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The Guruship and Succession of Sri Granth Sahib

Dr Madanjit Kaur*

The theme of this article is in the form of a thesis that calls for an answer to the issues like the Sikh concept of the Guru, the doctrine of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as visible body of the Guru, the closing of personal Guruship and the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The Guru in Sikhism
The Tenth Guru Gobind Singh brought to an end the line of human Gurus by conferring Guruship upon the collection of hymns which his followers used in their personal and corporate devotion and as a guide. So a movement, which carried on under a series of Masters, concluded upon a Holy Book, henceforth known by the name of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This was the final culmination of the Sikh concept of Guruship, capable of checking the temptation of deifying the line of human Gurus any further. Yet this is not itself the whole of the story of Sikh Guruship.

The Sikh doctrine of Guruship is rooted in Indian religious tradition. But it is dynamic and distinct in form and structure. In fact, Guruship is a distinctive concept of Sikhism. It is a legacy of the founder Master, Guru Nanak. The Tenth master while maintaining the concept of Shabad as Guru also made the Panth distinctive by introducing corporate Guruship.1 Though the concept of Guruship continued to be the core of Sikhism, the role of the human Gurus was transferred to the Guru Panth, and that of the revealed word to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This has made Sikhism a distinctive modern religion. Any other interpretation of the decision of Tenth Master to introduce the system of Guru Granth and Guru Panth would be contary to the Sikh thesis as amplified by Ganda Singh and Harbans Singh.2

The meaning of Guruship in Sikhism is the manifest form which God takes as a preceptor of mankind. The nature of Guruship in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib states that the supreme being is Himself the Guru, whose chosen channel for communication to humanity is the institution of the Guru. The Sikh Gurus have taken considerable pains to emphasize the point that the bani (the holy scripture) and not the body (the personal guru) is the Guru.3 Theologically, Guru Nanak had always made a distinction between himself, and the Lord as God’s bard, conveying the message entrusted to him. The declaration, ‘I spoke only when you, O God, inspired me to speak4, is characteristic of his view of himself as God’s messenger. There is no reason to believe that his successors differed from him in this view.5 It must always be remembered that the Guru of whom Guru Nanak spoke is God, self-manifested in order to reveal Himself, so that by His Grace man may reach the realm of Truth which is his destiny. The words ‘Gur prasadi’ in the Mool Mantra must be regarded as testimony to this belief.6 This statement is crucial to an understanding of the concept of Guru.7

The testimony of God as Guru which began with Guru Nanak is reaffirmed by his successor Gurus.8 However, to give this institution greater permanence and prevent future alterations, Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, refused to appoint any human successor and bade the Sikhs to consider the Granth as their Guru.9

Before his demise at Nanded in Deccan in A.D. 1708, Guru Gobind Singh, terminated human succession to the office of the Guru and established instead, the condominium of the Granth, and the Panth, which since then is recited at the conclusion of every congregational prayer, every morning and evening, and on all occasions of public worship by the Sikhs:

The Order of the Khalsa was established as the command of the Timeless (Almighty); This is now the commandment for all the Sikhs : Accept the Granth as the Guru; know Guru Granth as the visible body of the Guru. He who hath a properly trained mind, shall find confirmation thereof in the contents of the Sabad (the Holy Book) itself.10

Since then, the Sikh community has recognised no human successor to Guruship, they consider Khalsa Panth and Guru Granth to be a twin institution, in whom rests the joint sovereignty of the Sikh world.11

Henceforth, the identity of the Guru has been incorporated in the doctrines of Guru Granth and the Khalsa was to provide leadership to the community (Panth), not in supersession of the previous Gurus, but as an authority to work in their names. It was invariably to guide itself by the teachings of the Gurus as found in the Holy Granth. For the Sikhs, this double aspect of Guruship solved the most serious problem of accepting authority of prophet as absolute and final for all times.

Guru Granth
Sri Guru Granth Sahib is deemed as the Visible Body of the Guru by the Sikhs. What is the meaning of the declaration that the Granth is the Guru?

The pronouncement of Guru Gobind Singh was not any new innovation in the Sikh doctrine. The seed idea of the doctrine of Guru Granth is clearly discernible in the bani of the Granth itself. It is repeatedly stressed in various hymns that:

The ‘Revelation is the Guru and the Guru is Revelation’, and that ‘whosoever shall accept the Revelation of the Guru shall behold the Guru himself. 12

It is the injunction of the Granth that the Sikhs are bidden to ‘accept the Revelation of Guru as true for ever, for it is the Revelation of God that maketh the Guru to utter it.13 Further, it is ordained that, ‘the Revelation of the Guru is the Light of the World, through it God’s Grace descendeth into human soul.’14 The message of the Holy Granth is that the Guru’s word abideth with soul as the water drowneth it not, and the fire consumeth it not’.l5 Again it is stressed that as ‘the Guru’s revelation pervadeth in the world, it redeemeth man through the Name of God.16

