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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

Descriptions of the Dasam Granth from the “Sketch of the


Sikhs” in view of Sikh History

Gurinder Singh Mann*

In this paper we are going to look at the descriptions of the Dasam Granth or
“Granth of the Tenth Master” from the 19th Century book entitled Sketch of the
Sikhs1 written by Lt. Col. Malcolm. The Dasam Granth which was written by the tenth
preceptor, Guru Gobind Singh is something which in recent times has seen much
interest and debate. The compositions within the Dasam Granth were written by
Guru Gobind Singh between 1680 and 1705 in places like Anandpur and Paonta. The
Granth was recompiled by devotees including Bhai Mani Singh and Baba Deep Singh
the two scribes who were responsible for disseminating Sikh religion through the
Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth and their theological centers of Sikh
studies2.

There has been much interest in the Sikh religion from a western view point and we
see the earliest references to the faith as early as 16063, these references shed
important light on the lives, manners of the Sikhs as well imparting information from
a political perspective as well. The religion of the Sikhs has by some commentators
been described with a bias but some writers have been able to see the basic tenants
of the religion as espoused by the Sikh teachers or Sikh Gurus. The western
perspectives of the Sikhs have described by different people from Christian preachers
through to travelers but most notably by military and political officers.

The descriptions of the Dasam Granth by western writers has seen little attention by
Sikh scholars and as a result has left a void in the dissemination of how the Dasam
Granth was viewed by them. More importantly it begs the question as to why this
may be the case and the only explanation there seems to be is that the subject of
the Dasam Granth is a difficult one. If this is the case then we should look at how
visitors to the state of Punjab viewed the Dasam Granth and what difficulties were
posed for them in deciphering the text. One visitor in the 19th Century by the name
of John Malcolm has done exactly that and is the basis of our discussion. John
Malcom was a political officer of the British who was accompanying Lord Lake in
1805 to broker a deal with the Sikhs to side against Jaswant Rao Holkar4. This also

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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

gave the opportunity to Malcolm to write and understand the customs and religious
perceptions of the Sikhs5.

The role of Malcom as testified by him was to get a better understanding of the Sikhs
and he could only do this by looking at primary sources which to him was the Guru
Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth. He refers to the Granths as “the two most
sacred books of the Sikhs”6. He procured copies of historical tracts which were later
explained to him by a Nirmala Sikh. The order of Nirmala Sikhs which means
“without blemish” was created by Guru Gobind Singh himself to ensure that the
Sikhs had a higher order of learning. Tradition narrates that he sent five Sikhs to
Benares a centre of Hindu learning in disguise. These Sikhs worked diligently for
several years and returned to Anandpur. During their time in Benares they had
picked up classical Indian theology and philosophy. At Anandpur these students
formed into a branch of knowledge which would give discourses on Sikh thought7. So
part of what Malcolm was being told was the exegesis of the Sikh scriptures by a
very informed authority and the other was a first hand account of the rituals,
practices of the Sikhs.

The descriptions of the Dasam Granth within the Sketch, are highly detailed, and
give us accounts which fit in with other practices taking place in the Punjab which
was being ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh8. It is also important to see what kind of
importance if any was being accorded to the Dasam Granth by the Maharaja to
corroborate if Malcolm’s account holds any validity. Even more importantly is to see
how Malcolm refers to the Akali Nihangs, the vanguard of Sikh defence created
during the times of Guru Hargobind9 but refined under the leadership of Guru Gobind
Singh. The interactions of Ranjit Singh, the Akali Nihangs and what Malcolm,
witnessed sets the scene of what he wrote at the turn of the 1800’s.

The status of the Dasam Granth is the first area we need to concern ourselves with
and according to Malcolm the Dasam Granth is part of the Sikh scriptures and that it
was written by Guru Gobind Singh himself. He states,

Dasama Padshah Ka Gran'th10, or book of the tenth King, which was


written by Guru Govind, is considered in every respect, as holy as the Adi
Granth of Nanac, and his immediate successors11.

