The controversial WH Hew McLeod wrote many publications, but he was more recent and tried to get his students and followers Sikh Study Chairs in Western Universities.
Some people confuse the controversial WH Hew McLeod with the likes of Max Arthur Macauliffe. It is important to note that they were two different people. When it comes to western writers, people like Ernest Trumpp and WH Hew McLeod were the controversial ones. Others like Max Arthur Macauliffe were not as such.
There are also some confusion regarding his followers. For Sikhs, many people have the same name. For example the name Jaspreet Singh or Jaspreet Kaur can be very common. The same way there are two people with the name Gurinder Mann. One Gurinder Mann has been from Baring Union Christian College in Batala, and the phD from Columbia University.
There is another writer with the same name of Gurinder Mann who writes more on the Gurbani of Guru Gobind Singh.
It is important to note that they are two different people. (Is this a case of “mistaken identity?” (pun intended).
Gurinder Singh Mann Abets Perenial Controversies besetting Sikhism
The resumé of Dr. Gurinder Singh Mann’s qualifications and credentials states that he graduated in 1965 CE with Master’s Degree in English from Union Christian College in Batala, Punjab; India, earned his second MA in English in 1975 CE from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, and Master’s Degree in Theology Studies from Harvard University. He topped his enviable resumé with Ph. D. in religion from Columbia University. The Oxford University Press, that has published Sikh Studies Ph. D. theses of Drs. William Hew. McLeod, Harjot Singh Oberoi, Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech, and Doris Jakobsh, et al, published his ‘The Making of Sikh Scripture’ dissertation, in 2001 CE.
All these Western Universities-groomed scholars and academicians owe, directly or indirectly, their Sikh Studies Doctorates to the ordained Christian Reverend and foreign Missionary-turned Sikh Studies radical scholar Dr. William Hewat McLeod’s academic tutelage. Harjot S. Oberoi got his Ph. D. from the Australian National University had Dr. McLeod as his associate supervisor. Pashaura Singh and Louis E. Fenech were students of W. H. McLeod when he was appointed as a visiting Commonwealth Scholar, University of Toronto in early 1990s. Doris Jakobsh was a student of Harjot Singh Oberoi, when he was Punjabi Language and Sikh Studies chair at UBC, Vancouver, Canada.
Dr. Mann’s graduation from Union Christian College in Batala, Punjab, India, in the year 1965 CE is noteworthy, because that is when Dr. W. H. McLeod, who got his Ph. D. in Sikh Studies for a joke from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK, joined the teaching staff there. [See Dr. McLeod’s ‘Discovering the Sikhs, Autobiography of a Historian’, p.39
His affiliation with the above academic clique is evident from his published thesis ‘The Making of Sikh Scripture’, a stereotypical dissertation, constructed, partly, on data derived from the unauthentic quasi-Sikh literature and grapevine traditions, that are mostly incompatible with the Sikhism’s authentic scriptural anthology, history, pragmatic religiosity and egalitarian ideology, packs cynicism and skepticism; and abets untenable contentions and adverse controversies besetting Sikhism. Early on in his dissertation ‘The Making of Sikh Scripture’, Gurinder Singh Mann quotes and controverts Dr. W. H. McLeod’s view.
W. H. McLeod has systematically presented the view that Guru Nanak was a participant in the medieval sant tradition, whose constituency of holy people believed in one nonincarnated God and preached a religion of interiority through meditation on the divine name. In this beatific vision all external forms of religious life including institutional authority, scriptural texts, communal centers, and so on were emphatically rejected. Simply put, the belief system to which Guru Nanak belonged does not jibe with the founding of an organized community. [W. H. McLeod, ‘The Evolution of Sikh Community’, p. 8] The Making of Sikh Scripture, [henceforth T.M.O.S.S.], p. 6
It is hard to accept the idea that Guru Nanak first rejected the institution of religious authority, only to reverse his stance and ensconce himself as the chief authority figure at Kartarpur. Nor is there any substance to the argument that Guru Nanak did not enjoy any power within the community during this period. His careful attempt to maintain the office of the guru in appointing his successor at the time of his death is evidence of the seriousness with which he took the institutional authority associated with the office. T.M.O.S.S., p. 8
Obviously, Dr. Gurinder Singh Mann is unaware that Sikhism is a lay religion, i.e. there is no conventional, institutionalized hierarchy of dogmatic ecclesiastics. However, there is an honorific position for the savant Sikh preachers. Guru Nanak designated local preachers during his four protracted odysseys and Guru Amar Das appointed resident Sikh apostles, called Masands, whose functions were to preach Sikhism and liaison between the congregation and the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh discontinued the practice when the Masands turned authoritarian ecclesiastics and corrupt.
Adverse Controversies, Contentions; Rhetoric
Manuscripts; Antecedents; Origins, Branches, Copies
In the second section I turn to the Adi Granth itself. Here I reconstruct its production in a way that radically revises the current understanding of the surrounding time and circumstances, as well as the relationship between its contents and those of its antecedents, such as the Kartarpur Pothi and other seventeenth-century manuscripts. T.M.O.S.S., p.69
BHAI BANNO BIR/KANPUR POTHI
Writing in 1770s Sarupdas Bhalla was the first author to report the variations between the text of the Kartarpur Pothi and the manuscript prepared by Bhai Banno. Bhalla narrates that soon after the inscription of the Kartarpur Pothi, Bhai Banno obtained Guru Arjan’s permission to take it to his village with the intent to prepare a copy for himself. Guru Arjan, Arjan however, sent for the Pothi, and it had to be returned quickly. Somehow Bhai Banno managed to have a copy made, but because of its hasty compilation organizational discrepancies crept into the text. The newly compiled manuscript, along with the original, was presented to Guru Arjan, who gladly confirmed its authenticity by putting his attestation on the manuscript. Bhalla calls it the Khara recension (Khare ki misal), naming after Bhai Banno’s village Khara Mangat and distinguishing it from the Kartarpur Pothi (Bhai Gurdas ki missal). Since the manuscript in is now at Kanpur, we called it the Kanpur Pothi in chapter2. Ibid, p.69-70
Bhalla’s discernment of differences between the two early manuscripts was endorsed by later writers, but their description of circumstances of the origin of the Kanpur Pothi (as well as the nature of its differences from Kartarpur Pothi) underwent important changes. According to the Sri Gurbilas Patshahi 6 and Sri Gurpratap Suraj Guru Arjan asked Bhai Banno to take the Kartarpur Pothi to Lahore for binding. During this trip to Lahore, Bhai Banno arranged to have a copy made without the prior permission of the guru. There were differences in contents between the original and the copy, and these had resulted from Bhai Banno’s deliberate effort to introduce into the sacred corpus some apocryphal hymns.
