Miharban Janam Sakhi

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MIHARBAN JANAM SAKHI takes its name from Sodhi Miharban, nephew of Guru Arjan and leader of the schismatic Mma sect. Miharban's father, Prithi Chand, was the eldest son of Guru Ram Das and as such had greatly resented being passed over as his father's successor in favour of a younger brother. He set himself as a rival to the Guru. He and his followers who supported his claims were stigmatized as Mmas or hypocrites and outcastes. Succeeding his father as leader of this sect in 1619, Miharban guided it until his death in 1640. Later, the sect declined into insignificance. A belief, however, survived that Miharban had composed a janam. sdkhiofGuru Nanak. Until well into the twentieth century, no copy of this Janam Sdkhi had come to light. The prologue to the highly respected Cyan Ratandvali specifically declared that the Mmas had corrupted the authentic record of Guru Nanak's life and teachings. The lost Miharban Janam Sdkhiha.d accordingly been branded spurious and heretical, and but for the Cyan Ratandvali reference it would probably have been forgotten completely. In 1940, however, a Miharban manuscript was discovered at Damdama Sahib and subsequently acquired by Khalsa College, Amritsar. Upon examination this substantial manuscript turned out to contain only the first half of the complete Miharban Janam Sdkhi. According to the colophon, the complete work comprised six volumes (pothis}. The manuscript itself consisted of the first three volumes, Poihi Sachkhand, Pothi Hariji, and Pothi Chaturbhuj, respectively. The three missing sections were entitled Keso Rdi Pothi, Abhai Pad Pothi, and Prem Pad Pothi. In 1961, the Khalsa College acquired a second and much smaller Miharban manuscript which provided a text for folios missing from the Damdama manuscript. It is, however, limited to a portion of Pothi Sachkhand, and thus provides no material from the three missing volumes. The only portion to survive from this latter half of the Miharban Janam Sdkhi is its account of the death of Guru Nanak. This has been incorporated in a recension of the Bald Janam Sdkhi tradition. From the extant volumes of the Miharban janam Sdkhi, three important conclusions may l)e drawn. The first of these is that the work can scarcely be described as heretical. Objections grounded in orthodox doctrine may certainly be raised at a few points, but the same can be said of Miharban product implies no denigration of the mission of Guru Nanak, demonstrating instead a serious concern to propagate his teachings. Pothi Hariji does contain the spurious story of Guru Nanak's marriage to a Rarighar woman, but it occurs within a narrative section which has plainly been interpolated. The Mmas were unquestionably guilty of positive schism and it is possible that at some stage they may have attempted to corrupt orthodox texts in the interests of their own pretensions. But the extant Miharban Janam Sdkhi scarcely falls within this category. The second conclusion to be drawn from the two available manuscripts is that the text we now possess is a late and extensively augmented one. The Damdama manuscript is dated 1885 Bk/AD 1828 and plainly it is to the early nineteenth century that its text belongs. If in fact Sodhl Miharban did deliver discourses to his followers, there can be little hope of isolating his authentic contribution from the mass of material recorded in the extant text. The third conclusion indicated by the extant text is that, strictly speaking, the socalled Miharban Janam Sdkhi is not really a Janam Sdkht. The first volume, Pothi SachKhand does use a Janam Sdkhi narrative as a convenient framework, but the burden of emphasis is firmly placed on the extensive exegetical discourses which the Miharban tradition so characteristically sets within this pattern. In the two remaining volumes (and presumably in their three missing successors), the narrative element disappears almost completely, except for a few interpolations. Whenever a setting is provided for a discourse, it is normally sketched in the briefest of terms. The emphasis on scriptural quotation and exegesis, already dominant in the first volume, thus becomes overwhelming in those which follow. It is accordingly as a work of exegesis that the Miharban Janam Sdkht must be primarily understood, a quality which clearly distinguishes it from the standard narrative Janam Sdkhis. The same Miharban tradition produced other exegetical works (notably Gostdn Sri Miharban Ji Didn) and it is within this category that its socalled Janam Sdkhis properly belong. This is signified not merely by the actual content of the Miharban Janam Sdkhis, but also by the structure within which it incorporates that content. In place of the anecdotal form (Sdkht) of the narrative Janam Sdkhis, it uses a distinctive variety of discourse (gost). The typical gostofthe Miharban tradition comprises three elements. First, there is a brief narrative selling which brings Guru Nanak into converse with some interlocutor, or with God. Second, there appears a series of extracts from the works of Guru Nanak. Third, interspersed between these scriptural quotations and providing the bulk of most discourses, there arc explanations of the passages quoted. Normally these exegetical seclions are introduced with the standard formula; lis kd paramdrath ("Its sublime meaning") . Many discourses arc limited to a single hymn, with individual stanzas quoted and expounded separately, usually with an introductory query provided for each by the interlocutor. Others treat a theme more extensively by citing in turn a series of relevant hymns. There were only two Miharban Janam Sdkhi manuscripts known to be extant. The text of the principal manuscript, supplemented where necessary by the later discovery, has been published by the Khalsa College, Amritsar, under the title, Janam Sdkhis Sri Guru Nanak Dev/i (2 volumes, Amritsar, 1962 and 1969). The language of this Janam Sdkhi is Sadh Bhasha with a mixture of Punjabi vocabulary. Theological terminology of Indian traditions is freely and judiciously employed. Typical preacher style makes the discourses a bit too monotonous.