The Guru Granth Sahib (also known as the Adi Granth) is truly unique among the world's great scriptures. It is considered the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion, rather than any living person. It is also the only scripture of it's kind which not only contains the works of it's own religious founders but also writings of people from other faiths. The living Guru of the Sikhs, the book is held in great reverence by Sikhs and treated with the utmost respect. Sikhism rejects idol worship, so the Guru Granth Sahib is not worshipped as an idol, but rather emphasis is placed on respect of the book for the writings which appear within. Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of devotional hymns and poetry which proclaims God, lays stress on meditation on the True Guru (God), and lays down moral and ethical rules for development of the soul, spiritual salvation and unity with God. Guru Arjun Dev the Fifth Sikh Guru compiled the original version of the Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru's older brother Prithi Chand as well as others had started passing of some of his own compositions as the hymns of the Gurus. Guru Arjun Dev realized that if this situation was allowed to continue it would be the undermining of the Sikh religion. The Sikhs needed an authentic compilation of the hymns of their Gurus. Thus Guru Amar Das started collection the original verses of all the Gurus. He sent trusted Sikhs such as Bhai Piara, Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha across the country in search of original manuscripts. Guru Arjun Dev made trips to Goindwal, Khadur Sahib and Kartarpur to visit the families of the previous Gurus. Guru Arjun Dev collected original manuscripts of the Gurus from Mohan (son of Guru Amar Das), Datu (son of Guru Angad) as well as Sri Chand (son of Guru Nanak). Guru Arjun now pitched a tent by the side of Ramsar tank in Amritsar and started the arduous task of compiling the first edition of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Gurdas was entrusted as the Guru's scribe for the master copy. The monumental task was finally completed after a number of years. This original edition of the Guru Granth Sahib known at that time as Pothi Sahib was installed on a high pedestal within the Harmandir Sahib in August 1604. Guru Arjun Dev seated himself at a lower level and instructed all Sikhs to bow before it, not as an idol, but as the book of divine inspiration which instructed living men in the ways of God and dedicated secular life. The revered Baba Buddha was appointed the first Granthi (custodian) of the book. Guru Arjun Dev dictated that unlike the Hindu scriptures, the Pothi Sahib could be open to reading by anyone of any caste, creed or sex. Guru Arjun Dev provided the following epilogue; "Three things are there in the vessel; Truth, contentment and intellect. The ambrosial Name of God is added to it, The Name that is everybody's sustenance. He who absorbs and enjoys it shall be saved. One must not abandon this gift, It should ever remain dear to ones heart. The dark ocean of the world can be crossed by clinging to His feet. Nanak, it is He who is everywhere. "(Mundawani) Pothi Sahib (known today as the Kartarpur Bir) was kept by the Sixth Master Guru Hargobind in his house. From here it was stolen by his grandson Dhir Mal who intended to use it to further his claims on the succession of the Guruship. Some thirty years later the followers of the Ninth Master, Guru Tegh Bahadur forcibly recovered it, but were instructed by the Guru to return it. They placed it in the shallow river bed of the Satluj River. From here Dhir Mal recovered it, miraculously it was undamaged. Throughout the eighteenth century it most likely remained with Dhir Mal's family, the Sodhis of Kartarpur, thus the name Kartarpur Bir (Bir means volume). The Holy Book next emerged from obscurity in 1849. In that year following the annexation of Punjab, the volume together with its golden stand were discovered by the British in the custody of the Lahore royal court. An application was received from Sodhi Sadhu Singh of Kartarpur and in 1850 the volume was returned to his family. The Kartarpur Bir is preserved to this day and installed monthly for worshippers. An unauthorized edition of the Guru Granth Sahib know as the Banno Bir also exists. Guru Arjun Dev gave this copy of the Granth Sahib to Bhai Banno one of his disciples to take to Lahore for binding. Bhai Banno kept this volume and wrote in some verses of Sudras and Mirabai which it is believed had been rejected by the Guru as well as a few hymns allegedly to be by Guru Nanak at the end of his Granth. Guru Arjun Dev did not approve the Banno Bir. This copy is still in the possession of the descendants of Bhai Banno. Dhir Mal even refused to return the Kartarpur Bir over to Guru Gobind Singh, The Tenth and Final Master. While at Talwandi Sabo (known as Damdama Sahib today) Guru Gobind Singh undertook to prepare a new edition of the Granth Sahib including in it all of the hymns appearing in the original edition as well as the hymns of his late father, the Ninth Master Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Guru dictated the entire Granth to his scribe Bhai Mani Singh. Out of his humility, Guru Gobind Singh who was a great and profuse writer and poet only included one of his hymns. The great task was finally completed in 1705. The Damdama Sahib Bir was then taken to Nanded where it was installed as desired by the Guru. Near the end of his life Guru Gobind Singh ended the line of personal Guruship by investing the Granth Sahib with the status of Eternal Guru and his official successor in 1708. Bhai Nand Lal one of Guru Gobind Singhs disciples recorded the Guru's words as; "He who would wish to see the Guru, Let him come and see the Granth. He who would wish to speak to him, Let him read and reflect upon what says the Granth. He who would wish to hear his word, He should with all his heart read the Granth." (Rahitnama) In 1721 Mata Sundri the widow of Guru Gobind Singh instructed Bhai Mani Singh to go to Harmandir Sahib as the head Granthi along with the Sacred Volume. This Sacred Volume which was carried by the Sikhs before their troops on march was tragically lost in battle during the Second Sikh Holocaust - Wadda Ghalughara on February 5th 1762. Fortunately since a number of copies had been made, this text has survived to today become the official authorized version of the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Granth Sahib: Authors & Contributors The writings of the Gurus appears chronologically. Each of the Gurus signed their hymns as Nanak. Their compositions are identified by the numerals at the beginning of each hymn, i.e. Mahalla 1 is Guru Nanak, Mahalla 2 is Guru Angad and so on. These are then followed by those of other saints (Bhagtas) and other contributors. The 5,867 hymns found in the Guru Granth Sahib broken down by author are: 

