Inauthenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir


Twentieth-century debates about the status of the
Kartarpuri Pothi have remained inconclusive.
– Prof Gurinder Singh Mann (1949-present)

The most important extant manuscript of the Adi Granth, the earliest compilation of the Sikh scripture, is the Kartarpuri Bir (also referred to as Pothi, “volume” or “recension”, and henceforth abbreviated KB).

Although it is said to be originally compiled by the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, in 1604 CE, this recension has been the subject of intense scholarly debate vis-á-vis its authenticity for well over a century.

Historian Jeevan Deol revealed that the traditional stance towards this manuscript has always been the following:

After collecting all the possible banis [compositions] together, tradition continues, Guru Arjan recited them to Bhai Gurdas, who distinguished between the authentic and the spurious texts. The compilation of the text then proceeded sequentially from raga to raga [musical mode]. The manuscript prepared by Guru Arjan is believed to be the volume presently in the possession of the Sodhi family of Kartarpur near Jalandhar. [1]

The Sodhis were the “descendants of Prithi Chand”, [2] eldest son of the fourth Guru Ram Das, who, according to renowned historian H.R. Gupta, “became a lifelong enemy of Guru Arjan”. [3], [4]

An account of how this manuscript came to be in their hands is briefly delineated below by Daljeet Singh, a dedicated proponent of said manuscript’s authenticity:

After its preparation the Bir was installed at Harimandar Sahib, Amritsar, on Bhadon Sudhi 1st Samat 1661.The tradition and historical writing are unanimous that from Amritsar the Aad Granth was shifted to Kartarpur when the family of the Sixth Guru moved to that place. It is accepted that the original Aad Granth remained with the family of Dhirmal, the great grandson of the Guru, and his descendants at Kartarpur, even after the Gurus had shifted from there. Historical writings are also clear that during the time of the Ninth and Tenth Gurus, the Aad Granth was with the successors of Dhirmal. For many copies of the Aad Granth, in which the bani (hymns) of the Ninth Guru had been recorded in the time of the Ninth or the Tenth Guru, show that those had been corrected by comparison with the Granth of the Fifth Guru. It is not in doubt that all through the subsequent period, the Aad Granth at Kartarpur remained the Granth of reference for authenticating the bani of the Gurus and the bhagats. And it remained in the custody of the Sodhis of Kartarpur. After 1708 A.D., the Sikhs passed through an extremely difficult time. In that period, the question of the change of the custody of the Aad Granth could not arise. After Ranjit Singh came into power, he procured the Granth for himself and kept it with him as a national treasure of the Sikhs. After the British conquest of the Punjab, the Bir passed into the hands of the Indian Government. Thereafter, the Bir became the subject of a civil suit and it was restored to the descendants of Dhirmal. Therefore, its custody first with the Sodhis of Kartarpur, then with Ranjit Singh, and again with the Kartarpur family, is an important piece of evidence. Because the presence and recovery of a manuscript, document, or book from its natural and proper custody and environment is a relevant and weighty factor in showing its originality. [5]

Gurinder Singh Mann on the other hand disputed whether Maharaja Ranjit Singh ever did procure the KB:

It is commonly believed that Maharaja Ranjit Singh appropriated the Kartarpur Pothi from the Sodhis in the early decades of the nineteenth century. There is no doubt that the Kartarpur Pothi was taken to Lahore, but there is also no evidence that it ever left the Sodhis’ custody. … The pothi may have been displayed occasionally at the Sikh court, but it remained with the Sodhis based at the Bauli Sahib, and they even took it back to Kartarpur for some time in 1837. [6] (bold, underline ours)

Whatever the case, what is beyond dispute is that this protracted debate has not always been conducted cordially and respectfully. As we shall see, some academics bold enough to question the manuscripts traditional association to Guru Arjan and Bhai Gurdas have been met with bullying tactics and subjected to intense vilification and criticism from Sikh fundamentalists.

The man who elicited the most concerted response, however, was the Western non-Sikh scholar, Hew McLeod. He provoked a band of fundamentalists to setup an organisation in Chandigarh, India, dedicated towards defending, among other things, the authenticity of the KB. The specific details of their establishment were chronicled by them below:

It was only in the late seventies that a group of free lancers, notably Justice Gurdev Singh, S. Daljeet Singh and S. Jagjit Singh took up the challenge and set out to controvert the misleading theses of the Group led by Dr McLeod. They worked first in their individual capacity, but later they organised themselves into ‘The Institute of Sikh Studies’ at Chandigarh. As a result of their efforts a number of publications have already appeared and all the points raised by McLeod and his group have been adequately dealt with. The following books need special mention in this connection:

  1. ‘Sikhism – A Comparative Study of its theology and Mysticism’ by Daljeet Singh (1979)
  2. ‘Sikh Ideology’ by Daljeet Singh (1984)
  3. ‘The Authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir’ by Daljeet Singh (1987)
  4. ‘The Sikh Revolution’ by Jagjit Singh (1981)
  5. ‘Perspectives on Sikh Studies’ by Jagjit Singh (1984)
  6. ‘In the Caravan of Revolutions’ by Jagjit Singh (1988)
  7. ‘The Sikh Tradition’ by Justice Gurdev Singh (Ed.) (1986)
  8. ‘Advanced Studies in Sikhism’ by Jasbir Singh Mann & Harbans Singh Saraon (Eds.) (1989) [7]

And yet “W.H. McLeod was not the first scholar to suggest that the authenticity of the Kartarpur Pothi was suspect”, notes J.S. Grewal. “He was preceded by a considerable number of Sikh scholars and two Western scholars, namely J.C. Archer and C.H. Loehlin”. [8]

McLeod himself made mention of the following three Sikh scholars in this regard:

Piar Singh is, in fact, merely the latest in a long line of Sikh scholars who have believed that the Kartarpur Bir does not provide the basis of the Guru Granth Sahib. The historian Ratan Singh Bhangu, writing in the middle of the nineteenth century held that both the work supervised by Guru Arjan and the Damdami Bir had been carried off by Afghans in 1762. Later doubters of the Kartarpur claims include the celebrated scholar of Singh Sabha days, Kahn Singh Nabha. [9]

Overall, however, Mann states:

Twentieth-century debates about the status of the Kartarpuri Pothi have remained INCONCLUSIVE. On the one hand, the traditional view accepts the Kartarpuri Pothi as the manuscripts prepared under the supervision of Guru Arjan. On the other, a group of influential scholars – G.B. Singh, Gurdit Singh, Inder Singh Chakarvarti, Piar Singh, Piara Singh Padam, Pritam Singh, and Randhir Singh – reject this position. [10] (bold, capitalisation ours)

Hence the question of textual analysis is irrelevant and stands distinctly eliminated by the Guru. – Prof Daljeet Singh

As for the hostile stance adopted by proponents of the KB, then their position is predicated on the following assumption elucidated by Grewal that “[s]ince the Kartarpur Pothi was believed to have provided the base for the Guru Granth Sahib, any doubt cast on the former’s authenticity could be seen as a doubt cast on the authenticity of the latter. It is understandable, therefore, that Justice Gurdev Singh charged McLeod with doubting the authenticity of ‘the current version of Guru Granth Sahib which is widely accepted and used by the Sikhs'”. [11] (bold ours)

McLeod too picked up on the degree of dogmatism displayed by the Chandigarh group, which essentially explained their intransigent attitude:

The interpretation is, moreover, carried a step further. The words of the Kartarpur Bir are perfect words uttered by perfect Gurus, and the recording of these words has been closely supervised by one of these Gurus. There is therefore no need for textual analysis or any other research on the holy scripture. To do so is to question divine perfection and therefore amounts to blasphemy. [12] (bold, capitalisation ours)

His speculations, however, certainly seem justified in view of the fact that two leading members of the Chandigarh institute, Daljeet Singh and Kharak Singh Mann, rejected any mention of the science of textual criticism being applied to their scriptures by arguing:

Textual Analysis IRRELEVANT: Here a few words about textual criticism and its relevance. As noted, except the Aad Granth, there is no scripture in the world that was recorded either by or in the time of the prophet concerned. Whether it was the Torah, the Bible, the Dhampada or the Quran, each was compiled and finalised after the demise of the respective prophets. Hence the problem of correct canon or textual criticism, form criticism, redaction criterian [sic] and like criticisms have arisen. In the time between the demise of the prophet concerned and the date of its final compilation, there have been many man-made versions of the concerned scripture or parts thereof. … Hence the question of textual analysis is irrelevant and stands distinctly eliminated by the Guru. Because, for good reasons any manuscript even if it were now presented as an old one, would be suspect and valueless. First, its being old cannot be accepted, because in our tradition and history no such manuscript (except Mohan Pothis) is known; and its being without any history or with a doubtful history, would by itself negate its claim. Second, it has to be assumed that if it was there before 1604 AD., it was either knowingly not presented to the Guru, or, if presented, it was rejected by him. In either case the document becomes meaningless. After 400 years it is difficult to accept the credibility of a scholar saying that he has been able to trace Gurbani which the search, vision or the sense of discernment of Guru Arjan failed to find or judge properly. Such a claim would be too tall to have any sense or credibility. Hence the irrelevance of all talk of textual analysis and the claim, pretension or value of any manuscript and its use for any purpose. [13] (bold, capitalisation, underline ours)

It is, therefore, this conviction that the scripture currently in the custody of the Sodhi family and believed to be the Adi Granth compiled by Guru Arjan, which explains both the ad hoc approach adopted by these traditionalists, and what motivates them to defend their position hook or by crook. As S.S. Sodhi conceded:

The author [of the book Gurbani Sampadan Nirnai, Principal Harbhajan Singh] is convinced that the original Aad Granth scribed by Bhai Gurdas under the direction and supervision of Guru Arjun himself, is at Kartarpur in the custody of the Sodhi descendants of Prithi Chand. This is a view supported by Bhai Vir Singh, Sarup Das Bhalla, Kesar Singh Chhiber, Santokh Singh, Gian Singh, Macauliffe, Kahan Singh, Jodh Singh, Teja Singh, Sahib Singh, Taran Singh, Daljeet Singh and Rattan Singh Jaggi. [14] (bold, underline ours)

What this paper will examine then, are the arguments both for and against the KB with the aim of determining whether its proponents, particularly the Chandigarh scholars, have, as they claim, succeeded in satisfactorily answering all significant doubts raised by their opponents.

The Pothi’s Polemical Past

Let us begin by firstly exploring the birth and chronological evolution of this controversy. It began with a man Pashaura Singh described as “the traditional historian Rattan Singh Bhangu, who wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century that both the original Amritsari granth [KB] and the Damadami granth had been carried off by Afghans in 1762 during the battle of the Great Holocaust (vadda ghalughara)“. [15], [16]

Yet the manuscript’s authenticity only really came into sharp focus at the turn of the twentieth century after a series of incidents. The first involved Kahn Singh Nabha, “a leading Sikh scholar”, [17] who in 1918 claimed to have seen a copy of the KB which “contained in its concluding section the Ratanmala (The garland of jewels), [and] a brief narrative written in prose called the Hakikati Rah Mukam Raje Shivnabh ki (The route to the abode of Raja Shivnabh)”. [18], [19] However, their conspicuous absence from the final version of the Sikh scripture ratified by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, meant that if the KB really was written by Bhai Gurdas under the direct supervision of the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, then only three plausible explanations would exist. Either:

  1. Nabha was wrong, thereby raising questions against the honesty and integrity of this well-respected Sikh scholar.
  2. Gobind Singh disagreed with his predecessor, Arjan, over their inclusion – a far more problematic issue when taking into consideration the fundamental concept of Ik Joti (Doctrine of the Same Spirit), [20] which holds that it is impossible for any of the Gurus to contradict or disagree with one another.
  3. The KB had been tampered with by unknown and unauthorised hands at a later date.

If, on the other hand, one were to accept both Nabha’s account and these compositions as genuine inclusions of the original, then the only other alternative would be to reject the preparatory involvement of Bhai Gurdas and Guru Arjan in toto, thus, rendering this a spurious manuscript of questionable origin.

According to Mann, “Bhai Jodh Singh’s account from the late 1940s, however, found none of these items in the pothi. Furthermore, Bhai Jodh Singh did not conceal his disdain for Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha for having given what he thought was false information”. [21] In Mann’s view, such an accusation “does not explain how a scholar of Nabha’s eminence and stature could have reported the presence of [said] compositions” especially when “[o]thers also claim to have seen these compositions in the text of the Kartarpur Pothi”. [22], [23]

The irrepressible Jodh Singh was also involved from another related angle vis-á-vis “the controversy that raged in the first half of the twentieth century on the issue of ‘Ragamala'”. [24] In this regard, Piar revealed that this “matter was referred by the SGPC to a committee consisting of Bhai Jodh Singh, Prof. Teja Singh, Principal Ganga Singh and Jathedar Mohan Singh. They were to inspect the Kartarpuri Bir and report whether Ragamala in it was an interpolation or genuinely an integral part thereof. The committee, all along, proceeded on the presumption that the Kartarpuri Bir was the original manuscript prepared by Bhai Gurdas. This was, in fact, an article of faith with Bhai Jodh Singh“. [25] (bold, underline ours) And since he was working “in an atmosphere of fierce controversy over the continued existence of the Ragmala in the Adi Granth”, Mann suggested that he consequently “argued that because the Ragmala appears in the Kartarpur Pothi it is an authoritative composition. Given this context, he interpreted any question about the authenticity of the Kartarpur Pothi as a challenge to Sikh canon and consequently an attack on the very foundation of the Sikh community. This line of thought resulted in the introduction of a complex religious dimension into a purely academic debate with the assumption that those who do not recognize the Kartarpur Pothi as a genuine document pose a threat to the text of the Adi Granth”. [26]

So when “G.B. Singh brought scriptural manuscripts into sharp focus in 1944 by publishing his Sri Guru Granth Sahib dian Prachin Biran”, wherein he opined that “neither the Granth prepared by Guru Arjan nor any earlier manuscript was extant”, thereby implying that “the Bir in the possession of the Sodhis of Kartarpur was not authentic”, but “a copy of Bhai Banno’s Bir [i.e. the Goindval Pothis]”, Jodh immediately leapt to arms in defence of the KB. According to Grewal, after having conducted “[a] close examination of the manuscript at Kartarpur”, Jodh not only accused his opponent of having never seen and, thus, never directly examined the two manuscripts he spoke on, but also declared his opponent’s observations to be “imaginary (man-gharat), false (kusatt), unfair, and unjust”. Jodh instead affirmed that “the Kartarpuri Bir was the one prepared by Guru Arjan and authenticated later by Guru Gobind Singh. Therefore to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir was to cast doubt on Guru Granth Sahib”.

