The first version of the Scripture of the Sikhs was compiled by the Fifth Guru and was installed in Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, in 1604. It had spiritual verses (Gurbani) of the first five Sikh Gurus (Guru Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amardas, Guru Ramdas and Guru Arjan) and some other Saints. This Scripture was called Pothi Sahib or Adi Granth. Later, it was revised by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last physically manifested Sikh Guru (by adding the verses of Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru), at Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, in 1706, and was given the present name Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), and the Status of An Eternal Guru.
SGGS composed and compiled by Sikh Gurus themselves
Teachings of Socrates (469-399 BCE) came to us from the writings of Plato (428-347 BCE). Some saints left no written record of their teachings; their followers collected their oral sermons later. The philosophy of Kung Fu-Tze, also known as Confucius (551-479 BCE), was published by his grandson later. The verses in SGGS, however, have been written by the Sikh Gurus themselves. Gurus selected the verses of other saints and bards that also inculcate respect for all religious scriptures, equality of all human beings, their liberty, the dignity of women, and upholding of human rights. Gurbani exhorts us to worship One Creator (Naam Japo), earn honestly (Kirat Karo) by the sweat of our brow, and render selfless service (Sewa Karo) with empathy, by sharing of our resources (Dasvand or one-tenth of our income) with others, especially the needy.
(Free food, medicines, and oxygen, besides many other selfless services, were rendered by the Sikhs to thousands of people of all Faiths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations like Khalsa Aid Volunteers served millions during Earthquakes, Floods, and other natural calamities in the past. Among others, free orphanages like Pingalwara at Amritsar, free Dialysis Hospitals at Sikh Gurdwaras, as at Delhi, and Guru ka Langar Free Eye Surgery Hospitals (as at Soahana and Chandigarh) and Sarbat da Bhala Global Trust are only some of many such voluntary Services Centres set up by the Sikhs for people of all communities, as enshrined in their Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).
One Script, though Different Languages
Throughout SGGS, only one simple (Gurmukhi) script has been used. However, common idioms and phrases from several other languages spoken in different parts of India, have been used. The main language was Punjabi, spoken mostly in Punjab and parts of Northern India. Words from Lehndi Punjabi (spoken now only in Pakistan), were used but its Shahmukhi Script was not used. Other languages in SGGS include Hindi, Apbhransh, Brajbhasha, Marathi, Sindhi, Multani, Rajasthani, Kourvi, and Rekhta. Words from Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian have also been used. Adjectives commonly used for the One Creator (such as Ram, Hari, Krishan, Gopal, Brahma, Vasudeva, Murari, Thakur, Nath, and Allah, Rahim, Khuda) are frequently used in this Scripture.
SGGS as An Inter-Faith Scripture
The Gurbani hymns in SGGS are in melodious musical forms (Raagas) and their combinations (Mishrit Raagas), in harmony with the time of the day and the season. The purpose is to attune the human mind to Nature, in remembrance and gratitude of One Creator. The ultimate aim of SGGS is the unification of all human beings. There are many verses that emphasize the virtues of other forms of life, the flora and fauna, and the need to learn from their noble attributes. Protection of the ecological equilibrium of Nature is a recurrent theme, which the Gurus highlighted centuries before the present environmental disasters. The diversity and independence of all Faiths are celebrated in these compositions. The forced conversion of any person to the Sikh way of Life (Sikhi) or to another religion, is strongly opposed in SGGS.
Contributions of Saints and Bards of all Religions to SGGS
The spiritual verses of 15 other saints (Bhagats) and 11 bards (Bhatts) are also included in SGGS. They were from different regions, castes, and professions. Three of them were Muslims, five were Hindus and seven were from other castes. Some verses of two dedicated devotees, who played on the stringed musical instrument called Rabaab, also find a place in SGGS. Gurus and the musicians who accompanied them also played on other stringed instruments such as Saranda, and Taus. (Two verses by Guru Nanak are incorporated in SGGs, in recognition of the scholarship and the devotion of his constant companion during the Guru’s odysseys.
Scientific and Rational Approach of SGGS
In SGGS, one frequently comes across many scientific expositions of physical phenomena. For instance, ‘matter’ has been shown to consist of atoms and as waves of energy that can enter the distant inter-planetary space in the blinking of an eye (possible only with speed comparable to that of light). The existence of millions of stars and galaxies had been mentioned in SGGS much before astrophysicists and astronomers came to discover them through telescopes and satellites. There are many hymns that describe how the universe was created from a very dense, compact ‘cosmic egg,’ just as the Big Bang Theory suggests now. Gurbani also speaks of the space-time continuum which is a corollary of Einsteinian Relativity. A logical and scientific approach is repeatedly advocated in SGGS, to eradicate superstitions and irrational blind beliefs.
The Sequence in SGGS
Gurbani verses in SGGS are arranged in three parts. The prayers for morningtide (Jap Ji), afternoon (Rehras), and bedtime (Sohila) form the first 13 pages. The second part, from page 14 up to 1352, consists of musical compositions, which are methodically numbered so that no changes are possible subsequently. The verses in the third part, from page 1353 to 1430, are not in any musical form and are composed mostly by Bhatts, the Brahmin Scholars. All these verses focus on the praise and remembrance of One Creator, Truthful Living, Compassion, and Love for all living beings. They are based on the progressive, and rational philosophy of the Sikh Gurus that shuns all rituals.
Views expressed by some thinkers about SGGS are reproduced below.
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