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The History and Compilation of the Dasm Granth (Part 4)

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Patshahi10.Org is pleased to present Part-4 of this important piece of work on the history of Sri Dasam Granth by Dr. Trilochan Singh, an authoritative exponent of Sikh history, theology, philosophy and culture. This work, in four parts, was published in The Sikh Review in 1955. And up till now this remains a benchmark work on the history and compilation of Sri Dasam Granth - Admin

The Shastar Naam Mala Puran 

THIS is a rosary of names of weapons. It appears to have more linguistic importance than anything else. The introduction is as usual an invocation to the sword spirit of God. The weapons have been idealized as weapons of moral power. Guruji takes four main weapons: the sword, the sudarsan cakr, the arrow and the gun. Innumerable attributive names have been invented for each of them. A translation may not quite be understandable to the English reader, but 1 will explain it with a parallel example as to how the new attributive names are created. The verses are generally of this form: Take the word 'tyranny' and add to it all the words which mean 'destroyer.' You will then get the names of the sword.

The verse only suggests the words. The word building has to be done by the reader. The reader can then form such phrases as wrecker of tyranny, annihilator of tyranny, slayer of tyranny and thus form as many names of the sword as his ability permits. Indirectly it empha­sizes the moral significance of the weapons. To my limited understand­ing this composition does not appear to have anymore significance. Yet I am surprised that Guruji found time to devote as many as 1,318 verses to it. Each verse gives from four to eight names to the weapon.

ZAFARNAMA

The Zafarnama is the second letter to Aurangzeb. Bhai Mani Singh foresaw its great historical importance and so he included it in Dasm Granth. Wrong translations of the Zafarnama have led even such historians as Mr. Jadhu Nath Sirkar to misunderstand Guru Gobind Singh's personality. A correct translation of the Zafarnama has already been published in The Sikh Review.

 

HAKAYATS

 

In the Dasm Granth the Hikayats come immediately after the Zafarnama. Without exception the traditional gyanis and puruhits explain them as stories written to Aurangzeb to instruct him how to rule. It is nothing of that sort. Bhai Mani Singh, while compiling the works, thought it better to place the Guru’s purely Persian writings in the end. The only two Persian works were. the Zafarnama and the Hakayats. Considering the Zafarnama more important, he placed it first and the Hakayats follow. There is nothing in the stories from which Aurangzeb could gain anything while he was almost on his death bed. He had no weakness for women and these stories, like the Triya Charitar, are stories of women. They can be rightly called Triya Charitar in Persian. Two of these stories resemble word for word the stories told in Hindi. The other 10 also quite closely resemble the stories of the Triya Charitar except the characters and the places differ. Th theme is the same. The first translation of the Arabian Nights in Persian was called Hakayats. I have not the least doubt that these stories are stories of sex psychology exactly like those of the Triya Charitar.

TRIYA CHARITAR PAKHIYAN

In every recension of the Dasm Crnnth the    title of this composition is Triya Caritar Pakhyan. The word pakhyan clears half of that myths shrouds that the name and the title of this book which, without properly understood, has given to innumerable heresies and erroneous impressions about the book. The word pakhyan is a Prakrit derivative of the Sanskrit word upakhyan which means a short tale, narrative, already told or heard from others.

The word charitar does not mean wiles, as is generally understood.  If it were so Chandi Charitar would mean Wiles of Chandi, which is absurd. Even in the Triya Charitar the Charitar is that of Chandi.

In other works of Guru Gobind Singh also the word Charitar occurs with the meaning of life story,

je je Charitar kine parkas

te te Charitar bhakho subhas

je je charitar kie krishan dev

te te bhane su sarda dev

(Krishnavtar)

So the meaning of the word Charitar as used in the title is biography, adventure, habit, behaviour, acts and deeds. So the title of the book means stories of the adventures of women and of others.

The prevalent idea that all the stories are about the wiles of women is wrong. Those who believe that do not seem to have gone through the stories even once. As a matter of fact there are a number of stories in which there are no women characters. They Are called Purkh Charitars. These stories have been written with the same literary interest as modern literary short stories are written. The plot, the character is spun almost in the same way. There are a number of stories in which men betray women and women are only passive sufferers (stories 55, 85, 86, 76 and 108).

