Now we come to explain the rationale and basis of certain controversial points within the Sikh Code of Conduct and other points of Gurmat in which Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha differ from the generally accepted interpretations and practices. Before considering the individual points, it must be reiterated that the focal Commandment of the Satguru is Naam Simran:
Eko Naam Hukam Hal Nanak Satgur Diya Bhujaaey Jeeo (Ang. 72)
The Lord's Will (or Commandment) is the Naam Simran. Satguru has made (us) understand it (clearly).
Maangon Ram Te Ik Daan.
Sagal Manorath Pooran Hove(n), Simro(n) Tumra Naam. (Ang. 682)
I ask only for one Bounty from my Lord. My all Desires will be fulfilled if I am blessed with the Simran of your Naam.
Aan Achaar Biohaar Hai Jetey, Bin Har Simran Phoke. (Ang. 682)
Without the Simran of the Lord's Naam, all other rituals and (pious) acts are useless.
Bin Naaway Man Tan Hal Kusti, Narkey Vaasa Payendaa. (Ang. 1064)
Without the Naam (Simran) one's mind and body are leprous and are doomed to abide in hell.
Nanak Kay Ghar Kewal Naam. (Ang. 1136)
In the House of Nanak, only the Naam abides.
These are only a few of the numerous quotations from Sri Guru Granth Sahib in this respect. One can go on ad infinitum quoting numerous excerpts as the central theme of the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is Naam Simran which is of fundamental importance and occupies the pivotal position in Sikhism. In fact, very often Sikhism has also been referred to as Naam Maarga or the Way of the Naam. Devoid of Naam, Sikhism is reduced to non-entity.
Obviously then, all the do's and don'ts in the Sikh Code of conduct or other Commandments in Sikhism must aim at the definite objective of helping one's absorption in Naam Simran and the ultimate unison with the Creator-Lord. Hence, in case of any doubt or confusion, the authenticity and veracity of each commandment, practice or tradition must be judged on whether it helps in the achievement of this ultimate goal or not. For this very purpose, special attention has to be paid to the pointers made in Gurbani and other authentic and accepted old Sikh literature.
The controversy in the Khalsa Panth over being a vegetarian or non-vegetarian arose due to the difference in the interpretation of the word Kuthha - one of the four primary taboos or Cardinal Sins for the Sikhs. Before going into the depth of what "Kuthha" really means, it is imperative to consider the real importance of these taboos in Sikhism. It is an undisputed fact that any Sikh who commits any one of these four taboos becomes an apostate. That means he is no longer a Sikh, i.e., he is automatically dc-linked and ex-communicated from the Khalsa Brotherhood, even though he may be considered a Sikh by society. As a natural corollary, he loses the Grace of the Satguru without which no progress can be made in achieving the Bliss of Naam-Simran. The four great taboos prescribed for the Sikhs are, thus, of fundamental importance.
Being of such fundamental importance, the four taboos cannot, obviously, be based upon any temporary contingency of the prevailing circumstances. They must have their own solid basis and foundation, and must be conducive to spiritual upliftment through Naam-Simran, which occupies the pivotal position in the whole edifice of Sikhism. Otherwise, they will lose their applicability in the changed circumstances, especially when their role in the spiritual progress is doubtful or even negative. It is explicit in Gurbani that the principles of Gurmat are unchangeable and of permanent standing:
Gurmat Mat Achal Hal Chalaey Na Sakey Koey. (Ang. 548)
The Instruction of the Guru is Unshakable. None can change it.
Obviously, therefore, these four basic taboos formulated by the Tenth Guru must have their own solid base which would stand the stress of all times.
The word Kuthha is generally taken to mean Halaal meat i.e., Meat obtained by the Muslim method of slaying the animal, slowly severing the main blood artery of the throat of the animal, while reciting religious formulae, the main object of slaughtering in this manner being a sacrifice to God to expiate the sins of the slaughterer and its flesh as food being only a secondary object...12 The Jhatka method has been described as killing the animal ...with one stroke of the weapon without exciting fear glands secreting poisons into its bloodstream and without causing harmful psychic waves to emanate from the animal's mind...12
The origin and basis of Halaal method of slaying animals by Muslims may have been sacrificial. However, by the time of the Sikh Gurus, it had just become a "Muslim method" without any consideration of its sacrificial origin. In fact, a separate class of professionals, called butchers, had emerged with the sole purpose of slaying the animals in this way. Thus, through the employment of butchers, the original idea of slaughtering the animal as a "sacrifice to God to expiate the sins of the slaughterer" had ceased to exist. The original practice had become professionalized and commercialized and remains so even now. So, according to the generally prevailing idea as advocated by many Sikh scholars, the main reason for imposing this taboo of not eating Halaal meat is not that it is sacrificial or even religious. Rather this taboo had been imposed primarily to liberate the Sikhs from mental slavery of the then rulers of the Muslim faith who had banned by law the slaying of animals by any method other than Halaal. If this interpretation is accepted, then the following points arise:
It also implies that the four taboos which, have been declared hy Satguru himself as basic and of fundamental importance, may not necessarily be conducive to spiritual enhancement of the soul through Naam-Simran; their objective being merely to create a spirit of moral, and, according to some, physical strength to face the unjust and tyrannic rule of the then rulers. Obviously, this cannot be the situation as the main and the only objective of the Satguru was and is to implant the Holy Naam firmly in the minds of the Sikhs through Holy Amrit (Khande-Ki-Pahul). One cannot imagine the All knowing Satguru imposing a taboo of such basic importance which has no relationship with, or which does not help his Sikhs in the achievement of the Spiritual Bliss.
If we accept this position of a taboo being imposed only to serve the conditions prevailing at a particular time, then we provide a pretext to the so-called Modern Sikhs who consider that the keeping of Keshas is no longer necessary in the changed times. They also contend that Kirpan is now of little significance in this atomic age. They openly assert that religion must change with the changing times. The spirit of Sikhism, according to them, lies only within the Sikhs and it has nothing to do with the outward appearance or baanaa. They further contend that the then prevailing circumstances made the necessity of keeping Sikhs unique and easily distinguishable. In the changed circumstances that necessity no longer exists. Thus, accepting the above background of the Kuthha will lead to total destruction of the edifice of Sikhism.
Moreover, how would we classify fish? Is it Halaal or Jhatka?
Meat-eating Sikh brethren advocate that the only touchstone to be used in deciding whether meat should be eaten or refrained from, is whether it creates trouble in the body and fills the mind with evil. If there is no such ill effect then there is no harm in eating it. In the support of this contention, they cite the following couplet from Gurbani:
Baba Hore Khanna Khushi Khuaar
Jit Khaadey Tan Peeriay, Man Meh Chaleh Vikaar. (Ang. 196)
0 Baba! All other foods (except the Naam)
create trouble in the body and fill the mind with evil.
Evidently the foregoing couplet is a mis-quotation in this context because herein Guru Sahib is comparing all material foods with the Divine Food (i.e. Naam-Simran) and is decrying the former. The word HORE is very crucial in this couplet. It does not mean ANY food but any OTHER food, i.e., any food other than NAAM. In the absence of the Divine Food (Naam), all material foods will sicken the body as well as the soul. The very idea of eating meat fills the mind with evil making it aggressive and a partner in taking the life of an innocent creature. For this very reason, almost all of the well-known spiritually enlightened Gursikhs of the past and present have been and are shunning meat and allied non-vegetarian foods. Such foods are not conducive to spiritual development and Naam-Simran and, therefore, the all-knowing Satguuu could not approve them.
In two Hukam Naamaas of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib (Appendix C), there are clear cut instructions prohibiting the eating of meat, fish, etc. The actual words used are "Maas machhi de nerrey nahin jawnaa." When Guru Nanak in his sixth form prohibits Sikhs from eating flesh in such a strong language, how can he, in his tenth form, issue instructions absolutely contrary to and in negation of his own earlier instructions?
Mohsin Fani (1615-70), the well known historian and a contemporary of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, writes in his work DABISTAN-E-MAZAHIB as follows:
"Having prohibited his disciples to drink wine and eat pork, he (Nanak) himself abstained from eating flesh and ordered not to hurt any living being. After him this precept was neglected by his followers; but Arjun Mal, one of the substitutes of his Faith, renewed the prohibition to eat flesh and said: This has not been approved by Nanak."13What clear cut evidence against eating flesh and drinking wine in Sikhism!
Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh ii's "UPDESH" to Bhai Daya Singh ji which is mentioned in "SUDHARAM MARAG GRANTH", and also found written in some old handwritten volumes of Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
"One who does not:
Eat meat or drink wine
will be liberated in this very life (i.e. Jeewan Mukt)".14
It is also asserted that bravery is connected with eating animal flesh. The assertion is baseless. In fact, bravery is not connected with brute body force. Real bravery comes out of the spirit of sacrifice for the Truth and arises from the state of mind. The very prevalent words Charhdi Kala among the Sikhs refer to the Charhdi Kala of the spirit. The Sikh history is full of such instances where Sikhs who were hungry for days together defeated the tyrant Mughal forces whose meat eating habits were legendary.
