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Sri Guru Nanak Parkash – Part 1

A Review by Gurbakhsh Singh USA

Editor : Dr Kirpal Singh
Publisher : Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC, Amritsar
Pages : 880; Price : Rs 165/-

Gur Partap Suraj Granth is the most popular Sikh epic both among the Kathakars and the general Sikh sangat. It is regularly recited and explained by a Sikh scholar, a giani, in the evening gatherings in almost all Gurdwaras. Some people, being very much interested in listening to the life history of the Gurus and their teachings, are very particular not to miss the katha. Not only one enjoys the chronological episodes from the lives of the Sikh Gurus but one feels that the values and culture of the Guru period of Sikh history recorded by the author, are extremely interesting even today. This has changed the lives of many listeners of the katha and motivated them to love and value gurmat and be an active member of the Sikh Panth.

Bhai Santokh Singh, the poet laureate of the Sikh Panth (born 1788), wrote it in Brijbhasha under the patronage of the Raja of Kaithal. The words of the author reveal his mind, which was thoroughly drenched in the love of the Gurus. This has made the epic very popular among the Sikh masses. It is very soothing and good to listen to the services rendered to society by the Gurus and the guidance given by them to a common person to live his life on the right lines of faith and morality. The great bard has used his high-class scholarship to impress the readers with the spiritual greatness of the Gurus and their contribution towards peace and welfare of people.

After completing this great epic, the first and the last of its kind, Bhai Santokh Singh brought it to the Akal Takht (year 1843-44 AD) Amritsar, and presented it to the Guru Khalsa Panth as his offering like a humble Sikh of the Guru. Soon after he died which indicates that his life’s mission was to complete this immortal epic on the lives of Gurus.

Brijbhasha is not much different from the common Punjabi we speak, but many words/phrases need to be translated before the readers can properly understand the meaning and message of the writings. The erudite Sikh scholar, Bhai Veer Singh edited this granth in early thirties of 20th century with meanings and footnotes to explain some difficult words and phrases of the epic.

The Brahminical influcences in Nanak Parkash and Gur Partap Suraj Granth are due to the Brahmins who had been supervising the work of Bhai Santokh Singh as has been stated by Bhai Vir Singh in his Prastawna Pothi. Being a member of the Nirmala sect, his approach was to interpret Gurmat in terms of Hindu philosophy. The inclination toward Hindu mythology was perhaps his compulsion to please the Brahmins. During the time of Bhai Santokh Singh, the Sikhs in general had been leaning towards Hindu customs and traditions. The Singh Sabha movement stopped this trend among the Sikhs, later.

The Dharam Parchar Committee of the SGPC has decided to undertake a thorough study of these old writings regarding the life history of Gurus, their teachings and their contributions in the social and political life of Indian society. The Sikh heritage is lying unexplored in some of these old Sikh and non-Sikh writings, particularly the Persian sources of history. A part of it was studied by Dr Ganda Singh who discovered very valuable facts, hitherto unknown to the Sikh historians. To make this treasure of the Sikh heritage, both historical and religious, available to the historians and the Sikhs, the Dharam Parchar Committee sanctioned “Sikh Sarot Itihask Granth Sampadna” project.
Dr Kirpal Singh, a committed and a devoted historian, formerly Head of the Department of History, Punjabi University, Patiala, was assigned the responsibility of undertaking the editing of the major Sikh sources of history. To begin with, he chose Gur Partap Suraj Granth which is a very commonly read Granth, but has many mythological, non-gurmat and even some anti-gurmat statements. The Granth describes the life history of all the Gurus. Bhai Santokh Singh studied the available literature and then toured many important places to know the facts first hand as available with the local people for writing this epic. The Sikh scholars were concerned since long to edit this epic and review such observations in it, which are inconsistent with the teachings of gurbani. Finally, this responsibility fell on the shoulders of this senior Sikh historian.

The first part of the Gur Partap Suraj Granth, covers the life history of Guru Nanak Dev, and is titled Sri Gur Nanak Parkash, which has two divisions; the first half, Purbaradh and the second half Uttararadh. Each half is divided into two sections. This book is the translation of the first section, and consists of 32 chapters.

The book describes the family of the Guru, his birth, his childhood, his learning under the guidance of a Mullan (A Muslim teacher) and a Pandha (a Brahmin teacher). Later on, it describes the early life of the Guru and the miracle sakhis connected with the Guru, movement of the Guru to Sultanpur Lodhi, his marriage, and birth of his two sons. It ends with the Bein sakhi and resignation of his job by the Guru. It also describes the choice of Bhai Mardana as the associate of the Guru for his journeys and then their leaving on the first long itinerary to the east.

This is the first time that a complete Punjabi version of the book has been attempted with detailed notes and summary of the episode at the end of each chapter. The editor has chosen some critical and important episodes from the above period of the life of the Guru and discussed them and brought out the historical facts for the readers.
It is good that the editor has also given in the beginning, a brief sketch of the life of the author Kavi Santokh Singh and his love for the Guru. His Nirmala background is visible from the slant and tone of his wordings. Not only is there lot of material added by the Kavi from his own imagination, but he has also literally used Hindu mythology and Puranic references in this epic. His mission is clear, he wants to glorify the image of the Guru to the level of the Hindu avtars and gods. At some places, it is obviously unbelievable.

The editor has done an excellent job in critically reviewing such writings and giving his comments. These comments have made this book acceptable to all Sikh readers. The book is very suitable to be kept in each Sikh home for study by all, young as well as old.

 

 

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