Is the Hindu god ‘Raam’ venerated by the Gurus in Sikh Sacred Literature?
Ram katha jug jug atal. Guru Gobind Singh ji, while concluding his version of Ramavtar, said, “the story of Rama exists from time immemorial and will remain so.”
A senior journalist friend once remarked that it is very easy to instigate and embarrass the Sikhs. Just ask a Sikh a very simple question: What is the importance of Rama in Sikhi? If he says it is of no significance then quote that Gurbani has vividly referred to Rama as an icon of goodness. Now if he says, “yes it is significant”, then simply pin up the label of RSS on him. Either way it will start a spate of intrinsic skirmishes. The same is happening now.
The Khalsa or the Panth of the Guru, which had shattered the Khyber Pass and penetrated deep into the territories reversing the onslaught from West, has the strength to preserve and maintain its entity and identity. It should shed off its unnecessary phobia and stop shaking like a dry leaf at the slightest wind blowing.
Thanks to the uninvited intrusion of RSS into Sikhi with their remarks in their organ ‘The Organiser’ that the sacred texts of the Sikhs are “known for their salutations to Sri Rama”, which has helped to complicate the matter further by. Perhaps they believe that if you want to convince a man, first you have to confuse him.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism, despite maintaining their separate identities, have preserved the names and references of the earlier prophets. Guru Granth Sahib likewise has respectfully canonised the names of the mythological gods, goddesses etc. saying that all these are ever singing the praise of the Lord at His doorsteps. Gurmat is unequivocally clear that the only entity to be worshipped is the One who does not take birth and does not come in any form. Gurmat also does not object if Akal Purakh is remembered by the name of Rama, Krishna etc.. But it certainly will not equate Rama or Krishna with God.
The row, thus, whether Guru Granth Sahib has references to Rama or not, is nothing but unnecessary.
It goes to the credit of the unflinching faith of the Hindus that even pre-historic Rama is preserved and worshipped as if he were present even now. They are trying not only to preserve anything linked with him but have been successful in making his birth-place, an officially documented site. On one side there are communities which are endeavouring to even convert the mythology into government documented history. On the other there are so called scholars in Sikhi, whose only “mission”, it seems, is to convert just five-hundred-year-old history into mythology. All their energies are directed towards one goal. Create doubts about Sikh history, historical events, old granths, and places linked with the Gurus. This danger is much more than even from RSS or likes. For the Sikh values, the teachings, banee of Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth are there to protect the identity and entity of the Sikhs. If there is real danger for the community, it is from these neo-atheists guised as gumat parcharks armed with half-cooked knowledge who are on charge to create doubts about the Gurus, their life and their banee.
The issue whether Rama is a mythological, historical or a fictional figure has divided North and South and even the Hindu scholars. The genesis of this traditional animosity is not difficult to find. Even Dayanand has given the boundaries of Aryavrta (Bharat Varsh) as extending from the Himalayas to Vindhyanchal (Madhya Pradesh). According to the RSS journal, Ram Setu was built by Lord Rama’s vanar sena 17,50,000 years ago. The Ramayana of Tulsi is about four hundred and fifty years old and that of Valmiki dates back to 500 -100 B.C. Obviously the epic Ramayana came into existence lakhs of years after the life and time of the legendary Rama. The existence of Ramayana is thus because of Rama and his stories, legends, folk tales etc. There are numerous Ramayanas and they are not confined to India but have different versions in the neighbouring countries also. Almost all regions of India have also given their version of Ramayana. Even Guru Gobind Singh ji had given his own Ramavtar. The daily prayers, nitnem, are taken from this epic penned by Guru Gobind Singh ji.
The world has the tradition of labelling some as devils or demons and some as angels. The same was followed in India too. But here Guru Gobind Singh ji came with an abundantly clear concept that both devils and angels are caught in the web of womb and come to the world to fulfil that cycle. Interestingly he even referred to the prevailing situation of that time in these verses:
ਜੈਸਿ ਜੂਨਿ ਇਕ ਦੈਤ ਬਖਨਿਯਤ|| ਤਯੋਂ ਕਿ ਜੂਨਿ ਦੇਵਤਾ ਨਨਿਯਤ||
ਜੈਸੇ ਹਿੰਦੂਆ ਨੋ ਤੁਰਕਾਨਾ|| ਸਭਹਿਂਨ ਸੀਸ ਕਾਲ ਜਰਵਾਨਾ||੧੦੩||
ਕਬਹੂਂ ਦੈਤ ਦੇਵਤਨ ਮਾਰੈਂ|| ਕਬਹੂੰ ਦੈਤਨ ਦੇਵ ਸੰਘਾਰੈਂ||
ਦੇਵ ਦੈਤ ਜਿਨ ਦੋਊ ਸੰਘਾਰਾ || ਵਹੈ ਪੁਰਖ ਪ੍ਰਤਿਪਾਲ ਹਮਾਰਾ||੧੦੪||
“As there is a species of demons, similarly there is a specie of gods. The way the Turks are riding roughshod on the head of the Hindus, kal (death) is hovering over every one. At times demons killed devtas and some time the devtas were able to kill rakhshas (demons). But the one who eliminates both devtas as well as rakshas is my protector.”
