Before his death Guru Gobind Granth Singh, the 10th Guru ordained that from then on ‘Adi Granth’ should be recognized as the manifest body of the Gurus- and hence the name Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Guru Granth is the ‘Holy Book’ or the Sacred Scriptures of the Sikhs. No Sikh ceremony is regarded complete unless it is performed in the presence of the Holy Granth.
The Granth is written in Punjabi and contains the actual words and verses as uttered by the Sikh Gurus. It was first compiled by Guru Arjan in 1604 and then added to and recopied by the 10th Guru Gobind Singh. Every copy of the Holy Granth, whatever the size, must consist of 1430 pages. A unique feature of the Granth is that it also contains a good number of passages or verses written by non Sikhs i.e. Muslims, Hindus and even so called ‘untouchables’. This was done to demonstrate the Sikh’s for other saints and tolerance for all faiths. Altogether the Granth includes 5,894 Shabads (hymns or holy verses) which are arranged in 31 Ragas (musical measures).
The Holy Granth is given the utmost respect by the Sikhs and is accorded the same reverence as would have been given to the Living Prophet. In the Gurdwara it is placed on a dais with a canopy above and is covered with the best available and often richly embroidered cloths or materials. Sikhs usually place an offering in cash or kind or both as they approach the Holy Granth, and bow down low on their knees to show their respect. A ‘Granth’ (one who reads the Granth) or a sewadar (volunteer) remains in constant attendance and holds a Chowdry (a symbolic whisk of sovereignty) which he occassionally moves over the ‘Holy Book.’
The first correct English version (translation) of the Granth was made by Max Arthur Macauliffe and was published by Oxford University Press in 1909. But before Macauliffe, a German missionary Dr. Ernest Trumpp had also attempted to translate the Granth into English in 1877, which was later considered poor and untrustworthy by the Sikhs. However, the best rendering of the Granth, and in free verse, is done by Dr. Gopal Singh although Dr. Manmohan Singh has also produced an excellent translation in free verse.