The History and Compilation of the Dasam Granth - Dr. Trilochan Singh

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Patshahi10.Org is pleased to present this important piece of work on the history of Sri Dasam Granth by Dr. Trilochan Singh, an authoritative exponent of Sikh history, theology, philosophy and culture. This work, in four parts, was published in The Sikh Review in 1955. And up till now this remains a benchmark work on the history and compilation of Sri Dasam Granth - Admin

The History and Compilation of the Dasm Granth (Part 1)

Dr Trilochan Singh

Guru Gobind Singh's mind was a towering Himalaya of light from whose teeming caverns there flowed a mighty river of songs in whose placid depths he set the reflected image of all the tragedy and bliss of life. His imagination was a seraph, which sounded all depths and measured all heights. It touched the intangible, it saw the invisible, it heard the inaudible and it gave body and shape to the inconceivable. It gathered gems from all mines, gold from all sands, pearls from all seas and songs from every battle of dharma.

Guru Gobind Singh bequeathed to mankind a literary, historical and philosophic estate which time cannot destroy. He breathed into the nostrils of the heavenly Muse the breath of a new immortality. He sang of his God and his soul. He sang of creation and the rise and fall of civilization. He sang of the wars of dharma, of the heroes of the glorious past of India and of the figurative gods and goddesses of mythology. He sang of the lovers and martyrs of truth.

The fever of the age, the misery of the people, the degradation of the country and its culture, the mute appeals of the oppressed became the problems of his life which he solved with the pen, the sword, the mind and his godlike spirit.

Guru Gobind Singh's mind was a resistless flood which deluged everything that came into contact with it with glory, strength and spiritual glow. He desired that his Sikhs should develop all sides of their personality. He himself developed on all sides the exhuberance of his powers without losing himself in their multiplicity.

Misunderstood and Misinterpreted Genius

It is, however, to be regretted that writers on Guru Gobind Singh have been led away by their just admiration for one aspect of his life to an unjust and even ignorant depreciation of various other equally important aspects of his life.

It becomes impossible for some devout Sikhs to understand that the Guru who was the creator of the Khalsa and who in many fundamental ways parted radically from Hinduism could write such secular writings as life stories of the avtars of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva such as his Triya Charitar and Chandi Charitar. It becomes equally difficult for non-Sikh writers to understand that a Guru who has written glowing accounts of Chandi, Lord Krishna, Buddha and the great ascetics Dattatreya and Paras Nath was not a worshipper or a devotee of any of these. While he had a profound respect for these personalities who were gifted with special, divine qualities, he condemned the worship of these heroes and sages of our country as deities and godheads.

There is another class of writers who do not understand Guru Gobind Singh's use of the sword of dharma and the great social and spiritual significance he attached to it. His autobiography explains the circumstances under which he had to use the sword in actual battles. When hordes of aggressors, generally numbering more than ten times his men, attacked his home and hearth without rhyme or reason, he had no other way out but to resort to the sword Extremist non-violence at such juncture had kept India in slavery century after century.[1]

Another negative argument, though without much grounds, is that since Guru Gobind Singh was always preoccupied with battles and conflicts with the rulers, how was it that he had so much time to write such monumental works. Such people should know that out of five of a Sikh's morning prayers three compositions are by Guru Gobind Singh. Such is the importance he attached to his poetic works.

More a Poet than a Warrior?

Guru Gobind Singh was far more conscious of being a poet than being a warrior, or a prophet. The title of the prayer composed by him reads: Kabio ach Benti Chaupai, which means, The Prayer of the Poet in Chaupai Metre. In his autobiography, Apni Katha, the chapter describing his birth in the first person is entitled Ath Kabi Janam Kathnan.

No ruler in Indian history had as many as 50 poets and innumerable additional writers whose patronage was coveted by emperors like Aurangzeb. If Guru Gobind Singh found time to examine the works of 52 poets he could easily find time to write profusely. He rewarded two poets with 60,000 mohars each for translating some cantos of the Mahabharata into Hindi and Panjabi. He never gave even half this much reward to any of his warriors.

When the war clouds loomed heavily over Anandpur he asked those poets who could not handle the sword to leave. On their departure they were profusely garlanded, taken in procession on elephants, given rich gifts and presents. Above all they were given a salute of guns. According to a poet, the neighbouring rajas on hearing the salute were terror stricken and thought that Guru Gobind Singh was preparing an attack with unprecedented might.

Education was compulsory, military was optional

While education was compulsory, military training was optional. Yet in that atmosphere the inspiration to become a poet was so great that labourers working in the stables took part in poetry contests. The military training was entrusted to some of the greatest military geniuses of the time. Among them were Guru Gobind Singh's maternal uncle Kirpal Chand, who was also the Guru's teacher from childhood, and five sons of Bibi Viro (daughter of Guru Har Gobind) named Sango Shah, Jit Mal, Gulab Chand, Ganga Ram and Mahri Chand. Each of these warriors was given a command of 500 to 800 soldiers. Sango Shah Avas the Commander-in-Chief in the battle of Bhangani; when he fell a martyr on the twelfth day of fighting, Guru Gobind Singh took the command in his own hands. The younger generation took arms so very eagerly that the poet Hir said, "A child siugh learns the use of the sword long before he learns to tie his turban."

While all other misunderstandings will become clear in their proper places, one misunderstanding created by the self-styled puritans called the bhasurias must be cleared here. They tried to prove that most of the Dasm Granth was written by the poets Ram and Shyam, names which occur in one or two compositions in the Dasm Granth. There is more than sufficient internal and external evidence in every composition to show that all the writings in the Dasm Granth were the works of Guru Gobind Singh. As we discuss each composition we will explain the purpose of each work and also give internal proofs of its authenticity.

Pen names - Ram and Shyam

The names Ram and Shyam are used in some places as pen names. Actually speaking, they were not pen names but poetic translations of Guruji's names. Guruji's name Gobind is an attributive name of God; so also are Ram and Shyam. In Sikh theology the three words govind, ram and syam mean the same thing as the following quotations from the Guru Granth prove:

Siyam sundar taj nind kiun ai (Guru Arjan: Suhi)

Siyam sundar taj an jo cahit jion, kusti tan jok (Surdas: Sarang)

govind govind govind har gurni nidhan

govind govind govind jap mukh ujla pardhan (Guru Bam Das: Var Kanra)

ram ram kirtan gae

ram ram ram sada sahae (Guru Arjan: Rag Gond)

In all the above quotations from the Guru Granth the words ram, syam and govind mean the same thing and so also do they in the Dasm Granth where they stand for Guru Gobind Singh. That is why two or sometime all three of these names occur in the same composition.[2]

A Common Practise?

This practice of writing a synonym for the proper noun in the Dasm Granth applies not only to his own name but to many other names also. In the Dasm Granth, Guru Gobind Singh writes Netra Trung for Naina Devi, Satdrav for Satluj, Dasmpur for Anandpur, Shah Sangram for Sango Shah, and Madra-desh for the Punjab.

Even in our own times Bhai Sahib Vir Singh's maternal uncle Pandit Hazara Singh wrote his name Hazoor Hari while his father Dr. Charan Singh wrote his name Charan Hari. Sardar Dharma Anant Singh, in his book Plato and the True Enlightener of Soul, writes the name of Sant Attar Singh as Mrigindus Atrus.

So Ram, Shyam and Govind are synonymous names of Guru Gobind Singh.

Almost all these works were written by Guru Gobind Singh between the ages of 16 and 35. In the Dasm Granth purely religious and philosophic compositions have 878 verses. But the introductions and the epilogues to all the secular verses are important religious compositions and number about 500. So the philosophic verses number nearly 1,378.

Akal Ustat and Gyan Prabodh were more than twice what we find in the Dasm Granth. Had they survived, the religious poems in the Dasm Granth would have been twice the number we have now. It is not out of place to conclude that Guru Gobind Singh's contribution to religious literature far exceeds any other Guru's contribution to the Guru Granth. Contributions by the other Gurus and by Kabir to the Guru Granth are: Guru Nanak, 974 verses; Guru Angad, 62; Guru Amar Das, 907; Guru Ram Das, 697; Guru Arjan, 2,218; Guru Tegh Bahadur, 116; and Kabir, 541 verses.

