Damdami Bir – The Complete and Authentic Version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib
In this research paper we will discuss about Damdami Bir. This is based upon primary and secondary sources. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, which is regarded by them as the final, sovereign and eternal living Guru following the end of the ten human Gurus of the Sikhism. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is written in the Gurmukhi script, in various languages, including Lahnda (Western Punjabi), Braj, Khariboli, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Persian etc. Contents of Guru Granth Sahib contain compositions of six Sikh Gurus: Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur; fifteen Bhagats, eleven Bhatts (bards) and four Sikhs. Generally, the hymns of devotion, the glory of God, men’s spiritual efforts and equality of men and women were incorporated in the Holy Scripture. In Sikh history and tradition, there are three major recensions of Sri Guru Granth Sahib namely Kartarpuri Bir or Bhai Gurdas vali Bir, Bhai Banno vali Bir and Damdami Bir.
Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru, compiled the original version of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1604 A.D. Bhai Gurdas was entrusted as the Guru’s scribe for the first edition of holy scripture. This original version of Guru Granth Sahib was known as Pothi Sahib at that time. Having compiled the Granth, Guru Arjan Dev installed it at Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) that he had got constructed at Amritsar. The Guru nominated a prominent Sikh ‘Baba Buddha’ as the first Granthi (custodian) of the Holy Scripture. With the passage of time, the original Granth Sahib passed on from Guru Arjan Dev to Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru. Subsequently, Dhirmalias got hold of the Holy book and refused to give it to the Guru. Dhirmal intended to use it for having his claims on the succession of the Guruship.This master copy most likely remained with Dhir Mal’s family, the Sodhis of Kartarpur. That is why it is known as Kartarpuri Bir (recension). Because of first edition, it is also called Adi Granth.The Kartarpuri Bir is believed to be preserved to this day.
About Bhai Banno’s Bir, it is described in Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin and Sooraj Parkash Granth that Guru Arjan Dev gave the original scripture to Bhai Banno one of his disciples, for binding. He took it for binding to Lahore and on the way prepared another copy of the original scripture. That copy of the original is known as Bhai Banno vali Bir (recension).This recension is still in the possession of the descendants of Bhai Banno.
Guru Gobind Singh’s greatest work for the Sikh community during his stay in Talwandi Sabo was related to the preparation of complete and authenticated recension of Guru Granth Sahib in 1706 A.D. Guru Gobind Singh undertook to prepare a new edition of the Sikh scripture including in it all the hymns appearing in the original recension Aid Bir as well as the verses of his late father, the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Guru dictated the whole Granth to his scribe Bhai Mani Singh
During the struggle with the Mughals, the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib had to leave Amritsar and settle at Kiratpur. The Adi Bir (original scripture) was left with Dhir Mall, which is known as Kartarpuri Bir as stated above. Darbar Sahib Amritsar was occupied by Anti-Guru sect called Minas. The leaders of Mina Sampardai (Prithi Chand and his son Meharban) had made their own compositions in the name of ‘Nanak’ and tried to interpolate these verses in the original scripture. With the departure of Sikh Gurus from the central Punjab to the Shivalik foothills, many doubts were raised about the authenticity of the Sikh scripture. In addition to the verses of Mira Bai, some other extraneous compositions of Bhagats (Devotees) were inserted in several old copies of Holy Book. In the same way, the spurious and unauthenticated compositions were also inserted under the name of Sikh Gurus. There were also disagreements over the total number of hymns included in the daily evening Prayer (Nitnem Rehras Banis).There was also no uniformity about the original form and place of hymns of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur in old hand written Holy Books. To end such differences forever, Guru Gobind Singh endeavored to prepare the complete and authentic version of Guru Granth Sahib. It is narrated that for this purpose, the Guru tried to obtain the Adi Bir, the original scripture compiled by Guru Arjan Dev. The Guru sent some Sikhs to Dhir Mal’s descendants, who possessed the original scripture, and requested for its return. But they refused to part with it and asked the Guru to write his own Granth if he was a real Guru. Consequently, the Guru began the task of re-editing the Sikh Scripture.
A special tent was set up near Damdama Sahib and writing material (Paper, ink, reed-pens) were collected for the execution of this great work. In fact, before the commencement of this project, Guru Sahib himself used to make reed-pens daily. Task of writing was entrusted to Bhai Mani Singh, while Baba Deep Singh was asked to assist him.
According to Gurbilas Patshahi 6, once the Sikh congregation requested the sixth Guru, “True King! Like the predecessor Gurus, why did you not recite the Gurbani (verses)?” The Guru replied, “I will establish Guru Ki Kashi in Malwa. I will recite the entire Granth (scripture) from start up to end and will not make the difference of a single word from the original scripture. All future Birs will be transcribed from that authentic Master copy”.
