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3. The date of the Banno Bir
The fundamental question is the date of the preparation of the Banno Bir. It appears that the Banno story, despite its internal contradictions, remained unquestioned. However, in the forties, G.B. Singh, Giani Gurdit Singh and Giani Mahan Singh found that the date of production of the Banno Granth had been tempered with. Mahan Singh categorically questioned the theory of its production by writing his book "Param Paviter Adi Bir Da Sankolno Kal"60. He stated therein that in the Tatkara of the Banna Bir the year of production written was Samat 1699 (or 1642 A.D.) and not Samat 1661 (1604 A.D.) as asserted in the Banno story, and that in order to give credence to the Banno story the figure 1699 had been altered into 1659 by overwriting and changing the figure 9 into 5, thereby making 1699 to look 1659. He adds that seen with a magnifying glass the figure '9' is clearly seen to have been changed into 5, because the figure 1699 stands written in an ink which has a visible touch of a reddish shade, but the overwriting is in a clear black ink without a trace of reddish shade as present in the original writing.61 This fact about overwriting and changing the original figure into 1659, which we find is undisputed, is also corroborated by Gurdit Singh. Mahan Singh clearly belies the Banno story and the claim that this Bir was prepared anywhere near 1604 A.D.62-63-64 Further the team of scholars of the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, sent to Kanpore, Principal Harbhajan Singh of the Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar, and Prof. Pritam Singh, who examined the Bir closely, state that in the Tatkara the date of its preparation as recorded is 1699 which stands changed into 1659, a year which no one says is the year of the production of the Adi-Granth. Mahan Singh also records that the so-called Nishan of the 6th Guru, mention of which is made in the Tatkara, has not been written on page 34 but the same pasted on it. Similarly, the so-called Nishan of the 5th Guru too is pasted on the relevant page and the reference of the presence of this Nishan finds no mention in the Tatkara.65 This pasting of the Nishans of the Gurus clearly shows that, even if the Nishans were believed to be genuine, these can have no bearing on the date of the production of the Bir, since there is nothing to suggest that those were recorded or obtained in relation to the Banno Bir or to authenticate the same, especially when the Nishan of the 5th Guru does not even find mention in the Tatkara. In fact, the absence of the mention of the Nishan of the fifth Guru clearly demolishes the Banno story which asserts that the 5th Guru put his Nishan on the Banno Bir. The Nishan of the 6th Guru does find mention in the Tatkara, but folios on both sides of this Nishan are missing, suggesting its subsequent introduction in the Bir. This Nishan can at best only suggest the period of the Banno Bir to be 1699, since the absence of the mention of the Nishan of the 5th Guru in the Tatkara clearly show's that the Bir could never have been written near 1604 or even in the period of the 5th Guru. As such, the year of writing of the Banno Bir is 1699 and the mention of the Nishan of only the 6th Guru in the Tatkara also confirms that. Rather, 1699 as the year of preparation of the Banno Bir is alone congruous with the mention of the Nishan of the 6th Guru in the Tatkara, Samat 1701 being the year of the demise of the sixth Guru. Giani Mahan Singh has given many reasons for believing that the year of production of the Banno Bir is Sam at 1699 and not 1661. He finds that the Bir is not written in any hurry. His examination also shows that the various totals of Sabads which in the Kartarpuri Bir are either not given, or are many times given above or between the lines, are correctly given in the Banno Bir and stand recorded in the lines themselves. Besides, the story of many copyists having copied out the Granth is not correct, because the Banno Bir has been written by only 2/3 persons according to Giani Mahan Singh,66 one person according to the University scholars and not more than 5 persons according to Prof. Pritam Singh.67
It is, thus, clear that the Banno Bir was written in Samat 1699 and the story of many or twelve scribes having written it in Samat 1661 is incorrect and untenable. The theory of Banno Bir being original, or even the first copy of the original is without any factual or rational basis. The careful examination of the Banno Bir by Mahan Singh, by the team sent by the Amritsar University and by Prof. Pritam Singh and their reports, establish beyond doubt the year of writing of the Banno Bir to be 1699, 38 years after the writing of the Bir of the 5th Guru. Evidently, tangible material evidence cannot be brushed aside on the basis of repeated but absurdly self-contradictory hearsay. Further, the very attempt to alter the year 1699 to 1659 and to antedate the Granth so as to synchronize it with the Banno story, shows that the entire narration about the copying done during a visit to Lahore for having the original Granth bound there, is, as concluded by Sahib Singh, a myth, without any factual basis. In fact, in the face of the unambiguous internal evidence that (a) the Granth was completed in Samat 1699, (b) the Tatkara refers only to the Nishan of the 6th Guru and not to that of the 5th Guru, (c) the Nishan of the 6th Guru is pasted on the relevant folios supposed to be No. 34 with folios 31, 32, 35 and 36 to be missing, and (d) the presence of considerable extra material and compositions like the Ratan Mala, the very repulsive Sakhi of Raja Shivnabh Ki, Bani of Miran Bai, Bhagat Surdas, etc., it is impossible to assert that the Banno Bir was completed before 1642 A.D. or that it was copied from the Granth of the 5th Guru in 1604 A.D. or even near about that year. In fact, the presence of the extraneous material like Salok : Jit Dar Lakh Mohamda, Ratan mala,68 etc. shows that it is a Granth that militates against the very objective of the fifth Guru namely to prepare an authentic copy or the Bani of the Guru. Hence from the very start it is a Granth considered to be a bitter Bir, spurious, and unacceptable. On the other hand, the Banno people have always been floating self-contradictory myths to give respectability to the Banno Bir.
