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     The Guru Granth Sahib ( ,  ), or Adi Granth, is the holy scripture and the final Guru of the Sikhs. It is a voluminous text of 1430 angs (pages), compiled and composed during the period of Sikh Gurus, from 1469 to 1708. It is a collection of hymns or shabad, which describe the qualities of God and why one should meditate on God's name.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the tenth of the Sikh Gurus, affirmed the sacred text Adi Granth as his successor, terminating the line of human Gurus, and elevating the text to Guru Granth Sahib. Thenceforward the text remained the holy scripture of the Sikhs, regarded as the living embodiment of the Ten Gurus. The role of Guru Granth Sahib, as a source or guide of prayer, is pivotal in worship in Sikhism.

The Adi Granth was first compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606), from hymns of the first five Sikh gurus and other great saints, including those of the Hindu and Muslim faith. After the demise of the tenth Sikh guru many handwritten copies were prepared for distribution by Baba Deep Singh.

Written in the Gurmukhi script, predominantly in archaic Punjabi with occasional use of other languages including Braj, Punjabi, Khariboli (Hindi), Sanskrit, regional dialects, and Persian, often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha.

Meaning and role in Sikhism

Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib a spiritual guide for all mankind for all generations to come, and it plays a central role in guiding the Sikhs' way of life. Its place in Sikh devotional life is based on two fundamental principles; that the text is divine revelation, and that all answers regarding religion and morality can be discovered within it. Its hymns and teachings are called Gurbani or "Word of the guru" and sometimes Dhur ki bani or "Word of God". Thus, in Sikh theology, the revealed divine word is the Guru.

The numerous holy men who contributed to the Guru Granth Sahib is collectively referred to as Bhagat Bani or "Word of Devotees". These saints belonged to different social and religious backgrounds, including Hindus and Muslims, cobblers and untouchables. Though Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji contains the compositions of both Sikh Gurus as well the other great saints (Bhagats) — including those of the Hindu and Muslim faith — no distinction whatsoever is made between the works of Sikh Gurus and Sikh Bhagats; the titles "Guru" and "Bhagat" should not be misleading. The Guru Granth Sahib is the sole and final successor of the line of gurus. Anyone claiming the status of living guru is considered a heretic.


The work of transcribing the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev, the first guru and founder of Sikhism, began in his lifetime. Guru Angad, the second guru of Sikhs, received Nanak's collection of songs and words in manuscript form: he added sixty-three of his own compositions. The third guru, Amar Das, prepared a number of manuscripts, supplemented with 974 of his own compositions as well as the works of various Bhagats. These manuscripts, known as Goindwal pothis, mention the message of Guru Amar Das as to why the Bhagat Bani was included and how the Bhagats were influenced by Guru Nanak.

The fourth Guru also composed hymns. The fifth, Arjan Dev, in order to consolidate the Bani (Divine word) of earlier Gurus and to prevent spurious compositions creeping in, began early in 1599 to compile the Adi Granth according to the plan laid out by Nanak. The Tawarikh Guru Khalsa mentions that he issued a Hukamnama (official order), asking anyone who could contribute to do so. All of the sourcing and content was reviewed in order to ensure the authenticity of the existing revelation.

The final prepared volume, written by Bhai Gurdas, under the direct supervision of Guru Arjan, included the compositions of the first five Sikh Gurus and of fifteen Bhagats, seventeen Bhatts ("bards", or traditional composers) and four others such as Bhai Mardana, a lifelong companion of Guru Nanak. The Adi Granth took five years to complete and was installed in Harmandir Sahibmarker ("the abode of God"), popularly known as the Golden Temple, on September 01, 1604, with Baba Buddha as the first Granthi. This original volume is presently in Kartarpur and bears the signature of the Guru Arjan.

master copy was initially in the possession of Guru Hargobind, but was stolen by one of his grandsons, Dhir Mal, who wanted to lay claim to the title of Guru. The Sikhs, about 30 years later, recovered it forcibly and were made to return it on the order of the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur. Even though this master copy was improperly wrested from the community, its return underscored the message that no particular copy of the Adi Granth was more divine than another. This master copy of the Adi Granth (known as the "Kartarpur Pothi") which is of significant historical value, is displayed every year on the occasion of Vaisakhi by the descendants of Dhir Mal in Kartarpur.

