ĀDI GRANTH ("first book") is the earliest scripture of the Sikhs; the second scripture is the Dasam Granth ("tenth book"). The Ādi Granth is an anthology of medieval religious poetry, relating to the radical school of the Bhaki Movement. Those whose verses are included in it lived between the twelfth and the seventeenth century ce. The Granth was compiled by Gurū Arjan Dev in 1604 at Amritsar, utilizing the material already collected by Gurū Nānak, the founder of Sikhism, and Gurū Amar Dās, third gurū of the Sikhs, who also made several of his own additions. Bhāī Gurdās was the scribe. The scripture was installed as the Gurū Granth Sāheb in the Harī Mandir (Golden Temple) by the gurū himself; the first high priest (granthī) was Bābā Budhā.
The original Granth Sāheb is known as Kartārpur dī bīṛ ("the recension of Kartarpur") because it came into the possession of Dhīr Mal, a grandson of Gurū Hargobind, the sixth gurū, who lived at Kartarpur in Jullundur district. While this recension was being taken for binding to Lahore, the second recension was prepared by Banno and is hence known as Bhāī Banno dī bīṛ. His additions to the end of Granth Sāheb were not approved by Gurū Arjan Dev. The third and final recension was prepared in 1704 by Gurū Gobind Singh, the tenth gurū, at Damdamā, where he resided for some time after leaving Anandpur. The scribe was Bhāī Manī Singh. This recension is known as Damdame Wālī bīṛ. The hymns of Gurū Tegh Bahadur, the ninth gurū, were added to it. The guruship was bestowed on this final recension by the tenth gurū, thereby ending the line of personal guruship.
Besides the hymns of the first five and the ninth Sikh gurū s, the hymns of the pre-Nānak saints, including Nāmdev, Kabīr, and Ravidās, and the verses of some contemporary poets, mostly bards, are included in the Ādi Granth. The poetry of the scripture is musical and metrical. Except for the japu of Gurū Nānak in the beginning and the slok s and swayyā s at the end, all the other compositions are set in various rāga s and rāginī s. These compositions include hymns of the gurū s in serial order, in set patterns of stanza forms and musical notations. These are followed by longer poems with special subheadings, then the chhant s and vār s of the Sikh gurū s in serial order. At the end of each rāga or rāginī appear the hymns of the various saints in turn, beginning with Kabīr and followed by Nāmdev, Ravidās, and others. Various forms of versification, including folk song forms, are used.
Because the saints and gurū s represented in the Ādi Granth belong to different regions and social strata, the scripture is a treasury of medieval Indian languages and dialects. Besides writings in the common language, called sant bhāṣā ("saint language"), containing affixes and case terminations of the language of the area of the saint concerned, the Ādi Granth also contains poems composed in Braj Bhāṣā, Western Hindi, Eastern Punjabi, Lahndi, and Sindhi. The influence of Eastern, Western, and Southern Apabhramsas, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and Marathi are discernible in various poems and hymns. The saint-poets have clothed their spiritual experiences in the imagery derived from both the world of nature and the world of man. Because of the similarity of spiritual experience, there is undoubtedly a good deal of repetition in the content of these verses, but the diverse imagery used in the hymns makes the poetry appealing and always fresh.
The saint-poets and gurū s represented in the Ādi Granth speak of the prevailing degeneration of religious life. They denounce formalism, ritualism, and symbolism. They consider ethical greatness the basis for spiritual greatness. The seekers must imbibe godly attributes and other qualities in their lives and avoid sinful acts. Prominence is given to truth, but still greater prominence to the practice of truth. The active life of a householder is considered the best life, and the division of humankind into castes and various stages is rejected. The hand and the mind both must act together to attain loftier ideals. There is a close connection in the Ādi Granth between the doctrine of karman and that of grace. Although it holds that hukm (the will of God) reigns supreme, the Ādi Granth does not deny the freedom of the individual. The reality of the world forms the basis of Sikh ethics. Though the world is transient, its existence is real.
The Ādi Granth opposes all distinctions of caste and color. It espouses universal brotherhood. Religious practices and outward symbols create ego, which can be overcome by remembrance of the name of the Lord, in the company of the saints (sādh sangat) and the grace of the true gurū and the Lord. We meet the true gurū by the grace of God and realize God by the grace of the true gurū. The ideal is the realization of God, and for the attainment of this ideal the disciple must seek the guidance of the true gurū, who has full knowledge of brahman. With the tenth gurū 's surrender of personal guruship to the Granth itself, the Word (Skt., śabda ) henceforth is the gurū. The lotus-feet of the Lord are the only heaven for the true disciple. The state of realization is called sahj ("equipoise"). In this state the mind and intellect become absolutely pure.
According to the Ādi Granth, God (brahman) is one without a second. His name is Truth. He is the creator, devoid of fear and enmity. He is immortal, unborn, and self-existent. He is truth, consciousness, and bliss. He is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. He is changeless and flawless. When he wills to become many, he begins his sport like a juggler. Before the creation he is in abstract meditation and without attributes, but after the creation, he, as Īśvara, manifests himself as the treasure house of all qualities. The soul (jīva) is part and parcel of brahman. It has its own individuality, but since it comes out of brahman it is also immortal. The physical body decays, but the jīva continues forever. Prakṛti, or māyā, is not a separate ultimate reality. It has been created by God. It leads the jīva away from God and thus toward transmigration. When the influence of māyā vanishes, the jīva realizes brahman. It is wrong to delimit the creation of the infinite Lord. The Truth is immanent in the universe. The human body is its repository and an epitome of the universe. It is a microcosm.
Kohli, Surindar Singh. Sikh Ethics. New Delhi, 1975.
Kohli, Surindar Singh. A Critical Study of Adi Granth. 2d ed. Delhi, 1976.
Kohli, Surindar Singh. Outlines of Sikh Thought. 2d ed. New Delhi, 1978.
Singh, Pandit Tara. Gurmat Nirṇay Sāgar. Lahore, 1904.
Singh, Sher Gyani. Philosophy of Sikhism. 2d ed. Delhi, 1966.
Singh, Taran. Srīi Gurū Grantha Sāhiba dā Sāhitika Itihāsa. Amritsar, 1963.
Surindar Singh Kohli (1987)
The Ādi Granth consists of 1,430 pages, each copy having standard page length and numbering.
The contents are metrical and, excepting the opening Japjī, are intended for singing.
Despite the diversity of authorship and language, the message of the Ādi Granth is unanimous: salvation depends not upon caste, ritual, or asceticism, but upon constant meditation on God's name (nām) and immersement in his being:
The name comes from Sanskrit ādigrantha, literally ‘first book’, based on grantha ‘literary composition’, from granth ‘to tie’.