Articles

Bhai Gurdass Ji – Scribe Extraordinaire – and an accomplished poet in his own right

BHAI GURDAS JI AND HIS RACHNAVA

Who was Bhai Gurdas ji?

A nephew of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das1 ji, Bhai Gurdas was a first cousin of Mata Bhani2 ji, mother of Guru Arjan Dev3 ji. He inscribed the entire text of the first copy of the Sikh Scripture4, the Adi Granth, under the supervision of the fifth Sikh Guru5.

Bhai ji had come into contact with Sikhi due to circumstances after his mother’s death. As he was very young, he was cared for and brought up in a Sikhi household by his father’s brother – Guru Amardas ji who was already guru then. So his family consisted of Guru Amardas ji’s two daughters -Danee ji and Bhani ji (who would later marry Guru Ramdas ji). This is why he is referred to as Guru Arjun ji’s mama.

The Sikhi influence therefore was natural. If we read his 49 Vaars, 6 Chands and 672 Kabits and Swayeays we get a sense that he was

1. a serious, deep thinking and philosophical Gursikh. 

2. a linguist of Sanskrit and Brij languages.

3. a dedicated researcher. 

Such traits cannot be acquired upon instruction from someone. They come with due diligence, hard work and Guru’s blessings.  In the difficult years of Prithi Chand’s rivalry with Guru Arjun ji, and when the sangats/ congregation in the guru-darbar were lured by Prithi – Bhai Gurdas ji was relied upon to do parchar. Thus he was also an effective parcharak/preacher.

 

His Vaars and Kabits therefore take the form of both his own understanding of Sikhi, his philosophical style and also his inherent zeal for parchar

His sources of Guru history are primary – from within the guru household and interaction with Sikhs he came in contact with. We see his research and history writing skills on display when he relates some of these experiences.

We can accept that his first information about Guru Nanak Sahib ji came from reading Guru Nanak Sahib ji’s bani in the possession of his adopted father – Guru Amardas ji.  His historical narrative is also derived in the same way. Guru Amardas ji had obtained Guru Nanak Sahib ji’s bani and history from Guru Angad ji who spent 12 years in close proximity with Guru Nanak Sahib ji. So in a way Bhai ji had “access” to Guru Nanak Sahib ji

Bhai ji was not only a scholar and Sikh philosopher par excellence, but a poet, too. His Varan of Guru Nanak Sahib ji is the gold standard in his compositions.  Bhai ji is greatly respected as an influential Sikh figure, writer, historian and preacher.

The intrinsic value of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing is firstly in his narrative of the history of the first five gurus, generally; and in particular, that of Guru Nanak Sahib ji.

Secondly, his Kabits and Swayeay derive their central theme from the messages of Gurbani.  And thirdly is his use of examples to make a point (always four examples) followed by a conclusion that makes it easy for readers to internalize as the message is in the final verse. Parcharaks love this style because his examples are very apt for the sangat’s consumption.

Many people refer to Bhai Gurdas ji’s writings as the Kunjee or Key to the treasure of Gurbani. However this connotation is incorrect in that it suggests that our Gurus locked up the treasure of Gurbani and that we need to look outside for the key. The truth is that we never have to look anywhere.

Such thought is also in line with the brahmanical-minded Taksalees and Derawadee clergy who prefer that lay Sikhs do not understand Gurbani because it is terribly “complex” and is “coded”. So they throw around prepositions such as “only our Gurus knew the real meanings of what they wrote” or that the treasure of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji needs “keys” for unlocking. 

To believe such is to accept that our gurus did not want us to understand the real meanings of Gurbani. If so, how will we connect with the messages? 

In reality, these clergy want Sikhs to rely on them for Gurbani interpretations so that they have a stranglehold on the Sikh psyche. 

Therefore we should reject this kunjee stuff. Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji needs no unlocking. It needs reading, understanding, believing and following. Our gurus wrote their Shabad directly to us as Sikhs. We can thus go direct to our Gurus’ bani.