The redaction of the Adi Granth was prepared by Guru Gobind Singh with the scribe Bhai Mani Singh at Talwandi Sabo (renamed as Damdama Sahib). Guru Gobind Singh added the hymns composed by Guru Tegh Bahadur but excluded his own. There is mention of Guru Gobind Singh's holding an "Akhand Path" (continued recital of Guru Granth Sahib). From Talwandi Sabo, Guru Gobind Singh went to Deccan. While at Nandedmarker, Guru Gobind Singh installed the final version prepared by him as the perpetual Guru of Sikhs in 1708.

The Guru Granth Sahib is divided into ragas or classical musical notes. The chronological division is on the basis of ragas and not on the order of succession of Gurus. As with the Adi Granth, Sikhs do not lay emphasis on any particular volume of Guru Granth Sahib as the Guru.

The Supreme Court of Indiamarker holds that the Guru Granth Sahib should be, for historic and legal reasons, considered a 'Juristic person': "The Granth replaces the Guru after the tenth Guru. We unhesitatingly hold Guru Granth Sahib to be a juristic person." The court articulated this finding in the context of a case pertaining to a property dispute.

Elevation of Adi Granth to Guru Granth Sahib

The Adi Granth was conferred the title of "Guru of the Sikhs" by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, 1708. The event, when Guru Gobind Singh installed Adi Granth as the Guru of Sikhism, was recorded in a Bhatt Vahi (a bard's scroll) by an eyewitness, Narbud Singh, who was a bard at the Guru's court. There are a variety of other documents attesting to this proclamation by the tenth Guru.

Thus, despite some aberrations, the Sikhs overwhelmingly accept that the Guru Granth is their eternal Guru. This has been the understanding and conviction of the Sikhs, since that October day of 1708.

Guru's commandment

A close associate of Guru Gobind Singh and author of Rehit-nama, Prahlad Singh, recorded the Guru's commandment saying "With the order of the Eternal Lord has been established [Sikh] Panth: all the Sikhs hereby are commanded to obey the Granth as their Guru".(Rehat-nama, Bhai Prahlad Singh) Similarly Chaupa Singh, another associate of Guru Gobind Singh, has mentioned this commandment in his Rehat-nama.


The Sikh Gurus developed a new writing system, Gurmukhī, for writing their sacred literature. Although the exact origins of the script are unknown, it is believed to have existed in an elementary form during the time of Guru Nanak. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Angad is said to have invented the script, and popularised its use among the Sikhs. It is stated in Mahman Prakash, an early Sikh manuscript, that the script was invented by Guru Angad at the suggestion of Guru Nanak during the lifetime of the founder. The word Gurmukhī translates as "from the mouth of the Guru". The script was used, from the onset, for compiling Sikh scriptures. The Sikhs assign high degree of sanctity to Gurmukhī language script. The Gurmukhī language Script is also the official script for the Indian State of Punjab.

The Guru Granth Sahib is divided into fourteen hundred and thirty pages known as Angs (limbs) in Sikh tradition. It can be divided into three different sections:
  1. Introductory section consisting of the Mul Mantra, Japji and Sohila composed by Guru Nanak
  2. Compositions of Sikh Gurus followed by those of Sikh Bhagats, collected according to chronology of Ragas or musical notes (see below).
  3. Compositions of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

The poems are divided on the basis of their musical setting in different ragas.A raga is a series of melodic motifs, based upon a definite scale or mode, that provide a basic structure around which the musician performs. The ragas are associated with different moods and times of the day and year. The total number of ragas in the Sikh system is thirty one, divided into fourteen ragas and seventeen raginis (less important or less definite ragas). Within the raga division, the songs are arranged in order of the Sikh gurus and Sikh bhagats with whom they are associated.

