BY DR KAMALROOP SINGH (AKALI NIHANG)
THE HAGIOGRAPHIES OF GURU NANAK DEV JI SUCH AS THE SRĪ GUR NĀNAK PARKĀSH GRAṄTH, AND OTHER OLDER JANAMSĀKHIĀ, NARRATE THAT THE NASĪHATANĀMĀ WAS SAID IN A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE KING OF MISAR OR RUM (REGIONS AROUND EGYPT AND TURKEY), WHO WAS A CRUEL TYRANT, AND GURU NANAK DEV JI.
IT IS A LETTER OF ADVICE FROM GURU NANAK TO THE EMPEROR OR THE KING NAMED AS HAMID KARUN. HE IS ADVISED BY THE GURU TO DO GOOD DEEDS AND BE KIND AS GOD HAS BESTOWED WEALTH ON HIM. MONEY SHOULD BE SPENT ON GOOD CAUSES, AND THAT MONEY BELONGS TO HIM WHO SPENDS IT. THE WORLD IS TRANSIENT, ONLY THE TRUE GOD IS ETERNAL, THEREFORE NO ONE SHOULD FEEL PROUD OF HIS POSSESSIONS AS WE ARE ALL BOUND TO PERISH, AND ONE SHOULD REMEMBER THE NAME OF GOD (NĀM).
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What is the Nasīhatanāmā?
The hagiographies of Guru Nanak Dev Ji such as the Srī Gur Nānak Parkāsh Graṅth, and other older Janamsākhiā, narrate that the Nasīhatanāmā was said in a conversation between the King of Misar or Rum (regions around Egypt and Turkey), who was a cruel tyrant, and Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is a letter of advice from Guru Nanak to the Emperor or the King named as Hamid Karun. He is advised by the Guru to do good deeds and be kind as God has bestowed wealth on him. Money should be spent on good causes, and that money belongs to him who spends it. The world is transient, only the True God is eternal, therefore no one should feel proud of his possessions as we are all bound to perish, and one should remember the name of God (nām).
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The Nasīhatanāme are a popular style of letter or epistle and the word nasīhat comes from the word nasiha or advice in Arabic. This type of letter is similar to the mirror for princes, and usually states a moral reason for they were written and presented to rulers.In this case it was that Sultan Hamid Karun (Kārun, Persian: نور), who was a merciless leader, and through his tyranny had amassed much wealth: 'Haisan tab sultān hamīd karūṅn vī baṛa zālam thā jahāṅ tīkar daulat sī.' Hearing about this both Bhai Mardana and Guru Nanak both journeyed to Rum to the Royal Court of Karun: 'Tāī Mardanā dovaiṅ jaṇai chale gāī sultān hamīd karūṅ de darbār ate agale.' (1) Some scholars believe Rum is Rome but in fact it is actually the old name of Anatolia (Turkey) or the Sultanate of Rum. This is in fact where the famous Sufi mystic Rumi gets his name from, literally meaning the one from Rum. Bhai Mani Singh writes that Guru Nanak Dev Ji went to the City or area of Ru m, Bābā jī Rūm Shahir ge,' and also gives the name as Hamid Karun. (2) Later, other hagiographers mention Misar or Egypt and the only rulers of both of these areas at the time were the Ottomans. This composition is apocryphal as it is not in the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
(1)Bhāī Bāle valī Janamsākhī, Amritsar: Chattar Singh Jivan Singh, 2000, pp. 227-233. The fourth and final Udasi of Guru Nanak Dev Ji lasted around three years from 1519-1521 AD and covered Mecca, Medina and the Persian- Arab countries. The Guru was around the age of 50-52.
(2)Bhai Mani Singh, Giān Ratnāwalī, Amritsar: Chattar Singh Jivan Singh, 2001, pp. 346-350.
What is its history?
In historical terms, Emperor Selim I had control over this area during his reign and was a known miser. Three powerful Kings of that period: Babur, Selim, and Ismail, all knew each other, and had both friendship and rivalry. (3) Clearly, the name of the Emperor does not match with the name Karun, but it could be that the Guru was drawing on and comparing him to the mythical King Croesus (Karun in Arabic) who was known for his fabulous wealth. In the Holy Qur'an there is also a story of a Karun from the time of Moses, in the Surat al-Qasas, which is about a man who accumulates more wealth than the Pharaoh. He is the same character as Korah of the Old Testament, that is, Croesus, who was commissioned by the pharaoh to suppress the Israelites.
