| Dr Sarjeet Singh Sidhu | Opinion | 30 April 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Every now and then the Dasam Granth (DG) issue rears its head and the Sikh Community starts a debate.
I agree with Dr Karminder Singh when he says “On matters concerning Dasam Granth, we should allow the scholars, researchers to do their work and for our religious institutions of authority, the Akaal Takhat especially, to give us final direction”. Unfortunately for the Sikh community despite the fact that this DG controversy has been around forever “our religious institutions of authority, the Akaal Takhat especially, (have failed) to give us final direction”.
No area of human activity should be so sacrosanct that neither research nor debate on it is allowed.
I have spoken about this issue before and in 2010 my opinion was published in the Sikh Bulletin Nov-Dec 2010. I am attaching that article for the Asia Samachar to consider whether it deserves publication. – DR SARJEET SINGH SIDHU, IPOH, MALAYSIA
The basic Dasam Granth (DG) controversy is centred on the views of just two groups: the supporters of the DG who insist that the volume consists of the writings of Guru Gobind Singh and are thus sacred, and the opponents of the DG who aver that much of the DG is “pornographic”, given the tales therein and the language used; this latter group provide credible support for their claim that the writings are not those of Guru Gobind Singh.
The overwhelming majority of Sikhs, however, have absolutely no idea what the DG contains; a slightly lesser number believe they have some knowledge of its “objectionable” contents based on the writings of others. Whilst there may well be some “scriptural writings” (banis) that conform to the general tenor of the message of the Guru Granth Sahib (GGS), and even this may be disputed, there are certainly some that are completely out of sync with the GGS.
The key issues can be discussed from the following viewpoints:
What if the banis are spurious?
What if some or even all “banis” are actually those written by Guru Gobind Singh?
How does one explain away the allegedly “pornographic” chapters?
1. If the Banis are Spurious:
Proponents of the Dasam Granth (DG), when confronted with reasonable arguments showing that the 3 Banis from the Dasam Granth recited at the time of initiation into the Khalsa fold are spurious, i.e. not written by Guru Gobind Singh, will often resort to the retort “do you mean to say our fore fathers took khande-di-pahul in vain?” This rhetorical question is supposed to tell doubters of the authenticity of the DG as to how absurd their assertions are, and to get them to stop the discussion. The retort in no way gives a valid reason or proof as to why the DG is sacred. The relationship to khande-di-pahul is not a major issue that should even worry us, but it obviously does bother some: let me try and explain.
Assuming that these 3 Banis are not genuine, i.e. they were NOT authored by Guru Gobind Singh, it is nevertheless a fact that at the time of initiation, after the passing of Guru Gobind Singh, every participant did sincerely believe that the Banis were those authored and prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh: and that is the important issue, that the initiates, the initiators and the Sikhs at large believed that the banis were genuine. One cannot be accused of being guilty of something one is unaware of, unless it is something where the onus of knowing (the law for example) is upon the individual. Indeed, even in law an insane killer is declared “NOT GUILTY by virtue of insanity” for he knows not what he is doing. By analogy those Sikhs who participated in the initiation ceremony under the misapprehension that the banis were genuine cannot be faulted. Their initiation cannot be invalidated.
I will not belabour this line of argument and trust the reader will understand where I am coming from. But I do have some questions: Which banis, if any, were recited by Guru Gobind Singh at that first initiation in 1699? Do we have any reliable historical evidence of what actually happened then? Then again, which banis, if any, were recited when the panj pyaras (the Five Beloved) in turn initiated the Guru himself, changing Gobind Rai to Gobind Singh? Soon after that, if not on that very day in 1699 itself, still others must have been similarly initiated. Which banis were recited at those initiations? It is strange that we have no records of such important issues; if there are any records (I am not aware of any) then why have such records not been given sufficient publicity?
Hardev Singh Shergill, in the Editorial of the Nov-Dec 2009 issue of the Sikh Bulletin writes about the late Principal Harbhajan Singh’s article “Which ‘banis’ did the Tenth Guru recite at the time of administering ‘amrit’?” and makes it quite clear that no one really knows.
