From the Jacket
The emergence of Guru Nanak in the national landscape was an epoch making event in the chequered history of India. The country was passing through complex and cumulative crisis and was at crucial crossroads due to internal dissensions and external aggressions. The society was divided due to the Brahmanical social order, rigid caste system and social stratification and obscurantist and superstitious orthodoxies. In his essay on Hinduism, Dr. Karan Singh has perceptively spelt out the social stratification of Indian society which ws developed by our thinkers and seers. The Indian society was classified into four categories on the basis of their intrinsic qualities. The highest caste consists of Brahmins, the thinkers, philosophers and priests whose main job was to provide educational inputs and religious guidance to society. The Kashatriya's dharma was to rule the nation and defend it against any aggression. The Vaishyas's main vocation was to carry out commercial and agricultural operations. The fourth category was that of Shudras whose main job was to provide labourers. There were certain categories which were known as out-castes and had been facing socioeconomic exploitations and psychological humiliations for centuries. Thus, the system of untouchability has been a disgrace to the remarkable achievement of Hindu civilization. Despite great trauma and turmoil for many centuries in the whole of India due to Muslim aggressions and conquests; Hinduism had to look inward to preserve itself against the wide spread persecution by Muslims. At the same time, we witnessed the dawn of a synergic movement in which at the mystical level, there was a synthesis between two faiths-Hinduism and Islam. These factors led to a devotional revival which is known as Bhakti Movement.
The book contains detailed account of the composition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The book deals with the setting up of Gurudwaras. It also throws light on significant thoughts and announcements made by the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh during their visits to Amritsar in August and September in 2004 on the auspicious occasion of the 400th anniversary of the installation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. An attempt has been made to look at Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a sacred scripture of the world.
It also focuses on the fascinating life story of all the Gurus. The teachings of Guru Nanak have been discussed in depth in the book. The book is rounded off with a chapter on the role of the women in Sikhism. Guru Nanak did not attach any impurity to the women and advocated the equality of sex. In his teachings, he has throughout maintained that the men and women are equal in the eyes of the Almighty.
About the Author
Dr. A.C. Katoch was born in 1944 in Kangra, "Dev Bhoomi", Himachal Pradesh, India. He completed his Bachelor degree from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal and did his post-Graduate degree in History from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. He did his Ph.D. in History from Bundelkhand University, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. He has also done Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi.
He is researcher, writer, photographer ad horticulturist and has written a number of articles on art, architecture, painting, tourism, historical personages, environment, heritage, monuments conservation etc. he has also written extensively on Sikhism and several subjects pertaining to Himalayan religion. He has a special interest in the historical, social and cultural perspectives of the Himalayan region and Punjab. His articles large in numbers have been published in leading newspapers and magazines and have also been commissioned for broadcasting on National Channel by All India Radio, New Delhi.
His first book on "Discovery of Kangra" covering topography, social structure, stratification, caste system, social life etc. was released by Hon'ble Dr. Karan Singh, MP, Rajya Sabha on 1st January 2004 at the India international Centre Auditorium, New Delhi.
He is a qualified and an experienced administrator by profession. He is presently holding a senior executive position as Administration Officer in the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi, an internationally acclaimed unique institution of its kind. During his long period of service in IIC spanning from 1971 to 2006, he has acquired expertise in gardening, landscaping and conservation of environment also.
This well-documented book marks a shift from the existing literature on Sri Guru Granth Sahib in many ways. What fascinates me most in this publication is its historical approach, critical and creative interpretation of India's civilizational strength that flows from the unbroken continuity, harmony of various religious traditions, pluralism and tolerance.
India was subjected to various spells of servitude and was indeed passing through the unprecedented challenges from within and without and the people were reflecting the complacent attitude and remained aloof by withdrawing into their own shells. Indeed, it was a bleak period in the Indian history. It is through the process of reinterpretation and re-environmental situation that Guru Nanak ushered in a new wave of religious resurgence by founding the Sikh religion. This new religion has the unique capacity of assimilation and absorption that produced the intellectual ferment and renaissance in the country. Cutting across the artificial barriers of caste system, religious fanaticism, irrationally and segregation of sexes, Guru Nanak advocated the perennial values, brotherhood and self-sacrifice. This was the need of the hour.