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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

He further describes the purpose of the Guru writing the Dasam Granth,

Guru Govind inculcated his tenets upon his followers by preaching his
actions, and his works; among which is the Dasama Padshah ka Granth, or
the book of the tenth king or ruler; Guru Govind being the tenth leader of the
sect from Nanac. This volume which is not limited to religious subjects, but
filled with accounts of his own battles, and written with the view of stirring up
a spirit of valour and emulation among his followers, is at least as much
revered among the Sikhs, as the Adi-Granth of Arjunmal12.

We can infer from this that Malcolm explains that the Granth is composed of religious
and other discourses. The interpretation of the Granth in the context of battle is
clearly seen by Malcolm. It is because Malcolm is a political officer and has
knowledge of the army that he sees the importance of Dasam Granth as a battle
text. The purpose of the Granth is indeed to stir up this valor amongst his followers.
His account concurs with that of 18th Century writers who interpret the Dasam
Granth in the context of battle13. The significance of Guru Gobind Singh’s battles also
adds to the stirring energy that the Granth represents14. The respect and veneration
that the Granth receives equals that of the Adi Granth. The recitation of the Dasam
Granth should take place twice daily together with the Guru Granth Sahib15. With
regards to the initiation process to the Khalsa the, “first chapters of the Adi-Granth,
and the first chapters of the Dasama Padshah ka Granth, are read”16. The contents
are also important to Malcolm and he states the following,

The Dasama Padshah ka Granth of Guru Govind appears from the


extracts which I have seen of it, to abound in fine passages. Its author has
borrowed from the Sastras of the Brahmens and the Koran. He praises Nanac
as a holy saint, accepted of God; and grounds his faith, like that of his
predecessors, upon the adoration of one God; whose power and attributes he
however describes by so many Sanscrit names, and with such constant
allusions to the Hindu mythology, that it appears often difficult to separate his
purer belief from their gross idolatry17.

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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

Malcolm interestingly puts the Granth into context and also solves the problem that
many modern day scholars have regarding the attributive names for god whether it
is Bhavani, Chandi, or Ram etc18.

The history of Guru Gobind Singh’s battles is all narrated on the testimony of the
Bachitra Natak. This composition is referred to as being written by Guru Gobind
Singh and then put into the Dasam Granth19. The Bachitra Natak gives an,
“impression which Guru Govind gave his followers of his divine mission”20. The role of
the Bachitra Natak has been extensively used by Sikh writers in the 18th Century and
Malcolm also makes the same connection regarding the works importance21.

The translations of the Bachitra Natak seem very complete and hence begs the
question did Malcolm undertake these himself or did he obtain them from another
source. A perusal of the book tells us the answer to that. Malcolm testifies that he
has obtained a number of translations from his friend Dr Leyden. Malcolm states,

This slender stock of materials was subsequently much enriched by my


friend Dr Leyden, who has favored me with a translation of several tracts
written by Sikh authors in the Penjabi and Duggar dialects22.

The translations which Malcolm used were recently discovered in England23. His
learned friend Dr Leyden was indeed capable of translating various oriental texts as
he was trained in various dialects and languages of India. The translations of these
key texts in my opinion are the first English translations of any Sikh texts which
make the work even more significant. The importance of Sikh religion can only be
enriched by looking to the valuable contributions that were made by all visitors and
observers in the Punjab, whilst most Punjabi, Hindi and to some extent Persian
sources have been fully documented but there is scope for more work24

The use of Bachitra Natak within the Sketch is central to the way it is written.
Malcolm also undertakes analysis of the Bachitra Natak throughout his book. He
quite correctly notes that at the end of the Bachitra Natak that the composition
forms part of a larger text namely the Dasam Granth25.