There is no difference m either taste or nutritive content of meat obtained through Jhatka or Halaal methods. Meat remains meat, whatever may be the method of slaying the animal. It is a mockery of the august and everlasting holy fundamental principles of Gurmat to attach such a fundamental importance to meat obtained from a particular method of slaying the animal, that its eating by a Sikh makes him an apostate, and that obtained from another method of slaying becomes fully acceptable. Either meat is allowed or is prohibited totally. There can be no mid-way. It is rather strange that many 'modern' and 'intellectual' Sikhs, who are often questioning the rationale of such edicts as keeping of Kirpan or Keshas and even the particular type of Kachhehra, generally do not question the rationale of Jhatka and Halaal distinction in respect of meat. Obviously, it is the generally preferred taste of the tongue that keeps them mum on this issue.
These are only a few of the inconsistencies and contradictions in accepting the interpretation of Kuthha to mean Halaal type of meat.
Now let us consider as to what is the true meaning of the word Kuthha. EtymologicalIy, the word "Kuthha" (killed) is a past participle which has been derived from the root "Kohna" which means to slay or kill. This word does not mean to slay slowly or according to the Muslim method. In fact, to my knowledge, this word has never been used in the Muslim literature or in their general language to refer to "Halaal" meat. There are a number of similarly derived words, e.g. "Muthha," "Dhatthha," etc. Thus, the word "Kuthha" literally means meat obtained by killing animals with any sharp weapon irrespective of whether any holy hymns are read at that time or not. In fact, reading of any holy hymns on this most cruel and heartless moment, is itself a highly sacrilegious act. For instance, if one accepts a bribe or commits a theft while reciting holy hymns and then claims that because of his having read holy hymns during that act it no longer remains a crime, is only befooling himself.
Now consider this from another angle. For Halaal meat, the animal is killed while reciting Qalima - the holy Mantra of the Muslims praising God in Arabic language. For obtaining Jhatka meat, they say Sat Sri Akal, which is also praise of God but in Punjabi language. Meat obtained while reciting praise of God in Arabic language is Halaal (sacred) for a Muslim and is Haraam (unsacred) for a Sikh. Likewise meat obtained while reciting praise of God in Punjabi language is Halaal (sacred) for a Sikh and Haraam (unsacred) for a Muslim. By implication, meat being the common factor in both cases, Qalima is Haraam for a Sikh and Sat Sri Akal is Haraam for a Muslim. If both Qalima and Sat Sri Akal are praises of God in different languages, neither of them is Haraam. In fact, Haraam is the selfish trend of the mind of the meat eaters.
S. Kapur Singh rightly points out "Sikhism is not a religion of confusion and tomfoolery.'115 The Sikh Way of Life is based upon the highest principle of Divinity -with the ultimate goal of merging one's soul (Atma) with the Ultimate Soul (Param-Atma).
In Gurbani the word "Kuthha" as well as "Kohna" have been used at a number of places in this sense:
Paap Karendar Sarpar Muthey.
Ajraeel Pharrey Phar KUTHHEY. (Ang. 1019)
The sinner will certainly be ruined or destroyed.
The angel of death will seize and kill them.
(Here the word "kuthhey" means simply killing, not killing by Halaal)
Bed Parhey Mukh Mitthee Baani
Jeeaan KUHAT Na Sangey Paraanee. (Ang. 201)
He (Pandit) recites the Vedas very sweetly, but he does not hesitate to kill life.
Abhakhya Ka KUIHHA Bakra Khanaa
Choukay Upar Kisey Na Jaanaa. (Ang. 472)
They eat the meat obtained while uttering the unspeakable word (referring to Qalima of the Muslims which the Hindus considered as unspeakable) and allow none to enter their kitchen square.
The supporters of the word Kuthha to mean Halaal meat very often bank upon the above cited couplet to support their contention. They ascribe it to mean the meat obtained by slaying goats while uttering Qalima, which is the Muslim way of slaughtering animals. If the word Kutliha were to mean Halaal meat, the use of the word abhakhya is superfluous. The sentence should have been simply Kuthha Khaanaa to mean the eating of the Halaal meat. The very fact that the word Kuthha has been qualified with the adjective abhakhya kaa means that Kuthha refers to simple meat of the killed animal, irrespective of the method of slaying the animal; and while qualifying meat to mean Halaal, the words abhakhya kaa had to be particularly prefixed to convey that sense. Almost all the renowned commentators and translators of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, e.g., Bhai Sahib Vir Singh, Professor Sahib Singh, S. Manmohan Singh, etc., have interpreted this couplet in this way.
It is thus clear that the word Kuthha means simply meat of the killed animal and does not go into the detail of how the animal is killed. Like so many other adulterations committed by the anti-Sikhs in Gurmat Rahit Maryada, this interpretation of the word Kuthha to mean Halaal meat has also been initiated and popularized by those very antiSikhs, in their efforts to destroy the roots of the new faith in order to decrease its efficacy and create doubts and dissensions in the Panth. Our brothers have unconsciously fallen in their trap.
The only hymn in the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib that is specifically cited in support of eating meat is the hymn of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Var of Raag Malhar on pages 1289-90 beginning with the couplet:
Maas Maas Kar Moorakh Jhaghrrey.
Gian dhian Nahin Jaaney.
Kaun Maas Kaun Saag Kahaavey
Kis Mah Paap Samaaney. (Ang. 1289-1290)
Only the fool quarrels over the question of eating or not eating of the meat. He does not have the True Wisdom. Without True Wisdom or Meditation, he harps on which is flesh and which is not flesh and which food is sinful and which is not.
A deeper study of the whole hymn brings out:
Herein, Guru Sahib is addressing a Vaishnav Pandit who believes that he can achieve his spiritual goal only by avoiding meat as food and not trying to obtain the true wisdom through meditation. He has stressed that only avoiding meat will not lead one to the achievement of Spiritual Bliss if one does not do Naam-Simran. This equally applies to all, including non-meat-eating Sikhs.
It relates to the flesh or meat in general and not to any particular type of flesh - whether prepared by Halaal or Jhatka method. The Sikh supporters of flesh eating do not accept at all the intake of all types of meat, but according to them, only Jhatka meat is permissible and Halaal is totally prohibited. In other words, what does the term "Kuthha" denote?
The flesh of the mother's womb wherein the human body is born, the flesh of the mother's breasts which feed the infant, the flesh of the tongue, ears, mouth, etc., used for perception of various senses of the body, the flesh in the form of wife and off-springs referred to in the Shabad, is flesh no doubt and one cannot escape it, but is it the flesh to be eaten as food by the humans? Does the love for this type of flesh involve any cruelty or slaughter of living bodies? Obviously, the Shabad has a deeper meaning telling Vaishnav pandits that merely escaping from the flesh does not take one anywhere. Nor can anyone get rid of the flesh (i.e., attainment of salvation from the cycle of birth and death) by his own futile efforts without the Grace of the True Guru.
One very well known Sikh writer, in his book on Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji's life16, while claiming that the above hymn supports meat eating, recommends that those Sikhs who seek spiritual bliss through Naam Simran should shun it! Well, devoid of Naam Slmran Sikhism is reduced to naught.
At this point it would be worth mentioning two well known anecdotes from the life of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in this respect:
During his visit to Lahore, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji happened to stay in the neighborhood of a big slaughter house. In the ambrosial hours of the early morning, he heard loud shrills and cries of the animals being butchered there. Then, in the daytime, he saw the population addicted to vices connected with meat, wine and women. He was so moved by this sight that he exclaimed: Lahore shahar zahar kahar sawa pahar. (Ang. 1412)
God's curse is upon the city of Lahore for a quarter of the day.
Duni Chand was holding a grand annual feast to feed the Brahmins in celebration of Saraadh ceremony for the peace of his departed father's soul. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji told him that his father had taken the body of a wolf and was starving on the nearby river bank at that time. Duni Chand immediately went there and saw the starving wolf. On seeing his son, the wolf died and thus spoke to him from his Astral or luminous body:
"In human body when I was nearing death, I smelt the flavor of meat being cooked in the neighboring house and felt an ardent desire for it. I died in the same state of mind. That is why I was given the body of a wolf so that I could fulfill my last desire in human life."17
Gurbani also says:
Jit Laago Man Baasna, Ant Saaee Pragtaani. (Ang. 267)
The desire to which the mind is attached, becomes manifest in the end.
This brings out clearly the thinking of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in this respect.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib prohibits eating of animal flesh in clearcut and unambiguous language in a number of places:
Jee Badhoh So Dharam Kar ThaapohAdharam Kaho Kat Bhai.
Aapas Ko Munwar Kar Thaapoh, Kaa Ko Kaho Kasaaee. (Ang. 1103)
You kill animals and call it religion (Rahit); then what indeed is irreligion (Kurahit)? Even then you consider yourself as a sage of sages; then whom to call a butcher?
