Guru Granth Sahib is revered by Sikhs and Hindus alike as the Living Guru, encompassing the Divine Light of all the ten Gurus of Sikhism. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh compiled the Guru Granth Sahib which is regarded as the Eternal Living Guru after the lineage of the ten Sikh Gurus.
An earlier version of Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev who compiled the teachings and hymns of Guru Nanak Dev and his three successors. This earlier version was known as Adi Granth.
Composed by the Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Granth Sahib also comprises teachings of Hindu and Muslim saints like Ravidas, Ramananda, Kabir, Namdev, Bhagat Bikhan and Sheikh Farid.
In addition to the compositions and teachings of the Gurus and Saints, Guru Granth Sahib also includes fascinating lyrical poetry called Bhatt Bani, eulogizing the Gurus, envisioning them as God. Bhatts were Brahmin bards who traditionally composed and sang poetry in praise of warriors and spiritual masters.
Composed in the poetic metre called ‘Sawaiya’, Bhatt Bani is believed to be the ecstatic outpouring of the poet’s heart in the highest state of spiritual bliss and communion with God, a state which he could attain only after being blessed by the Guru. As per popular belief, 17 Bhatts composed 123 ‘Sawaiye’ or couplets venerating the formless Divine Revelation or Divine Light, which was passed down from one Guru to the next.
Interestingly, Bhatt Bani finds many references to Hindu iconography, with analogies and metaphors linking the Gurus to various Hindu Gods, Goddesses, Saints and even Kings. One such reference is made by the poet Kal Sahar, who reveres the second Sikh Guru, Guru Angad Dev as an incarnation of Saint-King Janak.
King Janak is revered by Hindus as an enlightened Rajarshi or Saint-King and an epitome of non-attachment, who freed himself of all worldly illusion despite being a successful king of the powerful kingdom of Videha. He is acclaimed as a liberated soul and a true Karma-Yogi by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Having received Brahma Vidya from Rishi Yajnavalkya, King Janak pursued knowledge and spiritual fulfilment with complete surrender to his Guru, in addition to fulfilling his kingly duties with complete dispassion. His court became a centre for intellectual and spiritual pursuits of great saints like his Guru Rishi Yajnavalkya, Rishi Uddalaka Aruni and Brahmavadini Gargi Vachaknavi. King Janak’s dialogue with the revered Sage Ashtavakra formed the Ashtavakra Gita, a celebrated treatise on Advaita Vedanta.
It is not surprising that Kal Sahar, the bard who composed the couplet, saw in Guru Angad Dev an incarnation of King Janak, for the Guru was an epitome of selfless devotion and absolute surrender at the lotus feet of his Guru, Guru Nanak Dev. Guru Angad Dev was known as Bhai Lehna and was a deeply spiritual, pious and humble disciple of Guru Nanak Dev, who chose Bhai Lehna over his own sons and other disciples to be his successor. It was the utter simplicity, unquestioning devotion, benign purity and above all, the complete surrender of Bhai Lehna’s truth-seeking soul that made Guru Nanak Dev merge his Divine Light into Bhai Lehna’s, transforming the disciple Lehna into Guru Angad Dev. ‘Guru Nanak, in bowing to Guru Angad, reversed the order of things and made the Ganga flow backwards.’
It is imperative to understand the Hindu symbolism and underpinnings of these references in Sikhism and the time and context in which they were composed, without falling into the trap of divisive claims of exclusivity, which is essentially an Abrahamic construct. Hinduism and other Indic faiths that have sprung from the land of Bharat, including Sikhism, have an inherent inclusive, interconnected and all-encompassing foundation, which sees and reveres the Divine Light in all beings. It is imperative that Indians honour this inclusive interconnected core of all Indic faiths.
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