Significance of Guru Gobind Singh’s Stay at Paonta
The river Jamuna has been famous for its roaring waters making a lot of noise. The legend goes that Guru Gobind Singh stood at the present site of Paonta and ordered the river Jamuna to be silent. Ever since, the upstream of the river as well as its downstream has got a tumultuous course but at Paonta the water flows silently and reverently.
About Guru Gobind Singh’s stay at Paonta the following has been recorded in the Bachittar Natak “Afterwards I left that country (Makhowal) and proceeded towards Paonta. There I enjoyed myself on the bank of river Jamuna and saw amusement of every kind. There I preyed on many lions, nilgaus and bears. Fateh Shah was the Raja of Garhwal. He involved us an in armed battle without cause.”1
Date of the Foundation of Paonta
Guru Gobind Singh having founded Paonta on the bank of river Jamuna has been recorded by all the writers but a few have given the date. According to Giani Gian Singh, the Guru came to Nahan in September 1684 and foundation of Paonta was laid in November 1684 AD (Assu 1741)2 Bhai Randhir Singh in his Shabad Murat does not mention the date of foundation of Paonta but he is of the view that the Guru left Paonta in Katak Maghar 1746 viz Oct/November 1689 A.D.3
According to the Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Paonta was founded by Guru Gobind Singh in November 1685 A.D. and the Guru left Paonta in 1688 A.D.4 Perhaps Sarup Singh Kaushak is more correct as he has given the exact date of the foundation of Paonta. It has been recorded in Guru Kian Sakhian (1790 A.D.) that Guru Gobind Singh received the invitation to visit Sirmour state on the first of Vaisakh of 1742 Bikrami (viz 28 March 1685 AD). Medni Parshad, the ruler of Sirmour State had sent emissaries to Guru inviting him to his state. After due deliberations Guru acceded to his request. The Guru reached Nahan, the capital of the state on the 17th Vaisakh viz 13 April 1685 AD. The Guru was fond of living on the river side. During his childhood he had lived in Patna near the bank of the river Ganges. At Anandpur too he had been living on the bank of river Satluj. Therefore, the Guru chose the site of his residence on the bank of river Jamuna at the place now known as Paonta Sahib which literally means placing of foot. He laid the foundation of the town on the 1st of Jeth i.e. 28th April 1685 A.D.5 There is almost unanimity that Guru Gobind Singh left Paonta soon after the battle of Bhangani which he fought against the hill rajas. According to Shahid Bilas by Bhatt Sewa Singh and Guru Kian Sakhian, the battle of Bhangani was fought on the 18th of Asu 1745 B.K. corresponding to September 18, 1688 A.D.6 Thus Guru Gobind Singh stayed at Paonta about three years and five months. As far the foundation of the fort of Paonta it has been described in this way. “The Guru erected a tent and in company with the Raja held darbar. It was unanimously agreed that a fort was necessary for the protection of the country. The Raja accordingly requested the Guru to allow his army to assist in the construction. The Guru then laid the foundation stone of the fort. The Guru gave it the name of Paonta.7
Guru Gobind Singh’s stay at Paonta is a significant from various points of view. It is a landmark in the cultural history of north-western India because Guru Gobind Singh accomplished monumental literary work during his stay there. Politically, he fought the first battle against the hill rajas and won victory over them. Socially, and religiously he founded a new town known as Paonta in the remote areas of hills. Religiously he established a new Sikh centre on the bank of the river on the borders of Garhwal state.
Literary Activities at Paonta
Guru Gobind Singh’s years spent at Paonta were most creative and significant. Here, he contemplated deeply and long on the state of the country. “His poetic intuition and energy found exuberant expression and he created poetry which is incomparable for sublimity of style mystical ardour and vitality of content.”8 His object was two-fold; to sing the praise of Akal and to infuse new vigour into a weak and emaciated mass of people. His compositions were appropriately adopted to these purposes.
