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Guru Granth Sahib - The Guru Eternal - Book By Dr. Mohinder Singh

Introduction to the Book 'Guru Granth Sahib - The Guru Eternal' By Dr. Mohinder Singh

To mark the tercentenary of Gurgaddi Divas of  Guru Granth Sahib in 2008, this volume has been brought out to highlight some distinctive features of the Sikhs scripture. It was fot the first time in the history of world religions that a religious teacher had himself created an authorised version of the scripture.

Guru Arjan Dev went a step further by including the hymns of the Hindu Bhaktas, Muslim Sufi saints and the so-called low castes. In medieval times when society was divided in narrow sectarian and caste-based compartments this was a revolutionary step indeed.

Guru Granth Sahib opens with Mool Mantra, the primal creed, wherein Guru Nanak, makes a definitive statement about the unity of God and brotherhood of mankind. Set in musical modes, the hymns of Guru Granth Sahib are composed in poetic meters. The vision of Guru Granth Sahib embraces the whole humanity - its concerns are universal and transcend linguistic and geographical boundaries.

This is what Arnold Toynbee says in this context: "...In the coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scripture, the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."

With scholarly introduction by Dr. J. S. Neki and text by Dr. Mohinder Singh, distinguished historian, the volume contains pictures of various Gurdwaras and ceremonies covered by India's leading photographers - Raghu Rai, Hardev Singh, Sondeep Shankar, Malkiat Singh, Gurumustuk Singh, B.P.S. Walia, Harbir Singh and Rajeev Sharma. It also provides glimpses of rare Guru Granth Sahib  Birs from different repositories in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and U.K. Pictures of Mool Mantra in the hand of Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Hargobind , Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh in different rare Birs and Hukamnamas have been included in this volume. Works of William Simpson, William Carpenter, Sobha Singh, Bodhraj, B. S. Malhans, Sidharth and other eminent artists and first ever camera photograph of the Golden Temple by William Baker, also find a place of prominence in the volume.

About the Author 'Dr. Mohinder Singh' of the Book 'Guru Granth Sahib - The Guru Eternal' 

Dr. Mohinder Singh, before joining as the Director of the National Institute of Panjab Studies, Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi, served as the Director of Guru Nanak Foundation. In 1974, Dr. Mohinder  Singh was awarded fellowship by the Indian Council of Historical Research to carry his research  work on the Akali Movement in United Kingdom, which subsequently earned him his Doctorate. Author of several standard works on Sikh history and religion, Dr. Singh Sits on the Advisory Boards of several national and international organizations. He has lectured at several Indian and foreign universities including the University of California, Berkeley, as a visiting Fulbright Fellow.  Dr. Singh also served as a Member, National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Government of India.

Preface

We are singularly fortunate that we had the privilege of celebrating some of the important events of Sikh history in our lifetime. After celebrating  the tercentenary of the birth of Guru Gobind Singh in 1966, the quincentenary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev in 1969, the tercentenary of the creation of the Khalsa in 1999, and the quadricentenary of the installation of the Adi Granth in 2004, we are celebrating the tercentenary of the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib this year.

The Sikh community is uniquely placed in so far as their scripture is concerned. The scripture was compiled under the direct supervision of the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, at the sacred place of Ramsar with Bhai Gurdas as its scribe. The Guru put a seal of authority by inscribing the Mool Mantra in his own hand on the first folio of the scripture.

While the original first hand-written copy of the Adi Granth is lying intact with the Sodhi family in Quila Sodhian, Kartarpur, the version which is currently popular with the Sikh community is the one prepared by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, at Damdama Sahib  and is popularly known as the Damdami Bir. While preparing this Bir with the help of Bhai Mani Singh, the tenth Guru kept the original contents intact, the only variation from the Kartarpuri Bir being addition of the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur. It was a copy of this scripture which was given Guruship at Nanded before Guru Gobind Singh left for his heavenly abode on the 6th October, 1708. Guru Granth Sahib has since then become the Guru Eternal of the Sikhs.

It was for the first time in the history of world religions that a religious teacher had himself created an authorised version of the scripture. Again in the history of interfaith movement it was for the first time that profound spiritual experiences of other teachers have been included in a scripture. Guru Arjan Dev went a step further by including not only the hymns of the Hindu Bhaktas and Muslim Sufi saints but also of those belonging to the so-called low castes. In medieval times when society was divided in narrow sectarian and caste-based compartments this was a revolutionary step indeed. Guru Granth Sahib open with Mool Mantra, the primal creed, wherin Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, makes a definitive statement about the unity of God and brotherhood of mankind. Hymns of other Gurus, Bhaktas, Sufi saints and bards which follow are in keeping with the line of thinking of the founder. Futuristic vision of the contributors of Guru Granth Sahib is evident from the fact that some major concerns addressed by them are not only of universal nature but also relevant to modern times. This is what Arnold Toynbee says in this context : "...In the coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scripture, the Adi Granth, will have something of special value to say to the rest of the world."

