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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh




Principal Rupinder Kaur

The spiritual wealth of the Sikhs is contained in a volume of 1430 pages called Guru Granth Sahib. It contains a collection of the writings of their Gurus and some other bhagats (saints), panegyrics of bards who attended on the Gurus and admired their character. The cardinal principle of the Gurus and bhagats whose writings find a place in the sacred book of the Sikhs, is the unity of God. Guru Arjun, the fifth Guru who compiled Guru Granth Sahib bowed before it and installed it in Golden Temple in 1604. In doing so, he was acknowledging the higher authority of Gurbani, the word of Divine truth expressed in Guru Granth Sahib, over his personal status as Guru. Later the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh anointed Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

The divine Bani incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib is eternal. The Gurus did not impose any time-static doctrine or commanded a code for mundane administration of society. Therefore, the hermeneutics of the dynamic philosophy of Gurus harmonizes with time and space. While writing the foreword to The sacred writings of the Sikhs, Arnold Toynbee has stated that Guru Granth is mankind’s common spiritual treasure. Its contributors brought out and emphasized the universal spiritual truths. It belongs to all ages and to all faiths.1

Despite being primarily preoccupied with spiritual matters, the Sikh Gurus had clear ideas on social and political issues. After an incisive analysis of the socio-political situation of their time, they wanted to create a society whose members would not only stop committing tyranny and injustice to others, but would not submit to tyranny or injustice perpetrated by others on them as well.

The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, appeared on the scene while India was facing the problems of the most degrading nature. Muslim rulers were perpetrating heinous atrocities on the Hindu subjects for the propagation of their religion. The Guru came to the conclusion that a divided society could not hope to resist tyranny.

The first task that the Guru regarded as of prime importance was to remove the prevalent social evils which gave sanction to all kinds of divisions in the society. This meant uprooting of the caste system and the emancipation of women. Along with social reforms, it was considered necessary to inculcate a true religious spirit amongst the people who were gripped by ritualism and superstitions. They exhorted the people to believe in one God. This important task of social reconstruction was carried forward by the successive gurus. The last Sikh Guru took it to its logical end and created the Khalsa society, which meant a classless society whose members not only enjoyed equal rights and basic freedoms but also possessed the martial spirit to guard this freedom. Oppressions, injustice, discrimination and aggression were to be met head on with force whenever needed. The historical evolution of the concept of Miri-Piri originates from the time of Guru Nanak himself who instituted and illuminated this doctrine in his famous hymn:
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥ 
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥

If you want to participate in the genre of love be ready to be sacrificed while treading on the path of my philosophy of righteousness. Once you accept this path then don’t back out of this.”2

This forceful dictum demanded ultimate sacrifice for commitment to play the game of Love. This is a clarion call to his devotees to tread the path of service to humanity for social justice even at the cost of sacrificing their lives.

Guru Arjun too advises in similar spirit:
ਪਹਿਲਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਕਬੂਲਿ ਜੀਵਣ ਕੀ ਛਡਿ ਆਸ ॥ 
ਹੋਹੁ ਸਭਨਾ ਕੀ ਰੇਣੁਕਾ ਤਉ ਆਉ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਪਾਸਿ ॥

First, accept death, and give up any hope of life. Become the dust of the feet of all, and then, you may come to me.3   

The emphasis by Guru Nanak on the obligation of individuals, especially those that are spiritually elevated, is unequivocally expressed when he castigates the “yogis” who had renounced the existential world in pursuit of personal spiritual salvation. The essence of Guru Nanak’s message was the sublime prescience of the grandeur of human life in the midst of temporality and spirituality. Therefore, participation in or treading on the path of righteousness is the Miri-Piri concept of Guru Nanak.