Sahib Singh dismissed earlier accounts of the compilation of the Kartarpur Pothi as fanciful and offered a new hypothesis: the Kartarpur Pothi and the Kanpur Pothi were initially identical, but in the decades after the death of Tegh Bahadur spurious compositions were inserted into the seventeenth-century manuscripts. Ibid, p.71
Building on the work of Sahib Singh, Pashaura Singh went a step further. He viewed the rise of both the Kanpur and the Lahore families of manuscripts as part of conspiracy that included not only the dissenting groups within the early Sikh community but also the Mughal administration at Lahore. Pashaura Singh is fully convinced that all variations in the early manuscripts were “interpolations” that resulted from conscious “tampering” with the original text carried out to confuse the message of the Sikh gurus. Ibid, p.71
Rejecting the traditional description of the seventeenth–century manuscripts, Piar Singh argued for the presence of seven primary branches, some of them with further internal subdivisions. Ibid, p.71
The existing understanding of the history of Sikh scripture is constructed around the belief that seventeenth-century manuscripts fell into three groups: the exact copies of the Kartarpur Pothi, representing the authoritative line, and two branches following the Kanpur and Lahore Pothi. The first striking aspect of the data available in the manuscripts mentioned below is that they fall not into three but two broad groups: manuscripts 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 19, 20, 22, and 24 follow what is known in Sikh tradition as the Lahore branch, and manuscripts 1, 2, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25, 26, and 27 represent the Khara Mangat branch. (Manuscripts numbered 14 and 21 do not fit into these two groups and need special attention). Ibid, p.71
The traditional belief that the Kartarpur Pothi as it stands today produced a branch of manuscripts which culminated in the text of Adi Granth confronts the unavailability of even a single manuscript that can be considered its exact copy. This inconvenient fact has evoked interesting responses. For instance, Sahib Singh argues that soon after the Kartarpur Pothi was compiled, it was put up for public display at the Darbar Sahib, Amritsar and so could not be made available for copying. Ibid, p.71-2
The existing discussion on this issue centers on two interrelated assumptions: that the text of the Kartarpur Pothi culminated in the Adi Granth with the addition of the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur; and that the Kanpur Pothi, containing a set of apocryphal compositions, gave rise to a distinct branch of seventeenth-century manuscripts. Both these assumptions, in my view, are erroneous. Ibid, 73-4
There are two views regarding the relationship between the Amritsar Pothi and the Kartarpur Pothi in existing literature. As referred to before, Charan Singh traces the origin of this branch to the Kartarpur Pothi. Piar Singh rejects this relationship and views line as an independent attempt at compile of the Sikh text. Neither of them has developed their respective arguments in any detail. Ibid, p.75
Finally, an entry recorded in the Amritsar Pothi (folio 591) offers critical evidence to support my argument. This has two parts: the first contains the death dates of the first four gurus and the second goes as follows:
In the presence of the Guru Arjan, the manuscript was compiled. It was inscribed by Bhai Bura Sandhu in the presence of the fifth Guru. Bhai Milkha of Peshawar commissioned its inscription. He who will come to the presence of the manuscript will see the body of Guru Nanak. Forgive [my] flaws and omissions. God! The true guru! [The manuscript] is completed in Samat 1662 (1605 C.E.) Ibid, p.78
G. B. Singh accepted 1605 as the date of preparation of the Amritsar Pothi and named it after Bura Sandhu its supposed scribe. Piar Singh continues to associate the manuscript with Bura Sandhu but argues that the entry is false and was inserted later to increase the significance of the Amritsar Pothi by tracing its origin to the time of Guru Arjan.
I argue that this entry does not record the date of preparation of the Amritsar Pothi as G. B. Singh claims, neither is it a deliberate attempt to falsify its date of compilation as Piar Singh believes, but rather represents a typical instance in which the scribe of the Amritsar Pothi reproduced the colophon recorded in the source from which he copied (a manuscript prepared in 1605 by Bura Sandhu). If this line of reasoning is correct, the Amritsar Pothi becomes a copy of the Kartarpur Pothi compiled in 1605. Ibid, p.78
The Kanpur Pothi, the earliest extant manuscript of this branch, is dated 1642 but contains no information about its place of compilation. The Sikh sources and family traditions of the manuscript’s custodians attribute its compilation to Bhai Banno.
