Dasam Granth

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DASAM GRANTH . The Dasam Granth (Tenth book) is a collection of writings attributed to Gurū Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh gurū (16661708). It was compiled sometime after his death by Bhāī Manī Singh, one of his devoted followers. The Dasam Granth is 1,428 pages long, so it is almost the same size as the Gurū Granth (1,430 pages). The Gurū Granth, also known as the Ādi Granth (First book), is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, but some parts of the Dasam Granth are also used in Sikh prayers. The authorship and authenticity of a large proportion of this work is questioned. Most of the Dasam Granth is in the Braj language, but the entire work is printed in the Gurmukhi script.

Gurū Gobind Singh was a superb poet who introduced vigorous meters and rhythms to revitalize his people and created novel images and paradoxes to stretch their imagination. He was also a great patron of the arts and employed numerous poets from different religious backgrounds. Much of the poetry written by Gurū Gobind Singh himself as well as that by his court poets was lost during his evacuation from Anandpur in 1705. Bhāī Manī Singh spent years collecting whatever materials he could salvage, and from these he produced the first recension of the Dasam Granth.

The Dasam Granth remains controversial among scholars, and it elicits a range of responses from devotees. Such compositions as the Jaapu, Akāl Ustat, Bicitra Nātak, Caī Caritra, Caī di Vār, Śabad Hazāre, and Gyān Prabodh are generally accepted as Gurū Gobind Singh's compositions, and these are revered by the Sikhs. A large proportion of the Dasam Granth (about 1,185 pages) is devoted to stories, many of them based on Indian myth, others dealing with amorous intrigues. Most people believe that these sections were written by the poets of the gurū's entourage. They are therefore neglected, but the Benati Chaupai from this section is one of the daily Sikh prayers.

The Dasam Granth opens with the Jaapu. Analogous to Gurū Nānak's Japu (the first hymn in the Gurū Granth ), Gurū Gobind Singh's Jaapu carries forward in breathtaking speed Nānak's message of the One reality. Many Sikhs recite the Jaapu daily in the morning. It is also one of the hymns recited as part of the Sikh initiation ceremony. Through dynamic metaphors and rhythm, the Jaapu exalts the animating and life-generating One that flows through and interconnects the myriad creatures: "salutations to You in every country, in every garb" (Jaapu 66). Like Nānak's Japu, Gobind Singh's Jaapu celebrates the presence of the transcendent within the glorious diversity of the cosmos: "You are in water, You are on land" (Jaapu 62); "You are the sustainer of the earth" (Jaapu 173).

The Jaapu is followed by Akāl Ustat (Praise of the timeless one), which occupies twenty-eight pages of the Dasam Granth. It proclaims the unity of humanity:

Hindus and Muslims are one . The Hindu temple and the Muslim mosque are the same. All humanity is one. (Akal Ustat 86)

Mahatma Gandhi (18691948) popularized these verses in his famous prayer, "Īśvara and Allah are your names, temple and mosque are your homes." Verses from the Akāl Ustat are central to the Sikh initiation ceremony. They rhythmically repeat that without love all religious practices are ineffective: "They alone who love, find the Beloved."

The thirty-eight-page Bicitra Nātak (Wondrous drama) follows the Akāl Ustat. This poetic autobiography is a magical mixture of biographical facts and literary imagination. It is the only autobiographical work by any of the Sikh gurūs.

The three Durgā-Caī poems come next and retell the story of Durgā's titanic battles against the demons from the Devīmāhātmya. With all his artistic zeal, the gurū amplifies the warrior role of the ancient Hindu heroine.

Khālsā Mahima (Praise of the Khālsā), which comes later in the Dasam Granth, is a favorite hymn amongst the Sikhs. It celebrates the democratic Khālsā community created by Gurū Gobind Singh: "The Khālsā is my special form the Khālsā is my body and breath." Another popular text from the Dasam Granth is the defiant Zafar Nāmā (Letter of victory), written in Persian, and addressed to the emperor Aurangzeb.

Like his predecessor gurūs, Gobind Singh appropriates love as the highest form of action. His devotional compositions reiterate Sikh ideals and ethics. Their tone is forceful, and their imperatives are clear:

Recognize the single caste of humanity
Know that we are all of the same body, the same light. (Akāl Ustat 85)

The tenth gurū's verse continues to have great resonance for the global society. Difference should not stand in the way of people getting to know one another:

Different vestures from different countries may make us different. But we have the same eyes, the same ears, the same body, the same voice. (Akāl Ustat 86)

See Also

Ādi Granth; Sikhism; Singh, Gobind.


For the text in the original Punjabi, see Bhai Randhir Singh's Sabdharath Dasam Granth, 3 vols. (Patiala, India, 1988). This text has been reproduced with a translation by Jodh Singh and Dharam Singh, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib: Text and Translation (Patiala, India, 1999). Excellent scholarly works in Punjabi include Rattan Singh Jaggi, Dasam Granth da Kartritav (New Delhi, 1966); and Piara Singh Padam, Dasam Granth Darsan (Patiala, India, 1990). Studies written in English include D. P. Ashta, The Poetry of the Dasam Granth (New Delhi, 1959); C. H. Loehlin, The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa Brotherhood (Lucknow, India, 1958); J. S. Grewal, Contesting Interpretations of the Sikh Tradition (New Delhi, 1998); Hew McLeod, Sikhs of the Khalsa: A History of the Khalsa Rahit (New Delhi, 2003); and Robin Rinehart, "Strategies for Interpreting the Dasam Granth," in Sikhism and History, edited by Pashaura Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (New Delhi, 2004).

Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2005)