Selim I from the 16th century
Cunningham (1849) has not understood who this Karun was and took it to be a corruption of Harun from the famous Harun el Rashid, which cannot be the case. (5) It may be that this composition takes Guru Nanak Dev Ji to a realm outside of history, into legends and myths. Some of the hagiographies speak about his teacher named Pir Jalal who was a renowned Islamic scholar from Egypt, and who could have been a contemporary of Guru Nanak.
Rattan Singh Bhangu in his conversation with Captain Murray does not take this myth to be literal or historical:
Dohira. After hearing my narration, Murry remarked, that all his doubts about Guru Nanak had been removed. But how did Baba Nanak hold a discussion with Emperor Karun? He certainly had his doubts about it. (1)
Chaupai. The Emperor Karun’s empire existed thousands of years ago, so how could Baba Nanak have a dialogue with that emperor. Then I gave an explanation to Murray, that there was an anomaly about this dialogue. (2) Baba Nanak himself never narrated this episode in his own words, but some foolish chronicler had written it as a dialogue. Later on another more irresponsible writer further expanded it, and made further interpolations into this episode. (3) They neither tallied the chronology of years between the two personages, nor did they calculate the time lag between the two events. Since such discussions between saints were quite prevalent in those days, some odd writer had recorded it as a discussion. (4) They could not differentiate between an episode and a discussion, as the foolish writers could not ascertain the real facts. I regard the first chronicler as an irresponsible romantic fellow, and count the latter writers in the same category of romantics. As some idiots mistake a dried empty beehive for a worn out moon splinter, much as some others regard an oil- seed crusher as God’s eye lashes’ colouring stick. (5) Dohira. Although there is a gap of thousands of years separating, the times of Muslim emperor and Baba Nanak. But this myth about Karun’s forty heaps of wealth, Had been written time and again by these writers.6. There had been an emperor by the name of Karun, Baba Nanak had just referred to Emperor Karun’s myth. And how he had piled up forty heaps of coins, and how he died empty handed even after amassing such a huge wealth. (7) There was an ancient prophet by the name of Amar, Who had met and blessed Emperor Karun. But the foolish writers have attributed (6) his incident, as a dialogue held between Karun and Baba Nanak. (8) Bhangu has a very strong argument, so what we can say is that this letter was given to a King as was the custom, which includes moral advice with reference to the legendary Karun, but the King himself could not have been called this name, which could be an error and interpolation by early Sikh writers, which Bhangu rightly makes note of. As he suggests it could be dialogue about King Karun rather than a meeting which is also a possibility. The style of the writing is generally different from most of the compositions in the primary scripture of the Sikh canon, the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The language in the Nasīhatanāmā is called ‘Turki’ and is an idiomatic language, based on Punjabi and Lehndi,
a A e s h
k K g G | (Gutturals)
c C j J \ (Palatals)
t T f F x (Cerebrals)
q Q d D n (Dentals)
p P b B m (Labials)
X r l v V
o a e sa ha
ka Ka ga Ga Va
ca Ca ja Ja Ya
qa Qa wa Wa Na
ta Ta da Da na
pa Pa ba Ba ma
ya ra la va Ra
Taken from Param Akharīkī Paintī Akharī
by Sher Singh (1942) (2)
The Paintīs Akharī is a rosary of the thirty-five letters of the Gurmukhi alphabet above. It is the spiritual explanation of each of the letters. Each sentence begins with each letter in turn. Bhai Kanh Singh Nabha says that this has been written by a Sikh, however, traditional organisations like the Nirmale, Taksal, Udasi, Sewa Panthi and Akali Nihang Singh Panths all believe this to be the work of the Guru. This includes great Sikh saints like Sant Baba Bhagwan Singh Ji. It is apocryphal and not in the Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but as we shall see it is still found in ancient handwritten manuscripts..
