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Sri Takhat Harimandir Sahib Patna Sahib: A perspective of its History and Maryada
Sri Takht Harimandir Sahib Patna Sahib is
located in the state of Bihar, India and is seen as one of the holiest locations for the Sikhs. Whilst the majority of the Sikhs in India reside in the state of Punjab, there are numerous other areas where the Sikhs see as their home. The swelling of numbers in these sangats are not a modern phenomenon but based on historical reasons for residing there. The scope of this essay is to look at the importance of Patna in Sikh history and to source reasons as to the importance of the Takht and it’s Maryada as well. I will look at the Hukumnamas of the Gurus and also turn to western anecdotes which have been neglected or are not simply known about. These journals and accounts have not been widely used to make important assessments to the study and understanding of the Sikhs in Patna. I will endeavor to bring up this information in this essay. The main shrine at Patna is referred to as a Takht which gives its status as a political and religious centre. The other Takhts of Sikh polity are the Sri Akal Takht Sahib (Amritsar) 1, Takhat Sachkhand Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib,(N anden), Takht Keshghar Sahib, (Anandpur Sahib) and the Takht at Sri Damdama Sahib. The head of the Takht is named the Jathedar and this person plays the role of meeting with the Jathedars of the other Takhts in determining various Sikh issues and issuing edicts. The Jathedar of the Akal Takht Sahib is seen as the head of the Sikhs not only in India but the whole Sikh Diaspora. In recent times there have been challenges to the Akal Takht from Takht Patna Sahib and Takht Hazur Sahib in terms of what best represents the Sikh interests. We shall see if there is any validity in terms of some of the claims made by the Takht of Patna in terms of what power it has based on past history. The location of Bihar has been notable due to the reverence of the Lord Buddha who was believed to been born here and hence its prominence as a great place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The propagation of Buddhism was further cemented by the reign of the King Ashoka who converted to Buddhism. In terms of the first relationship between the Sikhs and Bihar goes back to the time of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru who visited Patna on his Udasis or “voyages”. These accounts are given in the Janamsakhis or “birth stories” of Guru Nanak. Bhai
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Gurdas who was a contemporary of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru wrote his Vars in relation to the Guru Granth Sahib in which he also refers to the Sikhs of Patna There are also several other Gurudwaras which are within the vicinity of the Takht which are associated with Guru Nanak2 and Guru Tegh Bahadur of the Sikhs.. The Takht and the neighboring Gurudwaras are all associated with the birth and early life of the tenth preceptor, Guru Gobind Singh. The important Gurudwaras at Patna together with the Takht are as follows: Maini Sangat3, Gobind Ghat4, Gurudwara Guru Ka Bagh5, and Handi Wali Sangat6. The interesting anecdotes which have been built up with the birth of the Tenth Guru Gobind Singh at Patna serve as a reminder of the importance of this place to the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna in December 1666 to his parents Mata Gujri and his father the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur. He was referred to as either Gobind Rai or more likely Gobind Das in his formative years as referred to in the ninth Gurus Hukumnamas and his own writings the Sri Dasam Granth7. The Guru in his own autobiography, Apni Katha of the Bachitra Natak8, also refers to this event, Now starts the birth description of the poet9. Chaupai My father moved towards east and there he took bath on various pilgrimage centres. Having reached Trveni (Prayag)10, he while offering charities, spent few days there. There I manifest myself as light (and my mother conceived me). I took birth in this world at the city of Patna 11. In his earlier years he was instructed in various arts and knowledge, most notably languages and even the knowledge of weapons or Shastarvidyia. Early sources on the young Guru’s life tells us the way this was done, Cleansing the weapons, wiping out the dust with a handkerchief, and then burning the incense before them with great interest and doing them obeisance without fail, constituted chief items in the child’s daily routine12 This respect for weapons would later mould the Sikhs into true Soldier Saints with the formation of the Khalsa in 1699. The Gurus knowledge of weapons would also be seen in his composition Shastar Nam Mala part of the Sri Dasam Granth13. The use of weapons within
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the Takht is alluded to later on in the paper. This early grounding and instructions by various tutors had set the Guru up for his future role as the tenth Guru. The area of Patna had become a prominent Sikh centre outside of the Punjab after the Ninth Guru had positioned this as prime location after he faced opposition to he tenure in the Punjab. The young Gobind is said to have stayed at this location until he was around 6 years of age14. The area of Patna is seen as a centre of Sikh prominence due to the evidence gleaned from the Hukumnamas or “letters of command”15 of Guru Tegh Bahadur. These Hukumnamas give us plenty of information in relation to the Sangat of Patna, including individual names and other pertinent factual information of the time of Guru Tegh Bahadur and the young Gobind. These Hukumnamas were sent after leaving Patna and the Guru taking tour of various areas in the East16.
