The original Concept of Akalpurakh
Dr. Gurbhagat Singh
(Ex-Head, Department of English, Punjabi University, Patiala)
Dasam Granth is the creation of Guru Gobind Singh. The controversy regarding its authorship is without substance. According to the accepted scholarly norms, if a written historical evidence regarding the authorship of a work is not available, then, it is the internal evidence and cultural memory that are taken into consideration. Since the “eternal departure” of Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh memory, as mediated by the tradition, has always accepted the entire Granth as the writing of Guru Gobind Singh. The most vital internal evidence is of the meta-sign Akal Purakh (Timeless Person) that the Guru elaborates in an identical language in the entire Granth.
The second major and consistent concern is to reinterpret and modify the Hindu myth regarding the avatars and battles between the gods and the demons.
The Akal Purakh or God of Guru Gobind Singh is his model for reshaping human beings and the society that they need to grow. As manifested in the Guru’s writings, Akal Purakh is all forms (Sarab rupe), He has no caste (jati), no marked features (chenchakra), He is the king of kings (saha sultan), and greater than thousands of Indras. Using the Qur’ anic attributes and adjectives, the Guru calls Him as the Kindest (karimul karime). Employing the yogic and Buddhistic-tantric terms the Guru names Him as the Superyogi (jogeshvra) and jantra tantra. All these different forms of Akal Purakh appear to be “wonderful” yet they belong to the same enflaming energy, says the Guru.
The originality and distinction of Akal Purakh is that He is not a unitive enclosure, meaning closed to His essence denying multiple manifestation mediated by historical and geographical specificities. In Shankara’s well known classic Brahmbhashya that is a classic of Vedanta and Hindu thought Brahma’s “unity” has been called as “the true existence while manifoldness is evolved out of wrong knowledge”. Shankara further insists upon the unitarinism of Brahma by saying “it is impossible even within hundreds of years, even to bring about an effect which is different from its essence”. Shankara’s most influential text that has formed the Hindu view of person and society does not encourage multiplicity of thought and being. In Qur’ an also it is pronounced inSura 37:4 “Verily, verily your God is One”.
Another very special feature of Akal Purakh is that He is sarab bhoge, which means He consummates multiply. The idea related to bhog can be traced back to the non-Aryan philosophy of Lokayata that prioritised the senses although the Guru in the Akal Ustat (In Praise of the Immortal) also says that Akal Purakh is without a body (deha). The Guru salutes Him because He manifests Himself in Arabic, Persian, Pahlavi, Pashto, Sanskrit, etc. He becomes Purana, and also Karim (blesser) and Qur’ an. He is sung by the Red Indians near San Francisco, the soft bodied (probably Europeans) and by those living around the Sindh Sagar.
The point to be understood about the Akal Purakh, as elaborated by Guru Gobind Singh in Dasam Granth is that he is not a closed essence but a multidimensional Being manifesting through different languages and communitarian experiences located in diverse histories and geographies. It is obvious that He is the model for organising humans and society as mosaic of diversity. The Guru’s vision of God is different from the unitarian visions of Hinduism and Islam. The consummatory or dynamic Bodily aspect also distinguishes Him from the parthogenesis of Christianity that regards the Christ as outside the evolutionary or bodily processes. To the Guru, Akal Purakh is also “the highest love” and “the most beautiful song”. The appropriate word that we can use to describe the Akal Purakh of Dasam Granth is polygenesis. It means the vision of God that takes shape through the perspectives of diverse communities, nations, people experiencing life in different situations.
Another distinction of AkalPurakh is His form as the “self-ignited” and “enlightening Sword (Kharag) that acts for Justice. Through its vital action it unblocks the evolutionary process of the universe.
A substantial part of Dasam Granth is devoted to narrate the lives of the avatars or incarnations. Instead of accepting them as autonomous gods, the Guru accepts them only as among the many possibilities of Akal Purakh’s body. The Guru rather presents them, as heroes who fought against evil and injustic. Declaring forthrightly, the Guru says that he does not worship Ganesh, Krishna or Bishan. They all act on the command of Akal Purakh and were not liberated from the illusions of world-cycle. Chandi has also been accepted only as the militant light of Akal Purakh to kill the demons. The most powerful Hindu mythology that was making people alienated worshippers of an abstract kind, has been reinterpreted by the Guru as stories about the fight between the just and the unjust. This was done to radicalize people’s consciousness and prepare them for a transformative role.
No wonder, in accordance with his transformative intentions, the Guru wrote a very magnificent and all time revolutionary poem Shastramala (Rosary of Weapons). Sword, khanda, cannon, arrow etc., have been calledpirs or holy men in the Islamic idiom. More than that these weapons are to the Guru expressions of Akal Purakh. Using the metaphor of Krishana myth, the cannon has been called as the enemy of the “tiger” who kills the “deer” grazing on the banks of Jamuna, the beloved of Krishna. Metaphorically, the connon is the enemy of the then cruel Emperor imposing his inhuman hegemony on innocent people and thereby wrecking the beauty of life. Raising weapons to divinity and protection of life’s dynamic music, could not be accomplished in poetry even by the most lofty revolutionary movements of our time led by Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Castro.
A very instructive section of the Granth is Chritropakhyan on which the Guru creates a dramatic narrative. A minister is narrating stories to a king. Most of the stories are about sexually distorted women who were having sexual relations with several men by cheating their husbands and lovers, but in this very section there are also some stories about brave women like Jodha Bai and the daughter of Bijay Singh who battled with a prince refusing to marry her. The section aims at educating the Guru’s prospective armed revolutionaries about making a distinction between the distorted and authentic man-woman relationships. The section ends with a meditation and prasie of Akal Purakh who creates the drama of different temporal orders.
The over-hero of DasamGranth is Akal Purakh, no avatar or mythological goddess. Akal Purakh has been presented as a model to emulate and reorganise human beings and society. He is neither exculsively Hindu, nor Islamic, nor Buddhistic, nor Christian. No single vision or essence can describe Him. Many polarities and visions meet in Him. For that reason the language and metaphor that the Guru employs come from different sources. In our contemporary idiom it can be said that the Akal Purakh of Guru Gobind Singh is multidimensional and multipolar. His castelessness and multiplicity distinguish Him especially from the HinduVedanta and Islamic-Qur’ anic vision. The language and metaphor of Dasam Granth are polygenetic, made up of different traditions and sources.
It is amazing to find the gathering of diverse cultural visions to describe and constitute the meta-sigm of AkalPurakh in Dasam Granth. Had Nietzsche read the Granth he would have called it as a writing done under the “pressure of abundance”. Massive energy and multicultural vision form Akal Purakh’s Being that is multiplicity in dialogue. He is pure dynamism and Becoming simultaneously. The idea of Akal Purakh was revolutionary in the times of the Guru. It aimed at dismantling the unitarian models of Hindu Vedanta and Islam that were pushing a singular essence and vision to organise oneself and the society around.
For its emphasis on multiplicity and multipolarity and how those can be in dialogue in Akal Purakh who can be emulated in one’s being and socio-political institutions, Dasam Granth is not only an historic contribution to Indian culture but also to the world of the new millennium struggling to evolve such vision and metaphors. The Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh, the army of saint-soldiers in other words, is envisioned as multicultural and multidimensional vibrating with poetry and the value of justice. The incredible breadth of vision of Dasam Granth will always exceed any uniperspectival effort to Highjack it