The various ragas are, in order: Raga Sri, Manjh, Gauri, Asa, Gujri, Devagandhari, Bihagara, Wadahans, Sorath, Dhanasri, Jaitsri, Todimarker, Bairari, Tilang, Suhi, Bilaval, Gond (Gaund), Ramkali, Nut-Narayan, Mali-Gaura, Maru, Tukhari, Kedara, Bhairav (Bhairo), Basant, Sarang, Malar, Kanra, Kalyan, Prabhati and Jaijawanti. In addition there are twenty-two compositions of Vars (Traditional ballads). Nine of these have specific tunes and the rest can be sung to any tune.

Sanctity among Sikhs

Sikhs observe total sanctity of the text in the Guru Granth Sahib. No one can change or alter any of the writings of the Sikh Gurus written in Guru Granth Sahib. This includes sentences, words, structure, grammar etc. This total sanctity was observed by the Gurus themselves. Guru Har Rai had disowned his elder son, Ram Rai, because he had altered the wording of one of Guru Nanak's hymn.Ram Rai had been sent to Delhi, by Guru Har Rai, to explain Gurbani to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. In order to please the Emperor he altered the wording of hymns of Guru Nanak. The matter was reported to the Guru, who was displeased with his son and disowned him. Later when aged, Ram Rai was forgiven by Guru Gobind Singh.


Translations of the Guru Granth Sahib are available. However, Sikhs believe that it is necessary to learn Gurmukhī, designed and used by the Sikh Gurus, to fully understand and appreciate the message. Translations only give a preliminary understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib. A Sikh is encouraged to learn Gurmukhi to fully experience and understand the Guru Granth Sahib.


The Guru Granth Sahib is always placed in the centre of a Gurudwara and placed on a raised platform, known as Takht (throne). The Guru Granth is given the greatest respect and honour. Sikhs cover their heads and remove their shoes while in the presence of Guru Granth. Before coming into its presence, they bathe and bow before the Guru Granth. The Guru Granth is normally carried on the head and as a sign of respect not touched with unwashed hands or put on the floor.

The Guru Granth Sahib is always the focal point in any Gurudwara. It is attended with all signs of royalty, as was the custom with Sikh Gurus, and is placed upon a throne, and the congregation sits on the floor. It is waved upon by a chaur (sort of fan) which is made of fine material and a canopy is always placed over it. The devotees bow before the Guru as a sign of respect.

The Guru Granth Sahib is taken care of by a Granthi. He is responsible for reciting from Guru Granth and leading the Sikh prayer. The Granthi also acts as the caretaker of Guru Granth Sahib and this function may not be performed by any other person. It is kept covered in silken cloths, known as Rumala, to protect from heat, dust, pollution etc. It rests on a manji sahib under a rumala until brought out again.


The printing of Guru Granth Sahib is done by the official religious body of Sikhs based in Amritsarmarker. It is the sole worldwide publisher of Guru Granth Sahib. Great care is taken while making printed copies and strict code of conduct is observed during the task of printing.

Before the twentieth century, only hand written copies of Guru Granth Sahib were prepared. The first printed copy of Guru Granth Sahib was made in 1864. Since the early 20th century Guru Granth Sahib has a standard 1430 pages.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is currently printed in an authorised printing press in the basement of the Gurdwara Ramsar in Amritsarmarker; any resulting printer's "waste" that has any of the sacred text on, is cremated at Goindval . However, unauthorised copies of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji have been printed.

Treatment of damaged copies

Any copies of their sacred book Guru Granth Sahib which are too badly damaged to be used, and any printer's waste which has any of its text on, are cremated with a similar ceremony as cremating a deceased person. Such burning is called Agan Bhet. (For similar reasons, observant Jews bury damaged Torah scrolls and hold for them a funeral similar to that for a human being. Muslims however, bury the badly damaged Quran or pages of the Quran deemed unreadable. )

Digitization of Guru Granth Sahib manuscripts

Panjab Digital Library (PDL) in collaboration with the Nanakshahi Trust has taken up digitization of centuries old manuscripts in year 2003. PDL represents an effort to preserve and make accessible the rich heritage of Punjab through digitization. For ages, these historical treasures have been threatened with loss or damage. Now, Panjab Digital Library seeks to digitally preserve them in their original form, color, graphics and texture, while at the same time, changing the way we access and utilize these materials. It will redefine the role and scope of a library. Scholars and public alike will have easy access to the online digital library with powerful searching and browsing capability. This digitization of history holds great promises in research, education and awareness, while saving precious time and money.