(2) I was lucky enough to meet a student of Sant Sher Singh ‘Nirmala’, whose name is Sant Baba Giana Singh who is now over 105 years old and a master of Jhatka-Gatka. I went through this book at his Divine Feet, and he generously taught even more than what is contained within it. I am forever indebted to him.
In terms of ritualistic practice, this composition is for Japa, or to be repeated. Some great Sikh Masters say to read the Mūl Maṅtra before this composition and tofinish it with a Shaktī maṅtra (there are two different types), at the end to complete it, known as a paisachī . One of them sounds like an Udasi maṅtra at the end, while the other maṅtra is said to have been given to Guru Gobind Singh on revealing the Bhagauti. The Paiṅtīs Akharī was said to be practiced on the full moon, but othersbelieve this is against Gurmat or the thinking of the Guru, like Kanh Singh of Nabha. The Suṅdar Guṭkā published by Sant Mohan Singh contains apocryphal banīā that are nowconsidered by some as being false bānī and unworthy to read, such as the Paiṅtīs Akharī.
This bani was probably an oral tradition that got written down at a later point. The old manuscripts show that as certain letters have been changed like Abinashi to Avinashi. As this Paiṅtīs Akharī is not in the Adi Guru Granth Sahib Ji, this may give reason to believe that this composition was a part of the learning process, in order to recite Gurbani. Many ancient manuscripts like the one below contain this bani.
The Paiṅtīs Akharī in a manuscript from the 18th century. Photograph © by the author. (3)
Taken at Baba Bagel Singh Nihang Museum, Sri Bangla Sahib, Delhi.
(3) Prīchhiā Pātshāhī 10, New Delhi: Baba Baghel Singh Museum, Bangla sahib.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Dr. Kamalroop Singh, I am a Sikh and a member of the Khalsa, and belong to the Nihang Singh order, under the leadership of 96 Crori Singh Sahib Jathedar Akali Baba Surjit Singh Nihang. I began my journey back in 1995, when I met some inspirational Sikhs. I have been reading about and practising as a Sikh from a young age, I took initiation into the Khalsa in 1999.
I have travelled around India and stayed with the Nihang Singhs and Sants, and I also took basic santhia from the Dam Dami Taksal in Amritsar. After finishing my degree in Chemistry I completed an MPhil and PhD in Sikh Studies. My chosen subject was the Dasam Granth Sahib, my thesis was titled ‘Dasam Granth Re-examined’. A book titled ‘ The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh: Essays, Lectures and Translations’ has been published with Gurinder Singh Mann, by Oxford University Press. ‘Dasam Granth Questions and Answers’ has been published which was written with Mann Sahib also, please see it at www.archimedespress.co.uk.
I am a linguist and have worked for the Crown Prosecution Services and taught languages at the School of African and Oriental Studies. I have been a consultant to a number of museums and galleries around the world, and I regularly travel and teach about related subjects.
Many thanks to Dharama Kaur Khalsa who requested a translation of this bani to be made. We first discussed this was about ten years ago when I visted Espanola with Nihang Giani Sukha Singh! Please forgive any mistakes beloved Sadh Sangat jio and pray that I may continue serving the Guru Khalsa Panth Sahib. Das, Kamalroop Singh.
Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Bhāī Bāle valī Janamsākhī, Amritsar: Chattar Singh Jivan Singh, 2000.
G. B. Singh, Gurmukhī Lippī dā Jānam te Vikās, Chandigarh, 1950.
Kavi Kankan, Das Gur Kathā, Amritsar: Khalsa College, ms. 1797A.
Kohli, Surinder Singh, A Critical Study of Adi Granth. Delhi, 1961.
Nabha, Kanh Singh, Mahan Kosh, Amritsar 2001.
Sahib Singh, Adi Bīṛh Bāre, Amritsar: Singh Brothers, 2002.
Shackle, C., An Introduction to the Sacred Language of the Sikhs, n. d.
Pothī Paiṅtīs Akhārī, Lahore: J. S Sant Singh & Sons, 1937.
Prīchhiā Pātshāhī 10, New Delhi: Baba Baghel Singh Museum, Bangla sahib.
Ṭīkā Paiṅtīs Akhārī, Sant Dal Singh Ji Gyani, Lahore: Khalsa Press, n.d.
You can download a PDF here.