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Others (VI )

            In his paper read at Berkley in 1976, Mcleod's final observation was: "The tradition may well be accurate and no sensible person would dispute it unless he had good reason for doing so. To date no good reason has been advanced and the received text remains in-violate".72 All the same he cannot help clouding the issue by raising two considerations or doubts. "One is the obsecurity which envelops a significant period of the text's actual history. The other is the presence within the manuscript of numerous deletions."73 On the issue of deletions we have already found that these large number of deletions are a good proof of its originality especially when in no other Bir there are deletions in such a large number and when at most of those places Bani has been re-written by the same scribe showing thereby that the writing rubbed of was not correct or approved by the Guru. Mcleod's method both in his lecture at Cambridge and his paper at Berkley has been, like the way of a biased journalist, first to impress on the reader the fact about the existence of deletions and thereby create a broad suspicion against the genuineness of the Bir and then to narrate the story of the presence of the puberty hymn in the Banno Bir and its absence in the Kartarpuri Bir, knowing full well that there is no deletion in the case either of the puberty hymn or the hymn of Bhagat Surdas. Actually, it is now established that not only the Banno Bir was prepared in Samat 1699, but the puberty hymn itself was clearly a later interpolation even in the Banno Bir of 1699. These being the facts, to relate the question of deletion with the absence of puberty hymn in the Kartarpuri Bir is evidently an attempt to mislead and prejudice the lay reader into linking in his mind the ommission of the puberty hymn with the event of deletion, thereby making him to believe that though the so called awkward hymn was present in the Banno Bir its absence in the Kartarpuri Bir has been secuerd by the fishy method of deletion. The facts speak out for themselves and are otherwise. We know that neither are the deletions in the Kartarpuri Bir a fishy matter, nor was the puberty hymn originally present even in the Banno Bir of 1699, nor was the Banna Bir prepared earlier than Samat 1699 to enable anyone to copy it (a Granth of 464 folios into a Granth of 974 folios) during the time of the fifth Guru or even 35 years later.
            Both Mcleod and Loehlin have been lamenting their frustration at not being able to serve academic interests because they were not allowed access to the Kartarpuri Bir.74 Mcleod even went to the extent of recording that non availability of Kartarpuri Bir to them suggests that there was something to conceal therein.75 But one wonders why the acute academic keeness of these scholars never led them to see the Banno Bir even though the same was all these years available for the examination of any serious scholar. Had they cared to see they would have found out that the year of its production was Samat 1699 and that it had practically been written by one scribe and that the story of 12 scribes having copied it out on way to Lahore was not tenable. Again we may ask how is it that these scholars remained entirely ignorant of the work of Mahan Singh who wrote in 1952 that the Banno Bir was written in Samat 1699 and the year of its production had been altered into an earlier date, or the writings of G. B. Singh and Gurdit Singh all of whom had recorded that the year of its production stood tampered with, or the work of Sahib Singh that the Banno story of the Granth having been copied on way to Mangat or Lahore was a myth. This failure to see the Banno Bir and even ignorance about the existing literature on the issue is especially inexplicable when both these scholars have made the bold suggestion that the Kartarpuri Bir is a copy of the Banno Bir76 or should we follow the logic of Mcleod and say that their reluctance to see the Banno Bir or to study anything about it is due to the fact that if the truth about the Banno Bir, as recorded by earlier scholars like Mahan Singh, were told, the theory of the Kartarpuri Bir being a copy of Banno Bir would fall like a house of cards. In view of the above, it is clear that the suggestion about the Kartarpuri Bir being non-authentic or its being a copy of the Banno Bir is both baseless and untenable.
