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Satgur Bhatts - Image by Isher Singh Charitable Trust Kaleran (Punjab)

Bhatt Bani (the hymns by the bards) comprising twenty pages is incorporated in the concluding part of Adi Granth. The Bhatts are supposed to be the descendants of Koshish Rishi and are linked with the Sarshat Brahmins. It is a fact that almost all the eleven Bhatts belonged to Punjab and were residents of Sultanpur Lodhi (district Kapurthala) where Guru Nanak had served in the Modikhana for 13 years. According to Bhatt chronicles they were sons or nephews of Bhikha and Toda Bhatts.

During medieval times Bhatts (ballad singers) were of every ruler in India their job was to compose and sing martial songs. With their narrative and descriptive poetry of war, their songs and music led the warriors to the battlefield. Marching to the battlefield to meet their enemies, they would narrate to them the heroic deeds of their forefathers, who had laid their lives for the honour of the motherland. They recited the martial poems and aroused passion of the heroes for war and love for the motherland. The compositions of the Bhatts attached to the courts of the latter Sikh Gurus, which are now included in the Guru Granth Sahib are eulogies to the first five Gurus.

These Bhatts used the popular form of poetry called "Swaiya Chhand", which gave their Swaiyas a very distinctive style. Their rich language, full of poetic imagery, is packed with elegant and decorative vocabulary. The eleven Bhatts whose Bani is included in Adi Granth are: Kalshar, Jalap, Kirat, Bhika, Salh, Bhalh, Nal, Gyand, Mathura, Bal and Harbans. It is said that they had come to the fifth Guru in a group led by Bhatt Kalshar. It appears some of them had also attended earlier the congregations of Guru Amardas and Guru Ramdas.

According to the chronicler Sant Singh Bhatt as written in Bhatt Bahi, "It was the ninth generation of Bhatt Bhagirath that was blessed with an eminent poet and scholar known as Raiya, who had six sons named Bhika, Sokha, Tokha, Gokha, Chokha and Toda. The Swaiyas of the Adi Granth are authored mostly by the sons and grandsons of Raiya, with the exception of Bhatt Nal. The compositions of these Bhatts, popularly known as Bhatt Bani, are comprised of 123 Swaiyas, written in praise of the first five Gurus."

A significant point to be noted in this respect is that these Bhatts were not mercenaries whose words were written only to please their employer written only for money; their compositions were genuine expressions of their love and regards for the Gurus. They were dedicated followers of the Gurus and their poetry was the spontaneous articulation of their deeprooted respects for the house of Nanak. According to them, beginning with Guru Nanak, all the Gurus were the carriers of the same light as Guru Nanak. The Oneness of the spirit of the Gurus was the main theme of their Swaiyas.


Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, author of Mahan Kosh has referred to an en the `Sooraj Prakash' by Gyani Santokh Singh which accepts the Bhatts incarnations of Vedas. In other words he has accepted their scholarship, acknowledging them as the store-house of Vedas. Dr. Mohan Singh Diwan . The History of Punjabi Literature has accepted them as the court poets of the G who endeavoured to establish the social, religious and the spiritual state of Gurus in beautiful language.

According to records it is stated that Bhatt Bani was incorporated Adi Granth in AD 1604 by Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru, the compiler of the Ha Granth. During the life time of the fifth great spiritual leader of the Sikhs thei compositions were sung by balladeers, Satta and Balwand in the congregations melodious tunes to enthrall the audience with their devotional overtone.

BANI, recorded under the title Savaiyye, is the name popularly given to the compositions of the Bhatts as included in the Guru Granth Sahib (pp. 1389-1409). Bhatts were bards or panegyrists who recited poetry lauding the grandeur of a ruler or the gallantry of a warrior. Bhatt was also used as an epithet for a learned Brãhman. In the Sikh tradition, Bhatts are poets with the personal experience and vision of the spirituality of the Gurus whom they celebrate in their verse. According to Bhãi Santokh Singh, Sri Gur Pratãp Süraj Granth, They were the Vedas incarnate (p. 2121). The Bhatts are-said to have originally lived on the bank of the River Sarasvati which is also the name of the Indian mythological goddess of knowledge. They were thus called Sãrasvat, i.e. the learned Brãhmans. Those living on the other side of the Sarasvat were called Gaur. They showed little interest in learning and contended themselves with alms given them by their patrons whose bansãvalinãmãs or genealogies they recorded in their scrolls called vahis. They are still found on the bank of the Sarasvati in the Talaudã (Jind), Bhãdsoñ (Lãdva) and Karsindhu (Safidoñ) villages in Haryãnã. Some of these families shifted over to Sultanpur Lodhi, now in Kapurthalã district of the Punjab, and settled there. Bhikhã and Todã of these families embraced the Sikh faith during the time of Guru Amar Dãs.