All the works were compiled by Guru Gobind Singh, but unfortunately almost all were lost in the sack of Anandpur and the battle of Chamkaur in 1704. The last four years of the Guru's life were spent in compiling the final version of Guru Granth Sahib and in making journeys east and south. A few months before his death the Guru sent his wife and Bhai Mani Singh to take care of the Sikhs in Delhi and Punjab. The divine mother was to stay at Delhi and Bhai Mani Singh was to tour Punjab.

After the passing away of Guru Gobind Singh the Punjab was in a very unsettled condition. Around 1714 Mata Sundri asked Bhai Mani Singh to take the religious leadership of the Sikh Panth in his own hands with Amritsar as his headquarters. He was also instructed to compile the works of Guru Gobind Singh into a collected volume. The following letter from Bhai Mani Singh written in April 1714 shows the appalling conditions of the time and the missionary zeal of the great saint-scholar. In the light of this letter the statement of the eminent historian Gyani Gyan Singh that Bhai Mani Singh was living with barely five or six Sikhs at Amritsar is not unbelievable. Bhai Mani Singh managed to live during these aweful times because of his profound influence on both the Muslims and Hindus;


(Translation of the letter; the photostat of the original given opposite page 57.)

The One prevaileth everywhere. May the Immortal be our saviour. Most revered divine mother, Mani Singh makes obeisance at thy feet. News further is that on coming here my body has been suffering from acute wind-ailment and my health has been deteriorating. I meditated on the songs of healing thrice. But there has been no slackness in the service of the Golden Temple. The Khalsa has lost its hold in the Punjab and the Sikhs are retreating to the forests and mountains. The whole of the Punjab is under the sway of the despots. Even in the villages the life of the young men and women is not safe. They are hunted and killed mercilessly. The enemies of the Guru have joined hands with them. The handaliyas (followers of an impostor guru) are spying on the Sikhs and are betraying them to the enemies.Almost everyone has left Amritsar. The clerks and accountants have fled. So far the Almighty has protected me. 1 cannot say what may happen tomorrow. The Master's words will come to pass. Binod Singh's grandson has passed away. Among the books I sent there is a volume of 303 Triya Charitar Upakhyan written by the master. Please give that volume to Sihan Singh who lives in the interior of the city. So far I have not been able to trace Shastra Nam Mala Puran. I have found the first part of Krishna Avtar but not the second part. If I get it I will send it. There is a rumour here that Banda has made good his escape. May the Lord protect him. Guru Angad's family at Khadur has sent five tolas of old for your adopted son's bride.[3] Please recover seventeen rupees from Jhanda Singh. I gave him five rupees to meet the expenses of the journey. He has some bad habits and he will squander the money. The accountants have not as yet given me the accounts, otherwise I would have sent a hundi from the big city (Lahore). If my health improves I shall come some time in October or November.

Baisakh 22.

Sd/ Mani Singh

Please reply in the bamboo stick.

The Romanized copy of Bhai Mani Singh's letter to Mata Sundri ji

ih onkar akal sahae

puj mata ji de carnan par mani singh ki dandaut bandna. Bahoro samacar vacna ke idhar aon par sada sarir vayu ka adhik vikari hoe gaea hai-suast nahi hoea, tap ki kala do bar suni. par mandar ki seva men koi alak nahi. des vic khalse da bal chut gaea hai. sihgh parbatan babanan vic jae base hain. malechon ki des men dohi hai. basti men balak juva istri salamat nahi. much much kar marde hain. guru darohi bi unan de sang mil gae hain. handalie mil kar mukbari karde hain. sabi cak chod gae hain. mutsadi bhag gae hain. sade par abi to akal ki racha hai. kal ki khabar nahi. sahiban de hukam atal hain. binod singh de putrele da hukam sat hoe gaea hai. pothian jo jhanda singh hath bheji thi unan vic sahiban de 303 caritar upkhiyan di pothi jo hai so sihan sihgh nun mahal vic dena ji. Nam mala ki pothi di khabar abi mili nahi. karisnavtar purbaradh to mila utraradh nahi. je mila asi bhej devange. des vic goga hai ke banda bandhan mukat hoe bhag gaea hai. sahib bahudi karan ge. tola par sona sahibjade ki gharni ke abhukhan lai guru kiaa khandur se bheja hai 17 rajatpan bi jhanda singh se bhar panen. 5 rajatpan ise tosa dia is nun badraka bi hai. is se uth janven ge. mutsadion ne hisab nahi dia jo dende tan bade sahir se hundi kardi bhejde. asade sarir di rachia rahi tan kuar de mahine avange.

mili vaisakh 22.

daskhat manisingh

guru cak bunga.

juab pori main

The letter reveals the following facts:

Such secular works as Krishna Avtar, Triya Charitar and Shastar Nam Mala Puran were written by Guru Gobind Singh and not by any other poet. The Sikh historians are mistaken when they believe that Bhai Mani Singh took charge of the Golden Temple in 1722. This letter, written five months after Baba Banda's arrest and two months before his execution, shows that Bhai Mani Singh was there much earlier, probably in 1713 or 1714.

Finding the Akal Ustat incomplete, Mr. Macauliffe said that "there is an obvious defect in the arrangement of the composition." There is, as a matter of fact, no defect. Mr. Macauliffe did not know the works were collected after strenuous efforts and more than what is there was not available until then.

Bhai Mani Singh completed the compilation in 1734, four years before he himself became a victim of the Moghul tyranny and his body was cut joint by joint.

Some of the prominent Sikhs such as Baba Binod Singh (mentioned in the letter and probably staying at that time with Bhai Mani Singh), Baba Gurbakhsh Singh and Sukha Singh prepared their own copies from the compiled copy. I have not seen the copies prepared by Baba Gurbakhsh Singh and Bhai Mani Singh but if a search is made I think they can still be found.

I have seen the copy prepared by Baba Binod Singh which contains 28 pages written in Guru Gobind Singh's own hand. Binod Singh's descendents presented this copy of the Dasm Granth to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's durbar and they received Rs. 125/- per month as a gift for it. It then came to the Patiala durbar and until 1947 the descendents of Baba Binod Singh were getting Rs. 25/- per month.

Baba Binod Singh was a direct descendent of Baba Dasu, son of Guru Angad. Baba Binod Singh was also one of the five apostles under whose guidance Banda Bahadur was supposed to work at the instructions of Guru Gobind Singh. So a copy prepared by Baba Binod Singh is an authentic and direct copy of the originally compiled version by Bhai Mani Singh. This Dasm Granth is at present in the Moti Bagh Palace, Patiala, and I had an opportunity to study it in detail some time ago.

Six years after the compilation of he book and two years after the death of Bhai Mani Singh a dispute arose among the scholars as to whether such philosophic writings as the Jap and Akal Ustat should remain side by side with secular writings or whether they should be kept in separate volumes. Such scholars maintained that it was not proper to discuss writings like Triya Charitar in the gurdvaras. No one, of course, doubted that the works were those of Guru Gobind Singh. The matter was decided in a strange way [4]

Bhai Mehtab Singh and Bhai Sukha Singh who were there said that if they succeeded in killing Massa Ranghar who was occupying Amritsar and using the Golden Temple as a pleasure house the Dasm Granth should remain intact. If, however, they died in the attempt, the books of the Dasm Granth should be separated. .Fortune most strangely favoured keeping the Dasm Granth in one volume.

According to Macauliffe the name of Dasm Granth was given to the collection much later. This is not correct. The title of Binod Singh's collections and of other older recensions is Dasm Patshah ka Granth, which means the same thing as Dasm Granth, Work of the Tenth Guru.

In 1896 leaders of the Singh Sabha movement found that copies of the Dasm Granth began to differ in the spelling of words. As the copyists knew only Panjabi and not Hindi and Persian they made many mistakes in writing these languages. So a committee of scholars was appointed which prepared an edition to be printed for the first time. They collected some 32 old texts of the Dasm Granth, but they unfortunately left the proof reading to the printers Messrs, Gulab Singh & Sons who in printing have made countless errors which even distort the meaning of the original. Either the scholars who prepared this or the publishers have made two grievous errors:

They have written on the title page "Sri Guru Granth Sahib Dasm Patshahi" which seems to be a distortion of Dasm Patshahi ka Granth which is found on most of the old recensions. This Granth was not installed as a guru so it is wrong to call it Guru Granth.

The first verse of the 33 swayas: jagat jot japai nis basar, has been omitted.