2. If some or all the banis in the DG are genuine:
For starters let us assume that at least some of the banis are genuinely those penned by the Guru. If true, and are so proven, then they may well be held in reverence and even referred to for spiritual guidance; but they cannot still be equated as being on par with what is contained in the AGGS. The reasoning is simple: only the AGGS was declared as the final and eternal Guru of the Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh. He did not include any of his own writings, if such existed, in the AGGS, but included those of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur; nor did Guru Gobind Singh declare that any of his writings were to be considered sacred. This, by itself, should weaken the case of those who actually have the audacity to install a volume of the DG in any Gurdwara or Takht.
One has to be ever vigilant of the fact that even if some bani is completely in sync with the tenor of the sacred verses of the AGGS, this does not prove or mean that it was written by any of the Gurus, or that it (for the faithful) can be given the same “worship” as the AGGS. Thus, for the DG to be accepted as sacred, to any degree, its proponents have a two-fold task: one, prove beyond reasonable doubt that the writings are those of Guru Gobind Singh and, two, give proof that the Guru wanted such writings to be given the stature that has been accorded the DG by some (installing it as a granth in Gurdwaras, and / or worshipping it).
3. Explaining away the allegedly “pornographic” chapters / verses:
This must surely be the most difficult part of the task for worshippers of the DG: how does one explain away the clearly “pornographic” chapters and verses?
I gather from the writings of others that the Charitropakhyan portion is the one with all the indecent language. “The Biggest section of the Dasam Granth is the erotic Chrito Pakhyan, 404 Stories of the trickery of women.”  In my Internet search for material on the issue I came across some views which could well deserve a closer look.
The contents of Charitropakhyan are pregnant with obscene details… activities and vices of sexually perverted women…”  In Sanskrit the word charittar means erotica. 
Let us take just one Charitar as an example: Charitar 16. This is a story about some prostitute who came to live on the banks of the Satluj, fell madly in love with the King of that place, and all she seems to have wanted was have sex with the King. The (Punjabi) language used in such stories is evidently rather crude and not quite the language one uses in polite company. In any case the interested reader will have to trace the story and read it himself. For my purposes all I can say is that it is crude, and a poor attempt at dishing out erotica.
According to Piara Singh Padam , “In this charitar The King or Raja is Guru Gobind Singh”. Suddenly the story becomes interesting. But Prabhjot Singh, a strong supporter of the theory that the entire DG is the work of Guru Gobind Singh, says “The adversaries of Sri Dasam Granth are particularly critical of the sixteenth (Chhajia) Charitar because the events in this story create an illusion of it being associated with Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji.”  In either case the analysis tends to put Guru Gobind Singh in an unfavourable light.
What is the purpose of these Charitars? What do they teach? This is what Prabhjot Singh says in ‘Part 1 Charotropakhyan – Introduction and Analysis of Charitar No. 1 – Chandi Charitar’:
“…These stories are associated with kings and queens, princes and princesses, wealthy people, sadhus and sanyasis, prostitutes, etc; with mostly amatory stories being prominent. There is a moral message, in one form or another, attached with each of the stories; a message that is universally applicable to entire mankind.” [My emphasis]
Not just a moral message but one that is universally applicable to all mankind: that is a lofty assertion. If I have to, I can give a moral or spiritual twist or interpretation to any writing from the classic Lady Chatterley’s Lover to pure crude porn. Even if one concedes that there is a moral message does that make it sacred? Can it (the book with the material in it) be installed at par with the AGGS? And if it is sacred why are we afraid to recite it at full volume in a Gurdwara?
In his introduction, Prabhjot Singh invites “sisters” to also read the DG. Then, admitting that “indecent language flows in this composition” Prabhjot Singh names several Sikh scholars “…who do not doubt that it is the work of Guruji”. He continues that these scholars “were of the view that… it is difficult to read in the presence of mothers and sisters…” [Emphasis added] and that was why it was compiled in a separate pothi so that only “responsible individuals” could read and recite them, that the “wider Sangat” would tend to “face moral difficulties” when doing paath of DG.
Prabhjot Singh is not taken aback by the fact that on the one hand he invites “sisters” to read the DG and on the other hand rationalises the separation of the DG from all that is sacred on grounds which he attributes to the scholars: that “the wider Sangat” is not savvy enough to appreciate the moral value of the Charitars (erotica).