There are serious problems with the traditional explanation of manuscript’s origin. The date of 1642 does not correspond to the time of Guru Arjan. Bhai Banno’s name does not appear in the list of the important Sikhs of the period in the writings of Bhai Gurdas, nor is the name of Khara Mangat included in the list of the seats of regional centers of the community in the sixteenth century. Ibid, p.79
A note in the Patna Pothi (1692) confirms that the importance of the Kartarpur Pothi as the original document was fully recognized in the community, and a manuscript that was copied from it or was collated and corrected with it enjoy special status. Chaupa Singh, the first author to refer to the compilation of the Adi Granth, reports that Guru Gobind Singh sought to borrow the Kartarpur Pothi from Dhirmal’s family in 1678 but did not succeed. …. Kesar Singh Chibber, writing a few decades later, contends that after this denial of access to the Kartarpur Pothi, the guru used another manuscript at Anandpur to create Adi Granth. Ibid, p.82-3
The view that has dominated Sikh thinking since the seventeenth century, however, places the event at Damdama, Bhatinda, in 1705 – 1706. Giani Gian Singh expanded this tradition to claim that Guru Gobind Singh, unable to access the Kartarpur Pothi, and seemingly with no other written document around, dictated the complete text of the Adi Granth from memory to Bhai Mani Singh, who served as the amanuensis. Ibid, p.83
G. B. Singh located a manuscript extant at Dhaka prepared in 1675 (Samat 1732, miti agahan vadi), which contained all of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s hymns recoded in their appropriate rag sections. Ibid, p.83
MS 1192 inscribed in 1674 also contains the complete corpus of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s hymns. On its opening folio, the invocation is followed by a note that reads, “This attestation was obtained by presenting [the manuscript to the ninth master, in the presence of the whole congregation, on Samat 1731, the full moon day of Jeth”
Piar Singh argues that the dates, the invocation, and the note recoded underneath in MS 1192 are all fake. Ibid, p.84
The Sikhs issued open invitation to both the Hindu and Muslim religious elite to avail themselves of the shelter offered by the guru if they wanted liberation. The words of Guru Amardas to the Brahmins were clear: “Your faith in God can work only if you listen to the advice of guru.” (Brahamu Bindihe te Brahamana je chalahe satgur bhae. M3, AG 849-850). Since the guru lived under Islamic rule, his invitation to Sufis to join the Sikh fold and submit to his leadership was strikingly bold: “O Shekh! Leave violence and with the fear of God control the inner confusion. Many have attained liberation by fear of the guru.” (Sekha andarahu joru chhadi tu bhau kari jhali gavae. Gur kai bhai kete nistare bhai vich nirbhau pae. M3, AG, 551). He further stated: “O Shekh Bring your mind to focus on the One. Discard your futile pursuit and realize the word of the guru. If you follow the guru,…you will gain respect in the divine court.” (Sekha chauchakia chauvaia ehu manu ikatu ghari ani. Ehar tehar chhadi tu gur ka sabadu pahchanu. Satgur agai dhai pau,…ta dargah pavahe manu. (M3, AG, 646). Ibid, p.13
According to Guru Arjan, God himself had created a firm foundation of the Sikh community on which it was now thriving (Abichal niv dhari Gur Nanak nit nit charai savai, M5, AG, 500-501). Ibid, p.14
The bath in the holy pool, according to Guru Arjan, washed off previously committed sins (Ramdas sarovar nate. Sabhi utre pap kamate, M5, AG, 625) Ibid, p.14
The above passages expose Dr. Mann’s cynical mindset. Gurbani verse, from Guru Arjan’s hymn, that he references and distorts to insinuate that ‘according to Guru Arjan, bath in holy pool washed off previously committed sins’, metaphorically means, ‘those who recite God’s Name [praise], in the congregation of devotees of Ram [all-pervading God], cleanse themselves of past sinful mentality.
The illegible transliteration and misinterpretation of the select Gurbani verses, [translate in isolation], exhibit his inept or dubious scholarship. The Gurmukhi diacritics aunkurd and Siari in the Gurmukhi words accord a distinct meaning or grammatical function to a word. For instance, words Bgq, Bgqu and Bgiq may have different meaning, but all are pronounced Bhagat and transliterated as such.
His innuendo that the Sikh Gurus professed that God himself laid Sikhism’s firm foundation, and that they exhorted Hindu and Muslim clergy to seek Sikh Guru’s shelter to redeem themselves, evinces his askance view of Gurbani. There is no explicit or implicit reference to the Sikh Guru. ‘Guru’ is Sanskrit word. Literally, Gu means darkness, ignorance and Ru means enlightener. Unbeknown to Dr. Mann, Sikh scripture’s co-authors, Gurus and Hindu and Muslim bhagats, addressed God too as Guru or Satguru. Its usage is not exclusive to Sikh vocabulary. It has been in use since primeval times as a revered appellation for the spiritual guide in all the Eastern religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sufism, et al.
Jo Gur dussay waat, marida joliay. Sheikh Farid [1173-1266 CE], AG, p.488,
Satgur béri (bérdi) furi (furdi) khaloté, main kéon läee a déri. 15, Bullay Shah
MS 1245: Pashaura Singh and Piar Singh were the first scholars to focus on the importance of this undated manuscript in the history of Sikh scripture. The manuscript was acquired by the Guru Nanak Dev University in March 1987 from the Chawla brothers, art and manuscript dealers in Amritsar. … A note appended to the manuscript by the dealers at the time of its sale provides no details of its earlier ownership, and the Chawlas have refused to reveal any information about manuscript’s location prior to its purchase by the university. Ibid, p.52
According to Balwant Singh Dhillon, the making of MS 1245 resulted from an independent effort but with a well-defined objective of creating “a new seat of Gurudom.” For him, MS 1245 represents a parallel scriptural text developed by descendants of Prithi Chand. He ties his argument with tradition that Miharban prepared and sent volumes of sacred writings to distant Sikh congregations. By presenting evidence which, he claims, suggests affinity between MS 1245 and the literature produced by this family, he argues that MS 1245 belongs to them as well. Ibid, p.57-8
I suggest a different hypothesis to explain the origin of MS 1245. As mentioned earlier, the hymns of the Bhagats are not included in this manuscript. The crucial significance of MS 1245 lies not in its origin as an independent effort nor in its serving as a draft for the Kartarpur Pothi, but rather in its manifesting a composition of Sikh scripture different from the type represented in the Goindval Pothis and the Kartarpur Pothi. MS 1245 seems to have been compiled at a time when the earlier conception of Sikh scripture was being reconsidered. Ibid, p.58
It is true that Guru Arjan held the Bhagats in high esteem and portrayed them in his hymns as a paradigm of successful devotion. Yet the absence of the hymns of non-Sikhs from MS 1245 may suggest that at one time, around 1600, the guru considered dropping them altogether, or at least separating them from the compositions of the Sikhs and appending them as a distinct unit toward the end of the scriptural text. Emerging from this mode of thinking, MS 1245 seems to draw a line between the Sikh community-the gurus and their court poets who were part of the Sikh fold-and the others, Hindus and Muslims. Ibid, p.59
Bhagat Bani: Inclusion into the Sikh Scripture Purpose, Selection, Corrections, Status
In this context, the presence of bhagat bani in the Sikh text indicates humble submission on part of the Bhagats-both Hindu and Muslim-to the superiority of the nascent Sikh tradition. According to Sikh view, the Bhagats came to Guru Arjan seeking to place their compositions in the sacred Sikh text, and the guru in his grace accepted the hymns of those deserving honor of becoming part of it. Ibid, p.109
In my view, the criterion for ascertaining the identity of those brought the divine message to humanity, however, was restrictive. For Guru Amardas, these had to be people who shared the monotheistic vision and an understanding of human life with its social and ethical obligations. Because the Sikh revelation is authentic, only hymns conforming to the Sikh belief in unity of God could be accepted as embodying the truth. Ibid, p.110
The fact that the scripture of an eminent Sikh, Bhai Gurdas, Guru Granth’s Amanuensis [scribe] was not incorporated in the Guru Granth, belies Gurinder Mann’s insinuation that the Gurus applied discriminatory benchmark in selection of scriptures to be included in the Guru Granth.