The direction in which the idea of Guruship evolved is implicit in the bani of the Sikh Gurus. According to Guru Nanak the Guru is one who had first realised the Lord and his Word.17 The Divine Message had to go to the world through the Guru for the emancipation of mankind.18 The true Guru must be the guide for conveying the Lord’s message as given to him in the truest form.19

According to Guru Amar Das :
There is Guru, through whom the True Word had come, ponder always on the True Word of the Guru for guidance in life.20

After explaining the Guru’s Revelation, the Holy Granth identifies with the Sabad (or the Word of the Guru) that comes through human agency : the Guru. The term Sabad literally means the Word and was intended to represent God’s Command :

The Sabad in the sense of eternal and self-existent sound, conceived as the eternal Veda, is an old Indian notion, rather an Ancient Aryan notion, for it is found in Zoroastrianism where the Menthra Spenta, the holy Word, is said to be the soul of God.21

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib identifies Sabad with Divine Wisdom which forms itself as God’s Light in the conscience of man. It avers that Sabad is the essence of things by understanding which man comprehends truth and thus becomes one with Truth.22

The Sabad is dormant in the heart of every human being and it can be made manifest through the discipline of self-control and spiritual orientation.23 The mortal human body is not to be deemed as the Guru; it is the Light within, that is the Guru. It is the Sabad that is the Guru and the guide. The absence of it results in spiritual confusion.24 This Sabad is not variegated, it is one, for God is One and all that there is, proceeds from God.25 The search and discernment of this Sabad is an effort worth making for man in this world, all else is waste and weariness.26

It was made clear by Guru Hargobind that the Immortal frame of the Guru had no peculiar entity and the Sabad as revealed by the Guru, is the only authentic portrait of the Guru.27 1t is inferred from the above narration that Guru’s revelation is recorded in Sri Guru Granth as Sabad or Testament. According to Sikh doctrine this testament is the Guru. The same principle was followed by Guru Gobind Singh when he established the condominium of the Guru Panth and the Guru Granth. Instead of appointing an individual Successor to himself, he appointed the collective Order of the Khalsa and formally recognised the status of the Granth, which was to be conceded as the Guru Granth.28 This status of Guru Granth or bani had remained unaffected throughout29, only the temporal direction of human affairs was given a collectively religious basis by Guru Gobind Singh.

This was the process by which the Granth has been institutionalised as the Guru Granth. The basic idea of the peculiar institution of Guruship of the Sikhs has remained unchanged. The Granth, stands for two things; revelation of Truth through the Word, and the interpretation and practice of the Truth through the personal lives of the Gurus. The truth as revealed in the Sabad, incorporates fundamental Truths, that is, belief in the Oneness of God and approach to him through the love of His naam and service (sewa). As truth never gets old, so the Guru in Sikhism is never, relegated to the past. He is ever new and whole.30 He is for ever alive in the collective personality of the Sikhs working with a sense of the presence of the Guru in them. That is why for the Sikhs, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, does not belong to the sixteenth century, but is a dynamic personality guiding them personally; through the organisation of the Panth. The initiation ceremony, Amrit, the Khande de Pahul introduced by Guru Gobind, was made the basis of this reorganisation. It is evident from the above analysis that the doctrine laid down in the Guru Granth by the earlier Sikh Gurus31, was reiterated by Guru Gobind Singh, when he hailed the Granth as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib contains perennial philosophy, uncontaminated by temporal and secular considerations. It is not a code of ethical or social organisation like semitic scriptures, though it strictly postulates a social context for practice of religion and enjoins a strict ethical conduct. It is not sectarian, and lays down no metaphysical propositions in support of the practices of a religion. It has a universal import. It is the perceivable record of the Transcendental Wisdom. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a divinity, not a deity, though extreme reverence is shown to it by the Sikhs. It is regarded as the visible body of the True Guru and is symbolic of the Sikh doctrine of sovereignty both temporal and spiritual.

It is on account of their (Sikhs) reverence for Sri Guru Granth Sahib that Sikhism has maintained its integrity despite observances resulting from popular piety and the fact that for most of the time it has retained its separate religio-cultural entity in a society dominated by Hinduism.

If there is any way in which Sikhism may be described as unique, it is in its elevation of a holy book to the status of Guruship. Guru Gobind Singh's reason for elevating the Adi Granth to the status of Guru must be linked with his creation of the Khalsa in 1699. But the more immediate reason may probably be found in the awareness of the Guru that the circumstances of his time required some radical change in the mode of Sikh leadership. Politically and socially this took the form of the Khalsa Panth which was invested with the temporal authority (miri), and the spiritual authority (piri) remained with the gurbani, the scripture Granth.