The Gurus: Guru Nanak: 947 hymns
Guru Angad: 63 hymns
Guru Amar Das: 869 hymns
Guru Ram Das: 638 hymns
Guru Arjun Dev: 2,312 hymns
Guru Tegh Bahadur: 116 hymns

The Bhagatas: Saints of various faiths

Bhagat Kabir: 534 hymns: Kabir (1398 to 1495) was raised by a Muslim mother. Kabir was a proponent of the Bhakti movement. He lived as a householder, abhorred the caste system and religious rituals. He was an saintly apostle of peace, love and unity and a great poet. Kabir believed in inward purity, and was respected by both Hindus and Muslims.

Bhagat Sheikh Farid: 123 hymns: Sheikh Farid (1175 to 1265) was a Muslim Sufi saint of great piety. He is considered the father of Punjabi poetry. He was greatly loved for his kindness and humanity. He stressed living a simple yet purposeful life concentrating on One God.

Bhagat Namdev: 62 hymns: Namdev (1270 to 1350) was a celebrated saint from Maharashtra who traveled extensively across the country. He lived in Punjab for a number of years.

Bhagat Ravidas: 40 hymns: A contemporary of Kabir and a disciple of Ramanand, Ravidas represents the culmination of the Bhakti Movement. He came from a low caste cobbler family but had many disciples because of his spirituality. He stressed a life of simplicity and piety.

Bhagat Trilochan: 5 hymns: A contemporary of Kabir and a celebrated Sain of the Vaish caste. He believed in One God and condemned superficial rituals and stressed the holiness of the heart.

Bhagat Beni: 3 hymns: Probably a contemporary of Namdev, not much is known about him. He was unperturbed by poverty and enjoyed a life of solitude enriched by his spiritual per suits. He was a great scholar as is evident from his writings.

Bhagat Sheikh Bhikan: 2 hymns: A Muslim Sufi scholar saint Sheikh Bhikan died in the early part of Akbar's reign. He was one of the most learned men of his time. He believed that only God's name can heal a diseased mind and body.

Bhagat Dhanna: 4 hymns: Dhanna was a Jat from Rajasthan who was born in 1415. He lived most of his life as an idol worshipper but in later years became a worshipper of One God and renounced all superstitious practices.

Bhagat Jaidev: 2 hymns: Jaidev was a renowned poet laureate in the royal court of king Lakshman Sen of Bengal. His famous work of poetry Gita Govinda is well known for its poetic beauty and musical richness.

Bhagat Paramanand: 1 hymn: Born in Maharashtra, little is known about Paramanand's life. It is believed that he lived in Maharashtra and was a devotee of Krishna. He later became a proponent of One God.

Bhagat Pipa: 1 hymn: Born in 1425, Pipa was the king of the princely state of Gagaraungarh. He abdicated his throne, traveled extensively and became a disciple of Ramanand. He lived a life of extreme austerity and humility.