It is important to take time to look at these Hukumnamas and see what information this gives us on the Patna Sangat. The first one we shall consider is the Hukumnama written to the whole Patna Sangat itself which starts with the invocation, “In the name of the True Guru…addressed to Bhai Dyal Das, Bhai Ram Rai, Bhai Durbari, and Bhai Chain Sukh”17. The letter continues
with the names of over 60 individuals being referred to within this letter and then specifics are referred to and the entire congregation of Patna. The Guru shall protect you. Repeat Guru’s name. You will make a success of your lives. The congregationists will flourish. The offerings of cloth sent through Bhai Mehar Chand and Bhai Kalyan Rai have reached us. The Guru shall add to the livelihood of the congregation. Patna is Guru’s home. The congregation is blessed.
The tone of the letter tells us that there is indeed a large congregation at Patna and that he has received offerings of cloth, for which he blesses the sangat. However most importantly the reference of Patna being the Guru’s home is indeed significant. Even more importantly several other Hukumnamas of the Guru again refers to Patna in the same way18. The propagation of Sikh thought by Guru Nanak was implemented when he undertook his udasis which was to make known his message to people throughout far lands. The Sikhs had set of a system of Manjis or Sikh dioceses to spread the word of the Gurus. Guru Tegh Bahadur was in a sense mirroring the work of the first Guru in terms of revisiting these important places. The love of the Sangats and his reference to Patna as his
home shows the importance of these distanced areas to the Guru. Even the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh was to refer to Nanden as his spiritual home when asked why he wanted to travel to the Deccan. We learn from another Hukumnama when the Guru was encamped at Monghyr, that Bhai Dyal Das (also referred to above) was probably the masand at the head of the congregation of Patna at the time, as he is referred to in the following way, “Let the congregation obey the instructions of Bhai Dyal Das as if they are from the Guru”19. The most important facts we see in the Patna Sangat is with the news of the birth of Gobind being received by Guru Tegh Bahadur, he states the following after naming individuals within the Sangat, …and the entire congregation of Patna, The Sikhs who have chosen God shall have their desires fulfilled. The expense incurred by the congregation on the jubilation at Gobind Das’ birth has changed into a blessing in the Guru’s court. The money has earned blessings of the Guru. The offerings sent earlier also earned the Guru’s blessings. Whosoever serves the Guru in future shall increase. A robe of honour has been sent. Patna is Guru’s home. The congregation is blessed20 It is quite clear that the Guru is happy with the birth of Gobind Das and the Patna Sangat whilst already significant is now given further praise hence giving further importance to this location. However this is not the only Hukumnama with a reference to the young Gobind, another also refers to the help provided by the sangat in looking after him, The Sikhs devoting themselves to the God will have their desires fulfilled. Patna is the home of the Guru. The congregation shall be succoured. The congregation serves Gobind Das Your service is blessed in the court of the Guru21. This Hukumnama continues with a request for welfare and supplies that are needed by the Guru. The continued need for the Sikhs to repeat the name of God and serve the Guru is again a continued theme within the Hukumnamas, when the Guru left his family in the company of the Patna Sangat the Guru blesses the congregation for their help, The Guru shall protect you. Those of the Sikhs who have repeated Waheguru
