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Guru Granth

Category: Books sutras and myths

 

The Guru Granth is the holy book of the Sikhs. Granth simply means a book or volume, thus Guru Granth means the book of the Gurus.

It is 1,430 pages long and is written entirely in verse.  It is the longest book of rhymed poetry in the world.  This book, sacred to the Sikhs, contains the poems and songs of the ten gurus, as well as the poems of many Hindu and Moslem saints whose works are in harmony with Sikh beliefs.

History

When the second Sikh guru – Guru Angad – obtained the guru-ship from Nanak he not only continued the tradition of sacred poetry, but also started to bring together the first guru and founder of Sikhism - Nanak’s poems into one book, written in a form of the Punjabi language in the Gurmuki script.  

 

As the guru-ship passed successively from one guru to the next, poetry was added to the existing poetry, the third guru Amar Das, for example not only added his poetry but also included poetry from Hindu saints.  The two volumes he collected survive to this day.

But as Sikhism spread, so did the number of copies and the problem of authenticity started to arise.

 This problem was tackled in about 1604 under the leadership of the 5th guru Arjan.  Calling on the help of an historian, Bhai Gurdas, and working in a little spot in the forest outside Amritsar, they set to work to try to recreate an authentic version. 

By that time, a vast amount of poetry had been handed down.  Arjan himself had composed thousands of poems and hymns.  Selections had to be made from both his work and the work of the preceding four gurus.   Arjan also wanted to add the works of several Muslim Sufis and Hindu mystics – including Kabir.  And so Arjan sat making selections and rejecting those works he considered were not genuine, whilst Bhai Gurdas copied the chosen pieces in the Gurmukhi script.

Arjan organised the collection into 31 sections, each section contains poems written in one ‘raga’ or melody pattern – a form in Hindu music having the melodic rhythm prescribed by tradition.  The ragas appear in a particular order.  Each raga has its own distinctive intervals, rhythms and timing and each is associated with a particular season of the year.

 

For instance, the first raga is Sri, which means "supreme." It is a basic melody pattern from which others are derived.

The Sikhs compare Sri to the ‘philosopher's stone’.  Sri is sung in the evening, the time of advancing darkness. The hymns in the Sri pattern express a great yearning for the Divine.

Within each of the thirty-one sections of the Guru Granth, Arjan arranged the compositions in a particular order. First came the works of the earlier gurus in the order of their succession.

Since all of the gurus had signed their poems ‘Nanak’, Arjan distinguished them by using the word Mahalla, which means "body," and a number. Thus, poems headed Mahalla 1 were the work of the first guru, those headed Mahalla 2 were the work of the second guru, and so on. This designation symbolized the belief that each guru shared the spirit of Nanak in his body. After the gurus' poems, Arjan placed the works of a number of Hindu saints and one Muslim, Sheikh Farid.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar

The completion of the Guru Granth was an occasion of great celebration.

On August 16th 1604, Sikhs travelled for miles to witness the colourful procession that would bear the sacred volume to Harimandir, the temple at Amritsar.

An elderly and much respected Sikh folIower, Bhai Buddha, carried the Guru Granth on his head, whilst Arjan walked behind, holding a whisk over the holy book to shade and protect it. Musicians played hymns from its pages. Observers likened the atmosphere to that of a joyous wedding.

 

Once inside, Bhai Buddha reverently opened the Guru Granth to obtain the hukm, or Divine Command, while Arjan stood in attendance. At dusk, the Guru Granth was taken to a special chamber and placed on a pedestal. Arjan remained with it, sleeping on the floor by its side to show the esteem in which he held it.

This original Guru Granth is preserved today at Kartarpur, the town founded by Nanak.

Thus, during Arjan's time, the Sikhs acquired both a sacred space in which to worship and a sacred text to guide them. Both helped to mold the Sikhs' consciousness of themselves and their faith. The Golden Temple at Amritsar provided a central place for gathering and worship. The Guru Granth gave the Sikh message concrete form. Their holy book not only became their spiritual and religious guide, but it also shaped their intellectual and cultural environment.

 

About 100 years later, in 1708, the tenth guru Gobind Singh decreed that from then on there would be no more gurus.  The Granth would be the only guru.  Since then the focus of Sikh teaching and prayer has been the Guru Granth.

Sikhs greatly revere this holy book and turn to it for inspiration and guidance on a regular basis.  It is still used in religious ceremonies and to celebrate births and marriages, or at funerals.