In the light of our knowledge of the Banno Bir we shall now examine the criticism of Dr. Mcleod and Prof. Pritam Singh and see how for the same is justified or ignorant. Following is the criticism of Dr. Mcleod about the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir. "Two of the basic points have already been noted. First, there is the universal agreement that the important differences distinguishing the Kartarpur manuscript from the Ban no version consist exclusively of material included in the latter which is not to be found in the former. Secondly, there is the testimony of those who have inspected the Kartarpur manuscript concerning the obliteration of portions of its text."
"A third factor is the presence in the standard printed editions of two fragments, corresponding to two of the three additional Banno hymns. In Ramkali Rag there occurs a single couplet where there should apparently be a complete hymn. The remainder of the hymns in the same section indicate that the couplet must be either the first two lines of a chhant, or a Salok introducing a chhant. The second fragment corresponds to the Surd as hymn in Sarang Rag. In this instance the standard printed text contains only the first line. There seemed to be only one possible reason for the appearance of these two fragments. The bulk of the hymn in each case must have been deleted, leaving a small remainder which was faithfully copied into the standard printed text."
“A fourth point seemed to clinch the issue. The Banno text of the missing portions indicated good reasons for later deletion, particularly in the case of the Ramkali hymn by Guru Arjun. This hymn describes the puberty rites conducted by Guru Arjun at the initiation of his son Hargobind. The rites follow a standard Hindu pattern and in the third stanza there is a reference to the manner in which the boy's head was shaved. This feature is in obvious contradiction to the later prohibition of hair-cutting. When the prohibition became mandatory, not merely for Jat Sikhs but also those of other castes, the reference in the hymn could only be regarded as intolerable."
"Finally, there was ample evidence that others had already formed the same suspicions concerning the Kartarpur manuscript and were seeking alternative explanations. One writer has declared that the present Kartarpur manuscript is Banno version, adding that the original manuscript of the Adi-Granth must have been lost. Another has suggested that the present manuscript must be a first draft, subsequently amended by the Guru himself. Their evident uneasiness strengthened a hypothesis which already seemed firmly founded."
"By this time the hypothesis will have become obvious. The conclusion which seemed to be emerging with increasing assurance was that the widely disseminated Banno version must represent the original text; and that the Kartarpur manuscript must be a shortened version of the same text. A few portions must have been deleted because they could not be reconciled with beliefs subsequently accepted by the Panth. This much appeared to be well established and another point could be added as a possibility. It seemed likely that the amendments had originally been made by omitting the problem passages from later manuscripts rather than by deleting them from the Kartarpur manuscript. These later manuscripts reflected the distinctive pattern of Khalsa belief. The omission of the problem passages together with the addition of compositions by Guru Tegh Bahadur constituted the Damdama version of the Adi-Granth. Later still, portions of the Kartarpur manuscript (the original manuscript written by Bhai Gurdas) were rather ineptly obliterated in order to bring the two versions into line."69
It appears Mcleod is unaware of the work of Sahib Singh who disbelieves the Banno story and the statements of Gurdit Singh and Mahan Singh both of whom have recorded that the figure 5 in 1959 in the Tatkara of the Banno Bir has been written over figure 9 which was originally there. Presumably, Mcleod is ignorant of their views, for had he known of them, he would certainly have tried to verify the factual position by an examination of the Banno Bir. And this, evidently, he never did. Nor has he, it appears, examined the Kartarpuri Bir, except may be, for a few minutes. Whether or not Mcleod was aware of the views of Sahib Singh about the Banno story and of Mahan Singh about the over writings on the year of completion of Banno Hir is not our present concern. It is now well established that the Banno Bir was prepared not earlier than 1699 and the Banno story is a myth. As such, the very basis of the argument about the Kartarpuri Bir of 1604 A.D. being a copy of the Banno Bir of 1642 A.D. is knocked out. Mcleod's argument that the additional Bani of Surdas and Ramkali Mahla 5 that was present in the Banno Bir, had been copied in the Kartarpuri Bir, but deleted later on is equally baseless. For, we have seen that in both these cases the additional Bani in the Banno Bir is either an interpolation or a later writing; and these verses, which are not present in the Kartarpuri Bir, had neither been copied there nor deleted. Therefore, Mcleod's other