(Dasam Granth, Charitr Paakhyaan)
Basically it is the character or qualities of a person which make him good or bad. Ravana was otherwise Brahmin. Jha, a friend of mine, gave a very interesting remark that only a Brahmin can become Ravana.
Clarifying this point in his biography Bachittar Natak, the wondrous drama, Guru Gobind Singh ji says:
ਸਾਧ ਕਰਮ ਜੇ ਪੁਰਖ ਕਮਾਵੈ || ਨਾਮ ਦੇਵਤਾ ਜਗਤ ਕਹਾਵੈ ||
ਕੁਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਕਰਮ ਜੇ ਜਗ ਮੈੈ ਕਰਹੀਂ || ਨਾਮ ਅਸੁਰ ਤਿਨ ਕੋ ਸਭ ਧਰਹੀਂ || ੧੫||
“The man who performs pious deeds earns the appellation of a “god” and the one who does evil in the world is universally called a demon.”
(Dasam Granth, Bachitar Naatak)
Guru Gobind Singh ji goes on to say:
ਏਕ ਸਿਵ ਭਏ ਏਕ ਗਏ ਏਕ ਫੇਰ ਭਏ ਰਾਮਚੰਦ੍ਰ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਕੇ ਅਵਤਾਰ ਭੀ ਅਨੇਕ ਹੈਂ ||
“As one Shiva goes another comes. Similarly Rama and Krishna too have a sequence of repeated incarnations.”
(Dasam Granth, Akaal Ustat)
Guru Granth Sahib says that these incarnations of Vishnu were in fact the kings of their times but later people started worshipping them as Avtars and gods.
ਜੁਗਹ ਜੁਗਹ ਕੇ ਰਾਜੇ ਕੀਏ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਕਰਿ ਅਵਤਾਰੀ ||
ਤਿਨ ਭੀ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਿ ਆਖਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ||੭||
“In each and every age, He creates the kings, who are sung of as His Incarnations. Even they have not found His limits; what can I speak of and contemplate? ||7||”
Rama as a king did expand his kingdom and ruled the people with four canons of politics, sam, dam, dand and sabheda. He also religiously followed and upheld the Vedic rules of the caste system.
ਬਹੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਕਰੋ ਰਾਜ ਕੋ ਸਾਜਾ || ਦੇਸ ਦੇਸ ਕੇ ਜੀਤੇ ਰਾਜਾ ||
ਸਾਮ ਦਾਮ ਅਰੁ ਦੰਡ ਸਭੇਦਾ || ਜਿਹ ਬਿਧ ਹੁਤੀ ਸਾਸਨਾ ਬੇਦਾ ||੮੩੭||
ਬਰਨ ਬਰਨ ਅਪਨੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਲਾਏ || ਚਾਰ ਚਾਰ ਹੀ ਬਰਨ ਚਲਾਏ ||
ਛਤ੍ਰੀ ਕਰੈਂ ਬ੍ਨਿਪ੍ਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ || ਬੈਸ ਲਖੈ ਛ੍ਨਤ੍ਰੀ ਕਹ ਦੇਵਾ ||੮੩੮||
Rama as a king did enjoy and suffer normal human pleasures and predicaments.
ਪਾਂਡੇ ਤੁਮਰਾ ਰਾਮਚੰਦੁ ਸੋ ਭੀ ਆਵਤੁ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਥਾ ||
ਰਾਵਨ ਸੇਤੀ ਸਰਬਰ ਹੋਈ ਘਰ ਕੀ ਜੋਇ ਗਵਾਈ ਥੀ ||੩||
“O Pandit, I saw your Raam Chand coming too; he lost his wife, fighting a war against Raawan. ||3||”
Despite this, Rama as a symbol has been adapted by Gurmat. Guru Granth Sahib says that Rama, Krishna etc. ruled the people in their times but now in the kaliyuga it is Guru Nanak, who is relevant.
