Guru Granth Sahib—The Guru Eternal
Guru Granth Sahib—The Guru Eternal
by Mohinder Singh. Publisher: Himalayan Books, New Delhi. Pages 256. Rs 4,500.
by Roopinder Singh
Guru Granth Sahib is revered by millions of Sikhs all over the world and the occasion of tercentenary of the ‘Gurta Gaddi Divas’ has made the need to focus on the text and its unique and sacred message even more acute.
Guru Granth Sahib has the bani (sacred compositions, literally utterances) of six Gurus; 15-non Sikh bhagats (saints, three of them Muslims) whose bani is in consonance with the teachings of the Gurus, bhattas (bards) and others. Every composition is expressed poetically and is set to one of the 31 selected ragas.
It was Guru Arjan Dev who decided to compile the bani of the earlier Gurus and had the manuscript, then called the Pothi Sahib, scribed in such a manner that the bani was arranged in a proper contextual order and each composition’s author was identified. Experts maintain that the verses of the Adi Granth which the manuscript became, were numbered and words written without any space between them in early manuscripts to prevent any interpolation.
Dr J. S. Neki, in his lucid introduction, rightly dwells on the revelation in Guru Granth Sahib, giving a brief account of revelation in other religions and stressing on its non-exclusivist character in Sikhism.
Dr Mohinder Singh, who is Director, National Institute of Punjab Studies, Bhai Vir Singh Bhavan, New Delhi, has undertaken to cover a wide canvas in the text that amounts to around 50 pages. He has given an extensive collection of exclusive pictures of rare and valuable manuscripts.
In the very first chapter, he brings out the distinctive characteristics of Sikh Religion and the Sikh Scripture. He traces the journey from Pothi to Guru Granth Sahib, and then goes on to the Installation of the Adi Granth in Harimandir Sahib.
The chapter on Contributors of Guru Granth Sahib gives details of the Gurus’ contribution and shows how the compositions of the Bhagats were included. This highlights the broadbase and the egalitarian nature of Sikhism. The artistically presented brief sketches leave the reader wanting for more.
The pages on which the bani from Guru Granth Sahib is given in original Gurmukhi with the translation in English are rich in both meaning and in presentation. A chapter on Important Hukamnamas and Nisans is visually enriching. Here, and in fact throughout the book, more detailed captions would have added much to the readers’ information as would have a glossary and an index.
The author goes on to tell us about the Interpretation and Translations of Guru Granth Sahib. He gives a round-up of the historical scholars who worked in the field and names of important contemporary academics.
Conserving Rare Guru Granth Sahib Birs lists various collections of important manuscripts in India and abroad, and details the efforts to conserve and preserve this immensely important part of our heritage.
The book is richly mounted and beautifully produced. Stunning pictures of the Sikhs engaged in various activities like kirtan, prayers, doing sewa during langar have been shot mostly by Malkiat Singh and Sondeep Shankar. Some images are by Raghu Rai and Hardev Singh.
B. S. Manhan’s sketches that are used as opening folios of each chapter come out very well. Illustrations from various museums and private sources, some reproductions of old lithographs, and photographs of various manuscripts all make the book a treat for the eyes, although because of an excess of riches, sometimes the senses are overwhelmed.
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, who recently released the volume, was right when he said: “We today need to recall and reiterate the basic purpose of human existence and of all teachings that underline the essential unity of faiths.”
This article was published in The Tribune on October 26, 2008