In the section on Kirtan, the framers of the Sikh Rehat Maryada wrote that ‘In the sangat, kirtan can only be from Gurbani and the explanatory rachna of Bhai Gurdas ji.  This means the rachna /writing of Bhai Gurdas ji is of much ‘lower’ ranking than Gurbani as it is merely additional and explanatory. 

The truth is that Gurbani from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji can stand by itself. Its value is maintained one hundred percent with or without the rachna of Bhai Gurdas, but the rachna is of little value without Gurbani. The rachna of Bhai Gurdas cannot stand on its own without Gurbani of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. 

This is what we mean when we say Gurbani is absolute – it doesn’t need Bhai Gurdas ji or any other source.  But the rachna by   Gurdas ji is relative. It is such because its value is relative to Gurbani. If we took the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji out of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing, then his work is worthless because the core messages of Bhai Gurdas ji are indeed coming from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. 

To put it another way -The Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji can produce a million Bhai Gurdas ji rachnas. But a million Bhai Gurdas ji rachnas put together cannot create a single additional Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Hence the relative-ness of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing needs to be borne at all times but the

possibility of adulteration must be weighed too.

Bhai Gurdas ji’s rachna are respected by Sikhs so enemies of the Panth have now ingenously added Vaar 41 to the original 40 Vaars. This is the Vaar that talks about Guru Gobind Singh, although Bhai Gurdas ji was not even alive then to write it under his own name!  There is also mounting evidence that the writings of Bhai Gurdas ji have been adulterated by anti-Sikh forces especially from Vaar 21 onwards. 

Sikhs are thus facing difficult times when even authentic material has been tampered with. It is becoming increasingly challenging to stand up against the malicious perpetuators of this conspiracy against the Panth. However these miscreants are underestimating their opposition. The spirit of the Khalsa cannot be that easily intimidated. Sikh scholars are persistently weeding out all fabricated material including that inserted in Bhai Gurdas ji’s work. It is only a matter of time that all fake rachnavas will be discarded for good, leaving only authentic Sikh scriptures.

BHAI GURDAS JI AND HIS RACHNAVA

Who was Bhai Gurdas ji?

A nephew of the third Guru, Guru Amar Das1 ji, Bhai Gurdas was a first cousin of Mata Bhani2 ji, mother of Guru Arjan Dev3 ji. He inscribed the entire text of the first copy of the Sikh Scripture4, the Adi Granth, under the supervision of the fifth Sikh Guru5.

Bhai ji had come into contact with Sikhi due to circumstances after his mother’s death. As he was very young, he was cared for and brought up in a Sikhi household by his father’s brother – Guru Amardas ji who was already guru then. So his family consisted of Guru Amardas ji’s two daughters -Danee ji and Bhani ji (who would later marry Guru Ramdas ji). This is why he is referred to as Guru Arjun ji’s mama.

The Sikhi influence therefore was natural. If we read his 49 Vaars, 6 Chands and 672 Kabits and Swayeays we get a sense that he was

1. a serious, deep thinking and philosophical Gursikh. 

2. a linguist of Sanskrit and Brij languages.

3. a dedicated researcher. 

Such traits cannot be acquired upon instruction from someone. They come with due diligence, hard work and Guru’s blessings.  In the difficult years of Prithi Chand’s rivalry with Guru Arjun ji, and when the sangats/ congregation in the guru-darbar were lured by Prithi – Bhai Gurdas ji was relied upon to do parchar. Thus he was also an effective parcharak/preacher.

 

His Vaars and Kabits therefore take the form of both his own understanding of Sikhi, his philosophical style and also his inherent zeal for parchar

His sources of Guru history are primary – from within the guru household and interaction with Sikhs he came in contact with. We see his research and history writing skills on display when he relates some of these experiences.