During the tercentenary celebration of the birth of the Khalsa in 1999, our Institute took up a major research project on "Locating, Cataloguing and Photographing Relics of the Sikh Gurus and other Historic Personalities." In the course of our field-work we were able to photograph some rare relics in different parts of India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. With a view to sharing the result of our research with the larger audience and creating awareness for the preservation of this endangered heritage we published eight pictorial books under the 'Punjab Heritage Series' from 2002-2004. During the quadricentenary celebration of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib in the Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar in 2004, our Institute took up another major project on "Locating, Cataloguing and Digitising some rare Guru Granth Sahib Manuscripts". The present work is the first in the series of publications coming out of our second research project.

Many institutions and individuals have contributed to the making of this volume to whom we offer our gratitude. Both the National Manuscript Mission and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee have given us financial support for the project. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar, Takhat Sri Harmandir Sahib, Patna, Takhat Sri Hazoor Sahib, Nanded, Punjabi University, Patiala, the Panjab University, Chandigarh and the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar have permitted us to digitise some rare birs, pictures of some of which are included in this volume. We are grateful to Singh Sahib Prof. Manjit Singh, Chairman, Prof. Sahib Singh Gurmat Trust, Patiala, for his input to the project. Apart from pictures of various ceremonies and Gurdwaras associated with compilation, installation and Gurgaddi of Guru Granth Sahib, this volume also includes photographs of paintings, engravings and water colours. Works of William Simpson, William Carpenter, Sobha Singh, Bodhraj, Devender Singh, B. S. Malhans, Phoolan Rani, Sidharth and other eminent artists and the first camera photograph of the Golden Temple by William Baker, find a place of prominence in the volume. While Malkiat Singh has provided most of the photographs, several of India's distinguished photographers - Raghu Rai, Hardev Singh, Sondeep Shankar, Rajeev Sharma, Gurumustuk Singh, B. P. S. Walia, Aman Sharma and Harbir Singh have also permmitted us to use some of the pictures from their respective collections. For English version of the hymns, we have used the translation by Dr. Gopal Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib published in four volumes, for which we are grateful to Mrs. Inderjit Gopal Singh.

We would like to record our gratitude to Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, for his kind message; Singh Sahib Giani Joginder Singh, Jathedar Akal Takhat, for his blessings; Dr. J. S. Neki for his scholarly introduction; Dr. Amrik Singh, Prof. Bipan Chandra, Prof. B. N. Goawamy, Prof. P. S. Kapur and S. H. S. Sarna for their advice and support; Dr. Rajwant Singh, Dr. Susan Stronge, Dr. Daljeet, Dr. H. K. Sagoo, Dr. Amrit Basra, Navneet Kaur, J. S. Anand, Sarbjit Singh, Regina Singh, Rubina Singh, Nadhra Khan and Amanpreet Singh Gill for their input in many ways; and to Kuljeet Singh and Ranjit Kaur, who spent most of their time and energies on the project. Pawan & Bhupinder Chawdhri, the publishers and designer Yogesh Gajwani and his team have taken keen personal interest to ensure publication of this volume on time for the tercentenary celebrations.

New Delhi Mohinder Singh
1st September, 2008 National Institute of Panjab Studies

Publisher's Note

After the successful publication of Gurdwaras in India and Around the world by Patwant Singh, Japjee - The Sikh Morning Prayer with Introductory Text by Dr. Mohinder Singh and recently Guru Arjan Dev: Life, Martyrdom and Legacy edited by Prof. P. S. Kapur and Dr. Mohinder Singh, it is now time to move on in quest for providing further world - class publications, depicting the rich Sikh cultural heritage, Sikhism truly portrays a way of life which transcends all religious boundaries. It lays great stress on the way life should not only be lived, but its bliss should also enjoyed in full by one and all.

Gurgaddi Divas is yet another golden opportunity that has come our way, which needs to be celebrated in all its glory. It is in this endeavour that we dedicate ourselves to carry on with full zeal and fervour.

In the compilation of this volume, no effort has been spared to bring out the true spiritual flavour of the Guru Granth Sahib  right from its compilation in 1604 to the scripture being given the status of Guru Eternal by Guru Gobind Singh in 1708.

We gratefully acknowledge the painstaking effort of Dr. Mohinder Singh, Director, National Institute of Panjab Studies, Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, under whose able leadership this project has been completed. Kuljeet Singh, the enthusiastic member of the team, deserves appreciation. We are grateful indeed to the management of the Institute for giving us the opportunity to publish this monumental work.

Finally we would like to express our gratitude to the designers, Suraksha and Yogesh Gajwani, for putting their heart and soul in the execution of this project, which is trully a connoisseur's delight.

New Delhi Pawan & Bhupinder Chowdhri
1st  September, 2008 Himalayan Books

 

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