According to Gurpartap Suraj Granth,9 the Guru adopted the following routine at Paonta. After morning meditation, the Guru went for walk on the bank of Jamuna River. And at a suitable place of attractive natural beauty and solitude he would sit down and compose poetry uninterrupted for three hours. Once he fell in trance while uttering Tuhi, tuhi for several hours. Ultimately the word Tuhi was recorded sixteen times in the Akal Ustat.9
Paonta became the centre of spiritual and cultural renaissance. Guru Gobind Singh's literary production at Paonta was very significant. Besides his own compositions there were contributions of his courtly bards. Hearing the reputation Paonta enjoyed as a seat of poetry many poets flocked to the Guru’s court. Fifty two of these were in his permanent employ. Among them were Senapat, Lakhan, Kanshi Ram, Ani Rai Sukhdev, etc.10
In India, the knowledge of Sanskrit had been the privilege of the Brahmins only. But the Guru wanted that its study should be open to everybody. He employed a Pandit to teach Sanskrit to the Sikhs. He taught Sanskrit for sometime but later on refused on the ground that the Sikhs were Shudras and he would not teach them Sanskrit. The Guru therefore, sent five Sikhs to Benaras for learning Sanskrit. These five Sikhs subsequently became the founders of Nirmala Order among the Sikhs. These five Sikhs returned from Benaras to Paonta.11 In this way learning no longer remained the preserve of the high born. One day Guru Gobiind Singh surprised a learned Brahmin by having an ornate and esoteric couplet of his interpreted by a simple looking Sikh.12 The great quantity of literature produced by Guru Gobind Singh and the poets of his court was scattered and destroyed when the Guru migrated from Anandpur in 1704 A.D. while fighting against the Mughal forces. Subsequently Bhai Mani Singh, learned and devoted Sikh, in 1734 AD collected the literature produced during the life-time of Guru and got it bound in the volume commonly known as Dasam Granth.13 This was done to distinguish it from the Adi Guru Granth compiled by Guru Arjun.
From the works included in the Dasam Granth it is not difficult to find out which were compiled at Paonta. However, there is a very strong tradition among the Sikhs that the earliest compositions of Guru Gobind Singh were Jaap Sahib and Akal Ustat.14 And these were composed at Paonta. There is another bigger work entitled Krishan Avtar. It has been clearly stated in this work that it was compiled on the bank of river Jamuna. It is also dated and the date confirms its compilation at Paonta. Therefore, these are dealt in this paper with more details.
Archer writes that Jaap Sahib was compiled at Damdama Sahib (Talwandi Sabo) which means in 1705 A.D. But Macauliffe has stated that this was recited at the time of preparation of Amrit in 1699 A.D.15 Evidently it was composed earlier. Ashta is right when he writes that it was one of the earliest compositions of Guru Gobind Singh. It is included in the morning prayer of the Sikhs. It has been compiled on the pattern of ‘Vishnu Sahamar Nam,”16 which means Vishnu’s thousand names’ Jaap Sahib was composed with a view to give different epithets of God. There are about 950 names of the Creator in Jaap Sahib. There are 199 verses in the form of rhymed couplets.17 The opening verse is following:
God hath no contours or marks
No colour, no caste no lineage
No form, no complexion, no outline
No costume, none can in anyway describe Him.
He is perpetual, fearless, luminous
And measureless in might
He is accounted King of kings, Lord of millions of Indaras
He is sovereign of three worlds, demigods,
Men and demons woods and dales declare him indescribable.
O’ Lord who can tell the Thy names
The wise call thee special names according to thy deeds.18
The contents of Jaap Sahib are identical with that of Bani of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak says, where the lonely are protected there is the Grace of God. “Similarly Guru Gobind Singh writes in Jaap Sahib Garibul Bhaat Hain which means God is the cherisher of the poor and lowly.”
In the thousand names there is a combination of Persian Arabic and Sanskrit names. There are seventy five Persian Arabic name.19 Some of them are quite familiar to Islam like Rahim, Karim, Razak, etc. Some of the Persian Arabic names are Nirsharik, Husanalu, Chirag, Garibul – Niwaz, Kamal Karim, Razak Rahim, Bahistul Niwas etc. According to Jaap Sahib God is immortal “Ajanam” without birth. He is without body, no name and no son. Guru Gobind Singh does not believe in the theory of incarnation of God.
Jaap Sahib consists of 199 stanzas in which ten different meters have been used. God is described by variety of names which are not comparable for their linguistic and poetic ingenuity. Jaap is a hymn of laudation to the Lord who is remembered by many different names and attributes of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian origin. “Guru Gobind Singh has tried in the Japu the novel experiment of juxtaposing oriental and Semitic terminology by using compound expression from both the sources, for example “Ki Saraban Kalima” (all eloquence) “Ki Parman Farhiman” Most wise may be taken as one example of blending of Indian and Semitic linguistic cultures.20
The entire theme of this work is in praise of God. It has different meters like Swayyas, Kabit, Chhand etc. totaling 272 in all. Ten of the Swayyas have been included in the daily prayer of the Sikhs. How the Guru had been critical of hypocrites who perform ritual can be judged from the following Swayyas:
What availeth to sit closing
Both eyes and meditating like a crane.
The world is lost and the next too for those
Who go about bathing in the seven seas.
They pass their lives in vain dwelling in
The midst of sin.
I speak verily, hear ye people – those who
Love God have obtained him.21
How beautifully the Guru has explained that all the soul emanates from the God and ultimately are absorbed in Him:
As from one fire millions of sparks arise,
Though rising separately they unite again in the fire.
As from one heap of dust several particles of dust fill
the air and on falling again blend with dust.
As in one stream millions of waves are produced,
The waves being made of water all become water.