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(God) will have their desires Fulfilled through the Guru. We have travelled to the beyond along with the Raja And have left our family in Patna. The Sikhs who have repeated Waheguru, should do service. A paisa given to the Guru shall be rewarded with a Mohar of blessing. Now is the time for the congregation to serve the Guru. Sikh who serves shall have his livelihood blessed. It is time to serve the Guru. Lodge our family in a fine, large mansion. The Guru shall bless the livelihood of the Congregation22. The information tells us that his family, his consort Mata Gujri and young Gobind be housed in adequate surroundings. The future Guru is indeed intended for future glory so the young Guru is to be given all the comforts that he deserves. The role of Hukumnamas with regards to the Patna Sahib continues with Guru Gobind Singh and his consorts. One of these being sent by Mata Sundri dated 1730 shows the connection of the Patna sangats with the house of the Guru long after his death23. Whilst the Janamsakhis tells us the role of Guru Nanak in Patna and the Hukumnamas tell us about the importance of the Sangat there is nothing in terms of how the Gurudwaras function and how the Maryada of the Sikhs is kept. In order to know more about the Sikh Maryada at Patna we can turn to some intriguing sources from western sources. 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 160624, 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. According to Ved Prakash (1981)25, if these accounts “about the Sikhs of Bihar that appeared
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in the form of articles in some journals from the pen of Europeans, the history of Bihar would have been completely devoid of all information about the important part played by the Sikh community in Bihar”. One such account which gives us importance detail of Patna and its importance in the 18th Century is by Charles Wilkins who happened to come across the Patna sangat by chance on route from Calcutta to Benares. Charles Wilkins was an eminent British orientlist who had a great knowledge of various languages including Sanskrit. He later published translations of Hitopdesha and the Shakuntala as well as the Bhagvad Gita. He was fluent in Persian and later edited the Persian and Arabic dictionary. However our concern is with a paper that Wilkins wrote for the Asiastic Society on 1st March 1781. The account was titled “The Seeks and their college at Patna” which was the first western account explaining the Maryada of the Sikhs in a befitting way. The account was written published in the Transactions of Asiatick Society in 1788. However it was not until Dr Ganda Singh the eminent Sikh historian rediscovered it in the late 1930’s that it saw the day of light for the Sikhs, in his “Early European Accounts of the Sikhs”26. Wilkins in his introductory letter to the Asiatick Society tells us that BEFORE I left Calcutta, a Gentleman, with whom I chanced to be discoursing of that sect of people who are distinguished from the worships of Brãhm, and the followers of MAHOMMED by the appellation Seek, informed me that there was a considerable number of them settled in the city of Patna, where they had a College for teaching the tenets of their philosophy. As Patna was in my way to Banaris, I no sooner arrived there than I inquired after the College, and I was presently conducted to it; and I now request you will please to lay before the Society, the few observations and inquiries which a single visit of about two hours would admit of my making27. What Wilkins tells us is that this was an unscheduled stop to visit Patna in what he calls the “College”. He clearly notices the differences in the belief system of the Sikhs compared with the Hindus and Muslims of the day. The early reproductions of this account have tried to decipher as to what is meant by college. Indeed what a western definition of what a college represents to that of the Indian one would most likely to differ. Early Gurudwaras or Dharamsalas did actually have Pathshalas or centers of
