TWO VIEWS ON DASAM GRANTH
Eversince its compilation in about the third decade of the eighteenth century, authorship of the greater part of the Dasam Granth1 has been fiercely disputed by scholars. That was in spite of great prestige undoubtedly enjoyed by Bhai Mani Singh, its alleged original compiler. Even the contemporaries of the Guru held different views and objected to its compilation in one volume which hinted at single authorship. Within a decade, strong sentiment in favour of dismembering it swelled up within the Panth. Decision in favou.r of its being kept in one volume was the result of a pure chance. 2 The controversy having been thus swept under the carpet, has never since been seriously addressed. Had the majority’s view3 been accepted then for maintaining it in the form of different volumes, as originally intended, it would have automatically solved the problem of authorship as Guru’s compositions were well known. In this ongoing controversy, an attempt will be made to assess the value of the contributions of Dr. D.P. Ashta4 and Dr. Rattan Singh Jaggi5 who are prominent representatives of two sides.
At the outset it may be mentioned that there is no controversy regarding the authorship of Jap, Akal Ustat (except from verses 201 to 230), Swayyias6. These portions of the Dasam Granth are indisputably accepted as compositions of the Tenth Guru. It may also be observed that, strangely enough, both schools of thought appear to share the belief that whatever is written by the Tenth Guru, would ipso facto constitute a part of Sikh canon. The root cause of the controversy is this underlying assumption, though it is clearly unsustainable. Since its compilation, Guru Granth is the only Sikh canon.
Though outwardly attempting to ward off the vital assumption by adopting an innocuous title for his work, Ashta is clearly drawing conclusions which are possible only if the entire Dasam Granth is accepted as canon. In the preface he indicates that the Granth, “has a very important place in Sikh... theology” and decrees it an “excellent evidence of influence exercised by Hindu theology, mythology, philosophy, history arid literature in the life and activities of Guru Gobind Singh.” 7 It is this baseless assumption which is further fully revealed in the Foreword by S. Radhakrishnan who further widens the scope of author’s formulations to assert, “from a studyofthis work we learn the profound influence which Hindu tradition and mythology has had on the development of Sikh religion” and that, “Ashta’s work... is exposition of the teachings of the 10th Sikh Guru, Shri Gobind Singh.” 8 True import of the short foreword is that there is need of accepting “a religion which is spiritual and non-sectarian” (that is Hinduism) in prefernce to “sectarian views” 9 (that is Sikhism). The work aims at making it easier for the Sikhs to accept the suggested transformation.
This underlying objective manifests itself in several subtle and not so subtle ways in Ashta’s work. Quite often he insinuates that the Sikh views are borrowed by the Gurus from Hindu Bhagats. His statement that Guru Gobind Singh, “like other Hindu thinkers... uses nagatives in describing Him” is repudiated in the same breath “confessing” that “to him God was not a mere abstraction.”10 It is indicative of the origin he would like to place on Sikh thought. That desire must explain another insinuation that the idea of transmigration of soul in Sikhism is ultimately inspired by Upanishads and Bhagwatgita. This statement is made in the full knowledge of Guru’s clear injunction that, “they who forsaking me adopt the ways of Veds and Smrities, shall fall into the pit of hell”11 Ashta goes to absurd lengths while pursuing this course. For instance, he sincerely holds that even the satire of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh is borrowed from Ramanand and Kabir. 12
The self-created predicament obliges Ashta to take up untenable positions again and again. To bring the philosophy of Sikh ism in unison with that of Hindu Bhagats, particularly Kabir, he states that the Gurus believed in Kabir’s Nirguna Brahma.13 While imposing ‘’vishishtadvaita position” on the Sikh Gurus, he asserts that their God is “above...worldly entanglements.” 14
Facts, however, stare him in the face and he has to conclude that according to the Guru, “God is omnipotent as love.15... God is sublimest Love. He loves his creation.”16 He also accepts wholeheartedly the basic truth of Sikh religion that, “God is Himself the Creator, the Preserver and Destroyer, all in one.” 17 God of Sikhism is also accepted by him to be “the Punisher ofthe evil.” 18 Surprisingly, in spite of all these realizations he does not feel compelled to revise his earlier formulations regarding the nirguna, the vishishtadvaita and the noninvolved nature wrongly attributed to God in Sikhism. He holds on to both points of view though he himself has effectively refuted one.