So from God form non-sentient and sentient
Things are manifested and spring from
Him shall all be united in Him again.22
Guru Gobind Singh emphasized the equality of man though they may perform prayer in different manner and have different forms of worship. He has stated:
One man by shaving his head is accepted as Sanyasi, another a Jogi or a Brahmchari and a third as Jati.
Some men are Hindus and others are Muslims among the latter are Rafazis Immans and Shafais – know that all the men are of same caste.
Karta (the creator) and Karim (beneficent) are the same; let no man even by mistake suppose there is difference.
Worship of one God who is the one Divine Guru for all, know that His form is one and He is one light diffused in all.
The temple and mosque are the same, the Hindu worship and Muslims prayer are same, all men are same, it is through allusion they appear different.
All have the same eyes, same ears, the same body, the same build, and compound of earth, air, fire and water.
Allah and Abhek are the same, the Puranas and the Quran are same, they are all alike, it is one God who created all.23
It is a translation of Bhagwat Puran Dasam Sakand. The aim in translating was to inspire the people to fight for the right cause. Life of Lord Krishna has been depicted highlighting his heroic deeds. It was started at Anandpur as it has been stated that 1186 Chhands were completed at Anandpur and the rest was completed at Paonta.
The portion dealing with Krishna’s love with Gopi has been described at Paonta as it has been stated there:
ਸਤ੍ਰਹ ਸੈ ਓਤਾਵਲ ਸੇ ਸਾਵਨ ਸੁਦਿ ਬੁਧਵਾਰ
ਨਗਰ ਪਾਉਟਾਂ ਤ ਮੇ ਰਚਿਓ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸੁਧਾਰ |24
In 1744 in the month of Savan on full moon day on Wednesday the work in hand was completed. The date is not clear, but if we calculate according to the hints given it comes to be Wednesday August 3, 1687 (4 Bhado, 1744).
The portion of Ras Mandal of Krishna Avtar was completed in 1745 B.K.
Satre se Faintal Seaun Kiti Katha Sudhar viz. 1688 A.D. 1688
875 Chhands were composed in this section and it was completed on the bank of Jamuna in 1745 B.K as the writer has stated.25
In the colophon Siam has been mentioned as writer of Krishna Avtar. Some scholars argue that it was the title of Guru Gobind Singh while others are of the opinion that Siam was a poet in the court of the Guru. Most probably latter appears to be more correct.
Battle of Bhangani
The Guru fought his first battle against the hill Rajas at Paonta. The battle is known as Battle of Bhangani. Raja Bhim Chand of Kehlor gathered entire hill Rajas on the occasion of marriages of his son and attacked the Guru. Fateh Chand, Raja of Garhwal who was previously friendly towards Guru also joined the confederacy of the Hill Rajas. He has been mentioned in the Bachittar Natak. Fateh Shah Kupa tab raja Lohpara hum sewn bin Kaja. (cs/j ôkj e'gk sp okik, b'jgok jw f;U fpB ekik) The actual battle was fought at village Bhangani 8 miles north of Paonta on the banks of tributary of river Jamuna. After the Hill Rajas were defeated, the Guru left Paonta.
1. Shabdarth Dasam Granth, Randhir Singh, Vol 1, Punjabi University, Patiala 1973, p. 77.
2. Twarikh-i-Guru-Khalsa, Language Department, Patiala, 1970, p. 791-92.
3. Shabad Murat, Bhai Randhir Singh, SGPC, Amritsar, 1955, p. 20
4. Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Vol. III, p. 291.
5. Guru Kian Sakhian, Sarup Singh Kaushik (1790 A.D.) edited by Piara Singh Padam, Patiala, 1986, p. 85-86.
7. Ibid., p. 92.
8. Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, Vol. V., p. 16-17.
9. Harbans Singh, Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Chandigarh, 1966, p. 45.
10. Ibid., p. 50.
11. Nirmal Panth Pardeep Kaur, Giani Gian Singh, p. 23, Also Nirmal Sampardai edited by Pritam Singh, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, p. 33.
12. Guru Gobind Singh, Harbans Singh, cit. op., p. 50.
13. Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Vol I, p. 605. Also see Mahankosh, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, Macauliffe Sikh Religion, Vol V, p. 260.
14. Dr D Asht writes in the Poetry of Dasam Granth that Jaap Sahib and Akal Ustat were the earliest works of Guru Gobind Singh.
15. The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh, C.H. Loehlin, Lucknow, 197, p. 20.
16. Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, p. 261.
17. Granth of Guru Gobind Singh, p. 24.
18. Shabdarath Dasam Granth Vol. 1, p. 1.
19. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 15.
20. Shabadarth, Dasam Granth, Vol 1.
21. Ibid., p. 29.
22. Ibid., p. 28.
23. Ibid, Vol II, p. 24.
24. Ibid., Krishan Avtar, p. 983.
25. Ibid., Vol I, p 77.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All