            On the second issue about the custody of the Kartarpuri Bir the doubts of Mcleod are equally without any basis. Here too the position had been made clear by Mahan Singh. The historical writings show that Bidhi Chand and other Sikhs were very well aware of the great value of the Bir. They held it in the highest esteem. Actually, this was the real reason that Bidhi Chand and others, despite the wishes of the Guru, initially failed to return the Bir to the Dhirmalias towards whom they were hostile for their having attacked the ninth Guru to kill him. Therefore, for understandable reasons, when again directed by the Guru to return the Bir, they were reluctant to meet the Dhirmalias face to face. And all they did was that they kept the Bir safely at a place, and sent a message to the Dirmalias to pick it up; and this they did.77 Old Indian writers of religious history, we are aware, are fond of introducing miracles in the narration of simple events or facts. Very probably the story of miracle has been introduced to attract offerings for the miracle-working Bir. Evidently, the miracle story appears unreliable. First, the Gurus never resorted to the use of miracles, it being against the Sikh thesis. Secondly, it is a fact that the leaves of the Kartarpuri Bir show no sign what-so-ever of damage by water or dampness.78 The story of concealment in the river bed is, thus, factually controverted. Thirdly, it is really un-thinkable that the Sikhs, who were aware of the supreme value of the Kartarpuri Bir and who on that account, were earlier, even after the express desire of the Guru, reluctant to return the same to the Dirmalias. would suddenly become so disrespectful, callous and inconsiderate towards the Bir as to bury it in the river bed and thereby incur both the wrath of the Guru and also the risk of the loss of the invaluable Granth by water or wetness, especially when they all considered the volume to be both the repository of the Sabad and irreplaceable. But, the truth is that as they did not want to meet the enemies of the Guru, they placed the Granth at a safe place, sent a message to Dirmalias who were only too anxious to pick it up. Further, there is little doubt that when the 10th Guru wanted at Anandpur Sahib to prepare the Damdami version it was to the Dhirmalias that he sent the message for loan of this Bir of the fifth Guru.79 So, what-ever be the facts of the earlier part of the story, at the time of the tenth Guru, the original authentic Bir was certainly with the Dhirmalias. After that the Bir always remained in safe hands. Had the Bir been lost it is impossible to imagine that Ranjit Singh who had waged a war for obtaining a horse, would not be aware of it and recover this venerable treasure or that he would be satisfied with a spurious version of the original Bir.
Another objection of Mcleod about the two verses of the Chhant of Guru Arjun in Ramkali Rag is as to "why it was recorded in a section of the Adi-Granth devoted to longer Chhant form."80 The objection displays a clear ignorance of the scheme of the Granth according to which the Chhant should have been only where it is. The Chhant has three features. It is to be sung in Ramkali Rag, it is by the fifth Guru, and it is a Chhant. As such, it could only find a place in the section for Ramkali Rag in the subsection for the Chhants, and, further in the subsection in which Guru Arjun's Chhants had been recorded whether those were short or long. There is no other place in the Adi-Granth where Guru Arjun's Chhants under Ramkali Rag are recorded. Hence the Chhant hymns in question could only be where these are, and could not be recorded elsewhere, without violating the scheme of the Adi-Granth.
            Here it is not our purpose to ascertain whether Mcleod made his observations out of sheer ignorance of the available facts and materials, or of his anxiety to suppress known but awkward facts, or of his conscious or unconscious bias because of his years of working and association with the Christian Missionary Centre, Batala. But, in either case, it does little credit to his credibility as a scholar, especially because, even after quoting Jodh Singh he writes: "From this report it is clear that the issue should still be regarded as open.”81 In view of the above, we conclude that Mcleod's criticism is factually incorrect, untenable, and, in parts, even misleading.