It did not stop there. “The second half of the twentieth century has been marked by protracted, and sometimes bitter, controversies with regard to the making of Guru Granth Sahib,” Grewal continues, where “[t]he authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir in particular has been the subject of contention”.

Hence, when “J.C. Archer and C.H. Loehlin, doubted the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir and advocated its thorough study, Bhai Jodh Singh’s Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, published in 1968 partly in response to such expressions of doubt, was meant to establish that the Kartarpuri Bir, with the Ragmala as its original part, was absolutely authentic”. [27]

Although this did not have the desired result, by this stage, Jodh had “emerged in the mid decades of the twentieth century as the leading spokesperson for the traditional view regarding the Kartarpur Pothi” to the extent that “[r]eceived wisdom on how early Sikh manuscripts were compiled is based on the view Bhai Jodh Singh popularized in his elaborate discussion of the Kartarpur Pothi”. [28]

The committee, all along, proceeded on the presumption that the Kartarpuri Bir was the original manuscript prepared by Bhai Gurdas. This was, in fact, an article of faith with Bhai Jodh Singh. – Prof Gurinder Singh Mann

Jodh’s best efforts, however, could not stop controversial Western academic, W.H. McLeod, from taking up “the sceptical argument” and publishing in 1975 his Evolution of the Sikh Community, as well as some other later works. By this time, however, a new generation of KB supporters, viz. the Chandigarh apologists headed by Daljeet Singh, had taken up the baton from Jodh. And yet in spite of their efforts, Guru Nanak Dev University’s (GNDU) Prof Piar Singh published a scathing critique that not only “refuted all the arguments of Daljeet Singh in his Gatha Sri Adi Granth in 1992″, [29] but also earned him the ire of Sikhdom’s premier organisation, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). Resorting to censorship, not only did the SGPC through the order of Akal Takht (the highest seat of Sikh religious authority) manage to ban the sale of Piar’s book shortly after its publication, but also compelled him to appear before the Akal Takht a year later to atone for what he would have thought was his academic right in expressing his scholarly opinions and conclusions.

As a matter of fact, Piar revealed that after “the decision of the SGPC to impose a wholesale ban on any sort of research on the Holy Scripture, the Guru Granth”, the atmosphere of hostility reached such a level that “[t]he question of freedom of expression and the need to carry on research on the Sikh Holy Scripture was defended by Harcharan Bains, S. Gurdarshan Singh Grewal, former Advocate General, Dr. Darshan Singh Maini and a number of other renowned writers”. [30]

Before his death, Piar managed to publish a follow up to his original thesis, this time in English, titled Gatha Sri Adi Granth and the Controversy (1996) – a comprehensive riposte to Daljeet’s Essays on the Authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir and the Integrated Logic and Unity of Sikhism (1987). In this final work, he specifically countered Daljeet’s accusation that “he [Piar] admits he has not seen the Kartarpuri manuscript (Abs. Jan., 93, p. 42)”, by confirming:

Daljeet Singh’s charge that I have not seen this bir with my own eyes and yet have chosen to write against it, should now cut no ice after the documentary evidence that I have produced in this work. Indeed, I am now in a position to say that I have seen the bir not with two eyes, but over a dozen – all extremely discerning and dependable. [31]

More recently, the defence of the KB was taken up by two Western Sikh academics, of which one was McLeod’s protégé Pashaura Singh. In Grewal’s view, Pashaura “appreciates Bhai Jodh Singh’s work, and refers to Daljeet Singh’s attitude as ‘too dogmatic’ in maintaining that the Kartarpuri Bir contained ‘the actual words uttered by the Gurus’. In his own view, Guru Arjan introduced ‘linguistic refinement’ and ‘other minor modifications’ without changing the original meaning and rhythm of the hymns he revised in the final text”.

The second was Gurinder Singh Mann who, Grewal said, “has gone into the history of the Kartarpur Pothi, its internal structure and contents, and its place in the transmission of the sacred corpus”.

Grewal thus concluded:

Pashaura Singh and Gurinder Singh Mann remain the only two successors of Teja Singh and Ganda Singh. They have tried to reconstruct the story of the making of Sikh scripture on the basis of empirical evidence. They remain close to Teja Singh and Ganda Singh in their commitment to the historical approach and their search for historical truth. Between themselves, the story given by Gurinder Singh Mann takes into account more empirical evidence; his analysis is more rigorous; and his presentation is more lucid. His story remains embedded in the texture of Sikh history and, essentially, it is closer to the statement of Teja Singh and Ganda Singh. [32]

As regards this paper, then we will be examining the more recent exchanges that have taken place between arguably the most important players in the current debate, viz. Piar, Daljeet, Pashuara, and Mann. The focus will particularly be on the strength of arguments posited in support of the KB’s authenticity, as well as answering the question of whether all doubts and opposing arguments have been satisfactorily refuted.

Textual Variants in the Kartarpuri Bir

As is evident from notes in the Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, Bhai Jodh Singh could discern SIX hands that worked at the Kartarpuri Bir …. This fact of more than two hands at work on the Bir falsifies its claim to be the original bir prepared by Bhai Gurdas. – Prof Piar Singh

There are three basic positions held by Sikh academics vis-á-vis the collation and writing of the KB. Whereas one group rejects the traditionalist’s view of Guru Arjan’s supervisory role in the compilation process, the remaining two, while acknowledging his involvement, nevertheless, differ over the number of scribes. Although the traditionalists rigidly confine this role to Bhai Gurdas alone, there are those who reject such constraints on the basis of the evidence available to them.

Although Mann acknowledged Bhai Gurdas’ “assistance”, he was also of the opinion that the KB “is in the handwriting of the scribe who … inscribed most of its text”, [33] (bold ours) though not all of it. Similarly, Pashaura saw him more as the “primary” scribe as opposed to a lone one. [34]

Daljeet on the other hand affirmed “that the original Aad Granth [was] scribed by Bhai Gurdas under the direction and supervision of Guru Arjun himself”. [35] He unequivocally stated that not only was the “historical tradition [] consistant that the Kartarpuri Bir is the original Bir compiled by the fifth Guru”, but that:

In the entire Sikh history no person was more eminently suitable to assist the Guru in this work than Bhai Gurdas who, both because of his knowledge, experience and close association with the earlier Gurus, could know what and where was the Bani of the Gurus. Therefore, the preliminary work of collection and scrutiny was entrusted to Bhai Gurdas … [who] was the scribe working under the day to day instructions and supervision of the Guru. [36] (bold ours)

As we noted, not only did Daljeet (along with his Chandigarh cohorts) dismiss textual criticism of the SGGS on the absurd premise that it was recorded and authenticated by the Gurus themselves, but he also believed SGGS to be ipsissima verba (the very words) of God, and cited Guru Nanak below as evidence of this:

“I speak as the words of God come to me.” “I have said what He commands me to speak.” …

They say: “Glory be to the words of God, they have emanated from the Perfect Guru.” “Consider the words of Guru as true since it is God himself who has them spoken.” “The words I speak are conveyed by Him who created the world.” [37], [38] (bold ours)

Daljeet expounded:

For, according to the Gurus, Bani is mystically revealed: (1) “O, Lalo, I express what the Lord conveys me to speak”. [39] (2) “Nanak, says the words of Truth, he expresses only the Truth, it is time to convey the truth”. [40] (3) “I have expressed only that you made me say”. [41] (4) “I have no voice of my own, all what I have said is His command”. [42] (5) Guru’s words are divine nectar (Amrit), these quench all spiritual thirst.” [43] (6) “Consider the Bani of the Sat Guru the words of Truth. O, Sikh, it is the Lord who makes me convey them.” [44]

As such, the Bani commands the highest sanctity, it being from the very fount of Truth and the guide and Guru of the Sikhs: (i) “The Word (Sabad) is the Guru, my consciousness is the follower of the immanent mystic force”. [45] (ii) “The True Guru is the Word (Sabad), and the Word is the True Guru; it leads to the path of God-realisation”. [46] (iii) “The Bani (word) is the Guru and the Guru is the Bani, all spiritual truths are enshrined in it.” [47] (iv) “The embodyment [sic] of the Guru are his words, their meaning is revealed in the company of saints.” [48] Hence the fundamental necessity of identifying and separating the revealed Bani from the unauthentic and the unrevealed. [49] (bold ours)

He further elucidated that “Guru Nanak made it plain that his Guru or Enlightener was God. As such, in all the hymns of Guru Nanak, the word Guru means God, the Enlightener. There are many other verses of Guru Nanak that lead to the same conclusion. … ‘He who does not meet the True Guru (God) is never able to cross the seal of life.’ [50] … ‘We meet Satguru (God) through the Word.’ [51] … Consequently, in the Guru Granth, all references to Guru only mean God’s Immanence and His attribute as the Enlightener. In this context, it is reasonable to conclude that in the Guru Granth the word Guru should normally be taken to mean God”. [52]

On this basis, Daljeet surmised:

The Gurus thus created a tradition that not a word could be altered nor any line added to the Guru Granth. The story about Ram Rai, Guru’s own son, and other similar incidents make it clear how particular the Gurus were in maintaining and securing the authenticity of the Bani (Shabad) and how sacred they felt to be its character as the vehicle of Truth. [53] (bold ours)

Hence, given that “the only Bir about which a claim of its being original has been made is the Kartarpuri Bir, and, this claim is undisputed”, he reached the following conclusion:

We have detailed above the various pieces and types of internal evidence, most of which are individually and incontrovertibly conclusive, in proving that the Kartarpuri Bir is the original Adi-Granth compiled by the fifth Guru in 1604 A. D. The other pieces of evidence, we have recorded are cumulatively, or coupled with the other evidence, equally conclusive in proving the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir as the original production of the Filth Guru. No one who makes a serious and close page to page study, detailed scrutiny and examination of the materials available on the subject can fail to come to a clear conclusion about the undoubted authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir. [54]

In spite of these confident conclusions, however, one man who “provided a strong rebuttal to Daljeet Singh’s arguments and set aside the authenticity of the Kartarpur bir with his scholarly approach” to the point, warns Pashaura, that “[n]o textual critic can afford to ignore his arguments”, was Piar Singh. [55]

In his final work, Gatha Sri Adi Granth and the Controversy (hereinafter referred to as Gatha), Piar took strong exception against Daljeet’s claim that SGGS contained the words of God by arguing:

Sikh revelation cannot claim to have come in those very linguistic units in which it is found recorded in the Holy Scripture. That concept is germane to the Semitic religions only. The adherents of the Quran can claim the receipt of their revelation in utterances made direct by God, for they have one fixed text of the Quran and their revelation is worded, as if God was speaking to his people direct or through the Prophet. No such claim can be made by the Sikh Scripture. [56]

Pashaura raised the same contention:

Certain participants in the current scholarly debate on the Adi Granth text have a different notion of revelation, a notion which they may have picked up from the Islamic tradition (or from the Christian literalist interpretation of the Bible). In their discourse they seem to superimpose Islamic concepts on Sikh tradition and maintain that actual words were revealed to the Gurus rather than the content of the words (that is, knowledge). They further maintain that ‘a change in revealed bani is a theological contradiction.’ This shift in understanding is a move to a much narrower interpretation of the kind of revelation entailed in the Adi Granth text. The new model is less Indian and less Sikh than Qur’anic According to this interpretation the text itself is revealed, given to the Gurus directly by Akal Purakh. That is, perfect words had been delivered in an unchangeable form and consecrated in a perfect scripture. Such an approach removes all space for viewing the creation of the text as a historical process. [57]

And the underlying reason for such reservations on the part of both men is their acknowledgement of textual-variants in the SGGS. In Pashaura’s view, “this particular notion of revelation cannot be sustained in the light of variant readings that we encounter in the Adi Granth and also in the collation of certain pre-canonical texts”. [58] (bold ours) Likewise, Piar recognised that “[t]here are hundreds of codices of the Adi Granth, and the text-variants in them, in accordance with the findings of the SGPC’s own scrutinizing team, [59] runs into THOUSANDS“. [60] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

In his view, “[t]his situation can be explained only by postulating” an entirely different definition that would more accurately and honestly accommodate the problem of these thousands of text variants, and one that would require a paradigm shift on the part of Daljeet et al, “that, when in tune with the Universal Consciousness, revelations came to the Gurus in ideas, concepts or truths, which the Gurus put in the common parlance and broadcast them for the benefit of the people at large”. [61] (bold ours) Pashaura too agreed with Piar’s evaluation:

This definition is in line with the self-understanding of the Gurus themselves, and makes perfect sense in the light of several examples of differing versions of the text where the same meanings have been expressed in different words. [62]

And the example cited by both academics was Guru Nanak’s So Daru hymn of which Piar states:

Even if the current version were to be taken, we shall have to account for three different versions of the so daru hymn: one in the Japu, the other in the Rahiras and the third in Raga Asa. The count of text-variants in it goes up to thirty-one. It cannot be claimed that the so daru was revealed to the Guru thrice in different texts. That will sound ridiculous. The problem does not end with so daru. There are a number of other hymns too which appear in the Holy Granth at two different places and yet show marked text-variants. [63]

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Before continuing, an important point to bear in mind is that of all the books challenging the authenticity of the KB, the only one to have been banned from publication by the Akal Takht at the behest of the SGPC was Piar’s. A knee-jerk reaction such as this strongly indicates that, if nothing else, the SGPC were incapable of academically responding to the challenge thrown down by Piar and, thus, irrationally resorted to bigoted censorship and hostility.