Bhai Gurdas ji

Bhai Gurdas also gives in his Vãrãñ, XI. 21, a brief account of these Bhatts. What was the number of Bhatts whose compositions are included is a question not yet firmly answered. According to a tradition, Kalh, a leading Bhatt poet, took it upon himself to note down some of the verse of the Bhatts from the vahis and passed it on to Guru Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Holy Book. As for the number of Bhatt contributors to the Guru Granth Sahib, Sahib Singh, Teja Singh, Tãran Singh and other modern scholars count 11 of them, whereas Santokh Siñgh (Sri GurPratãp Suraj Granth), Bhai Vir Singh (Guru Granth Kosh)and some others among the traditional scholars count 17, and Panclit Kartãr Singh Dãkha puts the figure at 19. This variation in owed to the fact that the Bhatts used to sing in chorus and sometimes the chorus sung in a group went in the name of the leader at other times individually in the members of the group.

From among the 17 Bhatts positions figure in the Guru Granth Sahib, Bhikhã, son of Rayyã, was a resident of Sultãnpur Lodhi and had been a follower of Guru Amar Das. Of the total 123 savaiye in the Guru Granth Sahib two are of his composition, both in praise of Guru Amar Das Of the remaining sixteen Bhatt contributors four are his sons; Kalh, also called or Kal Thãkur, who is reckoned to be the most learned of all the Bhatts, has 10 in praise of Guru Nanak, 9 each of Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das, 13 in praise of Guru Ram Das and 12 in praise of Guru Arjan; Jalap who had migrated to Goindval with his father has four his name all of which are in praise of Guru Amar Das; Kirat (d. 1634) has eight savaiye, four each in praise of Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Dãs; and Mathurã 12, all in praise of Guru Ram Dãs. Salh who has three savaiye extolling the pre-eminence of Guru Amar Dãs (1) and Guru Ram Dãs (2), Bhalh who has one savaiyya in praise of Guru Amar Dãs were the sons of Sekhã, a brother of Rayya.

Balh who has five savaiye stressing the spiritual oneness of the Gurus was son of Tokhã, another brother of Rayya. Haribañs, the eldest son of Gokha, a brother of Rayya, has two savaiyyes , both in praise of Guru Arjan. Nalh has five savaiyyes all in praise of Guru Ram Das. Das also spelt dasu or dasi, has composed ten savaiyyes including one conjointly written with Sevak, who in addition to this has four savaiyye of his own. Parmanand has five savaiyyes are in praise of Guru Ram das, Tal's single one in praise of Guru Añgad .Jalan has two savaiye in praise of Guru Ram Das, Jalh one in praise of Guru Amar Dãs and Gayand five which glorify Guru Ram Dãs. Of the total 123 , ten each pay homage to Guru Nãnak and Guru Angad, 22 to Guru Amar Dãs, Ram Dãs and 21 to Guru Arjan.

The main purpose of these savaiye is to acclaim the Gurus, not as individuals but as the revelation they embodied.The Bhatts see the Gurus as one light, as one spirit passing from one body to the other. Bhatt Kirat for instance: Just as (Guru) Angad was ever the part of Guru Nãnak's being so is Guru Ram Dãs of (Guru) Amar Dãs's Again, Bhatt Kalh: From Guru Nanak was Angad: from Angad, Amar Dãs received sublime rank. From Guru Ram Das descended Guru Arjan, the great devotee of God (GG, 1407). This concept of all the Gurus being one light, one voice has informed all along the Sikh belief and development and constitutes today a fundamental principle of the faith.

List of Bhatts

Following are name of the eleven plus six making seventeen Bhatts of Sri Guru Granth Sahib:-

Bhatt Kalshar

Bhatt Bal

Bhatt Bhalh

Bhatt Bhika

Bhatt Gayand

Bhatt Harbans

Bhatt Jalap

Bhatt Kirat

Bhatt Mathura

Bhatt Nalh or Nal

Bhatt Salh or Sal

Bhatt Jal

Bhatt Kal

Bhatt Tal

Bhatt Jalan

Bhatt Das

Bhatt Sewak

Contribution to SGGS

Details of their contributions are as follows:

Name Guru Nanak Guru Angad Guru Amardas Guru RamDas Guru Arjun Dev Total
Kalshar 10 10 9 13 12 54
Jalap - - 5 - - 5
Kirat - - 4 4 - 8
Bhika - - 2 - - 2
Salh - - 1 2 - 3
Bhalh - - 1 - - 1
Nal - - - 16 - 16
Gyand - - - 13 - 13
Mathura - - - 7 7 14
Bal - - - 5 - 5
Harbans - - - - 2 2
Total 10 10 22 60 21 123

As per chronicle

  • a) Mathura, Jalap and Kirat were sons of Bhika.
  • b) Salh and Bhalh were sons of Sokha.
  • c) gal was son of Tokha.
  • d) Haribans was son of Gokha.
  • e) Kalshar and Gyand were sons of Chokha.