argument that the Kartarpuri Bir, which according to him had been copied from the Banno Bir, contained the so called puberty hymn (additional 8 verses), but being incongruous with the later Khalsa belief was deleted, is also factually incorrect and fallacious. Every student of Kartarpuri Bir knows that it has the largest number of blank pages and deletions. These two facts are one of the strongest points in favour of its originality. Apart from the fact that the Banno Bir was prepared 38 years after the Kartarpuri Bir, it is ridiculous that a copyist given the task of copying the Banno Bir comprising 467 folios, or any Bir with such material as can be accomodated on about 465 leaves, would copy it out on 974 folios. Mcleod knows, since he is aware of the work of Jodh Singh, and has even quoted it, that in the case of the puberty hymn and Bhagat Surdas's verses, there is no deletion in the Kartarpuri Bir. Yet, knowing all this, he has, on the one hand, tried to build the argument about deletion on the basis of the use of Hartal elsewhere, and, on the other hand, made the equally misleading argument of the deletion of the puberty hymn from the Kartarpuri Bir because of the later Khalsa beliefs, even though in the Dehradun Granth of Ram Rai it had clearly been recorded, long before the creation of the Khalsa in 1699 A.D., that the additional verses were not present in the Granth of the 5th Guru. Mcleod's chief reason for assuming prior date of production for the Banno Bir is the presence of additional material in it. Apart from the Banno Bir being a production of Samat 1699, the questionable hymns of Bhagat Surdas and the so called puberty hymn are a clear later interpolation even in the Banno Bir of 1642 A.D. Therefore the authenticity or priority of these interpolated hymns is disapproved; and Sahib Singh believes that these are motivated interpolations by Handalias.
Here it is also pertinent to state that Mcleod's suggestion that the so called Ramkali hymn was deleted from the Kartarpuri Bir because of later Khalsa beliefs displays, his ignorance both of the history of the Sikhs and of the Dhirmalias. The latter became a splinter group and they went to the extent of making a murderous assault on the ninth Guru. They never recognized him or the tenth Master as a Guru. As such, there was no love lost between the Khalsa, a creation of the tenth Guru whom the Moghuls wanted to destroy, and the Dhirmalias who were pro-Establi- shment; Therefore, there is not the remotest possibility that the Dhirmalias would ever tamper with the Bir in their possession in order to oblige the Khalsa, and bring it in accord with the ‘Rehat’ or symbols prescribed by the tenth Guru. Rather, their avowed hostility towards the Khalsa would prompt them to high-light the hymn if it bad ever existed in that Bir. On the other hand, the Banno people formed a part of the main stream of the Sikhs, and if any Sikh would have been interested in a deletion, they might have done that in their Bir. But, nothing of the sort happened in that Bir. Mcleod's conjecture about the deletion of the so called puberty hymn because of the Khalsa belief is, thus, not only impossible, but is also controverted even by the very facts and circumstances of the situation as it existed then.
Besides, we find that. Principal Harbhajan Singh who has made a detailed survey of the hand written Birs, in the Sikh reference library, Golden Temple, Amritsar (since destroyed in the Blue Star Operation) and some other Birs writes that in the numerous old band-written Birs be examined, this additional Bani was no where there. He gives detail of it in his book: "Gurbani Sampadan Nirne".
A statement of some of them is as follows:
1. Bir No. 97 in the Sikh Reference Library
It was produced in Samat 1739 (1682 A.D.) some two decades before the creation of the Khalsa, and bears the Nishan of the ninth Guru. It has no additional Bani as is contained in the Banno Bir.
2. Pindi Lala (Gujrat) Wali Bir
It was produced in Samat 1732 (1675 A.D.). It bears the Nishan of ninth Guru, but, unlike the Banno Bir, it contains no additional Bani.
3. Bir No. 14 in the Sikh Reference Library
It was completed in Samat 1748 (1691 A.D.). It contains no additional Bani as is present in the Banno Bir.
4. Bir written by Pakhar Mal Dhillon
Grandson of Chaudhry Langaha Dhillon, a known devout Sikh of the fifth Guru. It was written, in Samat 1745 (1688 A.D.). Unlike the Banno Bir, it contains no additional Bani.
5. This Bir was written in Sarnat 1792 (1735 A.D.)
It contains no additional Bani and there is a note besides the two lines of Ramkali Mahla 5 Sabad "Ranjhujnara gao Sakhi". That "this Sabad is not in the Adi-Granth, only two verses are authentic, the rest is removed".70 71
60 ibid, second Chapter, pp. 169-183
61 Mahan Singh, op. cit, pp. 60-61
62 ibid, Chap. IV, pp. 49 to 61
63 Pritam Singh, op. cit, p. 104, Appendix, B
65 Mahan Singh, op. cit, pp. 55-56
67 Pritain Singh, op. cit. p. III, Appendix B
69 Mcleod, op. cit, pp. 76-78
70 Sahib Singh, op. cit, p. 168; Harbhajan Singh, op. cit, p. 180
71 Harbhajan Singh, op. cit, pp. 121-26, 128-129
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