Installation of Scriptures as Granth Sahib: Sikhs hail text as everlasting guru

Open book with traditional text

Scripture text of the Guru Granth Sahib. Photo by Jasleen Kaur, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20: Today, the world’s 24 million Sikhs celebrate a book held so sacred that it sits upon a throne while adherents sit on the floor; it is the omnipresent leader of a religion, and today, devotees commemorate the Guru Granth Sahib. While Sikhs reject idol worship, they hold the deepest respect for the poetry, hymns and passages of wisdom found within their holy book. Historically, Sikhs look to 10 human gurus of the faith for direction and example; it was the 10th guru, Gobind Singh, who designated the holy scriptures as the final and everlasting guru. (Learn more from AllAboutSikhs.com.) It was on this date in 1708 that Guru Gobind Singh brought the Sikhs’ sanctified collection of writings—the Adi Granth—to the level of Guru Granth Sahib.

Compilation of the Adi Granth began with the fifth Sikh guru, Arjan, during the 16th century. During the lifetime of Guru Arjan, fear circulated that the hymns of the first gurus would be lost; some inaccurate and even forged writings were found to be circulating. Guru Arjan gained permission to access existing documents, sent disciples out far and wide in search of any lingering writings and even contacted members of other religions with an invitation to submit a few words to the Adi Granth (the current Granth Sahib contains writings by Hindus and Muslims). The writings were set to 30 musical ragas, or musical patterns. While several translations of the Granth Sahib do exist—in recent news, one man released a noted English translation, after 17 years of work on the book—many Sikhs attempt to learn the Punjabi script used in the original text, known as Gurmukhi.

REVERENCE FOR THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

The completion of the Granth Sahib was, understandably, met with much exhilaration, and Sikhs today maintain the same excitement. New Strait Times recently reported that more than 300 members of the Sikh community gathered at a temple in Jalan Menon to welcome three new copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, which were decorated with flowers and ornaments and carried in three separate cars.

Each time Sikhs gather in a gurdwara, or place of worship, the Granth Sahib is placed at the center, on a raised platform known as a Takht (throne). Congregation members remove their shoes and cover their heads in its presence, sitting upon the floor to hear it contents read. A caretaker known as a Granthi is responsible for the ceremonial care of the holy scriptures.

GURU GRANTH SAHIB GOES DIGITAL

Described as a book for all people and applicable to any religion, the Granth Sahib stresses a meditation on the True God, supplemented with moral and ethical rules for the maturity of the soul. Scriptures call for unity with God, unity with one another and equality for all.

The one publisher of the Guru Granth Sahib is the official religious body of Sikhs in Amritsar. The Punjab Digital Library and Nanakshai Trust began digitizing the scriptures in 2003, and today, Sikh apps assist adherents around the world in better understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib. (The Detroit News reported on religion and technology, including Sikh media.)