What is to be noted is that all the eminent scholars of the Singh Sabha movement accepted the whole of the Dasm Granth as the work of Guru Gobind Singh.

In 1915 there arose an assumedly puritan school of thought at Bhasaur under Babu Teja Singh, a retired overseer, a good organizer but with a hopelessly shallow intellect. He and a few of his hired gyanis not only started a campaign against Dasm Granth but even compiled a Guru Granth of their own excluding the works of Kabir and other bhagtas. He even changed the mass prayer of the Sikhs. As a reformist, in the beginning he gathered some support but when he stooped to flagrant abuse of history and facts he was condemned by a proclamation from the Akal Takht and his activities were declared Singh's poets. The genius of one most un-Sikh-like.

This school has died an inevitable visible death and no Sikh scholar of importance believes that any part of Dasm Granth was written by Guru Gobind Singh's poets. The genius of one mind, the art style of one poet is visible in the whole of Dasm Granth.

That genius and style is of Guru Gobind Singh and no other.

[1]. Muhsin Fani, Guru Har Gobind's contemporary, declared that "both Guru Har Gobind and Guru Gobind Singh did not use the sword out of anger on any occasion. The wars they fought were not communal; they were fought against the Hindu rajas and the Moghul armies. In his armies there were Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs." Even Mahatma Gandhi, writing in his article, The Doctrine of the Sword, said: "I do believe that when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner remain a helpless victim to her own dishonour."

[2]. In the Guru Granth the name Gobind is written both as Govind and Gobind. But in Guru Gobind Singh's writings it always occurs with " b " as Gobind. Guru Gobind Singh spent most of his life in the Doaba area of the Punjab where the words with "v" are pronounced " b . " Guru Gobind Singh used it very often in his writings. He writes bade bade for vade vade; maru bajia for maru vajia; abigat for avigat; Bishnu for Vishnu; barn for varn, and innumerable other cases. So Guruji preferred to write his name as Gobind and not as Govind.

[3]. Mata Sundri saw a young boy who in features resembled her eldest son Ajit Singh so much that she adopted him much against the wishes and advice of Bhai Mani Singh and desired that all relatives and Sikhs should treat him as her son. She even arranged his marriage as poor compensation for her deeply cherished desire to have seen the marriage of Ajit Singh, who fell a martyr in the battle of Chamkaur. This adopted son proved so hopeless that he had to be publicly disowned. He even discarded the Sikh faith under the threats of the Muslim rulers. Latter he was involved in a crime and as punishment was tied to the tail of an elephant and met a terrible death.

[4]. To belittle the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh some people invented the story that he was cursed by the Sikhs for dividing the Guru Granth into parts authorwipe. It was Bhai Mani Singh who wrote the final version of Guru Granth Sahib as dictated by Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Mani Singh would never have dared to undo it. The fact that Bhai Mani Singh was in favour of having even Dasm Granth in one volume disproves this theory


GURU Gobind Singh's approach to Sikhism has a marked originality and uniqueness in expression while the works of the other Gurus are extremely subjective in nature and synthetic in composition, sometimes so complex that one verse contains innumerable ideas synthesized around the theme of nam. Guru Gobind Singh's works are objective and analytical with only one idea and one theme in one verse. While the other Gurus wrote with the Guru consciousness of Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, out of utter humility, just addressed himself as poet.

The sole road to God, said Guru Gobind Singh, was through the power and sincerity of love and worship and by the subordination of nature to divine grace.

He preached vehemently against hypocrisy, idolatry and the worship of personal gods. He believed in the philosophy of the light and the religion of love.

jatr tatr disa visa hoe phaileo anurag

To the east and west, where thou seest, He pervades as supreme love.

Guru Gobind Singh admitted that the source whence all truth proceeds was the incarnate word of the divine logos. But his emphasis was on pure, virtuous and disciplined living.

Without purity and sincerity of mind no religious life was possible.

At all times Guru Gobind Singh was mystical, eloquent and sublime, evolving in his philosophic works a gurmat-advait-ism which so differs from the abstract, metaphysical and dry advait-ism of Shankracharya.


This is the simplest of all Guru Gobind Singh's compositions. The Sikhs sing it every morning and it is also used in the preparation of amrit (nectar of baptism). The theme is set in the first verse:

cakr cehan ar barb jat ar pat nahenjai, rup rang ar rekh bhekh kou kaih na sakat kaih. acal murat anbhau parkas amitauj kahijai kot indr indran sah sahan ganijai tribhavan mahip sur nar asur neti neti ban trin kahat. tav sarab nam kathai kavan karam nam barnat sumat.

Contour and countenance, caste, class or lineage, He bas none. None can describe His form, figure, shape and semblance whatever; Immovable and self-poised is His being, Without fear, a luminous light sublime. The supreme Indra of Indras and King of kings consider Him to be; He is the sovereign of the three worlds. The demons, the mortals and the angelic beings, Nay, even the grass blades in the forests Proclaim Him to be boundless, endless and infinite. O, who can count all Thy names that are Thy glory? Through Thy enlightenment I will recount all Thy attributive names.

From here begins the song of the attributive names, not as a dry description or counting of names but as we read: "Salutation to the Immortal One, Salutation to the Merciful " the whole of our inner being begins to glow with the radiance and vision of His presence. The soul is etherialized into the perfume of devotion. The soul at first gropes for the recovery of some fragment of His vision and then it feels, in the throbs of an ampler joy, the assurance that it is touching the whole essence of the universe and it is one with truth and God.


This is one of the best works by Guru Gobind Singh from the literary as well as the philosophic point of view (discussed in detail in The Sikh Review, January 1954). Guru Gobind Singh's conception of religion and God is clearly given in it, Guruji vehemently opposed the idea of a chosen people or a blessed nation:

The Arabs of Arabia, The French of France, The Kureshis of Kandhar Meditate on Thee.

In the middle of the Akal Ustat are ten questions: What is the essence of atman? What are sin and virtue? What are karma and dharma? The verses from 211 to 230 fit more properly into some version of Chandi Charitar than in Akal Ustat. They are inconsistent with the development of thought in the Akal Ustat. Verses 20 to 30 form the daily prayer of the Sikhs. In the Akal Ustat the author's kindling vision goes deeper and deeper into the unchanging glory and the unconditioned self-completeness of God.


This is another ambitious work which is incomplete and a major portion of it is unfortunately lost. From a literary point of view it has the same perfection and grandeur of language and style as Akal Ustat. Out of 336 verses 125 form the introduction. At the end of the introduction Guruji gave the plan of the book which was to give the progressive evolution of religion in India in four stages. But first he discussed the four noble ways of life: 1. raj dharma (religion through political service); 2. dan dharma (religion of charity); 3. bhog dharma (religion through the pious life of a householder); 4. moksa dharma (religion of salvation). Guruji first gave from the history of ancient India the practice of the religion of charity. The purpose of this great work was to show that the highest religion of man was nam dharma (enlightenment through the word incarnate).


These were composed immediately after the organization of the Khalsa and can be said to be the first raihat-nama or the code of ethics of the Khalsa.

jagat jot japai nis basar, eh bina man naik na mania

Inspired with the fire of life, Awake with the perpetual song of His name day and night; Believing no other but the one and only God, Having no faith in the worship of tombs, idols and temple images, Completely lost in His beauty and infinite love, Absolutely discarding the lifeless beliefs in holy baths, alms giving, penances and austerities, Such a child of light, fully enlightened and a perfect figure of love, is the Khalsa.


These are short, popular poems which throw great light on Guru Gobind Singh's opinions on yoga, sanyasa and the religion of love. The most notable songs are two and both of them have a historical significance. After the battle of Chamkaur when he lost all four of his sons and he was without any company, shelter or succour, this optimist sang:

Far, far better are the love-lit straw beds of the Beloved Than the life of the palaces, Which, without Thee, O Beloved, are incessantly burning funeral pyres.

The other song was sung when Pundit Kesho Dutt, a great scholar, asked Guru Gobind Singh why he was almost deliberately giving all charity, gifts, wealth, honour and power to his Sikhs who were mostly low-caste people while he was ignoring the purer and higher castes. The Guru in his usual passionate fervour replied:

judh jite in hi hi kripa se…

All battles against tyranny have I fought with the loving grace of these people. I have been able to spread great gifts only through them. All evil and injury have I escaped Because the love of these people of undying faith was my sole protection. My home and heart are full with the joy and glory which they have given; I t is through their efforts and help I have gained great knowledge and acquired wide experience; I t is with the help of these common people that I have always defeated my enemies. For them was I born; Through them have I attained glory and greatness; Without them and without their loving support What am I? There are millions of creatures like me on earth.