The above mentioned nine Bhatts, combined with Bhikha and Nal make a group of eleven, who came to the congregation at Amritsar during the pontification of the 5th Guru. In this connection, it is very important to note that earlier Bhatt Bhikha had visited Goindwal and paid a tribute to Guru Amardas, in a Swaiya, which is very important and has since assumed the status of an historical document. It is a very pungent comment on the prevalent deteriorated state of religion in India and the dubious position of clergy. Indirectly it also establishes the fact that popularity of Sikh philosophy and the credibility of the house of Nanak had already spread far and wide. Bhikha says

I wandered all over the place

Searching for a hermit with Heavenly Grace. I met many a mendicant, high flying on the ego fleet Soft-spoken, polished, vainful and sweet. In vain I wasted all my time. None of them was spiritually fine. Like an empty vessel or hollow pot, They talked a lot, all but rot. God in their hands was just a pawn Shady deals were in their clan At last I reached the rightful place, With The Guru Amardas I found solace.

Adi Granth p.1395

Bhatt Bani is a very important chapter of Adi Granth. Is it important because it is an eulogy to the Gurus or that'it contains social, economic and political events of the era, significant from historical point of view? No. Its significance lies in its relevant worth, for it has glaring clash of ideology. It is a well known fact that Sikhism does not believe in Avtarvad (incarnations) and in the entire Guru Bani, no where any credence has been given to it, except Bhatt Bani. It must be remembered that the composers of Bhatt Bani were all Vaishnavites, followers of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, who strictly believed in incarnation but at that time they were still in search of spiritual attainment. This fact is evident from the Swaiya of Bhatt Bhikha as quoted above, which highlights their search in this realm.

Let us consider it from another angle. After the Bhatts were able to establish contact with Guru Arjun Dev, they attended the congregations personally and enjoyed the blissful Kirtan sung in the' Sangat, their belief in the house of Nanak became more resolute. Here they got set for the spiritual journey under the expert guidance of Guru Arjun Dev. Now came the time of writing the Swaiyas, they expressed their thoughts with all the sincerity at their command. They wrote in the light of their Pauranic knowledge, mythological background mingled with the new spiritual experience that they gained in the Guru's court. It was here that they saw the grandeur and sublimity, the concept of Spiritual Temporal authority (Miri and Piri), together.

Through their angle of vision, they saw the Gurus as incarnations of Vishnu, but they went to the extent of calling Guru Nanak as personified Bhagwan (God himself). This being a very neologistic expression in the Sikh exegesis, became extraordinarily conspicuous. One must remember that the Sikh ethos does not permit such expressions, which at the most may be termed as vagary or the poetic exaggeration. It is worth noting that the Gurus never called themselves Bhagwan and never liked to be addressed as such. Guru Gobind Singh went to the exted calling himself as the humblest servant of God (Akal Purakh). He says in autobiography : "I am the humblest servant of God. Whosoever calls i Parmeshwar, shall be condemned to Hell".

Main hoon Param Purakh ka Dasa

Dekhan aayon jagat tamasha Jo ham ko Parmeshwar uncharhen, Te sab Narak Kund men parhenZ

-Guru Gobind Singh (Dasam Granth)

The Bhatts loved the Gurus, treated them as revered Avtars and the accepted continuity of the same light in each one of them. According to them, it wa the same spirit which started with Guru Nanak and was passed on to the success Gurus. Their forms might have been different, but the spirit was the same. A important point which crops up at this stage is that, even though the Sikh culture accepts oneness of the spirit of the Gurus, the Bhatts saw Guru Nanak as the incarnation of Vishnu and the successor Gurus as the incarnation of Guru Nanak. The point which makes it more significant is that it was for the first time that this recognition was recorded in Sikh literature and the full credit goes to Bhatts.

Moreover, the theory of incarnation (Avtarvad) as accepted and narrated by the Bhatts is different from what has been the conceptual attitude recorded in Gur Bani. Here we would like to quote the eminent Sikh scholar, Bhai Santokh Singb, who is considered an authority on the history of the Gurus. He has mentioned in his work Suraj Prakash that Bhatts were the incarnations of Vedas. As stated earlier, the , same expression has been repeated by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha in his Mahan Kosh.

If we consider the Bhatt Bani, vis-a-vis Guru Bani, we find a marked change and deviation from the utterances of the Gurus. While the Gurus in general condemned the Avtarvad, the Bhatts were staunch followers of this tradition and wrote their poetry with this very knowledge and belief, derived from Hindu mythology and Puranic definitions. This is the root point which distinguishes the Bhatt Bani from Guru Bani. The marked difference makes the Bhatt Bani as an appendage to Adi Granth. Of late there have been some voices of dissent asking for disintegration of Bhatt Bani from Guru Granth Sahib but these voices have died down now. On the other hand those who do not want disintegration consider the very idea as sacrilege.

No doubt, Bhatt Bani was written as eulogy to the Gurus, yet analysing it with the diversity of its underlying theme and the undertone atmosphere, it may be concluded that the compiler of Adi Granth was much above the parochial and sectarian approach. He was radical, open-minded and gave liberal space in the Holy Book, to the poetry which could be termed as diagonally opposite to the convictions of the Gurus.

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