Closing of Personal Guruship and the Succession of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
The fact that Guru Gobind Singh, Tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs, died at Nanded in Deccan, now in Maharashtra, on October 6-7, 1708, has been substantiated by contemporary and semi-contemporary sources. It has also been authenticated beyond doubt that Guru Gobind Singh did not appoint any of his followers to succeed him as the Guru and that he had commanded his followers to look upon the Holy Scripture, the Granth Sahib as their Guru, thenceforth known as Sri Guru Granth Sahib.32 During his life time, Guru Gobind Singh had created the distinctive Order of the Khalsa, with uncommon form and the articles of faith and helped to impart them a distinct identity. Toward, the end of his life, the Guru had to face extremely, adverse circumstances. But he knew no despondency and did not give way to frustration. He had lost all of his four sons, mother and a large number of devoted followers. He left Punjab and spent his last days in the Deccan.

At the creation of the Khalsa on the Baisakhi day of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh had not only presented himself to be formally initiated into the fraternity of the Khalsa but had also submitted himself to the discipline which had been prescribed by him for the new order of the Khalsa. This virtually meant the surrender of the office of Guruship to the will of the Khalsa and its merger into the body politic of the new order. This was re-affirmed by the message he delivered to his followers from his death bed. This fact is affirmed by the testimony of Sainapat, who was not only a contemporary of the Guru but was also one of his darbari kavis (court poets) at Anandpur Sahib.33 His work Gursobha, composed in A.D. 1711, within three years of the Guru’s death, records:

A day before his death, the Singhs asked the Guru about the form he was adopting (or the person whom he was nominating to succeed him). In reply he said that the Khalsa was his very self and that to them he had granted his robe-his physical self, and that the Eternal and the Limitless Word uttered with the Lord’s Light is the Supreme Master.34

Sainapat, thus tells us that a day before the event the Guru had said that he had bestowed his physical form upon the Khalsa35 and that the limitless and Eternal Word was Satguru.36 This was Guru Gobind Singh’s last message and his final commandment saying in unmistakable language and clear words that he was not appointing any particular individual as the succeeding Guru and that the Khalsa under the guidance of the Divine Word – the Gurbani – was to be the future physical and spiritual representative of the Guru. This has since become the accepted creed of the Sikhs.

The account of Sainapat is supported by Bhai Nand Lal, a devoted disciple, who was present at Nanded at the time of the Guru’s death. He tells us in his Rehatnama that the Guru told him that his one form is the formless Supreme Spirit and the other Granth Ji – Guru Sabad, the Word of the great Gurus incorporated in the holy Granth Sahib. ‘Have no doubt about it, he said, ‘the visible form is the Sikhs, the Khalsa should remain absorbed in the Gurbani day and night’.37

Bhai Prahlad Singh, another associate of Guru Gobind Singh also corroborates the above mentioned Guru’s commandment in his Rehatnama as following :

With the order of the Eternal Lord has been established the Panth.
All the Sikhs are hereby commanded to obey the Granth as the Guru.38

Similarly Bhai Chaupa Singh, another associate of Guru Gobind Singh, had also mentioned this commandment in his Rehatnama.39

It is evident from the above mentioned contemporary evidence that Guru Gobind Singh abolished for all time to come the nomination of anyone person as the Guru of the Sikhs. After him the Khalsa, with Sri Guru Granth Sahib as their eternal Guru, became the Guru Panth. With this the personal line of Guruship came to an end. This historical fact has been rejected by McLeod. But there is abundant contemporary and near - contemporary evidence available for the comparative study of different versions of the events, for sifting fact from fiction and for authenticating the tradition recorded in the Sikh sources regarding the abolition of the personal Guruship and the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the living Guru of the Sikhs.

Koer Singh, the author of Gurbilas Patshahi 10 (composed in A.D. 1751-1762) has not only supplied more details of this historical event, but has also provided clarity to the tradition. The author has accounted Granth as the Guru Granth40 and reminds one of the Guru’s commandment to the Sikhs to regard Guru Granrh as Divinity.41 He tells us in explicit terms that Guru Gobind Singh discontinued the line of personal Guruship and did not appoint anyone to succeed him as the Guru. In fact, he had surrendered his personality to the Khalsa when he had become one of them at the baptismal ceremony. He publicly declared this merger on many occasions afterwards, and especially at a time before his death at Nanded. Koer Singh also narrates at length the formal installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru.42 The author records that the Guru addressed his Sikhs before his demise and instructed them that there would be no successor to him, the Sarbat Sangat and the Khalsa should deem Sri Guru Granth Sahib as Supreme. Koer Singh further states that with five paise and a coconut in his hand the Guru paid homage to the Holy Granth and declared its succession as the Guru.43 Koer Singh had been in close association with Bhai Mani Singh who was a contemporary and a close associate of Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Mani Singh was the first person to act as the Granthi (reader of Holy Granth Sahib) in the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar after the Guru’s death. Therefore, the information passed on from Bhai Mani Singh to Koer Singh is believed to be fully reliable.