Another striking feature of this publication is that Dr. A.C. Katoch has critically analysed and creatively examined Sri Guru Granth Sahib from the Vedantic epistemology and appropriately called Sikh Religion a Perennial Religion. I am confident that this publication will generate further research and complementary studies in the new areas that he has touched upon either explicitly or implicitly.
Hopefully, this publication will circulate well in educational institutions and among the intellectuals who are interested in Sikh scriptures and the life and works of Sikh Gurus. It is written in lucid style and vividly recaptures varied aspects of Sikh religion.
I wish Dr. Katoch all success in his such future ventures in life.
History is replete with many epoch-making movements, when mankind is poised between a collapsing past and an unpredictable future and for sheer survival of humanity. We do not require merely a linear progression but a paradigm shift in consciousness. Looking retrospectively, during the late fifteenth century and the beginning of sixteenth century, we had indeed reached a crucial crossroads in our long and tortuous history of India and the country was passing through an unprecedented, complex and cumulative crisis. The nation was facing internal threats and endangered by external invaders and the people were looking before and thereafter and did not know as to how to contain this compounding crisis. Here is insight from Sri Aurobindo which was quoted by Professor M G K Menon on the occasion of felicitation function of Dr. Karan Singh for the honour of National Award of Padma Vibhushan held at India International Centre, New Delhi on the 8th February, 2005.
The country had lost its direction and meaning due to the rigidity of the caste-system and superstitious and obscurantist ideas and rituals of Brahiminical order. We had lost out vitality, vigor, cultural heritage and intellectual tradition and the people reflected their incapacity to imagine big things and move forward with the vision of the great future of the country. It is against the backdrop of the bleak future of this country that we witnessed the emergence of Guru Nanak on the national landscape who brought about revolutionary changes in our social, political, cultural and religious life. He founded Sikhism which embraced various religious traditions and unified people of this country. Cutting across the artificial barriers of race religion, caste, language and sex, Sikhism was structured on the unique philosophy of equality, brotherhood, humanism and self-sacrifice.
Looking at the historical perspective, one is appalled to observe that our political, social, economic, cultural and religious institutions were grievously amputated and were on the verge of collapsing. Our self-esteem was being openly questioned. It was a period of turmoil and traumas. Religious values had lost their functional viability, disturbed and the people instead of using the great teachings of the religious saints and seers to bring humanity together had begun to deploy them to rip asunder man from man, to create barriers and walls where nonce existed within families, within villages, within cities, within communities and within the minds of men.
It is against this chaotic cultural and spiritual landscape that Guru Nanak initiated a movement for re-assessing and re-interpreting various religious traditions from refreshingly new perspectives. Drawing inspiration from the Rig Veda, he said that Truth is one, although the wise may perceive it in different forms. Exactly in the same spirit "as rivulets, streams and rivers arise in various parts of the world and yet all of them flow to the same ocean". The various religions may have been born in different parts of the world but all of them follow the identical ethical and spiritual values and one can easily find the common factors in all religious traditions.
Guru Nanak advocated that we should endeavour to bring about the harmony of various religious traditions. It matters little whether a religion is born in the splendour of "Himalayan mountains or burning deserts of Saudi-Arabia or anywhere else in the world" but what is most significant to understand is that all religions "seek to take human consciousness towards the Divine".
Looking in depth at the Bhakti or Sufi movement in the East, or the mystical tradition of the West, one is fascinated by the fact that "the golden thread runs though all the religious traditions and that thread could be interpreted as the dignity and the divinity of the individual".
It is striking to note that the Vedic culture brings out sharply and coherently "the glory of the dawn and the beauty of nature in its various manifestations". The focus of Hinduism is of the Vasudhevia Kutumkam "the Human family". The great Jain and Buddhist traditions have beautifully articulated "the teaching and practice of non-violence". The great Christian religion advocated" the concept of charity and service to humanity" and the main philosophy of Islam revolves around "the concept of social equality". The predominant features of Sikh religion are the perennial values of the individual commitment to various religious traditions have to be synchronized for the sheer survival of our beautiful universe which is being threatened by the nuclear weapons environmental disasters, clash of civilizations and the other conflicts in our times.
