Sikh scholars donate rare manuscripts for posterity

The SGPC should share its rare Birs with those who want to study them.

Sikh scholars and Mr Barnala today talked about the 350 precious Birs which are presently under the care of the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. These Birs are stocked in the space above the seat of the Akal Takht at Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. Mr Barnala was pained to recall how he once saw dust accumulated on these Birs, which were written and transcribed for the good of people. He called upon the SGPC to share the precious resource with scholars and others.

The catalogue, revised and edited by Prof Kirpal Singh from Punjabi University, Patiala, was released by Tamil Nadu Governor Surjit Singh Barnala today. While lauding the generosity of Dr Nirankari and Dr Madanjit Kaur, Mr Barnala spoke of the lofty purpose of this exercise. He also admonished the museum director to take care of the precious collection, citing an experience from his state, "Some of the rarest manuscripts from a palace in Tamil Nadu have gone missing. The onus of guarding this legacy lies on us."

As of today, the manuscript section in Government Museum comprises 50 rare manuscripts, of which 22 in Gurmukhi have been gifted by Dr Nirankari. Today, Dr Nirankari recalled the manner in which precious manuscripts were created, collected from the world over and then disseminated by the keepers of Sikh faith. "The fragments of Sikh wisdom were compiled by the gurus in 1604 AD. That was when they instructed their followers to transcribe the Adi Granth for use by Sikh scholars. Even when Sikhs assumed political power, Misl leaders were duty bound to install copies of the Adi Granth in gurdwaras and also provide them to soldiers who went to fight. Each such copy is a great work of art, and bears beautiful illustrations."

For her part, Dr Madanjit Kaur, a Sikh historian, has donated 1600 rare books to the museum. The collection is priceless both in terms of historical richness and content – it features discourses made in 1700 AD, accounts of European travellers, dictionaries in languages like the Persian and the French. The rarest of all is the "hukamnana" of 1701 by Guru Gobind Singh in which He instructed the Sikhs not to follow the "masands" as they had strayed from the path of pure service to the faith. Her collection also features 310 coins and specimen of "Darshani rumalaas."

All this and much more has been documented in the catalogue which has three sections – one on the Adi Granth, also called Kartarpuri Bir; another one on miscellaneous manuscripts related to the life of Guru Nanak Dev, and yet another one on Damdami Bir, which contains the verses of Guru Tegh Bahadur to the Adi Granth.

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