Apart from the fact that he contradicts himself, he betrays ignorance of the overall position of Sikh theology and history, which has always been clear to serious students. Discerning minds have always realized that the Kabirpanthis are ‘’virtually submerged under the tide of Hinduism.” In comparison it is recognized that Guru Nanak’s teachings conspicuously tended towards and eventually ended up providing “an entirely new environment called for the reforms introduced by Guru Gobind Singh while other medieval reformers... created sects which were swallowed up by Hinduism.” 19
In view of the above, it must be said of Ashta that he ventures forth to study the Dasam Granth with a definite premeditated design in mind. That obliges him to give up objectivity and he abandons it without a second consideration. It is therefore no surprise that he fails to see the significance of Guru Gobind Singh formally recognising Adi Guru Granth as the only Sikh canon and persistently refusing to collect his composition in a single volume and under a common name. This approach also explains why Ashta enthusiastically accepts Ram, Shyam and Kal to be the pseudonyms20 of Guru Gobind Singh on absolutely flimsy grounds. This is in spite of the fact that a previously existing work of Baba Sumer Singh testifies to the ‘independent existence of these poets as pointed out by Jaggi. Jaggi has gone into the same question more deeply21 and has not only noticed, Shyam22 amongst the court poets of Guru Gobind Singh, but has also succeeded in unearthing som some oftheir compositions which are not a part of the Dasam Granth.
In order to establish the authorship of the Tenth Guru, Ashta repeatedly asserts that the poet of the Dasam Granth “does not believe in incarnations, gods or godesses’ of Hindu or Mohemmadan religious books.” 23 That he also often contradicts himself24 goes without saying. It is left for Jaggi to effectively bring out that several contributors do regard godesses, gods and incarnations25 as objects of worship. Jaggi’s argument that, therefore, the Guru is not the author of bulk of it is more rational and cannot be controverted as it proceeds on the same basic premise as accepted by Ashta.
It defies explanation as to why the deliberate non-use of Nanak, the legitimate name of Guru Gobind Singh, in the Dasam Granth has not been noticed both by Ashta and Jaggi. They have not worked out the implications of that fact. Another fact that has been neglected is that the Guru insisted upon excluding his writings from the Adi Granth.26 It is also quite significant that the entire schemata of grammatical representations used in Guru Granth is almost completely missing from the Dasam Granth.27 The significance of the fact that this book was originally known as Bachittar Natak Granth and has travelled arduously towards the present nomenclature has been inissed both by Ashta and Jaggi. These facts alone are sufficient to convince any scholar that Guru Gobind Singh did not wish to interfere with the previously settled Sikh canon beyond adding his father’s compositions to it.
In addition, the conclusion sought to be drawn by Ashta and emphasized by Dr. Radhakrishnan, can only be sustained if the internal incongruities of the Hindu religious system are effectively ignored. Whatever may have been the earlier position; the gods surely were so jealous of each other as to promote mutual contempt amongst their mutually exclusive followers. “In all these respects, Puranas and Tantras were especially instrumental, and they not only taught their followers to assert the unapproachable superiority of gods they worshipped, but inspired them with feelings of animosity towards those who persumed to dispute that supremacy…”28 Consideration of this aspect alone rules out any single authorship for the narration of various incarnations included in the Dasam Granth. Though in passing, Jaggi has at least noticed29 the difficulty presented by such inclusions. They include the incarnations worshipped by Vaishnavites, Shaivites, Sakats,Sanyasis, Jogis and even Muslims for Mir Mehdi is also amongst them. Seven incarnations of Brahma are also included. In the context of times in which it is written, it could only have been composed by several authors having differing views of Reality. This also explains the existence of atleast three versions of the story of Chandi in the Granth.