Here is the champion of the cause of the common people whose humility and intense consciousness of the vitality of the common people was remarkable. No Marxist has ever sung such a song of the people as Guru Gobind Singh wrote 150 years before Marx was born and 60 years before the world ever heard of Rousseau and Voltaire. So strong was his faith in what is now known as democratic ideals that even when military dictatorship was expedient and even necessary he left, to quote Dr. Sinha, "the care of the flock as well as his army not to a single person but to the whole community. He placed his faith in the collective wisdom of the community and not in the devotion of a favourite disciple."


Chandi or Durga is a pre-Aryan deity. During the 12th and 13th centuries there was a great conflict between Durga worshippers and the followers of the Krishna cult as is clear from the lives of Chandi Das and Jaidev. Then there was a compromise. The Aryan Hindus also accepted her as a deity. The life of Chandi is in a number of Puranas, particularly Markande Puran, Devi Bhagwat and Padma Puran. There are three versions of Chandi Charitar besides a short version in the Triya Charitar. These versions are translations from three different Puranas:

1. First Chandi Charitar, 233 verses, translated most probably from Padam Puran.

2. Second Chandi Charitar (Hindi), 266 verses, mention is made at the end that it is translated from Markande Puran. It forms part of the Bachiter Natak Granth.

3. Third version Durga-di-var, 55 verses, translated most probably from Devi Bhagwat.

The Chandi Charitars have become more popular than other secular works by Guru Gobind Singh because they are the shortest compositions in the Dasm Granth and are available in all brief selections in complete form. All the other selections are bulky. These are the only writings available in Panjabi and the Panjabi version is written in a very popular form of poetry called the var.

There are three grievous misunderstandings about which a great deal of fuss has been made by those who used every false argument trying to prove that Guru Gobind Singh was a worshipper of Durga and he derived all his strength for fighting from her and not from the one unmanifested God as is believed by the Sikhs.

While the motive for creating the misunderstanding is one and the same, the misunderstandings about Guru Gobind Singh's conception of Durga are three:

1. In one place Guru Gobind Singh wrote, "I bow to the bhagauti," and bhagauti, some say, means Chandi or Durga. So it-is implied that Guru Gobind Singh meditated on Durga.

2. At the end of all these three Chandi Charitars is written what we call the mahatam or the powers that can be attained by reciting the writings. This implies that the Sikhs should recite the Chandi Charitar to attain those powers.

3. The third misunderstanding is created by distorted histories which were mostly written in the 18th century, about 100 years after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. These histories carry the invented story that in the 1698 A. D., Samvat 1755, Guru Gobind Singh actually worshipped Durga with elaborate ceremonies asking for courage and power to fight the enemy.

These three views about Guru Gobind Singh have become so popular that even those who know nothing much about Guru Gobind Singh can talk loudly and emphatically about these things.

1. There are two distinctly different words even in the original Sanskrit Puranas from where the Chandi Charitars have been translated. These are bhagauti and Bhagvati. Throughout the Markande Puran, Padam Puran, Devi Bhagwat and Vishnu Puran, these two words occur frequently and everywhere Bhagvati means Durga and bhagauti means sword. Nowhere in these Purans is the word bhagauti used to mean Durga. Everywhere, throughout the Puranic literature, bhagauti means the sword and nowhere does it mean Durga.[1]

In the whole of Dasm Granth the word bhagauti occurs in two lines in the text which are:

(1) pritham bhagauti simar cai guru nanak lai dhyae

Remembering the supreme sword first, meditate on Guru Nanak.

(2) lai bhagauti durg sah vajragan bhari

Durga caught hold of the bhagauti (sword) which glimmered like a flashing flame.

These are the only two lines in the whole of Dasm Granth in which the word bhagauti occurs and by no stretch of the imagination can it be interpreted as Durga.

The name of Durga occurs in the Dasm Granth over 120 times and innumerable popular names for Durga are repeatedly used such as Chandi, Chandika, Bhavani, Durga, Mahamai, Devi, Ambaka, Jambhha, Mundardani, etc.

Guru Gobind Singh gave many new attributive names to God as the wielder of the sword of dharma, and the sword became for him the righteous spirit of God in which was ingrained his deep rooted faith in the ultimate victory of good over evil. Those names are: Asdhuj (one who has the sword on His banner), Asket (wielder of the sword), Aspan (with

the sword in hand) and Kharagpan (with the sword in hand). Other words which occur signifying God's sword-spirit of dharma are khag, tegan, sri as, kirpan, sarbloh (all-steel), maha loh (great steel) and bhagauti.

2. The second point of confusion is about some lines occurring at the end of Chandi Charitar giving the fruit of reciting the Chandi song.

These lines are:

a. First Chandi Charitar:

"For whatever purpose a person reads this life of Chandi, it shall definitely be granted to him."

b. Second Chandi Charitar:

"Even if a foolish person reads the life of Chandi, immense wealth will be bestowed on him. If a coward reads it he will be able to fight most bravely; if a yogi reads it he will attain siddhi and if a student reads it he will attain knowledge."

c. Third Panjabi version Durga ki var:

"He who recites Durga's life will not take birth again."

All these are not the opinions of Guru Gobind Singh. They are the opinions of the writers of the original which Guru Gobind Singh faithfully translated. To dissociate himself and his ideal from it, Guru Gobind Singh either added a short introduction or an epilogue to each of these versions of Chandi. Guru Gobind Singh's opinions, giving his own faith were:

(a) In the First Chandi Charitar he said:

deh siva bar mohe ehai, shubh carman te kabhu na taro, na daro ar so jab jae laro, niscai kar aprni jit karo, ar sikh hau apne hi man kau eh lalac hau gun tau ucro, jab av kd audh nidan banai at hi ran mai tab jujh maro

Give me this power, O Almighty: From righteous deeds I may never refrain, Fearlessly may I fight all the battles of life, Full confidence may I ever have In asserting my moral victories, May my supreme ambition and learning be To sing of Thy glory and victory. When this mortal life comes to a close May I die with the joy and courage of a martyr.

(b) The second Chandi Charitar is a part of the Bachiter Natak Granth. The Bachiter Natak has a collective introduction in which Guru Gobind Singh repeatedly wrote that he did not believe in the worship of gods and goddesses. In verses 92 and 93 Guruji said, "It is through Thy power, O God, that Durga destroyed the demons like Sumbh, Nisumbh, Dhumer and Lochan, Chand and Mund. It is through Thy power, O God, that Rama destroyed Ravana." And he concludes, Also “so sahib pae kaha parvah rahi eh das tiharo—With such a supreme One as my Lord, what care I, Thy servant, for anything or anyone?"

In the next stanza Guruji commented on the avatars and goddesses who were instrumental in killing all these and said,

"Kahe ko kur kare tapasa inki kou kaudi ke kam na aihai—Why indulge ye in the futile worship of these deities? Their worship is not worth a kaudi (one-twentieth of a penny)

(c) The third Panjabi version has a long introduction, a part which forms the national prayer. In it the Guru invoked the grace and blessings of God and the nine Gurus.

taihi durga saj kai daita da nas karaya, taitho hi bal ram lai nal bana dehsir ghaia, taitho hi bal krishan lai kans kesi pakad giraya, bade bade muni devte kai jug tini tan laia, kini tera nht na paya.

It is Thou who created Durga and had the demons destroyed, From Thee derived Rama all the strength to kill the ten-headed Ravana. From Thee derived Krishna all his strength to catch Kans by the hair and dash him to the ground. Great seers and sages in all ages strained hard in penance to know Thee. None, none has attained Thy end.

In these short prologues and epilogues Guru Gobind Singh made his own opinion about Durga quite clear. He took these figures simply as historical persons of note and nothing else.

3. The third question is, did Guru Gobind Singh actually worship Durga for strength before the creation of the Khalsa in 1698? This story was introduced to some partially unreliable records in order to distort or discredit the great creation of the Khalsa which

in its dramatic way of imparting the spiritual powers and responsibility of the Guru to the people was historically unique.