Having accomplished this task of selecting hymns, the gurus asserted further the supremacy of the content of Sikh revelation. Whenever the hymns of the Bhagats seemed to convey a message even slightly different from Sikh thinking, attempts were made to correct them. We have referred to Guru Amardas’s response to Farid’s pessimistic ideas about imminence of death-his assertion of a more positive outlook on life. Ibid, p.112
The insinuations, innuendos, misconstrued and misinterpreted Gurbani verses in the preceding passages portray the Sikh Gurus and Bhai Gurdas as condescending supremacists. Translated and interpreted objectively, the quoted Gurbani verses and Var of Bhai Gurdas do not support his aspersions.
The Sikh scriptural Anthology, a paragon of spiritual awareness and empirical Realism, exhorts mankind to cultivate rapport with the ultimate reality to obviate fear of mortality and dwell in the ensuing eternal spiritual realm. And the Gurus did not criticize the Bhagats, nor did they emend their scriptures, but expounded some of their couplets that could be naively misconstrued or mischievously misinterpreted. Yet some do it anyway.
There is no doubt that the hymns of the Bhagats selected for the Sikh text were thought to communicate a divine message, but the explanation of their relation to the hymns of the Sikh gurus began with Guru Amardas himself. He perceived the gurbani (he seems to have been thinking of Guru Nanak as a paradigm for the guru) as the medium of God’s word (Satgur bani sabadu sunae, M3, AG, 1177), its echo, he said, is present in all four corners of the word (Gurbani chahu kundi sunai sachai nami sumaida, M3, AG, 1065, and gurbani varti jag antari isu bani te harinamu paida, M3, AG, 1066). Ibid, p.117
Such statements suggest that Guru Amardas considered the hymns of the gurus to have a unique significance, and one far greater than the hymns of the bhagat, which had to be carefully selected before being inducted into the Sikh text. The implied ranking is rooted in Guru Amardas’s distinction between guru and Bhagat:
Bhagatu Bhagatu Kahai sabhu koi.
Bin satgur seve bhagati na pave pure bhagi milai prabhu soi, (M3, AG, 1131)
Everyone may call himself a Bhagat.
Without serving the true guru saintliness cannot be attained; it is with good luck that we reach God [and attain this stage] Ibid, p.117
The fundamental distinction between guru and Bhagat defined the basic structure of the Goindval Pothis, a structure later adhered to in the Kartarpur Pothi and the Adi Granth. The hymns of Guru Nanak result directly from the original revelation and are taken to constitute the pinnacle of sacred Sikh literature; the next stage belongs to hymns of created by the Sikh Gurus who carried the light of Guru Nanak; at the third stage came the hymns by the Sikhs who were initiated into sainthood by the gurus themselves; and the hymns of Bhagats, who had no connection with the gurus, are at the lower end of this hierarchy of sanctity. Ibid, p.117-8
In the rag Sorathi, Guru Ramdas writes about the greatness of God, the liberating power of the guru, and human beings who are blessed with the divine grace. In the last group, he refers to the four categories of the holy people. (Bhagats, Saints, Sadhus, and Sikhs of the guru) and categorically states that the Sikhs are the most fortunate ones among them (Sabhdu vade bhag gursikha ke jo gurcharni sikh paratai, M4, AG, 649. He has no doubt that the Sikhs belong to a higher level of blessedness than the one enjoyed by the Bhagats. Ibid, p.118
Bhai Gurdas is not modest in explicating the hierarchical relationship between the Bhagats and the Sikhs (Gurmukhs/Gursikhs”). He writes about the Bhagats (Var 10), the early prominent Sikhs (Var 11), and the code of conduct centered on their devotion to the guru (Var 12). He believes that the Sikhs attained the same bliss received by Beni, Dhanna, Kabir, Namdev, Ravidas, and Sain. In other words, only the most prominent saints of the other traditions were on an equal level with the Sikhs of the guru. Ibid, p.118
His absurd assertion, that the Gurus ranked the Bhagats inferior to Gurus, Saints, Sadhus and Sikhs, is symptomatic of deficient and/or devious scholarship. In Sikhism there are only three entities, God, Guru [Word] and Sikhs, who are not beatified, but venerated and revered as Bhagats, Saints or Sadhus according to their spirituality, devotion, piety, altruism and noble virtues. In the Sikh scriptural anthology, Guru Granth Sahib, there are numerous hymns by the Sikh Gurus, venerating the bhagats, including Guru Arjan’s hymn that explicitly mentions bhagats blessed with reverence and veneration. See GGS p.487
The Sikh Gurus adopted the, universally lauded, par excellence criteria and methodology in the monumental task of collection, selection, redaction, collation, and pagination of Sikh scriptural anthology, Guru Granth Sahib, that is popularly acclaimed and regarded to be personification of perpetual Guru of the Sikhs, ‘in its entirety’, as per Sikhism’s cardinal concept and doctrine, ‘Guru’s eternal Word, not his mortal body, is the Guru’. The comments of the celebrated non-Sikh scholars philosophers and leaders, quoted directly below, best describe the Sikhism’s universal theology and egalitarian social Ideology, as enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib [Sikh Scripture]. The term ‘in its entirety’ is noteworthy as it signifies the inclusiveness of Bhagat Bani.
