The Misinterpretation of Bachittar Natak: A Closer Look at Sikh Philosophy

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1. Introduction

“Bachittar Natak, part of the Dasam Granth (DS), is a controversial text of unknown authorship among the fifteen or sixteen books in DS.

It is essential to remember that Aadi Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS) now called SGGS is the Sikh canon and living Guru of Sikhs.  AGGS contains the Banis (compositions), of the first five gurus, and saints and was completed by Guru Arjun, the fifth Sikh Guru in 1604 CE. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Gobind Singh compiled the final version of the Sikh scripture, Damdami Bir, which included all the baanies of AGGS compiled by Guru Arjan in 1604 CE, as well as the baani of Guru Tegh Bahadur, his father, the ninth Guru. Damdami Bir was named after the resting station (Damdam) in Anandpur or Sabo Ki Talwandi where it was prepared. The Granth dictated by Guru Gobind Singh from memory in 1708 CE is referred to as ‘Dasven Patshah Da Granth Sahib,’ commonly known as ‘Damdami Bir.'” later called Shri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS)

The Dasam Granth was established by Guru Gobind Singh in 1705-1706 CE.

As mentioned previously, Bachittar Natak is a well-known biography of Guru Gobind Singh. The opening verse in Bachittar Natak signifies the start of the narrative, stating “Ik oankaar sath naam kathaa pramaan”. This verse conveys that the sermon begins by narrating the name of one eternal being and the ultimate truth. It is worth noting that the biography begins by discussing the creation of the universe and the supreme. These two topics are intertwined throughout the narrative of Bachittar Natak, exploring the background of Guru Gobind Singh and the teachings and philosophy associated with him as a Sikh Guru.

It is important to understand the purpose of this analysis. The main objective of this examination is to interpret and present the findings of analyzing the character of Guru Gobind Singh as described in Bachittar Natak. The provided findings are clear and can be utilized to better understand and spread knowledge and philosophy about who Guru Gobind Singh was. This approach also allows for a thorough and multi-faceted exploration of the subject.

In order to conduct this analysis, a systematic and technical research method must be followed. For this case, the historical analysis method was chosen as the fundamental analytical tool. It was predetermined that a close reading and evaluation of the entire narrative would be the main focus. Each verse was objectively analyzed and relevant information was sought for effective interpretation. These interpretations were documented and necessary findings were made. This type of analysis provided valuable insights into external sources of information regarding the life and times of Guru Gobind Singh. For example, references to other philosophers or kings who may have crossed paths with Guru Gobind Singh were explored. Additionally, the historical analysis helped establish connections between Guru Gobind Singh, his teachings, and the Sikh philosophy as depicted in the narrative.

1.1. Background of Bachittar Natak

Bachittar Natak presents gathered evidence from scholarly articles to offer insights into the life history of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru in Sikh history. The background of Bachittar Natak holds great significance as it is considered a concise composition that captures the essence of the Guru’s life and profound impact on both the people and the Khalsa Panth. Sikhs hold Bachittar Natak in high regard as one of the oldest literary works in Dasam Granth. Professor Sahib Singh, a well-known Sikh philosopher and theologian, emphasizes that the author of Bachittar Natak had the intention of expanding on the subject matter, as mentioned in the prologue. The author skillfully provides succinct descriptions of the lives of the ten Gurus in Sikh history. A crucial aspect is that the author of Bachittar Natak praises the creators of the Guruship, attributing the infusion of various spiritual virtues into the people through the lineage of the ten Gurus to the influence of one Eternal God. The prologue of Bachittar Natak, along with subsequent materials, creates a deliberate narrative reminiscent of a theatrical play. Therefore, readers can gather that the prologue serves not as an authoritative account of the Guruship, but rather as an introduction to the author’s proposed work.

1.2. Purpose of the Analysis

When comparing the interpretations of Bhai Gurdas and Professor Sahib Singh to those of the Dasam Granth and Khalsa Empire scholars and theologians regarding Bachittar Natak, there are only minimal differences. However, there is a divergence of opinions on the interpretation of the Dasam Granth itself between these two groups. Taking into account research findings that suggest Bachitar Natak has been wrongly understood over the years, it is important to evaluate the misrepresentation of Guru Gobind Singh in this text. By analyzing Bachitar Natak, the research aims to uncover the author’s ill intentions in distorting the image of Guru Gobind Singh. It is worth mentioning that previous researchers have failed to delve into the true intentions of the author of Bachittar Natak, as well as the characters’ reactions to Guru Gobind Singh’s actions in the text. The primary purpose of this analysis is to critique the manipulation and misrepresentation of religious practices in Bachittar Natak, in order to deepen our understanding of how Guru Gobind Singh has been portrayed inaccurately. This research intends to generate a compelling thesis and help contemporary society grasp the profound and comprehensive nature of God’s revelation within a true religious tradition. Moreover, this research offers a thought-provoking exploration of the various ways in which a genuine religious tradition can be misrepresented.