learning within them. However I am inclined to see that the actual College may have been some form of Taksal or literally mint as per the centres set up by Guru Gobind Singh in the Punjab. As the Guru has been a formidable poet and has ensured that patronage of the Poets within his own Durbars and also being credited with setting up a Taksal in the area of Damdama28. The actual description starts with how Wilkins locates the Gurudwara, he states, I FOUND the College of the Seeks, situated in one of the narrow stress of Patna, at no very considerable distance from the Custom-house. I was permitted to enter the outward gate, but, as soon as I came to the steps which led up into the Chapel, or public hall, I was civilly accosted by two of the Society. I asked them if I might ascend into the hall29. It is unclear what is the exact location of what Wilkins is describing in terms of whether it is the where the main Takht stands today or one of the other Gurudwaras in the vicinity previously described. Our attempt to decipher the location is further disrupted by the fact that the main Takht was rebuilt in the 1830’s by the Maharaja of Punjab; Ranjit Singh after a fire had destroyed most of the Takht30. There was another calamity to the fall on the Takht itself when an unfortunate earthquake struck Bihar destroying much of the main structure31. However there is strong evidence to suggest that Wilkins may have been referring to the Takht itself, the simple evidence for this is that he was given directions to a Gurudwara in Patna, as a foreigner he must have been given the location of the main place in Patna as opposed to any other of associated Gurudwaras. Also his description of the Gurudwara is that of something majestic and descriptions befitting a main centre of learning and preaching. The account continues with several interesting observations which seem to be very modern in their description. Wilkins states that, They said it was a place of worship open to me and to all men; but, at the same time, intimated that I must take off my shoes. As I consider this ceremony in the same light as uncovering my head upon entering any of our temples dedicated to the Deity, I did not hesitate to comply, and I was then politely conducted into the hall, and seated upon a carpet, in the midst of the assembly, which was so numerous as almost to fill the room32.
This practice of entering a Gurudwara without shoes continues today and the main philosophical notion of the Gurudwara being open to all stands current in modern times. In fact there further descriptions which would again seem consistent with modern Sikh practices, The congregation arranged themselves upon the carpet, on each side of the hall, so as to leave a space before the altar from end to end. The great book [Guru Granth Sahib]33, desk, and all, was brought, with some little ceremony from the alter, and placed at the opposite extremity of the hall. An old man, with a revered silver beard, kneeled down before the desk with his face towards the altar; and on one side of him sat a man with a small drum, and two or three with cymbals. The book was now opened, and the old man began to chant to the time of the drum and the cymbals; and, at the conclusion of every verse, most of the congregation joined chorus in a response, with countenances exhibiting great marks of joy. Their tones were by no means harsh; the time was quick; and I learnt that the subject was a Hymn in praise of the unity, the omnipresence, and the omnipotence, of the Deity34. I was singularly delighted with the gestures of the old man: I never saw a countenance so expressive of infelt joy, whilst he turned about from one to another, as it were, bespeaking their assents to those truths which his very soul seemed to be engaged in chanting forth. The Hymn being concluded, which consisted of about twenty verses, the whole congregation got up and presented their faces with joined hands towards the altar, in the attitude of prayer. A young man now stood forth; and, with a loud voice and distinct accent, solemnly pronounced a long prayer or kind of liturgy, at certain periods of which all the people joined in a general response, saying Wã Gooroo!35 They prayed against temptation; for grace to do good; for the general good of mankind; and a particular blessing to the Seeks: and for the safety of those who at that time were on their travels. This prayer was followed by a short blessing from the old man, and an invitation to the assembly to partake of a friendly feast. The book [Guru Granth Sahib]was then closed and restored to its place at the altar36. This description tells us most importantly that the Guru Granth Sahib was brought to the front of the Gurudwara and certain passages are read and then the Ardas is read out. The whole congregation gets up as with folded hands and seeks blessing to the whole sangat.