Piar Singh’s Rejection of the Kartarpuri Bir

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie
– deliberate, contrived and dishonest –
but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)

One thing that Piar and Daljeet shared in common despite being at opposite ends of the fence was their dependency upon and extensive use of a single publication Mann described as “the most notable single work describing the pothi’s contents” [64] – Jodh’s seminal work: Kartarpuri Bir De Darshan.

There are hundreds of codices of the Adi Granth, and the text-variants in them, in accordance with the findings of the SGPC’s own scrutinizing team, runs into THOUSANDS. – Prof Piar Singh

Describing this work as “a very detailed and meticulous page by page description of the Kartarpuri Bir”, Daljeet acknowledged that while “there is no authentic, much less detailed, record of the particular features of the Kartarpuri Bir. Our examination is based on the evidence collected in this book (which has also been referred to by us) and a personal study and verification of all the special and salient features of the Bir by an examination of the original Bir at Kartarpur”. [65]

In contrast, while Piar fully acknowledged Jodh’s “meticulous work” as “[t]he first and most important of our authorities”, which he would “revert to … time and again in our discussion on the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir”, he nevertheless concluded that “the Kartarpuri Bir is not the original bir got prepared by the Fifth Guru. It is rather an independent compilation that was at some stage given the semblance of the original bir by casting it, as far as possible, into the mould of the original”. [66]

In his “view, the Kartarpuri Bir is an independent compilation embodying material lifted from primary collections. … This independent compilation was later on cast most probably into the mould of the Adi Granth that was preapred [sic] by Guru Arjun or of some other copy thereof”.

Piar also disagreed with the traditionalists over the year of completion being 1604 CE: “Our study of the Kartarpuri Bir’s orthographic and caligraphic patterns place its preparation somewhere near AD 1640.” [67]

He further insisted that while Daljeet and “[t]he Chandigarh contenders hold that there was only one-lone and final-attempt at compilation and canonization of Gurbani, and it was undertaken and finished by Guru Arjun. As against this, we hold that there were a number of earlier attempts at compilation and canonizing of Gurbani. Replicas of earlier compilations in their rudimentary form may be seen in Guru Hari Sahai Pothi, Bahowal Pothi and Granth Bhai Painda Sahib, Mohan Pothis and MS 1245 (GNDU)”. [68]

Instead, he continued, Daljeet et al “think it enough to reiterate the dogma that the Guru’s decision to compile the Kartarpuri Bir categorically emphasizes that any composition that is variant in form and content from the Kartarpuri Bir is not Sachi Bani of the Gurus. Therefore, a variant manuscript can neither be used, nor have any claim to authenticity (P. Att., p, 117); and the matter ends there”. [69] Piar, in fact, discerned that “[i]t is a practice with all [these] fundamentalists to brand as ‘fake’, ‘spurious’, ‘apocrypha’, etc., anything that is not to their liking. A second stratagem is to lable [sic] it as hailing from some schismatic group.” Hence: “The net result of all this is that whatever does not stand the test of their dogma, is ‘motivated interpolation’, ‘forgery’ and ‘blasphemy’, and the bir that does not conform to this notion of theirs, is a suspect document”. [70]

But, unlike his appraisal and recognition of Jodh’s knowledge of the KB and his expertise in manuscriptology and textual criticism, Piar did not think the same of Daljeet’s; quite the opposite actually. He revealed (from what seems like first-hand experience) the following: “Notwithstanding loud pretensions to a knowledge of manuscriptology made by Daljeet Singh in his work Authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir, he could not, by himself, make out any thing [sic] of MS 1245 shown to him. I, therefore, had to explain to the visitors its peculiar features”. Piar then dedicated most of his book, Gatha, to critically dissecting and refuting Daljeet’s many arguments before concluding that “his adventure into manuscriptology … has proved to be absolutely unreliable (Art., 12)”. [71]

The Curious Case of the Single Scribe

One such example of Daljeet’s unreliability, as highlighted by Piar, revolves around the issue of the number of scribal hands involved in transcribing the KB. Notwithstanding the few corrective annotations of “sudh” (correct) and “sudh kichai” (correction/ correct it, which is examined below) said to have been inserted by the hand of Guru Arjan, Daljeet held Bhai Gurdas to be the sole scribe, and on this basis he asserted:

Generally, all the old handwritten Birs, including the Kartarpuri Bir, are in one hand. Therefore, this internal evidence in the Kartarpuri Bir is both incontrovertible and singly conclusive to show its originality. [72]

What was surprising, however, was that, according to Piar, Daljeet seemed to have overlooked his champion’s contrary observation:

Daljeet Singh in his book surmises that the Kartarpun Bir is in one hand. He regards this fact as conclusive-proof of the Bir’s originality (Auth, p. 16). Daljeet Singh is evidently misinformed. As is evident from notes in the Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, Bhai Jodh Singh could discern SIX hands that worked at the Kartarpuri Bir though he believed the main corpus of the Granth to be in Bhai Gurdas’ hand, with sprinklings of Guru Arjun’s hand here and there. This fact of more than two hands at work on the Bir falsifies its claim to be the original bir prepared by Bhai Gurdas. The claim is that Bhai Gurdas was its sole amanuensis working under the direct supervision of the Fifth Guru (Auth, pp. 1-2). [73] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

It is interesting to note that while having carelessly missed this vitally important observation by Jodh, Daljeet was far more fastidious in recognising that “the Banna Bir has been written generally by one hand or at the most by a few hands not exceeding two or three”. [74] Be that as it may, what concerns us is that if, as Piar notes, “[f]ive to six hands can be discerned at work in the Bir, [t]hey have to be accounted for, since the claim is that the Granth is solely in the hand of Bhai Gurdas”. [75] In this case, Daljeet completely failed to do so.

As for Jodh’s belief that “the main corpus of the Granth [is] in Bhai Gurdas’ hand, with sprinklings of Guru Arjun’s hand here and there”, then Piar cited “Randhir Singh, late research scholar of the SGPC, who had an opportunity of examining the Bir at close quarters along with Bhai Mahan Singh in 1946, [and who] does not subscribe to Bhai Jodh Singh’s view. He holds that the hymns Bhai Sahib considers to be in Guru Arjun’s hand, are in reality in the hand of a different scribe who was instrumental in entering a few hymns mostly belonging to the Fifth Guru at the end of Guru’s respective columns in the ragas concerned”. [76] (bold, underline ours)

One of the hymns in question was “Darshan Ko Loche Sab Koi”. Daljeet too picked up on this, and while conceding that it was written “in a handwriting different from that of the scribe [Bhai Gurdas]” immediately sided with Jodh who “feels that this Sabad had been written by the fifth Guru himself because the handwriting i.e. the shape of the letters and of the ‘Lag matras’, is identical with the handwriting in which the Nishan of the fifth Guru at page 29/1 stands written”. [77]

Scriptural Erasions

For Piar, however, such an inference created the following catch-22 for the Chandigarh crew:

Randhir Singh, however, tells us in his unpublished book “Gursabad Vigas” that Kabir’s sloka … (ram nam ke patantrai) too is in the same hand as is the [] hymn (darshan kau lochai sabh koi). This presents a ticklish situation: the hymn darshan kau lochai and Kabir’s sloka ram nam kai patantrai both are, then, in Guru Arjun’s hand. But the sloka stands crossed. Had the sloka been written by the Guru himself, this eventuality would not have arisen. It cannot be presumed that the Guru himself first entered an unauthentic sloka in the Bir and thereafter got it deleted. The hymn (darshan kau lochai) thus is neither in Bhai Gurdas’ hand nor in that of the Guru. For that reason Kartarpuri Bir’s claim to be the original Bir prepared by Bhai Gurdas falls through. [78] (bold, underline ours)

Additionally, while Pashaura only went so far as to recognise the couplet having been “incorporated … in a different hand”, he not only made known that “[a]n editorial comment explains that ‘this shalok is just an ordinary one’ (ih salok aime hai)”, but also suggested “at least two possible reasons why Guru Arjan disapproved of this”:

First, the theme of the shalok is linked with the esoteric practice of giving the nam [name] secretly, which had no place in contemporary Sikh practice. The Gurus freely distributed (vartae) the gift of the nam in holy congregation. Guru Nanak’s observation is particularly significant in this context: ‘A curse on the life of those who write the nam [as an incantation on a piece of paper] and sell it [for profit].’ Secondly, it did not fit well into the total context of Kabir’s shaloks in the Adi Granth. [79] Its later addition at the end and subsequent deletion may suggest that it did not appeal to Guru Arjan who considered it less perceptive and thereby took the decision to exclude it. [80]

But this explanation merely begs the question of how and why the hymn came to be included in the first place, and by whom? If it was in the hand of the Guru, then how does one reconcile between the claim of infallibility and the possibility of Arjan having initially included it only to later recognise such a glaring mistake? Conversely, if it was in a third hand other than Arjan’s and Bhai Gurdas’, then this threatens the traditionalist’s position.

What is worse, this was not the only hymn attributed to Kabir to be rescinded; there were an additional three.

The first was identified by Mann as the “incomplete” [81] “hymn in rag Sorathi, [of which] only the opening verse, Audhu so jogi guru mera. Is pad ka kare nibera (That ascetic is my Guru. Who explains this word to me.), was recorded in the original handwriting; it was crossed out later”. Both Mann and Pashaura shared the same reasons for its probable deletion. The former proposed that “it is likely that the tantrik imagery was deemed similarly inappropriate. After the opening verse was copied down, the idea of recording the rest of this hymn was dropped”. [82] Whilst the latter declared: “Evidently, the whole hymn [“the complete version of which is to be found in some later manuscripts of the Banno recension of the Adi Granth”] is full of tantric language and concepts. … Further, there are some paradoxical statements (ultabamsi) too …. These esoteric teachings of tantric yoga would scarcely be acceptable to guru Arjan.” [83]

The second was Kabir’s gauri couplet, which according to Pashaura was “incorporated in a different hand”. In his assessment: “Guru Arjan would never approve of this couplet because of its emphasis on the discipline of hatha-yoga. Although it was originally recorded in the Kartarpur volume, it was subsequently deemed unworthy of inclusion and was deleted with the use of hartal.” [84]

However, it is the final one that is arguably the most problematic. As a matter of fact, Piar considered it “so patently out of tune with the Sikh thought and ideology that no Sikh Guru, much less Guru Arjun, would ever countenance its inclusion in the Sikh’s Holy Scripture”. [85] This hymn is in the musical mode of Asa and reads:

Look O people! the betrothal of the lord. Mother has wed her son and she goes with her husband. I am the father and Ram is my son. I am his sister’s husband (bahinoi) and Ram is my brother-in-law (sala). Why should I say ‘Ram’ now! Ram is my father-in-law (sasur) and I am Ram’s son-in-law (javayyia). Says Kabir: Listen O son! Those people who repeat Ram are the real appraisers (kuta). (3.2.35) [86], [87]

And Mann was quite clear as to the reasons for its exclusion:

It is not difficult to explain the problem that resulted from the deletion of these hymns. The biting satire of the [] hymn uses explicit language and images of incest. In family-oriented Sikh thinking, there is no place for this satire no matter what content it carries. For reasons unknown, the hymn [was] recorded in the Kartarpur Pothi, but after it was copied, scribes realized that although it might be a genuine hymn of Kabir, it could have no place in the sacred Sikh text. [88] (bold ours)

Pashaura provided a similar though more incisive evaluation:

The reason for the deletion of this hymn in the Kartarpur volume … appears to be the use of such strong words as sala (brother-in-law) and sasur (father-in-law) for Ram, which form part of abusive language in the Punjabi culture. This is hardly the language of self-abasement or the poetics of humility or even respect, which is characteristic of the Adi Granth. Kabir … frequently becomes offensive to his audience … [which is] certainly not the style of the Sikh Gurus …. Guru Arjan, it seems, decided to exclude it because it did not match the spiritual tone and meaning of the Adi Granth. [89] (bold ours)

These wasted insertions, in effect, serve as further evidence of a hand other than those of Arjan and Gurdas that penned in the Gauri couplet. What is more, the incomplete and introductory inclusion of the sorathi hymn was, Mann divulges, “recorded in the original handwriting”, i.e. Bhai Gurdas.

Now Bhai Gurdas’ reputation as a learned Sikh proceeded him. According to H.R. Gupta:

Bhai Gurdas (1551-1637) was born about twelve years after the death of Guru Nanak. [90]

As such, he was taught by three successive Gurus, viz. Ram Das, Arjan Dev, and Hargobind. It is for this reason, therefore, that Sher Singh described him as “the first theologian of the Sikhs”. [91]

Bhai Gurdas’ contribution towards correctly understanding the Sikh scriptural corpus was so significant, in fact, that Sher declared:

Bhai Gurdas’s work is, in fact, an orthodox analysis of Sikh beliefs. It is written in the same spirit in which we find orthodox expounders of every religion proving the superiority of their own faith over every other. … On the whole his work is the best attempt at the orientation and glorification of the Sikh religion.