By this time Guru Gobind Singh had fought about eight or nine of his major and minor battles. If he had managed to fight all the severe battles without invoking Chandi so far, where was the necessity of invoking the strength of Chandi for one or two more battles? How was it that Guru Har Gobind fought all his battles without even thinking of Chandi?

Even the places where Guru Gobind Singh rested for a while became sacred to the Sikhs and were worshipped by them. How is it that no Sikh, not even stray individuals, ever pay homage to Durga nor do they ever worship her? In the Zafarnama, which was written only six years later, Guru Gobind Singh called himself an idol breaker.

In 1698 a Muslim reporter of Aurangzeb's who witnessed the creation of the Khalsa quoted the speech of Guru Gobind Singh in his despatch to Aurangzeb as follows:

"Let all embrace one creed and obliterate the differences of religion. Let the four Hindu castes who have different rules of guidance abandon them all, adopt the one form of adoration and become brothers. Let no one deem himself superior to another. Let no one pay heed to the Ganges and other places of pilgrimage which are spoken of with reverence in the Shastras or adore incarnations such as Rama, Krishna, Brahma and Durga but believe in Guru Nanak and other Gurus. Let men of four castes receive my baptism, eat out of one dish and feel no disgust or contempt for another."

In none of his philosophic compositions did he invoke Durga, nor did he invoke the goddess when writing his letters to Aurangzeb. Everywhere it is the invocation of God as the protector of the good through the sword of dharma.

The Durga worship story is generally placed in history in Baisakh 1755 Samvat. We learn from the Dasm Granth that Guru Gobind Singh completed his Ramayan (Life of Lord Rama which forms a part of Bachiter Natak Granth) in Baisakh 1755. The epilogue which he wrote to this Ramayan in this very month in which he is alleged to have worshipped Durga is as follows:

paen gahe jab te tumre, tab te kou atikh tare nahi aneo, ram raJiim puran kuran, anek kahai'n mat ek na rnaneo, simrit sastar bed sabai balm bhed kahain ham ek na janeo sri aspan kiipa tumri kar main na kaheo sab tohe bakhaneo. dohra: sagal duar kau chad kai gaheo tuharo duar bauhe gahe kl laj as gobihd das tuhar.

Ever since I took refuge at Thy feet, O God, I have brought no other god under the eye of my faith. Rain and Rahim are various deities of the Puran and Quran. They describe the One so differently; But I believe in none, I have faith in none but Thee, O God. The Vedas, Shastras and Simritis give various forms of worship; I believe in none and I have faith in none of them. O Glorious Weilder of the sword of dharma, It is only through Thy grace I have been able to write all this. dohra: After leaving all other doors, O God, I have come to Thy door. O make me Thine for having once called me Thine own. I, Gobind, am just a humble servant of Thine.

These verses express the thoughts and the moods, the faith, the philosophy and the spiritual ideal to which he was inwardly attached in the very month in which he is alleged to have worshipped Durga. By comparing Guru Gobind Singh's translation with the original in Sanskrit written by Rishi Markande I have noticed that Guru Gobind Singh has deliberately excluded those chapters which give the list of siddhis, psychic powers, that can be attained by reciting it. The siddhis range from the cure of leprosy, smallpox and snake bite to the power of defeating the enemy.

He translated these lives of Durga in the literary language of those times to reveal Durga in the true light. He was pained to see that millions of Bengalis and Biharis worshipped Durga and yet they were timid and weak. The idea of fighting dharamyudh, the battles of righteousness, had disappeared from their consciousness. The worship of Durga had degenerated into a worship of a low type of psychic powers.

[1] Rishi Markande gives over 108 names to Durga in his Markande Puran but bhagauti is not among them.



The introduction to the Bachiter Natak Granth gives Guru Gobind Singh's personal faith and philosophy.

The opening lines state in the most vigorous and clear words Guru Gobind Singh's conception of God as the sword of dharma. Not only the sword but every weapon became an attributive symbol of God. He loved God and saluted Him through the attributive names coined by the Guru from the weapons of dharma. The opening line is, "Namaskar srl khadag kao-Salutations to the glorious sword supreme." And then he sings the glory of this sword of dharma and explains it in one remarkable verse which Dr. Gokal Chand Narang calls the finest verse in all the world literature: khag khand bihandan khal dal khandan at ran mandan barbandan, bhuj dand akhandan tej parcandan jot amahdan bhan prabhan, Sukh santa karnann durmat darnah kilbikh harnan as sarnan, jai jai jag-karan, srist ubaran mam pritparan, jai tegan. The sword it is that cuts al] evil, branch and root; The sword it is that destroys all satanic troops; Its sway over evil makes life's battle impressive and grand; I t is the indestructible symbol of justice in His hands. Shining in splendour and ablaze with such a glow That its radiance dims even the light of Apollo, Saviour of the saints, Destroyer of wicked minds, Dispeller of sins, I take refuge in Thee of supreme sword. Glory, glory unto Thee, O Creator and first cause, Glory, glory unto Thee, Saviour of this earthly globe. Thou art my protector and my sustainer; Glory, glory junto Thee, O supreme sword.

Here is Guru Gobind Singh's complete conception of the sword. This was the sword, 'the spirit of dharma," which Guru Gobind Singh received from Guru Nanak after it had been handled by the other Gurus. This was the sword Guru Gobind Singh gave to the Khalsa. Before writing the Bachiter Natak Granth, Guru Gobind Singh wanted to clarify two points, two conceptions which were new to the Indian masses. One was his conception of the sword and the other was his conception of the avatars and prophets in comparison with the infinite God.

kite Khrisn se kit kot banae kite ram se met dare upae mahadin kete prithi manjh hue, samai apni apni ant mue.

He has created millions of insects like Krishna; Innumerable Ramas He created and has destroyed them; Innumerable Mohammads have come and gone on the earth; They were great for the time they existed and ultimately they died.

Guru Gobind Singh called the prophets and avatars mere kit-worms or insects-in comparison to God. He called even himself a mere kit, a worm or insect. The object of writing the Bachiter Natak, he said, was "to describe the wonderful drama of some of His manifestations as it is impossible to describe the absolute greatness and glory of God. From the great deeds of the manifestations one learns about the greatness of God." [1]


This forms the first part of the Bachiter Natak Granth. The autobiography was written with a definite purpose. The purpose was to tell in the clearest words, without obscuring them in mystic illusions, Guru Gobind Singh's personal relation with God, his mission on earth and his determination to fulfill that mission on earth.

The autobiography does not give the life of the Guru in detail but only describes the causes that gave rise to the battles and the victory of dharma over evil powers and wicked aggressors. But the autobiography is unique from one point in that Guru Gobind Singh gave a detailed account of his previous birth. In his previous birth he said that he was meditating on the Almighty on the Sapat Sring Mountain which is situated near Hemkunt.

ab main apni katha bakhano; tap sad-hat jeh bidh mohe ano. hemkunt parbat hai jahan, sapat sring sobhat hai taha, sapat sring tah nam kahava pand raj jah jog kamava. tah ham adhik tapasya sadhi

Now I will tell my own story, How from a life of austere contemplation I came here. Where there is the Hemkunt Mountain, There is a place called Sapat Sring. Sapat Sring is the name of the place Where Pandu (the father of the Pandavas) went to practice yoga.

In this place I meditated deeply on God. Bhai Vir Singh, our saintly and most learned scholar, following the explanation given by Kavi Santokh Singh, has explained it the other way round. Their interpretation is that Guru Gobind Singh meditated at Hemkunt near Sapat Sring, which means seven peaks. This seems to be an error. Some scholars explain the word Pandu as Pandavas. This also is wrong. The Pandavas never went to these mountains for meditation but towards the end of their lives they are said to have gone to the Himalayas for the end of their earthly existence. It was the father of the Pandavas, Pandu Raj, who went to Sapat Sring to do penance to expiate some serious sin he had committed.

Two of his wives accompanied him and one of them died there. In the ad-purb, chapter 119, slokas 47 to 50 of the Mahabharat, is written:

The Kaurava Rajkumar Pandu, living on fruits and roots as his diet, went with both his wives to Nagshat Mountain. There they stayed for some days. Then he crossed the Chatarth, Kalkut and arrived at Gandhmadan. The siddhas and maharisis of this mountain attended on him. From here they reached Indar-Danum Sarovar. A little beyond Hanskut (later called Hemkunt) Mahaiaja Pandu arrived at Sapat Sring where he performed great tapasya. This proves that it was Sapat Sring where Guru Sahib meditated and this place is close to Hemkunt.