Bed Kateb Kaho Mat Jhoothhay, Jhoothhaa Jo Na Bichaarey.
Jo Sabh Meh Ek Khudal Kahat Ho,To Kio Murghi Maarey. (Ang. 1350)
Do not call various religious texts false. False is one who gives no thought to their contents. If you consider God is in all, then why you slaughter the chicken (i.e., life?)
Rojaa Dharey, Manaavey Mlah, Svaadat Jee Sanghaarey.
Aapaa Dekh Avar Nahin Dekhey,Kaahey Kow Jhakh Maarey. (Ang. 1375)
You keep fasts (i.e., religious acts) to appease God. At the same time you slay life for your relish. This utter selfishness is nothing but empty or nonsensical talk.
Kabir Jee Jo Maareh Jor Kar,Kaahtey Heh Ju Halaal.
Daftar Daee Jab Kaadh Hal, Hoegaa Kaun Havaal (Ang. 1375)
Whosoever slays life by force and call it sanctified; What will be his fate when he will be called to account for it in His Court?
Kabir Bhaang, Machhli Surapaan Jo Jo Praanee Khahey.
Tirath, Barat, Nem Kiaye Te Sabhay Rasaatal Jahey. (Ang. 1376)
Whosoever eats flesh, fish, etc. and takes wine and hemp, all his religious acts will go to waste.
Kabir Khoob Khaana Khichri, Ja Meh Amrit Lon.
Heraa Rotee Kaamey Galaa Kataavey Kon. (Ang. 1374)
Blessed is the simple food of rice mixed with salt; Who would risk his head to be slain hereafter, for the meat one eats here?
It is thus clear from the foregoing that the word Kuthha used in the Sikh Code of Conduct does not refer to Halaal or sacrificial meat at all' but refers to meat and allied products as a whole. It means simply to slay or cut the animal -whatever may be the method used for the purpose. The use of the word in the same sense at a number of places in Gurbani brings out this point beyond any shadow of a doubt. Accordingly, eating flesh in general (and not only Halaal) is totally prohibited for the Sikhs and is one of the four Cardinal Sins enunciated in the Sikh Code of Conduct.
It is a great travesty of the factual position to assert that, "In the Sikh Doctrine, therefore, there is no religious injunction for or against meat eating; it is a matter of individual choice and discretion, a most sensible principle."18
All the Rahits (Do's) and Kurahits (Don'ts or taboos) are of fundamental importance in Sikhism. These are a pre-condition for one's being accepted for baptism or taking of Amrit which means nothing but Naam:
Amrit Naam Parmesar Tera Jo Simray So Jeevey. (Ang. 616)
O God; Amrit is nothing but your Naam and he alone lives who meditates or contemplates on it.
Amrit Har Har Naam Hay Meri Jindareeay
Ainrit Gunnat Paaey Ram. (Ang. 538)
The Naam Divine is Amrit; and is obtained through the Guru's Instruction.
This very fact shows that all these commandments have definite spiritual import and thus are of intrinsic value. None of these, therefore, can be left to an individual's discretion.
Besides propagating this misinterpretation of the word Kuthha and encouraging the Sikhs in general to eat meat, the same people have gone to the extent of giving the very respectable name of Mahaan Prasad to this absolutely proscribed and profane food. This has been done to mislead the general unsuspecting, simple and innocent Sikh masses in a very subtle way. It is a pity that many of us have fallen prey to this mischievous game, and have even started propagating this misinterpretation.
In the old Sikh literature, the word Mahaan Prasad has been used to denote the most sacred and sanctified food which is now commonly known as Karrah Prasad. Bhai Sahib Bhai Gurdas Ji has used this terminology a number of times in his works 19, and all the commentators of his works, including those of Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), have accepted this interpretation. Karrah Prasad has a very sacred and distinct place in Sikh tradition and practice, and has, therefore, been very aptly and correctly referred to as Mahaan Prasad.
Keski, Kesgi, chhoti dastaar (or mini turban) is the first important striking Kakar which makes the members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha conspicuous - especially the women. And, naturally, it is the first object of criticism. One very distinguished scholar, S. Kapur Singh states: "Bhai Randhir Singh and his admirers claim and assert that five K's obligatory for an Amritdhari Sikh, a Singh, include a Keski, i.e., a short turban for men and women, as a must and one of the other K's, Kangha (comb) is not one of the five Do's." According to him "...It is wholly arbitrary and schismatic...and thus an act of sabotage against the solidarity and monolithicism of the Khalsa."20 Another critic asserts the rahit of Keski to be an "absolutely mundane" teaching of the Jatha having "no precedents" and thus being the "teaching of an individual."
Before taking up the question of whether 'Keski' is a Kakar or not, it may be pointed out that in their eagerness to criticize Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, even the well versed Sikh scholars, like S. Kapur Singh, have not cared to verifify the facts before offering their criticism. Keski is not at all considered to replace Kangha as a Kakar as asserted by him. It does, however, replace Keshas as a Kakar because Keshas is the first fundamental requirement for a Sikh. Shaving or trimming of hair is the first of the four Cardinal Sins -Kurahits (Big Don'ts) - the commitment of any one of which makes one an apostate and results in one's automatic excommunication from the fold of the Khalsa Brotherhood. Moreover Keshas form part of the human body and are not obtained and worn like other Kakars.
Sikh history is full of instances where the devout Sikhs were hacked joint by joint, boiled and even sawed alive, had their scalps cut' their limbs broken on the wheel, and faced bravely many other unbearable and severest of tortures, and yet remained firm in their faith to their last hair and breath.
Right from Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the Sikhs have been commanded to abstain from shaving or trimming of hair. According to Bhai Sahib Mani Singh's Gyan Ratnavali and other Janam Sakhies, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, while initiating Bhai Mardana into the newly founded Sikh faith, laid down the following three-fold Code of Conduct for him:
"Firstly, you are not to cut your hair.
Secondly, you are to get up early in the morning and do practice of the Sat Naam; and,
Thirdly, you are to serve hospitably the visiting devotees of God.21
In another instance Sahib Sri Guru Hari Rai Ji, while blessing Bhai Nandlal, grandfather of Bhai Hakikat Rai with the Holy Naam, is reported to have codified as follows:
"Firstly, you are not to cut your hair;
Secondly, you are not to consume tobacco; and
Thirdly, you are not to wear a cap."
It is thus crystal clear that the injunction regarding abstaining from cutting Keshas was initiated by Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji himself and continued to be adhered to by all his successor Gurus. Hence the importance of keeping Keshas intact is the basic and fundamental requirement for becoming a Sikh. In fact, the Keshas are considered so sacred that for their cleanliness, care, and protection, two additional Kakars, i.e. Kangha and Keski, have been prescribed in the Sikh Code of Conduct.
It is well known that the outward appearance of the Sikhs is absolutely unique and different from those of other faiths. This applies to all Sikhs irrespective of sex. The wearing of the Sikh Kakars has been obligatory for both the sexes. In addition, Sikh women are also conspicuous because of the absence of any piercing ornaments for nose and ears, such as those customarily worn by women of other religions. After their initiation into the Khalsa fold by partaking Khande-ki-Pahul (Amrit), the Sikh women have always tied their Keshas in the form of topknot and covered the same with Dastaar (i.e. Keski) just as men do; the only difference being that they wear chunnies or dupattas over their small turbans.
Right up to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sikh women had been steadfast in following the edicts of the Satguru in respect to their spiritual inner life as well as dress, including Keski. That is what J. D. Cunningham himself saw and wrote in the middle of the Nineteenth Century when he wrote his book, History of the Slkhs.
Even after the Punjab came under the British rule, this Kakar of Keski was conspicuously seen in case of Sikh women as well as men right up to the Gurdwara movement and the establishment of the Shromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee in 1926. Until then, no one - man as well as woman was allowed to be baptized (by taking Amrit) at Sri Akal Takht Sahib without Keski. It was only afterwards that laxity was introduced in this respect and the wearing of Keski was made optional. With the introduction of this laxity, the other anti-Sikh practice of wearing piercing ornaments in the nose and ears also became prevalent in Sikh women.
This is a brief summarized account of the historical background in this regard. In the following pages, an effort has been made to elaborate a bit on the above points by presenting certain facts:
Rahit Naama of Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji contains the following couplet regarding 'rahits':
Kachh, Kada, Kirpan, Kangha, Keski.
Eh Panj Kakari Rahit Dhaarey Sikh Soyee.
To be a Sikh, one must observe five rahits of wearing five Sikh Kakars beginning with 'K': Kachh, Kada, Kirpan, Kangha, and Keski. (Those Sikhs not believing in keski have wrongfully broken the word Keski in this couplet into two words, Kes and Ki, indicating it to mean "the rahit of keshas.")
The renowned scholar of the Panth, Bhai Sahib Kahan Singh Ji of Nabha, compiled the Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature and Terminology (Gur Shabad Ratnagar MAHAN KOSH) in 1926. The term 'Keski' has been explained therein on page 254, Col. 3 of its Second Edition published by the Punjab Government in 1960, as:
Keski: Noun - small turban worn to protect hair.