Another work, which we may refer to here, is Bansavalinama of Kesar Singh Chhibbar (completed in A.D. 1779). Kesar Singh’s ancestors had been in the service of Guru Gobind Singh as dewans. He claims to have seen and consulted in his early days a behi (account book) of the house of the Guru. The Tenth Chapter of Bansavalinama deals with the life of Guru Gobind Singh. In stanzas 678-83, the author mentions the demise of the Guru and his last commandment in reply to the question of the Sikhs as following :

“The Granth is the guru; you hold the garment (seek the protection) of the Timeless God”.44 Two hours later Guru went to heaven; his light blended with Light. The same night he was cremated after he had been bathed in rose water.45

Further, the account of the demise of Guru Gobind Singh as given in Mahima Parkash by Sarup Dass Bhalla may be accepted as historical and objective. This account was completed in A.D. 1830KK/ AD 1773. The author was a descendant of Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of the Sikhs. The account given in Mahima Parkash is objective and without any poetic embellishments and supernatural elements. Therefore, the evidence of this author can be accepted as historically correct. According to Mahima Parkash, before his demise. Guru Gobind Singh called his Sikhs to his presence and said :

Our ten forms have come to an end. Now recognize the Guru Granth Sahib in my place. He who wishes to talk to me should read the Granth Sahib. I have entrusted you to the lap of the Almighty.46

Then follows the account of the departure of Guru Gobind Singh from this world. The author concludes the narration by recording that the Guru’s body was then cremated and the Sri Guru Granth Sahib was recognized in place of the Guru.

This simple account of the demise of the Guru and the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib agrees in all its essentials with the contemporary and the later accounts.

Dr. Ganda Singh has referred to another reliable authority. Munshi Sant Singh’s Bayan-ki-Khandan-i-Nishan-Bedian (account of the Bedi family of the Una). According to it when Guru Gobind Singh was about to pass away from this mortal world at Nanded in the Deccan (Katik Sudi 5, 1765 Bikrami), all the Singhs and disciples asked him as to who would be the future Guru. The Guru replied; ‘Guru Khalsa, Khalsa Guru’. Then the Guru, with five paise and a coconut in his hand, bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib and said, ‘Ye all community should recognize the Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru after me and obey the commandments contained therein’. And then he uttered the following couplet :

Recognize the Guru Granth as the visible body of the Guru.
By this statement the author of Bayan has reiterated the last commandment of Guru Gobind Singh in the words of Bhai Nand Lal who was present at Nanded at the time of the Guru’s departure for heavenly abode.47 The other details are identical to the tradition recorded in Gurbilas Patshahi 10 by Koer Singh.

The tradition incorporated in the Sikh sources is also found in historical works in Persian and English. The Persian works are written both by Muslim and Hindu scholars belonging to Punjab or its neighbourhood. As most of them had first-hand knowledge of the tradition, beliefs, practices and ceremonies of the Sikhs, they cannot be ignored by students of history.

The news of the demise of Guru Gobind Singh has been mentioned in Royal Court News of the Mughals – Akhbarat-i-darbar-i-Mu‘alla of October-November 1708 and the Bahadur Shah Nama.48

Contemporary Persian accounts of Mirza Muhammad Harsi’s Ibrat Namah (1705-19 AD) and Sayyed Mohammad Qasim Hussain Lahauri’s Ibrat Nama (1722 A.D.) and Ibrat Maqal (1731 AD) written within couple of years of the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, respectively record the usual account of Guru’s death at Nanded.49

Muhammad Ali Khan Ansari, the author of Tarikh-i-Mazaffari (1810 A.D.) and Tarikh-i-Bahr-ul-Mawwaj, narrates the history of the Mughals to the beginning of the region of Akbar Shah II. These works deal extensively with the struggle of the Sikhs against the Mughals and the Afghans. They are considered to be important sources on the history of the Punjab during the eighteenth century. Before the end of Guru Gobind Singh’s account, Muhammad Ali Khan writes that:

After him (Guru Gobind Singh), according to the faith of these people (the Sikhs), the descending of Guruship and of internal spiritual line came to end and the book, the Granth, was established in place of the Guru.50

Besides, Ahmad bin Muhammad Ali’s Mirat-ul-Ahwal-Jahan Numa (A.D. 1810) also mentions:
The sons of Guru Gobind Singh had been killed in the battle of Alamgir. After him there is no Khalifah (successor guru).51
The conventional version is also supported by Hindu authors of Persian works. Rai Chatarman, the author of the Chahar Gulshan Akhbar-un-Nawadir (also known as the Chahar Gulshan or Khulasa-un-Nawadir) (compiled in A.D. 1759) writes in this context that :

There are ten persons (to be recognized). These ten Khalifahs (gurus) are called Das Mahal. Anyone else sitting on the gaddi after them is not acceptable to them (the Sikhs).52
Harsukh Rai, the author of Maima-ul-Akhbar (A.D. 1799) says about Guru Gobind Singh that :