There are a good many stories about the outstanding bravery of some women. Women are shown at their best in politics, on the battle­field and in the feats of adventure. The character of the woman in Charitar 165 is the noblest one. There are, on the other hand, a number of stories about the vices in the courts of the Indian princes and whoever has seen the court life of the princes of our own days will find that they have become even a hundred times worse. Women are the victims as well as the powers over the weak­nesses of princes.

There are also stories   of debauchery carried on by quazis, pundits and priests in the name of religion and under the cover of its sanctity. There are stories of temples being used as meeting places for lustful lovers (88, 124, 146, 260, 283 and 362). There are stories of women concealing illegitimate pregnancies (15, 57 and 92). There are stories of rich women keeping poor men such as sweepers (24) or gardeners. In story 149 a woman finds a novel device to stop her husband from taking opium. In on story an adulterer gives up adultery under the moral influence of his wife. All the problems exist today and need the same attention and consideration that Guruji gave them in his time.

There are also stories of ideal lovers for whom Guru Gobind Singh has nothing but praise. These lovers are Radha and Krishna, Nal and Damayanti, Hir and Ranjha, Sohni and Mahiwal, Sassi and Punnun, Yusf and Zulaikha, Pandvas and Dropdi and Mirza and Sahiban. Guru Sahib comments rather harshly on Sahiban for risking the life of her lover to save her brother. There are stories from the lives of Akbar, Jahangir, Shajahan, Aurangzeb and Alexander. There are stories from the courts of China, Rome, Portugal and France. The office of the Portuguese East India Company was established at Amritsar in the time of Guru Har Gobind. A Frenchman is known to have become the disciple of Guru Gobind Singh and was named Hushnak Singh. So it is quite probable that Guru Gobind Singh came in contact with some foreigners and learned these stories from them.

The Triya Charitar is not a religious work. It is foolish to look for religion in every type of writing. It is one long story of sin and sorrow, of pathos and bathos, of romance and heroism, of generosity and liberality, of benevolence and beneficence, of love and lust, of wit and wisdom.

Through it all breathes a lovely, poetic impulse, the poetry of ideas, not of formal verse but a radiant, innate idealism that awakens the sweetest harmonies of social, moral and spiritual realizations which are epitomized in a dynamic humanity:

sudh jab te ham dhari, bacan gur dae hamare,

put ihe pran tone praan jab lag ghat thare,

nij nari ke sath neh tum nit bodhaio

par nari ki sej bhul supne hu na jayo

Ever since I came of age, the Guru instructed me thus:

Son, take an oath and keep it as long as there is life in you,

Love thy legal wife ever and ever so much that

Not even in a dream should you share the bed of other woman.

By a strange coincidence the stories are strung into the continuous narrative of a minister explaining many sided character of women exactly in the same way as the one of the Decameron and the Arabian Nights. But the psychology revealed in the Triya Charitar is much vaster in scope than is found in ancient books.

The stories in the Decameron and the Arabian Nights are limited to the social culture. But the Triya Charitar was written almost with an international mind. There are stories of the people and the courts of Rome, China, Portugal, Russia, Manchuria, Arabia, Greece, Persia, France and Turkey. The stories with Indian background are from every nook and corner of India, Tibet, Kashmir Assam, Karnatic, Bengal, Ceylon, Bombay, Sindh. And yet there are some stories whose themes are universal and whose names of characters appear to be romantically invented. Here are a few of them:

Hero Heroin Place
Achalain Achaldei Achalvatinagar
Rajain Rajdei Rajpuri
Anandain Anand-mati Anandvati
Premsain Prem-manjari Premvati
Bengalsain Bengalmati Sunarnagri
Sultansain Sultandei Sultanpuri

The Charitars are therefore a long, continued novel involving a variety of events, each characterized by social and psychological aspects forming a narrative highly interesting it itself often exhibiting the most exquisite moral, yet preserving with rare ingenuity the peculiar characteristics of each story. It is a mixture of history and fiction. Fiction gives to mankind what history denies and in some measure satisfies the mind with the shadows when it cannot enjoy the substance. While real history does not give success according to the deserts of vice and virtue, fiction corrects and presents us with fates and fortunes of persons rewarded and punished according to character trends

Dr. Johnson's words fit so aptly: “Whatever might have been the intention of their author, these tales are made instrumental to the production of many characters diversified with boundless invention and preserved with profound skill, extensive knowledge of opinion and accurate observation of life. Here are exhibited princes, courtiers and sailors, all king in their real characters”.