Guru Arjan further strengthened the above concept of Miri-Piri as follows:
ਘਰੁ ਬੰਧਹੁ ਸਚ ਧਰਮ ਕਾ ਗਡਿ ਥੰਮੁ ਅਹਲੈ ॥
ਓਟ ਲੈਹੁ ਨਾਰਾਇਣੈ ਦੀਨ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਝਲੈ ॥

“Build your homeland on truth and righteousness, the unshakable pillars. And take the support of the Almighty who sustains the world.”4

Sikh Gurus’ philosophy teaches the inculcation of truth and righteousness in individuals as well as in the governance of society. The cementing force is the dharma, which is developed within the self. It manifests through love among human beings. 

Sikhism believes that the world is not illusory, unreal or a mirage. It is a manifestation of the real. The idea about the reality of the world gets repeated expression and emphasis in Guru Granth Sahib. Gurbani says, “True is he, True is his creation”. “He is All Love, and the rest he is ineffable”5. Universe is directed with a Will which is Altruistic. God created the world and made it the place of righteous activity for man to make his life sublime.

The concept of Miri-Piri in Sikhism synthesized the spiritual and temporal aspects of existence. As emperor and Master of the world, God guides both the “piri” and “miri” aspects of the universe. He hardly makes any division between these two, which are just man-made distinctions. It gives spiritual sanction to moral life of man, because the basic reality is the fount of all virtues and values. Guru Nanak lays down a fully life-affirming goal for the spiritual man without any aspect of it being a taboo for him. Life is one composite whole. It has no non-essential compartments that can be ignored. Therefore the householder’s life is accepted and asceticism is rejected. Spirituality has to be lived in the form of human conduct and work. It is clearly given in Guru Granth Sahib:

ਕਰਮੀ ਕਰਮੀ ਹੋਇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਆਪਿ ਸਚਾ ਦਰਬਾਰੁ ॥
Man’s assessment in his court is done on the basis of his deeds”6

ਕਰਮੀ ਆਪੋ ਆਪਣੀ ਕੇ ਨੇੜੈ ਕੇ ਦੂਰਿ ॥
It is by one’s deeds that we get nearer to or away from God.”7 

ਸਚਹੁ ਓਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਉਪਰਿ ਸਚੁ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥
Everything is lower than truth; higher still is truthful living.”8

ਇਕਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਦਾ ਸਚੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਰਾਤੇ ॥
“Gurmukh always lives truthfully.”9

In Guru’s house religion and worldly enjoyment shall be combined - a cauldron to supply the poor and needy and scimitar to smite oppressors. 

In the atmosphere of religious antagonism all around, the Sikh gurus created an environment of interfaith dialogue and declared “One God is father we all human beings are His children.”10 The Sikh Gurus transcend all barriers and boundaries to symbolize a universal human vision. Highest respect was given to the divinity of mind, “Man tu jot sarup hain”11.  Guru Nanak never distinguished between Hindu and Muslim; rich or poor. To him purity of mind and soul were the most important pre requisites to a life to be religiously led. He preferred sharing food prepared by an honest carpenter than enjoying the best dishes offered by a feudal Lord. He had with him a constant companion, a Muslim, Bhai Mardana who used to play on rabab. Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru appointed a Muslim named Allayar as a missionary. In this way the Sikh Gurus by their hymns in Guru Granth Sahib as well as by their actions provided a strong base for integration of humanity.

Gurbani calls for equality in the battlefield too. It seems perplexing, isn’t it? Treating the enemy as friend and that too in the battlefield! But Gurus did it and showed a new way of fighting to the world.

The arrows of Guru Gobind Singh were tipped with gold so as to pay for dressing the wounds or to provide for the last rites of the person shot dead by the arrow. To use force in killing a helpless man is tyranny and nothing short of cowardice. But it is justified to take a sword in hand to save the righteous from the unjustified wrath of the tyrants. Guru Nanak fought first battle when he called emperor Babar as Zabar (cruel). Guru Nanak had taken clear and firm steps to lay the foundation of the miri-piri structure.