Principal Teja Singh in his recent interpretation misinterprets Pandu as meaning the Pandavas and he makes an even greater mistake in dragging Hemkunt to a place near Patna. There is no Sapat Sring there and there is no evidence that Pandu ever performed any tapasya there. Principal Teja Singh also takes this statement to be either false or a figurative form of speech. He says that when Guru Gobind Singh saw this place he psychologically imagined himself to have done tapasya there in his past birth.

However, Guru Gobind Singh's autobiography covers more than half his life on this earth and there is not a single statement which may be considered imaginary. Therefore we must assume this explanation to be not only wrong but also baseless.

Another unique feature of this autobiography is Guru Gobind Singh's discourse with God when he was not quite willing to leave His lotus feet, but to fulfill His will and purpose he had to go. "I send you/' said God," as My own son to create a Panth with a new spiritual consciousness. Wherever you go, lead people to the path of righteousness and prevent them from indulging in evil."

"But," said Guru Gobind Singh,"I humbly stood before the Lord with folded hands and with my head lowered I said, 'The new Panth will flourish only if Thou helpest me, O Lord.'" He added, "For this purpose God sent me to this world. Whoever calls me God will be doomed to perdition. Know me to be but a servant of the supreme Being". Whatever God said to me I will declare. I will not fear anyone. Stones I will not worship. Hypocrisy I will not let come near me. I will but sing the name of the Infinite."

Unfortunately the autobiography ends at a very early period. Had it included the story of the creation of the Khalsa it might have been a greater document. Anyway the battles which are described could never have been depicted by other writers the way Guru Gobind Singh has depicted them, even if he had used available contemporary accounts.

Towards the end of the autobiography is given the plan of Bachiter Natak that was yet to be completed He said, "I will write about the life story' of the avatars as Thou revealest to me, O God. I first wrote a Chandi Charitar. It was a short version. Now I wish to give a more detailed version."


In this section of the Bachiter Natak Granth follows the lives of the 24 avatars of Vishnu. In a brief introduction Guru Gobind Singh said that out of these 24 alleged avatars he acknowledged only 10 of them as real manifestations of the light of God. Others were merely mythological conceptions. He acknowledged only the following: Machh, Kachh, Vehrah Narsingh, Bavan, Paras Ram, Rama Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. [2]

The lives of all the avatars are very brief, but are completely detached from the mythological and cosmological complexities of the Puranas. The descriptions of these avatars is in line with the references to them in the Guru Granth. In the brief introduction he once more pointedly said, "Both the Hindus and the Muslims are particularizing God and quarrelling with each other with narrow sectarian views. God is one for all and the primary aim of the religion of man is to realize Him. If a person rises above these narrow views and realizes God in his heart he can rise above both the Hindus and the Muslims." "Alas," he said, "the yogis and the sanyasis the Jains and the Muslim faqirs are all looting the world with various types of hypocrisy and display of religious fervour. The true saint, the lover of God, can never remain hidden. The true love of God is always rewarded and the evil doers are ultimately punished."

Most of the lives are cut short because Guru Gobind Singh feared that the Bachiter Natak Granth might become unusually big. He frequently wrote at the end of the composition:

hirdai granth ke badhbe te daraun. (Chavi Avtar)

katha bridh te mai daraun. tante kahi na rudra kahani, granth badhan ki cint pachani. granth badhan te at dar paun sun lai ban sanchep yar. (Triya Charitar)

The major compositions of this section are Ram Avatar, Krishna Avatar and Kalki Avatar. Although they come in the volume in the order mentioned they were not written in this order. Krishna Avatar was written in the early years when Guru Sahib was at Paunta in Bikraml 1745 (1688 A.D.) while Rama Avatar, which comes first, was written in 1755 Bikraml (1698), exactly 10 years later. This shows that the major works were written first and then the minor works and sometime in 1701 the whole Bachiter Natak Granth was arranged and compiled in the present order.

Ram Avatar has 864 verses while Krishna Avatar has 2,491 verses; Ram Avatar being a work of maturer age has a much higher literary excellence than Krishna Avatar. Guru Gobind Singh mentioned in the Krishna Avatar that 1,192 verses were composed at Anandpur before his departure to Paunta Sahib and the rest was written at Paunta. Out of the first 1,192 we have only 983 in the printed recension. He started writing at Paunta on Wednesday in the month of Savan 1744 Bikrami and he completed the whole Krishna Avatar, which he says is the Dasm Sikandh of the Bhagwat on Wednesday, Savan 1745 Bikrami. Within one year from the dates given in the Krishna Avatar it is clear he wrote about 1,5O9 verses. This comes to about 125 verses a month. He stopped his literary activity for a year exactly one year before the battle of Bhangani.

The arrangement of the verses in a few places have been upset in the later recensions. The following verses should have come either in the middle where Guru Gobind Singh resumed the story on coming to Paunta Sahib or at the end. They give the Guru's personal faith and philosophy and in all other compositions such verses come either at the beginning or the end. The two verses quoted resemble the popular caupals of Guru Gobind Singh so closely that even an ordinary Sikh can at once recognize them to be Guru Gobind Singh's compositions:

mai na ganeseh pritham manau kisan bisan kabhu na dhyaun, kan sune pahcan na tin son, liv lagi mori pag in son, apna jan karo pritpara, tum sahib main kinkar thara das jan dai hath ubaro, hamre sabh bairian sangharo

I will not commence writing with the invocation of Ganesh Nor will I meditate on Vishnu or Krishna. They are just historical figures that I hear of but not the objects of my faith. I am inwardly devoted only to Thy feet. O Lord. Considering me to be Thine own, be my protector and saviour, O Lord. Thou art the Master, the Lord Supreme; 1 am but a servant and a slave. Considering me Thy humblest servant, inspire me with the grace of Thy saving hand And destroy all my enemies from the root.

In the end Guru Gobind Singh said that he had translated the whole of the Dasm Sikandh with the sole purpose of inspiring the people with the will to be perpetual fighters of the battle of dharma, "Avar basna nah prabh, dharam judh ke cae."" urge in Guru Gobind Singh's poems for his followers to be fighters may give the wrong impression to many (as unfortunately many Sikhs and non-Sikhs have) that Guru Gobind Singh exhorted the Sikhs only to be wielders of the sword and fighters on the earthly plane. Neither was Guru Gobind Singh's conception of the sword the sword of offence, as has been sufficiently proved, nor did his conception of dharam judh mean merely fighting political enemies with the sword Real dharam judh begins with our determination to conquer our own lower natures with the light of true wisdom. I am giving no doctrine or theory of my own by explaining Guru-ji's words as I conceive them to be. But Guru Gobind Singh with his own pen cleared this misconception exactly at the point where it was likely to arise. In the very next verse, which is the last verse of Krishna Avatar, as an epilogue he said:

dhan jio teh ko jag mai, mukh te hari, cit mai judh bicarai, deh anit na nit rahai, jas nav cadai bhav sagar tarai, dhiraj dham banae ihai tan, budh so dipak jio ujiarai, gyanaih ki badhni mano hath lai katarata hutvar buharai. Krishna Avatar 2492

Great are those souls in this world, On whose lips is ever the name of God. And who in their hearts ever contemplate fighting the battle of life. Their body is a fleeting frame that will not last forever. On the boat of His name, the word, they cross the fearful ocean of life. Their intellect is aflame with the light of wisdom, Their discriminative mind handles the broomstick of knowledge in such a way That with it they sweep all cowardice, all falsehood, out of their inner selves. This is the battle of life, and this the dharam judh for which we should always be prepared. Only those who have lordly sway over their own battle of life can fight other battles of dharma (dharam judh) on the physical and mental plane and win temporal and spiritual glory. Only such a one can rightly wear and handle Guru Gobind Singh's sword and be his true saint-soldier, the Ichalsa. None else, none else.


While the avatars of Vishnu are all political avatars, saviours with the sword; the avatars of Brahma are scholars. They are saviours with the pen. In the first 20 verses of introduction is the invocation to God:

bin ek asrai nam; nahi aur kaunai kam; je man hai gurdev, te jan hai anbhev; bin tas avar na jan, cit an bhav na an; ik man jai kartar; jit hoe ant udhar;

Besides the sustenance of His name, Nothing avails, nothing prevails; Those who accept the doctrine of Gurudeva (Guru Nanak). They will realize the infinite Being. Believe no other besides Him, Entertain no other faith in thy mind. With single minded devotion sing of the Creator Whowill ultimately be thy saviour.