He is the Tenth Mahal and is the last Zahur (successor) of Guru Nanak.53

The traditional version accounted in Sikh and Persian sources is also incorporated in European accounts. George Forster has also referred to the Guru in his letter No. XI of 1783 in his A Journey from Bengal to England and says :

Govind died in 1708 at the town of Nanded without leaving any male issue and a tradition delivered to the Sicques, limiting their priests to the number of ten, inducing them to appoint no successors to Govind Singh.54

Talking about the change in the inscription on the Sikh coinage, Major James Browne (1787-88) has casually referred to Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh as the first and the last Gurus of the Sikhs and has indirectly given us confirmation of the belief of the Sikhs.55
Indian historians of the nineteenth century who compiled their accounts at the instance of Europeans are supposed to have recorded correct and reliable information because their purpose was to make the English rulers acquainted with the Sikhs with whom they (English) expected to come in close political contact in the future.

Khushwaqt Rai’s Tarikh-i-Sikhan, also called the Kitab-i-Tawarikh-i-Punjab (written in A.D. 1811) says that Guru Gobind Singh passed away at Abchal Nagar, Nanded :

This event, that is his death, took place on Kartik Sudi 5, 1765 Bikrami. The generation (of Gurus) of Guru Nanak up to Guru Gobind Singh came to end.
Ahmad Shah Batalia, author of Tawarikh-i-Hind : Bayan-i-Ahwal-i-Mulk-Hind wa-Maluk-i-an-az-Zaman-qadim-ta (1233 Hijri) has devoted a part of his account to the Sikhs. The section Zikar-i-Guruwan wa ibtida-i-Singhan wa Mazhab-e-eshan, forms an appendix to Daftar I and II of the Umdat-ut-Twarikh by Munshi Sohan Lal Suri (the court historian of Maharaja Ranjit Singh). Ahmad Shah Batalia writes that Guru Gobind Singh, who had accompanied Emperor Bahadur Shah to the Deccan, died at Nanded in 1755 Bikrami (A.D. 1708) and this place was known as Abchal Nagar. Some Sikhs lived there. The Nizam of Hyderabad had fixed a daily allowance for them. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also made big donations for the upkeep of the sanctuary and the maintenance of its custodians.57

Sohan Lal Suri tells us that during the last moments of Guru Gobind Singh’s life a disciple of his asked him to whom he had appointed as Guru after him. Thereupon the Guru replied that:
The Guru is Granth Ji. There is no difference between the Granth and the Guru: From the darshna of Granth
Ji one shall have the happy darshan of the Guru Sahib.58

This version is also confirmed by the Muslim historian of the nineteenth century. Ghulam Muhy-ud-Din alias Bute Shah in his Tawarik-i-Punjab (1848)59 and Mufti-Ali-Din in his Ibrat Namah (1854)60 have both recorded the demise of Guru Gobind Singh as a historical fact. Bute Shah in his abridged recension of the Tawarik-i-Punjab (preserved in the Punjab Public Library, Lahore) has followed Lala Sohan Lal’s Umdat-ul-Tawarikh in recording the last commandment of the Guru regarding the Granth being the Guru after his death and that ‘there is no difference between the Guru and the Granth.61

Kanhaiya Lal Hindi’ s Zafar Namah-i-Ranjit Singh is another study. He writes, Guru Gobind Singh died at Abchal Nagar in 1765 and that no one (of his disciples) succeeded him to the gaddi (Guruship). With him ended the gaddi of leadership (masand-i-sanwari) and with him came to end the custom of the succession of Gurus (Shewa-i-rehbari).

All the European historians of the nineteenth century like John Malcolm, W.G. Osborne, W.L. M’Gregor, Joseph David Cunningham and others who have written on the Sikhs have accepted the above version regarding the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, abolition of the personal Guruship and the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru of the Sikhs.

Even Ernest Trumpp, whose observations are very negative on various aspects of the religious literature of the Sikhs, has adopted this tradition. In this context, he writes that .at the time of his demise. Guru Gobind Singh told his followers:

I have entrusted the whole society (of the disciples) to the Timeless. After me you shall everywhere mind the Book of the Granth Sahib as your Guru. Whatever you shall ask, it will show to you. Whosoever be my disciple, he shall consider the Granth as the form of the Guru. Having uttered these verses he closed his eyes and expired (A.D. 1708).63
Muslim historians of the nineteenth century have also accepted this version. Syed Muhammed Latif, author of the History of the Punjab also records that some time before the death of Guru Gobind Singh when Sikhs asked him as to who would be the Guru after him, while breathing his last the Guru replied:

