Structure of Guru Granth Sahib

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A page from the bir of Guru Granth Sahib handwritten by Pratap Singh Giani, located on the first floor of Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar.

The Guru Granth Sahib Ji begins with the word "Ek Onkar" – The All Pervading Being. From this Word to the tenth Word “Gur-parshad” is called the Mool Mantra. After this is the rest of the composition called the Japji Saahib composed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The Japji Saahib consists of 38 Pauris or stanzas, a prologue, and an epilogue. This is one of the morning prayers of the Sikhs.

The next composition has two parts - (1) "So Dar" and (2) "So Purkh". The Bani, "So Dar", contains 5 Shabads and "So Purkh" contains 4 Shabads. This forms most of the evening prayer of the Sikhs and is called the Rehras Saahib. After this is the Bani called Sohila (full name, Kirtan Sohila), which contains 5 Shabads and is the bed-time prayer.

The scripture contains compositions by:

The Guru Granth Sahib contains 5877 hymns or Shabads/Sloks. Of these,

Pre-Raga Section

The section of Bani before the Ragas as described above, can be summarised in relation to the page numbers as given below:

# # Description of Bani Pages
1. Japji Sahib Guru Nanak Dev 1 to 8
a. Mool Mantar 1
b. 38 Pauris 1 to 8
c. Slok 8
2. Part of Rehras 8 to 12
a. So Dar 8 to 10
b. So Purakh 10 to 12
3. Sohila 12 to 13

Raga section

Within it's 1430 pages, most of the Shabads (hymns) of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib are arranged in these thirty-one Ragas, the traditional Indian musical measures and scales. Within the Ragas, they are arranged by order of the Sikh Gurus, with the shabads of the Hindu and Muslim saints. The shabads are written in various meters and rhythms, and are organized accordingly. For instance, Ashtapadi - eight steps, or Panch-padi - five steps. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi script, but the shabads were written in many different languages including Punjabi, Sanskrit and Persian.

Index of Raga section

Main article: Index of Raag section

A raga is a reflection of a person's mood or emotional inclination and this is basically expressed musically by a set of rules to build a melody. This human emotion is reflected in music by specifying a scale, as well as rules for movements up and down the scale. Also, which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly; which notes take which ornamentation, which notes must be bent, which notes may be bent, phrases to be used, phrases to be avoided, and so on. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies in, so that melodies in a certain raga will always be recognisable yet allowing endless variation.

60 Ragas mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib

Following is the list of all sixty Raags under which Gurbani is written, in order of appearance with page numbers.

  • 1. Asa 8
  • 2. Gujari 10
  • 3. Gauri Deepaki 12
  • 4. Dhanasri 13
  • 5. Gauri Poorabi 13
  • 6. Siri 14
  • 7. Majh 94
  • 8. Gauri Guarairee 151
  • 9. Gauri 151
  • 10. Gauri Dakhani 152
  • 11. Gauri Chaitee 154
  • 12. Gauri Bairagan 156
  • 13. Gauri Poorabi Deepaki 157
  • 14. Gauri Majh 172
  • 15. Gauri Malva 214
  • 16. Gauri Mala 214
  • 17. Gauri Sorath 330
  • 18. Asa Kafi 365
  • 19. Asavari 369
  • 20. Asa Asavari 409
  • 21. Devgandhari 527
  • 22. Bihagra 537
  • 23. Vadhans 557
  • 24. Vadhans Dakhani 580
  • 25. Sorath 595
  • 26. Jaitsri 696
  • 27. Todi 711
  • 28. Bairarri 719
  • 29. Tilang 721
  • 30. Tilang Kafi 726
  • 31. Suhee 728
  • 32. Suhee Kafi 751
  • 33. Suhee Lalit 793
  • 34. Bilaval 795
  • 35. Bilaval Dakhani 843
  • 36. Gound 859
  • 37. Bilaval Gound 874
  • 38. Ramkali 876
  • 39. Ramkali Dakhani 907
  • 40. Nut Narayan 975
  • 41. Nut 975
  • 42. Mali Gaura 984
  • 43. Maru 989
  • 44. Maru Kafi 1014
  • 45. Maru Dakhani 1033
  • 46. Tukhari 1107
  • 47. Kedara 1118
  • 48. Bhairo 1125
  • 49. Basant -1168
  • 50. Basant Hindol 1170
  • 51. Sarang 1197
  • 52. Malar 1254
  • 53. Kanra 1294
  • 54. Kaliyan 1319
  • 55. Kaliyan Bhopali 1321
  • 56. Parbhati Bibhas 1327
  • 57. Parbhati 1327
  • 58. Parbhati Dakhani 1344
  • 59. Bibhas Parbhati 1347
  • 60. Jaijavanti 1352

The Sequence of Compositions with the Raags

Within each Raag, the compositions are arranged in the following order:

Shabads, followed by Astpadis, follwed by Chhants, followed by Compositions of the Bhagats.