Suni kai ham tanhi ke bainan ko Gur Granth ko adi te ant ucharaun Achhar ko ik bhed rahe nahin aur saroop vahin so utaraun Kansi racho tih malav des mati murh parai hoi budh udaraun Nam Damdama tanhi dharau so pavan bir kau nama savaraun
Giani Gian Singh has written about the re-compilation of the recension of Guru Granth Sahib at Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib) in Sri Gur Panth Parkash as follows
Nahi avakash rachane kera. Milio tha ,bahu badhyo bakhera. Abi avakash pai Guru gyani, Granth rachan ki tayari thani. Jo jangal mangal par dai. Ab darbar udar jahan-i. Tanbu tahan kanat lagai. Bhitar baithe aap gusani. Mani Singh ko likhan bithayo, Nit dui pahir sanket tharayo. Satguru gae ucharat jaise, Bani likhi sikh tih jaise. Puran turan kai mas main, Aid Granth kia tyar tas main.
According to two Sikh historians Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, the view that Guru Gobind Singh reproduced the whole Aid Granth from his memory during the stay at Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib) finds no support in the works of the Sikh writers. It appears that Teja Singh and Ganda Singh have not taken notice of the above two writings of Gurbilas Patshahi 6 and Panth Parkash by Giani Gian Singh. Guru Gobind Singh was the living embodiment of the earlier nine Sikh Gurus and a great scholar with a phenomenal memory. Moreover, in the old days of bards and story-tellers, it was not unusual for them to recite from memory entire epic poems, such as the Mahabharta or Ramanyana. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh refuted the fact that Guru Gobind Singh had incorporated the hymns of the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur in the Holy scripture at Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib) on the basis that there was a Bir of Holy Granth at Patna Sahib, bearing the date of 1748 B.K. (1691A.D.), which contained the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur in their proper places. Another such Bir lying at Dacca had been inscribed in 1732 B.K. (1675A.D.), the first year of Guru Gobind Singh’s accession. G.B. Singh, the writer of ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib Dian Prachin Biran’, claimed that the Bir at Dacca is the copy of Damdami Bir; prepared by Guru Gobind Singh at Damdama in Anandpur Sahib (Not at Talwandi Sabo). Bhai Jodh Singh has described in details about the Bir of Dacca in the ‘Prachin Biran Bare Bhullan Dian Sodhan’. In Bhai Jodh Singh’s view, this Bir is an incorrect copy of Bhai Banno vali Bir. This Bir is full of errors. Such an incorrect Bir could not have been prepared by Guru Gobind Singh himself. The second manuscript of Holy Granth at Patna Sahib has a note that “This Granth is a copy of Fateh Chand’s Granth which in turn is a copy of the Puhkar Granth.The Puhkar Granth has been corrected against the big Granth which the fifth Guru got recorded by Bhai Gurdas.” It indicates that this Bir was not written under Guru Gobind Singh’s supervision. Therefore, it can be stated that both these manuscripts (Bir of Dacca and Bir of Patna Sahib) had not been got prepared by Guru Gobind Singh. Of course, in many manuscripts written before 1706 A.D., there are the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur but recorded in a haphazard manner. These hymns may have been added by someone else but not by the Guru himself. According to the Sikh tradition, at Damdama, Talwandi Sabo for the first time in 1906 A.D. the tenth Guru Guru Gobind incorporated the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur into the Sikh scripture and it was this Damdama version which was conferred the status of eternal Guru by Guru Gobind Singh in Oct.1708 at Nanded in Maharashtra.
When Guru Gobind Singh re-edited the Granth Sahib and gave it the final form, he expunged some spurious and extraneous compositions which had crept into some of the manuscripts written prior to 1706 A.D. These were the following compositions:
– Slok Mahalla 1 ‘Jit dar lakh Muhammda….. , Es kalio panj bhitio……… , Nanak chhinj pai darvajai….’.(3 Sloks) attributed to Guru Nanak Dev
– Slok Mahalla1 ‘Bai aatish aab khak…… aapio hoai ta jhur maran sach sada bakhsund.’ (16 sloks) attributed to Guru Nanak Dev
– Ratan Mala raag Ramkali Mahalla 1 ‘Asan sadh niralam …..’ (25 stanzas)
– Mira Bai’s shabad (hymn) in raag Maru ‘Manu hamaro badhio mai kawal nain……’
– Complete hymn of Bhagat Soor Das at the end of raag Sarang ‘Chhadi man hari bimukhan ko sang…..’ (While Guru Arjan Dev had included in the Adi Granth his first verse of six words only i.e. only one tuk).
– An extra hymn of Bhagat Tarlochan in raag Gujri (Navnidhi Parsee……).
– An extra hymn of Bhagat Namdev in raag Dhanasari (Sat Samund ja ka…..).
– A couplet of Bhagat Kabir in raag Gauri (Dhur amber vich belri……) at the beginning of Var Satt and Bhagat Kabir’s pada in raag Sorath ‘Aaudhu so jogi guru mera….’
– Hakikat Rah Mukam Raja Shiv Nabh Ki.
– Siahi Ki Bidhi, two versions small and large.
– Sakhi Mohalla 5 (five dos and don’ts for the Sikhs) as found in Pothi Bahowal and some other manuscripts.
– Dates of demise of first nine Gurus.