I entrust my Khalsa to the Divine Being... The Granth shall support you under all your troubles and adversities in this world, and a sure guide to you hereafter. The Guru shall dwell with the society of disciples. the Khalsa, and wherever there shall be five Sikhs gathered together, there shall the Guru be also present. The Guru also ordered them that: they must have belief in One God and look on the Granth as His inspired law... He then closed his eyes and began to pray, and expired in the performance of his devotion.64
It is concluded from the above analytical study of the various historical sources at our disposal that:
i. The institution of Guruship of the Sikhs follows a planned process and a theological concept fundamental to Sikhism from the times of Guru Nanak.
ii. Guru Gobind Singh did not appoint any mortal successor to succeed him as Guru.
iii. The Tenth Guru had invested. the Guru Granth with Guruship, and commanded the Sikhs to accept it as their future Guru
iv. The closing of personal Guruship and the Succesion of Guru Granth Sahib was not an innovation, but only a reiteration of the doctrine of Guruship as revealed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
v. The announcement of the doctrine of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as perpetual authority became the integral focus of the psyche of the Sikh community. The installation of the Holy Scripture as the Guru was a most significant development in the history of the Sikh community. The Sikh were ordained to live their religion in response to the doctrines enshired in the Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and observe their faith accordingly. This pronouncement of Guru Gobind Singh shaped the intellectual and cultural environment of the Sikhs and determined the guarantee of the community’s integration and permanence in the course of its history.

This article aims to explore W.H. McLeod’s thesis, put forward in his Evolution of the Sikh Community65 whereby he rejects the tradition of vesting the authority of Guruship to the Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh. McLeod has supported his view on the authority of J S Grewal.66 According to McLeod:

The tradition which conferred his (Guru Gobind Singh’s) personal authority upon the sacred scripture and the corporate Panth may perhaps be a retrospective interpretation, a tradition which owes its origin not to an actual pronouncement of the Guru but to an insistent need for maintaining the Panth’s cohesion during the later period.67

McLeod asserts his conclusion in no less emphatic terms by suggesting that:
The slate must be wiped clean and must not be reinforced until we have ascertained just what did take place during the eighteenth century.68

McLeod’s conjectures seek to cloud the historical interpretation of the events related to the religious history of the Sikhs. In fact, McLeod is primarily interested in the political history of the Sikhs and the role played by the Jat community therein. In order to consolidate his so called Jat thesis, McLeod concentrates on the development of the events in the history of the Sikh community in the eighteenth century and tries to coordinate historical development with the motivation of the Jat leadership emerging out of political exigencies. However, he totally ignores the legacy and the heritage of the Guru period. It seems, McLeod is neither familiar with the social process of the evolution of Sikhism, nor of the nature of Sikh ethos. Besides, McLeod has not brought any historical evidence to substantiate his thesis for rejecting the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as declared by Guru Gobind Singh. On the other hand, we find solid evidence encompassed in the doctrine of Guruship ·as revealed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, later reiterated by Guru Gobind Singh when he hailed the Granth as the Guru. Besides, it has also been authenticated by contemporary and near contemporary sources, documents and records that Guru Gobind Singh did not appoint any person to succeed him as Guru. and that he had invested Sri Guru Granth Sahib with Guruship and had commanded the Sikhs to accept it as their Guru.

1. W. Owen Cole, The Guru in Sikhism, London, 1982, pp. 37-38.
2. Ganda Singh, pages 183-210 and Harbans Singh, pages 211-227 in Perspectives on Sikh Tradition, Edited by Gurdev Singh, Pub. Academy of Sikh Religion and Culture, Patiala, 1986. See also Ganda Singh, Guru Gobind Singh’s Death at Nanded, An Examination of Succession Theories, Pub. by Guru Nanak Foundation, Bhatinda District, Faridkot, 1972.
3. Taran Singh, The Nature of Guruship in the Guru Granth in the Nature of Guruship (ed. Clarence O. McMullen), ISPCK, 1976, pp. 27-8.
4. qw mY kihAw khxu jw quJY khwieAw ], Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pr. 566.
5. W. Owen Cole, The Guru in Sikhism, p 55.
6. Ibid., p 73.
7. There are explicit statements in the bani of Guru Nanak which indicate that God is the Guru. See Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1226.
8 Ibid., p. 307, 308, 317.
9. See Part IV of this chapter.
10. nkfrnk GJh nekb eh sp? ubk:' gzE .. ;G f;ZyB e' fj[ew j? r[o{ wkBhT[ rqzE ..
r[o{ rqzE ih wkBhT[ gqrN r[oK eh d/fj .. ik ek fjodk ;[X j? y'i ;pd w? b/j[ ..

