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Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), the holy scripture and eternal Guru of the Sikhs has a standard layout totaling 1430 pages. The numbering system of the hymns called Shabads is such as to obviate the possibility of insertions or deletions. Its compilation was accomplished in two stages. The first version, called Pothi Sahib sometimes also called Aadi Guru Granth Sahib(AGGS) containing the Banis (compositions), of the first five gurus, saints andbards was completed by Guru Arjun, the fifth Sikh Guru in 1604 CE. The final version was completed in 1708 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru by adding the Bani of Guru Tegh Bahadur, his father and the ninth Guru. SGGS was anointed Guru before the tenth Guru spiritually merged in the Divine.

While the authenticity of the scripture is not questioned the process of its compilation has been the subject of considerable discussion. The traditional view is that the Banis, including the collected compositions of saints and bards were passed down the line, from the first to the fifth by successive gurus. Passing on of the Banis was considered the sign of anointment.

However certain collections of hymns exist in other volumes and some scholars are of the view that they are the sources from which Pothi Sahib was compiled. In this regard two sets of Pothis, namely the Guru Har Sahai Pothi and the Mohan or Goindval Pothis are mentioned in addition to some others. Some scholars are of the view that Mohan Pothis were transcribed from the Guru Har Sahai Pothi.

The Pothis have been examined by some scholars but it is a pity that efforts have not been made to verify whether their inferences conform to what is contained in SGGS. This will be clear as we proceed.

In order to take a considered view it is necessary to determine how the Banis of the gurus were collected, preserved and compiled along with the writings of saints and bards. This is necessary because after all these Pothis are not the original writings of the gurus. They, including the Guru Har Sahai Pothi, have been transcribed from the originals which are not talked about.

Was it that those who wanted to show the importance of the Pothis destroyed them or they are lying somewhere? It is hard to say.

However it is possible to put together a credible picture based on what is contained in SGGS and Vaars of Bhai Gurdas, a reliable contemporary source.

It is accepted that writing of Pothi Sahib was done by Bhai Gurdas under supervision of Guru Arjun the fifth Guru. Bhai Gurdas also composed his own writings in the form of Vaars and Kabits covering a variety of topics including historical events. Guru Arjun had described them as the key to understanding of Gurbani, the name given to the contents of SGGS.

Guru Nanak, the first Guru, had undertaken extensive journeys within India and to foreign lands where he interacted with the followers of other faiths. Bhai Gurdas says about the Guru’s visit to the Muslim pilgrim center of Meccain Saudi Arabia:

ਬਾਬਾਫਿਰਿ ਮੱਕੇ ਗਇਆ ਨੀਲ ਬਸਤ੍ਰ ਧਾਰੇ ਬਨਵਾਰੀ ।
ਆਸਾਹਥਿ ਕਿਤਾਬ ਕਛਿ ਕੂਜਾ ਬਾਂਗ ਮੁਸੱਲਾ ਧਾਰੀ ।
Guru Nanak then went to Mecca wearing the blue dress of the Muslim pilgrims;
He had a staff in hand, a book under his armpit, a metal jar and a prayer mat (Vaar I, Pauri32)

He further describes the following conversation with the Muslim pilgrims:

ਪੁਛਨਿਫੋਲਿ ਕਿਤਾਬ ਨੋ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਵਡਾ ਕਿ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨੋਈ ।
ਬਾਬਾਆਖੇ ਹਾਜੀਆ ਸੁਭਿ ਅਮਲਾ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਦੋਨੋ ਰੋਈ ।

The pilgrims asked Guru Nanak to search his book and say which faith is greater, Hindu or Muslim;
Guru Nanak told the pilgrims that without good deeds both would suffer (Vaaar 1,Pauri 33).

This shows Guru Nanak carried with him a book in which he used to record his Bani.

He appointed his devotee Bhai Lehna to succeed him as the second Guru and gave him the name Angad. The transition from the first to the second Guru is described in SGGS as follows:

ਗੁਰਿ ਚੇਲੇ ਰਹਰਾਸਿ ਕੀਈ ਨਾਨਕਿ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਥੀਵਦੈ ॥
ਸਹਿ ਟਿਕਾ ਦਿਤੋਸੁ ਜੀਵਦੈ ॥੧॥  ਬਲਵੰਡ ੯੬੬
Guru Nanak when still alive paid obeisance to his disciple;
The Master gave him the mark of guruship in his life time.1. (Balwand, p 966).

In the above verse the word used for sign is Tikka which means a mark on the forehead. In Hindu practice this mark is of saffron and is called Tilak. As this does not accord with Sikh teachings it must mean something else. As we shall see below this actually means passing of the Shabad or Gurbani to the next guru.