Each section of Shabads, Astpadis, Chhants are arranged in the order of the Gurus. Surprisingly, there are no Shabads by Guru Angad Dev Ji - He only wrote Sloks. Each section of Shabads in each Raag is follwed by Astpadi again in order of the Gurus. There is no Astpadi written by Guru Tegh Bahadur. After the Astpadi section are Chhants in the same chronological order of the Gurus.

Written by Shabads Astpadis Chhants Total
Guru Nanak Dev 209 123 25 357
Guru Amar Das 172 79 19 270
Guru Ram Das 264 58 38 360
Guru Arjan Dev 1322 45 63 1430
Guru Tegh Bahadur 59 - - 59
Total 2026 305 145 2476

Post Raga Section

After the completion of the Raag section of the Guru Granth Sahib which form the majority of the holy scripture, the following compositions appear:

# # Description of Bani Slok
1. Slok Saihskriti, Guru. Nanak Dev 8
2. Slok Saihskriti, Guru Arjan Dev 67
3. Gaatha, Guru. Arjan Dev 24
4. Phunhe, Guru Arjan Dev 23
5. Chaubole, Guru Arjan Dev 11
6. Slok, Bhagat Kabir Ji 243
7. Slok, Shaikh Farid Ji 130
8. Swayye, Sri Mukh Wak 9
9. Swayye, Sri Mukh Wak 11
10. Swayye, 11 Bhatts 123
The Swayye of the 11 Bhatts can be broken down as:
a. In Praise of Guru Nanak Dev 10
b. In Praise of Guru Angad Dev 10
c. In Praise of Guru Amar Das 22
d. In Praise of Guru Ram Das 60
e. In Praise of Guru Arjan Dev 21
11. Sloks in addition to those in Vars: 152
a. Guru Nanak Dev 33
b. Guru Amar Das 67
c. Guru Ram Das 30
d. Guru Arjan Dev 22
12. Sloks of Guru Tegh Bahadur 57
13. Mundawani, Guru Arjan Dev 1
14. Slok of Guru Arjan Dev 1
15. Ragmala


Altogether, there are in all 22 Varan in Guru Granth Sahib, of which 21 have been written by the Gurus, and one by Bhatts Satta and Balwand. The details of Vars are given below -

# Writtten by: Appears in Raags Varan
1. Guru Nanak Dev Majh, Asa and Malar 3
2. Guru Amar Das Gujri, Suhi, Ramkali and Maru 4
3. Guru Ram Das Sri, Gaurhi, Bihagrha, Vadhans, Sorath, Bilawal, Sarang and Kanrha 8
4. Guru Arjan Dev Rag Gaurhi, Gujri, Jaitsri, Ramkali, Maru. and. Basant 6
5. Satta and Balwand Rag Ramkali 1
Total 22

Details of Vars in order of Raags

The following is the breakdown of the number of Varan in the Raags:

  • Ramkali has 3 varaa
  • Gaurhi, Gujri, Matu each have 2 varaa each.
  • The remaining 13 raags each have 1 var: Sri, Majh, Asa, Baihagara, Vadhans, Sorath, Jaitsri, Suhi, Bilawal, Basant, Sarang, Malar and Karma.

Except for Satta and Baiwand’s Var in Rag Ramkali and the Var in Basant Rag of Guru Arjan Dev, in all the remaining Varaa, Sloks of first five Gurus have been attached to the Pauris of the Vars. The details of Pauris and Sloks of these Vars are given below:-

Details of Pauris of 21:

  • Guru Nanak Dev 78 Pauris (stanzas)
  • Guru Amar Das 85 Pauris
  • Guru Ram Das 183 Pauris
  • Guru Ram Das 183 Pauris
  • Guru Arjan Dev 117 Pauris
  • Total number of Pauris of 2l 463 Pauris
  • Vars Satta-Baiwand’s Var 8 Pauris
  • Grand Total of Pauris 471 Pauris

Details of Sloks of 21 Vars

  • Guru Nanak Dev 227 Sloks
  • Guru Angad Dev 63 Sloks
  • Guru Amar Das 343 Sloks
  • Guru Ram Das 105 Sloks
  • Guru Arjan Dev 252 Sloks
  • Kabir Ji 4 Sloks
  • Total of 994 Sloks

Compositions of the Bhagats

location of birth place of various Writers of Guru Granth Sahib compiled by Guru Arjun & Guru Gobind Singh

The compositions of the Bhagats appears in 22 of the 31 raags. There are a total of 349 Shabads by the Bhagats. Within these 349 Shabads are also 3 Shabads by Guru Arjan Dev. The breakdown of these 352 shabads is given below:

Written by No of Shabads
Bhagat Kabir 224
Bhagat Namdev 61
Bhagat Ravidas 4
Bhagat Trilochan 4
Bhagat Farid 3
Bhagat Beni 3
Bhagat Dhanna 2
Bhagat Jaidev 2
Bhagat Bhikhan 1
Bhagat Parmanand 1
Bhagat Sain 1
Bhagat Sadhana 1
Bhagat Ramanand 1
Bhagat Surdas 1
Guru Arjan Dev 1
Total 352

In addition to the above Shabads, there are 3 more compositions by Bhagat Kabir in Raag Gauri. They are Bavan Akhari, Pandrah Thithi and Satt Var.

