The Sikh historical narratives live in the psyche of the Guru Khalsa Panth, the flag-bearers of the Sikh collective. IkOankar or 1Force narratives are recorded as perpetual infinite wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib, the charter of the Sikh collective. The historical narratives were passed from bosom to bosom, told, and retold from generation to generation. Two of those witnessing the events recorded their impressions of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib (1621-1675) in the two texts. They both were contemporaries of the Guru, and their texts are considered either a contemporary or a near-contemporary source. The writings of Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ and Chandra Sain 'Sainpati' have been informing and transforming the Sikh psyche since the eve of the seventeenth century. This essay is an attempt to present the grandeur and legacy of the Ninth Sovereign from Goya’s Ganjnamah and Sainpati’s Sri Gur Sobha. They were two of the fifty-two court-poets in the Darbar of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib (1666-1708).
In the current climate of appropriation and revisionism, these two aforementioned textual sources must form the basis of the Guru’s life and legacy narrative. The popular mandates are an attempt to revise the narratives during the fourth centennial commemorations of the Ninth Nanak, Guru Teghbahadar Sahib.
The actual original texts, dating, and inter-language transcription continue to be part of the academic debate. The authors’ names, biographies, and Sikh lifestyles remain unfinished, though they seem to gather some steam and fascination in academia and the community.
The Sikh inspiration is beautifully captured in both texts: their love for the Guru, their linguistic and poetic scholarship, as well as their clarity on the Guru’s perfection and mission is uncontested. And that is what is presented here, a new translation from selections from their writings about Guru Teghbahadar Sahib.
Bhai Nand Lal ‘Goya’ (1633-1713) was born in Ghazni, Afghanistan, and died in Multan, Pakistan. His poetry is in Panjabi and Persian. Ganjnamah (Treasury-Book) is in Persian. It is divided into ten parts; each part has two subsections. Each part deals with one of the Gurus in the order of their guruships. Guru Teghbahadar Sahib is covered in the ninth part.
In the first subsection Saltnat-e-Naham, Guru Teghbahadar Sahib is presented as the Sovereign who ruled a sultanate. It also unveils the mystery of the Guru’s name in letters of the Persian alphabet. In the second subsection Vahiguru Jiu Sati, the Guru’s status is lovingly, creatively, and poetically enunciated.
In common parlance, the Sultanate is the state as well as the period ruled by the Sultan. It is rooted in the Islamic political ideology of the kingdom. When Goya intentionally chooses to use the term Sultanate, he establishes the domain of the Guru in contrast to the Mughal state and asserts the Sikh sovereignty.
Through Goya, the various facets of the Guru's unfolded: sovereign, divine, powerful, examiner, reviver, uniter, advisor, officer, and so on. Each facet established the Guru’s perfection in a subtle yet direct manner. Then, each letter of the Guru’s name describes an attribute of the Guru.
Saltnat-e-Naham: The Sultanate of the Ninth
The Sultanate of the Ninth has a new constitution,
and is the chief among chief devotees of the Truth.
The Sovereign of the World and Hereafter,
and the adornment of the throne of honor and grandeur.
Even though is the possessor of Divine power,
bows head to Divine Command and Will,
and is the hidden instrument of Divine greatness and majesty.
The examiner of auspicious command followers,
and the reviver of impartial determined devotees.
The power among the powerful ones and the unity among the united ones.
Remains steadfast due to the nature of the ancient Divine.
And the constant advisor to the auspicious and great Divine.
The officer of the special chosen ones,
and the crown of the Truth-embodied devotees of the Truth.
The associated ‘T’ in blessed name beautifies the trust and living in Divine Will.
And the Persian ‘E’ exemplifies complete great faith.
The blessed ‘G’ exhibits gracious, humble nature from head to toe.
And ‘B’ linked with ‘H’ adorns the gathering of knowledge and education.
‘A’ from the Truth decorates the conviction and the Truth.
And ‘D of infinite vision justly rules both the worlds.