Likewise, Gurnek Singh, dept. head of SGGS studies at Punjabi University in Patiala, while also recognising him as the “first ever Sikh theologian”, elucidated further:

He has a very deep knowledge of Gurbani. Because of this he used to expound the Gurbani in Harimandar at the dictate of Guru Arjan the fifth master. His exposition and interpretation of the Sikh tenants is unparalleled even today. [92]

Randhir Singh, late research scholar of the SGPC, who … does not subscribe to Bhai Jodh Singh’s view… holds that the hymns Bhai Sahib considers to be in Guru Arjun’s hand, are in reality in the hand of a different scribe. – Prof Piar Singh

On this basis, therefore, “Bawa Budh Singh in his ‘Hans Chog’ calls Gurdas, the St. Paul of the Sikh”. [93]

In fact, S.S. Kohli quoted that Guru Arjan was “said to have uttered these words very graciously: ‘Bhai Sahib! Your work will be studied by the Sikh in order to understand the profound thoughts of ‘Gurbani’. It will be the key to Gurbani.'”. [94]

Hence, the question that arises is: was Bhai Gurdas sufficiently aware of the tantric contents of the Sorathi hymn and, if so, why did he decide on introducing it? Was this eminent theologian ignorant of the noticeably antithetical nature of tantrism?

These questions, however, seem rhetorical when faced with the far more conspicuously objectionable content of the Asa hymn. How could the use of “abusive”, “offensive”, and “explicit language, including images of incest”, which is “hardly the language of self-abasement or the poetics of humility or even respect” and which is “so patently out of tune with the Sikh thought and ideology that no Sikh Guru, much less Guru Arjun, would ever countenance its inclusion in the Sikh’s Holy Scripture”, have slipped past someone like Bhai Gurdas? If, on the other hand, it was added at the behest of Arjan, then how could a so-called infallible Satguru have ever reached such a decision in the first place?

The Mirabhai Hymn

In the same vein as the Asa hymn is the hymn of Mirabhai, which, Mann explained “refers to her love for Krishna, whom she regarded as God. The obvious conflict between this notion and the Sikh belief in God’s formlessness probably accounts for the subsequent deletion of the hymn”. He cited Sahib Singh as “argu[ing] at length that this hymn was not present in the manuscripts compiled before 1675 but was inserted in some manuscripts after the death of Guru Tegh Bahadur”. [95], [96] Pashaura was certain, however, that while the hymn was written in “a different hand” it “was subsequently deemed unworthy of inclusion and hence was crossed out”. In his view, “the decision to exclude Mira Bai’s hymn must have been made by Guru Arjan himself”. [97] Notwithstanding Mann’s observation that “[t]he hymn appears in all mid-seventeenth-century manuscripts … but was not incorporated into Adi Granth … [and] was eventually struck out from the Kartarpur Pothi”, [98] the obvious point that requires answering is if not the Guru, then who was so ignorant as to include such an ungodly hymn as this? Of course, the traditionalists only have two choices: either their Guru or Bhai Gurdas.

Daljeet, on the other hand, managed to interpret these evidences in an entirely positive light. While acknowledging that said hymn “stands scored out”, his line of reasoning lead him to conclude that “the scoring out of unapproved Bani is a common feature of the Kartarpuri Bir which suggests both that the Guru did not approve the concerned Bani and that the Kartarpuri Bir is the original Bir.” [99]

But such an explanation clearly misses the forest for the trees for it fails to provide a credible response to the problem of how such dubious hymns and couplets came to be included by the “first Sikh theologian”, Bhai Gurdas, or his ‘infallible’ Guru, Arjan, in the first place? In other words, simplistically appealing to the Guru’s authority explains nothing.

Guru Arjan’s Hymns

However, what if it were found that this questionable process of editing was also utilised on the very works of Guru Arjan himself; what then? In this respect, Piar revealed:

Likewise, inclusion first of Guru Arjun’s own hymn, hari Jan line prabhu chhudae – Raga Asa; (Kartarpuri Bir, folio 306/2) and then its deletion by crossing it, is still very enigmatic. A question arises whether the Fifth Guru himself did not know that this particular hymn was not by him. [100]

While Pashaura attempted to hazard an answer:

If Piar Singh had examined the Kartarpur bir himself he would have known that the same hymn appears at number 31 in the index (f. 7/1) and the text (ff. 296/2-297/1, AG, p.378). It was only its second occurrence (f. 306/2) that was deleted with the use of hartal (a yellow-greenish paste used for deletion), and its mention in the index at number 94 (f. 7/1) was crossed out with a pen. [101]

But again, this just begs the question of how it could have been inserted twice over?

In Daljeet’s case, he saw this apparently slipshod editing “[a]s a distinct pointer to the originality of the Kartarpuri Bir, because the scribe of the Kartarpuri Bir was not merely a copyist but he was a person working under the distinct directions and authority of the Guru, who alone approved or disapproved what had to be recorded or retained”. [102] Hence, on this ad hoc basis, though he readily accepted the existence of such duplications, these were again dubiously interpreted by him as confirmatory features of the manuscript’s authenticity:

There are many shabads of bani which have originally been written twice but later this duplication has either been erased by hartal (a chemical used in those days to remove the writing), or scored out with the observation in the margin that the shabad was a duplication. In a copied Bir this duplication could never arise. This could happen only in the original in which case either the scribe himself or the compiler has on revision found the error and got the same removed by scoring out the duplicate shabad or shalok. This duplication has happened at pages 96/2, 186/2, 483/1, 511/1, 550/2, 836/1, 943/2, etc. Thus these duplications, too, are conclusive to prove its authenticity. [103] (bold ours)

Piar, however, disagreed over the presence of duplications being a unique hallmark of only original manuscripts. In his understanding, although “[d]uplications do occur in original compilations, but these do not prove that the Kartarpuri Bir is the original bir prepared by Guru Arjun Dev, for … there has not been one but several sporadic attempts at compilation some of which show this phenomenon of duplication“. [104] (bold ours)

Pashaura identified a more subtle incongruity vis-á-vis the marginal note inserted beside Arjan’s duplicatory hymn on folio 836/1 which clarified: “This hymn is repeated here; its actual place is at [number] fifty-two.” In his view: “The final version that appears at number 52 in folio 834/1 differs slightly from the above hymn in terms of wording and sequence of line.” [105] (bold ours) Although no specific details are given in respect to the number of words changed or whether these changes would affect the overall meaning and content, these subtle changes seem to point more towards a fallible process of trial and error vis-á-vis the compositional attempts made by Guru Arjan as opposed to an infallible and immutable divine one. This contention is further supported by the presence of incomplete hymns. Mann identified two such occurrences which he attributed to Guru Arjan:

The date 1604, two years before the death of Guru Arjan, allows time for the composition of a set of new hymns and their introduction into the pothi. The two incomplete hymns may be taken to synchronize with Guru Arjan’s sudden death. He did not get to finish these hymns and their incomplete texts appear in the Kartarpur Pothi. [106] (bold ours)

But such an explanation raises more questions than answers. For one, was the Guru unaware of his impending demise? More significantly, if, as the Chandigarh scholars hold, SGGS is the very words of God, then was God unaware that His revelation would be left incomplete? Conversely, if these hymns were composed carefully and incrementally through the very human processes of critical thinking, imagination, and creativity, then such a model throws open an entirely different, though no less significant, can of worms.

Finally, this line of reasoning suggests that if, as Daljeet et al believe, the Guru was the overseer of the entire compilation process, then was he and/ or his erudite amanuensis not aware that these hymns had already been inserted earlier? Or did the ‘infallible’ Guru and his scribe both suffer from a momentary lapse of concentration or memory loss?

Guru Arjan’s Ramakali Hymn

There is then the intriguing case of the “incomplete” hymn of Guru Arjan composed in the Ramakali mode and copied on folio 703/1. According to Pashaura:

As the opportunity for its completion never came, only two lines, followed by a blank space, stand recorded in the Kartarpur manuscript. Because there is no mention of this hymn in the index of this volume, and because the entry of the couplet (though made by the same scribe) was done with a different pen, we may conclude that the couplet was introduced some time after the compilation of the Adi Granth in 1604 and before Guru Arjan’s death in 1606. (bold ours)

May I ask … how to reconcile the two situations … of the plethora of deletions, additions and corrections made in the text, and of the close scrutiny made by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru himself? – Prof Piar Singh

Given the presence of blank space of “more than two folios after the opening verse of the Ramakali hymn”, Pashaura postulated that “[t]hese sayings … were perhaps intended to be developed into a complete hymn later”. He then cited Var Basant as another such example, which “was recorded in the Kartarpur manuscript much later”, but remained incomplete because “Guru Arjan was executed by the Mughal authorities in 1606 before he could complete these compositions”. [107]

Notwithstanding Pashaura’s valiant attempt at offering an original explanation, albeit a speculative one, Daljeet, while fully recognising that “Basant Ki Var composed by the fifth Guru [] is recorded on page 854/2 by the scribe in the middle of this page. Apart from the space above this page, the previous page is more than half vacant. But, there is no reference of this Var in the Tatkara [index], showing that the fifth Guru composed it and got it included after 1604 A. D.”, [108] (bold ours) typically resorted to citing this as yet more evidence of the manuscript’s authenticity without offering a single credible reason why.

As for the Ramkali hymn, then Daljeet decided to entirely ignore the more damning assertion made by McLeod that “there occurs a single couplet where there should apparently be a complete hymn”. [109] Instead, he dedicated a large portion of space responding to McLeod’s more insipid objection of “why it was recorded in a section of the Adi-Granth devoted to longer Chhant form” by stating that in “the scheme of the Granth … the Chhant hymns in question could only be where these are, and could not be recorded elsewhere, without violating the scheme of the Adi-Granth”. [110]

Mann agreed that the “late introduction of these hymns into the Kartarpur Pothi’s text indicates that they were composed after the pothi’s original compilation and must have been added to it with the permission of Guru Arjan”. More notably, however, he admitted that only the “opening verses are recorded and some space is left blank for anticipated later completion of the hymns”. [111]

Daljeet et al have, therefore, done nothing to address the problem of how God could allow a hymn intended for incorporation into His divine scripture to remain incomplete? What is more, even if the execution of Guru Arjan resulted in this eventuality, why did his equally ‘infallible’ successors decide on including something incomplete to the final version of SGGS?

Errors Galore

There is then the presence of a number of inaccuracies in the KB documented by a team of scholars from Tarn Taran who identified them when “[t]hey worked on it for about fourteen weeks beginning with October 19, 1924, and ending on January 9, 1925”. [112]

Daljeet too was certainly aware of this team’s endeavour for he divulged:

In the twenties Master Ishher Singh of the Sikh Vidyala, Tarn Taran, sent a team of scholars who made a most detailed page by page and line by line study in order to prepare a standard version of the Adi-Granth.

And though he was privy to the fact that a “[l]eaf by leaf comparison of an unbound Bir of the Guru Granth was made with the Kartarpuri Bir. Every variation in the unbound Bir was corrected in accordance with the Kartarpuri Bir“, [113] he failed, or perhaps again wilfully ignored, to address any of the so-called text-variants tabulated by them.

In contrast, Piar quoted the team’s diary wherein they noticed the errant removal of the Gurmukhi vowel, aunkar, on page 90 of the KB with “yellow paste” (hartal), which not only forced them to infer that “the present bir had been checked up with some other bir”, but also impelled Piar to conclude that its erasure “was obviously effected under compulsion of a check-up with some bir … without the aunkar but was wrongly thought to be authentic”.

Piar also noticed “another clue confirming Kartarpuri Bir’s check-up with some other bir”:

The Tarn Taran team tells us that Kartarpuri Bir (folio 174) had originally govinda … with the nasal sign (tippi) on it. Later on, it was changed to read govida … by removing the nasal sound represented by tippi … with hartal, the yellow paste. A correct reading rendered wrong! Yet another instance of a similar unwarranted correction. On page 472 of the Kartarpuri Bir, a correct heading … is seen to have been changed with hartal . There are many other instances of unwarranted corrections. Rendering correct readings wrong by the use of hartal cannot be said to be the work of an expert amanuensis like Bhai Gurdas, nor could it have the sanction of Guru Arjun. They are, indeed, the result of a misplaced check-up of the Kartarpuri Bir by some novice with some other codex. [114] (bold ours)

That is not all. Piar then continued by citing 27 examples of “incorrect text” in the KB derived from both Manna Singh Pathi, i.e. “over two hundred text-variants spotted by him [and] given in Lal Singh of Sangrur’s book, Guru Granth Sahib de Kathin Pathan di Kunji”, as well as Gurbachan Singh Khalsa Bhindranwala’s “eighty-six text-variants along with a note that their actual number is more than fifteen hundred” recorded in his book Gurbani Path Darshan. Piar, thus, concluded:

The examples reproduced above are not text-variants. They are errors serious enough to indict any writer. These do not exhaust the list. Other writers, as had examined the Bir, have also left their findings. (bold ours)

This allusion is mainly in reference to Randhir Singh who “writes that the writer of the Kartarpuri Bir has made profuse use of the nasal sound in Var Raga Malar and even at places not necessary. … At certain places, where it should have been used, it is missing”. Randhir had also “taken note of many irregular and even funny headings … reproduced by us [Piar] in the Gatha (pp. 196-197)”. [115]

Finally, following his summation, Piar made mention of a strange entry in the Tarn Taran team’s diary that is certainly worth quoting:

Not only errors quoted by us on the authority of Bhai Manna Singh Pathi but lots of more, equally puzzling and taxing, may be seen reported in the Diary of the Tarn Taran team. They, however, have hesitated to lable [sic] them as errors. For them they are just text-variants. This is due to their firm faith in the Bir’s being a work of Bhai Gurdas. Yet the discrepancies, the oddities of the text-variants, plethora of additions, deletions and emendations, and the slip-shod[d]iness of the work appears to have left them puzzled, for in the note bearing date 1.1.25 (Thursday) it is recorded “Bhai Narain Singh went back by the 2 p.m. train. [Before he left] we prayed, ‘Let secrets of Baba Ji (the Adi Bir) remain with Baba Ji!'” [116]

In other words, let all these imperfections not find the light of day.