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The whole ceremony ends with a “friendly feast” but what is Wilkins alluding to here, he states, two men entered bearing a large caldron, called a Curray37, just taken from the fire, and placed it in the center of the hall upon a low stool. These were followed by others with five of six dishes, some of which were of silver, and a large pile of leaves sewed together with fibres in the form of plates…. It was a kind of sweetmeat, of the consistence of soft brown sugar, composed of flower and sugar mixed up with clarified butter, which is called Ghee. Had not the Ghee been rancid I should have relished it better 38 The description now moves in the offering of the Prashad or sacrament to the congregation the actual use of flour, sugar and butter pertains to the way Prashad is distributed in modern times. These remarkable descriptions made in 1781 tell us that many of the principles or Maryada conformed to in the late 18th century in Patna far removed from the Punjab was remarkable similar to what we see in the Gurudwara setting in the present day. Whilst there has been reformations with the Singh Sabha Movement and the coming of the SGPC (Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee) much of the maryda has remained unchanged. This brings us to another description that Wilkins makes which sheds light on the reverence and recital of the Sri Dasam Granth. Whilst in most Gurudwaras the Guru Granth Sahib is given absolute authority in terms of veneration, there was a practice started in the 18th century giving authority to the writings of Guru Gobind Singh as well. THEY told me further, that some years after this book of Naneek Sah had been promulgated, another made its appearance [Sri Dasam Granth], now held in almost as much esteem as the former39. The name of the author has escaped my memory; but they favored me with an extract from the book itself in praise of the Deity. The passage had struck my ear on my first entering the hall, when the students were all engaged in reading. From the familiarity of the language to the Hindoovee, and many Shanscrit words, I was able to understand a good deal of it, and I hope, at some future period, to have the honor of laying a translation of it before the Society. They told me I might have copies of both their books, if I would be at the expence of transcribing them40. The appearance of the second Granth according
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to Wilkins was given a similar reverence to the Guru Granth Sahib. This description concurs with a description given by a Sikh authority Keshar Singh Chibbar, in his Bansavlinama (1769) who also states that both Granths were of an equal nature and were both deemed as Guru. The Granth was important enough for the Sikhs to recite verses for Wilkins. However as this centre was also a Taksal whereby the Sangat were learning the Sikh scriptures students were reading passages from the Granth when Wilkins entered the Takht. This interesting observation again mirrors the modern day practice at the Takht in Patna. The Takht houses both the Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth. This practice derives its root from the 18th century and again it shows how little has changed in terms of the Maryada. Interestingly the Takht at Hazur Sahib also houses both Granths. So what about the Akal Takht? The Sri Dasam Granth does not appear at the Takht in Amritsar but it was regularly recited from until the 1950s’. It was forcibly removed by the coming of the SGPC. Another anecdote with regards to the practice and recitation of the Sri Dasam Granth at the Akal Takht was made in 1805 by Lt Col Malcolm which is corroborated by the Maryada of the Akali Nihangs under the leadership of Akali Phula Singh and the practices of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh41. The language of the Sri Dasam Granth, Wilkins recognizes due to the various words being in Hindi and Sanskrit which agrees with the literary make up of the Sri Dasam Granth. There does not seem to be any evidence that Wilkins was able to obtain copies of the Granths and for him to make any translations42. The description of the Granths at Patna is remarkable in the sense that another visitor to the Takht also notes the presence of the Sikh scriptures in a similar fashion. This description written over a hundred years after Wilkins shows the same continuity in Maryada. Monier Williams writing in his “Religious thought and Life In India” in 1883 states, The temple dedicated to the tenth Guru Govind, at Patna, was rebuilt by Ranjit Singh about forty years ago. I found it, after some trouble in a side street, hidden from view and approached by a gateway, over which were the images of the first nine Gurus, with Nanak in the centre. The shrine is open on one side. Its’ guardian had a high-peaked turban encircled by steel rings
