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Bhatt & Bards

Bhatts & Bards in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji

Bhatt Bani (the hymns by the bards) comprising twenty pages is incorporated in the concluding part of Adi Granth. The Bhatts are supposed to be the descendants of Koshish Rishi and are linked with the Sarshat Brahmins. It is a fact that almost all the eleven Bhatts belonged to Punjab and were residents of Sultanpur Lodhi (district Kapurthala) where Guru Nanak had served in the Modikhana for 13 years. According to Bhatt chronicles they were sons or nephews of Bhikha and Toda Bhatts.

During the medieval times Bhatts were more popularly known as the baliad singers whose profession was to compose and sing martial songs. With their narrative and descriptive poetry of war, they led the warriors to the battlefield. When the warriors marched to the battlefield in order to wage a war against the enemy invaders they would narrate to them the heroic deeds of their forefathers, who had laid their lives for the honour of the motherland. They recited the martial poems and aroused passion of the heroes for war and love for the motherland. The compositions of these Bhatts as included in Adi Granth are in the form of eulogies to the first five Gurus. They used the popular form of poetry called Swaiya Chhand. They wrote their Swaiyas in a very distinctive style. Their language, very rich and full of poetic imagery, is packed with elegant and decorative vocabulary. The eleven Bhatts whose Bani is included in Adi Granth are : Kalshar, Jalap, Kirat, Bhika, Salh, Bhalh, Nal, Gyand, Mathura, Bal and Harbans. It is said that they had come to the fifth Guru in a group led by Bhatt Kalshar. It appears some of them had also attended earlier the congregations of Guru Amardas and Guru Ramdas.

According to the chronicler Sant Singh Bhatt as written in Bhatt Bahi, "It was the ninth generation of Bhatt Bhagirath that was blessed with an eminent poet and scholar known as Raiya, who had six sons named Bhika, Sokha, Tokha, Gokha, Chokha and Toda. The Swaiyas entered in Adi Granth mostly are authored by sons and grandsons of Raiya, with the exception of Bhatt Nal. The compositions of these Bhatts popularly known as Bhatt Bani comprise of 123 Swaiyas, written in praise of the first five Gurus."

A significant point to be noted in this respect is that these Bhatts were not mercenaries who wrote for money, on the other hand their compositions were the genuine expression of their love and regards for the Gurus. They were dedicated followers of Gurus and their poetry was the spontaneous articulation of their deeprooted respects for the house of Nanak. According to them right from Guru Nanak onwards, all the Gurus were the carriers of the same light, they were all the incarnations of Guru Nanak, who on his part was the Avtar (embodiment) of Lord 'Vishnu. Oneness of the spirit of the Gurus was the main theme of their Swaiyas.

Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, author of Mahan Kosh has referred to an en the `Sooraj Prakash' by Gyani Santokh Singh which accepts the Bhatts incarnations of Vedas. In other words he has accepted their scholarship, acknowledging them as the store-house of Vedas. Dr. Mohan Singh Diwan . The History of Punjabi Literature has accepted them as the court poets of the G who endeavoured to establish the social, religious and the spiritual state of Gurus in beautiful language.

According to records it is stated that Bhatt Bani was incorporated Adi Granth in AD 1604 by Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru, the compiler of the Ha Granth. During the life time of the fifth great spiritual leader of the Sikhs thei compositions were sung by balladeers, Satta and Balwand in the congregations melodious tunes to enthrall the audience with their devotional overtone.

BANI, recorded under the title Savaiyye, is the name popularly given to the compositions of the Bhatts as included in the Guru Granth Sahib (pp. 1389-1409). Bhatts were bards or panegyrists who recited poetry lauding the grandeur of a ruler or the gallantry of a warrior. Bhatt was also used as an epithet for a learned Brãhman. In the Sikh tradition, Bhatts are poets with the personal experience and vision of the spirituality of the Gurus whom they celebrate in their verse. According to Bhãi Santokh Singh, Sri Gur Pratãp Süraj Granth, "They were the Vedas incarnate" (p. 2121). The Bhatts are-said to have originally lived on the bank of the River Sarasvati which is also the name of the Indian mythological goddess of knowledge. They were thus called Sãrasvat, i.e. the learned Brãhmans. Those living on the other side of the Sarasvat were called Gaur. They showed little interest in learning and contended themselves with alms given them by their patrons whose bansãvalinãmãs or genealogies they recorded in their scrolls called vahis. They are still found on the bank of the Sarasvati in the Talaudã (Jind), Bhãdsoñ (Lãdva) and Karsindhu (Safidoñ) villages in Haryãnã. Some of these families shifted over to Sultanpur Lodhi, now in Kapurthalã district of the Punjab, and settled there. Bhikhã and Todã of these families embraced the Sikh faith during the time of Guru Amar Dãs.

