After reports from abroad that the Guru Granth Sahib, the prime Sikh holy scripture and ‘living guru’, is being published in China and made available online, the Akal Takht has termed it an act of sacrilege and issued directions to the community not to “purchase, accept or procure its copies in any form”.
Also, on directions of the temporal seat, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) got a case registered in Amritsar against a website and its administrator purportedly based in the US, even as details remained sketchy. The SGPC also plans to raise the matter with the Chinese ambassador.
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh issued his ‘ban’ order on Monday based on e-mails from some Sikhs in the US and Canada, though he admitted he had not seen any China-made copy of the scripture. The Takht termed the alleged printing as “an attempt to disrespect” the scripture as only the SGPC has the authority to print and publish Guru Granth Sahib, in Gurmukhi script.
The case was lodged against Thaminder Anand and sikhlink.com under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, on charges of hurting religious sentiments, at the Kotwali police station on a complaint by SGPC secretary Manjit Singh.
“The case was got registered on whatever little information we were given by some Sikhs based in the US and Canada. The air is still to be cleared about who this person, Thaminder Anand, is and also about the website,” said SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.
A visit to the website on Monday evening showed links for ‘free books’ that redirected to another address — sikhbookclub.com — where several religious books, including a dictionary about Guru Granth Sahib, were available for downloading as soft copies. There was another link that provided an email ID for ordering hard copies, though apparently it only promised copies of Japji Sahib, a sacred hymn. There was no active link available for the Granth as such.
According to information collected from the internet, the location of sikhlink.com is Los Angeles in California, US, and the registrant is Thaminder Anand. It was created in September 1998 and the next expiration date is September 2015.
The SGPC, meanwhile, is set to raise the matter at a diplomatic level. “We will go to New Delhi and give a formal complaint to the Chinese ambassador, asking for a probe and details of the publisher,” Makkar said.
Pressed about details, Makkar replied, “As of now we do not have any details. We are all relying on information being provided by others.”
The jathedar too appealed to the Sikh sangat (community) to share any information they had about China-printed scriptures. The SGPC said it had started a probe through its “own sources”. “We will have all details is a day or two,” said a senior SGPC official.
Holy printing process and ‘sacrilege’
According to the Sikh maryada or tradition, alleged publishing of Guru Granth Sahib in China is an act of sacrilege as the Akal Takht has vested such authority only in the SGPC. The printing is done at Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib in Amritsar since the first swaroop or copy of the ‘Adi Granth Sahib’ — that later became a ‘living guru’ and perpetual successor to the 10th Sikh guru, Gobind Singh — was handwritten at the spot where Gurdwara Ramsar now stands.
The fifth guru, Arjan Dev, had the bani (compositions) of all gurus prior to him and many saints compiled into the Granth.
During the printing, rules dictate that the people involved must be baptised Sikhs and must wash their hands before working on each page. Even for discarding pages for wrong spellings or printing error, these are collected and ardas (prayer) performed, after which the pages are consigned to the flames. Old copies of Guru Granth Sahib are also ‘cremated’ this way. Even for transporting the scripture, certain rules have been laid down.
“The scripture is sold at a very nominal price by the SGPC which barely covers the cost. Out of respect, people generally give much more than the printed cost,” said SGPC additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi.
In the past, certain private publishing houses have been summoned to the Akal Takht for printing the scripture. Cases of discarded pages being sold as waste have often come to the notice of the Takht and stringent religious punishment been awarded.