The Guru Granth Sahib contains the scriptures of the Sikhs.
No Sikh ceremony is regarded as complete unless it is performed in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Granth was written in Gurmukhi script and contains the actual words and versus uttered by the Sikh Gurus.
Initially known as the Adi Granth, it was compiled by the Fifth Guru Arjan (1563-1606) and installed in 1604 in Sri Harmindar Sahib (popularly known as ‘The Golden Temple’) in Amritsar, Punjab
The Tenth Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) added to the Adi Granth the composition of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675).
It is believed that four copies of the Granth Sahib were prepared, the first of which was sent to Sri Harmindar Sahib.
The other copies were sent to Anandpur Sahib (Punjab), Patna Sahib (Patna) and Nander Sahib (Maharashtra).
Guru Gobind Singh did not include his own verses in the Granth, because he was a modest and humble Guru.
When Guru Gobind Singh ended the line of the living Sikh Gurus by raising the Adi Granth to the status of Permanent Guru, he renamed it Guru Granth Sahib.
He commanded that it should be the revered body and spirit of the Ten Gurus.
Every copy of the Guru Granth Sahib consists of 1430 pages.
It contains the banis (Sacred Compositions) of the first Five Gurus, the Ninth Guru and a number of passages of verses written by several non-Sikh saints, including Muslims, Hindus and even so called ‘untouchable’ castes.
Guru Granth Sahib includes 5894 ‘shabads’ (hymns or holy verses), which are arranged in 31 ‘ragas’ (musical measures).
The first verse is the ‘Mool Mantra’, followed by daily prayer or ‘Nitnem,’ including ‘Japji,’ ‘Sodar’ and ‘Kirtan Sohila.’
The renaming verses have been arranged according to their individual ‘ragas.’
An Anthology of Prayers
The Guru Granth Sahib is an anthology of prayers and hymns.
Most of the hymns are addressed to God and often describe devotee’s condition, such as aspirations, yearning, agony and longing to be one with the Lord.
The subject of Guru Granth Sahib is truth – How to become ‘a person of truth,’ or an ideal person. As the Holy Book states in the ‘Mool Mantra,’ God is the ultimate Truth and one has to cultivate those qualities, which are associated with Him, in order to be like Him.
The basic concept behind the hymns is that sacred music, when sung or listened to with devotion and undivided attention, can link that individual’s consciousness with God. A mind may become stable and enjoy the peace of His divine presence, as listening to the hymns can exert a powerful influence on the mind and help to establish its communion with God.
Revelation and ‘Raga’ go hand in hand in Guru Granth Sahib.
The Gurus were emphatic about the religious value of sacred music (or ‘kirtan’) and stressed its continuous use, as a source of divine joy and bliss.
Sacred music is fine art, wedded closely to the spiritual theme.
It is devotional music in praise of the Glory of God conveyed by melody and rhythm. The objective of ‘kirtan’ is to put the individual soul in tune with God.
Book of Revelation
The Guru Granth Sahib is a book of revelation. It conveys the Word of the Master through his messenger on earth and is universal in scope.
For Sikhs, the greatness of Guru Granth Sahib is not only because it is their Holy Book, but also because it is a general scripture intended for everybody, everywhere.
The Holy Book also explains what Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion meant by a ‘perfect individual’ or a ‘Gurmukh.’
It is a remarkable storehouse of spiritual knowledge and teachings, which does not preach any rites or rituals but stresses meditation on the name of God.
Its teachings enable men and woman to lead a purposeful and rewarding life, while being members of the society.
It seeks universal peace and the good of all mankind.
Guru Granth Sahib also stresses the democratic way of life and equality of all people, teaching that we are ‘karam yogis,’ reaping what we sow.
The emphasis is on moral actions, noble living and working for the welfare of all people. Respect and veneration for the Guru Granth Sahib is not simply idol worship, rather respect for the Divine Message, the ideas and ideals contained in the Sikh scripture.
Meditation on the True Word, ‘Satnam’ or the Wonderful Enlightener, ‘Waheguru,’ or any line of a verse in the Holy Book may bring the true devotee or disciple in tune with God.
Source: The New Zealand Sikh Society of Auckland (with minor modifications)