            We, now, come to the criticism of Prof. Pritam Singh. In his paper82 he has, on the one hand, tried to attack the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir and, on the other hand, tried to give a fresh lease of life to the Banno story and the Banno Bir having been written in the time of the 5th Guru. He states that in the present Banno Bir the year of completion recorded in the Tatkara has been changed from 1699. From all the available internal evidence, he concludes that the present Banno Bir at Kanpur was completed in 1699 and not earlier.83 But, quite inexplicably and on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, he suggests that though the present Banno Bir was without doubt prepared in 1699 yet it must have been the copy of the real Banno Bir (B1 as he calls it) which would have been copied somewhere near 1604 A.D. from the Bir of the Guru.84 This argument of Pritam Singh reminds us of the story of the Wolf and the Lamb in which the Wolf with his determined intention to kill and eat the lamb first charges the lamb for having muddied the water a year earlier, and when confronted with the fact that 'the lamb had not been even born then, promptly retorts that in that case it must have been his father who did it and he must pay for it. Prof. Pritam Singh finds that the legendary Banno Bir is a Granth compiled in 1699, but he has in his paper raised the phantom of there being a real Banno Bir of the year 1604 or near about, even though neither tradition, nor any historical writing, nor the custodians of the Banno Bir have ever suggested, much less asserted, that the original Banno Bir was lost and the present one is a fake copy of it. The history of the Banno Bir shows that from the very start its custodians have tried to advance the legend that it is an authentic first copy of the Granth of the 5th Guru, though from the very start it could not be denied that this Bir was neither an authorised version, nor was its Bani authenticated because of non-scriptural additions in it.
According to Prof. Pritam Singh, the real Banno Bir was the one of which G.B. Singh had done the examination and written in 1944 that though the year of its production read as 1659, actually, this was an over-writing upon what his vision deciphered 1648 beneath it. Pritam Singh accepts the finding of G.B. Singh and makes it the basis of his description of the real Banno Bir (B1 as he calls it).85 The findings of G.B. Singh is without any meaning. For, if the original date were 1648 it evidently suited the Banno story and there was really no necessity of tampering with it and changing it to 1659. Apart from that, Pritam Singh is also aware that G.B. Singh's examination of the Banno Bir, according to his own admission, was just casual, and superficial Sahib Singh writes that it is quite likely that he did not have even a close look at the Banno Bir.86 For, he expressed his views chiefly on the written replies sent to him by the custodians of the Banno Bir. Evidently, the words of the custodians of the Bir, who have tempered with the recorded year of production and interpolated the Nishans of the Gurus in the Granth in order to give it authenticity, can hardly be accepted as reliable by any disinterested scholar. So far G. B. Singh is concerned we have seen already that, a sober person like Jodh Singh has found his facts, views and statements to be untruthful, senseless and baseless. Therefore, Pritam Singh's statement that the Bir G.B. Singh saw, and wrote about, in 1944 with its year of production tampered with was the original Banno Bir and the same has since disappeared is without any basis. Had the real Banno Bir been lost between 1944 and 1950 or so, not only the custodians of the Bir but the whole of the Sikh world would have been aware of it; but, nothing of the sort has ever happened. The truth is that what G. B. Singh saw in the forties was the Banno Bir with the over written year of production as 1659. G. B. Singh made an absurd guess that the year of production beneath it was probably 1648. The same Bir with the over-written year 1659 was seen by Giani Gurdit Singh in the forties or early fifties. His guess was that the figure beneath 1659 was the figure 169 which the scribe had wrongly written instead of 1659 and which, on discovering his own error, he later converted into 1659 by changing 9 of 169 to 5 and adding another 9 to it.87 Again, it is this very Banno Bir with over-written 1659 that was examined by Mahan Singh who on the basis of the shade of the ink concluded that both G. B. Singh and Giani Gurdit Singh were wrong because it was only the 9 of 1699 which stood converted to 5 in a black shade of ink and the figure below was neither 1648, nor 169, but, it