Well known 19th Century English Historian, J. D. Cunningham (1812-1851) who was an eye witness to the First Anglo-Sikh War, in his History of the Sikhs - 1848 refers to Sikh women of that time as follows:"The Sikh women are distinguished from Hindus of their sex by some variety of dress, chiefly by a higher topknot of hair."22
Higher topknot of hair on Sikh women's heads automatically implies their coverage by some sort of turban, as Cunningham has connected it with "some variety of dress."
"Each candidate for Baptism be made to wear kachhehra, tie hair in a topknot and cover the same with dastaar; wear Sri Sahib (i.e. Kirpan) in Gaatra (shoulder belt). Then he/she should stand with folded hands. (Rahitnama Bhai Daya Singh Ji)
"...Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa should keep his hair unshorn, have flowing beard and have simple dastaar which saves him from impiety. Then the Sikhs asked what would happen to those Amrltdharis who start cutting their hair or do not keep their hair covered. The Guru replied that they would be stupid and will lose their sensibility It is a blemish to remain bareheaded...Always keep two turbans. When the bigger turban is removed, the smaller be kept. The smaller turban should not be removed." (Bijai Mukat Dharam Shastra - Sakhi-8)
"(A Sikh) who eats food with turban removed from the head (i.e., bareheaded) is destined for 'Kumbhi' hell." (Rahit Rama Bhai Prahlad Singh Ji)
"One who combs hair twice a day, ties turban fold by fold and cleans teeth everyday will not come to grief." (Tankhah Naama Bhai Nandlal Ji)
"Whosoever roams about bareheaded, takes food bareheaded and distributes the 'prasad' bareheaded is considered punishable." (Uttar-prashan Bhai Nandlal Ji)
"Women should tie their hair in topknot and should not keep them loose." (Rahitnama Bhai Daya Singh Ji)
"Keshas be washed. Turban or dastaar should not be placed on floor but should always be kept with due respect. Food should not be eaten bareheaded." (Bijai Mukt Dharam Shastra, Sakhi 70)
It is thus, absolutely clear from the above quotations that remaining bareheaded at any time (except when washing, drying, and combing) and keeping hair loose and unknotted are basically against the Sikh Code of Conduct, which is applicable to all, men and women alike. For obvious reasons, therefore, the use of small dastaar or keski is indispensable. There is no other way to keep the head covered all the time. Sikhs - men as well as women - who wear only big turbans and dupattas, mostly remain bareheaded, at least in the privacy of their own homes, while taking food, etc., and thus are, perhaps unconsciously, infringing the Sikh Code of Conduct in this respect.
Well-known Sikh historian Bhai Sahib Bhai Santokh Singh has given a somewhat detailed description concerning Mai Bhag Kaur (commonly known as Mai Bhago) of Forty Muktas fame in his well known historical work GUR PARTAP SURYA. He mentions that Mai Bhag Kaur had reached the highest stage of enlightenment and had almost lost her body consciousness...so much so that when her clothes became worn to shreds, she did not care to replace them. Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji called her in His Holy presence and instructed her to always stick to the Gursikh dress as prescribed in the Code of Conduct. In particular, she was ordered to wear Kachhehra and chhoti dastaar. In fact, according to some chroniclers, the dastaar was tied on her head by the Satguru himself. If this dastaar was not a Rahit, where was the need to include this item in the instructions given to a lady who had reached almost the Brahmgyan stage? It apparently shows that the Satguru gave as much importance to Dastaar as to other Rahits like Kachhehra.
In the Museum of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's fort at Lahore and Victoria Museum at Calcutta, the pictures of Sikh women of old time can be seen even now, depicting them with small dastaars or keskis.
Bhai Sahib Vir Singh, in his well known poetical work, RANA SURAT SINGH, depicts Rani Raj Kaur as a Saint Soldier or Rajyogi of the highest order. Her very impressive picture given in the book depicts her with a well-tied Keski, on which is also affixed a khanda-chakkar, the emblem of Sikhism.
The Sikh women belonging to the Jatha of Bhai Sahib (Sant) Teja Singh Ji of Mastuana, have been seen doing Kirtan in congregations wearing dastaars. He was instrumental in establishing Akal Academy - a Higher Secondary School at Baru in Himachal Pradesh wherin all students - boys as well as girls - are required to wear turbans as a prescribed school uniform.
The Central Majha Diwan and Panch Khalsa Diwan, Bhasaur - the two organizations which played a remarkable role in the Sikh renaissance movement in the first decade of the twentieth century laid special stress on the wearing of Keski by women.
The author had the privilege of meeting the late Baba Gurbachan Singh Ji Khalsa of the Bhindranwala Jatha along with his whole family, including his wife, two sons and their wives. They were all wearing Keskis just as the members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha do.
It is a historical fact that there was a time when a price was put on the head of a male Sikh. Greedy and unprincipled people, both Hindus and Muslims, availed of this opportunity to make money. When they could no longer find male Sikhs in the villages and towns, they started beheading Khalsa women and presenting their heads as the heads of young unbearded teenager Sikh lads. As such, many Sikh women, out of fear of persecution, stopped wearing Keski and converted topknot of hair into fashionable styles like women of other faiths. This practice, which originated in a helpless state of affairs, became a fashion in due course of time. By the way, it was perhaps under these very abnormal circumstances that Sikh women also started wearing ear and nose ornaments to avoid the disclosure of their Sikh identity.
S. Shamsher Singh Ashok who has been an active member of the Singh Sabha movement and an erstwhile Research Scholar of the S.G.P.C., while discussing the prevalence of the use of 'keski', states:
"...and, consequently in the Amrit-Parchaar at the Akal Takht Sahib, this was a precondition even for ladies before they could be baptized there. Any woman who was not prepared to wear Keski was not baptized. This practice continued even after the end of the Gurdwara movement. Relaxation was made only when Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir became the Jathedar of the Akal Takht."23
A recent discovery from old literature puts a final seal on the Keski having been prescribed as a Rahit by the Tenth Guru himself. While going through the old Vahis of the Bhatts, lying with their successors in Karnal District in Haryana State, Prof. Piara Singh Padam of Punjabi University Patiala came across a paragraph explaining the first baptism of the double-edged sword bestowed by Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji on the First Five Beloved Ones on the Baisakhi of 1699 A.D. and the Code of Conduct imparted to them on that auspicious occasion. Based upon the language and style, this manuscript has been assessed to have been written in about the end of the eighteenth century. As this finding is of special significance in this respect, the English translation of the whole paragraph is reproduced below:
"Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Tenth Guru, son of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, in the year Seventeen Hundred Fifty Two, on Tuesday - the Vaisakhi day - gave Khande-Ki-Pahul to Five Sikhs and surnamed them as Singhs. First Daya Ram Sopti, Khatri resident of Lahore stood up. Then Mohkam Chand Calico Printer of Dawarka; Sahib Chand Barber of Zafrabad city; Dharam Chand Jawanda Jat of Hastnapur; Himmat Chand Water Carrier of Jagannath stood up one after the other. All were dressed in blue and he himself also dressed the same way. Huqqah, Halaal, Hajaamat, Haraam, Tikka, Janeyu, Dhoti, were prohibited. Socialization with the descendants of Prithi chand (Meenay), followers of Dhirmal and Ram Rai, clean shaven people and Masands was prohibited. All were given Kangha, Karad, KESGI, Kada and Kachhehra. All were made Keshadhari. Everyone's place of birth was told to be Patna, of residence as Anandpur. Rest, Guru's deeds are known only to the Satguru. Say Guru! Guru! Guru! Guru will help everywhere."24
This discovery is a landmark in this respect: Kesgi or Keski has not only been clearly mentioned as one of the five K's, but also the specific and seperate mention of making all Sikhs Keshadharies, makes it clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that Keshas are not included in the Five Kakars (i.e., Five K's): in other words, keeping them intact is a separate and specific injunction for all Sikhs. (By the way, regarding eating meat, both Halaal and Haraam- the Muslim description of any meat other than Halaal - were also forbidden. It means that eating meat was totally prohibited.)
It is thus abundantly dear that Keski has been in vogue right from the birth of the Khalsa Nation and is not the innovation of Bhal Sahib Randhir Singh or anybody else.
Now let us consider why Keski and not Keshas is one of the Sikh Kakars. By considering Keski as a Kakar, the importance of Keshas IS NOT UNDERMINED IN ANY WAY. In fact, the Keshas are the basic and fundamental edifice of Sikhism without which no one can become a Sikh. The following points are put forth for a rational and unbiased consideration in this respect:
Keshas are the natural blessing of the Creator. They grow from within the body and develop gradually with age as other parts of the body. As against it, all other Kakars or Kakars are external and are put on the body from outside. Even a very devout Sikh may, at times, be forced to remain without any one of the four Kakars under circumstances beyond his control. This cannot happen with Keshas, which do not fall in line with the other four Kakars and are in a class by themselves.
