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Gur Panth Parkash

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




ਰਾਖਉ ਜੌ ਨ ਪੰਥ ਕੀ ਤੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਕੌਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਗੋ
(Who will consecrate the Granth if there is no panth?)

Prabhjot Kaur

The word ‘Panth’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pantham’, which literally means a way, a path. Figuratively it means a way of life, religious creed or cult. In Sikh terminology, the word stands both as a way of life and also for the Sikh people as a whole. It represents the mystic body comprising all those who profess Sikhism as their faith and their organizations: religious, social as well as political. ‘Panth’ for the Sikhs is the supreme body having full claim on allegiance of the members of the Sikh community and transcends all other components and its functional agencies.

The word ‘Panth’ has been used in Sikh religious literature both as a way or a path, and also as the body comprising a group of people professing and practicing tenets of Sikh faith:
      ਇਕੁ ਉਤਮ ਪੰਥੁ ਸੁਨਿਓ ਗੁਰ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਤਿਹ ਮਿਲੰਤ ਜਮ ਤ੍ਰਾਸ ਮਿਟਾਈ।

Bhatt Kirat calls the holy congregation, the best of the body of the people (ਉਤਮ ਪੰਥੁ), meeting whom one is robbed of all fears including the fear of death.
       ਮਾਰਿਆ ਸਿਕਾ ਜਗਤ੍ਰਿ ਵਿਚਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਪੰਥ ਚਲਾਇਆ।੧ 
– ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ, ਵਾਰ ੧
      ਸਬਦਿ ਜਿਤੀ ਸਿਧਿ ਮੰਡਲੀ ਕੀਤੋਸੁ ਅਪਣਾ ਪੰਥੁ ਨਿਰਾਲਾ।
– ਭਾਈ ਗੁਰਦਾਸ, ਵਾਰ ੧ 
Guru Nanak vanquished the Siddhas (the wise ones) with his discourse of the sabad and created a separate panth.

Thus ‘Panth’ is a comprehensive concept standing for the totality of the sikh system. It represents both the spirit of the Sikh and the Sikh institutions: social, religious as well as political.

A new dimension was added to the concept of ‘panth’ with the start of the initiation ceremony, when the ‘sangat’ was transformed into ‘khalsa’:
ਗੁਰ ਸੰਗਤ ਕੀਨੀ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮਨਮੁਖੀ ਦੁਹੇਲਾ।
Guru Gobind Singh put his breath and soul into the Khalsa and declared that there was no difference between him and the Khalsa and that he had merged himself into the Khalsa like the drops of water and the ocean merge themselves with each other completely:
ਹਉ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਕੋ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ ॥ ਓਤ ਪੋਤ ਸਾਗਰ ਬੂੰਦੇਰੋ॥

He went to the extent of saying that he was what he was because of the Khalsa, otherwise there were hundreds of thousands of poor people like him moving around on this earth:
ਇਨ ਹੀ ਕੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਕੇ ਸਜੇ ਹਮ ਹੈਂ ਨਹੀਂ ਮੋ ਸੋ ਗਰੀਬ ਕਰੋਰ ਪਰੇ।
He also declared the Khalsa to be his True Guru - ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮੇਰੋ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੂਰਾ।
Such is the honour given by the Guru to the members of the khalsa commonwealth.

The tradition of the best five chosen from amongst the Sikhs as representatives of the Panth, who enjoyed the supreme status, at par with the Guru himself, was institutionalized at the first initiation ceremony when Guru Gobind Singh sought to be blessed with ‘Amrit’ from the chosen five, thereby giving recognition to the ‘Khalsa’ as the Guru incarnate. The Guru had declared that anyone who wanted to meet him should find him in the ‘Khalsa’.
       ਗੁਰੂ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਅਹਿ ਪਰਗਟ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੀ ਦੇਹ।
       ਜੋ ਸਿਖ ਮੋ ਮਿਲਬੋ ਚਹਿਹ, ਖੋਜ ਇਨਹੁ ਮਹਿ ਲੇਹੁ।
       Let you consider the Guru Khalsa as the virtual body of the Guru and those who want to meet me, let them look for me in them (Khalsa) only.
Rehatnama, Bhai Chaupa Singh

 While the ‘Panth’ is the physical body of the Guru, Guru Granth is the spirit, the living Guru. Physical body has no existence without the essential spirit. Guru Granth is the spirit, the constitution, which governs the Khalsa commonwealth. Without Guru Granth, there will be no Guru Panth. It will just be a crowd of the people moving helter skelter without any common mission. And inversely without the ‘panth’, the Sikh scripture will just be a Granth, a scripture and not the Guru Granth, the Guru eternal.
ਪੰਥ ਹੀ ਨਾ ਰਹੈਗਾ ਤੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਕੌਨ ਮਾਨੈਗਾ।