Comments on Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Non-Sikhs

This is what Max Arthur Macauliffe writes about the authenticity of the Guru's teaching:
The Sikh religion differs as regards the authenticity of its dogmas from most other theological systems. Many of the great teachers the world has known, have not left a line of their own composition and we only know what they taught through tradition or second-hand information. If Pythagoras wrote of his tenets, his writings have not descended to us. We know the teachings of Socrates only through the writings of Plato and Xenophon. Buddha has left no written memorial of his teaching. Kungfu-tze, known to Europeans as Confucius, left no documents in which he detailed the principles of his moral and social system. The founder of Christianity did not reduce his doctrines to writing and for them we are obliged to trust to the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Arabian Prophet did not himself reduce to writing the chapters of the Quran. They were written or compiled by his adherents and followers. But the compositions of Sikh Gurus are preserved and we know at first hand what they taught.

Pearl Buck, a Nobel laureate, gives the following comment on receiving the First English translation of the Guru Granth Sahib:

.... I have studied the scriptures of the great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes. They are compact in spite of their length, and are a revelation of the vast reach of the human heart, varying from the most noble concept of God, to the recognition and indeed the insistence upon the practical needs of the human body. There is something strangely modern about these scriptures and this puzzles me until I learned that they are in fact comparatively modern, compiled as late as the 16th century, when explorers were beginning to discover that the globe upon which we all live is a single entity divided only by arbitrary lines of our own making. Perhaps this sense of unity is the source of power I find in these volumes. They speak to a person of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mind. ...
    • (From the foreword to the English translation of the Guru Granth Sahib by Gopal Singh, 1960)(bold added later)

Message of Guru Granth Sahib

Some of the major messages can be summarized as follows: -

  1. All peoples of the world are equal
  2. Women are equal
  3. One God for all
  4. Speak and live truthfully
  5. Control the five vices
  6. Live in God's hukam (The Will of the One GOD)
  7. Practice Humility, Kindness, Compassion, Love, etc

Care and protocol

Personal behaviour

Any person carrying out any Service or Sewamarker must observe the following:
  • Head must be covered at all times.
  • Shoes and socks must be removed outside the Guru's room.
  • Basic standards of personal hygiene are to be observed especially relating to cleanliness
  • Eating or drinking while in service is strictly avoided.
  • Complete silence is observed while in Guru's service.
  • Respectful attitude towards others who are present.No Discrimination while doing Sewamarker


  • The room should be kept clean
  • The clothes that are used to cover Guru Granth are kept clean and changed daily. Some people choose to use decorated cloth, but this is not necessary.
  • Guru Granth is always placed on a Manji Sahib (small handmade bed like throne).
  • A canopy is always placed over Guru Granth.
  • A Chaur Sahib (artificial hairs bundled together to fan over the Guru Granth Sahib) is be provided besides Guru Granth with a small platform to house the Karah Parshad (sacramental food) and other offerings.

On the move

While Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is on the move the following is observed:
  • Five initiated Sikhs accompany Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji at all times when traveling
  • Another Sikh does Chaur Sahib seva
  • The Main Sikh carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji must put a clean Rumalla on his or her head before carefully and with respect placing Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji on this Rumalla. At all times, Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji should be covered with a small Rumalla so that Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji's Saroop is always fully "covered".Also the Sikh carrying Saroop of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji must have "Keshi Ishnaan" or Washed hair [Although not necessary but it shows respect to Guru Sahib]
  • There should be recitation of "Waheguru" at all times.

Other considerations

  • No one sits on a higher platform than the Guru.