(cakra)43, used as weapons. He was evidently an Akalior ‘worshipper of the timeless god’- a term applied to a particular class of Sikh zealots who believe themselves justified in putting every opponent of their religion to the sword…on one side of the recess-supposed to be the actual room in which Govind was born more than two centuries before-were some of his garments and weapons, and what was once his bed, with other relics, all in a state of decay. On the other side was a kind of low altar, on which were lying under a canopy a beautifully embroidered copy of the Adi-Granth and the Granth of Govind. [Sri Dasam Granth]. In the centre, on a raised platform were a number of sacred swords, which appeared to be as much objects of worship as the sacred books44. The guarding of the Takht by the Akali Nihang order was something which differed from Wilkins account but many other similarities can be seen. Wilkins also notes that there was a presence of weapons at the Takht including a Shield and sword present in his account, “A little room, which, as you enter, is situated at the left hand end of the hall, is the chancel, and is furnished with an altar covered with a cloth of gold, upon which was laid a round black shield over a long broad sword”45. The relevance of weapons at the Takhts is a special feature which differs from how weapons are layed out in Gurudwaras. Some of the above descriptions give us an idea of some of the relics that were seen at the Takht, we turn now to what is may be seen by vistors who now visit it. There is a indeed a large collection of various artifacts related to Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Tegh Bahadur as well as some special manuscripts of the Sikh scriptures. The Hukumnamas discussed in the first part of the essay are also kept at the Takht46. The Takht houses many manuscripts of the Guru Granth Sahib and the Sri Dasam Granth as well. Unfortunately as they are not in any particular order, many individuals inspecting the Granths have described and labeled them incorrectly. This has led to some unfortunate conclusions on their findings in scholars’ research. One important Guru Granth manuscript possibly written during the time of the Guru Gobind Singh exhibits the tradition of fine calligraphy and illumination. The Guru Granth Sahib has a folio with Nisan or signature of Guru Gobind Singh. The Granth has Gold and colours on pa-
per; folio size 360 x 283mm, illumination size 256 x 193mm. The decorated floral design is something to behold and shows the length that the scribes went to ensure that all particular details were illuminated. There is a tradition associated with the signed copy of the Guru Granth Sahib referred to as Bare Sahib. On anecdote states that the Guru Granth Sahib was taken to Punjab and the Granth was signed by the Guru. The tradition of having manuscripts brought to the Durbars of Guru Gobind Singh to get them signed still needs further work however suffice to say there is various manuscripts which bear the Nishan of Guru Gobind Singh47. There is a manuscript of the Sri Dasam Granth which also deserves consideration. It is important in the sense that the internal dating shows that it was written during the time of the Guru, this resolves some of the recent issues surrounding the authenticity of the Granth. The Granth has a dating of 169848, which was written one year before the formation of the Khalsa. The content also shows the omission of the historic Zafarnama which was written several years later in 1704. The introductory paragaraph also states that the Granth is “Patshah Dasvin Ji ka Granth”, or Granth of the Tenth Master49. This importance information puts the whole recent Sri Dasam Granth textual issues to rest. There are many other manuscripts kept at the Takht and a closer examination will hopefully help to resolve any other textual issues that may arise. So clearly from the above descriptions we can see that Patna has long played a role in Sikh affairs from when Guru Nanak visited the area through the birth of Guru Gobind Singh and the continuation with the relationship with the Guru’s consorts. Later we see that the Maryada of Takht at Patna Sahib as described by Charles Wilkins was remarkable similar to what we see know. His descriptions give us much to think about in terms of the past and how the rituals we see today are based on the past. The importance attached to the Takht by Ranjit Singh in terms of providing funds to rebuild it is also noted. The acknowledgement of the Sri Dasam Granth at the Takht in the 18th Century also put the role of the Granth in perspective. The different artifacts kept at Patna Sahib including the manuscripts were valued by the sangat and helps us solve other issues as well. Recent declarations of Sikh sovereignty by the Takht at Patna is not made in isolation and should be viewed in how the role of