11. The Guru Granth is installed in the Sikh places of worship. It is symbolic of the visible body of the Guru. All the ceremonial paraphernalia associated with the keeping, opening and closing of the Holy Book represent manifestation of royalty and sovereignty, both temporal and spiritual.
12. bwxI gurU gurU hY bwxI ivic bwxI AMimRqu swry ]
guru bwxI khY syvku jnu mwnY prqiK gurU insqwry ]Nat Asht padian, M4, Sri Gunl Granth Sahib, p. 982.
13. siqgur kI bwxI siq siq kir jwxhu gurisKhu hir krqw Awip muhhu kFwey ]. Gauri Ki var, M4 Ibid., p. 308.
14. gurbwxI iesu jg mih cwnxu krim vsY min Awey ] Sri Rag, M5, Ibid., p. 67.
15. gur kw bcnu bsY jIA nwly ] jil nhI fUbY qskru nhI lyvY Bwih n swkY jwly ] Rag Dhanasari, M5, Ibid., p. 679.
16. gurbwxI vrqI jg AMqir iesu bwxI qy hir nwmu pwiedw ] Rag Mant, M3, Ibid. p. 1066.
17. gur mih Awpu smoie sbdu vrqwieAw ] Var Malar Ki, M 1, Ibid. p. 1279.
18. siqgur ivic Awpu riKEnu kir prgtu AwiK suxwieAw ] Rag Asa, Slok, M 1, Ibid. p. 466.
19. jYsI mY AwvY Ksm kI bwxI qYsVw krI igAwnu vy lwlo ]Rag Tilang. MI, Ibid. p. 722.
20. iekw bwxI ieku guru sbdu vIcwir ] Rag Sorath, M3. Ibid. p. 646.
21. Kapur Singh, Paras’arapras’na, (Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh). Revised edition (eds. Piar Singh and Madanjit Kaur), Guru Nanak Dev University. Amritsar, I 989, p. 172.
22. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1353.
23. Ibid., pp. 8 and 1264.
24. sbdu gur pIrw gihr gMBIrw ibnu sbdY jgu baurwnµ ]Rag Sorath, MI, Ibid. p. 635
25. eyko sbdu eyko pRBu vrqY sB eyksu qy auqpiq clY ] Rag Prabhati, M3, Ibid. p. 1334.
26. iesu jg mih sbdu krxI hY swru ] ibnu sbdY horu mohu gubwru ]Rag Prabhati Ashrpadian, M 1, Ibid. p. 1342.
27. gurU mUriq gur sbdu hY ... Bhai Gurdas, Varan Bhai Gurdas, eds. Bhai Vir Singh, Khalsa Samachar Amritsar, 1972, Var 24; II, p. 396
28. Kapur Singh, op. cit., p. 177.
29. The Sikh tradition considers the Holy Granth, as the real corpus of the Transcendental Wisdom. And in this Sikh tradition follows the Buddhist principle of the identity of the Buddha’s word with the essence of Buddha.
30. Teja Singh. Sikhism, Its Ideals and Institutions. Khalsa Brothers Amritsar, 1970, p. 26.
31. vwhu vwhu bwxI inrMkwr hY iqsu jyvfu Avru n koie ] Gujari Ki Var’, M3, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p, 515.
32. Ganda Singh, ‘Guru Gobind Singh Designates Guru Granth Sahib to be the Guru’ in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition (ed. Gurdev Singh) p. 183,
33. Sainapat, Gursobha (ed. Ganda Singh), Punjabi University, Patiala. 1967, Ch. XVIII, 40-44, 85-89, pp. 128-129.
34. Ibid.
35. õkb;k nkB' o{g psk:' .. ykb; jh ;' j? ww ekwk .. põ; fe:' ykb; e' ikwk .. Gursobha, Ch. XVIII, 41, p. 170. ;' õkb; ;fsr[o{ jwkok .. ;fsr[o{ jwkok, ngo ngkok, ;pd fpukok nio ioz .. Ibid.
36. Ibid., p 43
37. ;pd gVBk ôpd ;[DBk . ôpd ewktDk ;pd/ pkMj[ Bkjh EkT[ ..
pkDh r[o{ r[o{ j? pkDh ftfu pkDh nzfwqs ;ko/ .. r[opkDh ej? ;/te iB[ wkB?, gqsfy r[o{ fB;sko/ ..
Bhai Nand Lal, "Sakhi Rehat Patshahi 10, Gur Khalsa de Rehatname, ed. Shamsher Singh Ashok, Sikh History Research Board, Amritsar, 1979, p. 51 (unpublished)
38. nekb g[oy e/ puB f;T[ gqrN ubkfJT[ gzE ..
;G f;yB eT[ j[ew :j, r[o{ wkfBU rqzfE ..

Bhai Parhlad Singh, Rehatnama Bhai Prahlad Singh ka, op.cit., p. 58.
39. Ibid., p. 1. Bhai Nand Lal affirms:
i' f;Zy r[o{ do;B eh ukfj . do;B eo/ rqzE ih nkfj ..
w/ok o{g rqzE ih ikD/ . fJ; w/A G/d BjhA e[M wkB/ ..