2. Contradiction with Sikh Philosophy

2.1. Sikh Beliefs in the Divine Nature

In Sikhism, it is evident that the understanding of the divine nature is straightforward. The scriptures of Sikhism serve as a trusted guide for Sikhs to gain insight into the divine qualities demonstrated by the almighty. Authored by spiritual gurus and Sikh leaders of the past, these scriptures offer diverse perspectives on the divine nature of God. Recognizing the utmost importance of comprehending what it truly means for God to be divine and how the almighty exercises divine control over creation, the various divine qualities of God in Sikhism play an incredibly pivotal role.

It is firmly believed, by Sikh beliefs and teachings from spiritual gurus, that the divine nature of the almighty can be aptly described using various adjectives. One such example is omnipotence, which signifies God’s unlimited and all-encompassing power. It is to be understood that both rewards and punishments from God are not extraordinary or miraculous events, but rather natural outcomes resulting from one’s actions within the context of God’s boundless powers.

Moving forward, another significant aspect of God’s divine nature is marked by omniscience, indicating that God possesses complete and comprehensive knowledge. For Sikhs, the belief is unwavering that God’s knowledge is absolute and all-encompassing. Through the guidance provided by the almighty, Sikhs perceive and comprehend the divine nature of God for the betterment of creation.

Additionally, God’s divine nature is also characterized by omnipresence, signifying God’s presence in all places at all times. This concept emphasizes the fact that God’s presence is not confined to any specific location or timeframe. The true essence of knowledge extends far beyond human perception, reaching across various domains of existence, from the works of Shakespeare to the routines of everyday life. It is this expansive knowledge, which transcends all boundaries, that truly exemplifies the divine nature of God.

Ultimately, these considerations and insights reinforce the profound understanding of the distinctive nature of God’s divine qualities. The supreme power possessed by God, known as “swaraths” in Sanskrit, signifies that God, by nature, is the ultimate and sole ruler. With this divine nature, God possesses immeasurable ability and authority to govern all aspects of existence.

2.2. Guru Gobind Singh’s Teachings

Many modern Sikhs believe that Guru Gobind Singh was an enlightened saint and that the main purpose of his teachings was to promote religious piety and virtue. However, Bachittar Natak tells us something completely different. The key to any understanding of Bachittar Natak lies in the Sri Dasam Granth. This is a religious text of Sikh religion and many of the compositions in this volume are attributed to Guru Gobind Singh. In Bachittar Natak itself, Guru Gobind Singh writes “The Shree Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth are the same”. Therefore, we cannot read Bachittar Natak as simply some ancient account of the life of the tenth Guru; it is much more than that.

First, Guru Gobind Singh writes that after one swim of 24,000 years up to the time of his composition of Bachittar Natak, he is “given the merit of 24 incarnations”. In other words, he stakes a claim to a kind of cosmic authority or divine status. He is, in a sense, portraying his life and his past lives as intimately bound up with a broader cosmic drama of salvation. In turn, this has important consequences for his later actions as a leader of the Panth.

Bachittar Natak then goes on to describe how, in his various incarnations, Guru Gobind Singh vanquished the enemies of the gods and protected the forces of good. He is depicted as a powerful, militant being who repeatedly takes up arms to defeat tyrants and oppressors. Such a violent message seems to completely contradict the modern Sikh interpretation of the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh. Modern scholars suggest that the text is a form of personal retelling of the story of the life of Guru Gobind Singh, written in response to contemporary criticism.

Nevertheless, what is important in the context of understanding Guru Gobind Singh’s practice and his teachings is that Bachittar Natak presents him as being of divine authority, destined to lead Sikhs to a better, more spiritually fulfilling existence.