This speaks of the importance of the twin doctrine - Guru Granth and Guru Panth that Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, bestowed upon the Sikh community before his departure from this mortal world. No doubt, the idea of the collective leadership had been practiced by all the Sikh gurus. But the tenth Guru made Guru Panth a formal institution by declaring Khalsa a sovereign institution under the constitutional guidance of Guru Granth Sahib. Professor Puran Singh writes in his book ‘Ten Masters’: “In the Khalsa constitution, people inspired by the natural goodness of humanity are supreme. In the Khalsa state, the law of the goodness of man is the only law.”Anything that goes against the principle of the natural goodness of man is not acceptable in the Khalsa constitution.

The words ‘Panth’ and ‘Khalsa’ have been used synonymously in Sikh history. Giani Gian Singh calls his ‘Panth Prakash’, the ‘Twarikh Guru Khalsa’. Thus the word ‘panth’ stands for the corporate body of the Sikh community, the Guru Khalsa, which has sovereign authority over the affairs of the community and is higher than any of its constituents, its functional agencies and voluntary organizations which justify their validity only and only by serving the interests of the Khalsa or the Panth, the physical self of the Guru himself.

Every Sikh is expected to lead his life by the principles given in the Khalsa constitution – Guru Granth – which contains the constitutional principles worth following by the whole humanity. For the daily routine and for the personal and social life of a Sikh as a member the Panth, guidelines have been given in Sikh classical literature. Rehatnamas, written by prominent Sikhs, some of whom were contemporaries of the Guru and had lived their lives in very close association with him, give guidelines as to what the daily routine of a Sikh should be, how he should start and end his day, what norms should govern his social and corporate life and how a Sikh has to be committed to live a socially useful productive life by being a fully functional and a fully disciplined person.

Discipline remains the life and soul of any corporate body, if it aspires to contribute anything positive to the society. No doubt, the law of the goodness of man is the first and foremost principle that governs the Khalsa constitution. The Guru gave practical demonstration of this principle in his everyday life. All his actions were directed only towards the welfare of the humanity, and he had firm belief in the essential goodness of man. This belief had turned many criminals into saints, who were also brave enough to fight on the side of the Guru against tyranny. The same principle was expected to be followed by the members of the corporate body, the Panth. Anything that worked against the community and humanity or went against the basic principles of Sikhism was to be avoided at any cost. Allegiance to the core sikh thought and to the complete unity of the people avowing allegiance to this thought was the first requirement of being a sikh. The whole Sikh community was a family working towards this end, the head of which was Guru Gobind Singh himself.

Sikh history is witness to the fact that members of the Khalsa Panth stood with each other like a family through thick and thin. They lived and died for this family. During their most difficult period in the eighteenth century, when the Sikhs were being treated like beasts of prey by the royal forces and the Sikhs had to take very important decisions in order to be able to survive, they handled all differences very ably either by consensus or by total obedience. They never carried any argument far enough to hit the basic structure of the Panth; neither did they fight for positions. The position of the governor, when offered to the Khalsa was given to the most capable person when he was busy doing the most menial job at the camp site in the forest where they had stationed themselves to save themselves from the wrath of the rulers. Just keeping the physical appearance of a Sikh meant courting death in those days, but just the physical appearing of a Sikh was enough to get him entry into the Sikh brotherhood. Once in the Sikh fold, all the members, men as well as women, would get the brotherly love from the Sikhs around who were ever ready even to die for each other. 

Even during the misl (confederacy) period, when one misl was fighting the other for supremacy, the Sikhs behaved like real brothers once they entered the precincts of Darbar Sahib. Once Rani Sada Kaur, the chief of the Kanhaya Misl was listening to the melodious Gurbani recitation, when one of her subordinates informed her that the chief of the Ramgharia Misl with whom they were at loggerheads, too was present in Darbar Sahib. He suggested that this was the best time to be even with him as he was alone and was without any arms. Rani Sada Kaur agreed with him to the extent that the opponent being alone could easily be handled to their own advantage, but she flatly refused to agree with the suggestion. She argued that while in Darbar Sahib, they were fellow devotees and members of the same family and not the enemies, and that their personal differences could be sorted out outside the holy place, even by fighting if the need to do so arose. Their personal enmity ended when they entered Darbar Sahib.