The last ‘R’ knows the mystery of the Divine way,
and forms the Truthful foundation of the highest Truth.98
Vahiguru Jiu Sati: Revered Awe-Wisdom is Eternal
Guru Tegh Bahadar is grace-treasure from head to toe,
He beautifies the Divine gathering with authority and splendor.99
His auspicious existence illuminates rays of Truth,
His victorious grace illuminates both worlds.100
The Divine chose him from the collective of the chosen ones,
and considered his acceptance of the Command and Divine Will the best.101
His status was elevated to the greatest among the accepted ones,
He is to be hailed in both worlds as decreed by Divine grace.102
His hem of radiance has everyone's hands on it for prosperity,
His voice of Truth is beyond the rays of all knowledge.103
Throughout the composition, there are many Islamic as well as Sufi phrases. Four words stand out in the original Persian, which requires more context. In Sufi parlance, Taslim-o-Raza has a very specific meaning. Taslim is accepting the Divine Command without any complaint, while Raza is accepting the Divine Will as pleasing. Hence, Taslim is a state of submission before the appearance of the Command, and Raza is surrendering to the Will after the occurrence of whatever is the Command. Similarly, in certain Sufi schools, the Jabrutis are those in the realm of ‘Power’ while Lahutis are in the realm of ‘Unity.’ The aforesaid translation attempts to bring these powerful elements and raises them to the Sikh paradigm for a global audience.
Sainapati’s Sri Gur Sobha
Chandra Sain 'Sainpati' (16xx-17xx) was from the Panjab; he was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and spent later days in Wazirabad, Pakistan. Sri Gur Sobha is in Panjabi and Braj languages; its script is Gurmukhi. It is composed of nineteen poetic forms and meters divided into twenty chapters over nine hundred and thirty-five verses.
Sainapat’s portrayal of the Guru is in the classic Indic tradition of epics. He employed the textual techniques used to present Hindu heroes.
In this Chaupai, Sainpati presents Guru Teghbahadar Sahib as Srisati ki Chadar, the protector of humanity. Srisati or srishati is creation or humanity. It is important to note that dharam (connoting religion or law) and Hind (connoting Hindus or India) have become more popular narratives. Srisati includes dharam and Hind, and so much more.
Guru Tegh Bahadar was revealed,
whose domain covered the whole creation,
who protected the honor of the act and the principle,
whose witnessed narrative became eternal in the Dark era.14
The Guru’s fame spread in the whole creation,
which protected all principles,
who was victorious-victorious in the three worlds,
this is how Eternal-Guru protected the honor.15
Hindu forehead mark, sacred thread, and religious center,
they exist eternally due to the Guru’s compassion.
In principle, the Guru departed for the Divine abode,
the next Guru became known as Guru Gobind Singh.16
In this Svaiya, the Guru again is presented as the emancipator of the world, not just the religious world or the Hindu world.
Guru Tegh Bahadar and Guru Gobind Singh,
became the emancipator and the emancipation.
Glorious victory resounded in the three worlds,
the Guru was revealed as the first, the doer, and the deed.
The destroyer of the wicked and the liberator of the truth-exemplar,
The emancipator of the whole world and the eliminator of fear.
All gods proclaimed: Victorious! Victorious! Victorious!
They entered the sanctuary of the Guru.17
In this Kabitu, all Gurus are presented as Nanaks and Sovereigns who cover or protect the whole world.
You alone are Guru Nanak; you alone are Guru Angad,
You alone are Guru Amardas; you alone are Guru Ramdas,
You alone are Guru Arjan; you alone are Guru Harigobind,
You alone are Guru Harirai; you alone are [Guru] Harikrishan,
You became the Ninth Sovereign; your power protected in the Dark era,
Tegh-Sword alone is Bahadar-Warrior; you alone cover-protect the whole world.