“At a time when the society and the nation was splintered in the name of caste, religion, language and region, Guru Arjan took up the challenging task of bringing the entire humanity in one fold by incorporating the Banis of Saints and Scholars from almost all classes of society to spread the message of Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of mankind.” Dr. Hameed Ansari, Vice President of India, Sikh Review, Feb. 2009
“But the Adi Granth is a catholic [universal] anthology. It also includes hymns written by earlier Indian seers in whom Nanak and his successors recognized kindred spirits; and some of these contributors to the Granth are Hindus, while others are Muslims. Their writings have found a place in the Adi Granth because the compilers of it held, and surely with good reason, that these seers were Sikhs in fact, though they lived and wrote before the Sikh religion took institutional form. They were Sikhs because they brought out and emphasized the universal spiritual truths contained in their respective religious traditions; and these truths belong to all ages and to all faiths.” Arnold Toynbee, Forward, UNESCO Publication ‘The Sacred Writings of The Sikhs’ p.10
“A remarkable feature of the Adi Granth is that it contains the writings of the religious teachers of Hinduism, Islam, etc. … The Sikh Gurus who compiled the Adi Granth had this noble quality of appreciation of whatever was valuable in other religious traditions. The saints belong to the whole world. They are universal men, who free our minds from bigotry and superstition, dogmas and rituals and emphasize the central simplicities of the inner values who correct the fanaticisms of their superstitious followers. [Late] Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, President of India, Ibid, pp.17-8
Why would Gurinder Singh Mann, or anyone else for that matter, choose to pursue inquisitorial study of Sikh anthology, stamped with its original co-authors, venerated and revered Sikh Gurus and Hindu and Muslim Saints’ signatures, compared to some other major religions’ scriptures that were written by the disciples long after their respective religions’ founder’s demise? Apparently, he chose to pursue Ph. D. degree to advance his literary profile and academic career, under the tutelage of academics whose proficiency in the Sikh theology, ideology and history we can only extrapolate. His published thesis, rife with radical contentions and adverse controversies gleaned from some disenchanted Sikhs and mythological chroniclers accounts, incompatible with Sikh scripture’s unique message, traditions and historical details, packs potential to detract the cause of Sikhism. Obviously he is aware of the accounts’ anomalies.
Given the centrality of scripture in the tradition, almost all the Sikh chroniclers refer to the compilation of the original text and its expansion into the Adi Granth. These authors constructed their accounts primarily around oral traditions, using them with varying degrees of ingenuity. T.M.O.S.S., pp.5-6
The nineteenth–century narrators, however, introduced additional dramatic details. In these accounts, Kabir is presented as the spokesperson for the Bhagats during their visit to the Sikh court. He respectfully introduces each of them to Guru Arjan and announces the precise purpose of their visit – to get their hymns recorded in the sacred Sikh text. …. These chroniclers also knew that many of the Bhagats whose hymns are recorded in Sikh scripture were dead by the time of Guru Arjan. Still, they easily circumvented the difficulty of announcing for this historical anomaly by describing the saints’ arrival in ethereal forms. Ibid, p.103
Response to the controversial position of Gurinder Mann
The Goindval Pothis: The Earliest Extant Source of the Sikh Canon
Published in 1997
From the Book
History of the Sikhs and Their Religion
The Guru Period (1469 – 1708 CE)
Edited by Kirpal Singh & Kharak Singh
Published in 2004
Available at University Academic Libraries
Book is Contributed by all of the scholars including, Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon (BSD), Dr. Dalbir Singh Dhillon (D.S.D), Dr. Dharam Singh (D.S.), Dr. Gurmukh Singh (G.S.), Dr. Harnam Singh Shan (H.S.S.), Dr. Jodh Singh (J.S), Dr. Kharak Singh (Kh.S), Dr. Kirpal Singh (K.S.), Principal Surjit Singh G (S.S.G)
Chapter 18 Guru Granth Sahib – The Eternal Guru
This Chapter is by Dr. Harnam Singh Shaan (H.S.S)
Page 354 – 355 Goindwal Pothis Earlier it was generally believed by most Sikh scholars that the Goindwal Pothis were the primary sources for the preparation of the Adi Granth. Bhai Santokh Singh, Giani Gian Singh, Baba Prem Singh Hoti, Bhai Kahn Singh, Bhai Vir Singh, Giani Gurdit Singh, and a number of other scholars held this view. Mehma Parkash, compiled by Sarup Das Bhalla in 1776 CE, refers to the compilation of pothis by Sahansar Ram, son of Baba Mohan, during the lifetime of Guru Amar Das. It is said that there used to be four pothis out of which only two are now extant. One is at Jalandhar, since the descendnts of Sahansar Ram shifted there, and the other is at Pinjore near Chandigarh. After the demise of Guru Amar Das, these pothis were allegedly in the custody of Baba Mohan, the eldest son of Guru Amar Das. Gurinder Singh Mann in his book,Goindwal Pothis, states:
…Guru Arjun temporarily brought these pothis to Amritsar at the turn of the seventeenth century and used them in the preparation of the Kartarpur Pothi. It seems natural that after the task was completed, the pothis were sent back. There is even a palanquin at Goindwal which, according to popular local tradition, was used to transport the pothis to and from Amritsar.
It is said that Guru Arjun himself went to Goindwal to bring these pothis from Baba Mohan, his mother’s elder brother, for preparation of the Sikh scripture. It is also allegedthat Guru Arjun had composed a shabad, “Mohan tere uche mandir…” in praise of Baba Mohan. Prof Sahib Singh, however, strongly refutes this view. He very cogently illustrates that the word ‘Mohan’ in this hymn has been used to address God, and not the son of the Third Nanak. The latest work on the subject of the compilation of Adi Granth is by Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon, titled Early Sikh Scriptural Tradition. Dr Dhillon has vergy cogently demonstrated that the Goindwal Pothis had been written after the compilation of the Adi Granth because hymns of Guru Arjun are found in these pothis. Also, on the index the recorded date is Samwat 1682 BK, Sawan Vadi 1, or July 10, 1625 CE. Balwant Singh Dhillon states:
The material evidence instead of proving the Ahiyapur Pothis to be of earlier origin points to the contrary. It is worth nothing that not only one but six hymns have been attributed to Mahala IV, i.e., Guru Ram Das.
He concludes: Evidently recording of hymns under authorship of Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjun would not have been possible of the compilation of Ahiyapur Pothi had been completed during the period of Guru Amardas. Similarly, Prof Pritam Singh, in his Punjabi book, Ahiyapurwali Pothi¸ comes to the conclusions that this pothi has not contributed in the compilation of the Adi Granth. It seems certain that the Goindwal Pothis were written after the compilation of the Adi Granth. Here the questions arises, if the Goindwal Pothis were compiled later, what was the purpose of Guru Arjun’s alleged visit to Goindwal, which as been so elaborately described by Sikh chroniclers of the later half of the eighteenth century. Balwant Singh Dhillon rejects this whole story of Guru Arjun’s visit to Goindwal. He writes:
Even the much publicized story of Guru Arjun’s visit to Baba Mohan at Goindwal to procure them (Goindwal Pothis) has been proved to be an apocryphal and a later concoction.