Kangha, which is one of the Kakars, is kept for the upkeep of the Keshas (which is also generally considered a Kakar). No other Kakar is meant for the protection of any other Kakar, these being for the protection of the body or some part of it. Evidently, therefore, Keshas cannot be considered as an outer Kakar but a part of the body for the protection of which Kangha and Keski are required to be kept as Kakars.
The RAHITS, including the wearing of the external Five Kakars (Keski, Kachhehra, Kangha, Kada and Kirpan) fall in the category of DO's, while Kurahits (Cardinal Sins or Taboos), including cutting of the hair, are placed in the category of DON'TS. The vested interests try to intermingle them. In this way, they unconsciously belittle the value of Keshas. They should realize that the value of all outer Kakars is alike.
Then there is an evident anomaly in the commonly accepted Code of Conduct with regard to Keshas. These are included in the category of four cardinal sins which are so basically important that commitment of any one of these by a Sikh makes him an apostate. These are, then, also included in the category of Rahits, the infringement of which makes a Sikh merely a Tankhaeeya or punishable. Evidently there is definite incongruity in it which defies logical or rational explanation. The only logical explanation, therefore, is that the Keshas are not included in Rahits but are one of the four major Kurahits (Taboos or Cardinal Sins): A Sikh must not cut hair.
The wearing of Keski enables Sikh women to show their distinctiveness of being Sikh or Khalsa like men. The importance of this Khalsa distinctiveness has been clearly emphasized by the Tenth Guru for the Khalsa as a community, both men and women, and not for men only.
At the time of the baptismal ceremony, the same Amrit (Khande-Ki-Pahul) is administered to all without any distinction, including that of sex. The title of Khalsa is bestowed on all of them. The same way of life and Code of Conduct is enjoined upon all of them. All of them are forbidden to roam about, take food, etc. bareheaded. How, then, have women become exempt from any of these injunctions? Keski is the only answer to this contradiction.
In view of all the aforesaid, it is clear that Keski or small turban has been traditionally worn by Sikhs, or Khalsa men and women, right from the birth of the Khalsa Nation. This Rahit has been enunciated and strongly emphasized by the Satguru himself. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh, the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, and a few other individuals and organizations are preserving this dignified Khalsa Rahit with Guru's grace. Having become aware of these facts, the Sikh intellegentia has also started showing a remarkable response in this regard. If the Khalsa is to live in accordance with the Rules of true Gurmat , both Khalsa men and women have to accept it. Keski is the crown bestowed by the Satguru for the head of the Khalsa, whether man or woman, who stands bestowed with the special form of the Satguru himself. By refraining from the use of Keski, a Sikh becomes a follower of his own ego instead of the Will of the Satguru. Wearing of Keski by Sikh women is decried mainly because modern day Sikhs want their women to fall in line with other women with respect to the so called modern way of life, including the modern fashions of dress. Sikhs - both men and women - will continue to be guilty of showing disrespect to the sacred hair by keeping them uncovered. In fact, it is the Keski's nonacceptance (and not its acceptance) that is very unconsciously eviscerating the Rahit Namas of their tremendous and literally unlimited potency that operates on the collective subconscious level" of the Sikhs in general. One fails to understand how the use of Keski "...destroys the purity of the Khalsa Rahit and sabotages the unity of the Khalsa", as alleged by some. In fact, the shoe is on the other foot. If Keski is accepted by all Khalsa men and women, it will help in maintaining the purity and ensuring the unity of the Khalsa, as even women of the Khalsa faith, like the Khalsa men, will be distinguishable.
It is a fact made explicitly clear by the Satguru himself that Gurbani in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the Word of God Himself. The Alighty Akal Purakh spoke through the Gurus in their state of oneness with Him:
Jiasee Mein Aawai Khasam Ki Bani Taisara Kari Gian Ve Lalo. (Ang. 52)
As descends to me the Lord's Word, I express it, 0 Lalo!
Dhur Ki Bani Aaee. (Ang. 628)
The Holy Word has dawned from the Primal Divine Source.
While compiling Sri Guru Granth Sahib, The whole Gurbani was written in Gumukhi script in a continuous chain system of writing, wherein all the words in a line are joined together. Having emanated from the Limitless Divine Source or the Eternal Spirit, its true and correct reading as well as understanding is obviously beyond the limited capacity of the mundane scholarship. Even today, in spite of the hard efforts of the top Sikh scholars to ascertain the correct reading of the Gurbani, there are about 500-700 words where they have not been able to reach a consensus. Then what is the guarantee that in other controversial cases also, where they claim to have reached an agreed break-up of words, their reading is absolutely in accordance with what the Satguru had meant it to be?
Moreover, Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not merely a Holy Book. Had it been so, it would have been alright to print or write it in any way one likes. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the Satguru - the True Guru - under whose benevolent care and protection, the Khalsa Panth has been placed by the Satguru himself. If it is so and we really believe in the True Guruship of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, then it follows as an obvious corollary that the Satguru will himself remove our ignorance and will bless us with the true wisdom enabling us to read Gurbani correctly.
It is a universally accepted fact that, as already pointed out, the first volume of Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib, compiled by Sahib Sri Guru Aijan Dev Ji, was written in continuous form with all the words in a line joined to one another. Later, the Bir on which Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji formally invested the GURUSHIP for all times to come, was also of the same type. On this basis, until recently, Sri Guru Granth Sahib was written or printed on the same pattern. No doubt some effort is needed to enable the beginner in reading such volumes, but such difficulties are always faced by beginners in every new field of knowledge. Until only a few decades ago, when the so-called literacy level was also low, devout Sikhs living even in remote villages were able to read such volumes by following systematic and rational methodology, i.e., first practicing difficult Banis from Gutkas and Pothis under the guidance of certain learned and devout Gianis or Granthis. Only after they developed some amount of confidence in their reading of the Bani, they used to be introduced to the reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in a formal ceremony - Gurcharni Lagna - after saying Ardas or prayers. Now, when the literacy percentage as well as the level of education is reported to have increased manifold, we are finding difficulties in reading from Sri Guru Granth Sahib printed in joined or continuous system. Our difficulty is the result of our own complacency because we do not want to take even elementary pains of going through preparatory stages as Gursikhs in the past used to do. We are prepared to do the hardest of labor for learning other fields of arts and sciences to which we attach much higher priority. The reading of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, to us, is of very low priority -to be done as and when time or our sweet will permits. Of course, we reap the results according to the priority and devotion we give to the reading and understanding of Gurbani.
Recently, the unity and purity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib have been attacked by some important people and organizations who have been instrumental in the printing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Pad-Chhed form, i.e., the printing of words separate from each other. It may be mentioned here that the two main Panthic Organizations, i.e. Chief Khalsa Diwan and S.G.P.C., had categorically prohibited the printing and installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Pad-Chhed form in their resolutions passed in 1945 and 1950, respectively, as follows:
Chief Khalsa Diwan Resolution No.2682 dated January 1, 1945.
"The installation of PAD CHHED BIR is not legitimate."
S.G.P.C. Resolution No.7 dated January 1, 1950-DHARMAK COMMITTEE
"Until any decision is arrived at on Panthic level Pad-Chhed bir should not be printed or installed."
Under what logic an act which was wrong until 1950 has now become right is beyond comprehension. The only explanation given for this metamorphosis is that there is no demand from the general public for the Birs in original form and, therefore, S.G.P.C. itself started the printing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Pad-Chhed form, contrary to its own resolution of 1950. Are the Panthic Organizations made to guide the masses or follow them? Now general public amongst the Sikhs is not prepared to take Khande-ki-Pahul or Amrit. Should this system be abolished?
The writing or printing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Pad-Chhed ('break-word") system, which was against the original continuous or chain method used by the Gurus, and even by the Panth until only recently, not only shows an utter lack of faith in Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the True Guru, but is also an attempt to introduce in Gurbani the false wisdom of the imperfect mind of the ever-fallible human. The assertion that Sri Guru Granth Sahib in its original form is difficult to read and often results in wrong reading, and its Pad-Chhed form makes its reading easier, it not so simple as it appears to be. The main point is whether we have the authority and competence to evolve a Perfect and True PadChhed form. At present, various Birs published by private publishers and even the various editions published by the S.G.P.C. itself, vary from one another at a number of places with regard to formation of certain words. All publishers claim their version to be correct, implying, naturally, that the others are incorrect. So now we have Birs which are 'not Perfect' according to some and 'Perfect' according to others. The truth is that Sri Guru Granth Sahib is ALWAYS PERFECT. Only we, the ordinary imperfect people have introduced imperfections in it by commingling our false wisdom with the True Wisdom.