The Contents

The Guru Granth opens with the numeral one. It is the first word of the first statement of Guru Nanak:

Ikk Oan Kar

Literally "One Reality ls," or "There is only one Reality”.  These first three words are the fundamental affirmation of Sikhism. The Guru Granth then describes the Reality, its relation to the world, and its relation to the people of the world. Overall, the Guru Granth contains no historical narratives and no biographical details. It provides no dogma. It prescribes no code of behaviour and lists no obligations. The Sikh holy book is composed entirely of spiritually exalted poetry. Its theme is the individual's longing for the Ultimate Reality.

The Guru Granth ends with the Mundavani, the seal, or final word, of its compiler, Guru Arjan:

On the platter lie arranged three delicacies:
Truth, contentment, and contemplation . . .
All who eat them, all who savor them
Obtain liberation.

 

References

All the observations for the Guru Granth are grouped within the section on Sikhism, as to a large extent, Sikhism is the Guru Granth and vice versa.

Material for this section was derived from the excellent introduction to Sikhism by Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh.

Ragas in the Guru Granth Sahib – according to Wikipedia

No.

Name of Raga

Order in Guru Granth Sahib

Page Range

Page Count

1

Asa
ਆਸਾ

4

347 to 489

142

2

Bairari
ਬੈਰਾੜੀ

13

719 to 721

2

3

Basant
ਬਸੰਤੁ

25

1168 to 1197

29

4

Bhairon
ਭੈਰਉ

24

1125 to 1168

43

5

Bihagara
ਬਿਹਾਗੜਾ

7

537 to 557

20

6

Bilaval
ਬਿਲਾਵਲੁ

16

795 to 859

64

7

Devagandhari
ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ

6

527 to 537

10

8

Dhanasari
ਧਨਾਸਰੀ

10

660 to 696

36

9

Gauri
ਗਉੜੀ

3

151 to 347

196

10

Gond
ਗੋਂਡ

17

859 to 876

17

11

Gujari
ਗੂਜਰੀ

5

489 to 527

38

12

Jaijaivanti
ਜੈਜਾਵੰਤੀ

31

1352 to 1353

1

13

Jaitshree
ਜੈਤਸਰੀ

11

696 to 711

15

14

Kalyan
ਕਲਿਆਨ

29

1319 to 1327

8

15

Kahnra
ਕਾਨੜਾ

28

1294 to 1319

25

16

Kedara
ਕੇਦਾਰਾ

23

1118 to 1125

7

17

Maajh
ਮਾਝ

2

94 to 151

57

18

Malhar
ਮਲਾਰ

27

1254 to 1294

40

19

Mali Gaura
ਮਾਲੀ ਗਉੜਾ

20

984 to 989

5

20

Maru
ਮਾਰੂ

21

989 to 1107

118

21

Nat Narayan
ਨਟ ਨਾਰਾਇਨ

19

975 to 984

9

22

Prabhati
ਪਰਭਾਤੀ

30

1327 to 1352

25

23

Ramkali
ਰਾਮਕਲੀ

18

876 to 975

99

24

Sarang
ਸਾਰਗ

26

1197 to 1254

57

25

Shree
ਸਿਰੀਰਾਗੁ

1

14 to 94

80

26

Sorath
ਸੋਰਠਿ

9

595 to 660

65

27

Suhi
ਸੂਹੀ

15

728 to 795

67

28

Tilang
ਤਿਲੰਗ

14

721 to 728

7

29

Todi
ਟੋਡੀ

12

711 to 719

8

30

Tukhari
ਤੁਖਾਰੀ

22

1107 to 1118

11

31

Vadahans
ਵਡਹੰਸੁ

8

557 to 595

38

 Mood according to Wikipedia

Soohi – joy and separation

Bilaaval – happiness

Gaund – strangeness, surprise, beauty

Sri – satisfaction and balance

Maajh – loss, beautification

Gauri – seriousness

Aasa – making effort

Gujri – satisfaction, softness of heart, sadness

Devgandhari – no specific feeling but the Raag has a softness

Bihaagra – beautification

Sorath – motivation

Dhanasari – inspiration, motivation

 

Jaitsree – softness, satisfaction, sadness

Todi – this being a flexible Raag it is apt for communicating many feelings

Bhairaagi – sadness, (The Gurus have, however, used it for the message of *Bhakti)

Tilang – this is a favourite Raag of Muslims. It denotes feeling of beautification and yearning.

Raamkali – calmness

Nat Narayan – happiness

Maali Gaura – happiness

Maaru – giving up of cowardice

Tukhari – beautification

 

Kedara – love and beautification

Bhairav – seriousness, brings stability of mind

Basant – happiness

Sarang – sadness

Malaar – separation

Jaijawanti – viraag

Kalyaan – Bhakti Ras

Vadhans – vairaag, loss (that is why Alahniya is sung in this Raag when someone passes away)

Parbhati – Bhakti and seriousness

Kaanra – Bhakti and seriousness