Bhagat Ramanand: 1 hymn: Ramanand, a Brahmin was born in 1359 in Madras. He is regarded as the pioneer of the Bhakti movement in northern India. A Vaishnava in his early life, he became a worshipper of Brahm and condemned the caste system. Kabir was the most renowned amongst his disciples.

Bhagat Sadhna: 1 hymn: A butcher by profession, Sadhana was born in Sind. His piety and meditation of God elevated him to saintly status. He was condemned by Brahmins and on a false charge was arrested and buried alive.

Bhagat Sain: 1 hymn: Sain was a barber of the royal court of Raja Ram, king of Rewa. He was a follower of Ramanand and Kabir.

Bhagat Surdas: 2 hymns: Surdas was a Brahmin born in 1529. He was learned in Sanskrit and Persian and studied music and poetry. He was appointed a governor by emperor Akbar, but was later imprisoned for dereliction of duty. Towards the end of his life, he became a hermit and lived among holy men.

The Bhatts: 123 hymns: The Bhatts were a group of musicians who lived in the sixteenth century. All of them were scholars, poets and singers. Scholars differ on the exact number of contributors to the Granth Sahib, anywhere from eight to seventeen. 


Bhai Mardana: 3 hymns: Mardana was a rabab (rebeck) player who spent most of his life as a disciple and musician of Guru Nanak. Born a Muslim, Mardana was a childhood friend of Guru Nanak and accompanied him on all his great travels.

Satta & Balwand: 8 hymns: Satta was a rebeck player who served Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das, Gur Ram Das and Guru Arjun Dev. Along with his fellow musician Balwand they jointly composed a ballad which appears in the Guru Granth Sahib.

Bhagat Sunder: 6 hymns: Baba Sunder (1560-1610) was the great grandson of Guru Amar Das. His composition called Sadd (Calling) was written at the request of Guru Arjun Dev after the death of Guru Ram Das.

Guru Granth Sahib: Arrangement & Layout

The majority of the language of the Guru Granth Sahib is the Punjabi dialect prevalent at that time, some hymns are also found in Persian, medieval Prakrit Hindi and Marathi, Sanskrit as well as Arabic. All of these hymns are written in the standard Punjabi script known as Gurmukhi, popularized by the Second Master; Guru Angad. The Guru Granth Sahib is exactly 1430 pages in length. Each page contains in bold print 18 or 19 lines dependent on the page size. The hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib have been laid out in a very scientific and well planned manner devised by Guru Arjun Dev. The hymns have been arranged according to the melody (Raga) in which they are meant to be sung. Secondly they are arranged on the nature or the metre of the poems themselves. Next they are arranged by author and finally on the clef or key deemed appropriate to them. Divided into 33 sections. The first section contains the epic Japji poem by Guru Nanak, which is not meant to be sung. The final section is a collection of assorted verses including the Slokas and the Swayyas of Bhatts (a group of musicians). The remaining 31 sections are the Ragas: (1) Sri Rag, (2) Majh, (3) Gauri, (4) Asa, (5) Gujari, (6) Devgandhari, (7) Bihagra, (8) Wadhans, (9) Sorath, (10) Dhanasari, (11) Jaitsari, (12) Todi, (13) Bairari, (14) Tilang, (15) Suhi, (16) Bilawal, (17) Gaund, (18) Ramkali, (19) Nat, (20) Maligaura, (21) Maru, (22) Tukhari, (23) Kedara, (24) Bhairo, (25) Basant, (26) Sarang, (27) Malar, (28) Kanara, (29) Kalian, (30) Prabhati and (31) Jaijawanti. The Ragas are further divided into the nature of the metre: (1) Chaupadas: an average of four verses each, (2) Ashtpadis: an average of eight verses each, (3) Special long peoms, (4) Chhants: six line verses, (5) Special short peoms, (6) Vars: consisting of two or more paragraphs (Sloks) followed by a concluding stanza (Pauri) and (7) Poems of Bhagatas (various saints).