Guru Granth Sahib World University

Guru Sahib World University would be formally launched in July 2009. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Fourth Centenary Memorial Trust. The meeting was chaired by the Punjab Chief Minister Paraksh Singh Badal. Disclosing this, Mr. Harcharan Bains, Media Advisor to the Chief Minister said that apart from intensive work on Guru Granth Sahib studies, the University would focus on imparting education in post modern technologies such as Nano-technology, Bio-technology, Information Technology and Business Management besides comparative study of different religions. These courses would be introduced in the inaugural academic session next year.

Later, the University would also house the faculties in Emerging Technologies, Basic Sciences, Management, Social Sciences, Arts, Languages, Engineering, Architecture, Law and Social Justice. Work will soon commence on the construction of the Complex.

Other universities

Punjabi Universitymarker, Patialamarker, has established a department which provides a number of academic courses on Guru Granth Sahib. The department was established in 1962. Sikhism is a revealed religion and as such the department was established to do research in Sikhism and Sikh scriptures. The aim of the department is to study Sikhism as an academic discpline and to produce source material for students working in the field of Sikh studies. The thrust areas of the departmental research are Sikh theology and Sikh Philosophy

The university has started work on an online academic course in advanced studies of the Guru Granth sahib. This academic course would be available internationally, to any student who wants academic training in the Sikh scripture. The academic exam papers would be designed by "The Advanced Centre for Development of Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture".

List of Sikh Gurus

Available Books

See also


  1. Religion and Nationalism in India By Harnik Deol. Published by Routledge, 2000. ISBN 041520108X, 9780415201087. Page 22. "Remarkably, neither is the Qur'an written in Urdu language, nor are the Hindu scriptures written in Hindi, whereas the compositions in the Sikh holy scripture, Adi Granth, are a melange of various dialects, often coalesced under the generic title of Sant Bhasha."
  2. The making of Sikh scripture by Gurinder Singh Mann. Published by Oxford University Press US, 2001. ISBN 0195130243, 9780195130249 Page 5. "The language of the hymns recorded in the Adi Granth has been called "Sant Bhasha," a kind of lingua franca used by the medieval saint-poets of northern India. But the broad range of contributors to the text produced a complex mix of regional dialects."
  3. History of Punjabi Literature by Surindar Singh Kohli. Page 48. Published by National Book, 1993. ISBN 8171161413, 9788171161416. "When we go through the hymns and compositions of the Guru written in Sant Bhasha (saint- language), it appears that some Indian saint of 16th century".
  4. Introduction: Guru Granth Sahib. "The Guru Granth Sahib is written in Gurmukhi script. The language, which is most often Sant Bhasha, is very close to Punjabi. It is well understood all over northern andnorthwest India and was popular among the wandering holy men. Persian and some local dialects have also been used. Many hymns contain words of different languages and dialects,depending upon the mother tongue of the writer or the language of the region where they were composed."
  5. Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth By Nirmal Dass. Published by SUNY Press, 2000. ISBN 0791446832, 9780791446836. Page 13. "Any attempt at translating songs from the Adi Granth certainly invovles working not with one language, but several, along with dialectical differences.The languages used by the saints range from Sanskrit; regional Prakrits; western, eastern and southern Apabhramsa; and Sahaskrit. More particularly, we find sant bhasha, Marathi, Old Hindi, central and Lehndi Panjabi, Sgettland Persian. There are also many dialects deployed, such as Purbi Marwari, Bangru, Dakhni, Malwai, and Awadhi."
  6. Sikhism . The Guru Granth Sahib (GGS) By Harjinder Singh. "The Guru Granth Sahib also contains hymns which are written in a language known as Sahiskriti as well as Sant Bhasha, it also contains many Persian and Sanskrit words throughout."
  7. Eleanor Nesbitt, "Sikhism: a very short introduction", ISBN 0-19-280601-7, Oxford University Press, pp. 40-41
  8. Varsity plans online course

Further reading

  • Sri Guru Granth Sahib (English Version) by Dr Gopal Singh M.A Ph.D., Published by World Book Centre in 1960

External links





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