ਤ੍ਰੇਤੈ ਤੈ ਮਾਣਿਓ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਘੁਵੰਸੁ ਕਹਾਇਓ ||
ਦੁਆਪੁਰਿ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ਕੰਸੁ ਕਿਰਤਾਰਥੁ ਕੀਓ ||
ਉਗ੍ਰਸੈਣ ਕਉ ਰਾਜੁ ਅਭੈ ਭਗਤਹ ਜਨ ਦੀਓ ||
ਕਲਿਜੁਗਿ ਪ੍ਰਮਾਣੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰੁ ਅੰਗਦੁ ਅਮਰੁ ਕਹਾਇਓ ||
“In the Silver Age of Traytaa Yuga, You were called Raam of the Raghu dynasty. In the Brass Age of Dwaapur Yuga, You were Krishna; You killed Mur the demon and saved Kans. You blessed Ugrasain with a kingdom, and You blessed Your humble devotees with fearlessness. In the Iron Age, the Dark Age of Kali Yuga, You are known and accepted as Guru Nanak, Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das.”
Even Guru Nanak Dev Ji while referring to the building of a bridge and killing of Ravana has addressed Rama as a Gurmukh.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬਾਂਧਿਓ ਸੇਤੁ ਬਿਧਾਤੈ || ਲੰਕਾ ਲੂਟੀ ਦੈਤ ਸੰਤਾਪੈ ||
ਰਾਮਚੰਦਿ ਮਾਰਿਓ ਅਹਿ ਰਾਵਣੁ || ਭੇਦੁ ਬਭੀਖਣ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਰਚਾਇਣੁ ||
“The Gurmukh is the bridge, built by the Architect of Destiny. The demons of passion which plundered Sri Lanka – the body – have been conquered. Ram Chand – the mind – has slaughtered Raawan – pride; the Gurmukh understands the secret revealed by Babheekhan.”
While Guru Granth Sahib mentions Rama as a Gurmukh, Ravana has been referred as a Moorakh (fool).
Often a point is raised that Guru Gobind Singh ji has linked his lineage with the Raghu Kul, the clan of Raghu, the grand father of Rama. The clans are reality but their lineage and starting point is illusionary and uncertain to prove. However, every person belongs to one clan or another. Now Guru Gobind Singh ji has said it very clearly that he was from the clan of Sodhis, which finds its roots in the Raghukul. This very point is mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib also.
ਰਘੁਬੰਸਿ ਤਿਲਕੁ ਸੁੰਦਰੁ ਦਸਰਥ ਘਰਿ ਮੁਨਿ ਬੰਛਹਿ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਸਰਣੰ ||
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵਿ ਅਲਖ ਗਤਿ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਰਾਮਦਾਸੁ ਤਾਰਣ ਤਰਣੰ ||੨||
“He is certified, like the handsome Ram Chander in the house of Dasrath of the Raghwa dynasty. Even the silent sages seek His Sanctuary. So serve the Guru, the True Guru; His ways and means are inscrutable. The Great Guru Raam Daas is the Boat to carry us across. ||2||”
(Dasam Granth, p. 1401)
Despite this, Guru Gobind Singh ji has not given any weightage to his worldly clan. Rather when creating the Khalsa he said that now the Khalsa belongs to the clan of khanda, the double edged sword.
In the words of Dr. Gokal Chand Narang, the famous historian:
Rama and Krishna had received the homage of everyone as Divine beings. It was Nanak who boldly questioned their divinity and brought them down to the level of mortals… Guru Gobind Singh went further and stated: ‘He created millions of worms like Krishna, made many Ramas and destroyed them. Many Mohammads came into the world . All died when their time expired.
