On this day 408 years ago, Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, installed the original (Adi) Guru Granth Sahib-- known until then as Pothi Sahib-- at a ceremony in Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar.
Guru Arjan had the Granth compiled by Bhai Gurdas and when complete, had it placed on a high pedestal. He then instructed Baba Buddha ji, the first granthi (custodian) of the Granth, to open the Guru Granth Sahib and share the first order of the day (Hukam) with the Sikhs present. Sikh tradition tells us that the first Hukam was from the Rag Suhi composed by the Fifth Nanak and is a celebration and a thanksgiving to Akal Purakh for aiding in completing this momentous task.
The formal installation of the Granth was to be a precursor to its installation as Eternal Guru in 1708 by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. It also served to give Sikhs a clearly marked religious icon, an authorized and sealed text that is the Infinite Wisdom.
Historically, the Granth is the first compiled copy of the present-day Guru Granth Sahib, excluding the bani of Guru Tegh Bahadar Sahib, the Ninth Nanak, which was scribed in later by Bhai Mani Singh under the guidance of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib.
This new version came to be known as Damdami Bir, as it was prepared at Damdama Sahib. It is this version of the Guru Granth Sahib that Guru Gobind Singh Sahib left to the Sikhs as sole Guru in 1708. The original Adi Granth is said to be with the descendants of Dhir Mal in Kartarpur, about 15km northwest of Jalandhar, Panjab, and is commonly referred to as the Kartarpur Bir.
The significance and purpose of compilation of the Adi Granth in the Sikh tradition is beautifully explained in the excerpt below:
Instructions on Adi Granth
Guru Arjan Sahib to Bhai Gurdas
The Guru, perfectly-endowed, withdrew into solitude,
And called Gurdas to his presence.
Seating him by his side, to him he revealed his purpose thus:
Listen, brother! To my wish.
Make the Granth into an ample volume,
And write it out in Gurmukhi characters.
In the Patti devised by Guru Nanak,
Are included thirty-five letters.
In these letters record the entire bani of the Gurus,
Which all may be able to study with ease,
Those that are greatly endowed with understanding,
Should study it more amply through their learning.
After a study and contemplation of many years,
May alone its essence be realized.
Such essence too in Gurmukhi should they express with hearts full of reverence.
In language that may be easy to follow,
Those endowed with learning express themselves
In Sanskrit and the Muslim [Persian and Arabic] tongues:
Over all such writing shall it spread soon,
As oily substance poured over water.
Householders engaged in daily labors, who have little learning,
Yet seek knowledge, may study it with ease.
By it shall be indicated a broad cartload on which those traveling, shall nowise stray.
Therefore, write you down the Gurmukhi letters,
That these over the wide world may get known.
Let those with faith read these with ease –
Thereby shall they learn contemplation of Almighty, Giver of Liberation.
Great is the merit of those letters,
That the world over shall be known as Gurmukhi.
These shall humanity see, read, write, and offer to these reverences;
And to annul their sins shall to these be devoted.
– Mahakavi Santokh Singh, Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, Ras 3, Ansu 41 (Stanzas 3-10)
The Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) works to produce tools and resources to help everyone develop a better relationship with the Guru Granth Sahib by engaging with its timeless wisdom. For example, SikhRI offers a full day workshop called “Sabad Asgah” as part of the Saneha program. This particular topic delves into the language, rags, interpretations systems, and other facets of the Guru Granth Sahib, so that participants can create, or strengthen, their relationship with the Guru.
This 1st September, let us reflect on the challenges faced by the Sikh community in the last month, and rededicate ourselves to the Guru Granth Sahib by engaging through the letters of Gurmukhi so that we may all “learn contemplation of the Almighty, Giver of Liberation.”
If anyone wishes to sponsor a Saneha workshop like “Sabad Asgah” in their area, please write to us at email@example.com or call 210-757-4555. Also, a donation in support of SikhRI’s work ensures that these programs will be available to Sikh communities all over the globe.
Can you make a gift to SikhRI today, in honor of this historic day – the first ceremonious opening of the Adi Granth? Your gift would do so much to support our work of enabling Sikh communities to rededicate and forge relationships with the Infinite Wisdom contained within the Guru Granth Sahib, including the development of a booklet on Sikhi that can be used during educational opportunities with non Sikhs. In light of the shootings in Wisconsin, resources like this are more necessary than ever and any gift you can make in support of its completion is greatly appreciated.
**Photo Used Courtesy of Panjab Digital Library.**