Baba Bir Singh ji was a saint soldier who took part in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s campaigns for the capture of Kashmir and Peshawar. The Sikhs wanted to make him the ruler of the Sikh kingdom after the Maharaja, but the Dogras took hold of the Sikh kingdom and attacked Baba Bir Singh who had 3000 horse men and 1200 musket men camping with him at that time. Many Sikh Sardars and the two surviving sons of Maharaja Ranjit Singh had taken refuge with Baba ji at that time.

When Baba ji came to know that the Sikh army under the command of Dogras was advancing towards the camp, he made arrangement for Langar for them. He also got prepared a huge cauldron of Deg (karah parsad) to be served to the guests and himself started reciting Kirtan. When they were attacked, the Sikhs in the camp sought Babaji’s permission to fire back. But Baba ji replied, “No, they are our brothers, not enemies. They are ‘Guru ka roop’ for us.”  The Sikhs said, “But they are attacking us.” Baba ji replied, “They don’t realise that we are their brothers. However, we know they are. We cannot disrespect the Guru’s roop. This knowledge makes all the difference.”

The Lahore Darbar’s forces stormed inside the fort without any retaliation from inside and slaughtered the Sikh Sangat and Baba Bir Singh ji’s men. Baba ji’s body was pierced with bullets and thousands of Sikhs were killed. Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s two surving sons died in the onslaught and hundreds of Baba ji’s followers were drowned in the river while trying to cross it.

Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh says:
      ਸਿੰਘ ਸਿੰਘ ਸੋਂ ਨੇਹੁ ਸੁ ਕਰਨੋ।ਬੈਰ ਭਾਵ ਮਨ ਤੇ ਪਰਿਹਰਨੋ॥
      ਸਿੰਘ ਸਿੰਘ ਪਰ ਸ਼ਸਤ੍ਰ ਨ ਕਰੇ॥ ਜਾਨ ਗੁਰੂ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਤੇ ਡਰੇ॥ 
Baba Bir Singh put this ideal into practice even at the cost of his life.
The Sikhs could behave in such an honourable way because they had the example of the Gurus before them who had admirably handled all the dissent. Datu ji, the younger son of the second Guru, physically attacked Guru Amardas ji, much older than him in age. He was distraught because the seat of Guruship had been given not to the son, but to an outsider. The elderly Guru suffered all humiliation without a demur, and most humbly started pressing the feet of the young Datu ji, saying that his feet might have been hurt in the attack. The Guru then, quietly left the place to prevent the situation from going from bad to worse and came back only when the situation was normal.

The elder brother of the fifth Guru created all sorts of problems for him even to the extent of trying to get his only son eliminated. But the Guru refused to be provoked to retaliation, and himself forsook all his material belongings in favour of his brother.

The ninth Guru was attacked with a gun by his cousin when the former ascended the divine throne, but the Guru decided to forgive him instead of taking revenge on him. When the ninth Guru went to Amritsar to pay obeisance, the priests there closed the doors of Darbar Sahib to the Guru as they feared that he might lay his claim to the offerings. The Guru bowed his head in reverence from outside the closed doors and quietly left the place without reacting.

The Sikh Gurus always avoided petty quarrels and jealousies. They had lofty missions before them which they wanted to accomplish within the limited time they had been allotted on this earth. They focused only on their mission and refused to be distracted by the misdoings of the mean people around them. 

It is sad that the inheritors of such a legacy are at daggers drawn with each other over some differences that are natural to occur in any dynamic, progressive and forward looking community. Only a community with static, closed and rigid mind accepts everything without a question. In a dynamic and democratic community as the Sikhs are, differences of all sorts are bound to occur from time to time. But the Guru does not allow the Sikhs to fritter away their energies on the issues that can be sorted out by putting their heads together and reaching the consensus. On no single issue everybody can agree. So reaching a consensus after deliberations is the only answer to the problems.

Fortunately, the Sikh Rehat Maryada, by which a Sikh is expected to lead his everyday life personal as well as corporate, provides for such a solution. It finds the answer in the form of Gurmata,(collective decision in the light of Gurbani) whenever there are serious differences of opinion. Clause 4(a) under the heading Panthak Rehni is reproduced here:

ਗੁਰਮਤਾ (Holy Resolution) ਕਰਨ ਦੀ ਵਿਧੀ:

  1. ਗੁਰਮਤਾ ਕੇਵਲ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਸਵਾਲਾਂ ਤੇ ਹੀ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ, ਜੋ ਸਿੱਖ ਧਰਮ ਦੇ ਮੁਢਲੇ ਅਸੂਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਪੁਸ਼ਟੀ ਲਈ ਹੋਣ, ਅਰਥਾਤ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਾਹਿਬਾਨ ਜਾਂ ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦੀ ਪਦਵੀ, ਬੀੜ ਦੀ ਨਿਰੋਲਤਾ, ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ, ਰਹਿਤ-ਬਹਿਤ, ਪੰਥ ਦੀ ਬਣਾਵਟ ਆਦਿ ਨੂੰ ਕਾਇਮ ਰਖਣ ਬਾਬਤ। ਹੋਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਕਿਸਮ ਦੇ ਸਾਧਾਰਨ (ਧਾਰਮਿਕ, ਵਿਦਿਅਕ, ਸਮਾਜਕ, ਪੁਲੀਟੀਕਲ) ਸਵਾਲ ਉਤੇ ਕੇਵਲ ਮਤਾ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ।
  2. ਇਹ ਗੁਰਮਤਾ ਗੁਰੂ ਪੰਥ ਦਾ ਚੁਣਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਕੇਵਲ ਸ਼੍ਰੋਮਣੀ ਜਥਾ ਜਾਂ ਗੁਰੂ-ਪੰਥ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰਤੀਨਿਧ ਇਕੱਠ ਹੀ ਕਰ ਸਕਦਾ ਹੈ।

Incidently, all the issues being raised today are covered under this section of Sikh Rehat Maryada.  The need of the hour is that all the issues facing the community are addressed in a way that no divisions are caused within the members of the community. Nothing can be more unfortunate if it so happens. If for certain reasons, it is not possible to create such conditions where an objective view can be taken in the charged atmosphere, then, we should wait till the time all the issues can be addressed in a cordial and congenial environment with a cool mind. In no way any divisions should be allowed to be caused in the community. After all Guru Panth consists of unified Khalsa. A number of splinter groups put together cannot be called Guru Panth. The Guru unites all and does not create any divisions. The Sikh gurus believe in the unity of Godhead and the unity of mankind. The Sikhs must get together to make an honest effort to resolve all issues like they have been doing throughout their history.

Moreover, no issue claiming the attention of the community today is a new one. Right from the beginning, there have been contrary opinions within the panth, regarding the current controversies raging today. In spite of these controversies being there, the Sikhs could create a history of which they can be rightfully proud. The Sikhs of yore never allowed these differences to come between their unified efforts for the Chardikala of the Panth. What prevents them from doing so now? Why the community is being allowed to be divided because of the issues that have been there right from the time of their inception. A bitterly divided community cannot get the status of Guru Panth. And without the Panth, who will give the status of Guru to Guru Granth Sahib. Without Panth, the Sikh scripture can at best a holy book guiding the whole humanity to the right path. Only a unified Panth accords the status of the Guru to the Granth and to the Panth:

      ਪੰਥ ਕੀ ਰਖੋ ਤਊ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਕੀ ਰਹੈਗੀ ਨਾਥ! 
       ਰਾਖਉ ਜੌ ਨ ਪੰਥ ਕੀ ਤੋ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਕੌਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਗੋ।
Sri Aurbindo Ghosh in his book ‘Foundation of Indian Culture’ writes: ‘The Sikh Khalsa on the other hand, was an astonishing original and novel creation and its face was turned not to the past, but to the future. A very striking instance of democratic institution towards making a compact nationalism was the founding of Khalsa, its long line of gurus and the novel direction and form given to it by Guru Gobind Singh.

The characteristic of the futuristic vision of the Khalsa that so impressed Sri Aurbindo has its origin in the following line from Gurbani:
      ਅਗਾਹੂ ਕੂ ਤ੍ਰਾਂਘ ਪਿਛਾ ਫੇਰ ਨ ਮੁਹਢੜਾ।

The Sikhs have been made to be a forward looking community with ‘its face turned not to the past, but to the future’. Let our face be turned towards the future and let us try to prevent the possible consequences of any situation that has the danger of turning volatile at any time to disastrous consequences. Let us refrain from becoming agents of such a disaster.

A quote attributed to Chanakya, the author of ancient Indian political treatise, and pioneer of the field of political science and economics says, “If you can’t win your enemy with muscle power, confuse him. Half of his power will decrease.”

Let us retain our energies like our Gurus did by refusing to allow themselves to be distracted by anything that came in the way of their mission. Let us refuse to be confused over the issues that have the potential to divide the community so as to save half of our power from decreasing. Let us be determined not to fall in the trap and focus on the mission of taking the Panth to the highest state of Chardi Kala - ਹਮ ਲੇ ਜਾਨੋਂ ਪੰਥ ਉਚੇਰੇ।.    




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