Manuscripts, History and the Guru Granth Sahib

Gurinder Singh Mann has been working on Sikh manuscripts since 1997 and this detailed and elaborate lecture shows his de...

The New Walk Museum, Leicester as part of the three hundred year celebrations is facilitating a number of lectures focusing on the Guru Granth Sahib. The Museum is the only one in the country (UK) which has dedicated a Sikh exhibition to commemorate this auspicious occasion. The second in the series of these lectures was undertaken on Tuesday 4 November 2008.

In the second part of the lecture series at Leicester Museum, Gurinder Singh Mann, Sikh historian from Leicester, UK presented a historical account of how the Granth Sahib was given the Guruship or Gurta-gadi.

The Sikh historian from the UK had already displayed his intellectual and literary credentials at the International Seminar Series on the Sri Dasam Granth in Sacramento, CA, earlier this year.

The lecture focused on how the manuscript tradition was important in understanding how the Guru Granth Sahib become the scripture it is now and how the Taksals (lit: mints) at Damdama and Amritsar were responsible for the propagation of the scripture. 

The lecture started with an overview on the religion of Sikhism and this followed by the introduction of the Ten Gurus, this was important as the lecture was aimed at non Sikhs and Sikhs alike. This was followed by the historian giving an overview on how the early Gurmukhi script was developed by showcasing some of the earliest Sikh manuscripts including the Guru Harshai Pothi and Govindwal pothis. The historian elaborated on the how the Gurmukhi script had developed in that time period.

Kartapuri Bir

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The Kartarpuri bir was elaborated on and the reasons as to why the Guru Arjun Ji had to prepare an authorized version of the Sikh scripture. The manuscript was described in terms of the pictorial style employed in the development of the manuscript. The Nishans of the Guru within it was a powerful reminder that we are lucky to have these imprints from the days of the Gurus.

However the historian was not finished with respect of the Gurus when he then showed a collection of manuscripts showcasing other Nishans of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh. This was continued by showing the stamp of Takht Damdama Sahib on various manuscripts which shows how the “Guru ki Kashi” has not been given its literary importance.

The historian has been researching the Sri Dasam Granth for many years and as a result he was able to give plausible explanations as to what was having in the Durbar of the Tenth Guru. The work of the poets was also discussed and the promotion of Gurmukhi within the Durbar was shown by the different types of writing still available today.

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The importance of Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Mani Singh in developing manuscripts of the Guru Granth Sahib gave the Sikhs the impetus to create more Granths based on the formulae developed by the Tenth Guru.

Gurinder also elaborated on what sources had explained how Guruship was given to the Guru Granth Sahib. This included several 18th century texts including Gurbilas Patshah Dasvin by Koer Singh and the Rehatnamas.

The range of Guru Granth Sahib manuscripts discussed included the Kashmiri style manuscripts, miniature sized Guru Granth Sahibs and the handwritten manuscripts of Baba Deep Singh.

As the key focus was on manuscripts and the fact that Gurinder was able to covey the idea of the Sikh religion, manuscripts and Gurta gadi to Sikhs and non Sikhs in a simple fashion is a credit to him.

Gurinder Singh Mann has been working on Sikh manuscripts since 1997 and this detailed and elaborate lecture shows his determination that Sikh history is maintained and showcased via lectures, websites and books. He is presently working on several projects within the UK and with various research teams in the Punjab.

The lecture ended with pictures of the Gurta Gadi celebrations in Nanded.

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