[Gokal Chand Narang Transformation of Sikhism.p.384]
ਕਿਤੇ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਸੇ ਕੀਟ ਕੋਟੈ ਬਨਾਏ || ਕਿਤੇ ਰਾਮ ਸੇ ਮੇਟਿ ਡਾਰੇ ਉਪਾਏ ||
ਮਹਾਦੀਨ ਕੇਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਿਥੀ ਮਾਂਝ ਹੂਏ || ਸਮੈ ਆਪਨੀ ਆਪਨੀ ਅੰਤ ਮੂਏ || ੨੭||
ਜਿਤੇ ਅਉਲੀਆ ਅੰਬੀਆ ਹੋਇ ਬੀਤੇ || ਤਿਤਿਓ ਕਾਲ ਜੀਤਾ ਨ ਤੇ ਕਾਲ ਜੀਤੇ ||
ਜਿਤੇ ਰਾਮ ਸੇ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਹੁਇ ਬਿਸਨ ਆਏ || ਤਿਤਿਓ ਕਾਲ ਖਾਪਿਓ ਨ ਤੇ ਕਾਲ ਘਾਏ || ੨੮||
(Dasam Granth, Akaal Ustat)
According to the chronology given by Hindu tradition and scholars, Vishnu took his seventh incarnation in the form of Rama in Treta yug. Dhru and Prahlad, the two child Bhagats, came in Satyug, i.e. millions of years before Rama, the king of Ayodhya. Guru Granth Sahib is the propagator of strict monotheism. It cannot worship anything or anybody except the Nirankar who is formless, omnipresent and does not take birth or incarnations. So the call of Guru Granth Sahib to everyone is very clear, to meditate on the name of the Lord as vigorously and as devotedly as it was done by Dhru and Prahlad. ਰਾਮ ਜਪਉ ਜੀਅ ਐਸੇ ਐਸੇ || ਧ੍ਰੂ ਪ੍ਰਹਿਲਾਦ ਜਪਿਓ ਹਰਿ ਜੈਸੇ ||੧|| (336) At this time there was no existence of King Rama of Ayodhya.
ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮ ਕਹਨ ਮਹਿ ਭੇਦੁ ਹੈ ਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਬਿਚਾਰੁ ||
ਸੋਈ ਰਾਮੁ ਸਭੈ ਕਹਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਕਉਤਕਹਾਰ ||੧੯੦||
“O Kabeer! It does make a difference, how you chant the Lord’s Name, ‘Raam’. This is something to consider. Everyone uses the same word for the son of Dasrath and for the Wondrous Lord. ||190||”
ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮੈ ਰਾਮ ਕਹੁ ਕਹਿਬੇ ਮਾਹਿ ਬਿਬੇਕ ||
ਏਕੁ ਅਨੇਕਹਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਗਇਆ ਏਕ ਸਮਾਨਾ ਏਕ ||੧੯੧||
“O Kabeer! Use the word ‘Raam’, only to speak of the All-pervading Lord. You must make that distinction. One ‘Raam’ is pervading everywhere, while the other is contained only in himself. ||191||”
The divide of North and South over the status of Rama and Ravana is all too visible. Whereas in the North Rama is revered, the same status is not conferred on him in the South. Though Guru Gobind Singh ji in his ‘Ramavtar’ has critically analysed at length the epic of Rama and Ravana, but he has also given a very interesting note at the end about the spiritual status of Rama and Ravana.
ਸਾਧ ਅਸਾਧ ਜਾਨੋ ਨਹੀ ਬਾਦ ਸੁਬਾਦ ਬਿਬਾਦਿ ॥
ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਕਲ ਪੂਰਣ ਕੀਯੋ ਭਗਵਤਿ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥੮੬੨॥
“It is difficult to decide who was a saint and who was not; it is a contentious issue. My job was to complete this epic with the grace of God – which I have done.”
(Dasam Granth, Raamavtaar)
The Ramavtar ends with the cantos which forms a part of the daily prayer of the Sikhs and declare unequivocally that after I have come to the feet of the Lord I will not even look to any one else. Rama, Rahim, Puranas, Quran all give different versions of God, but I shall heed none.
ਸ੍ਵੈਯਾ ॥ਪਾਂਇ ਗਹੇ ਜਬ ਤੇ ਤੁਮਰੇ ਤਬ ਤੇ ਕੋਊ ਆਂਖ ਤਰੇ ਨਹੀ ਆਨਯੋ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਹੀਮ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਕੁਰਾਨ ਅਨੇਕ ਕਹੈਂ ਮਤ ਏਕ ਨ ਮਾਨਯੋ ॥
ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਬੇਦ ਸਭੈ ਬਹੁ ਭੇਦ ਕਹੈ ਹਮ ਏਕ ਨ ਜਾਨਯੋ ॥ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਸਿਪਾਨ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਤੁਮਰੀ ਕਰਿ ਮੈ ਨ ਕਹਯੋ ਸਭ ਤੋਹਿ ਬਖਾਨਯੋ ॥੮੬੩॥
Note: The author, a lawyer by vocation, is editor of Sikh community journal ‘Sant Sipahi’ and an expert in Sikh legislative affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.