was 1699, the same having the kind of reddish shade of ink as the rest of the writing and figures on the page. In 1969 or near about Harnam Dass also saw this Banno Bir with this over-written figure 1659. His guess was that though the present figure 1659 was no doubt there over-written, the figure below was really 1669 and not any other.88 Both the team of the University scholars and Pritam Singh who went with a purpose closely to examine the Bir have concluded that the original year was 1699 but the present over-written figure is 1659. Principal Harbhajan Singh. Sikh Missionary College, Amritsar, also went in 1978 with the specific object of examining Bir and found that the year of production was Samat 1699 which had been altered to 1659 by over-writing. Further, he found that the Bir was well. written and copied by one hand. The conclusion, thus, is plain that the Granth G.B. Singh. Gurdit Singh. Mahan Singh, Harnam Dass, the University team, Harbhajan Singh and Pritam Singh saw is the same as has the over- written year 1659. But, whereas the conclusion of Mahan Singh, the University scholars Harbhajan Singh and Pritam Singh on physical examination is unanimous that the figure under 1659 was 1699, the eyes of G.B. Singh. Gurdit Singh and Harnam Dass read it to be 1648, 169 and 1669 respectively. And now defying all physical perceptions, Pritam Singh sees behind this Banno Bir, the illusion of an old Banno Bir of the time of the fifth Guru. This phantom has been raised by him on the basis of the perfunctory finding of G.B. Singh that he saw in 1944 a Banno Bir with 1648 as the year of its production, little realising that what G,B. Singh saw in 1944 or so is the same Bir with the over- written year 1659 as he saw in 1981 or so.
            Apart from other facts reported by Pritam Singh himself, one fact alone is enough to demolish his inference of there being a Banno Bir (Bl) which is not available now. In his paper he records that in the original Banno Bir (B1) G.B. Singh saw in the forties "The death-dates of the first five Gurus are written in one hand. Each date from the sixth Guru to the tenth is given in a different hand."88 Further, Pritam Singh finds the records that the position of the death-dates on the Kanpur Banno Bir (B2) is as follows: "The first five dates relating to the first five Gurus, are in one hand. The date of the Sixth Guru is by a different hand, who drew a closing line below his writing. The dates of the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Gurus form one block and are written in a different hand. This block is separated from the next block by another dividing bar running horizontally across the page. A later hand has recorded Guru Gobind Singh's death-date. The conclusion is that the first block of five dates was written by some scribe at a time when Guru Arjan was no longer alive and was succeeded by his son, Guru Hargobind."89 The above proves that what G.B. Singh saw in the forties and what Pritam Singh saw in 1981, is the same Banno Bir, the observed position of the death dates on the two occasions being exactly the same. Evidently, when G.B. Singh saw the Banno Bir in the forties (and what Pritam Singh now calls the original Banno Bir or B1) it had the death-dates of the first five Gurus written at one time, showing thereby conclusively that the Bir (81) was prepared after the death of the fifth Guru and not during his time. This also synchronizes with the absence of the mention of the Nishan of the fifth Guru in the Tatkara of the Banno Bir (B1), showing its preparation in Samat 1699, and not earlier during the time of the fifth Guru as claimed in the Banno story. The inference is plain and inevitable that the Banno story of a Banno Bir copied in the time of the fifth Guru is a myth, and that Pritam Singh's suggestion of a real Banno Bir of 1604 or so is another myth of the same variety. In fact, his own observations controvert his suggestions, because had the Banno Bir he saw been a copy all the death-dates would have been in one hand and shade.
            In short, the conclusion of Pritam Singh about an original Banno Bir of 1648 or some other year is without any basis and no sound reasoning, much less facts, can sustain it. In the face of the examination of Giani Mahan Singh, the University scholars, Harbhajan Singh and his own, to have resort to far-fetched and groundless assumptions is like building on sand, especially when he makes G. B. Singh's superficial examination to be the basis of the real Banno Bir. or Bl as he calls it.