Without getting into a debate on the issue of whether or not it actually refers to Guru Gobind Singh, the inalterable fact is the story is poorly written erotica. Why would Guruji need to write all this?
Here I refer the reader to I. J. Singh’s article “Dasam Granth: A Red Herring Controversy” :
Kesar Singh Chibber author of the historical documents Bansavlinama and a Rehatnama asserts that the two tomes – Dasam Granth, and the Adi Granth that later became Guru Granth in 1708 – sat separately during Guru Gobind Singh’s lifetime. When asked by Sikhs to combine the two, the Guru declined, stating: “Adi Guru Granth is the root book; the other is only for my diversion. Let this be kept in mind and the two stay separate.” This remains the bedrock principle in Sikhi and the two thus can never be equated.
I. J. Singh is a much respected Sikh writer and he clearly is of the opinion that the DG can never be equated with the AGGS. His paragraph above uses a story and quote attributed to Guru Gobind Singh to lend credence to his stand.
But I have some reservation about the story and the quote. Given that the Charitars are clearly indecent by today’s standard the obvious question that must pop into the minds of the Sikh laity and the self-professed guardians of the faith is “Did Guru Gobind Singh have a need for erotica for ‘diversion’?”
Am I shocked by this? No. I am with I. J. Singh when he writes “In a play that has diversionary writings of many authors should we be shocked to find sexual innuendos and references? I think not. They are part of life, and no Guru taught us to abandon life. Keep in mind that it was the traditional Indian culture that produced the erotic art of Khajuraho.” Indeed it would be proof that all prophets were mere men with earthly desires and preoccupations; that would explain a lot.
I. J. Singh believes “The Dasam Granth therefore contained much that was the Guru’s serious contribution, mixed here and there with what was neither serious nor from his pen”. I contend that there is no evidence that I have read about so far which conclusively proves that any part of the DG was penned by Guru Gobind Singh even if some parts may have verses that are in consonance with the writings in the AGGS.
I. J. Singh further states “Dasam Granth is an important part of Sikh literature and should be treated as such with respect”. It may well be Sikh literature but is not really worthy of respect any more than one gives any other book.
I agree with I. J. Singh when he says “For most of us – lay Sikhs – suffice it to know that… Dasam Granth has absolutely no place alongside the Guru Granth.” But it is not gurbani even if some part may have been penned by the Tenth Guru.
Will this controversy ever die out or be amicably resolved? I don’t think so, because such is religion’s stranglehold on the minds of men of faith that no amount of reasoning will cause them to change their stance; the mind-forged manacles are the hardest to break.
 I. J. Singh; “Dasam Granth: A Red Herring Controversy” (This article was published at SikhChic)
Dr Sarjeet Singh Sidhu is an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (FRCOG) by profession with a degree in Law (LLB Hons) from the University of London, and a strong interest in religion. He has been a contributor to, and on the editorial boards of, Understanding Sikhism: The Research Journal (from Canada) and The Sikh Bulletin (USA). His email: email@example.com
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
Strong turnout at Akaal Ustat Semagam puts damper on MGC counsel (Asia Samachar, 23 April 2016)
Q&A with Dr Karminder Singh on Dasam Granth issue (Asia Samachar, 22 April 2016)
MGC fears Akaal Ustat Semagam can split Sanggat, cause disunity (Asia Samachar, 21 April 2016)
Redefining Vaisakhi (Asia Samachar, 16 April 2016)
‘One Granth One Panth’ call from Global Sikh Council (Asia Samachar, 11 April 2016)
False lure of the past: Lap dogs, watch dogs & attack dogs? (Asia Samachar, 5 April 2016)
When our quirks define us: A parable revisited (Asia Samachar, 10 March 2016)
You want to respect Guru, make shabad accessible (Asia Samachar, 14 Jan 2016)
Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? The Assessment. (Asia Samachar, 9 Jan 2016)
Lessons for today from 1984: Interview with Hari Singh (Asia Samachar, 13 Nov 2015)
Sarbat Khalsa at Chabba historic, but may have been hijacked (Asia Samachar, 11 Nov 2015)