What we can surmise from all the above, however, is what Piar concluded below:

All the text-variants listed by them cannot be labelled as “errors”, for many of them represent the proclivities of the scribes, yet the number of those as CANNOT BE DEFENDED in any way and have to be admitted and labelled as “GRAVE ERRORS,” is quite large. [117] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Table of Contents Conundrum

There are then issues with the discrepancies found in relation to the manuscript’s Table of Contents (TOC) where, as Mann observed, “the table of contents contains one thing but the text shows something else”.

We have already briefly made mention of one such instance where two entries are recorded in the TOC, but are conspicuously missing from the contents. In this respect, Mann elaborated further:

The last entry in the table of contents of the Kartarpur Pothi (folio 2), which refers to the titles on folio 974, reads, Ragmala tatha Singhladip ki Shivnabh Raje ki Bidhi (literally, “The garland of rags” and “The recipe of King Shivnabh of Singhladip”). The entry is in part written vertically along the margin, and its latter part clearly refers to two compositions: the Hakikati Rah Mukam Raje Shivnabh ki and Siahi ki Bidhi (Recipe of ink). In addition, we need to note that the compositions referred to here are part of the set of five compositions that consistently appear in a seventeenth century branch of scriptural manuscripts ….

Tables of contents of the manuscripts were prepared only after their text had been completely inscribed, and an entry at the head of the table of contents confirms this practice. The scribe of the Kartarpur Pothi claims that, having written the pothi, he began recording the table of contents on Bhadon vadi 1, Samat 1661 [1604 C.E.]. As referred to earlier, some hymns were introduced into the Kartarpur Pothi after its original inscription, and they were entered in the table of contents. The Ragmala tatha Singhladip ki Shivnabh Raje ki Bidhi is a unique instance of texts mentioned in the table of contents but not included in the body of the pothi. The Ragmala is recorded at the end of the pothi, but the Hakikati Rah Mukam Raje Shivnabh ki and the Siahi ki Bidhi are both absent.

The challenge that confronts us, or more appropriately Sikhdom, is hence two-fold:

  • Well before Jodh’s extensive study in the 1940s, eminent scholar, Kahn Singh Nabha, had reported seeing these in the TOC of the KB two decades earlier in 1918.
  • Mann added: “The pothi as it stands today ends with the Ragmala, on folio 974, followed by a number of blank folios that are not identical with the original folios of the manuscript; they differ in texture and color of paper. Although Bhai Jodh Singh did not describe in detail the four folios that follow the Ragmala text, he did note that they differed from those that preceded.” [118] Hence, the TOC of today’s KB is consistent with the TOC of the Sikh scripture officially ratified by the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh.

It is certain that changes were made in the Kartarpur Pothi during the late 1920s. According to some senior scholars, Pandit Kartar Singh Dakha, Master Ishar Singh Tarn Taran, and Pandit Wariam Singh Jabboval were involved in the rebinding of the pothi at that time; but what exactly they did is not known. Probably, though, in a misconceived attempt to prove the authenticity of the Kartarpur Pothi, its custodians permitted some ANACHRONISTIC ALTERATIONS to its structure. – Prof Gurinder Singh Mann

Although Mann conceded that “Bhai Jodh Singh faithfully reproduced the entry in the table of contents for the Ragmala tatha Singhlatlip ki Shivnabh Raje ki Bidhi without commenting on its absence in the text itself“, [119] he, nevertheless, revealed: “Physical evidence confirms that the entry was made in one hand at one time and was recorded along with the rest of the table of contents, in the SAME HANDWRITING and ink.” (bold, capitalisation ours)

And since its inclusion was in the same hand that inscribed the entire TOC and the majority of the manuscript, then for the sake of consistency, one would imagine Daljeet et al presumably accepting this one hand to be none other than that of Bhai Gurdas’. However, this creates another tricky catch-22. If it was indeed Bhai Gurdas who included these in the TOC, then he must have done so either upon the explicit instructions of his Guru, or, being fully cognisant of their rightful place in the manuscript (perhaps to be added to at a later date), on his own initiative. Yet, their absence suggests two possible scenarios: either they were never part of the contents, or they were, but later removed.

In regards to the former, then it begs the question as to why they were entered in the TOC in the first place. Did Bhai Gurdas presuppose their canonicity without having first consulted or been instructed by his Guru? If so, then on what basis and authority? Or did Guru Arjan initially intend to include them, but later decide against it? If so, then how could this indecision arise when he is alleged to be both one with God and the recipient of His divine words? Alternatively, was this the theologically incoherent case of God changing His mind? And finally, if it were a genuine mistake, then why was it not, like in so many other instances, amended and struck out with the use hartal?

As to the latter, then although Grewal noticed that Mann “tries to meet all arguments against the authenticity of the Kartarpur Pothi”, [120] he only really managed an attempt at one, which is worth mentioning below in full:

Rather than suggesting the table of contents is out of kilter, it is more sensible to assume that the text of the original pothi was subsequently altered: the original probably conformed to what the table of contents indicates. And indeed, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s description of the pothi in the early part of the century affirms that the now missing compositions were still present at that point. This hypothesis could be contested if one could find manuscripts that were known to be copies of the Kartarpur Pothi but that did not end with these compositions. Yet even if such copies were to appear, one would still have to account for Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha’s report.

Despite extensive fieldwork, I have not found a single copy of the Kartarpur Pothi as it stands now among the extant seventeenth-century manuscripts. There are other early manuscripts … that claim to be copies of the Kartarpur Pothi. They all include at the closing of their text the set of compositions to which the Kartarpur Pothi’s table of contents refers. These are the same compositions that Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha claimed to have seen when he examined the Kartarpur Pothi.

I have referred to two nineteenth century manuscripts, one presently at India Office Library in London and the other at Moti Bagh in Patiala, both believed to have been copied from the Kartarpur Pothi, which are actually identical to the text of the Adi Granth – and not to the Kartarpur Pothi. [121] The simple explanation for this peculiarity is that the custodians of the Kartarpur Pothi were aware of the textual differences between the pothi in their possession and the Adi Granth and were doing their best to generate copies that conformed to what had become the authoritative version of Sikh scripture.

The Sodhis’ awareness of this issue provides the background for understanding the differences between the text of the Kartarpur Pothi as seen by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha in the 1940s and by Bhai Jodh Singh and others in the 1940s. It is certain that changes were made in the Kartarpur Pothi during the late 1920s. According to some senior scholars, Pandit Kartar Singh Dakha, Master Ishar Singh Tarn Taran, and Pandit Wariam Singh Jabboval were involved in the rebinding of the pothi at that time; but what exactly they did is not known. [122] Probably, though, in a misconceived attempt to prove the authenticity of the Kartarpur Pothi, its custodians permitted some ANACHRONISTIC ALTERATIONS to its structure. The changes were made primarily to conform to what later Sikh tradition held to constitute the Kartarpur Pothi: the Adi Granth minus the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

That some changes were made toward the end of the Kartarpur Pothi is confirmed by examining the flaws in its last three gatherings. Folios 958, 959, and 965 are missing; folio 966 contains several thickly pasted layers with new writing recorded over them; and folios 964 and 973 and the four folios following 975 differ from the original folios of the pothi, both in the texture of the paper and in the design of their margins. Bhai Jodh Singh also noted these anomalies but did not note the possibility that alterations had been made when the Kartarpur Pothi was rebound earlier in the twentieth century. [123]

In my view the Kartarpur Pothi originally contained the compositions mentioned in its table of contents. As I explain in chapter 5, this information substantially clarifies our understanding of the history of the Sikh scriptural text during the seventeenth century. [124] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Yet, it is not quite as simple as merely recognising the possibility that an unauthorised hand wilfully tampered with the manuscript so as to bring it in agreement with Guru Gobind’s Granth, and hoping the matter will rest there. The implications are far more serious. If we grant that these compositions were included by Bhai Gurdas at the behest of his Guru, then why were they not carried through and included in Guru Gobind’s Granth? Why were they later expunged? Unless Sikhism ascribes to the concept of scriptural abrogation comparable to that found in Islam, then this raises the seemingly insurmountable difficulty of ‘infallible’ Gurus, who are considered a single personification manifesting through ten separate though interrelated lives (Ik Joti), contradicting themselves. In other words, how could any of the ten ‘infallible’ Gurus, all of whom are said to agree perfectly with each other, contradictorily decide to oppose one or more of the other Gurus over the initial decision to include said compositions by subsequently expunging them?

Daljeet, in fact, posed an example very much similar to this situation, and from which he drew certain inferences and conclusions that, in principle, work as proof against him rather than for him. He said:

(e) At page 415/1 in the margin are written the words “The Sabad is right”. This Sabad does not find mention in the Tatkara [TOC]. But, this observation in the margin shows that for this Bir, there was a supervisor or editor, other than the scribe, who alone could record such an observation of approval regarding Sabad on the page. This observation shows the original character of the Kartarpuri Bir. Otherwise, if the Bir had been copied from another Bir, the question of such an observation by the scribe or some other person would not arise. [125]

He thus concluded:

All this would lead to one clear conclusion, namely, that while the main corpus of the Bani and the Tatkara were prepared simultaneously and correctly, on revision, or because of late collection and selection, some Sabads, or parts of the Bani, were recorded later on and sometimes in a different hand. As far as possible, an attempt was made, if space was available, to record them at the places of their proper sequence and even in the margins of the appropriate pages. But mostly, for obvious reasons, these later writings failed to find mention in the Tatkra of the Sabads. Only if a Sabad was scored out on account of repetition or non-approval, the corresponding entry in the Tatkara was deleted or the Sabads were renumbered. Many a time, these Saloks written in the margin were given the same number as given to the ones on the relevent [sic] page. [126] (bold, underline ours)

By the same logic, if late additions to the manuscript resulted in them not being indexed in the TOC due to a lack of space, although, as Pashaura pointed out, this was not the case with Singhladip ki Shivnabh Raje ki Bidhi “where some of the words of this entry (Sivanabh Raje Ki vidhi) are written vertically in the margin as there is no space for them in the next line” [127] (bold ours), then what of those that were? It stands to reason that indexed compositions were included in the TOC precisely because they had already been included in the main corpus of the KB. Hence, what is currently preserved in the TOC has only survived because its corresponding bani was approved either for immediate inclusion or postponed for a later date. And this understanding is probably the reason why Pashaura offered the following two explanations:

First, the last words in the entry (Tatha Sin(g)hla-dip Sivanabh Raje Ki Vidhi) were added much later to make an attempt to include this apocryphal text in the scripture, but it was somehow turned down. Second, the inclusion of this text was not approved by Guru Arjan himself, although its mention had already been made in the index entry. Whatever the case may be, it is certain that the last words in the index entry were written in an unconventional way. [128] (bold ours)

We have already mentioned the theological implications of a composition intended for inclusion, either by Guru Arjan or his amanuensis, “somehow [being] turned down”. But, given its entry both in the TOC by the same hand as the main scribe, and in the main body of the manuscript as evidenced by Nabha, as well as its existence in manuscripts said to be early copies of the KB, it is unsurprising that Mann, of course, wholly disagreed with his western academic colleague:

Pashaura Singh argues that this particular entry was inserted into the table of contents with the intention of eventually introducing the compositions mentioned here into the text of the manuscript. … It is not possible to accept Pashaura Singh’s argument that this particular entry was inserted into the pothi after its original inscription, nor his view that someone tried to add the Singhladip ki Shivnabh Raje ki Bidhi to the pothi by entering it first in the table of contents. [129]

In the end, neither Mann and Pashaura, nor Daljeet et al. have come close to addressing the serious theological questions we have raised above.

The ‘Authenticity’ of the Kartarpuri Bir

The Bir continues to be as poor a specimen of work
as we shall feel ashamed of presenting to the world
as a work of a highly competent amanuensis like Bhai Gurdas,
much less an infallible Guru of the calibre of Sri Guru Arjun Dev.
– Prof Piar Singh (1914-1996)

Where, then, do we stand in light of all the above, and the question of the authenticity of this manuscript? What is apparent is that, while the late Piar Singh published his critique almost two decades ago, there has not been much of a response from the Chandigarh camp following the ignominious decision of banning his book, Gatha.

Ironically, the two scholars who did manage to put up a defence of sorts, namely Pashaura and Mann, soon discovered that their efforts as Western academics only earned them the ire of both the Chandigarh fundamentalists and certain members of the SGPC. Notwithstanding their attempts, however, they have also struggled to adequately deal with Piar’s piercing critique.

We have presented questions and problems that certainly require attention if the claim that the KB was prepared by Guru Arjan is to remain unchallenged. In fact, there exists a catch-22 in upholding this dogma and the belief in the Guru’s infallibility, given the many aforementioned inconsistences, errors, and oversights.