Ashta’s convenient argument that, “the diction, the rythm and vigour of the lines are peculiarly Guru Gobind Singh’s own”30 sounds hollow when in the latter patt of his thesis he compares the poetry of the Dasam Granth with that of other poets and hints that it is in strong measure influenced and inspired by the type of the diction, rythem and vigour commonly found in the poetic compositions of the age.31 This argument is further developed by Jaggi. He concludes that the poetry of most of the Dasam Granth is conventional and of common occurrence. He further exhibits that most of the poets composing it, exhibit themselves as humble supplicants who often pray for favours from their patron and seek forgiveness for the possible mistakesliving in constant dread that those would be detected and be laughed at.32
Jaggi on the other hand has proceeded scientifically and objectively. He has clearly delineated in detail the views of both parties to the controversy and has then set out to examine them thoroughly. His logic is scathing and whatever cannot stand scrutiny is discarded without hesitation. This constitutes the first three chapters of his present work. His scrutiny of the letter attributed to Bhai Mani Singh is quite thorough. One would wish that he had gone into the circumstances in which it was discovered. It is well worth knowing whether G.B. Singh discovered it when he was in the thick of the controversy about the authorship of the Dasam Granth. It would also be relevant to know whether serious aspersions cast on the integrity and objectivity of G.B. Singh by Bhai Sahib Singh33 are valid and whether any conclusion on that basis is warranted in the present context?
The fourth and fifth chapters deal with the four well-known manuscripts of the Dasam ranth. After incisive enquiry done with extreme care, Jaggi comes to the conclusion that there are material differences in the four versions. These sometimes extend to including additional works not usually associated with the book.34 He notices that the material put together represents diverse and scattered writings completely lacking a common theme. The conclusion that it would have been more homogeneous, had the Guru intended to put it in one volume is entirely warranted. The other conclusion that it was not compiled during the Guru’s life-time is obvious. The very fact that such liberties have been taken by different compilers clearly indicates that no particular sanctity was attached to the compilation. There is thus no doubt that it was not considered by them to be the Guru’s word.35
Any analysis of the portions supposedly in the handwriting of the Guru himself has been one with characteristic thoroughness by Jaggi. These pages have mostly been pasted later into the volumes pointing unmistakably to their very late origin. It is also pointed out that these are often materially inaccurate which totally rules out their being wrillen by the Guru.36 The Script used is the commonly used local one and it is wrong to advertise it as the Guru’s peculiar invention. Jaggi approvingly quotes Giani Gian Singh’s assertion that these pages are forgeries made by Charat Singh son of Sukha Singh author of the Gurbilas. That perhaps reflects the true position.
Two chapters have been devoted by Jaggi to the analysis of the ideology of rest of the Dasam Granth. By comparing it with the known writings of the Tenth Guru, he has conclusively shown that the two are poles apart. In this connection it is highly significant that meat eating, drinking alcohol and sex indulgence are highly inducted in writings which are translations and in spite of the fact that original texts of which these are translations do no mention such activity. 37 That to Jaggi reasonably reveals an interested Sa kat’s hand in the composition. Serious anachronisms which would be discredit to any ordinary man of moderate learning have been pointed out.38 The eighth chapter on the ideology of authors is well argued. Concluding it can be stated without the fear of contradiction that, in comparison, Jaggi’s thesis is well authenticated and balanced. Ashta on the other hand appears to be too keen to adopt a particular point of view. He is not thorough in his analysis, is quite often selfcontradictory, and appears eager to gloss over material facts which are inconvenient from his point of view. On the whole his work appears quite lacking in objective inquiry. If we relate it to the conclusions drawn from it by Dr. Radhakrishnan, we cannot say that it is devoid of a motive or a predisposed desire to confirm to certain pre-determined notions related to the position of Sikhs in the Indian polity.
