The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The Making of Sikh Scripture By Gurindra Singh Mann, Oxford, Rs 495

This book is a thoroughly researched work on the making of the Adi Granth. Gurindra Singh Mann has explored all available sources, both old and new, to trace the evolution of the Granth from its genesis to its culmination in the Guru Granth Sahib. All the variations and different readings of the pothis associated with the gurus and their courts are not only noted but also accounted for with detailed evidence.

Of the approximately 3,000 hymns, about 2,400 were written by six Sikh gurus, starting with Guru Nanak and followed by the five other gurus who lived in the Punjab between 1469 and 1675. The structuring of the Adi Granth and the organization of its material were initiated by the fifth guru, Guru Arjun Singh. The tenth guru, Guru Govind Singh, vested in it the authority of the canonical text. The author has elaborately discussed and judiciously commented on the various phases of the expansion of the text.

The reasons for the inclusion of the 600-odd hymns composed by non-Sikh saint-poets and bards, known collectively as Bhagats, have long been debated and opinions still vary on the matter. These were incorporated into the text during the tenure of Guru Amar Das, the third in the chronological order.

The two views advanced in support of the inclusion are ó one, all the Bhagats included subscribed to the basic tenet of monotheism of the new religion. Second, most of them were low caste and the inclusion of their work reinforced the social and spiritual egalitarianism of Sikhism.

The view most generally accepted is that these hymns represented valued voices of the age and that they helped break the narrow religious barriers in search of the truth. Above all, they upheld Guru Nanakís direction to people of all religions to practice tolerance.

The authorís approach to these problems is objective. His concern about the place of the Granth in the lives of millions of Sikhs living outside Punjab is genuine and his suggestions deserve serious consideration. But it is no longer pertinent to harp on the affinities and differences between one religion and another.

Sikhism has long acquired a distinct character of its own with its own religious philosophy and ethics. What is most striking about it is not only its formulation of a religious system and ideal, but its insistence on the practical application of this ideal to daily life. The allegiance of its followers to the creed has generated in them an activism that sustained them in their historical past and has also helped them grow into a dynamic community of Indians.

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