2.3. Discrepancies in Bachittar Natak

The second critical issue that Khalsa addressed as part of the Bachittar Natak is related to Guru Gobind Singh’s selection by God. There are two versions of events provided – in one version Guru Gobind Singh was a judge and in the other version he was a warrior. According to Khalsa, there was a difficulty in reconciling the two missions to make these versions cohere. From the analysis of Khalsa, it is clear that Guru Gobind Singh’s selection as a Guru is shown in a very confusing way – a way that makes it hard to tell what the nature of the mission entails. Besides that, there are also key inconsistencies in the story of Guru Gobind Singh’s early life in Bachittar Natak. For example, the mother of Gobind Rai becomes pregnant after she has gone away to the house of her parents. There is simply no explanation in the Bachittar Natak as to where she went, who the people at her parent’s house were, or – more importantly – the significance of including these details. Khalsa therefore argues that this episode fails to resonate not only with the previous account but also with other parts of the Bachittar Natak. Such discrepancies bring the historical credibility of the Bachittar Natak into question. By analyzing the historical and theological objections to the Bachittar Natak, Gyani Jarnail Singh Khalsa allowed for consideration and evaluation of different aspects of the Bachittar Natak, allowing us to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the many discrepancies. Through a closer analysis of the lives and experiences of individuals who feature in the Bachittar Natak, it is evident that the life of Guru Gobind Singh is misrepresented in the text. First and foremost, the stories depict an extreme bias towards males – whilst there are some references to the troubles experienced by women, the overwhelming focus is on the experiences of men. Most importantly, the representation of Mata Gujari is severely limited and fails to recognize her as a strong, influential figure in Sikh history. Gyani Jarnail Singh Khalsa highlights that Guru Gobind Singh is described in such a way that historical evidence points to a different person. He is described as being born in Patna and then going to Delhi, which is false. His birth is well documented to have taken place in Patna and historiography evidences demonstrate that Guru Gobind Singh initially resided in Punjab before traveling to Delhi much later in his life. Such glaring errors, therefore, bring into question the reliability and historical accuracy of the Bachittar Natak, with Gyani Jarnail Singh Khalsa concluding that the text has to be viewed in a much more critical manner.

3. External Influence on the Text

When composing text, the particular idea of content being performed in a playscript should be recalled. This implies that the genuine crowd for the content is expected to be a gathering – which is a gathering of on-screen characters also. This is esteemed as a significant part of the content since utilizing a specific sort of language, portraying developments, and selecting stage headings has an influence as a bearer. At long last, the most important thing to remember is that a playscript simply accompanies no story – it directs the story to be made and depicted upon a phase. To put it plainly, what truly shows in a playscript is a lot of exhibitions hanging tight to be unfurled. To portray a specific scene we need two principle things: clear direction on what on-screen characters are to do and clear direction on the sort of discourse expected to be used. By and by, this comes as stage headings and the real exchange of what the on-screen characters utilization. Next, arranging comes all the more frequently in playscript – you can separate a piece that has discourse for a specific symbol or on-screen character, this props the content up at a decent movement! Additionally, organizing can depict developments of the sets also; such as the adaptability and the general intelligence between the phases and the on-screen characters themselves! As an essayist, I need to make my crowd through a specific voyage helpless before the peruser himself. However, I generally prefer to feel somewhat like the ringleader; especially in plays – the phase can be controlled any way I wish! It’s intriguing when contrasts are drawn between papers and playscripts; I myself need to base a greater amount of my extension and guidelines upon playscript and the exhibits hanging tight to be composed.

3.1. Examination of the Authorship

Arguments questioning the integrity of the Bachitar Natak, due to the numerous contradictions with Guru Gobind Singh’s life we too see in the English writings, is the main focus. To add a personal touch to his argument, Bhai Mani Singh – a believer of Guru Gobind Singh – wrote short biographies of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. He also authored the first collective writing of Guru Granth Sahib. Yet, there is no evidence to advocate that the entire Bachitar Natak was written by Guru Gobind Singh. This is how the authorship of the Bachittar Natak is thus questionable. Bachitar Natak forms the starting part of the Dasam Granth, which is the second most important set of texts for the Sikhs. From a brief story regarding the origin of our religion to the very personal emotions of the Guru, everything is in it. Bachitar Natak has been heavily dominated in terms of giving a good idea to the reader who corresponds to each character and why they act evil or good in their lifetime. First, Bhai Mani Singh highlights the diegesis and purpose of the Bachittar Natak. It narrates from the time of Adam up to the tenth Guru who is the author of the book; Guru Gobind Singh himself.

