(Last Updated on : 16/02/2011)
The Holy Scriptures of Sikhism was compiled by the fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev in the 'Gurmukhi' script from 1603-04. The 'Adi Granth' or the 'Guru Granth Sahib' is usually regarded as the premier Holy Scripture of the Sikhs though there are some other supplementary scriptures of importance as well. It is notable that the title 'Guru Granth Sahib' is a later addition and upon its initial compilation, the Holy Book was known as the 'Adi Granth'. The authentic version of the Sikh Holy Text remains preserved today in the town of Kartarpur in Punjab.
The term 'Adi' means 'first' and 'Granth' refers to 'book'. Hence 'Adi Granth' literally stands for 'the first book'. The need to compile the teachings preached by the foremost of the Gurus, Guru Nanak
and his heirs was realized by Arjan Dev upon his discovery that certain individuals were propagating their own hymns attributing them to Guru Nanak. Hence in order to prevent the manipulation of the doctrine propounded by the Gurus and for the preservation of the sanctity of the Sikh religious faith, Guru Arjan Dev
ventured to compile the teachings of the Guru. In his bid to do so, he undertook journeys to Khadur, Kartarpur and Goindwal to visit the kith and kin of the previous Gurus and managed to obtain the original scripts from Sri Chand, the descendent of Guru Nanak, Datu, the son of Guru Angad and Mohan, the son of Guru Amar Das
. These apart, he also entrusted some of his prominent disciples like Bhai Buddha, Bhai Gurdas and Bhai Piara with the responsibility of retrieving the indigenous scripts of the Gurus from different parts of the country wherever available. Once this endeavor proved fruitful, it is believed that Guru Arjan Dev commenced the mammoth task of compiling a comprehensive text in Amritsar
, which was named the 'Adi Granth'. Bhai Gurdas was designated as the transcriber of the original version. In 1604, the 'Adi Granth', then known as the 'Pothi Sahib' was sited at the elevated pedestal in the Harminder Sahib (Golden Temple
) at Amritsar. It was to serve as the symbol of divine authority and not as a substitute for an idol. According to Guru Arjan Dev, the 'Pothi Sahib' was accessible to any individual irrespective of caste or creed. Bhai Buddha, one of his honored followers was chosen as the first 'Granthi' or keeper of the Holy Text.
It was in 1708 that prior to his death, Guru Gobind Singh
, the tenth Sikh Guru pronounced the Holy Scripture as his successor and the 'Adi Granth' came to be known as the 'Guru Granth Sahib'
. It is subdivided into fourteen hundred parts composed of hymnical verses. These compiled verses are often referred to as 'Gurbani' or the 'word of the Guru'. A considerable contribution to the Holy Scriptures was made by the devotees or 'Bhagats' who often were clerics of other religious faiths like Trilochan, Kabir, Jaideva, Rai Das and many others across caste and class barriers. These couplets were known as 'Bhagat Bani' or 'Word of the Disciples'. No distinction is made by the Sikhs between the verses composed by the devotees and the Gurus and they are honored with equal respect.
Apart from the 'Adi Granth' or the 'Guru Granth Sahib', there are certain other supplementary scriptures that are of immense significance in the study of Sikhism. The premier among them is the 'Dasam Granth' composed by the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh. It is an indigenous collection of religious tenets encompassing multifarious subjects including anecdotes from the Hindu Scriptures like 'the Puranas' and contemporary oral narratives. It comprises of various sections which include autobiographical segments named 'Zafar-nama' and 'Vichitar Natak'. The importance of devout military skills is evident in the sections titled ;Shabad Hazare', 'Akal Ustat', 'Gyan Prabodh' and 'Jap'. The 'Shastar Nam Mala' and the 'Savaiyye' are also included in this collection. Legendary tales cover the other sections of the 'Dasam Granth' like 'Chaubis Avatar', 'Chandi ki Var' and 'Chandi Charitar' (Part I and II).
The plethora of information provided by the hagiographers or 'Janam Sakhis' are of huge importance in the history of Sikhism and their accounts are considered to be of utmost magnitude within the sphere of Holy Scriptures. These involve the accounts of the 'Miharban Janam Sakhis', 'Bala Janam Sakhis', the 'Gyan Ratnavali' and the 'Puratan Janam Sakhis'. In addition, the contributions of Bhai Gurdas in the form of his 'Var' or balladic compositions are also regarded as integral to the Sikh Holy Scriptures.
The Holy Scriptures are immensely respected among the followers of the Sikh faith since it is believed that the spirit of the Sikh Gurus is imbibed within the Holy Texts. The scriptures came to be regarded as the medium through which the deceased Sikh Gurus could communicate with their followers imbibing the word of God. The Sikh Gurus preached that the disciples of the Sikh faith should only worship the eternal Divine Being and not the Gurus as they were merely the representatives of God. Similarly, the 'Guru Granth Sahib' was recognised as a symbol of the Divine Order, meant to be honored and not worshipped.