1 To begin with it was known as Bachitter Natak or Bachitter Natak Granth, then by various names including Dasam Patshah ka Granth until it was finally christened as Dasam Granth in this century
2 Bhai Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh who passed through Damdama Sahib on their way to punish Massa Ranghar, desecrator of the Harmandar, proposed that it should be kept in one volume if they succeeded and returned but should be kept separate if they died in the attempt. They were successful and returned. See Kahan Singh, Bhai, Mahan Kosh (Pbi) (Reprint) Bhasha Vibhag, Patiala 1974, 616
3 Ibid., 616
4 Ashta, Dr. Dharam Pal, The Poetry of the Dasam Granth, Arun Prakashan, New Delhi 1959, pp.312 + XXXXVIII + iv
5 Jaggi, Dr. Rattan Singh, Dasam Granth da kartritav (Pbi). Punjabi Sahit Sabha, New Delhi, 1966, pp. 237 +1
6 See conclusion by Jaggi, Dr. Rattan Singh, Loc. Cit. p., 198. Jaggi has apparently kept his options open by using the word etc., at the end of his list
7 Dr. Ashta, Loc. Cit. X
8 Ibid., VII
9 Ibid., VII
10 Ibid., 187
11 Ibid., 188
12 Ibid., 205-206
13 Ashta, Op. Cit., 169
14 Ibid., 171
15 Ibid., 175
16 Ibid., 178
17 Ibid., 176 also “God not only creates but also provides for the sustenance of all” p. 180
18 Ibid., 182
19 Banerjee, A.C., “Guru Nanak And Problems of his Age,” Journal of Religious Studies, Vol No. 1. September 1969, 45
20 Ashta, Op. Cit, 13,14,15
21 Jaggi, Dr. Rattan Singh, Op. Cit., 21, 22 see Appendix 3 and pp. 47 to 58
22 Ibid., 173-175
23 Ashta, Op. Cit., 21,22
24 Jaggi, Op. Cit. Chapter 8, 176-194
25 The Sikh position is ably summed up by Mohsin Fani, a comtemporary of Guru Hargobind. See Ganda Singh’s translation in The Punjab Past and Present, Vol.iii, Punjabi University, Patiala 1969, 5, wherein he says, ‘disciples of Nanak condemn idol worship they do not read the mantras of Hindus. They do not esteem their Avtars’
26 ‘Guru did not allow it to be incorporated in the Adi Granth’, Chhibber, Kesar Singh, “Bansawalaianamah,” Parakh, Panjab University, Chandigarh 1972
27 For instance, had the system been followed, ik chun chun jharon kadian in Chandi-divar, would have been written as : ikki chuni chuni jharon kadiani. cf. Gurdit Singh, Giani, “Shabdantik Lagan Matran” Singh Sabha Patrika, August 1990, Chandigarh, 18
28 Wilson, H.H., Religious Sects of The Hindus, (1861), (Reprint) Susil Gupta (India) Private Limited, Calcutta, 1958, 2
29 A passing reference by Jaggi, Op. Cit., 181. Padam, Piara Singh, Dasam Granth Darshan, (Pbi.) Patiala April 1990, 81 are aware that no other work which includes these diverse incarnations, exists. Referring to love for Krishna, Ashta does affirm that “their devotion was so much that they could do away will all their deities and be devoted to him exclusively” Ashta, Op. Cit., 77
30 Ibid., 168
31 The following extracts are from Ashta, Ibid., “In the Dasam Granth, also descriptions of nature fall within this conventional category” p. 297; “This fono of poetry from the beginning of Hindi literature even to this day is still being attempted. The treatment is more or less conventional.” p.299; “here to Guru Gobind Singh has employed the conventional style.” p. 301.; He considers Gian Parbodh to be “an attempt at revival of the epic philosophy.” p.305.; “Bachitra Natak Granth follows the Puranic tradition...” p. 306; “The poetry of the Dasam Granth like the Hindi poetry of the day has several elements of conventionality in it.” p. 307. See also pp. 308, 309.; “In war poetry, Bhushan’s Shivraj Bhushan, Shiva Bhawani and ChhatarsaI Dasak get the precedence of Dasam Granth in time as well as in epic quality.” p. 309.; “In variety of meters, Dasam Granth ranks next only to works of Keshavdas” p. 310
32 See Jaggi Op. Cit, Chapter VI and particularly the concluding pages 166-168
33 Cf. Sahib Singh, Adi Bir Bare, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, February 1970 pp. 110-118
34 Jaggi, Rattan Singh, Op. Cit., 98-99
35 Ibid., 112,125,126
36 Ibid., 121, 138, 139
37 Ibid., 151
Copyright Institute of Sikh Studies, All rights reserved.
Designed by Jaswant (09915861422)