No doubt reading the Gurbani wrongly is sacrilegious. But who can claim to read it absolutely correctly? All of us have to do our best to read it as correctly as we can with prayers in our minds to the Guru to bless us with the required wisdom. It seems to be a more definite sacrilege to introduce such 'incorrectness' or wrong reading permanently in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Moreover, every printer of Sri Guru Granth Sahib follows his own system of Pad -Chhed and creates more confusion in the minds of the general public. When the Gurbani, which is the treasure house of nothing but the Eternal Wisdom of the Eternal Lord, is diffused with the mundane intellect and false wisdom of the fallible man, the Guru Shakti of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is also impaired accordingly. All of us, the innocent Sikhs of the Guru will suffer; in fact, we are suffering already.
One other reason generally given by the supporters of Pad-Chhed Bir is that, during Guru Sahib's time, the writing in a chain or continuous method was the general practice and that is why this system was followed while compiling Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Do we assume the All-Knowing Guru Sahib did not know that in times to come, the Sikhs will find difficulty in reading Gurbani written in this way? Could he not visualize whether PadChhed would be the proper system for the future? It is only the so-called intellectuals of the modern age who have found this shortcoming in the Perfect Work of the Perfect Lord. What an irony! This shows how much faith we have in the true wisdom of the True Guru.
The fact is that:
Poorey Ka Kiya Sab Kich Poora Ghat Wadh Kichh Nahin. (Ang. 1412)
All that the Perfect Lord does is Perfect. There is no deficiency or excess in it.
Thus it is clear that we have no authority to change the original continuous (or chain) system of writing or printing of Guru Granth Sahib as a whole. Small booklets (Gutkas or small pothies) may, however, be written or printed in Pad-Chhed form for the benefit of the beginners or learners. And this practice has been in vogue for a long time.
The Fifth Guru Nanak, Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, finished compiling the Pothi Sahib, now commonly known as Sri Guru Granth Sahib or Adi Bir in 1604 A.D. According to the prevalent procedure followed by authors of religious literature, Sri Guru Granth Sahib was started with the praise of the Almighty God in the form of Mool Mantra. After completing the Volume, the closing Shabad of Mundavani M.5 was put at the end as the closing Seal (the word Mundavani is derived from the word Mundana, i.e., to close), and was, of course, followed by the last thanksgiving shabad: Tera Kita Jaato Nahin...
While compiling the contents of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Sahib devised and adopted a very meticulous system of checks and balances so that no extraneous material could be interpolated anywhere without being discovered. Each entry herein is numbered and subtotals of each part are caaried forward to form the grand total. It was thus not possible for any miscreant to introduce any extraneous matter in the main body of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
However, it appears that certain people, including some devout Sikhs, started writing in the Birs in their possession certain pieces of information which they considered to be very important for the purpose of preserving their posterity. This is not unlike how some devout Christians reportedly recorded important family matters in their family Bibles so that on-coming generations may benefit from them. It seems very probable that some people may have added some extraneous material which they considered harmless though important for them and their families, at the end of the Birs in their possession. Thus, in some (NOT ALL) of the hand-written old Birs, including the one at Kartarpur Sahib, one or more of the following material has been found at the end of the last Thanksgiving shabad:
Jit dir likh Mohammada...
Baaey Aatish Aad...
Raig Ramkali Ratinmila
Hikikat Raah Mukaam of Raj Shivnibh
Dates of Jyoti jot (ascension) of the first six Gurus are given in the beginning on spare pages in the Kartarpur Bir. There is also mention of year of 'fire in Kartarpur' as also the year of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's visit.
In certain cases the technique of making special ink (Ink formula) used for writing Sri Guru Granth Sahib, has also been written.
The remarkable thing is that in all such Birswherein extraneous material has been added at the end, Raag Mala comes last of all. It is surprising that while all other items have been disapproved and excluded, only the Raag Mala, which was at the end of such material, has been pressed for inclusion, creating unnecessary controversy.
Some supporters of Raag Mala assert that when the original volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was completed, some Sikhs petitioned to the Satguru, to bless them with some prem maala which would help them in their deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.25 Acceding to their supplication, Guru Sahib himself composed Raag Mala and put it at the end! What logic! What a clever justification constructed by Raag Mala supporters! The whole of Dhur-ki-Bani contained in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is all full of praises of the Lord and Naam, could not help the Sikhs attain salvation. And, Raag Mala, wherein not an iota of Naam or God's Praise exists, should help them to reach the highest State of Divinity! Then why take the pains to read the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib when we can achieve our ultimate goal by reading Raag Mala alone? Is not the presentation of this reasoning itself a sacrilege of Dhur-Ki-Bani?
The true authorship and authenticity of Raag Mala has always remained dubious:
- According to well-known historian Gyani Gyan Singh, in a Sarbat Khalsa Samagam held in 1906 Bikrami (1853A.D.), it was declared that Raag Mala is not Gurbani. His actual words are:
"In Samvat 1906 Bikrami, during the month of Katak, at the Dera of Sant Dyal Singh, a large Panthic gathering took place. On the Divali day, after detailed exchange of ideas and considerations, it was concluded that Raag Mala is not Gurbani."26
In 1900 A-D. - at the time of the founding of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Sri Guru Granth Sahib was printed without containing Raag Mala. One such Bir is reported to be present now at Gujarwal in Ludhiana District. Again another printing of Sri Guru Granth Sahib took place in 1915 without Raag Mala in Gurmat Press at Amritsar - one of which is also present in Singh Sabha Gurdwara at Gujarwal. At that time the two top Sikh organizations, Tat Khalsa and Chief Khalsa Diwan, propagated zealously against reading Raag Mala.
In the early 1930s, a special committee was constituted by the newly formed S.G.P.C. to draft Gursikh Rahit Maryada. This committee, after detailed deliberations declared unequivocally that Raag Mala is not Gurbani. As a result, the first 1938 edition of the RAHIT MARYADA published by the S.G.P.C. clearly stated:
Guru Granth Sahib's reading should end after Mundavani and Raag Mala should not he read.27, 28
As a result of all these clear cut directions of the leading Sikh organizations, the reading of Raag Mala was stopped in many Gurudwaras. AT SRI AKAL TAKHT SAHIB, IT WAS ALREADY NOT BEING READ, AND IS NOT READ EVEN NOW. (Recently, for obvious reasons when there is no stable management authority at Sri Akal Takht Sahib, some pro-Raag Mala people are reported to have started reading it there. This is not based on any Panthic decision.)
However, in the later editions of the Gursikh RAHIT MARYADA, published by the S.G.P.C., the wording in this respect was changed without consulting even the members of the original Committee and without giving any explanation as to the basis of this change, to read as follows:
"...reading of Guru Granth should be concluded with the reading of either the Mundavani or the Raag Mala, depending upon local practice."
So now, it has been left to the Sangat whether to read it or not.
It may be noted that while all 'shabads' in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, without exception, exhort directly or indirectly, the importance of the Divine Naam for spiritual enlightenment, there is not even a trace of this divinity in the whole of Raag Mala. It is just a glossary or genealogy of some raags and sub-raags and their branches. In fact, it is not complete even in this respect so far as raags and sub-raags included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib are concerned, as shown below:
- There are 31 pure raags and 6 mixed raags in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Out of 37 raags, 12 raags do not find any mention in Raag Mala.
There are as many as 59 raags and raaginies in Raag Mala which are not included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.29
Another very important but rather basic point to be considered in this respect is that Gurbani is the Divine Word. In spite of the fact that the whole Gurbani has been composed to be read in certain musical measures, it is not wholly dependant on these musical measures so far as its impact on the mind is concerned. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is not for teaching musical measures or raags but is meant to uplift the soul of one who reads it, sings it, or listens to it. In short, the only objective of the Gurbani is Spiritual Enlightenment. That is why Guru Sahib has not written anywhere on the intricacies of the various raags or on the so-called Gurmat Sangeet. The true Gurmat, and not the correct understanding of the raags, is the True Way of Life; though the latter is certainly very helpful and productive. In the closing Shabad of Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji himself clearly summarized the contents of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. According to him, this platter (thaal) (Sri Guru Granth Sahib), contains the following three things:Further, it is stated that in reality these are the three aspects of the only ONE THING - AMRIT NAAM. He has not made any hint regarding the presence of various raags and their wives and offsprings, etc., as they are only subsidiary to the major content.>
Resultant Contentment and Satiation of all desires; and, finally
The true understanding of the Divinity by constant meditation or Simran of the Amrit Naam.
- The following quotations from Sri Guru Granth Sahib in this perspective are worth considering:
Raag Naad Sab Sohney Jau Laagey Sehaj Dhyan
Raag Naad Chhod Har Seviay Taa Darghey Payeeay Maan. (Ang. 849)
Beauteous are the melody and music, if through Guru's word, one fixes his attention on the Lord. One attains the honor in the Lord's Court only when one rises above and gives up the means of the worldly melody and music.
Raag Naad Man Dujaay Bhayey. (Ang. 1342)
Singing and learning temporal music makes one's mind attached to duality.
Sabhna Raagaan vich So Bhala Bhai, Jit Vasya Man Aaye. Raag Naad Sabh Sach Hai, Keemat Kahi Na Jaaye.