 Bhãi Gurdãs also gives in his Vãrãñ, XI. 21, a brief account of these Bhatts. What was the number of Bhatts whose compositions are included is a question not yet firmly answered. According to a tradition, Kalh, a leading Bhatt poet, took it upon himself to note down some of the verse of the Bhatts from the vahis and passed it on to Guru Arjan at the time of the compilation of the Holy Book. As for the number of Bhatt contributors to the Guru Granth Sahib, Sahib Siñgh, Tejã Singh, Tãran Siñgh and other modern scholars count 11 of them, whereas Santokh Siñgh (Sri GurPratãp Suraj Granth), Bhai Vir Singh (Guru Granth Kosh)and some others among the traditional scholars count 17, and Panclit Kartãr Singh Dãkha puts the figure at 19. This variation in owed to the fact that the Bhatts used to sing in  chorus and sometimes the chorus sung in  a group went in the name of the leader at other times  individually in the members of the group.

From among the 17 Bhatts positions figure in the Guru Granth Sahib, Bhikhã, son of Rayyã, was a resident of  Sultãnpur Lodhi and had been a follower of Guru Amar Dãs. Of the total 123 savaiye in the Guru  Granth Sahib two are of his composition, both in praise of Guru Amar Das Of the remaining sixteen Bhatt contributors four are his sons; Kalh, also called or Kal Thãkur, who is reckoned to be the most learned of all the Bhatts, has 10 in praise of Guru Nãnak, 9 each  of Guru Añgad and Guru Amar Das, 13 in  praise of Guru Ram Das and 12 in praise of Guru Arjan; Jalap who had migrated to Goindvãl with his father has four his name all of which are in praise of Guru Amar Das; Kirat (d. 1634) has eight savaiye, four each in praise of Guru Amar Das and  Guru Ram Dãs; and Mathurã 12, all in praise of  Guru Ram Dãs. Salh who has three savaiye extolling the pre-eminence of Guru Amar Dãs (1) and Guru Ram Dãs (2), Bhalh who has one savaiyya in praise of Guru Amar Dãs were the sons of Sekhã, a brother of Rayya. Balh who has five savaiye stressing the spiritual oneness of the Gurus was son of Tokhã, another brother of Rayya. Haribañs, the eldest son of Gokha, a brother of Rayya, has two savaiyyes , both in praise of Guru Arjan. Nalh has five savaiyyes all in praise of Guru Ram Das. Das also spelt dasu or dasi, has composed ten savaiyyes including one conjointly written with Sevak, who in addition to this has four savaiyye of his own. Parmanand has five savaiyyes are in praise of Guru Ram das, Tal's single one in praise of Guru Añgad .Jalan has two savaiye in praise of Guru Ram Das, Jalh one in praise of Guru Amar Dãs and Gayand five which glorify Guru Ram Dãs. Of the total 123 , ten each pay homage to Guru Nãnak and Guru Angad, 22 to Guru Amar Dãs, Ram Dãs and 21 to Guru Arjan.

The main purpose of these savaiye is to  acclaim the Gurus, not as individuals but as the revelation they embodied.The Bhatts see the Gurus as one light, as one spirit passing from one body to the other. Bhatt Kirat for instance: "Just as (Guru) Angad was ever the part of Guru Nãnak's being so is Guru Ram Dãs of (Guru) Amar Dãs's" Again, Bhatt Kalh: "From Guru Nanak was Angad: from Angad, Amar Dãs received sublime rank. From Guru Ram Das descended Guru Arjan, the great devotee of God" (GG, 1407). This concept of all the Gurus being one light, one voice has informed all along the Sikh belief and development and constitutes today a fundamental  principle of the faith.