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Whilst the use of the Bachitra Natak is significant in portraying the past glory of the
Khalsa it is the useful practice of the Dasam Granth which is of far more importance
to us. It is now imperative at this stage to look at the role of the Akali Nihangs
during this time period. Malcolm describes the vanguard army of the Sikhs in an
interesting way and gives us an important assessment of their practices. Looking at
the Sketch, the place of the Nihangs is given as “The Acalis, or never-dying (the
most remarkable class of devotees)”26, the attire and physical make up is summed
up by, “The disciples of Govind were required to devote themselves to arms, always
to have steel about them in some shape or other; to wear a blue dress”27. The Akali
Nihangs were the Sikhs who defended against the innovations of Banda Bahadur28.
In veneration to Akal Purkh, they are continuously, “exclaiming Acal! Acal!”29. The
term Akal is central to their thoughts and they “wear blue chequered clothes, and
bangles or bracelets of steel, round their wrists30”. As a result they recite verses in
praise of steel namely from the Akal Ustat of the Dasam Granth31. The Akali Nihangs
are not only the warrior vanguard but also the priestly class as well, they have, “sole
direction of the religious ceremonies at Amritsar32”, and they are, “leading men in a
council which is held at that sacred place, and which deliberates under all the
influence of religious enthusiasm33”. What is the name of this sacred Place? It is in
Amritsar but most importantly it is at the Akal Bunga (Takht)34 where the Akali
Nihangs assemble. So who is the chief of this visible and strong contingent of
warriors? Malcolm does not elaborate on this but we know from other sources that it
was one Akali Phula Singh. The descriptions given seem to suggest that the Akali
Nihangs held great power in the Punjab and hence must be the rulers but this is not
the case. At this time the ruler of Punjab is one Maharaja Ranjit Singh who holds the
Akali Nihangs in great esteem and to some extent is subject to their directions and
even punishments35.

Akali Phula Singh

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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

The Khalsa was devised to be a commonwealth of sorts and hence the formation of
the Panj Pyare36 which set in motions a committee to resolve common problems and
issues. The best term to describe this is probably a Gurmatta where all the Sikh
heads would meet to resolve there differences. According to Malcolm this Gurmatta
was a significant event in the Sikh calendar,

When Guru-mata or great national council, is called, (as it always is, or ought to be,
when any imminent danger threatens the country, or any large expedition is to be
undertaken) all the Sikh chiefs assemble at Amritsar. The assembly, which is called
the Guru-mata, is convened by the Acalis; and when the chiefs meet upon this
solemn occasion, it is concluded that all private animosities cease, and that every
main sacrifices his personal feelings at the shrine of the general good; and, actuated
by principles of pure patriotism, thinks of nothing but the interests of the religion,
and commonwealth, to which he belongs

When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated, the Adi-Granth and
Dasama Padshah ka Granth are placed before them. They all bend their heads
before these scriptures, and exclaim, Wa! Guruji ka Khalsa! Wa! Guruji ki
Fateh! A great quantity of cakes, made of wheat, butter, and sugar, are then
placed before the volumes of their sacred writings, and covered with a cloth.
These holy cakes, which are in commemoration of the injunction of Nanac, to
eat and to give to others to eat, next receive the salutation of the assembly,
who then rise, and the Acalis pray aloud, while the musicians play. The Acalis,
then the prayers are finished, desire the council to be seated. They sit down,
and the cakes being uncovered, are eaten of by all classes of Sikhs: those
distinctions of original tribes, which are, on occasions, kept up, being on this
occasion laid aside, in token of their general and complete union in one cause.
The Acalis then exclaim: "Sirdars! (Chiefs) this is Guru-mata!" on which
prayers are again said aloud. The chiefs, after this sit closer, and say to each
other: "The sacred Granth is betwixt us, let us swear by our scripture to
forget all internal disputes, and to be united." This moment of religious fervor
and ardent patriotism, is taken to reconcile all animosities. They then proceed
to consider the danger with which they are threatened, to settle the best

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Descriptions of the Dasam Granth - GS Mann

plans for averting it, and to choose the generals who are to lead their armies
against the common enemy37.

This information enriches our understanding of how the Akali Nihangs called these
Gurmattas and the purpose for doing so. More importantly the Adi Granth and
Dasam Granth are placed together and the entire congregation bows down to
them38. All the previous animosities are to be forgotten and the Sikhs are to be
united, the resolutions are taken in the presence of both Granths. This description
may suggest that the Ardas of the Sikhs is taking place and in some ways reflects
the modern day practice with the major exception being that in the past both
Granths were present. The discussion as to why this practice is no longer the case
deserves more attention and is beyond the scope of this paper but suffice to say that
when the Akali Nihangs held sway over the Sikh institutions the Dasam Granth was
an integral part of the Sikh psyche.

