Amritsar: Sikhs living in Western countries will no longer have to wait for the supply of the Guru Granth Sahib, as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has given its nod to the printing of the holy text in the US and Canada.
The SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikhs with an annual budget of nearly Rs.500 crore (Rs. 5,000 million), has the exclusive and legal rights for publication of the Granth Sahib worldwide. It has now decided to allow its publication, along with other Gurmat literature, (philosophy of the Gurus) abroad.
The move is likely to come as a major relief for NRI Sikhs across the world who had to depend on the supply of the holy book from the SGPC`s Golden Press at the Golden Temple complex here. The holy book is currently printed only in Amritsar.
Sikhs residing in California, the US, have already offered an eight-acre plot of land for setting up a printing press for publication of the holy book there. In Washington DC, Sikh residents have offered a piece of land in the vicinity of the White House.
"The SGPC had been getting requests for a long time from Sikhs settled abroad for allowing publication of the Guru Granth Sahib there. The decision to allow that has been taken. Talks are on for setting up printing presses there," SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh said.
The SGPC is preparing a project report for the exercise to allow printing of the holy book abroad. Trained SGPC personnel will be sent to the countries where the new printing presses are set up to train Sikhs there for publication of the holy book as per the Sikh religious code.
The SGPC used to send the holy book to Sikhs residing abroad by air or sea. In certain instances, affluent Sikh NRIs had even sent chartered aircraft from other countries to get copies of the Granth Sahib. On each such flight, the holy scripture is kept separately on each seat of the aircraft after following the religious `maryada` (decorum). SGPC-appointed sewadars (volunteers) accompany the scriptures on such flights.
At times, Sikhs residing abroad had to wait for a long period to get their copy of the book due to limited publication as well as transportation hassles.
The clearance for publication of the holy book in other countries, subject to strict adherence to the `Reyat Maryada` (Sikh religious code of conduct), has been given by the SGPC.
"We were open to the idea of allowing the printing of the holy scripture in other countries if the Sikh population in these countries could provide the land and resources required for proper printing," SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told IANS.
The 1,430-page Granth Sahib contains Gurbani (Guru`s teachings). It is seen by the Sikhs as the Guru incarnate.
The holy scripture was originally installed at the Harmandar Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple) in 1604 by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev. The 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, had installed the Granth Sahib as the timeless Guru. The Guru Granth Sahib is a sort of living Guru for Sikhs.
The Granth Sahib, also called Adi Granth, contains the compositions of the first five Gurus, the ninth Guru, 15 Bhagats (Jai Dev, Nam Dev, Trilochan, Parmanand, Sadna, Ramanand, Beni, Dhanna, Pipa, Sain, Kabir, Ravidas, Farid, Surday and Bhikhan) and 11 Bhattas (Mathra, Jalap, Harbans, Talya, Salya, Bhal, Kulh Sahar, Nal, Kirat, Gayand and Sadrang).
The Guru Granth Sahib contains 5,894 hymns in 15,575 stanzas. Of these, 974 hymns are written by the first Guru Nanak Dev, 62 by the second Guru Angad Dev, 907 by the third Guru Amar Das, 679 by the fourth Guru Ram Dass (founder of Harmandar Sahib), 2,218 by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev, and 115 by the ninth Guru Tegh Bahadur. Among the remaining 922 hymns of Bhagats, the highest number of hymns - 541 - is by Kabir.
Considered an authentic scripture, the compositions of the Sikh Gurus were preserved and subsequently collected by Guru Arjan Dev. When the original copy (which is now at Kartarpur in Pakistan) could not be obtained, Guru Gobind Singh dictated it to Bhai Mani Singh.
The scripture is used by the Sikhs at the time of birth, marriage and death.
The Guru Granth Sahib is regarded as the body of the Guru and is kept on a raised platform under a canopy, covered in clean clothes. Devotees have to be barefoot with their heads covered before bowing before the Granth Sahib.