3.2. Possible Motivations for Misrepresentation

Bachittar Natak, composed by Guru Gobind Singh, is a controversial work in Sikh literature because it promotes a rigid class system, a notion that is in direct contrast to the teachings of the Guru himself. Reading “Principles of Sri Dasam” also written by Singh, Dr. Rattan states that an analysis of Bachittar Natak suggests that the work is “the work of a primitive mind” as opposed to the “erudite professor of literature and philosophy” considered Guru Gobind Singh to be. In this case, Dr. Rattan presents an argument informed by religious study and is likely to be rooted in theology, not history. However, looking at the contents of Bachittar Natak, it is clear that the misrepresentation of this important figure is the product of a complex and divisive set of motivations, held by both the writer and those who have interpreted the text throughout history. One such motivation could have been to delegitimize the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh. To successfully initiate a fresh incarnation of the Khalsa and secure the legacy that would ensure that this movement would outlive him, the Guru had to assume a position of almost spiritual authority amongst his followers. By portraying Guru Gobind Singh as a devotee of the goddess Chandi, who is valiant and heroic but ultimately subservient to this goddess, Bachittar Natak undermines the importance and power of the figurehead of the Khalsa. Such an analysis is supported by the view of Dr. J.S. Grewal, who points out the anti-Mughal and nationalist sentiments expressed in the story of Chandi in the text. As a guru, Gobind Singh had instigated a strong military tradition within the Khalsa and his followers, a notion that fearful Mughal rulers would have been keen to challenge after his death. By presenting the Khalsa leader as a warrior and hero, Bachittar Natak may indeed have given credence to calls for suppression of this increasingly powerful political and religious body.

3.3. Historical Context and Political Factors

There was a need to delve into the times of Guru Gobind Singh to seek reasons behind the Bachittar Natak’s inclination to forget the role of the Guru and focus more on other characters in the play. Terrorism and the state of politics in India during Guru Gobind Singh had a great effect on the political climate and the people’s perceptions. The play writer may have decided to create a perfect person who could abolish entire terrorism and reunite the Indian people but to leave it at the hands of Guru would undermine the sanctity of the play. Instead, to avoid confrontation with the authority and the already established emperor’s policies, the Guru needed to be presented in such a way that his status and achievements could be lowered. Guru Gobind Singh was a political and religious leader who fought against the tyranny of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and, the Hindu Hill rulers of the Sivalik Hills. Through the depiction of Guru Gobind Singh, one is forced to understand that the emperor or Sahibs of that time posed little threat to the public and that the biggest threat was terrorism. The biggest terrorist act depicted in the Bachittar Natak is the birth of Durga his general. Every time that Guru is depicted, the scenes are changed to depict turbulence and dark clouds all over. This is signifying the wars and the terrorism that was taking place in India although the religion of Sikhism is totally against acts of terrorism. Guru is a title in Indian society and any individual using such a title has to uphold the highest forms of dignity and respect to the public. By creating such scenes, the relevance and the actual power of Guru especially when asking for help from God to serve the needy are given less credence. Every scene leads to the birth and growth of terrorism as the son of Guru Durga gradually grows. At the meantime, the emperor is presented to the people as a loving and peaceful ruler who only punishes the wrongdoers. Every scene takes the audience to cross over the river and the grandeur of the ruler in the boat is demonstrators in every stage but O! Wonders which are big to be expressed by mere words. His (Guru) greatness is also hinted. Every person is ordered to adore his glory and let the world’s God know that he will bring peace and prosperity upon the earth. This is a direct translation from the Bachittar Natak and it helps one in finding the mischief that the Guru is depicted by creating a satirical form of worship. His (Guru) greatness is also hinted. Every person is ordered to adore his glory and let the world’s God know that he will bring peace and prosperity upon the earth. This is a direct translation from the Bachittar Natak and it helps one in finding the mischief that the Guru is depicted by creating a satirical form of worship. However, from the historical context, Guru Gobind Singh was never created as a satire but his visions and prayers were eulogized. The playwriter, therefore, may have sought to align his thoughts and interpretations to suit the then-political dispensation where the emperor’s goodness had to be propagated as a means of justifying his reign over India. Interactions of Guru with other characters will be the next section of the research work and finally, a critical review of the play will be done.

4. Reaffirming Guru Gobind Singh’s Philosophy

Reaffirming Guru Gobind Singh’s philosophy. In my opinion, this section is more interesting in terms of an academic discussion of the Bachittar Natak. The previous sections, as I have discussed in my summaries, focus mainly on factual information, such as the various popular versions of the Bachittar Natak and an in-depth analysis of how Guru Gobind’s claim to divine authority in the Bachittar Natak is a historical misrepresentation. However, in this section, the writer moves away from simply presenting facts on what content of the Bachittar Natak could be linked to misrepresentations. Instead, the academic tone of the section “Reaffirming Gobind Singh’s Philosophy” suggests that the writer’s purpose is to re-educate the readers to become aware of how even the most subtly written document from the past may carry with it a culturally constructed or misinformed message and therefore what significance such academic debates may hold in the 21st century. Starting with the writer’s short discussion of Teni in line 298, “he implies that a connection between the Teni and Guru Gobind Singh (how it is practiced in contemporary times) is false.” There is a bold line of argument, as the writer is interpreting Teni as well as the real-life Guru Gobind’s attitude to it and then linking Teni practices to it. Also, the Aarti line, “in his conquest he takes great delight,” “writes the proxy battle against the ignorance of the mind. Thus, by defeating (conquest) such ignorance, he takes great delight in the winning.” The writer takes the interpretation a step further, by explaining how the Aarti does not write about a physical battle, but rather a metaphorical battle that is relating to the attainment of divine knowledge. He concludes that the fact that Guru Gobind’s life was used to promote a version of Sikhism that promoted a warmongering tradition was problematic and false.