Bhatt Keerat says:

ਨਾਨਕਿਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਜਾਨ੍ਯ੍ਯਉ ਕੀਨੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥
ਤਾਤੇ ਅੰਗਦੁ ਅੰਗ ਸੰਗਿ ਭਯੋ ਸਾਇਰੁ ਤਿਨਿ ਸਬਦ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਕੀ ਨੀਵ ਰਖਾਈ ॥    ਕੀਰਤ ੧੪੦੬
Guru Nanak had understood the Naam (virtues) of the impeccable Lord and meditated with devotion.

From him Guru Angad became the poet and foundation of the relationship between the Word and consciousness was laid (Keerat, SGGS, p 1406).

The foundation was thus laid for transfer of Shabad and consciousness to the successor guru.

Accordingly before shedding his mortal frame Guru Nanak passed on his writings and the collected compositions of the saints to his successor Guru Angad.

Guru Angad in turn passed on the collection along with his own compositions to Guru Amar Das the third Guru. The latter added his own compositions to the collection.

Now comes the contentious stage.

Guru Amar Das had two sons Mohan and Mohri in addition to a daughter Bibi Bhani. Being the elder son Baba Mohan aspired to succeed his father as the fourth guru. However Guru Amar Das thought otherwise, nominated his son-in- law, Bhai Jetha, to be the fourth Guru and called him "Ram Das."

Baba Mohan seems to have sensed this in advance and was jealous of Bhai Jetha. It is believed that he laid his hands on the collected compositions including those of his father. They were not made available to Guru Amar Das for handing over to the fourth Guru on transfer of guruship. The books containing the Banis were called Mohan Pothis after his name. It is also stated that the fourth Guru handed over only his own compositions to his youngest son Arjun when he anointed him as the fifth Guru.

According to the above stories, Guru Arjun, only had the compositions of his father, his own and those of the bards which were presented to him. So when he decided to compile the Banis he needed those of the first three gurus and saints which were with Baba Mohan. He sent the venerable Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas to request Baba Mohan to hand over the books, but they returned empty handed. Guru Arjun then personally went to Baba Mohan and recited a Shabad praising Mohan who lived in a tall house. The starting lines of the Shabad are:

ਮੋਹਨ ਤੇਰੇ ਊਚੇ ਮੰਦਰ ਮਹਲ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥
ਮੋਹਨ ਤੇਰੇ ਸੋਹਨਿ ਦੁਆਰ ਜੀਉ ਸੰਤ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲਾ ॥
Mohan your mansion is high and large;
Your door is beautiful and a place for pilgrimage for the saints (M: 5, p248).

The heritage of a religious group is considered valuable and these Pothis have been given that status by the scholars. A verse in SGGS emphasizes the importance of the stories about ancestors in making each generation better:

ਬਾਬਾਣੀਆ ਕਹਾਣੀਆ ਪੁਤ ਸਪੁਤ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥ ---
Stories of the forefathers make the children better ---

However there is a rider. We are to accept only those stories that the guru approves:

ਜਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੁ ਮੰਨਿ ਲੈਨਿ ਸੇਈ ਕਰਮ ਕਰੇਨਿ ॥ ੩  ੯੫੧    
The children should accept the stories that conform to the guru’s teachings and act accordingly (M: 3, 951).

(editor's note:  It says, "stories that conform to the guru’s teachings" not "written by the Guru's hand."

Let us examine this story about Mohan Pothis in this light.

As discussed above the contentious stage is the transition from the third to the fourth Guru. Fortunately a detailed account of what happened at that stage is available in Gurbani composition called Sadd in Raag Ramkali and recorded on pages 923-24 of SGGS. It is in the name of Baba Sundar, the great-grandson of Guru Amar Das. The relevant extracts are as follows:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਪਰਤਖਿ ਹੋਦੈ ਬਹਿ ਰਾਜੁ ਆਪਿ ਟਿਕਾਇਆ ॥
ਸਭਿ ਸਿਖ ਬੰਧਪ ਪੁਤ ਭਾਈ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਪੈਰੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੪॥
The third Guru manifestly anointed the new Guru;
And asked his Sikhs, relatives and sons to pay obeisance to Guru Ram Das (Sundar, p 923).

As mentioned above it is believed that whenever a successor guru was anointed a Tilak or saffron mark was applied on his forehead. It is also mentioned that this was done from the second to the sixth gurus by the grand old man of Sikh history Baba Buddha Ji. Application of the mark is something that is not compatible with Sikh teachings; they reject such practices. This riddle is also solved by Sadd thus:

ਰਾਮਦਾਸ ਸੋਢੀ ਤਿਲਕੁ ਦੀਆ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚੁ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥
Guru Ram Das was anointed the guru by handing over the Shabad as the sign. 5. (Sadd, p 924).

This shows that the word 'Tilak' was a representation of anointment and did not involve physical application of the saffron mark on the forehead. Instead it was in the form of Gurbani Shabads being handed over as the sign. If the Tilak is considered a sign of guruship then the gurus would have always had it on their forehead which was not the case.