– Nasiatnama, Hajirnama and 35 Akhri as noted in some Gutkas and manuscripts
In addition to it, some hymns were re-adjusted while some others were standardized by the tenth Guru as follows
– Slok 54 ‘ Bal hua bandan chhutte’ as found attributed to Mahalla 10th in some birs , was standardized as part of Sloks of 9th Mahalla
– 3 Sloks in Basant Ki Var by Mahalla 5th settled in proper place as found written under Mahalla 1st at the end in some manuscripts.
– 9th Guru’s hymns in raag Jajjavanti settled under raag 31st as they were found to be mixed with and written under raag Jaitsari or separate raag after Jaitsari raag or before and after sometimes with raag Gauri in many manuscripts.
– Settled the Dhunis (musical modes) at the start of Vars missing in some birs.
– Composition ‘Raag Mala’ was settled at the end of standardized recension as it was noted in Kartarpuri Bir, but in many hand written copies Raag Mala was missing , ending only with Mundavani.
– Settled only two lines of Guru Arjan Dev’s hymn in raag Ramkali ‘Run jhunjhnara gao sakhi hari……’ as some manuscripts had complete hymn.
– Completed the Nitnem Rehras Bani (daily evening prayer) by addition of four hymns under ‘So Purakh’
– Standardized ending pattern of compositions after raags (Bhog di Bani di tartib) as found in Kartarpuri Bir
Some later commentators claim that the changes made by Guru Gobind Singh also included the alteration of the word khulase to khalase in a shabad by Bhagat Kabir in Sorath raag. But this claim is not correct. The word was khalase by Bhagat Kabir as found in Kartarpuri Bir and other manuscripts.
Thus, the Damdami Bir was completed in four months and this recension of Guru Granth Sahib is known as ‘Dasam Patshah ka Granth’ or ‘Damdami Bir’. It is this version of the Granth that has been providing the authentic text for the printed copies of Guru Granth Sahib since then.
On the same day on which the Damdami Bir was completed along with the Katha of the whole Guru Granth Sahib, the Guru declared the establishment of Guru Ki Kashi for the study of Sikhism in the open diwan and after the conclusion of diwan, got prepared Karah Parshad in large quantity, collected reed-pens used and unused and the remaining ink and accompanied by the sangat went to the sarovar of Likhansar. Here, after the performance of Ardas, this writing material was poured with reverence into the sarovar, distributed Karah Parshad and blessed the place to be a centre of repute in learning and writing .
Several copies of this recension of Guru Granth Sahib were transcribed by Baba Deep Singh (Shaheed) at Damdama Sahib. It is believed that four copies of the Granth Sahib were prepared; the first one was sent to the Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar, the second sent to Patna Sahib, the third kept at Damdama Sahib and the fourth was carried by Guru Gobind Singh to Hazur Sahib (Nanded). After the completion of Guru Granth Sahib’s writing work, the Guru left for the South. Before the end of his life, Guru Gobind Singh ended the line of personal Guruship by investing the Damdami Bir of Granth Sahib with the status of the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs and his official successor in 1708.
According to Panth Parkash by Giani Gian Singh, the Khalsa lost this Bir (recension) to attacking Afghans in the battle near the village Kutba Bamani during the Second Sikh Holocaust-Vadda ghallughara in 1762; from there, this recension was supposedly taken to Kabul, where it was kept in a big dharamshala in Kabul. But no one has ever located it there. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha also verified it through British Govt. that there was no such Bir in Kabul.
Hence, it can be concluded that it is at Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo, where the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh prepared the complete and authentic recension of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is known as Damdami Bir. Here, the Guru incorporated the compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur also in the Holy Book, expunged some spurious and unauthenticated compositions and standardized at the whole text hymns. It is this Damdama version of Guru Granth Sahib which was invested with the Guruship by the tenth Guru at Nanded in 1708 and accepted and recognized by the Sikh Path as the sacred scripture of Sikh religion all over the globe.
1. Giani Gian Singh, Sri Gur Panth Parkash, Language Department Punjab, Patiala, 1987.
2. Bhagat Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi 6, (ed.) Gurmukh Singh, Punjabi University Patiala, 1997.
3. Giani Gian Singh, Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, Language Department Punjab, Patiala, 1979, Part 1.
4. Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, Mahan Kosh, Language Department Punjab, Patiala, 1990.
5. Bhai Jodh Singh, Prachin Biran Bare Bhullan Di Sodhan, Lahore Book Shop, Lahore, 1947.
6. Prof. Sahib Singh, Aid Bir Bare, Language Department Punjab, Patiala, 1999.
7. Giani Balwant Singh Kotha Guru, Sri Damdama Guru Ki Kashi, Giani Kaur Singh Sahitya Shashtri Sadan Kotha Guru, Bathinda, 1995.
8. Gurdwara Gazette, Nov. 1965.
9. G.B. Singh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Dian Prachin Biran, Modern Publications, Lahore, 1944.
10. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, Punjabi University Patiala, 1989.
11. Jasbir Singh Mann, “Final standardization of Guru Granth Sahib (Damdami Bir) at Damdama Sahib /Sabo Talwandi 1706.”
12. K.S.Bajwa, “Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib: Establishment and Role in Sikh History.”