Dasam Granth – There is no debate
Gurinder Singh Mann
There has been considerable debate lately regarding the writings and poetry of Guru Gobind Singh. There has never been such a debate since the compilation of writings now termed the Sri Dasam Granth. We need to ask ourselves if something has changed for people to doubt Sri Dasam Granth. Has there been a revelation in which scholars now find that Guru Gobind Singh did not write the material found in the Granth. This is theme of this article.
Scholars have a duty to look at different sides of an argument and to present this information clearly to the reader. There have been many articles appearing in various Sikh books and magazine/journals taking a journalistic approach to the Sri Dasam Granth.
Sikhs seem to fear Hindu concepts and ideas. Indeed there has been a change in the minds of the Sikhs since partition and most notably since 1984. Terms are banded about like the “Brahmical Octopus” and people who appear to have anti-Sikh sentiments are labelled as agents of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The RSS has been pivotal in dividing Sikh scholars in terms of authenticity of the Sri Dasam Granth. However this problem has become so widespread that some people have written about and denounced the Bani’s of Guru Gobind Singh used in the Baptismal process. My question is what next?
The Akal Takht has used its supreme powers to summon anybody who is in contempt of the Sikh Rehat Maryada. Lately there has been a case where one writer of Sikhism (Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana) has refused to come to the Akal Takht, when summoned he has cited grounds of ill health. To send a replacement is even more futile (Gurtej Singh). This is what is happening, as not are only some scholars in contempt of the Sikh Rehat Maryada but then a farce is made of over how the proceeding should take place. I am not levelling blame on the Akal Takhat but certain issues need to be resolved quickly as otherwise they fester and take a life of their own. Debates on the Sri Dasam Granth are unfounded as the Granth is ingrained into the psyche of Sikhism. The problem lies in the fact that many Sikhs are not aware of the role the Sri Dasam Granth plays in Khalsa. The Guru most majestically did not include his Bani into the Guru Granth Sahib although he could have done so. However a Granth compiled several years after the Gurus merging with the almighty was the culmination of the spirit of the Guru. Only Guru Gobind Singh could speak about his role on this earth (Bachitra Natak), an autobiographical description of his battles and his place amongst the other Gurus. Only Guru Gobind Singh could talk about the different names and attributes of God (Jaap Sahib and Akal Ustat). The Sri Dasam Granth is a far more superior text than people give credit for and its place in Indian history cannot be allowed to be marginalised. The early Guru’s could include the words from the Bhagats who were from different creeds and castes. Why cannot reinterpreted Hindu myths be included into the Sri Dasam Granth? People fail to take into account the context of Guru Gobind’s Singh’s wrtings. Imagine the Guru’s durbar where there are many people present but to bring home the message of having a valiant and fighting spirit the Guru recites the battles of the Goddess Chandi. The Guru has a two-fold argument not only he is bringing this tale into context but he is securing the Sikhs mind by stating that there is not only a physical battle in life but a mental one as well. There are all sorts of demons in the cosmos and they can appear in all sorts of forms. The writings of the Guru need to be understood fully and a literal translation does not do any justice to the Guru. Metaphors, similes are the order of the day with Guru Gobind Singh. Even Professors of Sikhism have made mistakes by trying to dissect the writings and prove them to be of a Brahminical nature.
So are these scholars of Sikhism wrong?
It seems very peculiar that since the late 1700’s the Sri Dasam Granth has been seen as the equal of the Guru Granth Sahib but now overnight the Granth is the work of Brahmins and not of the Guru. Endless accounts can be found from 1700 onwards that the Sri Dasam Granth is the work of Guru Gobind Singh. The name of the Granth may have changed but the contents have largely remained the same. Every battle description of Guru Gobind Singh has been taken from Bachitra Natak. In the period of the Misl’s Gurmattas were taken with both Granths lying side by side. This process has not changed with certain Gurudwaras including two of the Sikh Takhts housing the Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth. Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib view the Sri Dasam Granth as a Holy Scripture and Hukumnamas are taken from the Granth. According to certain writers and scholars these practices and accounts of the Guru must be incorrect.
Another approach by Scholars has been to dissect the Granth by quoting only from the Charitropakhyan and hence proving that the Sri Dasam Granth is a pornographic manual. Once again context has been neglected and these cautionary tales would have been recited in the Guru’s durbar to show the effects of bad human behaviour. The Chaupai part of the Nitnem Banis is taken from the last Charitra. This on its own does not prove that it is work of the Guru. However early manuscript copies of the Sri Dasam Granth contain this work as well as it being available independently in Gutka and Pothi form. The only debate that has occurred in the past was whether the Charitropakhyan should be bound with the rest of the Granth. This authenticity question has only sprung up recently.
What is the debate?
There is no debate moreover the role of the Sri Dasam Granth has been marginalised over the years. The more people are unaware of the Granth the more uncertainty seems to grip peoples imagination. However the problem is that people are not aware of the Guru’s Bani. People read Guru Gobind Singh’s Bani day in day out whilst reciting prayers from the Nitnem. The Sikh Rehat Maryada gives approval of reciting Guru Gobind Singh shabads in Gurudwaras, (Together with Bhai Gurdas Vars). Kirtan from the Sri Dasam Granth can be heard on a regular basis at Harimandir Sahib. Endless amounts of CD’s are produced in the market promoting the Guru’s Bani. The Katha of the Dasam Granth is widely available. Baba Deep Singh authored one of the original Birs of the Dasam Granth. The Damdami Taksal who takes their lineage from this mighty warrior venerates the Dasam Granth as a Guru. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale also from Damdami Taksal was fully versed in the Sri Dasam Granth. To this day his Katha of the Sri Dasam Granth is sought after. The Akali Nihangs do not have a debate on the Granth as they not only see the Sri Dasam Granth as scripture but the Sarbloh Granth as well. The Nihangs have many practices and rituals which come from the Sri Dasam Granth and also the fighting spirit as enshrined in Shastarvidyia is based on Jaap Sahib, Krishna Avatar, Shastar Nam Mala and other Sri Dasam Granth compositions.
The Akal Takht has now declared Gurbaksh Singh Kala Afghana as Tankhaiya maybe his followers (Gurtej Singh) should now also accept the verdict of the Takht. The objectors of the Sri Dasam Granth are now on the run and their shortcomings will be exposed one by one. The way the Sri Dasam Granth has shaped and changed Sikhism is too numerous to mention. Next time somebody raises a question on the Sri Dasam Granth tell them there is no debate.
(Written in December 2003)
Gurinder Singh Mann comes from an academic background with a deep knowledge of world religions. In 2000 he completed his MA in South Asian Religions at De-MontfortUniversity, Leicester with a thesis on the Sri Dasam Granth. It was the first and remains the only western publication on the Sikh scripture. He continues with research on the Sri Dasam Granth with a view of publishing a documented history of the martial scripture. He has also appeared in the media including MA TV. He has recently been made principal editor of all content on www.punjabheritage.org.