After so anointing Guru Ram Das Guru Amar Daspaid obeisance to him and asked others to do so. Sadd also acknowledges the presence of jealousy and it appears some, notably Baba Mohan, did not initially do that but were brought around by Guru Amar Das. There was no jealousy after that:

ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਜਿ ਬੋਲਿਆ ਗੁਰਸਿਖਾ ਮੰਨਿ ਲਈ ਰਜਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਮੋਹਰੀ ਪੁਤੁ ਸਨਮੁਖੁ ਹੋਇਆ ਰਾਮਦਾਸੈ ਪੈਰੀ ਪਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਸਭ ਪਵੈ ਪੈਰੀ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਕੇਰੀ ਜਿਥੈ ਗੁਰੂ ਆਪੁ ਰਖਿਆ ॥
ਕੋਈ ਕਰਿ ਬਖੀਲੀ ਨਿਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਫਿਰਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਆਣਿ ਨਿਵਾਇਆ ॥

What Guru Amar Das directed, all Sikhs accepted;
His son Mohri came forward and paid obeisance to Guru Ram Das;
Next all others paid obeisance as Guru Amar Das had done;
There were some who were jealous and did not bow; they were all persuaded and they paid obeisance (Sundar, p 924).

So we see on Gurbani evidence that Baba Mohan had fallen in line and harbored no more jealousy towards the fourth Guru. This is further emphasized thus:

ਹਰਿ ਗੁਰਹਿ ਭਾਣਾ ਦੀਈ ਵਡਿਆਈ ਧੁਰਿਲਿਖਿਆ ਲੇਖੁ ਰਜਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਕਹੈ ਸੁੰਦਰੁ ਸੁਣਹੁ ਸੰਤਹੁ ਸਭੁ ਜਗਤੁ ਪੈਰੀ ਪਾਇ ਜੀਉ ॥੬॥੧॥
As per the will of God and Guru Amar Das, the exalted position was given to Guru Ram Das;

Every one now accepted Guru Ram Das’s ascension to that position and paidobeisance. 6. 1. (Sundar, p 924).

This leaves no doubt that all accepted Guru Ram Das as the Guru. As sign of this all collected Bani was handed over to him. He later added his own Bani and passed it on to Guru Arjun at the time of handing over guruship.

In fact Guru Arjun himself acknowledges in his Bani that he received the Banis of his father and predecessor gurus together:

ਪੀਊ ਦਾਦੇ ਕਾ ਖੋਲਿ ਡਿਠਾ ਖਜਾਨਾ ॥ ਤਾ ਮੇਰੈ ਮਨਿ ਭਇਆ ਨਿਧਾਨਾ ॥੧॥ ੫  ੧੮੫-੮੬ 
When I opened the treasure of Banis of my father and his predecessors,

 my mind was enriched. 1. (M; 5, p 185-86).

It would be noticed that ‘Pio Dada’ (father and grandfather) have been mentioned together in the same breath which shows that the fifth Guru received one collection of Banis of his father, predecessor gurus and saints.

There are other aspects of Gurbani which show that the fourth Guru could not have composed Bani in various Raags without having the Banis of predecessor gurus. Raag Maru has been used by many but the composition Maru Solhay, a composition in Raag Maru with 16 stanzas is unique and was first used by Guru Nanak.  Every stanza has two short lines followed a longer one. It has also been used by the third Guru. Unless the fourth Guru had these Banis he could not have employed this composition. The skeptics however suggest that before becoming the fourth guru, Bhai Jetha had spent about 20years in the company of the third Guru as his son-in law and would have known the compositions of the third Guru. This is only a conjecture but there is more evidence.

There is another Raag, Tukhari which has been used only in Gurbani and was first used by Guru Nanak. It has only one type of composition namely Chhant. The third Guru has not composed in this Raag but the fourth Guru has. There was no way the latter would have used this unique composition in this exclusive Raag without having seen it used and in only one form. No saints have used it. That shows he had the Bani of the first Guru.

As maybe seen the story of Mohan Pothis being the source for compilation of SGGS fails on the touchstone of Gurbani. It is surprising that the scholars writing on compilation of Gurbani did not verify whether the writings were in consonance with what Gurbani clearly says.

The Mohan Pothis however exist. Two volumes one each at Jalandhar and Pinjore are reported to be in possession of Bhalla families, the caste of the third Guru and of Baba Mohan. Although it is claimed that they were written under the supervision of the third Guru they also contain some Shabads of the fourth and the fifth Gurus. Some Shabads of the first and third Gurus have been shown as those of the fourth and fifth. This shows that they represent later collections and could not have been the source for compiling Pothi Sahib. A possible explanation is that the descendents of Baba Mohan wanted to show he was the guru and that they are the custodians of Gurbani. Many scholars have been led to believe this.

RawelSingh  www.sadhsangat.com

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