singh has deliberately excluded those chapters which give the list of siddhis, psychic powers, that can be attained by reciting it. The siddhis range from the cure of leprosy, smallpox and snake bite to the power of defeating the enemy.

He translated these lives of Durga in the literary language of those times to reveal Durga in the true light. He was pained to see that millions of Bengalis and Biharis worshipped Durga and yet they were timid and weak. The idea of fighting dharamyudh, the battles of righteousness, had disappeared from their consciousness. The worship of Durga had degenerated into a worship of a low type of psychic powers.


[1] Rishi Markande gives over 108 names to Durga in his Markande Puran but bhagauti is not among them.

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