Prof Sahib Singh too is of the same opinion that the story of Guru Arjun’s visit lacks credibility. In his pioneering ten volume Punjabi Work, Guru Granth Darpan, he shows through the internal evidence of Gurbani that the whole story is a mere concoction with the aim to provide historical prominence to certain personages and their descendants.
From the Paper:
This paper was presented in International Sikh Conferences 2004
GURU GRANTH SAHIB: TEXTUAL STUDIES AND METHODOLOGY
Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon
Head Dept of Guru Nanak Studies
G.N.D. University, Amritsar
3.2.1. GURU HAR SAHAI POTHI : The Pothi that was in the possession of Sodhi family of Guru Har Sahai, a village near Ferozepur in Punjab, had been claimed to be the original one entrusted by Guru Nanak to his successor, Guru Angad. It is said that Guru Arjan had inherited it through his predecessors and subsequently it remained in the possession of Prithi Chand and his descendents.15 Recently, it has been argued that even though Guru Har Sahai Pothi was not the original manuscript attributed to Guru Nanak, “it may have been a copy of the manuscript that represented the core of the Sikh scriptural corpus.”16 Although the Pothi is no more available for examination, however, its characteristic features reported by the scholars who had an opportunity to examine it from close quarters point to the contrary.
3.2.2. On the basis of available evidence we can safely say that neither the text of the Pothi had belonged to the main tradition nor it was even remotely concerned with the sources of the Adi Granth. There are strong reasons to believe that in order to enhance their socio-religious clout as well as to appropriate maximum public offerings; the Sodhi family of Guru Har Sahai had circulated the Pothi in their possession as the original one belonging to Guru Nanak. Contrary to their claim, this Pothi’s movement from Guru Arjan to Prithi Chand or his son, Miharban, is highly suspect. Since Giani Gurdit Singh who had a fairly good time to examine it, was unable to scrutinize it fully, especially the earlier part17, therefore, his exercise to divide it into three parts seems to be quite arbitrary. Significantly, its various parts had not been assigned separate folio numbers’ instead the whole Pothi had folios marked in continuous order. Internal evidence contained in the Pothi, for example, the mention of Prithi Chand’s date of death which occurred in 1619 C.E.18, an entry of 1618 C.E. relating to the family accounts, and reference to a new index prepared in 1625 C.E.,19 suggest that it had its origin in the post-Adi Granth period. Most probably it was scribed between 1606-1625 C.E. It appears that some of its portions had even continued to be scribed during the lifetime of Miharban.20
3.2.3 Some of the internal features of the Pothi viz., use of Mul-Mantra identical to that of the Minas,21 entry of Prithi Chand’s date of death, addressing the Bhagats as Gosains on the Mina pattern,22 inclusion of Miharban’s writings, resemblance of Shaikh Farid’s salokas with the text of Masale Sheikh Farid ke authored by Miharban or his descendants,23 inclusion of Krishna-bhakti poetry,24 etc., are some of the important features which suggest that it had originated in the camp opposed to Guru Arjan. Therefore, its production can in no way be attributed to Guru Nanak and his early successors. Instead of representing the main Sikh tradition it is closely related to the schismatic stream given birth by the rivals of the Sikh Gurus, especially the Minas. The text of Bhagat-bani included in it certainly belonged to a different tradition than that of the Adi Granth. Actually, the Pothi had represented an entirely different tradition, developed and nurtured by the Minas. To call it a text of pre-scriptural Sikh tradition originating from the time of Guru Nanak is totally unfounded.
3.3.1. THE GOINDWAL POTHIS: Some of the traditional Sikh sources have recounted that before taking up the compilation of the Adi Granth, Guru Arjan had approached Baba Mohan at Goindwal requesting him to lend the Pothis in his possession which were said to have been prepared under the guidance of Guru Amar Das. 25 At present two Pothis popularly known as the Goindwal Pothis are in the possession of two Bhalla families who claim to have inherited them from Baba Mohan through successive generations. Some scholars consider them important manuscripts which help us to understand the formation of early Sikh canon. 26 on the other hand some scholars believe that these Pothis do not belong to the main Sikh scriptural tradition and had been of no use for Guru Arjan in compiling the Adi Granth.27
3.3.2 On the basis of our study of the extant Goindwal Pothis, we can state that though these texts have been a much touted source of the Sikh canon, yet no contemporary source of Sikh history alludes to them. Even the much publicized story of Guru Arjan’s visit to Baba Mohan at Goindwal to procure them has been proved to be an apocryphal and a later concoction.28 The extant Goindwal Pothis, said to be compiled under the direction of Guru Amar Das, had surfaced only in 1895 C.E.29 Actually, it was the debate generated by Panch Khalsa Diwan, Bhasaur, over the issue of Bhagat-bani, which had brought the Pothis into the limelight. Due to the non-accessibility of the Pothis, it has always been an uphill task to get information about their contents, Resultantly, scholars have to depend heavily on Bawa Prem Singh’s study conducted in the 1940s.30 Since, he was held in high esteem among his contemporary Sikh scholars, therefore the traditional Sikh scholarship did not see any reason to disbelieve his observations and they took the authenticity of the extant Pothis for granted without putting these to any critical examination. Subsequently, a number of misconceptions originating from Bawa Prem Singh have become nearly the established facts.
3.3.3 Traditional sources would make us believe that Sahansar Ram was the sole scribe of the Goindwal Pothis, but on closer examination penmanship of two more scribes is also quite visible. Some scholars feel that these Pothis had been got prepared by Guru Amar Das to serve the purpose of a scripture for the Sikhs. If it were so, then the Japuji, the most significant Bani of the Sikhs, should have been recorded on the initial folios of first Juzu. But physiognomical features of the extant Pothis, reveal that the Japuji figured nowhere in their scribal scheme. The ragas included in the Pothis neither have the writings of the first three Sikh Gurus nor of the Bhagats in their entirety. Even the Bani of Guru Amar Das, has not been preserved in its totality.31 Omissions are so severe that they do not allow us to believe that Guru Amar Das had got these Pothis prepared to serve the purpose of the Sikh scripture.
