Structure of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Arjan planned to arrange the writing not by subject, but accordingly to musical measures, or 'Raags' in which the hymns are meant to be sung. The composition which is musical is also metrical, and so follows definite metrical schemes. So on this basis, the Hymns of Shabads are divided into different parts or padas. Each pada consists of one or more verses. The other divisions are pauris, sloks, chants, swayas, etc.

There are some compositions with special headings and with special meaning or for specific purposes like ‘Lava(n)’, the marriage song written by Guru Ram Das. The Sloks of all the Gurus were at one place. Vars were only composed of pauris. According to the subject of the Vars, Guru Arjan selected the sloks and put them with the pauris. The sloks which were left over were put at the end under the heading, ‘Slok Vara(n) Te Vadheek.’ So, in this way the Pothi was divided into four major parts.

First came the Banis of the Nitnem – that is Jap Ji, Rahiras and Sohila. Second was the Bani in Ragas, which makes the major portion of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Each Raag starts with the compositions of the Gurus and ends with those of the Bhagats. Third was that Bani which was not in a specific Raag. That is saihaskritee sloks of Bhagat Kabir and Bhagat Farid, and Swayas of Guru Arjan and the bards (Bhatts). The fourth and last portion was the remaining sloks and concluding hymn, ‘Mundaavanee’ (seal) written by Guru Arjan. At the end is the Raagmala, the list of the Raags in the sequence of the traditional Indian catalogue style popular then.

The whole Bani of all the Gurus including the Bani of Guru Arjan and the Bani of the Bhagats is in thirty Raags. The thirty Raags are as follows: Sri, Maajh, Gauree, Aasa, Goojaree, Devgandhaaree, Bihaagraa, Vadhans, Sorath, Dhanaasree, Jaitsree, Todee, Bairaaree, Tiland, Soohee, Bilaaval, Gau(n)d, Ramkalee, Natnaaraaion, Maalee Gaurhaa, Maaroo, Tukhaaree, Kedaaraa, Bhairao, Basant, Saarang, Maljar, Kannaraa, Kaliaan and Prabhaatee.

The thirty-first Raag in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is "JaiJavantee." It was added there by Guru Gobind Singh. It contains the Bani of Guru Teg Bahadur only, the ninth Master, and was added when Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 compiled Sri Guru Granth Sahib from his memory at Dam Dama Sahib. (Bhatinada district-Punjab).

Guru Arjan put the Guru’s Bani in order: Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan. Guru Angad’s sloks he put in the vars and slok Vaaraa(n) te vadheek. Following Guru’s Bani he put the Bani of the Bhagats. There is Bani of fifteen Bhagats: Bhagat Kabir, Bhagat Nam Dev, Bhagat Trilochan, Bhagat Jai Dev, Bhagat Shaikh Fariid, Bhagat Sadhana, Bhagat Beni, Bhagat Ramanand, Bhagat Ravi Das, Bhagat Peepaa, Bhagat Sain, Bhagat Dhanna, Bhagat Bhikhan, Bhagat Parmanand and Bhagat Sur Das. He also put the hymns of four devoted Sikhs: Bhai Mardana in raad Vadhans, Baba Sundar ki in Raag Ramkalee.

He put the swayas of eleven bards following his own swayas. The swayas written by bards are in praise of all the five Gurus from Guru Nanak to Guru Arjan. The eleven bards are as follows: Kal Sahar, Jalap, Kirat, Bhikha, Sal, Bhal, Nal, Gayand, Mathura, Bal and Harbans.

While compiling the Adi Granth, Guru Arjan specifically took care of the following things:

(1) He rejected the Raags which were expressive of excessive exuberance or sadness.

(2) He did not use Raagas according to the Indian catalogue style popular in those times, as the ragas were divided into families, sons, daughters, and wives called Raaginis. But Guru Arjan did not make any distinction between a raga and a raagini. Raaginis were also used as ragas. Raaga literally means something that colors or tints the mind with some definite feeling. Raag also means love, attachmend.

(3) He did not include the poetry of the saints which gave the slightest feelings of ego, discrimination, caste consciousness, sex, prejudice, degradation of human life and renunciation, etc.

(4) The language that he used was the accepted vehicle of literary expression at that time. The metaphor of the Bani is homely and direct, such as one would experience in the daily course of one’s life.

(5) Each hymn was very carefully numbered so that no one could add or subtract any hymn of any verse.

(6) The poetry of the Bhagats was also selected and edited because people had also started writing poetry under their names.

The Aad Pothi: Guru Nanak through Guru Ram Das
Compiling the Adi Granth: Guru Arjan
Structure of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib
Installing the Adi Granth and the First Hukam

Excerpted from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darshan written by Dr. Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa, Bhai Sahiba and Chief Minister for Sikh Dharma International. To order the complete 236 page book, visit the Ancient Healing Ways website.

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