We can accept that his first information about Guru Nanak Sahib ji came from reading Guru Nanak Sahib ji’s bani in the possession of his adopted father – Guru Amardas ji.  His historical narrative is also derived in the same way. Guru Amardas ji had obtained Guru Nanak Sahib ji’s bani and history from Guru Angad ji who spent 12 years in close proximity with Guru Nanak Sahib ji. So in a way Bhai ji had “access” to Guru Nanak Sahib ji

Bhai ji was not only a scholar and Sikh philosopher par excellence, but a poet, too. His Varan of Guru Nanak Sahib ji is the gold standard in his compositions.  Bhai ji is greatly respected as an influential Sikh figure, writer, historian and preacher.

The intrinsic value of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing is firstly in his narrative of the history of the first five gurus, generally; and in particular, that of Guru Nanak Sahib ji.

Secondly, his Kabits and Swayeay derive their central theme from the messages of Gurbani.  And thirdly is his use of examples to make a point (always four examples) followed by a conclusion that makes it easy for readers to internalize as the message is in the final verse. Parcharaks love this style because his examples are very apt for the sangat’s consumption.

Many people refer to Bhai Gurdas ji’s writings as the Kunjee or Key to the treasure of Gurbani. However this connotation is incorrect in that it suggests that our Gurus locked up the treasure of Gurbani and that we need to look outside for the key. The truth is that we never have to look anywhere.

Such thought is also in line with the brahmanical-minded Taksalees and Derawadee clergy who prefer that lay Sikhs do not understand Gurbani because it is terribly “complex” and is “coded”. So they throw around prepositions such as “only our Gurus knew the real meanings of what they wrote” or that the treasure of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji needs “keys” for unlocking. 

To believe such is to accept that our gurus did not want us to understand the real meanings of Gurbani. If so, how will we connect with the messages? 

In reality, these clergy want Sikhs to rely on them for Gurbani interpretations so that they have a stranglehold on the Sikh psyche. 

Therefore we should reject this kunjee stuff. Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji needs no unlocking. It needs reading, understanding, believing and following. Our gurus wrote their Shabad directly to us as Sikhs. We can thus go direct to our Gurus’ bani.

In the section on Kirtan, the framers of the Sikh Rehat Maryada wrote that ‘In the sangat, kirtan can only be from Gurbani and the explanatory rachna of Bhai Gurdas ji.  This means the rachna /writing of Bhai Gurdas ji is of much ‘lower’ ranking than Gurbani as it is merely additional and explanatory. 

The truth is that Gurbani from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji can stand by itself. Its value is maintained one hundred percent with or without the rachna of Bhai Gurdas, but the rachna is of little value without Gurbani. The rachna of Bhai Gurdas cannot stand on its own without Gurbani of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. 

This is what we mean when we say Gurbani is absolute – it doesn’t need Bhai Gurdas ji or any other source.  But the rachna by   Gurdas ji is relative. It is such because its value is relative to Gurbani. If we took the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji out of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing, then his work is worthless because the core messages of Bhai Gurdas ji are indeed coming from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. 

To put it another way -The Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji can produce a million Bhai Gurdas ji rachnas. But a million Bhai Gurdas ji rachnas put together cannot create a single additional Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Hence the relative-ness of Bhai Gurdas ji’s writing needs to be borne at all times but the

possibility of adulteration must be weighed too.

Bhai Gurdas ji’s rachna are respected by Sikhs so enemies of the Panth have now ingenously added Vaar 41 to the original 40 Vaars. This is the Vaar that talks about Guru Gobind Singh, although Bhai Gurdas ji was not even alive then to write it under his own name!  There is also mounting evidence that the writings of Bhai Gurdas ji have been adulterated by anti-Sikh forces especially from Vaar 21 onwards. 

Sikhs are thus facing difficult times when even authentic material has been tampered with. It is becoming increasingly challenging to stand up against the malicious perpetuators of this conspiracy against the Panth. However these miscreants are underestimating their opposition. The spirit of the Khalsa cannot be that easily intimidated. Sikh scholars are persistently weeding out all fabricated material including that inserted in Bhai Gurdas ji’s work. It is only a matter of time that all fake rachnavas will be discarded for good, leaving only authentic Sikh scriptures.