The Order of the Guru Granth Sahib:

Daily Prayers:

Japji Sahib, Jap Sahib, Tav-Prasad Swaeea, Chopai Sahib, Anand Sahib (Morning), Sodar Rehras (Evening), Keertan Sohila (Bed Time)

Main Body:

Musical hymns; Page 14 to 1,353
Slokas Sahskriti; Page 1,353 to 1,360
Gatha; Page 1,360 to 1,361
Phanhas; Page 1,361 to 1,363
Chaubolas; Page 1,363 to 1,364
Concluding Portion: Slokas of Kabir; Page 1,364 to 1,377
Shlokas of Sheikh Farid; Page 1,377 to 1,384
Swayyas; Page 1,385 to 1,409
Shlokas of the Gurus; Page 1,410 to 1,426
Shlokas of Guru Tegh Bahadur; Page 1,426 to 1,429
Mundavani; Page 1,429
Rag Mala; Page 1,429 to 1,430

Ardas (Prayer): Common Prayer of the Sikhs God is One. All victory is of the Wondrous Guru (God). May the respected sword (God in the form of the Destroyer of evil doers) help us! Ode of the respected sword recited by the Tenth Guru. First remember the sword (God in the form of Destroyer of evil doers); then remember and meditate upon Guru Nanak. Then remember and meditate upon Guru Angad, Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das: May they help us! Remember and meditate upon respected Guru Har Krishan, by having the sight of whom, all pains vanish. Remember and meditate upon Guru Tegh Bahadur; and then nine sources of wealth will come hastening to your home. Oh Respected Gurus! kindly help us everywhere. May the kind, the respected Tenth Guru Gobind Singh assist us everywhere. Think and meditate upon the divine light of the Ten Kings contained in the respected Guru Granth Sahib and turn your thoughts to the divine teachings of and get pleasure by the sight of Guru Granth Sahib; Utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! Think of the deeds of the Five Beloved Ones, of the four sons (of Guru Gobind Singh); of the Forty Martyrs; of the brave Sikhs of indomitable determination; of the devotees steeped in the cooler of the Name; of those who were absorbed in the Name; of those who remembered the Name and shared their food in companionship; of those who started free kitchens; of those who wielded their swords (for preserving truth); of those who over- looked others shortcomings; All the aforesaid were pure and truly devoted ones; Utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! Think of and remember the unique service rendered by those brave Sikh men as well as women, who sacrificed their heads but did not surrender their Sikh Religion; Who got themselves cut to pieces from each of the joints of the body; Who got their scalps removed; Who were tied and rotated on the wheels and broken into pieces; Who were cut by saws; Who were flayed alive; Who sacrificed themselves to upkeep the dignity of the Gurdwaras; Who did not abandon their Sikh faith; Who kept their Sikh Religion and saved their long hair till their last breath; Utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! Turn your thoughts to the five seats of Sikh Religion and all the Gurdwaras; utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! First the entire respected Khalsa make this supplication that may they meditate on Your Name; and may all pleasures and comforts come through such meditation. Wherever respected Khalsa is present, give Your protection and grace; May the free kitchen and sword never fail; Maintain the honour of your devotees; Confer victory upon the Sikh people; May the respected sword always come to our assistance; May the Khalsa always get honors; Utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! Kindly confer upon the Sikhs the gift of Sikhism, the gift of long hair, the gift of observing Sikh laws, the gift of divine knowledge, the gift of firm faith, the gift of belief and the biggest gift of Name and of having bath in the respected Tank of Nectar. O God! May the choirs, the mansion and the banners exist forever; may the truth ever triumph; utter WaheGuru (Wondrous God)! May the minds of all the Sikhs remain humble and their wisdom exalted; O God! Your are the protector of wisdom. O Immortal God, the constant Helper of His Sikhs, kindly confer the gift of visiting, maintaining, controlling and worshipping, without any restrictions, the Gurdwara of Nanakana Sahib Ji, other Gurdwaras, and Gurus Mansions of which the Khalsa has been deprived. O True Father, Wahe Guru! you are the honour of the meek, the Power of the helpless ones, the shelter of the shelter less, we humbly make prayer in your presence. We have offered prayers as contained in (substitute the occasion or prayer made here). Kindly pardon our errors and shortcomings in reciting the above Gurbani. Kindly full the objects of all. Kindly cause us to meet those true devotees by meeting whom, we may remember and meditate upon Your Name. O God! through the True Guru Nanak, may Your Name be exalted, and may all prosper according to Your will. The Khalsa belongs to God; all victory is the victory of God. Tav-Prasad Savaiye by Guru Gobind Singh Scrupulous Jains and hosts of Siddhas, ascetic yogis - I have seen them all. Warriors and demons, gods who drink amrit, devout believers in a multitude of doctrines. All these have I witnessed as I traveled the world, yet never a true follower of the Lord. Without the love and grace of God their