Take the examples of scriptural erasions where four compositions attributed to Kabir and Mirabhai, respectively, were presumably entered under the guidance of the Guru, despite the conspicuously antithetical nature of their contents, only to then be struck out at a later date. In addition, we also asked how someone touted to be as erudite and scholastic as Bhai Gurdas could have failed to recognise the anti-Sikh message contained therein. This is exactly what Piar stated:

In face of this assertion of careful scrutiny by the infallible Guru, it becomes much more difficult to answer how a hymn like Kabir’s Dekho loga hari ki sagai and Mira’s hymn first got entered in the bir and then were crossed. This shows that this bir is not the one that was prepared by the Guru. [130]

There are, then, the dubious issues of not just duplicate compositions being introduced only to be deleted later by their author Guru Arjan, but also the question of why his hymns were left incomplete, and, more importantly, why his successors chose to retain them in the final draft.

What is more, rather than reflecting the guiding hand of an ‘infallible’ Guru and the precision and care of an expert amanuensis, the manuscript shows instead all the hallmarks of a shoddy and imprecise textual compilation, given the presence of inaccuracies, mistakes and other scribal errors.

Last, but not least, there are the theological implications that arise not only from the allegation that unscrupulous hands tampered with the manuscript at a later time in order to bring it in line with today’s version of SGGS, but also what clearly seems like a case of missing compositions which, while being indexed in the tatkara (table of contents), are absent in the main body of the text.

In spite of all this, and as already alluded to above, Daljeet et al. intransigently defended the dogma of Guru Arjan and Bhai Gurdas being the lone participants in the compilation process, despite evidence to the contrary. For instance, he readily conceded to the existence of a large number of, what he called, “corrected mistakes” as follows:

There is another set of corrected incongruities [and “corrected mistakes”] which shows conclusively the authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir. …

Hence this feature of the Kartarpuri Bir, especially the large number in which these incongruities or omissions appear, proves its authenticity and originality. …

The large number of cancellations and uncorrected numberings in this Bir prove its originality since such a state could never occur in a copy. [131]

Piar, however, berated Daljeet for his rigidity in this regard:

The Kartarpuri Bir is marred by numerous deletions, additions and emendations. Daljeet Singh takes notice of them at some length in his book and tries to cover them up with his stock argument, repeated ad nauseam, that they are but the inevitable product of the original compilation that the Kartarpuri Bir is. [132]

He especially took Daljeet to task over his dual belief that:

(a) [T]he preliminary work of collection and scrutiny was entrusted to Bhai Gurdas. The Guru himself approved its final inclusion. (Auth, p. 4).
(b) In each case the Bani of the Gurus, collected from whatever source, was, before its final inclusion, scrutinized by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru. (Auth, p. 5).

Instead, he rhetorically asked:

May I ask Daljeet Singh (alas! he is no more with us) and his ardent supporters, how to reconcile the two situations stated above – of the plethora of deletions, additions and corrections made in the text, and of the close scrutiny made by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru himself. These two are totally at variance with each other? Can supervision of an INFALLIBLE Guru be so lax as to allow scores and hundreds of omissions and commissions to creep in the body of so important a Granth? Or, could a work of so talented an amanuensis as Bhai Gurdas was, be so slip-shod to have allowed hundreds of mistakes [sic] creep in? Certainly “not”! …

These deletions, additions and corrections cannot be invoked to prove the genuineness of the Kartarpuri Bir …. [133] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

But one way in which Daljeet and his cohorts attempted to prove this “close scrutiny made by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru himself” was by constantly referring to a corrective feature allegedly implemented by Arjan himself, and said to be in his own hand. This involves the insertion of the editorial comments “sudh” and “sudh kichai” to highlight any mistakes. Daljeet particularly peddled this argument as conclusive proof of the manuscript’s authenticity:

Thirdly, the words “Sudh” or “Sudh Keeche” (“It is correct” or “correct it”) appear at so many places in the Bir. These are supposed to be in the hand of the Fifth Guru since these are in a different hand and not in the hand of the scribe of the Bir, and the handwriting of these marginal observations resembles the handwriting of the Nishan of the Fifth Guru in the Bir. These words appear in other handwritten Birs as well. But those are in the same hand as of the scribe of the concerned Bir, showing that the Bir is a copy and not the original. [134] (bold ours)

Mann elaborated in more detail:

We see instructions like “correct” (shudh) or “rectify” (shudh kichai) at the end of the text of the several vars. The discrepancies include forty-five couplets appearing twice in the text; in some places the scribe has forgotten to record their attribution, and at others has assigned them different authorship. [135]

What we are being fed, however, is that after the compilation process was more or less accomplished, Guru Arjan carefully checked through the text in order to identify and mark out any mistakes and errors made by Bhai Gurdas. As Daljeet confirmed:

Saroop Das Bhalla records in Mehma Parkash (1801 A.D.) the reply of Bhai Gurdas to a query in this regard: “Just as a devoted wife can recognise the speech of her lord, I too have the intuitive capacity to spot and identify the Bani of the Gurus.” [136] The difficulty of the task can be gauged from the fact that even a person like Bhai Gurdas sometimes made slips in his preliminary selection and recording which is evident from the corrections got made by the Guru in all these cases. Obviously, the final approval, “Sudh”, was invariably given by the Guru himself and what was an error was directed to be rectified by its omission, obliteration, rewriting or otherwise (‘Sudh Keeche’). The task of collection from the multifarious sources was equally difficult. It is wrong to assume that the Bani of the different Gurus stood recorded at one place, or what stood collected at one place seemingly as the Bani of the Gurus, and of the Bhagats was authentic. In each case the Bani of the Gurus, collected from whatever source was, before its final inclusion, scrutinized by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru. [137] (bold ours)

This explanation merely compounds the situation further, for if the Guru did meticulously scrutinise the text in the way they describe, then the number of text variants – which, as already stated, amount to between 200-plus according to Manna Singh, and 86 (with a note that the actual number is more than 1500) according to Gurbachan Singh Khalsa Bhindranwala – seriously undermines this claim. More significantly, if infallibility means the inability to err in transmitting and teaching revealed truth, then these text-variants and errors also serve as evidence against claims of Guru Arjan’s infallibility.

What is more, contrary to the convictions of Jodh and Daljeet, Piar revealed that Randhir Singh “does not hold sudhu and sudhu keeche to be in the Guru’s hand. He considers them to be in the hand of the main copyist. He surmises that in his zeal to have a faithful copy, he transcribed these too alone with the text”. (bold ours)

Piar also questioned the efficacy of these corrective comments from the angle of consistency. He asked why “[o]f the twelve ragas that have no vars, only one, namely Todi has this mark (sudhu); the rest [of the] eleven are without it. Lack of this uniformity in the Kartarpuri Bir creates doubt about the marks being in Guru Arjun’s hand. If they are by Guru Arjun, they should have appeared at the end of all the ragas. A doubt, therefore, persists that they are vestiges of some other primary source”.

He further revealed that “[t]here is yet another big snag in accepting them to be in Guru Arjun’s hand. Var Raga Ramkali M 3 has the approval mark of sudhu at its end, yet it is not free of mistakes”, and after noting six such faults (pauri 7, sloka 1; pauri 12, sloka 3; pauri 12, sloka 5; pauri 13, sloka 2; pauri 14, sloka 1; pauri 18, sloka 1;) tabulated by the Tarn Taran scrutineers, he opined that “a bir that is not free from mistakes and yet has the sudhu mark at the end, cannot be the work of [an] infallible Guru and a very competent amanuensis as Bhai Gurdas was”. [138]

In light of all the above, therefore, it is unsurprising that Piar reached this conclusion:

[H]ow can writings in the new margin done many a decade after the completion of the Bir be said to be corrections made with the approval of the Fifth Guru, or that they are in Bhai Gurdas’ hand? This one fact alone is sufficient to demolish Daljeet Singh’s thesis that the Kartarpuri Bir is the original Bir prepared by Bhai Gurdas. Daljeet Singh fails to comprehend that all these corrections and rectifications of mistakes, which he thinks to be by Bhai Gurdas himself, may well be the result of an attempt by someone else to recast another independently made compilation, in the mould of the Adi Granth. [139]

Pashaura, however, entirely missed the point by arguing:

Piar Singh seems to be working on the assumption that the manuscript prepared by ‘so talented an amanuensis as Bhai Gurdas’ under the direct supervision of ‘an infallible Guru’ must be perfect in every way. Such a manuscript does not exist. The Kartarpur bir was transcribed by human hands, and during the process of writing certain errors of omission and commission obviously occurred. When they were detected by Guru Arjan, they were rectified, and the deletion of Kabir’s Asa hymn illuminates that process. [140] (bold ours)

But this is merely a strawman, for Piar’s argument is not predicated on the assumption that it was transcribed by any human hand, but the hand of Bhai Gurdas “under the DIRECT SUPERVISION of ‘an infallible Guru'” (bold, underline, capitalisation ours). If his definition of infallibility entails the perfect transmission and teaching of revealed text, then the non-existence of such a manuscript would mean that Guru Arjan is fallible. Under this concept, the errors, oversights, corrections and deletions would be perfectly understandable and acceptable.

Furthermore, Pashaura’s defence is problematic in that one would need to presuppose that interpolations occured without Arjan’s approval and knowledge in order to say that these were subsequently detected and deleted by him. This, in effect, would wholly undermine the position of those who insist that the Guru had complete supervision over the compilation process. As we have seen, this certainly does not seem to be the case, since, as Piar highlighted, Kabir’s hymn was included in the hand of the very same Guru who, presumably, “detected” his own slip before deciding to delete it!

But, let us assume, arguendo, that Guru Arjan did have complete supervision except in this instance; then the more serious question of who audaciously bypassed his authority to include said hymn would need to be addressed. Was it Bhai Gurdas, as is traditionally accepted, or someone else? If it is the case that Guru Arjan did not overlook the entire compilational process, but permitted others to exercise their personal discretion over the inclusion of material, then not only would it shift the blame towards and raise doubts against this third person, but more significantly cast serious doubts over the reliability of the methodological process implemented in the preparation of the Kartarpuri manuscript.

Since the KB is considered the single most important work in Sikh manuscriptology, the difficulties collated in this paper raise compelling questions against the overall compilation of SGGS. Until these are fully addressed, any boasts, similar to those expressed by Dr Mohinder Kaur Gill that the “Guru Granth Sahib is the best example of the combination of brilliance and planning”, [141] will ring hollow. [142]

On a similar note, Daljeet and his Chandigarh allies propounded the idea that Guru Arjan possessed the written material of his four predecessors before starting out on the KB project. For example, Kharak Singh and Gurnam Kaur said:

The Guru had all the authentic material available to him. … He would certainly have exercised utmost care to ascertain the authenticity of the material before recording it in his Adi Granth. [143] (bold ours)

Daljeet was of the opinion that “Dr. Sahib Singh and Harbhajan Singh have collected a mass of circumstantial evidence which clearly shows that the Gurus were not only knower of the Bani of the earlier Gurus, but they were also quite aware of Bani of some Bhagats“. [144] (bold ours)

Sangat Singh concurred believing that “Sahib Singh has conclusively proved that the compositions of first five Gurus traveled from one to the other as a normal course. This reading is justified by him firstly by identity of language used by various Gurus – 1st to 3rd and thereafter by 4th and 5th Gurus. This showed that they were in possession of compositions of their predecessors”. [145] (bold ours)

According to Manjeet Singh Sidhu: “The important point … is that Guru Arjan while compiling the Adi Granth collected only such writings of his predecessors as were not in his possession, which forms only a negligible portion of their writings.” [146] (bold ours)

Likewise, Ranbir Singh Sandhu noted:

The process of compiling Sri Granth Sahib was continual one, having had its start with Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The content of the “book” increased through a process of accretion based on continual revelation to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji and his successors. It did not terminate with the Kartarpur manuscript when scribed in 1604 A.D. The author [Pashaura Singh] correctly notes about Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji: “Even during the last two years of his life he added to the scripture a number of his own verses before he died in 1606 CE.” This is an affirmation of continued revelation of the bani even after the Kartarpur MS was compiled. [147] (bold ours)

Dhillon subscribed to something similar asserting that “[e]vidence at hand suggests that the process of recording, compilation and canonization did not take place once but over and over again for nearly a century, coming to an end with the codification of the Adi Granth in 1604 C.E.”. [148]

However, with the existence of so many text variants, errors, omissions, additions and deletions, Piar disputed Sahib Singh’s thesis:

[A] word may again be said on Prof. Sahib Singh’s assertion that all the writings of the predecessor Gurus were handed over to Guru Arjun as “ancestral treasure ” by Guru Ramdas, where from the Kartarpuri Bir claimed to be the original Adi Granth was prepared. Extant earlier codices do not warrant this fact, for the Kartarpuri Bir, as we have seen, is FULL of mistakes. It cannot be imagined that a manuscript prepared from the holographs themselves, could be so very hopeless. Besides, if the authors’ own copies lay at the basis of the compilation, the various codices, of which the number is very large, should have shown uniformity of the text. But, that they do not do. No two primary codices show any conformity in that respect. Texts and their components vary. Hence the correct position is that bani was collected from different sources, scrutinized and then shaped into a Holy Granth. [149] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

He later added:

As regards the compilation of bani, Harnam Das Udasin’s and Sahib Singh’s view that bani passed on from Guru to Guru in succession, does not stand the test of scrutiny. Bani, as we find it compiled and codexed in earlier birs, does not show any one to one correspondence in their texts, nor in their format. Text-variants abound, and recensions differ materially. This could not have happened, had the bani been passed on in succession. [150] (bold, underline ours)

As we saw, the sheer weight of inconsistencies also forced people like Piar and Pashaura to reject the traditionalist’s view of the SGGS being the very words of God. Pashaura, for instance, believed there were “participants in the current scholarly debate on the Adi Granth text [who] have … a notion which they may have picked up from the Islamic tradition”. In doing so, he continues, “they seem to superimpose Islamic concepts on Sikh tradition and maintain that actual words were revealed to the Gurus rather than the content of the words (that is, knowledge)”. According to his research though, “this particular notion of revelation cannot be sustained in the light of variant readings that we encounter in the Adi Granth and also in the collation of certain pre-canonical texts”. As such, for him:

The most illuminating instance is the appearance of Guru Nanak’s So Dar (that door) hymn in three different versions in the standard version of the Adi Granth, one in the morning prayer (Japji), the other in the evening prayer (So Dar Rahiras) and the third in the Asa Raga. The count of variants in this text alone goes up to thirty-one. It would seem arbitrary and naive to claim that the So Dar hymn was revealed to Guru Nanak on three different occasions in three different versions. There are other such instances in the Adi Granth where certain hymns appear at two different places with remarkable text variants. [151]

Can supervision of an INFALLIBLE Guru be so lax as to allow scores and hundreds of omissions and commissions to creep in the body of so important a Granth? Or, could a work of so talented an amanuensis as Bhai Gurdas was, be so slip-shod to have allowed hundreds of mistakes [to] creep in? Certainly “not”! – Prof Piar Singh

What is, therefore, difficult to comprehend, is how Sikh academics like him, who are aware of said shortcomings, end up brazenly downplaying the apparent implications. In this respect, Pashaura reasons “that apart from a small number of disputed passages (which I have discussed in this study) there has always been complete agreement on the contents of the bani in all three versions of the Adi Granth, even in the seventeenth-century manuscripts. This was due to Guru Arjan’s editorial insights, whereby he devised certain checks and balances, which made it extremely difficult for anyone to interpolate any extraneous matter in the text. Each entry in the Adi Granth is numbered and its position is further determined by its raga, authorship, metrical form and so on. Guru Arjan gave to Sikhs an authoritative scripture, which provided a framework for the shaping of the community”. [152] Such a pronouncement comes across as acutely inane, especially when considering Piar’s observation of similar doublestandards employed by the Chandigarh scholars who, while wary of the scribal mistakes pointed out by him, continued to “ignore the voluminous book covering 860 pages containing over SIX THOUSAND text-variant prepared by their own scholars and published by the SGPC itself in 1977″. [153] (bold, capitalisation ours)

In spite of these mental aberrations, however, Piar seemed to take his research to its ultimate logical conclusion and to this end broke down his approach as follows:

The vital-most test for determining the authenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir must be the correctness of its text. The tradition holds that it was prepared by Bhai Gurdas under the direct supervision of Guru Arjun. We, the Sikhs, believe in the infallibility of our Guru and regard Bhai Gurdas as the most competent amanuensis of his time. Daljeet Singh too, at several places in his book concedes that in each case the bani before its inclusion in the Granth was carefully scrutinized by Bhai Gurdas and the Guru himself. The final approval was invariably given by the Guru (Auth, pp. 4-5). [154] (bold ours)

It is entirely understandable, when critically taking into consideration all the points we have raised in this paper, why Piar felt the way he did towards the alleged authenticity of the KB as expressed below:

When we look at the Kartarpuri Bir from this angle, we are sorely disappointed. First, several objectionable hymns, first entered and then penned through, stare in our face. Secondly, numerous deletions, corrections and emendations hopelessly mar the above picture. Lastly, even after having undergone countless alterations and corrections, according to Daljeet Singh at the hands of Bhai Gurdas and the compiler, i.e., Guru Arjun (Auth., p. 16), the Bir continues to be as POOR A SPECIMEN of work as we shall feel ashamed of presenting to the world as a work of a highly competent amanuensis like Bhai Gurdas, much less an infallible Guru of the calibre of Sri Guru Arjun Dev. This is the biggest snag in accepting it as the original Bir. [155] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Appendix A – Ik Joti

Sher Singh elucidated on the significance of this doctrine of Ik Joti by way of the following analogy:

Nanak left his body and transmitted his light to another person who became Nanak II, Angad by name. There is a classical illustration about the transmission of this light from one Guru to another. It is by way of an answer to a query: Did not the fountain of light – God – lose a portion of it, when He gave some to Nanak? The answer is an analogy from the lighting of candles. Just as we light one candle from another burning candle and in the process the burning candle without losing any light of its own, lights the other; similarly this transmission of spiritual light went on in the case of the Gurus. Now when Nanak II was thus lighted by Nanak I, he was asked to carry on the training of the nation under his own supervision, not so much by precept as by his own example. He in his turn transmitted that light to a third Nanak with similar instructions. This continued for ten generations. [156]

What this doctrine, therefore, upholds is that all ten Gurus are seen to be one and the same person who agreed perfectly with each other without any possibility of contradiction.

Sher elaborated further:

The idea of Nanak being the same in the persons of all the Gurus, was also witnessed in the very days of the earlier Gurus by Muhsan Fani already quoted in this book. “They (the Sikhs) believed that when Nanak expired, his spirit became incarnate in the person of Angad-Angad at his death transmitted his soul into the body of Amar Das-and so on-in short they believe that with a mere change of name Nanak the First became Nanak the Second. Again once the Sixth Guru wrote a letter to Fani about which he says: The Guru Har Govind in a letter to the author of this work gave himself the title of Nanak, which was his right distinction. I saw him in the year 1033 of the Hijra (A. D. 1643) in Kiratpur”.

The belief is also confirmed from the Granth. Satta and Balwanda, the two musicians of the house of Nanak, composed a war [sic] in praise of the earlier Gurus, in which they say, that not only the second Guru had the same light which the first Guru had, but also the mode of life and activities of Anged were the same. Further they say that Nanak simply changed bodies from one to the other. Another contemporary of the Guru, Bhai Gurdas in his writings emphasises the same point. He traces this trans-mission of light from God to the First Guru and from him to the Second and so on to the Sixth Guru in whose days he breathed his last. The reader may like to know the views held by the Gurus themselves on this point. Nanak’s hymn has already been referred to in a note of this section. Guru Gobind Singh made the whole thing very explicit in his autobiography entitled “Bachitra Natak” – the wonderful drama. In it he says:

The holy Nanak was revered as Angad,
Angad was recognised as Amar Das,
And Amar Das became Ram Das,
The pious saw this but not the fools,
Who thought them all distinct;
But some rare person recognised that they were all one.
When Ram Das was blended with God,
He gave the Guruship to Arjan.

Thus he continues to say that all the Gurus were one. (bold, underline ours)

Sher, thus, concluded that “[t]his evidence … shows that the Gurus in all activities … considered themselves to be one with Nanak. … [T]he Sikh Gurus believed, all in all, as one and the same individual continuing the same soul with different bodies”. [157]

Daljeet affirmed exactly the same thing when he says:

Guru Nanak lived for us in ten lives for 240 years. [158]

Or as he put it elsewhere:

[T]here have been ten incarnations of Guru Nanak in Sikhism …. [159]

Appendix B – Misconception over the Qur’an’s Compilation

The mistaken notion that Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is the only scripture to have been recorded during the time of the prophet(s) concerned is one that has been asserted by a number of Sikh academics. For instance, Daljeet Singh and Kharak Singh Mann audaciously assert:

[E]xcept the Aad Granth, there is no scripture in the world that was recorded either by or in the time of the prophet concerned. Whether it was the Torah, the Bible, the Dhampada or the Quran, each was compiled and finalised after the demise of the respective prophets. … In the time between the demise of the prophet concerned and the date of its final compilation, there have been many man-made versions of the concerned scripture or parts thereof. [160]

While Jaswant Singh Neki goes so far as to say that “the Qur’an was compiled long after the demise of Prophet Muhammad. Only Guru Granth Sahib has the distinction of having been preserved by the Gurus themselves”. [161]

Such an argument, however, amounts to nothing if the scripture in question is proven to have remained completely unchanged and fully preserved from the time of the prophet’s demise until its compilation, or if a scripture said to have been compiled during the time of the prophet is found to have been corrupted.

Though true that the gathering of the entire Qur’an into a single manuscript, i.e. a Textus Receptus, did not take place until after the death of Prophet Muhammad (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him), one significant feature unique to its compilation, which, to our knowledge, remains unparalleled in history, is that the entire Qur’an was collectively recorded in written form [162] and memorised by thousands of Muhammad’s (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) companions during his life time and through his meticulous and careful supervision. [163]

It is historically documented that Zaid ibn Thabit, arguably the most accomplished of Prophet Muhammad’s (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) amanuenses and the one tasked by Abu Bakr for this undertaking, despite having himself memorised the Qur’an fully while also possessing his very own personal copy of it, utilised a stringent methodology that involved the entire Muslim population. As Qadhi notes:

Even though Zayd had memorised the entire Qur’aan, and could have written it from his own memory, he still made sure that there were at least two other memorizers of the verse, and a written copy of the verse, written under the direct supervision of the Prophet. [164]

Al-Azami elaborates more fully by noting that the following procedure employed by Zaid over fourteen centuries ago for “outlining manuscript gradations” in determining the authenticity of a text is “precisely” the same for “textual criticism and editing established by Orientalists in the 20th Century”:

By limiting himself to the verses transcribed under the Prophet’s supervision, Zaid ensured that all of the material he was examining was of equal status, thereby guaranteeing the highest attainable accuracy. Having memorised the Qur’an and scribed much of it while seated before the Prophet, his memory and his writings could only be compared with material of the same standing, not with second- or third-hand copies. Hence the insistence of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and Zaid on first-hand material only, with two witnesses to back this claim and assure ‘equal status’.

Spurred on by the zeal of its organisers, this project blossomed into a true community effort.

Al-Azami further mentions that although “focus lay on the written word … the writings were verified not only against each other but also against the memories of Companions who had learned directly from the Prophet. By placing the same stringent requirements for acceptance of both the written and memorised verse, equal status was preserved”. [165]

Hence, given that the Qur’an was finalised, completed, and “perfected” [166] in terms of its revelatory contents, to say that it was “finalised” after the Prophet’s passing away, thereby implying that it was incomplete or could have been added to by others, or to claim, as Daljeet does, that “the scripture was prepared by the devotees, decades or even centuries, after the demise of the prophet”, [167] is simply disingenuous and wholly untrue.

Furthermore, it is an exaggeration to suggest that the completion of the Textus Receptus occurred “long after” his demise. To the contrary, this endeavour would have been completed within barely two years of the Prophet’s death (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) in June 632 CE. It is known that said task began soon after the Battle of al-Yamamah in December 632 and was completed before Abu Bakr’s passing away on August 634 (21 Jumada al-Akhirah, 13 AH).

