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Celebrating the declaration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib





Chicago, Oct. 19, 2008
Raj. Mago

Twenty five million Sikhs around the world, including about half a million in the US are celebrating the declaration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, (the Sikh Holy Scripture), as the Eternal Guru (spiritual guide) of the Sikhs as proclaimed by the Tenth and the last living Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh on October 20, in 1708 at Nanded, Maharashtra in India at the time of his passing.

The scripture then known as Adi Granth was first compiled by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, in 1604 in the city of Amritsar, Punjab India. It was finalized by the Tenth and the last living Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in the year 1705-6 at Damdama Sahib in Punjab India. Perhaps it is the only scripture of a major world religion compiled and authenticated by the founders of the religion.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib is regarded as The Shabad Guru: Word of God and a Living Personification of the Ten Sikh Gurus. Its adoration is an article of faith with the Sikhs.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib rests on a pedestal in a throne-like setting in congregation halls of every Sikh Gurdwara (place of worship). The visitors walk up to it in humility and pay their obeisance for the Divine Wisdom, and Blessings, before taking a seat in the congregation.

To Sikhs it offers a perfect set of values and a practical code of conduct for the way of life and the path to spiritual salvation. The extinction of the ego or self is the corner-stone of Sikhism. The Sikh philosophy is of action, deeds and consequences. It moves away from quietism, passivity, abstractions, and superstitions. A person finds fulfillment only by immersion in the sea of life. Thus, the path of renunciation, abdication, aloofness, flagellation etc. stand rejected. The emphasis is on shared communal experience, and on pragmatic, purposive and idealistic involvement.

God is omnipotent and omniscient. He is the Initiator and the End. He is Self-Creator and Self-Propeller. Guru Granth Sahib recognizes and honors the sanctity of all faiths and spiritual paths.

It passionately enunciates that the purpose of life is to know and fall in love with God and the way to know God is through righteous living, Naam Simran (meditating on God’s name), and Seva ( selfless service).

The contents of this 1430 page scripture is not stories or chapters, but all hymns and verses in praise of God, that could be sung in prescribed Indian classical musical ragas. Thirty one ragas are included. The words are known as Gurbani (utterances of the Gurus).

One of the greatest glories of the Guru Granth Sahib is its catholic character. It includes the compositions of Hindu bhaktas, Muslim divines, Sufi poets, high-born Brahmins and the proud Kashatriyas, as also of the so called lowly Shudras and the unlettered Jats.

It contains the compositions of the six Sikh Gurus: Nanak Dev, Angad Dev, Amar Das, Ram Das, Arjan Dev, and Teg Bahadur, and twenty Hindu saints (Namdev, Jaidev, Ramanand, Ravidas, Trilochan, and others) and Muslim Saints (Baba Farid, Bhagat Kabir) and others from various regions, castes, and spiritual traditions. Perhaps it is the only scripture of its kind which contains the hymns and utterances of a wide variety of saints, sages and bards of other religions. Of course, their hymns and couplets rendered in their own language and idiom find a ready accord to the Sikh Guru’s teachings.

The entire Gurbani whose printed version in its current format comes to 1430 pages is divided into 33 sections. While the first section comprises the soulful and inspiring song of the Japji composed by Guru Nanak as also a few selected pauris or couplets, the final section is collection of assorted verses including the shalokas and the swayyas of the bhattas. The remaining 31 sections are named after the well-known classical ragas such as sri, magh, gauri, gujri, devghandhari, dhanassari, bilawal, kedara, malhar, kalyan etc. The division, thus, is strictly based on Indian musicology. Furthermore, each psalm or song is preceded by a number (mohalla) which denotes the name of the composer-Guru from Guru Nanak onwards.

The major hymns-Japji (Guru Nanak), Anand (Guru Amar Das), Sukhmani (Guru Arjan Dev), Rehras (Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev) are widely recited solo and in congregation by the faithful as morning and evening prayers.

Written in Gurumukhi script, composed in some of the local Punjabi dialects, it was leavened with expressions from Punjabi, Khari Boli, Devnagri, Dakhni, Marathi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian and Arabic. Obviously, the idea of Guru Arjan Dev was to affirm the fundamental unity of all religions and regions. This was done at a time when the caste system in India had paralyzed the conscience of man.

The revolutionary egalitarianism which such a step symbolized became the creed of the Sikhs.
The event is being celebrated in all the Sikh Gurudwaras in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan etc. with seminars, spiritual reflections, and special congregations.