Bhai Nand Lal Granthavali, Rehitnama, Sri Guru Vach,p 192
40. fdi? dkB G{y/, bj' ikfJ g:ko' . fdtkBz brkt?, ;[B/ ;pd ;ko/ ..
r[o{ rqzE ikB' ;dk nzr ;zrz . ;[B' rkE g[okB eh uhs ozrz ..
ijK Xow;kbk sjK Bhs i?:? . r[o{ do; ehi? wjK ;{y g?:? ..

Koer Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi 10 (Ed. Shamsher Singh Ashok), Punjabi Unviersity, Patiala, 1968, CH. IV, p. 130.
41. sK s/ i' w[j f;y ;[ikBk . wkB/ r[o{ rqzE GrtkBk .. Ibid., CH XXI, p. 283.
42. r[onkJh ek Bfj np ekb . fsbe B d/tfjr/ fe; Gkb ..
;op ;[ ;zrfs ykb; wkB . ;qh nf;e/s[ r'd w? ikB ..
bV geVkfJ ;pd ek o{g . i' wkB' ;' f;zx nB[g ..
do;B r[o ek j? ;tXkB . ;qh rqzE ;kfjp wkB ..
Ibid., p 284
43. sp g[fB nkg T[m/ ;G ;zrk . g?;/ gKu BbhJ/o ;[ nzrk ..
b? e/ skfj ngo eh pzdB . gqdZyB eos/ wB ozrB ..
ejk, i'fJ pu ehBk ukj/ . gkm eo? r[o e' ;[y gkJ/ ..
:k ;w n"o e'Jh r[o Bkjh . fpBk ekB ;u[ pke GBkjh ..
:Zdfg oki? e? j'fJ gk; . sdfg B ukj? wkBs sk;
.. Ibid
44. puB[ ehsk rqzE j? r[o{ bV geV' nekb .. r[o{ j? ykb;k, ykb;k j? r[o{ .. ... nkfrnk rqzE ;kfjp dh eoBh ;pd dh y'iBk .. Kesar Singh Chhibbar, Bansavali-nama Dasam Patshahi Ka (ed. R.S. Jaggi) Pub. in Parakh, Research Bulletin of Punjabi Language and Literature, Punjab University, Chandigarh, Vol II, 1972, Ch. 10, Stanzas 679 and 680, p. 163-34.
45. Ibid., Stanza 682, p 164
46. ;fsr[o dhB fdnkb puB ehsk . i' d; ;o{g jwko/ g{oB GJ/ . np w/oh ikjr r[o{ frqzoE ;kfjp e' ikBBk .. Sarup Dass Bhalla, Mahima Prakash, Vol. II, Ch. ‘Sakhian Patshahi Das, Sakhi 27, pp. 891-93.
47. Ganda Singh, op. cit., in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition, pp. 198-199.
48. William Irvine, Later Mughals, Calcutta, 1992, Vol. I, p. 90, also Ganda Singh op. cit., in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition, pp. 189.
49. Ganda Singh, op. cit., in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition, pp. 200-201.
50. Tarikh-i-Muzaffeari, p. 152, also Bahrul-Mawwaj, p. 208.
51. As quoted by Ganda Singh, op. cit., pp. 201.
52. Rai Chatarman, Chahar Gulshan Akhbar-un-Nawadar, pp. 35-36 as quoted by Ganda Singh, op. cit., in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition, pp. 201.
53. Har Sukh Rai, Maima-ul-Akhbar, p. 481 as quoted by Ganda Singh, op. cit., in Perspective on the Sikh Tradition, pp. 201.
54. George Forster, A Journey From Bengal to England, London 1798, Vol. 1, p. 263
55. James Browne, History of the Origin and Progress of the Sicks (India tracts), London, 1788, pp. VI, VIII.
56. Khushwaqt Rai, Tarikh-i-Sikhan, (MS, 1869 BK), pp. 366, 379.
57. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Tawarikh-i-Hind, (MS, 1233 AH), Appendix p.11.
58. Undat-ut-Tawarikh. Arya Press, Lahore, 1885, Vol. 1, pp. 64-65.
59. See Bute Shah, Tawarikh-i-Punjab, (MS, A.D. 1848), Vol. 1, p. 206.
60. See Ali-ud-Din, Ibrat Namah, (MS, AD 1845), Vol 1, p 178.
61. Bute Shah, Tawarikh-i-Punjab, (Abridged recension), p. 62.
62. Kanhaiya Lal Hindi, Zafar Namah-i-Ranjit Singh. Lahore. 1876, p. 52.
63. Ernest Trumpp, The Adi Granth. (Eng. Tr.). London, 1877, pp. XC vi.
64. Syad Muhammed Latif, History of the Punjab, Calcutta 1891, p 269.
65. W H McLeod, The Evolution of the Sikh Community, Oxford University Press, Delhi. 1975.
66. J S Grewal, From Guru Nanak to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar,. 1982, Ch. XIV, pp. 100-105
67. McLeod, op. cit., p 17.
68. McLeod, op. cit., p 16.


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