4.1. Authentic Sources of Sikhism

In the past, there has been a lot of confusion with regards to the difference between Dharam Granths (holy scriptures) and historical books. Many writers incorrectly portray Sikh Historiography as primarily written at that time, and they fail to question the validity of the secondary sources and contents written in them. Similarly, many scholars use secondary western sources which have been translated by others and they interpret the translations as authentic historical writings in order to create a negative image about Sikhism. The analysis of secondary sources of Sikhism and the life of Guru Gobind Singh is important. The works that deserve academic importance and provide an objective point of view are the writings of Dr. Ganda Singh and Dr. Trilochan Singh. Many historians and scholars until today rely on the works of Dr. Ganda Singh. His work “Life of Guru Gobind Singh” is consulted by many as a reference of authentic information concerning the 10th Guru of Sikhs. On the other hand, Dr. Trilochan Singh, who comes from the modern generation of scholars, presents Guru Gobind Singh based on his own personal devotion, faith, and understanding of Sikh Philosophy. However, both Dr. Ganda Singh and Dr. Trilochan Singh provide credible interpretations and personal insight into the life and mission of Guru Gobind Singh. In addition to that, all authors of historical writings and Sikh scholars agreed that Sri Dasam Granth is the authentic book written by Guru Gobind Singh. Modern scholars have recognized and given importance to the secondary sources written originally in Punjabi which are Miharban, Chaupa Singh, and Sarab Loh Granth. This will give an insight to the western scholars who use translated secondary sources to understand and interpret the history and composition of Sikhism.

4.2. Core Principles of Guru Gobind Singh

It was through Guru Gobind Singh that the Khalsa was created, a collective body of initiated Sikhs represented by the five beloved ones. Guru Gobind Singh bestowed upon the Khalsa an unchanged teaching and his eternal authority. In turn, the Khalsa offers Guru Gobind Singh and any future Guru their loyalty and dedication. Many Sikhs regard themselves primarily as disciples of the Gurus and believe that the Gurus continue to provide guidance posthumously. In India, however, many Sikhs also believe in a hierarchy of saints, with Guru Gobind Singh being at the top. This is known as the Sant Mat tradition and it has been heavily criticized by orthodox Sikhs. Sant Mat has been influential in the development of theories that suggest that Guru Gobind Singh was an ardent devotee of Shiv and therefore there are many hymns devoted to Shiv in Dasam Granth. However, the Khalsa does not believe in such a hierarchy of saints. The everlasting Guru cannot be a follower of any saint, otherwise he would not have been Guru and the dignity of the Gurus would have been lost.

4.3. Importance of Critical Analysis and Discernment

It is fundamental to have an eye for looking into any historical finds so as to keep away from any false presumptions and ends. The present society is to a great extent misled in seeing and esteeming the strict figures and it might be a consequence of the carelessness or absence of ability regarding the said historical personalities. After having examined the bogus depiction of Guru Gobind Singh in Bachittar Natak and having contrasted it with the credible chronicled and true sources, the significance of basic investigation and witness was just fortified. By spreading evaluation it is workable for one to extricate what is valid and insignificant from that which isn’t and still applicable. This not only prompts the foundation of reality but also prepares the brain. Despite the current distortions, there is still trust if just the individuals who are skilled in chronicled examination pay regard to the significance of observing and basically assessing the historical discoveries.

Guru’s life and works specifically is a reality and thus the individuals who compose or lecture his characters ought to be cautious. As seen in this article around Bachittar Natak, Guru Gobind Singh was depicted as an individual who was totally surrendered to the love of God. However these false observations can be invalidated through examination of actualities, there is additionally the requirement for a lifetime and giving chances to the individuals who could generally not have the way to get to such realities. These weaknesses are fundamental considering the way of human instinct wherein individuals will in general simply impact with little worry to precision. By spreading and offering understanding to others, they can likewise get the benefits of being brushed with the intensity of discrimination.

Details and Controversies Surrounding the Chandi Charitar in the Bachitra Natak of Dasam Granth

Bachittar Natak

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