After the Anglo Sikh wars the Nihangs were deposed of their military and priestly
position which led to the Dasam Granth also suffering a decline in its role39. The
advent of the Singh Sabha movement also sidelined the prominence of the Dasam
Granth preferring a more Christian approach to Sikhism under the influence of the
British. It is more interesting to note that Takhts Patna Sahib and Hazhur Sahib
where the recitation and veneration of both Granths takes place there has been very
little change in the way of practice of upholding the values and precepts contained
within the Dasam Granth. In fact one of the earliest western sources on the Dasam
Granth refers to the recitation of the Dasam Granth at Patna40.

Recital of Adi Granth, Dasam Granth and Sarbloh Granth at Damdama41

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Malcolm does not refer to Ranjit Singh being at the Gurmattas but the examination
of how the Maharaja saw the Dasam Granth is also important. Ranjit Singh was keen
to be seen as a patron of the arts within his court and this included the preparation
of illustrated versions of the Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth. Many
manuscript copies of the Dasam Granth and various Pothis, Gutkas exist from the
18th Century but preparation of Illustrated Guru Granth and Dasam Granth
manuscripts starts taking a different formation during Ranjit Singh. Looking at
several manuscripts created during this time period we see that the Granths were
beautifully prepared for various patrons in India and abroad. On particular recension
is the MS Or. 6298, which is now in the British Library. The opening folios of this text
fits in with many manuscripts created during this time where illustrations are
arranged in the form of a lotus around a central portion of text with floral decoration
between the pictures42. This clearly shows the veneration and respect that was
accorded to the Dasam Granth. It should be made clear that the Dasam Granth was
an integral part of the Sikh psyche as mentioned earlier and another source tells us
how it was not just the Akali Nihangs who drew inspiration from having both Granths
together but the whole political and social system of Ranjit Singh’s Khalsa rule. One
source tells us the way in which the Granths received prominence at this time,

The maharaja maintained an elaborate establishment of Bhais (Sikh


priests), one or two of whom held the charge of every Sikh shrine in the
Punjab. There was a separate estate attached to every shrine, the produce of
which was enjoyed by the incumbent. He was always attended on his tours by
a priest with a volume of each of the two chief scriptures [Adi Granth and
Dasam Granth]. They were wrapped up in rich pieces of silk, placed in a cot
under a big canopy, and thus borne from one place to another. A special
military escort was provided, each member of which carried a Sikh banner.
The procession was often followed by a number of priests on elephants.
Besides this, every regiment had its own volumes of the Granths and religious
insignia. Even the ministers of state carried separate copies of the Granths on
their journeys43.

The patron of arts, Ranjit Singh was also patron of the Granths as can be seen
above. The respect given to the Granths in terms of them wrapped in silk, carried in
a cot and a military escort showed the prominence of the Granths. The idea of taking

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both Granths on journeys indicated that they were an integral part of Ranjit Singh’s
entourage and the number of Bhais employed also shows us the lengths the
Maharaja went to ensure that the words of the Guru was an inspiration to all
concerned.

Another interesting anecdote is a painting drawn by visitor to the court of Ranjit


Singh. The European traveler August Schoefft44, was present at the court for many
years. The picture shows what looks like two Granths sitting next to each other and
bani from them being read by a Granthi. The Maharaja is depicted in the scene
listening to the bani. Harimandir Sahib can be seen in the background and there are
members of the Akali Nihang also depicted in the scene as well.

Ranjit Singh listening to the Granths.

In isolation the Sketch by Malcolm, may not have not seemed consistent with other
reports but by considering other information on the Akali Nihangs and the reports of
Ranjit Singh we can see the accuracy of it. Malcolm has made a good assessment of
the Sikhs and in terms of the Dasam Granth has outlined much for researchers to
consider. He is aware of several compositions of the Dasam Granth as well of the
importance of the scripture in the Khalsa rituals and practices. As a person Malcolm
who was able to broker treaties and also write candidly and fairly about the Sikhs
which showed his true intentions. The descriptions of both the Adi Granth and the
Dasam Granth mirrored what was taking place within Amritsar with the Akali Nihangs
who were custodians of the practices since Guru Gobind Singh and Ranjit Singh who
was a loyal Sikh and patron of the arts. The Sketch sets a precedent for other writers
to follow but this was not taken up by other writers. Whilst other writers may have

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shown their distaste of the Sikh Scriptures and attempted to show the Granths as
being inferior to the bible, Malcolm showed that by careful analysis of the scriptures
and by looking at the practice of the Sikhs a truthful sketch was possible. It was not
a difficult task for Malcolm to understand the messages of the Guru but something
which poses a goliath task for Sikhs in modern times.