[1] J.S. Deol (2001), Text and Lineage in Early Sikh History: Issues in the Study of the Adi Granth, (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 64, No. 1), p. 37.
[2] B.S. Giani (Ed.) (1994), Planned Attack on Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Academics or Blasphemy, (International Centre of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh), p. 294.
[3] H.R. Gupta (2008), History of the Sikhs – The Sikh Gurus 1469-1708, Vol. 1, (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi), p. 45.
[4] For a more comprehensive picture of the political machinations and intrigues of Prithi Chand, read our article: The Guru’s Family Feuds.
[5] D. Singh, K. Singh (Ed.) (1997), Sikhism – Its Philosophy and History, (Institute of Sikh Studies, New Delhi), pp. 681-2.
[6] G.S. Mann (2001), The Making of Sikh Scripture, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi), p. 62.
[7] K. Singh, G.S. Mansukhani, J.S. Mann (Eds.) (1992), Fundamental Issues in Sikh Studies, (Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh), p. 248.
[8] J.S. Grewal (2011), Recent Debates in Sikh Studies: An Assessment, (Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi), p. 219.
[9] W.H. McLeod (1996), Gatha Sri Adi Granth and the Controversy. By PIAR SINGH. (Grand Ledge, Mich.: Anant Educatioan and Rural Development Foundation, Inc.), pp. 703-4.
[10] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 67.
[11] J.S. Grewal, op. cit.
[12] W.H. McLeod, op. cit., p. 703.
[13] B.S. Giani, op. cit., pp. 116-7.
[14] Ibid., p. 294.
[15] Fn. 89: Rattan Singh Bhangu, Sri Guru Panth Prakash, ed. Jeet Singh Sital (Amritsar: Sikh Itihas Research Board, SGPC, 1984), p. 459. Also see Piar Singh, Gatha, p. 78.
[16] P. Singh (2011), The Guru Granth Sahib: Canon, Meaning and Authority, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi), pp. 58-9.
[17] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 10.
[18] Fn. 57: This information appears in a letter written by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha published in Panth Sevak, December 12, 1918. For the text of the letter, see Bhai Jodh Singh, Sri Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, pp. ura-era.
[19] Fn. 58: Bhai Jodh Singh, Sri Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, p. iri.
[20] The concept of Ik Joti has been further elaborated upon in Appendix A.
[21] Fn. 58: Bhai Jodh Singh, Sri Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, p. iri.
[22] Fn. 59: Piar Singh, Gatha Sri Adi Granth, p. 452.
[23] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 65.
[24] We have written an article aptly titled The Ragmala Controversy which details the dispute surrounding its canonicity.
[25] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 14.
[26] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 68.
[27] D. Singh (Ed.) (2004), Guru Granth Sahib among the Scriptures of the World, (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala), pp. 28-31.
[28] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 46, 68.
[29] D. Singh (Ed.) (2004), op. cit., p. 31.
[30] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 60.
[31] Ibid., p. 115.
[32] D. Singh (Ed.) (2004), op. cit., pp. 31, 33, 37.
[33] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 63.
[34] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 235.
[35] B.S. Giani, op. cit., p. 294.
[36] D. Singh (1995), Essays on Authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir and the Integrated Logic and Unity of Sikhism, (Publication Bureau, Punjabi University, Patiala), pp. 3-4, 7.
[37] Fn. 11: SGGS: 308, 306.
[38] D. Singh (2004), Sikhism – A Comparative Study of its Theology and Mysticism, (Singh Brothers, Amritsar), pp. 251-2.
[39] Fn. 1: Guru Granth Sahib, p. 722.
[40] Fn. 2: ibid, p. 723.
[41] Fn. 3: ibid, p. 566.
[42] Fn. 4: ibid, p. 763.
[43] Fn. 5: ibid, p. 35.
[44] Fn. 6: ibid, p. 308.
[45] Fn. 7: ibid, p. 943.
[46] Fn. 8: ibid, p. 1310.
[47] Fn. 9: ibid, p. 982.
[48] Fn. 10: Bhai Gurdas, var 24. Pauri 25.
[49] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 3.
[50] Fn. 7: SGGS, p. 22.
[51] Fn. 10: Ibid., p. 1111.
[52] D. Singh (2004), op. cit.
[53] D. Singh (1994), Essentials of Sikhism, (Singh Brothers, Amritsar), p. 261.
[54] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., pp. 3-4.
[55] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 59.
[56] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 149.
[57] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 13-4.
[58] Ibid., p. 14.
[59] Fn. 8: See Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji dian Santha Sainchian ate Puratan Hath-likhat Biran de Parspar Path Bhedan di suchi prepared by S. Randhir Singh, Giani Kundan Singh and Bhai Gian Singh Nihang and published by SGPC in 1977.
[60] P. Singh (1996), op. cit.
[61] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 149-50.
[62] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 14-5.
[63] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 149.
[64] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 62.
[65] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 10.
[66] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 14, 27, 50.
[67] Ibid., p. 111.
[68] Ibid., p. 151.
[69] Ibid., p. 129.
[70] Ibid., p. 122.
[71] Ibid., pp. 57, 112.
[72] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 16.
[73] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 84.
[74] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 43.
[75] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 29.
[76] Ibid., p. 84.
[77] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 16.
[78] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 85.
[79] What kind of enlightenment is this where a Bhagat produces hymns that are both acceptable and objectionable?
[80] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 192-3.
[81] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 81.
[82] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 114-5.
[83] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 191-2.
[84] Ibid., pp. 188, 189.
[85] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 100-1.
[86] Fn.38: Kartarpur MS, f. 374/2.
[87] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 189.
[88] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 114-5.
[89] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 190.
[90] H.R. Gupta, op. cit., p. 47.
[91] S. Singh (1986), Philosophy of Sikhism, (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar), p. 176.
[92] G. Singh (2007), Bhai Gurdas: The Great Sikh Theologian – His Life and Work, (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala), pp. vii-viii.
[93] Ibid., pp. 2, 3.
[94] G. Singh, op. cit., p. 6.
[95] Fn. 43: Sahib Singh, Adi Bir bare, pp. 197-198.
[96] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 115-6.
[97] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 193-4.
[98] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 116.
[99] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 40.
[100] Ibid.
[101] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 56.
[102] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 40.
[103] D. Singh, K. Singh, op. cit., pp. 684-5.
[104] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 98.
[105] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 55, 56.
[106] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 63.
[107] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., pp. 115, 122.
[108] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 27.
[109] Ibid., p. 50.
[110] Ibid., pp. 58-9.
[111] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 63, 80.
[112] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 102.
[113] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 69.
[114] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 102-3.
[115] Ibid., p. 106.
[116] Ibid., pp. 107-8.
[117] Ibid., p. 104.
[118] Fn. 60: Bhai Jodh Singh, Sri Kartarpuri Bir de Darshan, p. 122.
[119] Fn. 61: Ibid., p. 4.
[120] D. Singh (Ed.) (2004), op. cit., p. 33.
[121] Fn. 63: See nn. 41 and 43.
[122] Fn. 64: In one of our conversations, Giani Gurdit Singh told me that Pandit Kartar Singh Dakha spoke to him about the rebinding of the pothi and removing some folios from it.
[123] Fn. 65: Bhai Jodh Singh, Sri Kartarpur Bir de Darshan, pp. 121-122.
[124] G.S. Mann, op. cit., pp. 65-7.
[125] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 26.
[126] Ibid., p. 28.
[127] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 63.
[128] Ibid., pp. 63-4.
[129] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 66.
[130] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 111.
[131] D. Singh, K. Singh, op. cit., pp. 685-6.
[132] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 97.
[133] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 100-1.
[134] D. Singh, K. Singh, op. cit., pp. 683-4.
[135] G.S. Mann, op. cit., p. 99.
[136] Fn. 14: Sarup Das Bhalla: Mehma Parkash, p. 362.
[137] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., pp. 4-5.
[138] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., pp. 90-1.
[139] Ibid., p. 83.
[140] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 192.
[141] J. Singh (2010), Guru Granth Sahib – The Sikh Scripture, (K. K. Publications, New Delhi), p. 165.
[142] Another exaggeration of sorts, which patently stems from ignorance, is the claim made by a number of Sikh academics that SGGS is the only scripture to have been recorded during the time of the prophet(s) concerned. We have tackled this misconception in Appendix B.
[143] B.S. Giani, op. cit., pp. 57-8.
[144] D. Singh (1995), op. cit., p. 6.
[145] S. Singh (2006), Compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, (Abstracts of Sikh Studies, Vol. VIII, Issue 1, Jan-Mar/ 53738 NS), p. 21.
[146] B.S. Giani, op. cit., p. 222.
[147] Ibid., p. 125.
[148] B.S. Dhillon (1999), Early Sikh Scriptural Tradition Myth and Reality, (Singh Brothers, Amritsar), pp. 59-60.
[149] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 152.
[150] Ibid., p. 33.
[151] P. Singh (2011), op. cit., p. 14.
[152] Ibid., p. 235.
[153] P. Singh (1996), op. cit., p. 160.
[154] Ibid., p. 103.
[155] Ibid., p. 104.
[156] S. Singh (1986), op. cit., p. 42.
[157] Ibid, pp. 43-5.
[158] D. Singh, K. Singh, op. cit., p. 72.
[159] D. Singh (1999), Sikhism and Civilisation, (Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh), p. 123.
[160] B.S. Giani, op. cit., p. 116.
[161] D. Singh (Ed.) (2004), op. cit., p. 57.
[162] According to Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami, there were “approximately sixty-five Companions who functioned as scribes for the Prophet at one time or another:

Aban b. Sa’id, Abu Umama, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Abu Hudhaifa, Abu Sufyan, Abu Salama, Abu ‘Abas, Ubayy b. Ka’b, al-Arqam, Usaid b. al-Hudair, Aus, Buraida, Bashir, Thabit b. Qais, Ja’far b. Abi Talib, Jahm b. Sa’d, Juhaim, Hatib, Hudhaifa, Husain, Hanzala, Huwaitib, Khalid b. Sa’id, Khalid b. al-Walid, az-Zubair b. al-‘Awwam, Zubair b. Arqam, Zaid b. Thabit, Sa’d b. ar-Rabi’, Sa’d b. ‘Ubada, Sa’id b. Sa’id, Shurahbil b. Hasna, Talha, ‘Amir b. Fuhaira, ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah b. al-Arqam, ‘Abdullah b. Abi Bakr, ‘Abdullah b. Rawaha, ‘Abdullah b. Zaid, ‘Abdullah b. Sa’d, ‘Abdullah b. ‘Abdullah, ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr, ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan, ‘Uqba, al-‘Ala’ al-Hadrami, al-‘Ala’ b. ‘Uqba, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, ‘Amr b. al-‘As, Muhammad b. Maslama, Mu’adh b. Jabal, Mu’awiya, Ma’n b. ‘Adi, Mu’aiqib, Mughira, Mundhir, Muhajir and Yazid b. Abi Sufyan”.

– M. al-Azami (2003), The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation, (UK Islamic Academy), p. 68.

In addition, Yasir Qadhi further notes some companions who had scribed their own personal copies of the Qur’an:

The Companions also had their own personal copies of the Qur’aan. The Prophet had commanded the Companions, “Do not write anything from me except the Qur’aan. Whoever writes anything besides the Qur’aan should burn it.” So COMMON, in fact, were these mus-hafs [manuscripts] that the Prophet had to issue an order prohibiting the Companions from travelling to enemy territories with copies of the Qur’aan, for fear that these mus-hafs might fall into enemy hands and thus disrespected.

Those Companions who were famous for their mus-hafs were Ubay ibn Ka’ab, ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib, and some of the wives of the Prophet amongst them ‘Aa’ishah and Hafsa. Some sources have listed over fifteen Companions who were recorded to have written down most of the Qur’aan.

– A.A.Y. Qadhi (2003), An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan, (al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution), p.130. (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

[163] Qadhi also points to the level of attention given by the Prophet (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) in this matter:

During the later periods, the Prophet also made sure that the Qur’aan was written down, and not just memorised. Al-Bukhaaree reports the following story:

When it was revealed: “Not equal are those believers who sit at home and those that strive in the cause of Allaah…” [4:95] the Prophet said ‘Call Zayd ihn Thaabit for me, and tell him to bring the ink-pot and the scapula bone (i.e., paper and pen).’ When Zayd came, the Prophet told him, ‘Write: “Not equal are those believers who sit at home and those … (to the end of the verse)”‘.

This incident shows the haste with which the Prophet recorded the Qur’aan to ensure its preservation. Not only did the Prophet ensure that the Qur’aan was written down, but he also checked whether it was written correctly. Zayd narrates, “I used to write the Revelation (the Qur’aan) for the Prophet, and he would dictate it to me. When he finished, he would command me: ‘Read it (back to me)!’ So I used to recite back to him (what I had written)…”

– Ibid., p.129. (bold ours)

[164] Ibid., p.134.
[165] M.M. Al-Azami, op. cit., pp. 81-2.
[166] The following Qur’anic verse was one of the final ones to be revealed indicating not just the finality of revelation in Prophet Muhammad, but also the perfection of Islam through the unerring transmission of the Qur’an to mankind via His final Messenger (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him):

This day I (Allaah) have perfected your (Muhammad’s) religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:3)

[167] D. Singh, K. Singh, op. cit., p. 65.


  1. The arguments put forward above are entertaining in their lack of solidity and logic. Muhammad forbade the written record of his stories – which is why the Qu’ran was first recorded in writing over 150 years after his death.

    But how does citing our prophet prove said article’s “lack of solidity and logic”?! Yup; that sounds logical!!

    Where is your evidence that the Qur’an was written 150 years after Muhammad’s (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) death?

    For the moment, consider the following argument to gauge how silly yours is. If he had forbidden “the written record of his stories” until 150 years after his death, then how do we have Dated Texts Containing the Qur’an from 1-100 AH/ 622-719 CE?

    It is widely acknowledged that some verses were dismissed as “inauthentic” and so excluded from the recorded Qu’ran – to claim it was written at the time of Muhammad is frankly nonsense.

    Really?! Care to share a reference or ten?
    Perhaps you’re referring to verses that were abrogated, which btw doesn’t amount to them being inauthentic? Hopefully you can produce your evidence, rather than making empty claims, and put forth an actual argument.

    Furthermore, Muslim’s regard the content of the Qu’ran as the written word of Good (Allah) – I’m sorry, but they are the sayings of a regular human being, Muhammad, who happened to claim God was talking to him. What would your view be of a man who claimed that today?

    Well, if you say it is, then it must be true, right?!

    As for anyone claiming that today, then we’re hoping they don’t do what you’ve done here: merely making claims without attempting to prove them.

    To claim that the Guru Granth Sahib reflects the word of man, and is therefore inferior to the Qu’ran is ridiculous – the Qu’ran is recording the spoken word of Muhammad, and is as much directly the word of God as any other book published (or this comment thread!)

    But the Qur’an itself has a falsification test for its claim that these are not the words of a mere mortal. It states that there are no contradictions in the Qur’an and challenges the doubters to find one. In doing so, it at least tries, unlike you, to meet the claims it asserts!

    As for the GGS, then it fails this test at the very first juncture re its theological doctrine. As we’ve argued and shown, the Nirgun-Sargun concept of God is contradictory, thus, false. Prove us wrong!

    Who cares if someone thinks one religion is better than another – let him/her be with whatever religion they want to be. Ironically, that sentiment is reflected in the Qu’ran, which also goes on to say those that do not convert to Islam should be put to the sword, or pay the Jizyah (sic) tax.

    Not better, but true. This isn’t a case of arguing whether vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate, but whether one religion is entirely true, based on its source material, as opposed to entirely false. Why? Because religion is ascribed to the source of all truth, God, and therefore must be entirely true. It cannot be 99% true and said to be revealed of God.

    The writer above claims the Sikh scriptures above are full of inconsistencies, but ignores the principle of abrogation in Islamic scripture used to excuse the contradiction in the Qu’ran.

    Another case of making claims without attempting to prove them. You haven’t shown how abrogation amounts to a contradiction. Here, let us help you: the law of non-contradiction (A & not-A) false. Now, use this formula to prove how abrogation is a contradiction (all the best with that btw).

    This whole website is a joke. Islamic principles are so fragile, that the religion must resort to threats of death should anyone subject the content to criticism or critical thinking – lest, I guess, anyone who has been subjected to an upbringing of Islamic brainwashing sees through it all.

    So far, the only joke is, we’re afraid to say, your comment! Empty claims. You might as well claim that the moon is made out of cheese!

    Total utter garbage.

    Empty claim?!

  2. Moreover on wat basis the poetry of so called saints is included in granth that existed prior to nanak’s mission. They themselves never claimed receiving any divine revelation. When guru arjan put their poetry in guru granth did he include all or nit pick? It is said that he selectively chose parts and rejected others. And also the divine jot of guru enters which bani, all of guru granth including saints poetry or only sikh gurus bani? If all of bani is divine then why are kabir and ravidas etc considered gurus?

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