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Japji Sahib
– Way to God in Sikhism –

A Review by Gurdev Singh*

Author : Maneshwar S Chahal
Published by : Prakash Books India Pvt. Ltd. 1, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi – 110 002
Pages: 321+xvii; Price: Not mentioned
Edition : First

The book’s subtitle – Way to God in Sikhism – optimally purveys the quintessence of the subject matter of the book. With intelligence and verve, Maneshwar Singh Chahal has seized the true spirit and significance of Guru Nanak’s sublime bani Japuji and presented a compact and perspicuous exegesis for the benefit of both the erudite and the lay.
Chahal’s objective is to present easily understandable exposition of the lofty spiritual grandeur of central theme of Japuji to the English-knowing people. The author comprehensively covers the subject analyzing the relevant facets. Beyond a mere overview, the treatise contains perceptive commentaries and closely reasoned critiques of various aspects of the bani Japuji.

Idiolectical terms from various languages used in Japuji have been etymologically explained lucidly. Cosmogonic, mythological, historical references, such as, Yugas – satya, treta, duvapar, kali, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, Dharamraj, Chitragupt, Khands – dharma khand, karam khand etc. etc., Amritvela, Mokh, Teerath, Dhawal, Ath-sath, Kateba, Mohnian, Khintha, Ayee-panthi, Ridh-Sidh, Dharmsal, Mashkat, etc., etc., have been elaborated neatly to enable the reader comprehend these easily. The writing is crisp, research impressive, inferences adroit and conclusions sound. On the whole, it is a compact but comprehensive commentary. Years of meticulous work has gone into the study of Japuji and earlier commentaries on this bani. Various references are studiously analysed and methodically arranged. It is an accomplishment of sound merit and scholarship. The author has deftly undertaken the stupendous task of carefully analyzing the tenets and credo clearly and pithily. He has, with thankful acknowledgements, adverted to earlier commentaries to put forth comparative views and thus make his own contribution creditably more useful. He makes intelligent and perceptive comments on earlier commentaries and sums up his conclusions unambiguously.

To enable the reader grasp the pivotal and riveting nuances of Guru Nanak’s Japuji, Chahal preambles his commentary on this bani with a brief account of historical, family and social context of the creator of Japuji.

Maneshwar Singh Chahal has a befitting ancestry to be a worthy writer on the subject. His parents, hailing from Gurdas Nangal – the last citadel of Baba Banda Bahadur – were epitome of nobility and they rendered remarkable service for social upliftment in Gurdaspur. Chahal’s oblige noblesse, besides immense knowledge of ethical, historical, religious and spiritual lore of Punjab spurred him to take up the profound task of expounding the contents of Japuji Sahib. He has done quite well and presented a coherent, erudite and compact treatise.

He graduated in Engineering, had a stint in the army and thereafter a distinguished carrier in the Indian Administrative Service rising to the highest echelons in the administrative framework with the Punjab and Central Governments. He also worked as Chairman, Punjab and Sind Bank and a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission.

Reader would surely benefit from the refreshing scholarship of Maneshwar Singh Chahal.

Having heralded his advent in this genre of writing, Chahal is already deep into his next exegesis on another sublime bani – Assa Di var.

 

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