By Neeraj Mahajan
The First Prakash Utsav of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is an important landmark for the Sikh community all over the world. Guru Granth Sahib — also called Adi Granth or Adi Guru Darbar– is not any other holy book or scripture for the Sikhs; but a perpetual, ultimate and eternal Guru.
It is probably the only Holy Scripture in the world; written by the founders of a religion in their lifetime. All other holy scriptures were compiled after the founders left for their heavenly abode.
Sikhs all over the world regard Guru Granth Sahib comprising of 1430 pages and 5864 hymns or verses called Shabads as their living Guru. Its contents, considered to be the preaching of the Gurus are referred to as Guru’s bani (the Guru’s voice) or Gurbani.
The first Sikh leader, Guru Nanak Dev, started the trend of collecting his holy hymns for the Sikhs to recite in their morning and evening prayers. His successor Guru Angad Dev continued the tradition.
Guru Arjan Dev– the fifth Sikh Guru compiled the holy Granth incorporating the hymns composed by – Guru Nanak and thirty-six Hindu and Muslim saints like Kabir Das, Ravi Das, Naam Dev and Sheikh Farid. After having selected the best hymns Guru Arjan Dev dictated the final version of the Adi Granth to Bhai Gurdas who wrote the Granth Sahib.
At the time when it was being written, some people poisoned the mind of Mughal emperor Jahangir by spreading a rumour that Guru Granth Sahib and Gurbani preached hatred against the Muslims. An enraged Jahangir ordered Guru Arjan Dev to delete some of the hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib manuscript and imposed a fine of 200,000 rupees. Guru Arjan Dev refused to expunge the offensive text or pay the fine. Guru Arjan Dev was dead against making alterations in the hymns as required by Jahangir and instead preferred a martyr’s death. This led to his execution.
Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, Pakistan where Guru Arjan Dev is believed to have died.
Guru Gobind Singh — the tenth Sikh Guru, raised the Adi Granth to the status of a permanent Guru and conferred it the title of “Guru of the Sikhs” in 1708. Declaring the Guru Granth Sahib to be the next Guru after him, Guru Gobind Singh commanded the Sikhs to regard the Granth Sahib as their next and everlasting Guru. He said – “Sab Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru Manyo Granth” meaning thereby that all Sikhs are commanded to regard the Granth as a Guru. Guru Gobind Singh commanded the Sikhs in the following words:
Agya Bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth.
Sabh Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth.
Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh.
Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le.
Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe,
Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe.
Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created.
All Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru.
Consider the Guru Granth as an embodiment of the Gurus.
Those who want to meet God can find Him in its hymns.
The pure shall rule, and the impure will be no more,
Those separated will unite and all the devotees of the Guru shall be saved.
Even today, Guru Granth Sahib remains a living Guru, teacher or permanent guide for the Sikhs all over the world. The Guru Granth Sahib is always placed on a dominant platform in the Darbar Sahib or Main Hall. The platform is covered by a decorated canopy made of expensive and colourful materials. The attractive cloth covering the Granth bears the word in Gurmukhi meaning – from the Guru’s mouth.
The Guru Granth Sahib is considered to be the ultimate and most sacred authority in Sikhism. All Sikhs bow before it and recite its hymns in the gurdwaras and their homes. All Sikh ceremonies are considered incomplete unless performed in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.
A number of Sikhs perform Akhand path—a continuous and non-stop recital of Granth Sahib on special occasions. It takes nearly 48 hours to complete the Akhand path – the highest and the noblest ceremony in the Sikh religion.
A Saptahak path is a daily reading of Guru Granth Sahib over a period of seven days on special occasions. A sehaj path involves reading the Guru Granth Sahib from start to finish over any length of time, without any boundation of time.
Sikhs believe that everything that happens is in accordance with the God’s will. Even leaves cannot flutter without the divine consent. This gives rise to the concept of Hukumnama or spiritual decree by performing an Ardas in front of Guru Granth Sahib. After the Ardas the Guru Granth Sahib is taken with due respect in both hands and opened at random. The first Shabad on the left-hand page is the ‘Hukumnama’ or spiritual advice to be followed during the day.
Even today many Sikhs wait for the Hukumnama or Parkash Seva from each Gurdwara when Guru Granth Sahib Ji is opened daily in the early hours of the morning or the Hukumnama issued every day by the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This Hukumnama is considered to be the Guru’s royal decree to be pursued on that particular day by the Sikhs wherever they are. This is called back lao or asking for divine advise at the start of each day.
Interestingly, Guru Granth Sahib — a remarkable storehouse of spiritual knowledge and teachings; does not preach any rites or rituals but stresses on the importance of regular and disciplined meditation in the name of God.