Notes

1
Here on referred to as the Sketch.
2
Bhai Mani Singh was not only the first Jathedar of the Harimandir Sahib but was responsible for setting
up various schools for disseminating Sikh thoughts this includes the Sato Wali Gali Taksal, in Amritsar.
The Dasam Granth recension attributed to Bhai Mani Singh is now in the house of Gulab Singh Sethi, New
Delhi. Baba Deep Singh was instrumental in the setting up Guru Gobind Singh Kashi in Damdama Sahib,
where some of the manuscripts were stamped with a certain seal. The Baba Deep Singh Gutka is kept at
Takht Damdama Sahib.
3
See information related to Guru Arjun Dev’s martyrdom by Jerome Xavier in, A Jesuit Account of Guru
Arjan’s Martyrdom, 1606, See Warrior Saints, Parmjit Singh and Amandeep Madra, (1999), London, p3-8.
4
Western Image of the Sikh Religion- A sourcebook, Ed, Darshan Singh, (1999), New Delhi, p xv
5
The Sketch of the Sikhs: A Singular nation who inhabit the provinces of the Punjab situated between the
rivers Jamnu and Indus, Lt Col Malcolm, (1812). The sketch first appeared in Asiatick Researches: Or,
Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, 11th Volume, Asiatic Society, (Calcutta, India), 1812.
6
Sketch, p2
7
The Nirmala’s eventually branched out to different parts of India including Haridvar, Allahabad and
Varanasi, where they established centres of learning that exist even today — Kankhal, near Haridwar;
Pakki Sangat at Allahabad; and Chetan Math and Chhoti Sangat at Varanasi. Their present head is Sri
Mahant Nam Dev Singh. They also revere the Dasam Granth as the work of Guru Gobind Singh.
8
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was head of the Sukkarchakkia Misl and in 1802 after fending off competitors for
the Punjab lands was declared Maharaja.
9
Recent research suggests that the Sikh army created during the time of Guru Hargobind was named Akal
Sena or Immortal Army however the formation of the an arming the Sikhs was created by Guru Arjun. See
Warrior Saints, Parmjit Singh and Amandeep Singh, (1999), London, p 5. When Guru Hargobind became
the 6th Guru the practices of the Sikhs took a different outward turn. The term Budda Dal (Akali Nihangs)
is attributed to Baba Budha a veteran Sikh who survived many Gurus’ and is credited for devising the
martial training for Sikhs. It was also during the religious reign of Guru Hargobind which first saw several
battles with the Mughal authorities. The Martial tradition was recreated at the time of the Khalsa with the
Sikhs having a unique relationship with weapons. The Nihangs Sikhs were the elite Sikhs who adorned
themselves with weapons. The corpus of literature created by Guru Gobind namely the Dasam Granth and
the Sarbloh Granth tells us the following 1) Weapons are equated with Akal Purakh 2) The role of weapons
in warfare 3) The compositions are to be recited in battle. The imprint of the term Akal is profusely used in
the Dasam Granth and its variation Kal, Sarb kal, Maha Kal, Kal Purakh.
10
Some writers have pointed out that the Dasam Granth as a scripture poses a problem due to its changing
name. The Granth was composed as the Bachitra Natak Granth and additional compositions namely Jaap,
Akal Ustat etc were added to the Dasam Granth as we now see. The Bachitra Natak Granth, Dasven
Patshah Ka Granth, Dasam Granth and Dasam Guru Granth mean the same thing just as Pothi Sahib,
Granth Ji, Adi Granth and Guru Granth Sahib means the same thing. Interestingly some 18th Century
Dasam Granth recensions bear the title of Granth Ji which is the name that was given to Guru Granth
recensions as well. Malcolm on page 31, states that the term Adi was added to Granth to distinguish it from
the Dasam Granth.
11
Sketch, p173. This is asserted again on page 55.
12
Ibid, 51
13
It is probable that Malcolm never read 18th century accounts of the Sikhs like Gursobha (written by
Sainapat, 1711), Bansavalinama (written by Chibber Singh, 1769), and Guru Kian Sakhian (written by