We can say fairly this much and far more about these stories. Viewed as tout ensemble in full and complete form they are a drama of inter­national life. The dance of vices and virtue is made sublime here and here with faith and religious emotions, by the certainty of expiation and emotion the fullness of atoning equity where virtue is victorious and vice is Vanquished and the ways of God are justified to man.

Yet the medieval Indian mind is revealed vividly in all its mixture of childishness, astuteness, vanity, simplicity, hypocrisy and cunning, concealing a levity of mind under a solemnity of religious fervour. This mind's stolid, instinctive conserva­tism grovels before the tyrant rule of the times. This mental torpidity, founded upon physical indolence, renders immediate action and all manner of exertion distasteful. This conscious weakness, concealed and glorified by religious non-violence, shows itself in overweening arrogance and vanity. The crass and self-satis­fied ignorance of the medieval Hindu makes him glorify the most ignoble superstition while the Muslim mind here and there reveals a malignant fanaticism and furious hatred of every creed beyond the pale of al-Islam.

All the splendour and squalor, the beauty and baseness of life are here. The genius of the story-teller quickens the dry bone of history and by adding fiction to fact revives the dead past. Here there is a picture gallery of weird and striking adven­tures, there are idyllic peace of love forsaken or betrayed or requited love. Pathos and humour alternate with artistic contrast. Sometimes two or even three stories are told from the lives of the same people.

Many readers will regret the absence of modesty in some stories in which sex relations are described rather too openly. Those who go through all the Charitars will find that the ratio of the so-called immodest matter is a very small proportion of the mass of the work. In an age saturated with cant and hypocrisy here and there a venal pen may mourn the frankness of express­ion in the Charitars but it is certainly not more than we find in the Old Testament and the works of Aristophanes Plato, Horace, Virgil, Petronious, Boccacio, Chaucer, Rabelais, Sterne or Swift. And yet our generation reads these works without a word of protest. “Even in the Old Testament we find allusions to human ordure and pudenda, to carnal copulation and impudent whoredom, to adultery and fornication, to onanism, sodomy and bestiality. No Christian has ever thought of purging it.” (Richard F. Burton)

Now before we close it is essential to study the position of womanhood in the Charitars which is so curiously at variance with the stock idea prevalent about it.

While there are a good many remarks about the strength and weaknesses of the character of women there is nothing so harsh as we sometime find in the best thinkers of the world to this day. But the female characters in the Dasm Granth are in more than 90% of the stories more remarkable for decision, action and even manliness than the male. One is wonderstruck by their masterful attitude and by the supreme power they exercised on public and private life. The severest remark in Charitar is that women are beings of impulses blown about by every gust of passion, stable only in instability, constant only in inconstancy. But at the same time we meet with examples of the dutiful daughter, model lover devoted wife, perfect mother, saintly devotee, chaste widow, learned and self-sacrificing women.

The imaginative varnish of these stories serves admirably as a foil to the absolute realism of the picture in general.  It is taken for granted in the Charitars that division should be by aptitude and ability, not by sex. Women are shown capable of doing everything that is within the limits of human endeavour. The idea in these stories was that if a woman was capable of political administration or commanding an army, the women should command and the men obey.

Woman is shown in the Dasm Granth as superior in modesty, cleverer in making and breaking love. Her jealousy is instinctive and her wit for subtle revenge is as natural as her ability to make and break love.

Lies are always one-legged and short-lived and venom evaporates very soon. From this study readers can judge how deliberate are the falsehoods that have been spread about the works in the Dasm Granth. If in a landscape of magnificent prospects one finds vistas adorned with every charm of nature and aft but there also is a little heap of muck lying here and there in some neglected corner, how in wise would those people be who turned their noses to the whole landscape and fields.

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