            It was only in the present century that critical scholarship started the scrutiny of the Banno story and the Bir. And, as we have stated, it is this scrutiny that has led to the various findings mentioned earlier. In fact, the Banno family have, in support of their story even produced a book called Banno Parkash which, like the Bhagatmala, is a narration of various miracles attributed to Bhai Banno and how the ; present Banno Bir was copied by him. Shamsher Singh, the Research Scholar of the Shiromni Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, who had examined the Banno Bir has categorically rejected the claims of its authenticity advanced by the members of the Banno family in support of their story.
            A very vague suggestion has been made by Pritam Singh that, whereas no time had been indicated, it was suggested to him that once the gilded cover of the Bir had been stolen but the Bir was left behind intact. Pritam Singh's suggestion, based on the above unconfirmed story for the first time given to him since 1642, is that this story is false but the real Banno Bir was lost but recreated in the form of the present Bir.90 Let us examine this suggestion. No one has ever suggested that the present Banno Bir is a copy of the old Banno Bir and that the same was lost or stolen. There is not the least inkling in this regard, nor is there any tradition, nor any supportive oral or written statement. Even the suggestion, for the first time recorded by Pritam Singh, is that the family had heard that once the gilded cover of the Bir had been stolen and not the Bir. In other words, even Pritam Singh does not accept the version of the loss of the cover only, and, on his own, has tried to prop up the story that the Bir was actually lost and a new Banno Bir was created. Secondly, can any rational man accept a part suggestion of the custodians who go to the length of inventing a false (as even believed by Pritam Singh), story of theft of the cover only, of creating a spurious Bir to substitute it for the original copy, of forging by alteration or over-writing the date of its production, and then also of creating new Nishans of the Gurus and pasting them on the Bir. If it were assumed that the Banno family some how lost the original, (though there is not the faintest suggestion in this regard, and, on the contrary, known facts state that its custody has been safe throughout the Sikh and the British periods) and created a new Banno Bir, then where was the need of tampering with the figure 1699, and who prevented them from writing in the Bir the year of production as 1661 or 1659 instead of 1699. Secondly, what stopped the forger of the Bir from writing in the Tatkara that the Nishan on the folio at page 34 was of the 5th Guru and not of the 6th Guru. Thirdly, if the original Bir was lost, where from did the forger obtain the Nishans of the 5th and 6th Gurus that would also have been lost with original Bir. Fourthly, if the original Banno Bir was lost, wherefrom was this Bir copied? And as such it could not longer be designated as the Banno Bir, it being a copy of some other Granth. Fifthly, one fact is patent that in the present Banno Bir, the additional eight lines of the alleged Ramkali Mahla 5, on the basis of which Mcleod builds his entire case against the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir, are a clear interpolation meaning thereby that the Granth or the alleged original Banno Bir from which this present Banno Bi, was copied distinctly did not contain these additional eight lines otherwise the very need of this interpolation made later than B.K. 1699 would not have arisen. In fact, Pritam Singh's argument about the loss of the real Banno Bir is self contradictory. On the one hand he cites the features of Bl from the examination of G.B. Singh made as recently as in the midforties. On the other hand, he builds his argument about the suggested loss of the cover only of which its present custodians have even no clear recollection or inkling. It is unthinkable that the real Banno Bir should have disappeared after midforties, but neither the custodians of the Bir nor the Sikh world should have been aware of it. The very fact that the custodians of the Bir have tried to change the year of production from 1699 to 1659, and the fact that Tatkara of the Bir refers to the Nishan of the 6th Guru and not to that of the fifth Guru, clearly, show that the Bir is without doubt the original Banno Bir, but that the stories woven round the year and the circumstances of its production are unreliable and are obviously meant to camouflage its reality. It might be questioned as to why the year of production of the Banno Bir was changed to 1659 when no historian has ever asserted that the 5th Guru completed the Adi-Granth in that year. The reason for it is obvious. 1659 is the only year which with the least effort at alteration could be changed from 1699 to 1659 as it is a year close to the year of the production of the Adi-Granth and the very minor alteration involved as such stood the least chance of detection.