3.3.4. On close perusal we find that no uniform pattern has been followed to differentiate the authorship of various compositions. In fact attribution of some hymns has been wrongly entered.33 The sequence of ragas, their distinct modes and tunes33 are radically different from that of the Adi Granth tradition. The musicological traces and textual variants,34 especially the ‘fillers’ and ‘vocatives’ indicate that the text of Goindwal Pothis instead of coming down from the scribal tradition, belongs to a musicological tradition. Inclusion of kachi-bani is one of the most prominent features of the extant Goindwal Pothis. Some extra-canonical writings attributed to the Sikh Gurus and Bhagats, and some apocryphal writings attributed to Gulam Sada Sewak and Sharaf are also included in the Pothis.35. Apparently, kachi-bani of the Pothis36 had not found favour with Guru Arjan to be included in the Adi Granth. If these Pothis were a genuine product originating from Guru Amar Das and had provided a basis for preparing the Adi Granth, then what were the reasons for Guru Arjan to exclude some of its writings? It seems highly unlikely that Guru Amar Das would have included kachi-bani in the scripture compiled by him, which would have been rejected by Guru Arjan while editing the Adi Granth, including some hymns attributed to his father, Guru Ram Das. The fact of existence of kachi-bani in the extant Goindwal Pothis, severely undermines their claim to be the original product belonging to Guru Amar Das. In fact, inclusion of kachi-bani is a pointer to the fact that these Pothis owe their origin to schismatic trends in Sikhism.
3.3.5. Some scholars are inclined to suggest that the Mul-Mantra recorded in the Goindwal Pothis represents its earlier form37. But in fact, the scribe has not adhered to one version and has been modifying it on the succeeding folios. The Mul-Mantra found recorded at various folios is full of incoherent features38. We find that along with God, Guru Nanak has also been invoked, which is totally inconceivable for a Mul-Mantra coming down from the founder of Sikhism himself. Although these pothis are said to have been recorded during Guru Amar Das’ pontificate, yet the internal evidence of the Pothis points to the contrary. The colophon recorded in the Ahiyapur Pothi (one of these Pothis) explicitly refers to Magh vadi 1, 1652 Bk. (Jan. 7, 1596), as the date on which the scribing job was completed39 It is well supplemented by the fact that scores of hymns have been recorded under the authorship of Mahala 4 and Mahala 5.40 Obviously, the scribing date of Ahiyapur Pothi in no way can be pushed back before Jan.1596 C.E.
3.3.6. To identify Gulam Sada Sewak of the Goindwal Pothis with Guru Ram Das is totally uncalled for. Obviously it has been given currency in the recent past to legitimize the apocryphal writings of these Pothis.41 Similarly, the story of the presence of the autographs of Guru Ram Das on the Pothis is not borne out of facts but is an imagination of recent origin.42 The colophon preserved in the Ahiyapur Pothi exhorts that its custodians had the blessings of three generations of the Sikh Gurus that anyone following the Guru other than their progeny would certainly go to hell. It leaves no room to disbelieve that the extant Goindwal Pothis owe their origin to the sectarian developments in Sikhism. The textual variants, instead of proving them close to the Adi Granth, indicate that the extant Goindwal Pothis represent a different recessions that owes its origin to the Bhalla tradition. Significantly, some of the features of these Pothis establish their close connection with the sectarian literature produced by Miharban and his descendants.43 Like the Anandu Parmarth of Harji, stanza No. 34 (Mani chao bhaia) has been dropped from the text of Anandu of Guru Amar Das incorporated in the Pinjore Pothi. In fact Anandu’s internal arrangement is very much identical to the version of Harji.44 Similarly, like Harji’s Janamsakhi of Guru Nanak, a hymn of the first Master has been wrongly attributed to Guru Angad.45 Some of the extra-canonical padas, namely Daian dare sunhe dora and Narad kahai sunhu narain, belonging to Kabir and Namdev respectively, also occur in the Mina works. Significantly, Shah Sharaf’s writing found recorded in the Ahiyapur Pothi, is partially available in Masle Shaikh Farid Ke, a Mina product. Perhaps taking cue from Miharban, the scribe of the extant Goindwal Pothis has tried to depict the Bhagats, namely Kabir and Namdev, as the devotees of Guru Nanak. Even some of the titles and vocatives such as Bolna Babe Patshah ka strike a similar chord with Sri Satguru Miharvan ji ka bolna in the Mina literature. Moreover, some of the features of the Mul-Mantra of the Goindwal Pothis are strikingly similar to the Mul-Mantra of Miharban’s literature. All these factors put together indicate that either the scribe of the Goindwal Pothis was under the strong influence of the rivals of Guru Arjan, especially the Minas or the tradition of Goindwal Pothis has developed in close proximity to the Mina tradition. Why do the two traditions have so much in common? Which tradition has borrowed from the other or which one was thriving on the other are important issues that require in-depth investigations. 3.3.7. From the above facts, we are inclined to say that the text of the extant Goindwal Pothis instead of coming down from a scribal tradition nurtured by the Sikh Gurus, belongs predominantly to a musicological tradition, patronized by the Bhallas at Goindwal and carries marked resemblance with the Mina tradition. The notion that the extant Goindwal Pothis had been prepared under the direction of Guru Amar Das and represent a pre-canonical stage of Sikh scripture, thus finds no validity. In fact, instead of representing the pre-scriptural tradition of the main Sikh stream, the extant Goindwal Pothis represent a recension that had its origin in the sectarian developments in Sikhism. On the whole, the role of these Pothis in the canonization of the Adi Granth, is more imaginary than real.
3.4.1. MS # 1245: The recently surfaced MS # 1245 (GNDU) has generated a lot of controversy in the field of Sikh studies. While a scholar calls it to be an anterior and unique manuscript, another finds it to be an early draft “on which Guru Arjan seems to have worked to finally produce the text of the Adi Granth.46 Our analysis of this manuscript reveals that scholars of Sikh texts have failed to examine it rigorously and thoroughly. Ironically, instead of making an honest and objective exercise, vital internal evidence has been suppressed and mis-statements and mis-representation of facts have been made. Amazingly, the features, such as various omissions, incomplete text, irregularities between the index and text, scribal and musical variants, violation of structural pattern, confusion about authorship, inclusion of kachi-bani etc., which jeopardize its credentials as a genuine product of the main stream, have been taken to prove its earlier origin.47 Internal evidence indicates that its scribe has depended heavily on another source to prepare it. It is a neatly written document. Unlike a draft, it is free from cuttings, over writings and erasures. Obviously, such an attempt would not have been possible if the scribe had no access to another source. This manuscript has been considered an independent and sporadic attempt. But to record such a voluminous work that too with illumination seems to be impossible in medieval times unless and until its scribe had the patronage of a group or an institution. However, it remains to be determined as to who were the persons or group behind its compilation?