devotion is trivial, worthless, lost. (1) Mighty elephants in gorgeous array, magnificently decked with gold; Thousands of horses nimbler than deer, their speed even swifter than the wind; Though their masters be powerful emperors, potentates before whom countless bow. In the end such greatness crumbles to nothing as barefoot they go on their way. (2) They march victorious across the world, beating their drums in triumph. Their splendid elephants vibrantly trumpeting, their legion of thoroughbreds proudly neighing. Kings of the past, of the present, the future, their numbers beyond comprehending, Neglectful of worship, unmindful of God, they go to their ultimate home. (3) Pious bathing and acts of charity, disciplined lives and endless rites; Searching the scriptures, Hindu and Muslim; scanning the earth and the heavens above; Men who abstain from all food or from sex - ascetics unnumbered I have seen and I know. That though they be kings all their deeds are in vain if their lives have no place for the praises of God. (4) Seasoned troops in coats of mail, fearsome warriors with the strength to kill; Fiercely proud they stand their ground, steadfast in courage though mountains take fight; Assailing their enemies, crushing their foes, humbling the pride of their elephant hosts; They too must finally rise and depart, deprived of the grace of the Lord. (5) Boundless in courage and matchless in strength, men who unflinching will parry a sword; Despoiling a country, slaying its people, its elephant armies brought down to the dust; Forts destroyed by the might of their arms, the world subdued by the fear of their threats; Yet all are humbled by the Creator's power, beggars all in the presence of the Lord. (6) Deities and demons, the divine, the uncouth, repeating God's Name in the future as the past. All the creatures of the earth and sea resigned to his will in instant obedience; Praise for their virtue resounds afar, their evil deeds erased. The devout go forth with joy in the world as their enemies cry in helpless rage. (7) Masters of men, commanders of elephants, powerful rulers who bestride the world; Endlessly bathing, prodigious in charity, sitting bedecked as their marriages are made. All is futile, for even the gods, however exalted, must end in death. Only the humble who touch God's feet shall finally sunder the cycle of rebirth. (8) What benefit comes from endless meditation, from sitting like cranes with both eyes closed? One may piously bathe in all seven oceans and yet lose everything here and hereafter. Some spend their lives deep in the jungle, wasting their years in useless endeavor. Let all pay heed for I speak the truth: only they who love God can find him. (9) Some worship stones, borne on their heads; some hang lingams from their necks. Some claim that God dwells in the south, whilst other bow to the West. Some worship idols, foolishly ignorant; others put trust in the tombs of the dead. All are astray, seduced by false ritual; none knows the secret of God. (10) Lawan by Guru Ram Das The first time round is the time for toil, for work in the world as the Lord may decree; The Word of the Guru the text which we follow, confirming our faith and destroying our sin. Be firm in believing and ponder God's Name, as prescribed by the scriptures of old. Give to the Guru devout adoration, renouncing all evil and wrong. Blessed is she who adores the Lord's Name, for its praises bring radiant bliss. Nanak declares that the first of our rounds marks the start of our marriage with God. The second time round is the time for our meeting, the meeting which comes with our only True Lord. Fear is dispelled and our spirits are cleansed from the filth of our self-centered pride. The fear we retain is our fear of the Lord as we sing to his praise and perceive him in all; The Master is present in all his creation, his being pervading whatever we see. Within and without he is ever our comrade; come join with his faithful and sing his praise. The mystical music resounds in our hearts as we follow the second round. The third time round is the time for detachment, for freeing our minds from all worldly desire. Blessed is she who unites with the faithful, for thus she is brought to her Lord. She who finds God will sing hymns to his glory, the words which she utters inspired by her Lord. Blessed is she who is found with the faithful, who utters the words of ineffable truth. God's Name shall resound in the depths of her spirit, the Name we repeat if our fate so decrees. The third round progresses, God rises within us, and cleanses our minds from all pride and desire. Our spirits find peace as the fourth round commences, for God comes to dwell in our hearts and minds. By the grace of the Guru we know he is present, his sweetness pervading our bodies and souls. This sweetness bows forth from the love which God nurtures for all who are rapt in this infinite bliss. Desires they have treasured find precious reward at the sound of his glorious Name. The bride who is chosen to marry her Lord knows that wonderful Name as it surges within. Nanak declares that the fourth of our rounds brings our ultimate union with God. (Suhi Chhant, Guru Granth Sahib)




quick links