The History and Compilation of the Dasm Granth

by Gursant Singh ⌂ @, Yuba City California USA, Monday, May 17, 2010, 20:47 (4052 days ago)

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

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