This study divides itself into twelve chapters. The first Chapter describes in-depth the composition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. According to the Sikh faith, the Guru is the Holy Granth the living Guru. Sri Guru Granth Sahib contains hymns of Sikh Gurus and of the Hindu and Muslim saints belonging to high and low castes. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the universe came into existence as a result of the command of the Divine The hymns in the Adi Granth considered sermons provide us the guidelines as to how to live in this world where God is all pervasive. The opening section of the Adi Granth deals with three daily prayers. The Japji (Meditation) by Guru Nanak comprises thirty-eight stanzas and hymns: four composed by Guru Nanak, three by Guru Ramdas and two by Guru Arjan. The Sohila (Praise) consists of five hymns: three by Guru Nanak, one each by Guru Ramdas and Guru Arjan. Japuji is recited at sunset and the Sohila at the end of the day just before going to sleep. For the convenience of the readers, I have described Japuji in Romanized form which is also translated into English. The original text of Japuji written in Gurumukhi has also been included in the book for reading by those who have proficiency in Gurumukhi script.
The chapter two deals with the establishment of Gurudwaras. These places were utilized as House of Prayers, established by Guru Nanak, commonly known as dharamshalas in the beginning. These were the places where sangats could be held. It is the place towards which a Sikh turns to at all times that is in times of celebration, in times of grief, in moments of seeking solace and in times when one needs a sense of direction. The chapter three contains the details of the visit of the President of India, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam on the 31st August 2004 and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on the 1st September 2004 to the Golden Temple, Amritsar, on the auspicious occasion of the 400th anniversary of the first installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the chapter four gives comprehensive information about the detailed arrangements made for the celebrations of Amritsar.
The fifth chapter looks at Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the sacred scripture of the world which is regarded as a unique treasure and a noble heritage for the mankind. In Sikhism, it is also viewed as the "Wisdom of the world". In the sixth chapter, we have aptly described Sri Guru Granth Sahib as perennial philosophy, containing the highest common denominators of various religious traditions. It contains the essence of the entire philosophy of the Sikh way of life.
The chapter seven deals with mysticism in Sikhism. According to the Sikh Gurus, the materialistic interpretation of man has resulted in his enslavement to multiple cravings. Man has forgotten his true self. The materialists' view of the world is based on the assumption that man is utterly insignificant in the vast magnitude of time and space.
In the following chapters, I have dealt with the fascinating life-story of the Sikh Gurus and have made deep analysis portray their lives and teachings. The achievements and sacrifices of Banda Bahadur have been high-lighted. Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sikh faith has been discussed in chapter ten. The life and teachings of Guru Nanak have also been discussed in-depth in chapter eleven. The mission of Guru Nanak as has been described by Bhai Gurdas, has been discussed. A large number of followers were drawn towards Guru Nanak's mission. His simplicity of manner and the universality of his teachings appeal to the hearts of common men.
The book is rounded off with the chapter on the role of women in Sikhism. Guru Nanak found many weaknesses in the life-styles of Hindus, Muslims and others. He did not attach any impurity to the women and advocated the equality of sexes. Men and women are equal in the eyes of the Almighty. He objected to the rigidities of the caste system and its hierarchical order and pleaded for equality of all castes. All men and women among Brahmins, Kashtriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras are equal and have no restrictions of any kind whatsoever.
I have adopted the interpretation of Vadantic epistemology in examining the evolution and development of Sikh religious philosophy and the contribution of the Sikh Gurus to the cosmic consciousness.
Many devoted Sikhs and others have written book on Sri Guru Granth Sahib in the past but it is a departure from the conventional approaches. I thought to share my study on Sikhism with them also since I have been studying it for a decade or so and contributing articles on different aspects of the lives of the Sikh Gurus and their teachings. The book has been written in simple language to meet the need, both of the Sikhs as well as the non-Sikhs, especially the younger generation.
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