Raagey Naadey Bahraa,Inni Hukum Naa Boojhya Jaaey. (Ang. 1423)
Amongst all the musical measures, that alone is sublime, O Brother, by which the Lord comes to abide into the mind. The melodies in which Guru's word is sung are all true; their worth can be told not. The Lord is beyond the melodies and sounds. Merely through these, His will cannot be realized.
- Mr. M. A. Macauliffe, who spent about 20 years in studying the Sikh history and scriptures at the end of the 19th Century, published his monumental work entitled The Sikh Religion in six volumes, in 1902. In discussing the completion and contents of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, he states: "A Muhammadan poet called Alam in AH 991 (AD. 1583) wrote a work in 353 stanzas, generally from four to six lines each, called Madhava Nal Kandala. The Raga Mala, which forms the conclusion of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and contains a list of the raags and raaginis and their subdivisions, is a portion of Alam's work extending from 63rd to 72nd stanza. It is not understood how it was included in the Sacred volume. The Raags mentioned in it do not correspond with the Raags of the Granth Sahib."
- The Mahan Kosh (Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature) of Bhai Sahib Bh. Kahan Singh refers to Raag Mala as under:
"Raag Mala: The 63rd to 72nd meters from the Hindi version of Madhavanal Sangeet composed by Alam poet and includes six raags, with five raginis and eight sons of each."30
In his other well-known authoritative work: Gurmat Sudhakar, he has commented in greater detail in this respect:
"Many people finish the reading (of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) at Raag Mala. Raag Mala is not Gurbani. It was composed by a poet named Alam, a contemporary of Emperor Akbar - in the year 991 Hijri or Bikrami 1641 - about 20 years before the compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as is evident from the text of the SANGEET...Besides the fact that it is NOT Gurbani, Raag Mala is also against Gurmat because it makes no reference to Devotion, the True Knowledge and Love for God. The Raags in Guru Granth start with Sri Raag. Gurbani also says 'Sri Raag' is blessed among the Raags. It is further supported by Bhai Gurdas Ji who places Sri Raag on the top of the raags. As against this, the Raag Mala starts with Bhairav Raag. All the Raags contained in Guru Granth Sahib are not mentioned in Raag Mala. Also, all the Raags mentioned in Raag Mala are not contained in Guru Granth Sahib.
"In the Index of Guru Granth Sahib of Kartarpur, it has been indicated: 'All the leaves of Guru Baba: 974' (in that volume). Mundavani is written on leaf No.973 and 974th is blank. Some Sikh has inserted Raag Mala on additional leaves after 974 at the end of the Guru Granth just as Bhai Banno has inserted many additional Shabads and the anecdote of Sangla-deep without the permission of the Satguru....Many old volumes of Guru Granth Sahib are available at Buij of Baba Ala Singh, Patiala and Sri Abchal Nagar, etc., which do not contain Raag Mala..."31
- Professor Sahib Singh, in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan, states:
"Those people who have made some additions in Guru Granth Sahib, could do so only after Mundavani M.5 and Slok M.5."32
Therefore, according to him, Sri Guru Granth Sahib really ends at Slok M.5, inferring thereby, that whatever is written therein after Slok M.5, is not a part of the original volume and is thus not Gurbani.
His other comments and certain points raised by him are also very noteworthy and relevant in this respect:
In Raag Mala, the word 'Pun' which is a derivative of the Sanskrit word Punch - has been used while in the rest of Guru Granth Sahib the word is Phun. From a literary view point, it is very strange that none of the Gurus have used this word anywhere in their own compositions.(Ang. 693)
The heading 'Raag Mala' has not been prefixed or suffixed by the name of its author, contrary to the system followed in Guru Granth Sahib.(Ang. 693)
The system of putting numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) in Raag Mala is absolutely different from the system followed in Guru Granth Sahib. Why so?(Ang. 694)
Raag Gaund has been shown first as the son of Raag Sri Raag and then as the son of Raag Megh! (Ang. 697)
The use of the numeral '1' twice in Raag Mala is confusing.(Ang. 697)
It is very astonishing to note that certain Raags contained in Guru Granth Sahib have not been mentioned in Raag Mala, and a number of Raags not mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib, are included in it. (Ang. 697)
Similar references to Raag Mala have also been made by some other renowned scholars:
"Raag Mala is not the composition of the Satguru"
(Gur Partip Surya by Mahan Kavi Bhai Sahib Bhai Santokh Singh Ji)
"Mundavani was kept at the end of the Granth Sahib as the Closing Seal. Raag Mala was inserted by someone later..."
(Guru Tirath Kosh by Pt. Tara Singh Nirotam.)
"Just as Index has no relation with Bani - although it is the index of the Bani; similarly Raag Mala has no relation with Bani, though it refers to the same Bani."
(Bani Beora by Dr. Charan Singh)
Dr. Charan Singh, while admitting that Raag Mala is not Gurbani, insists that it refers to Raags contained in the Gurbani, an assertion which has already been shown to be incorrect. Further, does anyone ever start the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib with the Index given in the beginning?
Thus, it suffices here to say that it is very unjust to accuse certain sections of the Panth of attacking the purity and the unity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib simply because they do not read Raag Mala. The reading of Raag Mala does not provide any spiritual benefit and not reading it, is not at all a sacrilegious act. In fact, it is really sacrilegious to equate the writing of an ordinary poet with Dhur-Ki-Baani!
On the basis of the facts stated hereinfore, it can be safely summarized and concluded that:
Raag Mala was not composed by any of the Gurus.
It was not a part of the original Bir compiled by Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, nor of the Damdami Bir.
Raag Mala is part of Madhavanal Kandala written by the Muslim poet Alam, about twenty-one years before the original Bir was compiled.
There are a number of raags in Sri Guru Granth Sahib which are not included in Raag Mala and vice versa.
The meticulous uniform system of numbering of all the Shabads in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, has not been used in Raag Mala. Raag Mala has no system of numbering as each portion has been numbered as one (1) which reveals nothing and is confusing.
There is no mention of the name of the composer anywhere as against the procedure employed in the rest of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
In some of the handwritten Birs there exist a number of other extraneous writings, including Raag Mala. When all other compositions have been rejected it is not understood why this composition, which was at the end, has been retained.
It is an established truth that the food one eats does not only affect the body's health but also influences one's mind and thinking. That is why Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji has forbidden eating food which makes the body writhe in pain and fill the mind with evil. That is why he refused to accept the most nourishing and dainty dishes prepared in the house of Malik Bhago but preferred the simple dry food prepared by the so called low-caste carpenter, Bhai Lalo. Similarly, Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji refused to drink water brought by a young man who had never done any service to anyone in his life. Thus, in the Gursikh way of life it is not only the nutrient value of the food that matters but, more importantly, who has prepared it and who serves it. Guru-Ka-Langar, whether prepared in the Gurdwara or in the household of a Sikh can be called Guru-Ka-Langar only if it is prepared by Guru-Ke-Sikhs. This may be the one reason why Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked the recipients of the holy Amrit to share food among themselves in the same plate, but forbade them to do so with non-Amritdharis. One of the edicts given at the Baptismal ceremony is:
Gursikh di roti beti di saanjh Gursikh naal.
The Gursikhs have to share food and establish marital relationships with Gursikhs only
This edict is enjoined upon all the baptized Sikhs at the Baptismal ceremony at every Amrit Sanchar in the Panth irrespective of organizations or Jathas arranging it. It is further supported by the following quotation from Rahitnamaa:
Jay Kurahtieye Jag Darsaawat.
Pahul Peeay Kukaram Kamaavat.
Tin So Vartan Nahe Milaawey.
Rahey Nirlep Param Sukh Paavey.
(Rahitnamaa Bhai Desa Singh Ji)
Gursikhs are not to socialize or associate with those who have become apostates. Only then will they lead unaffected and happy lives.
Incidently, the above quotation brings out another important point; that even one who has taken Amrit once can become a non-Amritdhari if he commits any of the four Cardinal Sins or big Don'ts.
It is, therefore, clear from the above that if a Sikh is to strictly follow the commandments or Code of Conduct enunciated at the time of partaking of Amrit, he has to share food and keep relationships with Gursikhs (i.e., Amritdharis) only. There is no 'elitism' or 'communalism' in it. In fact, it is a practice ordained by Guru Sahib himself. It does not reek of Hinduism or Brahminism, as some people say. In the case of Brahminism, the low-caste people remain untouchable throughout their lives simply because of the accident of their birth, and there is no means by which they can be upgraded and made acceptable, with respect to sharing food with them. In Sikhism, all people, irrespective of their caste, religion, race, country, etc., are welcome to the Khalsa fold. Once they become Khalsa after taking Amrit, they are then an integral part of the Khalsa Panth, and it is always a privilege to share food and contract marital relationship with them, whatever may have been their original faith, race, etc. In fact, this is the holy way employed by the Satguru for the uplift of humanity.