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the Takht as been seen as per Sikh history. (Endnotes) 1 The Takht at Amritsar was originally known as Akal Bunga or “House of God” and was created by Guru Hargobind the sixth Guru of the Sikhs. The idea behind the Takht was to create a difference in Sikh thought between spiritual and temporal affairs, where as Harimandir Sahib was seen as the spiritual centre the Akal (Takht) Bunga was to be arena where Sikh temporal affairs would be resolved. 2 Gurudwara Gai Ghat. 3 This Gurudwara is associated with the time the young Guru Gobind played at the residence of Raja Fateh Chand Maini and his wife. There are several aretefacts related to the Guru at this Gurudwara. 4 This Gurudwara is associated with the young Guru throwing away his gold bangle into the Ganges nearby hence showing the futility of world items. It is also associated with the young Guru bringing mental peace to Pandit Shiv Dutt. 5 This Gurudwara is associated with Guru Tegh Bahadur resting here after his Udasis of Assam and before seeing Gobind for the first time. The house was owned by Nawab Rahim Rhan, and known as Nawab Ka Bagh but parts of it was donated to the Guru and hence it also has large gardens within the area. See Safarnama and Zafarnama, Giani Isha Singh Nara, (1985), New Delhi, p 6-7 6 Located 16 miles north of Patna, near the River bank. Tradition narrates that the young Gobind and family rested here with the rest of his family before they travelled to Anandpur. The house was kept by a lady named Jamni who served Kichri, rice boiled with splitted pulse to them. After they left she turned the house into a Gurudwara and hence even now they serve Khichri as Prasad. 7 Two Hukumnamas of Guru Tegh Bahadur refer to the young Gobind as Gobind Das. See Guru Tegh Bahadur: Prophet & Martyr, Delhi-1967. Also see Ram Avatar, Sri Dasam Granth. 8 The Sikh religion is privileged to have an actual life account as written by their spiritual teachers. In the history of world religions this is rarely seen. The Apni Katha of the Bachitra Natak which forms part of the Sri Dasam Granth since the late 17thCentury has been the source work of Sikh religion regarding the Guru’s early
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life, mission and a vivid account of the battles fought by him. See Bachitra Natak, 9 As the Guru is writing his own account he is referring to his birth as he is also the poet. 10 The city of Prayang is in Allahabad. It is referred to as triveni since the three rivers i.e. Ganga, Jamuna and the Saraswati merge into one here. 11 Dr Dharam Singh and Dr Jodh Singh. Sri Dasam Granth Sahib : Text and Translation, Patiala, (1999), Vol, p 165 12 This is quoted in The Sikhs In Bihar, Dr. Ved Prakash, (1981), Patna, p82. This book has a forward by Dr Ganda Singh. This work was originally a PHD thesis undertaken by Dr Prakash which was completed in 1963. He quotes from two main 18th century sources on Guru Gobind Singh preserved in the Gurbilas styled commentaries namely, Gurbilas Patshahi Das written in 1751 by Koer Singh and Gurbilas Patshah Dasvin by Bhai Sukha Singh in 1797. 13 It is pertinent to add that the writings of Guru Gobind Singh known as the Sri Dasam Granth written entirely by him have a warrior strain throughout. The terms and usage of weapons throughout the various compositions points to this conclusion. 14 There is differing accounts as to what age he left Patna Sahib with 6 and 9 being the favoured ages. 15 The Hukumnamas of the Sikh Guru’s give us information on how they conducted their affairs with the various Sikh sangats that had been established. 16 The Hukumnamas that were sent by Guru Tegh Bahadur are not dated unlike that of Guru Gobind Singh’s and his consorts. 17 Hukumnama 21, Hukumnamas of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Sabinderjit Singh Sagar, (2002), Amritsar, p 125. Here on referred to as Hukumnamas. 18 Hukumnama 23, 24, and in number 25 this is mentioned twice, Hukumnamas 19 Hukumnama 22, Hukumnamas, p 126 20 Hukumnama 24, Hukumnamas, p 128 21 Hukumnama 25, Hukumnamas, p 129 22 Ibid 23 Mata Sundri’s letter sent to the sangat of Patna and Rakabganj. See Prakash, (1981),p 138-139 24 See information related to Guru Arjun Dev’s martyrdom by Jerome Xavier in, A Jesuit Account of GuruArjan’s Martyrdom, 1606, See Warrior Saints,