You alone are the Tenth Sovereign Guru Gobind Singh; you alone came as the Divine to liberate the world.5.46
There are two more references to Guru Teghbahadar Sahib in this text. The Guru purchased the deeded Makhoval village land in 1664 and named it Chak Nanaki; it was later renamed, Sri Anandpur Sahib. In this Dohra, Sainapati refers to Makhoval.
The beautiful Makhoval is the dwelling place of Eternal-Guru,
where the extraordinary wonders of myriad divine-plays in multiple dimensions were seen.7.48
In this Dohra, Sainpati references Sahibzade Jujhar Singh and Fateh Singh who were martyred at Sirhind in the continuous saga of their grandfather Guru Teghbahadar Sahib.
Blessed, blessed are the sons of Gurdev (Perfection-Divine)
who had no greed for their bodies.
They protected the principle in the Dark era
to receive fame from their grandfather (Guru Teghbahadar Sahib).74.543
During the commemoration of the 400th Prakash Purab (Illumination Day) of Guru Teghbahadar Sahib, it is prudent to acknowledge and re-establish the original narrative: The Guru was the Sovereign. Guru was the Ninth Sovereign in the line of the Raj started by Guru Nanak Sahib. The Guru was neither Hindu nor Muslim. The Guru never even in thought or practice entertained any animosity or discrimination towards anyone. The Guru declared: “Nanak says that the mind must accept this explanation that the insightful does not instill fear in anyone nor is fearful of anyone.”
The Guru lived the 1Force-1Ness paradigm born out of 1Oankar-Nam culture. The Guru contemplated IkOankar, composed music, fought battles, established centers, mediated treaties, addressed corruption, and embraced martyrdom. The Guru’s followers, friends, and adversaries included the Sikhs, the Hindus, and the Muslims. The Mughal empire, the Hindu Hill chiefs and Rajput kings, the Sikh masands were not accepting the Guru’s open and transparent way.
Today’s narrative of the Guru is either nefarious revisionism or intentional omission by the Hindutva forces in Indian publications and the Islamic publications in Pakistan. Elements of this are global, online, and amid Sikh writings as well. This huge challenge must be addressed and will require diligence and deliberation for corrections to materialize.
To deeply know and intimately connect with the Guru, one must read, study, listen to and sing the sabads (verse or composition) in the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Teghbahadar Sahib revealed the infinite wisdom in fifty-nine Sabads in fifteen rags (musical modes) as well as fifty-seven saloks (poetic praise). That is where the perfect Sikh narrative resides!
- Bani Mahala 9 and Salok Mahla 9, The Guru Granth Sahib Project, GuruGranthSahib.io, Sikh Research Institute, 2021
- Bhai Nand Lal Granthavli, Edited by Dr. Ganda Singh, Sant Sohan Singh, Malaka, 1968
- Bhai Nand Lal Singh ji Krit Ganjnama: Panjabi Kavi Ulathe Samet, Bhai Harnam Singh ji Komal, Ludhiana, 1995
- Bhai Sahib Bhai Nand Lal Ji: Biography and Writings, Dr. Ujagar Singh Bawa, Hemkunt, New Delhi, 2006
- Ganj Namah Stik, Transcription and Easy-Meanings by Bhai Vir Singh, 1914, Bhai Vir Singh Sahit Sadan, New Delhi, 9th Edition, 2012
- History in the Sikh Past, Anne Murphy, History and Theory 46, Wesleyan University, 2007
- In Praise of the Guru: A Translation and Study of Sainapati’s Sri Gursobha, Ami Praful Shah, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2010
- Kalaam-e-Goya Bhai Nand Lal, Translated by Sardar Pritpal Singh Bindra, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, 2003
- Sri Gur Sobha, Edited by Dr. Ganda Singh, 1967, Panjabi University, Patiala, 3rd Edition, 1988
- Sri Gur Sobha, Translated by Prof. Kulwant Singh, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, 2014
- Tasnifat-i-Goya, Compared, Arranged and Edited by Mahan Singh Gyani, Khalsa Tract Society, Amritsar, 1963