From the time of the Sixth Guru, the miri-piri complexion of the Sikh society became visible and tangibly clear. On the very first day of his Guruship, the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind ji, wore two swords as  a symbol of the miri-piri aspect of the Sikh society. The martyrdom of the Fifth Guru, Arjun Dev, rang the alarm bell announcing tough days ahead. He realized that the time had come when the peaceful Sikh society should strengthen itself to guard itself against aggression and tyranny. The Sikhs established themselves as ‘a state within a state’. Necessary recruitment of soldiers was done and requisite wherewithal for an army were created. The Guru brought about a revolution in the life of the Sikhs. Along with recitation of hymns they were taught the practical lesson of ‘dharmyudha’ or holy war.

The pontificate of the Tenth Guru is a period of open, continuous and mounting military activities & clash with the tyrannical Empire of the Mughal Governors and their collaborators. He created a new society called the Khalsa and transformed the Sikh community into a heroic community by arming his followers. The spirit of heroism spread and the people were transformed into a nation of fighters for moral causes. Guru Gobind Singh categorically said that he was born to spread the true religion and to uproot the tyrant. “When all other means have failed”, “he declared, it is righteous to draw the sword”12. Thus arises the need of ‘force’ in order to ensure justice and eradicate the evil in an effective way. In views of Dr. Radhakrishnan, Force derives ethical sanction when it is to be used to restore justice and to ensure positive social functions, as “an unarmed idealism cannot subdue evil.”13 The Guru completely transformed the psyche of the people. If people were to be saved from tyranny, they had not only to be taught the use of arms but also convinced of the morality of the use of force. He transformed his Sikhs into Singhs (Lions) and exhorted them to regard the sword as an object of worship.14 A new crop of saint-soldiers had arisen. Hari Ram Gupta says that the formation of the Khalsa was a step of the greatest significance in the history of Sikhs, because it united them in a compact body.15 The object that the Guru had set before himself was to infuse a new life into the dead bones of Hindus, to make them forget their differences and present a united front against the tyranny........ to make once more a living nation of them and enable them to regain their lost independence.16 

Sher Singh says, “Had the divine element remained dominant in the minds of men, then everything on this earth would have been smooth, soft, sanguine, satisfactory and satisfying. But in the very process of creation, God created the opposites and the battle between these forces will continue, so long as the ‘sarguna sansar’, the world continues. The tardiness must be overcome and obstructions must be removed.”17 The doctrine of love provides the compulsion to confront injustice. The marvelous work of Guru Gobind Singh against tyranny has been epitomized in a single couplet of contemporary Sufi mystic Bulleh Shah, who paid his tribute to the Tenth Guru,” “I neither speak of the past, nor do I speak of the future, but I speak of the present: but for Guru Gobind Singh, all the Hindus would have been circumcised i.e. converted to Islam”.18

Individual leaders have been galore in India and elsewhere, but rarely have the masses been fired with such a spirit for justice and liberty, as was created by the Sikh Gurus. Guru Nanak is the first man of God in India, who introduced the concept of resistance against injustice as a moral value for a man of religion.

Sikhism presents a superb model of oneness of mankind. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the holy book of the entire humanity. It is a common treasure of whole of the human race. “Nanak Naam Chardi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhalla” is an intense urge for human integration. Gurbani is the light to illuminate this world. It wonderfully guides how we should conduct ourselves in our day-to-day life. Guru Granth Sahib transcends the boundaries of religion. True spirituality is the best solution for spreading the message of human integration.

Guru Nanak’s philosophy bridged the gap between the spiritual and the empirical life of human beings. In this connection Daljeet Singh remarks that: Guru’s God is a ‘Just Emperor’ and embodies the roles both of Miri and Piri. Since the Guru and the seeker have to be the instruments of God’s Will, they too have to play their part in both the spheres of life. Thus, the compulsion and the rationale behind the doctrine of Miri and Piri, is Guru Nanak’s view of God and his essential combination of the spiritual life and the empirical life.19

Thus, the whole notion of Miri-Piri right from Guru Nanak to Guru Granth Sahib needs to be viewed as a revolution, a reworking of a political order of society, which encourages the people to create a harmonious world order. Gurus advised the people to be wise, agile and refined, capable of developing an ideal society. The ideal civil society Begumpura is a world envisioned by Bhagat Ravidas ji in which there is no suffering or fear and all are equal. The significance of Begumpura is that it opened a new space for co-existence and reflects the need to live in harmony with one another and to achieve universal brotherhood. Bhagat Ravidas ji says:

ਬੇਗਮ ਪੁਰਾ ਸਹਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਦੂਖੁ ਅੰਦੋਹੁ ਨਹੀ ਤਿਹਿ ਠਾਉ ॥ 
ਨਾਂ ਤਸਵੀਸ ਖਿਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਮਾਲੁ ॥ ਖਉਫੁ ਨ ਖਤਾ ਨ ਤਰਸੁ ਜਵਾਲੁ ॥ ੧ ॥ 
ਅਬ ਮੋਹਿ ਖੂਬ ਵਤਨ ਗਹ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਊਹਾਂ ਖੈਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ ॥

They call it Begumpura, a place with no pain, No taxes or cares, nor owns property there, No wrong doing, worry, terror or torture. Oh my brother, I have come to take it as my own, My distant home, where everything is right.”20

The Sikh Gurus embodied the principle of Miri-Piri in their own conduct and teachings. The tradition of Miri-Piri was permanently perpetulated in the Khalsa by the Tenth Master, canonizing the doctrine of Guru Granth (spiritual) and Guru Panth (temporal). The ‘Chardi Kala’ of the Khalsa was the spirit of the Akal Purakh (Piri) steeped in the (Miri) its consciousness through the baptized sense of the sacred. The immortalized ideological motivation and corporification of the concept of Miri-Piri, after the Guru-period, is gloriously manifest in the exalted individual role of Baba Deep Singh and in the corporate conduct of Dal Khalsa of the Misl-period; and in the state apparatus, during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The history of Sikh people provides a shining example of spiritually elevated superhuman struggle against tremendous odds. It is this spiritual spirit that the salutation of Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji Ki Fateh has been impregnated in the Sikh psyche.

The seeds of equalitarian social justice and ultimate commitment for pursuing this objective by the Sikhs for the holistic human society – were theologically planted by Guru Nanak. The nascent crop of this philosophy and life strategy was nurtured by the successive Gurus. The fruit of this divine cultivation, on maturity, was bequeathed by the Tenth Master as an eternal ideology, to the inspired Khalsa in the Form of Guru Granth and Guru Panth. The accepted doctrine of Piri in the spiritual realm, vested the absolute authority in Guru Granth Sahib and Miri in the material realm in Guru Panth.      


1   Foreward to the Sacred Writings of Sikhs, Arnold Toynbee, George Allen, Unwin, p.10.

   2   Guru Granth Sahib, 1412

   3   Ibid; p.1102

   4   Ibid; p.320

   5   Ibid; p.459             

   6   Ibid; p.7

   7   Ibid; p.8-9

   8   Ibid; p.62

   9   Ibid; p.113

10   Ibid; p.611

11   Ibid; p.441

12   Guru Gobind Singh, Unique Drama (Bachitar Natak) (translated by Sant Singh Sekhon) Chandigarh, p.41.

13   S. Radhakrishan, Religion and Society, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1956, p.224.

14   I.B. Banerjee, Evolution of the Khalsa, Vol.II, Mukherjee and Company, Calcutta, 1947, pp. 116-117.

15   Hari Ram Gupta, History of Sikh Gurus, Lahore, 1939, p.56.

16   J.D. Cunningham, History of Sikh Gurus, S. Chand & Co., Delhi. 1955, p.8.

17   Sher Singh, Social & Political Philosophy of Guru Gobind Singh, Sterling Publishers, P. Ltd., Jullundhur, 1967, p.197.

18   Gupta H.R. op. cit. pp.148-49.

19   Singh, Daljeet “Sikhim: A Miri Piri System”. Recent Researches in Sikhism eds. Jasbir Singh Mann and Kharak Singh Chandigarh: IOSS, 1992.

20   Guru Granth Sahib, p.345.


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