Much fuss is made on this point because at the congregations of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, the Guru-Ka-Langar is generally prepared by Guru-Ke-Sikhs (Amritdharis) only. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh followed this rule strictly and, in addition, had his food prepared in All-Steel vessels. This practice is referred to as Bibek in Sikhism. This tradition of being an All-Steel Bibeki is not an innovation of Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh or any other person. It has been in vogue right from the time of Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh ii, who himself set this precept by using all-steel vessels and Khanda for the preparation of the Holy Amrit given to the original Panj Pyaras at the time of the Birth of the Khalsa on Baisakhi of 1699 AD. Since then, certain sections of devout Singhs have been following this principle until even today, not simply for preparing Amrit, but also for preparing food.
Who is a Bibeki Singh? Bhai Sahib Kahan Singh of Nabha, in his Encyclopedia of Sikh Literature on page 863 defines Bibeki as "...a Sikh who is strict and steadfast in following the principles of Sikh Dharma." The terms Bibek and Vivek are synonymous and have the same meaning i.e. 'sense of discrimination.' In Gurmat, it implies the unquestionable adherence to the command of the Satguru.
Satgur Bachan Kamaaveney, Sachaa Eho Vichaar (Ang. 52)
Practice of the True Guru's commands is the only true philosophy.
Thus, in Sikhism, a Bibeki is a person who adheres strictly to and regulates his life in accordance with the Guru's commandments.
Generally, people do not grasp the true meaning of the terms Amritdhari and nonAmritdhari Sikhs. The phrase non-Amritdhari Sikhs is meaningless. One cannot make a comparison between them. There is only one class of Sikhs and that class is the SIKH (Khalsa). Thus, one is either a Sikh or not a Sikh. Who is a Sikh? The literal meaning of the word Sikh is a 'disciple.' A Sikh is one who is a disciple of the Satguru. To be a disciple of the Satguru, one must completely surrender one's will and wisdom to the Will and Wisdom of the Satguru. Only then, the Satguru admits one is in his fold as a 'Sikh' and blesses him with the holy Naam. This initiation ceremony was previously referred to as the deekhya or charan pahul and has been prevalent right from the time of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, as supported by Bhai Gurdas Ji:
Gur Deekhya Lai Sikh, Sikh Sadaayaa. (Var3,Pauri 11)
One is called a Sikh only after he has been blessed with 'deekhya.'
Charan Dhoe Rehraas Kar Charnamrit Gursikhaan Pilaaayaa (Var 1, Pauri 23)
(Guru Nanak) followed the system of washing the Guru's Feet and blessing the Gursikhs with the Charanamrit (Charan-Pahul).
Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji prescribed specific rules and regulations which must be unconditionally accepted by the candidates before they can be admitted as disciples (Sikhs). The ceremony by which the Panj Pyaras are authorized by the Satguru to admit such persons in the fold of Sikhism is partaking Khande-ki-Pahul or Amrit. Therefore, according to the Commandment of the Satguru, one can become a Sikh of the Guru only by taking Amrit. Such a person is also called an Amritdhari because he has been blessed with the holy Amrit and has, thus, become a Sikh. It is further explicit from the following couplet from Rahitnamaa of Bhai Desa Singh Ji:
Pratham Rahit Yeh Jaan, Khande-ki-Pahul Chhakey.
Soee Sikh Sujaan, Avar Naa Pahul Jo Lai.
The primary Rahit for a Sikh is to take Khande-ki-Pahul. Only he is sagacious Sikh.
Now consider this point from another angle. If someone belonging to other faiths like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc., wishes conversion into Sikhism, what is he required to do? Does he become a Sikh by merely refraining from cutting his hair and wearing a turban as Sikhs do? Obviously not. (There are a number of such people with long hair, and even wearing turbans, belonging to faiths other than Sikhism). He has necessarily to partake the holy Amrit to become a Sikh. How can, then, one become a Sikh simply because of accident of birth, without being baptized? This point has also been explicitly made clear by the Satguru himself as:
So Sikh Sakhaa Bandhap Hai Bhai, Jay Gur Ke Bhaaney Vich Aivey
Aapney Bhaaney Jo Chaley Bhai, Vichharr Chotaan Khaavey. (pg 601)
Only that person is a Sikh and he is my near and dear one, who comes under the total allegiance of the Guru. As against this, one who owes allegiance only to is personal will, always remains in separation and will suffer.
Even in the booklet entitled Sikh Rahit Maryada published by the S.G.P.C., a Sikh has been defined as under:
...Dashmesh ji dey Amrit utay nischa rakhadu hai atey
kisey hor dharam nu nahin manadaa, oh Sikh hai.
...and has full faith in the Amrit of the Tenth Guru and does not believe in any other faith, is a Sikh.
Clearly, therefore, being a non-Amritdhari means that one, has not yet declared his total allegiance and obedience to Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji I Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji I Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji as his Guru. Nor has he been blessed with the Gurmantra or Naam which is given ONLY at the time of baptism by Guru Sahib himself through the Panj Pyaras. Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself put a seal on this point by bowing before the Panj Pyaras for his own baptism. Are these so-called non-Amritdhari "Sikhs" greater than even Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, that they call themselves full-fledged Sikhs without being baptized?
It is thus, abundantly clear that the non-Amritdharls, even though they may claim to be Sikhs, and are also considered Sikhs politically and socially, are not Sikhs in the true sense and in the eyes of the Satguru. In Gurbani, they are referred to as (a) Nigurey; (b) Gumantar heenus; (c) Sakat; (d) Manmukhs or Vemukh, and (e) Vedeen (Faithless), etc. howsoever prominent or outstanding they may be in the social and public life of the community.
Gurbani defines such terms as under:
Nigurey: one who has not become disciple of the Guru.
Nigurey Ko Gat Kaaee Naahee.
Avgann Muthhey, Chotaan Khahee. (Ang. 361)
For him who is without the Guru, there is no liberation.
Deluded by evil propensities, he suffers.
Satgur Bajhon Gur Nahi Koee Nigurey Kaa Hal Naao Bura. (Ang. 435)
Without the True Guru (i.e. Guru Nanak), there is not another Guru.
And one without the Guru is known as evil.
Gurmantar-heenus: One who has not been blessed with the Gurmantra (Naam).
Gumantar-Heenus Jo Praani Dhrigant Janam Bharashtneh.
Kookreh Sookreh Gardbeh Kaakeh Sarpaneh Tul Khaleh (Ang. 1356-1357)
One who is without the Gurmantra, is the most accursed, and contaminated is his life. He is like a dog, a swine, an ass, a crow a snake, and a blockhead.
Saakat Suaan Kaheeyey Baho 1£bhee, Baho Dumat Mael Bhareejey.(Ang.1326)
The dog like infidel is said to be very avaricious and is full to the brim of evil thoughts.
Saakat Besuva Poot Ninaam (Ang.1239)
The infidel is nameless like a prostitute's son.
Manmukh: One who follows his own will; the egocentric.
Manmukh Oodha Kowl Hai, Na Tis Bhagat Na Naao. (Ang.511)
The egocentric person (i.e. Manmukh) is like a reversed lotus and possesses neither devotion nor God's name.
Manmukh Seti Sang Karey, Muh Kalakh Daag Lagaaey (Ang. 1417)
Whosoever associates with an egoist, to his countenance attaches the stigma of blackness.
Manmukh Naam Na Jannani, Vinn Naavey Pat Jaaey...
Vishta Kay Keerray Pavey Wich Vishta
Se Vishta Mahe Samaaye. (Ang. 28)
The egocentrics know not the Naam, and without Naam lose their honor...
They are worms of excrement, fall in excrement, and get absorbed in excrement
Vedeen: The faithless; the irreligious.
Choraan, Jaaran, Randiaan, Kuttaneeya Di Baan.
Vedinaa Ki Dosti Vedinaa Ka Khaann
Sifti Saar Naa Jannani, Sada Vasey Saitaan. (Ang. 790)
It is the habit of thieves, adulterers, prostitutes, and pimps that they contract friendship with the irreligious or faithless and eat their food; they know not the worth of God's praise and Satan ever abides within them.
The above are only a few of the numerous quotations from Gurbani and are self-explanatory and need no further comment. Evidently then, the Sikhs of the Satguru have to avoid the food prepared and served by them whether in the Gurdwaras or in their social gatherings, in the interest of the upliftment of their souls and the enjoyment of the Bliss of Naam Simran. This practice is not confined to the Akhand Kirtani Jatha alone. Even in the Langar premises of Sri Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar, a notice painted in bold letters in Punjabi, hangs prominently near the kitchen stating that the "SEWA OF THE PREPARATION OF LANGAR BE DONE BY THE AMRITDHARI SIKHS - MEN AND WOMEN. NON-AMRITDHARIS MAY DO THE SEWA OF CLEANING OF UTENSILS, KITCHEN, HALL, ETC."
Thus in trying to follow this practice, the AKJ is simply trying to follow the edict of Gurmat in respect of food and not out of any superiority complex or hatred for others.