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Bhat Sarup Singh Kaushish, c 1780). These texts interpret the compositions of the Dasam Granth in view of
warfare and battle. There is no mention of these texts within the Sketch.
14
The idea of the compositions creating this kind of effect is referred to as Yudh Mai Bani. The Akali
Nihangs define the Dasam Granth as 1) Sansar Mai Bani 2) Amrit Mai Bani and 3) Yudh Mai Bani.
15
Ibid, 185. Either Malcolm is stating that the recitation of both Granths should take place every morning
and evening or more likely that composition from both Granths should be read twice a day.
16
Ibid, 182
17
Ibid, p 188
18
The attributive names of god with Hindu names are not only a feature in the Dasam Granth but in the Adi
Granth as well.
19
Sketch, p54
20
Ibid, 179. Malcolm clearly picks up the verses which refer to the Guru as having his mission ordained by
god and the words he writes are not his but god ordained as well.
21
Sainapat the author not only quotes profusely from the Bachitra Natak but the style of writing mirrors
that of the Bachitra Natak. In fact the most vivid details of Guru Gobind’s battles can only be obtained
from this composition.
22
Sketch, p 3
23
The works of Dr Leyden were recently discovered by Parmjit Singh of the UKPHA (United Kingdom
Punjab Heritage Association) in 2003 whilst researching for his book Siques, Tigers and Thieves (2004).
The works can be found at the British Library, held under the McKenzie Collection., Eur MSS Mack xl.
The McKenzie collection contains 1) Parts of 41st Var of Bhai Gurdas, 2) Parts of Bhagat Ratnavali
attributed to Bhai Mani Singh; 3) Gian Ratanwali( Sikhan De Bhagtamala) attributed to Bhai Mani Singh,
4) Kurka of Guru Gobind Singh, attributed to Nand. However Parmjit Singh did not make any analysis of
the works as this was beyond his scope at the time. These translations were passed to me in 2004, in the
same year I located in the British Library other works by Dr Leyden including a translation of the Prem
Sumarag Granth together with verses of Jaap Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh. A clear examination of
Leyden’s works tells us that Dr Leyden had spent much time translating not only Sikh texts but other
oriental texts as well. For further information on Dr Leyden, see Dictionary of Indian Biography, p251, by
CE Buckland, (1971).
24
The UKPHA in England is doing valuable a job in preserving Sikh heritage. The many projects in their
seven year history includes 1) Scanning many tracts from the 19th century and making them available on
the internet- www.punjabarchive.org 2)A News blog which catalogues articles on the Internet related to
Sikh Heritage- www.punjabheritage.org. The digitization and cataloguing of Punjabi Manuscripts held in
Private and Public collections in the UK-which is forthcoming. The author of this article has been involved
in projects No 2 and 3.
25
Sketch, p63
26
Ibid, p50
27
Ibid, p48
28
Malcolm is referring to the Tat Khalsa Sikhs (Real Sikhs) as Akali Nihangs. The tensions between the
Tat Khalsa and the Bandeis, (followers of Banda) were resolved by Bhai Mani Singh.
29
Sketch, p 116
30
Ibid,p117
31
Ibid, Malcolm quotes lines from the Akal Ustat.
32
Ibid
33
Ibid,p116. This assertion is also made by other writers as well. “A Sikh wishing to become a Singh finds
no difficulty in accomplishing his proselytism. He goes to the Akalees, or priest of the sect, at Amritsur
….after the performance of certain ceremonies he is given to drink a sherbet made of sugar and water, from
the hand of an Akalee. This extract is taken from Tour to Lahore,” The Asiatic Annual Register, vol. XI —
for the Year 1809. London: printed for T Cadell and W Davies, etc. (1811), pages 421-440.
34
Ibid, p118. Malcolm refers to it as Akal Bunga or ‘” Immortal abode”, which is the original name of what
we now call the Akal Takht. There was at the time of Malcolm writing many Bungas around the
Harimandir Sahib he refers to particularly to the Shaheed (Baba Deep Singh) and Nirmala Bungas. There is
one estimate that there was around 80 different Bungas at the end of the 19th century. The abodes were to
accommodate visitors but also places of elucidating the Sikh scriptures by different Sampradaya (The