3.4.2 The inclusion of the Ratanmala, a hath-yoga treatise suggests its scribe’s inclination towards ascetic ideals. The subject of most of the apocryphal writings revolves around Sant, Sadh, Sadhsang and Satiguru. Though, these subjects are not alien to Sikhism, yet frequent reference to them indicates that the authors of apocrypha were more concerned about personal guruship and asceticism. The most significant fact is that the text of Japuji of this manuscript resembles with the Japu Parmarth of Harji, a grandson of Prithi Chand.48 Likewise, in the earlier collections of the Mina tradition prepared under the guidance of Miharban, the whole corpus of Bhagat-bani had been excluded from it. Similarly, following in the footsteps of the Mina literature, Kalh Bhatt has been recalled as Kala Bhatt. We have also evidence to the effect that the earlier collections of the Minas comprised the panegyrics of Kalh Bhatt alone49. All the 32 swayyas found recorded in this manuscript has also turned out to be the compositions of the Kalh Bhatt. Moreover, in the full as well as the short form of Mul-Mantra, this manuscript employs Satiguru Parsadi or Sri Satiguru Parsadi which is again a most distinctive feature of the Mina version of Mul-Mantra. The date of Guru Nanak’s demise (Samat 1595, Assu vadi 10) found recorded in the chart of death-dates of this manuscript is the same which we find inscribed for the first time in Mina documents. Attempts at forgery, fabrication and above all the modus operandi to circulate the apocryphal writings, associate it with the dissenters within the Sikh Panth. It should be remembered that after preparing a compilation, Miharban had made copies to distribute and install them in various establishments loyal to him. Its features common to the Mina tradition suggest that most probably this manuscript has originated in the above environment and sequence. To preempt this objection as well as to prove its earlier origin, reference is made to an extra-canonical hymn that it “refers to the Minas for instigating Sulhi Khan to attack Guru Arjan’s establishment.”50 But this is totally unfounded, as the composition in question carries no reference to Sulhi Khan. Instead it alludes to the arrest and execution of a person, along with his followers by a ruler.51
3.4.3. A deeper analysis reveals that the index and text of many ragas are not in conformity with each other. The serial numbers recorded for the incomplete hymns, suggest that information of total hymns in a particular raga was available to the scribe. Mention of Satta and Balwand’s var in the index of Ramkali mode proves that he was aware of it. The apocryphal writings have been inserted at the end of metres of ragas. Instances of their entry into the index inserted later on are also clearly visible. All these features establish that prior to this manuscript the arrangement and pattern to record Gurbani had already been fixed. The authorship of some of the hymns has been confused, so much so that at a time a hymn has been attributed to two authors. Whereas a large number of hymns have been omitted, yet many others have been repeated. The text of a sizeable number of hymns is incomplete. It is replete with scribal mistakes and modifications.52 these facts prove that it is not only an incorrect but also an incomplete document. One should hesitate to call it an earlier draft on the basis of orthography too, because besides the dot, we also find the usage of half kanna in it. Examples of text filled in later on in a different hand are clearly visible. To associate it with Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha is absolutely illogical because no internal or external evidence proves this.53 Its scribe has brought various modifications into the text, probably to suit musical requirements. Amazingly, most of the incomplete as well as repeated hymns, belong to Guru Arjan. Similarly, the major portion of apocrypha has been attributed to the fifth Master, but the same has not found favour with him for inclusion in the Adi Granth 41. These are some of the strong reasons to disbelieve that Guru Arjan has prepared it. Obviously, an impure, incomplete and incorrect manuscript could not become a basis for editing the Adi Granth. The dates of passing away of the first five Sikh Gurus, Nisan of Guru Tegh Bahadur, orthographic style and textual variants suggest that it is a post-Adi Granth product.
3.4.4. Its many resemblances with the Mina text lead us to suggest that it belongs to a text family, which may have developed in close proximity to the Mina tradition. The evidence at hand indicates that its scribe had depended on a number of sources rather than a single document. Whether it was the result of cross-fertilization between different recessions? Or was it a cautious blend of various text families? These are very pertinent issues that are yet to be explored satisfactorily. Whatever may be the case, it is quite evident that on the one hand its scribe has tried to put together all the kachi-bani writings attributed to the Sikh Gurus and on the other he has omitted recording the more well-known compositions that were in his full knowledge. On the basis of these facts we can argue that MS # 1245 was a deliberate act of editing on the part of its scribe or the patrons, who were weary of some writings that have been made part of the Adi Granth. It means even after the establishment of the canon in 1604 C.E., some sections within the Panth had continued to compile collections of Bani that were not strictly canonical in nature. In which part of the Sikh world and among whom these types of collections were popular, are the issues which are wide open for the debate. Anyway, on the basis of textual analysis of MS # 1245, we can state that neither it is an “earlier draft” nor has it served as a source for compiling the Adi Granth. Rather it represents a different recension that was predominantly musical in nature.
3.4.5. A careful examination of the above three documents reveals that a number of textual variants have crept into their texts. The variety of the textual variants present in them prove that neither of them is a direct copy of each other nor would they have been the basis for the Adi Granth. We can very safely state that the above three sources have not descended one after another in the same tradition, rather they represent three different traditions. These manuscripts are the product of groups or people who were interested in preserving and propagating a particular recession of bani other than the one that we have in the form of Adi Granth.
3.4.6. On the basis of internal evidence we can say that these sources are in no way ancestral to the Adi Granth. Instead of sharing a common tradition with it, the sources in question belong to different traditions, which were predominantly musical as well as sectarian in nature. Therefore, to call one of the above-mentioned documents as an earlier draft of the Adi Granth is totally unfounded and uncalled for.
Let’s look at the controversial WH McLeod’s own views:
Do his followers still reference his writings and position them?