Then Guru Gobind Singh mentioned that he had just finished the story of the 24 avatars of Vishnu and now he would relate the seven avatars of Brahma. These are: Balmik, Kashyap, Sukra, Baches, Vyas, rsis of the six systems and Kalidas. The stories of these avatars are told very briefly. There are only two verses about Baches. Guru-ji took Kalidas to be a court poet of Vikrimajit and considered him a poet par excellence.

Those who may doubt the avatars of Brahma to be parts of the Bachiter Natak will read even in the printed Dasm Granth at the end of Krishna Avatar:

it sri dasm sikahdh purane, bacitar natak granthe krisna avatar dhyae samiapat mast subh mast.

Here ends the translation from Dasm Shikand Puran of Krishna Avatar in the Bachiter Natak Granth.

Similarly at the end of every avatar of Brahma and Siva is written:

it sri bacitar natak granthe brahma avatar saptamo kalidas samapat

So ends in the Bachiter Natak Granth the seventh avatar of Brahma: Kalidas.

So it is written at the end of every avatar of Rudra (Siva).


Photostat of a page from Duttatreya in Guru Gobind Singh's own handwriting.

(Mark the unique style of hand drawings of swords and arrows thot make up the border)


This section is also unfortunately not complete. Guru-ji described all the avatars of Siva from Duttatreya to Gorakh and other naths and siddhas but the story was cut short at the death of Paras Nath. The rest of this section appears to be lost. There are only two major stories, the lives of Duttatreya and Paras Nath. In the life of Paras Nath comes a detailed reference to Machhindar and a vague reference to Charpat.

The life of Duttatreya is given in all its details and told vigorously. The theory that Guru Gobind Singh was interested in translating the life of only those who handled the sword is disproved by Guru Gobind Singh's interest in these stories Duttatreya is said to have had 24 gurus. The photostat of the page in Guru Gobind Singh's own handwriting is a page from the life of Duttatreya at the time he adopted the nineteenth guru. Duttatreya has also written the Avdhut Gita which contains 288 couplets and the Jivan-mukti Gita, a small but inspired work of 23 couplets. Guru Gobind Singh gave the whole of Dutta's life and philosophy in progressive evolution. He was the son of the great Rishi Atra and Anusuya. In the life of Paras is an interesting dialogue between Machhindar and Paras Nath. Machhindar Nath tells Paras Nath that by conquering the whole world and not conquering his own mind he is yet a weakling. He would really be great if he conquered the mind; life's iuner battle is of much more significance than any other battle. Then Machhindar describes the inner battle. The forces of evil are falsehood, lust, attachment, hatred, anger, envy, vanity, doubt, Kama (the king of passion), ignorance and all the vices and sins come fully clad and armed. Each of these is described as living personified figures. Enmity is described as a prominent warrior of the army of evil who never turns his back on any. Its eyes are red with blood and blood-stained are its weapons. So deeply red is it in appearance that even the colour red dwindles before it in shame. It has conquered the minds of the strongest of the world. Once it comes into the battlefield fully armed no one can check its sweeping advance except santl peace).

On the side of the good are also innumerable warriors: dharma, tolerance, valour, faith, worship, love, goodness, knowledge, the angerless, the vanityless, humility and innumerable more are on the list. They fight the inner battle that is going on in every being. In those who are spiritually conscious it is goodness and wisdom that have the upper hand.

In those who sink into materialism, evil and ignorance have the upper hand. As this section is about the life of yogis and sanyasis, Guru Gobind Singh gave his own view on yoga:

jogi jog jatan me nahi, bhram bhram marat, kaha pac pac kar dekh samajh man mahi, jo jan maha tat keh janai param gyan keh pavai, tab yeh ek thaur man rakhai, dar dar bhramat na dhavai.

O yogi, yoga lies not in the matted hair. Why are you wasting your life in rambling and roaming in the jungles? Look within and search for Him within thy own mind. He who attains the supreme reality within attains supreme knowledge. The enlightened ones concentrate their minds on the One; They do not prowl about and wander from door to door.

[1] kahan budh prabh tuch hamari; barn sakai mehma ju tihari,

ham na sakat kar sift tumari; ap leho tum katha sudhari;

tumri kriya kaha kou kahai; samjhat bat urjh mat rahai;

sucham rup na barna jae; birdh sarupeh kaho banai;

Bachiter Natak Granth. Chapter 2, Chaupai 3 and 7

[2] The Guru Granth and Bhai Gurdas also accept only 10:

cf: bisan lae avatar das, vair virodh jodh sanghare,

mach, kach, varah rup narsing hoe bavan bodhare,

parsram, ram, krisan ho, kilk kilanki at ahankare.

brahma bisan mahes dev upaya brahme dite bed puja, laya

das avatari ram raja aya, daitan mare dhae hukam sabaya.

The Shastar Naam Mala Puran

THIS is a rosary of names of weapons. It appears to have more linguistic importance than anything else. The introduction is as usual an invocation to the sword spirit of God. The weapons have been idealized as weapons of moral power. Guruji takes four main weapons: the sword, the sudarsan cakr, the arrow and the gun. Innumerable attributive names have been invented for each of them. A translation may not quite be understandable to the English reader, but 1 will explain it with a parallel example as to how the new attributive names are created. The verses are generally of this form: Take the word 'tyranny' and add to it all the words which mean 'destroyer.' You will then get the names of the sword.

The verse only suggests the words. The word building has to be done by the reader. The reader can then form such phrases as wrecker of tyranny, annihilator of tyranny, slayer of tyranny and thus form as many names of the sword as his ability permits. Indirectly it empha­sizes the moral significance of the weapons. To my limited understand­ing this composition does not appear to have anymore significance. Yet I am surprised that Guruji found time to devote as many as 1,318 verses to it. Each verse gives from four to eight names to the weapon.


The Zafarnama is the second letter to Aurangzeb. Bhai Mani Singh foresaw its great historical importance and so he included it in Dasm Granth. Wrong translations of the Zafarnama have led even such historians as Mr. Jadhu Nath Sirkar to misunderstand Guru Gobind Singh's personality. A correct translation of the Zafarnama has already been published in The Sikh Review.


In the Dasm Granth the Hikayats come immediately after the Zafarnama. Without exception the traditional gyanis and puruhits explain them as stories written to Aurangzeb to instruct him how to rule. It is nothing of that sort. Bhai Mani Singh, while compiling the works, thought it better to place the Guru’s purely Persian writings in the end. The only two Persian works were. the Zafarnama and the Hakayats. Considering the Zafarnama more important, he placed it first and the Hakayats follow. There is nothing in the stories from which Aurangzeb could gain anything while he was almost on his death bed. He had no weakness for women and these stories, like the Triya Charitar, are stories of women. They can be rightly called Triya Charitar in Persian. Two of these stories resemble word for word the stories told in Hindi. The other 10 also quite closely resemble the stories of the Triya Charitar except the characters and the places differ. Th theme is the same. The first translation of the Arabian Nights in Persian was called Hakayats. I have not the least doubt that these stories are stories of sex psychology exactly like those of the Triya Charitar.


In every recension of the Dasm Crnnth the title of this composition is Triya Caritar Pakhyan. The word pakhyan clears half of that myths shrouds that the name and the title of this book which, without properly understood, has given to innumerable heresies and erroneous impressions about the book. The word pakhyan is a Prakrit derivative of the Sanskrit word upakhyan which means a short tale, narrative, already told or heard from others.

The word charitar does not mean wiles, as is generally understood. If it were so Chandi Charitar would mean Wiles of Chandi, which is absurd. Even in the Triya Charitar the Charitar is that of Chandi.

In other works of Guru Gobind Singh also the word Charitar occurs with the meaning of life story,

je je Charitar kine parkas

te te Charitar bhakho subhas

je je charitar kie krishan dev

te te bhane su sarda dev


So the meaning of the word Charitar as used in the title is biography, adventure, habit, behaviour, acts and deeds. So the title of the book means stories of the adventures of women and of others.

