Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib ji Part I
A Review by Gajindar Singh
Edited by: Dr Kirpal Singh
Publisher: SGPC, Dharam Parchar Committee, Amritsar
Pages 798; Price. Rs. 185/-
This is the eleventh volume of Punjabi translation of the renowned Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth , the voluminous historical account of the lives of the Sikh Gurus, authored by the poet Bhai Santokh Singh in the Nineteenth century in brij bhasha, the literary language of that era, which has been in use in the Gurdwaras as a standard text on lives of the revered Gurus. Bhai Santokh Singh wrote the epic in deep devotion to the Gurus, but he described the events heavily laced with his personal sentiments, many times based on imaginary situations, which crossed the limits of the Sikh ethos, delving into magic and reflecting old puranic and old Vedantic customs and traditions, very objectionable and disapproved in the established gurmat practices. The original, when read uncensored in congregations is bound to give wrong impression to the laity. For instance, the wailing and weeping as well as the last message of Guru Arjan Devji to exact bloody revenge from Chandu is unthinkable to the nature and convictions of the saintly martyr. It is established beyond any doubt that martyrdom suffered by Guru Arjan Dev was directly ordered by Jahangir. Yet Bhai Santokh Singh wholly blames Chandu, absolving the Emperor.
Similarly, on page 25, line 36, he describes the memorial service held for Guru Arjan Devji in accordance with Vedic rites. Sikhism denounced all such ceremonies from Day One as promulgated by Guru Nanak and it is not possible that the Sixth Nanak would relapse himself into such practices. On page 53 to 56, a Brahmin is consulted by Guru Hargobind for an auspicious date for his assuming charge as Guru and seek a favourable omen! These are serious lapses by the poet, based on his personal convictions which run against the Sikh philosophy and should be rejected. The team headed by Dr Kirpal Singh does not remove such portions of the objectionable lot at the end of the book, so that the congregations listening to these narrations in the gurdwaras all over the world may be alerted about unlikely course of action. The episode of the Sikhs transforming into tigers and visiting the well guarded palace and roaring to frighten Jahangir with all attendants oblivious of it, is the poet’s fancy.
The corpus needed combing of such sentimental poetic expressions of Bhai Santokh Singh, to keep the narrative true to form in accordance with the Sikh ethics, culture and morals, to make it more authentic and acceptable. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar, through its Dharm Prachar Committee engaged Dr Kirpal Singh, the well known Sikh historian, to edit the entire mass of the epic into easy Punjabi language from Brij Bhasha to make it more accessible to the public as well as prune it of all material which is not in consonance with the established Sikh traditions and practices. A team of experts engaged to assist the Editor, Dr Kirpal Singh, for this task has actively scanned the original text, preparing comments in footnotes and segregating objectionable portions as appendices which were found quite irrelevant to the character and merits of the Sikh ethos. A summary of each chapter is enclosed with the foot notes.
The format of this volume is in continuation of the earlier ten volumes, the original text in Brij Bhasha page-wise along with its Punjabi translation on the following page and footnotes on topics requiring explanations, removing the objectionable portions from the main text and appearing separately at the end.
Another feature of this volume is the explanatory notes prepared by Dr Kirpal Singh on matters which have significance to the narration to fill the gaps due to dearth of historical material in Punjabi language but authentic sources available in Persian language, which was the official Imperial language of the state, were adopted by Rajas and institutions throughout the country which assist in arriving at plausible conclusions and on subjects concerned with the life of Guru Hargobind, the concept of miri and piri as defined by Guru Hargobind ji, the establishment of Sri Akal Takht; the controversy about the period of his captivity at Gwalior fort for lack of authentic dates, as well as Bhai Santokh Singh’s objectionable dealing with the episode of Bibi Kaulan; Guru Sahib’s family life and some personalities of his time. These notes make it easier to understand the course of events and the shaping of the track of history and the Sikh response.
The tireless effort of the team of scholars headed by Dr Kirpal Singh to present a likely narrative for its authenticity is laudable as it has taken more than ten years of their full time devotion to present to the nation a dependable and reliable account of the lives of Gurus and yet they have reached as far as the early period of the life of Guru Hargobind (Part I). This period is particularly difficult as the sources and accounts of events of this period are scanty and one has to search for the material from Persian records of the Imperial archives as well as the references in the annals of the numerous rajas and chiefs.
The book is very well printed though occasional mistakes occur. It is priced low for its size, more than eight hundred pages as the purpose is to allow reading to wider circle of devotees and to segregate the objectionable portions to the end pages. This allows scholars to appreciate the poet’s skill where he went into fancy deviating from reality.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All