            We have found that the both Mcleod and G.B. Singh have suggestively used the Banno Bir as a lever to shake the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir. So far as Mcleod is concerned, he has tried to remain blissfully quiet or ignorant about the factual position of the Banno Bir and has like G.B. Singh blindly used the same as a weapon to attack the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir, little realising that the weapon he was wielding had only a phantom existence. But, Pritam Singh when faced with the actual Banno Bir could not fail to realise that it was a Granth written in 1699. But, he, instead of accepting the natural inference, as had been done by Mahan Singh who concluded that the Banno story was unreliable and that the date of the Banno Bir, in view of the absence of the mention of the Nishan of the 5th Guru in the Tatkara, was really 1,699, and that the custodians of the Bir who could go to the length of spinning a yarn, and altering the date of completion of the Bir could hardly be depended upon to supply any credible information, went to the extreme of raising the illusion of another Banno Bir of which the Kanpur Banno Bir is a copy. The suggestion of Pritam Singh is patently impossible. There is no basis whatsoever for the story of the loss of Banno Bir. And in the circumstances of the case it appears a suggestive wrong statement to tend to convert the, story of the loss of the cover of the Bir into the loss of the Bir itself. If the suggestion of Pritam Singh that the real Banno Bir was lost and the Banno family has concealed that fact, were assumed for the sake of argument, then the present Bir would be a copy of some other Granth and not the so called original Banno Bir since the same was lost and could not be available for being copied out. Another allied question would be whether it is a true copy or a false copy. If it is a true copy the original too was produced in 1699; and if it is a false copy who prevented the copyist from writing the date of production as 1661 instead of 1699, and why did the copyist allow the mention of the Nishan of the 6th Guru to be in the Tatkara when his purpose would have been served far better by a reference to it as the Nishan of the 5th Guru, especially when he had extraneously introduced it by pasting the Nishans. Pritam Singh's suggestion is, thus, apart from having no factual basis, very irrational and self-Contradictory.
            However, in line with his suggestion of another Banno Bir. Pritam Singh has raised another phantom as well. Mcleod, as we have seen, created the bubble of the Kartarpuri Bir (with folios 975 in number) being a copy of the Banno Bir (which has only 467 folios). That bubble stands pricked when the year of production of the Banno Bir was found to be 1699. But, having realised that, Pritam Singh has raised another soap bubble by saying that the Kartarpuri Bir is a copy of another real Bir of the 5th Guru.91 If every hand written Bir of the Adi-Granth including the Banno Bir could be copied in about 467 folios, even when it also contained additional Bani, why should the scribe of the Kartarpuri Bir have used 974 folios, if it is a copy, is, indeed, inexplicable, if not ridiculous. Pritam Singh further gives no reason for his suspicion about the originality of the Kartarpuri Bir. He says that certain leads in the examination of the Bir by Jodh Singh suggest that inference about which he is quite categoric as he is also about there being another Banno Bir of the year 1604 A.D. or so.
            One common feature of all the two critics of the Kartarpuri Bir is that none of them examined the Kartarpuri Bir (except may be for a few minutes) or the works of Jodh Singh and others so as to reject them critically. Mcleod, it seems had not seen even the Banno Bir. Had he done that his conclusions could not have been so wildly conjectural and slip-shod.

72 Pritam Singh, op. cit, pp.98-115

73 ibid. p. 104

74 ibid, pp. 112-113

75 ibid, pp. 103-108, 111-112

76 Sahib Singh, op. cit, pp. 188-192

77 Mahan Singh, p. 52

78 Harnam Das : Puratan Biran Te Vichar, p. 96.

79 Pritam Singh, op. cit, p. 103

80 Ibid, p. 113

81 Ibid, p. 115

82 Juergens Meyer and G. Barrier, ed., Sikh Studies, p. 100

83 ibid, p. 100

84 ibid, pp. l00, 117

85 ibid, p. 100

86 ibid, pp. 101, 116-117

87 Mahan Singh, op. cit, pp. 43-44

88 Sikh Studies, op. cit, p. 115

89 Harbhajan Singh, op. cit, pp. 135-138

90 Sikh Studies, op. cit, p. 102

91 Mcleod, op.cit, p. 78



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