The prevalent idea that all the stories are about the wiles of women is wrong. Those who believe that do not seem to have gone through the stories even once. As a matter of fact there are a number of stories in which there are no women characters. They Are called Purkh Charitars. These stories have been written with the same literary interest as modern literary short stories are written. The plot, the character is spun almost in the same way. There are a number of stories in which men betray women and women are only passive sufferers (stories 55, 85, 86, 76 and 108).

There are a good many stories about the outstanding bravery of some women. Women are shown at their best in politics, on the battle­field and in the feats of adventure. The character of the woman in Charitar 165 is the noblest one. There are, on the other hand, a number of stories about the vices in the courts of the Indian princes and whoever has seen the court life of the princes of our own days will find that they have become even a hundred times worse. Women are the victims as well as the powers over the weak­nesses of princes.

There are also stories of debauchery carried on by quazis, pundits and priests in the name of religion and under the cover of its sanctity. There are stories of temples being used as meeting places for lustful lovers (88, 124, 146, 260, 283 and 362). There are stories of women concealing illegitimate pregnancies (15, 57 and 92). There are stories of rich women keeping poor men such as sweepers (24) or gardeners. In story 149 a woman finds a novel device to stop her husband from taking opium. In on story an adulterer gives up adultery under the moral influence of his wife. All the problems exist today and need the same attention and consideration that Guruji gave them in his time.

There are also stories of ideal lovers for whom Guru Gobind Singh has nothing but praise. These lovers are Radha and Krishna, Nal and Damayanti, Hir and Ranjha, Sohni and Mahiwal, Sassi and Punnun, Yusf and Zulaikha, Pandvas and Dropdi and Mirza and Sahiban. Guru Sahib comments rather harshly on Sahiban for risking the life of her lover to save her brother. There are stories from the lives of Akbar, Jahangir, Shajahan, Aurangzeb and Alexander. There are stories from the courts of China, Rome, Portugal and France. The office of the Portuguese East India Company was established at Amritsar in the time of Guru Har Gobind. A Frenchman is known to have become the disciple of Guru Gobind Singh and was named Hushnak Singh. So it is quite probable that Guru Gobind Singh came in contact with some foreigners and learned these stories from them.

The Triya Charitar is not a religious work. It is foolish to look for religion in every type of writing. It is one long story of sin and sorrow, of pathos and bathos, of romance and heroism, of generosity and liberality, of benevolence and beneficence, of love and lust, of wit and wisdom.

Through it all breathes a lovely, poetic impulse, the poetry of ideas, not of formal verse but a radiant, innate idealism that awakens the sweetest harmonies of social, moral and spiritual realizations which are epitomized in a dynamic humanity:

sudh jab te ham dhari, bacan gur dae hamare,

put ihe pran tone praan jab lag ghat thare,

nij nari ke sath neh tum nit bodhaio

par nari ki sej bhul supne hu na jayo

Ever since I came of age, the Guru instructed me thus:

Son, take an oath and keep it as long as there is life in you,

Love thy legal wife ever and ever so much that

Not even in a dream should you share the bed of other woman.

By a strange coincidence the stories are strung into the continuous narrative of a minister explaining many sided character of women exactly in the same way as the one of the Decameron and the Arabian Nights. But the psychology revealed in the Triya Charitar is much vaster in scope than is found in ancient books.

The stories in the Decameron and the Arabian Nights are limited to the social culture. But the Triya Charitar was written almost with an international mind. There are stories of the people and the courts of Rome, China, Portugal, Russia, Manchuria, Arabia, Greece, Persia, France and Turkey. The stories with Indian background are from every nook and corner of India, Tibet, Kashmir Assam, Karnatic, Bengal, Ceylon, Bombay, Sindh. And yet there are some stories whose themes are universal and whose names of characters appear to be romantically invented. Here are a few of them:

Hero Heroin Place

Achalain Achaldei Achalvatinagar

Rajain Rajdei Rajpuri

Anandain Anand-mati Anandvati

Premsain Prem-manjari Premvati

Bengalsain Bengalmati Sunarnagri

Sultansain Sultandei Sultanpuri

The Charitars are therefore a long, continued novel involving a variety of events, each characterized by social and psychological aspects forming a narrative highly interesting it itself often exhibiting the most exquisite moral, yet preserving with rare ingenuity the peculiar characteristics of each story. It is a mixture of history and fiction. Fiction gives to mankind what history denies and in some measure satisfies the mind with the shadows when it cannot enjoy the substance. While real history does not give success according to the deserts of vice and virtue, fiction corrects and presents us with fates and fortunes of persons rewarded and punished according to character trends

Dr. Johnson's words fit so aptly: “Whatever might have been the intention of their author, these tales are made instrumental to the production of many characters diversified with boundless invention and preserved with profound skill, extensive knowledge of opinion and accurate observation of life. Here are exhibited princes, courtiers and sailors, all king in their real characters”.

We can say fairly this much and far more about these stories. Viewed as tout ensemble in full and complete form they are a drama of inter­national life. The dance of vices and virtue is made sublime here and here with faith and religious emotions, by the certainty of expiation and emotion the fullness of atoning equity where virtue is victorious and vice is Vanquished and the ways of God are justified to man.

Yet the medieval Indian mind is revealed vividly in all its mixture of childishness, astuteness, vanity, simplicity, hypocrisy and cunning, concealing a levity of mind under a solemnity of religious fervour. This mind's stolid, instinctive conserva­tism grovels before the tyrant rule of the times. This mental torpidity, founded upon physical indolence, renders immediate action and all manner of exertion distasteful. This conscious weakness, concealed and glorified by religious non-violence, shows itself in overweening arrogance and vanity. The crass and self-satis­fied ignorance of the medieval Hindu makes him glorify the most ignoble superstition while the Muslim mind here and there reveals a malignant fanaticism and furious hatred of every creed beyond the pale of al-Islam.

All the splendour and squalor, the beauty and baseness of life are here. The genius of the story-teller quickens the dry bone of history and by adding fiction to fact revives the dead past. Here there is a picture gallery of weird and striking adven­tures, there are idyllic peace of love forsaken or betrayed or requited love. Pathos and humour alternate with artistic contrast. Sometimes two or even three stories are told from the lives of the same people.

Many readers will regret the absence of modesty in some stories in which sex relations are described rather too openly. Those who go through all the Charitars will find that the ratio of the so-called immodest matter is a very small proportion of the mass of the work. In an age saturated with cant and hypocrisy here and there a venal pen may mourn the frankness of express­ion in the Charitars but it is certainly not more than we find in the Old Testament and the works of Aristophanes Plato, Horace, Virgil, Petronious, Boccacio, Chaucer, Rabelais, Sterne or Swift. And yet our generation reads these works without a word of protest. “Even in the Old Testament we find allusions to human ordure and pudenda, to carnal copulation and impudent whoredom, to adultery and fornication, to onanism, sodomy and bestiality. No Christian has ever thought of purging it.” (Richard F. Burton)

Now before we close it is essential to study the position of womanhood in the Charitars which is so curiously at variance with the stock idea prevalent about it.

While there are a good many remarks about the strength and weaknesses of the character of women there is nothing so harsh as we sometime find in the best thinkers of the world to this day. But the female characters in the Dasm Granth are in more than 90% of the stories more remarkable for decision, action and even manliness than the male. One is wonderstruck by their masterful attitude and by the supreme power they exercised on public and private life. The severest remark in Charitar is that women are beings of impulses blown about by every gust of passion, stable only in instability, constant only in inconstancy. But at the same time we meet with examples of the dutiful daughter, model lover devoted wife, perfect mother, saintly devotee, chaste widow, learned and self-sacrificing women.

The imaginative varnish of these stories serves admirably as a foil to the absolute realism of the picture in general. It is taken for granted in the Charitars that division should be by aptitude and ability, not by sex. Women are shown capable of doing everything that is within the limits of human endeavour. The idea in these stories was that if a woman was capable of political administration or commanding an army, the women should command and the men obey.

Woman is shown in the Dasm Granth as superior in modesty, cleverer in making and breaking love. Her jealousy is instinctive and her wit for subtle revenge is as natural as her ability to make and break love.

Lies are always one-legged and short-lived and venom evaporates very soon. From this study readers can judge how deliberate are the falsehoods that have been spread about the works in the Dasm Granth. If in a landscape of magnificent prospects one finds vistas adorned with every charm of nature and aft but there also is a little heap of muck lying here and there in some neglected corner, how in wise would those people be who turned their noses to the whole landscape and fields.