Four Hundredth Prakash Divas of Adi Granth falls in September 2004. One year ahead of this historic and solemn occasion in the social and cultural life of Punjab, the Punjabi University, Patiala drew up plans to dedicate the whole academic year to this grand event. Under its Four Hundredth Prakash Celebration Series, its faculties of Social Sciences, Languages, Arts and Culture, etc. chalked out their own programmes in the form of seminars, conferences, special lectures, etc. and to bring out commemorative volumes of the academic journals. Regular annual academic events such as Punjab History Conference, Punjabi Development Conference and commemorative lecture series were devoted to the Parkash Utsav Celebrations.
On this occasion Guru Gobind Singh Department of Religious Studies organized an International Seminar on the theme, Guru Granth Sahib: Formation, Unique Status and Place Among Scriptures, involving scholars of international repute from U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and reputed universities of India. Another unique feature of the seminar was that scholars who participated in the deliberations of the seminar from February 18-20,2004 were representatives of diverse fields of study and different religious traditions. Selected papers presented in the seminar are being issued in book form for the benefit of coming generations of scholars to take the academic work forward.
I would like to congratulate the Department of Religious Studies- its faculty members, staff and students-for conducting a successful seminar on such an important theme. I also want to appreciate the untiring efforts and dedication of the Seminar Director and Editor of this volume for bringing the academic plan to its logical fruition.
Guru Granth Sahib is the sacred book of the Sikhs. The word Granth comes from Sanskrit and it means a book as the Bible or the Quran. It is variously called Adi Granth (primal scripture), Granth Sahib (the holy Granth), or Guru Granth Sahib. Compared to the earlier great scriptures of the world it is relatively of recent origins. Guru Nanak the founder of the faith was born a little over five hundred years ago. He composed his sacred poetry in the prevalent Punjabi poetic forms under the divine inspiration as corroborated by the Bani itself and set them to classical Indian musical modes (Ragas) for the purpose of devotional singing. These sacred compositions forms the nucleus of the future Sikh scripture.
Guru Nanak himself committed his holy verses to writing in the pothis (breviaries) which he carried on his person (as evidenced by Bhai Gurdas, the great Sikh savant in his first Var) during his long itineraries to different religious centres in India and neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afganistan, Sri Lanka, etc. We have the evidence of the Puratan Janam Sakhi edited by Bhai Vir Singh, (New Delhi: Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, 1989, p. 207) that at the time of the appointment of successor to his divine mission Guru Nanak bestowed this Pothi also upon Guru Angad Dev. In fact the work of the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib began with Guru Nanak himself. Guru Angad employed reformed prevalent script called Gurmukhi to it, to carry the work forward. Guru Amar Das got the pothis of Bani compiled under his direct supervision, incorporating his own holy compositions to it. It was Guru Arjan Dev the fifth Sikh Guru who finally compiled the Adi Granth, having Bhai Gurdas, the most revered Sikh as amanuensis. The stupendous task of compilation took years of sustained devotional work involving a number of individual Sikhs and the Sangats spread over different centres of the Sikh religion. The holy enterprise of sifting, editing and compilation of hymns was accomplished under the discerning eye of Guru Arjan Dev, whose own compositions consists of the largest contribution to the sacred Granth. Along with the compositions of the first five Sikh Gurus, a large number of hymns of the medieval Bhagats, Sants, Sufis, and some of the devoted followers associated with the Gurus were also incorporated in the Granth Sahib. On the methodological presentation of the hymns in the Adi Granth, Frederic Pincott, a learned British scholar of nineteenth century, who had already published his paper tracing the system on which the hymns of RgVeda were arranged, comments, that the book is arranged on a clearly traceable system, depending, firstly, on the tunes to which the poems were sung; secondly, on the nature or metre of the poems themselves, thirdly; on their authorship; and fourthly, on the clef or key deemed appropriate to them. It follows, as a corollary, that the positions of hymns have no reference to their antiquity or dogmatic importance; and also, that the Adi Granth is a single systematic collection, into which the later additions (as those of Ninth and Tenth Gurus) were inserted in their appropriate places. (Darshan Singh ed., Western Image of the Sikh Religion (New Delhi: National Book Organization, 1999, p. 210).
The Granth Sahib thus prepared was installed at the place most suited to it i.e. Harimandar Sahib, the central Sikh shrine on Bhadon vadi ekam Bikrami Sammat 1661 (A.D.1604). Bhai Buddha Ji, a most venerated primal figure of early Sikhism, was appointed as the first Granthi by Guru Arjan Dev. This solemn occasion is celebrated by the Sikhs as Parkash Divas year after year. After the installation of Granth Sahib, Guru Arjan Dev and successor Gurus always took a lower place to sit and to retire for night in its presence. Guru Gobind Singh while staying at Talwandi Sabo (Damadamah Sahib) re-edited the Adi Granth, inserted four Sabads in the liturgical portion and also included the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur at the appropriate place. Bhai Mani Singh a great exponent of the Sikh beliefs and most respected Sikh worked as amanuensis with Guru Gobind Singh. Baba Deep Singh another contemporary warrior Sikh saint prepared four copies of the re-edited sacred corpus to be installed at the sacred Takhats of the Khalsa Panth.
Guru Gobind Singh before his departure from the mortal world at Nanded Sahib in 1708, discontinued the practice of appointing personal Guru and appointed Granth Sahib as the Guru eternal for all times to come. Henceforth, the Granth Sahib came to be designated as Guru Granth Sahib. In the entry in the Bhatt Vahi Talaunda Parganah Jind it is recorded: Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master, son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, grandson of Guru Hargobind, great-grandson of Guru Arjan, of the family of Ram Das Surajbansi Gosal clan, Sodhi Khatri, resident of Anandpur, parganah Kahlur now at Nanded on Godavari bank in Deccan, asked Bhai Daya Singh, on Wednesday, shukla chauth of the month of Kartik 1765 BK. (6 October 1708), to fetch the Sri Granth Sahib. The Guru placed before it five pice and a coconut and bowed his head before it. He said to the Sangat, "It is my commandment: Own Sri Granth j i in my place. He who so acknowledges it will obtain his reward. The Guru will rescue him. Know this as the truth." (Harbans Singh ed., The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Vol. 4, Patiala : Punjabi University, 1998, p.243).
Sirdar Kapur Singh the most versatile genius of Sikh ism of recent times have also corroborated the above occurrence of Sikh history stating that Guru Gobind Singh, terminated human succession to the office of the Guru and established instead the condominium of the Granth, the book, and the Panth, the order of the Khalsa, with the following declaration, which ever since, is recited at the conclusion of every congregational prayer, morning and evening, and on all occasions of public worship by the Sikhs:
The Order of the Khalsa was established as was the command of the God;
This is now the commandment for all the Sikhs:
Accept the Granth as Guru;
Know Guru Granthji as the visible body of the Gurus.
He who hath properly trained mind, shall find confirmation there of in the contents of the book itself.
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