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Udasis, Nirmalas, Sewapanthis and the Akali Nihangs). Also see Madanjit Kaur, The Golden Temple Past
& Present. Amritsar,(1983), p180
35
The famous anecdote given in Sikh history is that of Ranjit Singh marring a dancing girl. As a result of
this act the Mahahraja was subjected to lashings by Akali Phula Singh. It should also be noted that Akali
Phula Singh as well as being the deliverer of justice was also one of the finest Commanders in the
battlefield. The Maharaja on numerous occasions turned to the Alkali Nihangs to further his campaigns.
36
At the formation of the Khalsa on Baisakhi 1699 the Guru created the Sikh Baptismal ceremony whereby
he baptized five Sikhs called the Panj Pyare. It was at this time he stated that when five Sikhs sat together
and proclaimed an edict this should be seen as being the same as if the Guru was there.
37
Sketch, p120. According to Malcolm the first Guru-mata was assembled by Guru Gobind Singh; and the
latest was called in 1805, when the British army pursued Holkar into the Punjab.
38
Whilst the presence of both Granths being together may not seem a norm for the Sikhs these days it is a
practice which is followed by many. The Akali Nihangs to this day in there Gurudwaras house the two
Granths, together with the Sarbloh Granth. The School of Hermeneutics, the Damdami Taksal also houses
both Granths in their principal locations. The two Takhts of Sikh polity Patna Sahib in Bihar and Hazhur
Sahib in Nanden also continue this original practice. The recitation and taking Hukumnama’s from the
Dasam Granth also takes place there as part of their maryada. The Akal Takht also housed the Dasam
Granth until it was forcefully removed in the 1940’s. There has been also been Dasam Granth Akhand
Paths held at the Akal Takht in the last century.
39
A clear timeline can be drawn between the practice of the Dasam Granth and the position of the Akali
Nihangs. As the role and strength of the Akali Nihangs diminished so did the position of the Dasam Granth
in the religion. With the advent of the Singh Sabha Movement and the SGPC the Dasam Granth was
viewed with suspicion due to the predominately Hindu themes within in it.
40
Charles Wilkins, The Sicks and their college at Patna, 1st March 1781, Transactions of the Asiatick
Society. Calcutta: 1788), vol 1, pp 288-294.
41
Photo taken by author at Nihang Gurudwara, Damdama in 2006.
42
This manuscript belonged to Diwan Mulraj, the Governor of Multan and was obtained by the British in
the cities siege in 1849. The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms, Edited by Susan Stronge, London, 1999, p209, See
notes by Dr Jeevan Deol regarding MS Or.6298 who states its creation was between c1825-1840.
43
Ibratnama, by Mufti 'Ali ud-Din, Quoted from The Punjab as a Sovereign State (1799-1839), Gulshan
Lall Chopra, (1928), Lahore, p 204.
44
August Schoefft (1809-1888), was from Hungary. His famous paintings formed part of the Princess
Bamba collection at the Lahore Fort. The picture was recreated from a sketch he made in 1841. The Bamba
collection consists of 18 oil paintings, 14 water colours, 22 ivory paintings, 17 photographs, 10 metallic
objects and 7 miscellaneous articles.

* Bio
Gurinder Singh Mann is the first western writer on the Sri Dasam Granth and has a MA in South Asian
Religions from De-Montfort University, Leicester, UK. He recently showed his knowledge on the Subject
at the Sri Dasam Granth Sahib: International Seminar Series at Sacramento, USA. There he undertook a
presentation on the “300 year History of the Dasam Granth”. He is also writing a book on the Sri Dasam
Granth which will be in-depth history of the Granth showcasing the manuscripts and other important
accounts to be released late 2009.

ਸੰ ਤ ਿਸਪਾਹੀ, ਅਪੈਲ 2008 www.santsipahi.org