The Guru Granth Sahib was first compiled by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, in 1604 in the city of Amritsar. Its second and last version was the handiwork of Guru Gobind Singh, and it was finalized at Damdama Sahib in the year 1705. He added the hymns of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Ninth Master, and a couplet of his own to the volume wrought a century earlier. Since then, the authorized version has been transcribed and printed a number of times, and it abides. Its adoration or veneration is an article of faith with the Sikhs. Religious literature is sometimes sectarian and monolithic, if not partisan and polemical. It may admit of few variations and shades. No word but its own may be allowed sanctity and sovereignty. One of the greatest glories of the Guru Granth Sahib is its catholic character. Hardly any other scripture of that stature is completely free from bias, animus and controversy. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Granth in this respect is all the more astonishing when we think of the obscurantism, factionalism and fanaticism of the period in which it was composed. Perhaps it is the only scripture of its kind which contains within its sacred covers the songs, hymns and utterances of a wide variety of saints, sages and bards. For, it is instructive to note that a fairly substantial part of the volume carries the compositions of Hindu bhaktas, Muslim divines, Sufi poets and other God-intoxicated souls. Of course, their hymns and couplets rendered in their own idiom find a ready correspondence in the songs of the Sikh Gurus. Obviously, the idea of Guru Arjan Dev was to affirm the fundamental unity of all religions, and the unitary character of all mystic experience. It was, so to speak, an integral congress of minds and spirits operating on the same spiritual beam. To have thus elevated the songs of the bhaktas and the bhats to the condition of the logos was to salute the power of the word whatever form it might take to reveal the glory of God. For, it may be observed that Guru Granth Sahib comprehends the compositions and utterances of the high-born Brahmins and the proud Kashatriyas as also of the so called lowly Shudras and the unlettered Jats. This was done at a time when the caste system in India had paralysed the conscience of man. The revolutionary egalitarianism which such a step symbolized was, therefore, to become the creed of the Sikhs. Above all, a poetic and mystic collage bespeaks the essential humility of the Sikh mind, for humility has been given pride of place in the table of virtues drawn up by the Gurus. The Guru Granth Sahib, then, is a sui generis scripture in the world.It is indeed, a magnificent compendium of the religious, mystic and metaphysical poetry written or uttered between the 12th Century and the 17th in different parts of India. It is, also, at the same time, a mirror of the sociological, economic and political conditions of those days. The satire on the reactionary and tyrannical rulers, on the obscurantist clergy and sects, on the fake fakirs and their like, is open, uncompromising and telling. In showing the path to spiritual salvation, the Guru Granth does not ignore the secular and creative side of man.
Giani Thakur Singh (Patiala wale Damdami Taksal wale) is a well knownKatha-char (one who presents katha and lectures on Sikhism) and classical religious Punjabi artist. He is well known for his melodious kirtan and traditional katha, such as the very popular Ithaas Paatshahi Dasvin (History of Tenth Guru), only one of the more than 30 albums this master Katha-char has produced.