Parmjit Singh and Amandeep Madra, (1999), London, p38. 25 Prakash, (1981), p2. 26 This account has also recently been reproduced in “Siques, Tigers or Thieves: Eyewitness Accounts of the Sikhs (1606-1809): Eyewitness Accounts of the Sikhs (1606-1810), Edited by Amandeep Singh Madra, Parmjit Singh. The description in this book is referred to as, “Visit to the Takht at Patna, 1781”. Here on referred to as Visit to the Takht. I have made use of all the various versions in terms of making an assessment on the account by Wilkins. 27 Ibid, p 293 28 The Sikh organisation the Damdami Taksal derives their origins from the original Taksal at Damdama. Baba Deep Singh, the legendary Sikh warrior was said to be instrumental in ensuring the functioning and flourishing of the Taksal whereby the Sikh scriptures of the Guru Granth Sahib and Sri Dasam Granth were copied and sent to other locations. 29 Visit to the Takht, Ibid, 294 30 Prakash, (1981), p 99. States that there is a black stoned slab of Ranjit Singh’s time bearing an inscription in the western gate of the Takht, establishing that there had been a fire and as a result the Takht was renovated. 31 Ibid, 97. The earthquake hit in 15th January 1934 but the main renovations were not completed until 1935. The new changes to the Takht completely changed the structure and style of the Takht created by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. This unfortunate practice has been happening throughout India in recent times with many original architectural and frescoes being removed in the name of modernity. 32 Visit to the Takht, p 294 33 Wilkins clearly states denotes to the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. He also states that “a great book of a folio size, from which some portions are daily read in their divine service. It was covered over with a blue mantle, on which were printed, in silver letters, some select passages of their law”. Ibid. 34 Akal Purkh 35 The Ardas or supplication preformed at the start and ending of Sikh recitations and ceremonies. 36 Visit to the Takht, ibid 37 Literally Karahi or a large cauldron.
Visit to the Takht, p295 The descriptions given by Ganda Singh and Amandeep Madra/Parmjit Singh concur this is a reference to the Sri Dasam Granth. 40 Ibid41 For an assessment of the praxis of the Sri Dasam Granth that Lt Malcolm witnessed in the Punjab see my, Descriptions of the Dasam Granth from the “Sketch of the Sikhs” in view of Sikh History, Sant Siphai, May 2008. 42 However at the start of the 1800’s Dr Leyden made some of the first English Translations of Sikh writings this included; Bachitra Natak from the Sri Dasam Granth and the Prem Sumarag Granth. I discovered the latter translations in the British Library in 2004. 43 These Chakras are an important part of the Akali Nihang dress. However they also formed part of the numerous weapons that the group adorned. In the Akali Nihang Dumalla (Turban), the Chakras are intertwined with other small weapons and the original Sikh insignia of the Ad Chand. 44 Monier Williams, Religious thought and Life In India, pt 1, (1883), London, pp 174-175. 45 Visit to the Takht, p 294 46 A list of some of the artifacts which are present at the Takht is as follows: Pangura Sahib, small cradle with 4 stands and covered with golden plates in which Guru Gobind Singh used to sleep during his childhood; Saif, sword of Guru Gobind Singh; four iron arrows; an earthen round or goli, a small iron chakri (quoit) ; one small iron Khanda; a small iron Bagh Nakh Khanjar (leopard claw), a wooden comb, two iron iron chakkars (quoit); a pair of ivory sandals of Guru Gobind Singh, a pair of sandalwood sandals of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Chhabi Sahib a rare painting of the Guru. See Prakash, (1981), p 125. 47 Manuscript kept with Dr Anurag Singh, Director ‘Sikh Itihas Board’, SGPC, in Ludhiana bears the signature of the Guru at the front of the Granth and within the verse attributed to the Tenth Master. The Guru Granth Sahib which was carried as part of the Jagriti Yatra of the 300 sal celebrations also contains the Nishan of the Guru. 48 1755 Bikrami. Opening folio. 49 See Sri Dasam Granth Beerh, 1698, in Sant Siphai, June 2008.
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