The Metres and types of compositions

All hymns contained in Guru Granth Sahib are classified in different Ragas except the first hymn 'JAP JI, and SWAYYAS AND SLOAKS' at the end. The composition of the hymns in Guru Granth Sahib can be classified as:

a. Shabads (religious sayings of different number of verses and their count in Guru Granth Sahib is as follows:

  • 2 verses - (dupadas), 608
  • 3 verses - (tripade), 73
  • 4 verses - (chaupadas), 1,255
  • 5 verses - (panchpadas), 80
  • 6 verses - (chhepedas), 11 verses
  • 8 verses - (Ashtpadian), 311
  • 16 verses - (sohilas), 62

b. Pauris - Literally there is no difference between a shabad and a pauri. The practical difference is that a pauri carries its idea further. In Punjabi language a pauri means a ladder. The word pauri is used in the Granth Sahib to define different parts of a 'VAR' - a heroic ballad e.g. Var Rankali of the third Guru or a long verse e.g. Jap Ji of Guru Nanak. The pauri is a long verse and may or may not have uniformity i.e. they may differ in metre and in number.

c. Vars (ballads) - Var means a long poem in which the praises of a hero are sung. The religious Vars included in Guru Granth Sahib contain a slok, a small verse complete in itself which is mostly subjective, before each pauri in order to clarify the idea contain in the pauri. The Pauris of a Var are by the same writer but it is not necessary for the sloks. If the name/number of the composer is not given before the sloks then the composer is the same as that of the Var otherwise the name or number of the composer is given. There are 22 Vars in Guru Granth Sahib written as follows: Guru Nanak - 3 Guru Amardas - 4 Guru Ramdas - 8 Guru Arjan - 6 Satta and Balwand (Bards) - 1 (This Var has no sloaks in it)

d. Chhants - means verses of praise. Majority of the Chhants in Guru Granth Sahib contain one or more stanzas. A stanza of a Chhant contains four to six verses. There are some Chhants which are preceded by sloaks like Pauris in Vars.

e. Swayas - it is a particular stanza form. In Guru Granth Sahib are the Bards/Bhats who.composed Swayas to praise the Sikh Gurus and used many other metres under the heading Swayas. They also used different arrangements of long and short syllables at the end of the verses or within the serves. There are 122 Swayas composed by the Bhats in praise of the Gurus included in Guru Granth Sahib.

Patti is a long verse in which each letter of an alphabet is represented by a stanza. Guru Nanak has used Punjabi alphabet while Guru Amardas has used some other alphabet of the period. Two more similar verses have been named as Bawankhris, meaning fifty-two letters. Guru Nanak's Bawan-Akhri has 52 letters whereas Kabir's Bawan-Akhri has only 36 letters. Onkar also means the beginning of an alphabet and dakhni means 'o f the south'. Thus a southern alphabet is used in this verse. It is composed by Guru Nanak and has 54 letters in it.

g. Pehre, Bara Mah, Thhitti and Rutti. These are the long verses in which stanzas are composed on the names of the four parts of the day, seven days of the week, twelve months of the year, fifteen lunar dates and six seasons.

h. Gatha and Phune. These are special type of sloaks. In Gatha, like Sahaskriti sloaks couplets, do not rhyme. Phune means repetition. In phunhay word 'Harihan' is repeated in the fourth verse of each stanza.

i. Chaubole - Chaubole actually means a popular song. In Guru Granth Sahib it means an utterance of four persons, four Bhats - Somoan, Moos, Jan and Patting.

Contributors to the Granth

The writings in the Granth generally appears in chapters which are given names of Raags. Within each chapter or Raag, the writings of the Gurus appears chronologically. Each of the Gurus signed their hymns as Nanak. Their compositions are identified by the numerals at the beginning of each hymn, ie. Mahalla 1 is Guru Nanak, Mahalla 2 is Guru Angad and so on. These are then followed by those of other saints (Bhagtas) and other contributors. Their are 3,384 hymns found in the Guru Granth Sahib broken down by 43 authors of who many were non-Sikhs including Hindus and Muslims. The authors of Guru Granth Sahib include:

The 6 Gurus

The 15 Bhagats

Holy text of saints of both Muslim and Hindu faiths has been included in the Guru Granth Sahib; Sheikh Farid, who was a Muslim was a major contributor to the Guru Granth Sahib. Bhagat Namdev and Bhagat Ravidas were Hindus who have substantial prominence in the Guru Granth Sahib.

The 17 Bhatts

The Bhatts were a group of musicians who lived in the sixteenth century. All of them were scholars, poets and singers.

The 4 Sikhs

See also

External Links