If these claims are correct and if in fact the eponymous tradition records the authentic narrative of such a man, it must follow that the Bala Janam Sakhis provide an essentially trustworthy account of the early life of Guru Nanak. For more than a hundred years, from the late eighteenth until the early twentieth century, this claim was scarcely challenged. During the course of the present century it has been vigorously assaulted, without being wholly demolished. To this day popular portraits of the Guru, flanked by Mardana the minstrel and Bala the attendant, testify to a continuing acceptance of its claims. The earliest extant version opens as follows: In the year Sammat fifteen hundred and eighty-two, S.
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If these claims are correct and if in fact the eponymous tradition records the authentic narrative of such a man, it must follow that the Bala Janam Sakhis provide an essentially trustworthy account of the early life of Guru Nanak.
For more than a hundred years, from the late eighteenth until the early twentieth century, this claim was scarcely challenged.
During the course of the present century it has been vigorously assaulted, without being wholly demolished. To this day popular portraits of the Guru, flanked by Mardana the minstrel and Bala the attendant, testify to a continuing acceptance of its claims. The earliest extant version opens as follows: In the year Sammat fifteen hundred and eighty-two, S.
Guru Angad commanded that it be written. Paira recorded the dictation of Bala, a Sandhu latt who had come from Talvandi, the village of Rai Bhoi. He had come in search of Guru Angad. The recording of his narrative took two months and seventeen days to complete. All the facts and all the places visited by Guru Nanakji were faithfully and fluently described by Bhai Bala, with the result that Guru Angad was greatly pleased with him. When he returned after locating the vital document, Paira Mokha was deputed to transcribe it.
There then follows the lengthy collection of anecdotes which constitutes the earliest version of the Bala Janam Sakhi tradition. Two conflicting theories have been advanced to explain the origin of the earliest of the extant Bala Janam Sakhis. Such an interpretation is rendered insupportable by the inconsistencies and fantasies which it provides in abundance.
The first theory does, however, affirm a modified version of the Bala claim. Within the earliest text there are to be found references which are plainly traceable to the seventeenth century Hindali sect. Early in the nineteenth century, Bhai Santokh Singh suggested that these references were to be explained on the grounds that the original Janam Sakhi authentically dictated by Bhai Bala had been mischievously corrupted by Hindali interpolations.
A version of this theory is still current. The profuse legendary material is, it affirms, the product of interpolation. Behind it there lies an original and essentially reliable Janam Sakhi which may be restored by stripping away the extraneous content.
This theory is difficult to sustain in that a mere pruning, however drastic, cannot reduce any of the Bala texts to a consistent narrative. The second theory takes account of Janam Sakhi as a typical seventeenth century product, a composite work incorporating the results of a lengthy period of oral growth and transmission.
Other extant Janam Sakhis demonstrate the same process. The Bala tradition differs in its wealth of fantasy and in its attempt to establish authenticity by the contrived introduction of an eyewitness narrator. Its actual composition may have been the work of the Hindalis; or a seventeenth century text may have been interpolated by them in the manner suggested by Santokh Singh. Hindal interest of some kind is plainly evident in all early manuscripts of the Bala tradition.
It may be safely affirmed that no person of this name could have been the constant companion of Guru Nanak as none of the other early traditions refer to him. This omission is particularly noteworthy in the case of Bhai Gurdas. It would, however, be going too far to deny his existence entirely.
Bala Sandhu may well have been a real person. Although the second of the theories outlined above reduces the Bala tradition to the level of other early Janam Sakhis it does nothing to minimize the importance of the tradition in later Sikh history. Bala primacy had been firmly established by the end of the eighteenth century and its hold upon nineteenth century affections is clearly demonstrated by the degree to which such writers as Santokh Singh, Sant Ren, and Bhai Bahilo rely on it.
When the introduction of printing produced a spectacular expansion of recorded Janam Sakhi materials, the growth was almost wholly monopolized by the Bala tradition. Many of the most treasured of all Janam Sakhi anecdotes derive from Bala sources and, if today one asks for a Janam Sakhi in a bookshop, the volume which is produced will almost certainly be the twentieth century Bala version.
Amongst the numerous extant manuscripts of this tradition, two principal recensions are to be found. In order to do so, the latter compiler has borrowed a death narrative from the Miharban tradition. The oldest of the extant Ba7a manuscripts is the earliest of all Janam Sakhi manuscripts of whatever tradition. Panjabi Hatthlikhtan di Suchi lists twenty-two Bala manuscripts in the Punjab.
Three are located in London and individual items are to be found in various other places. Four editions have appeared since the printing press was first used for Janam Sakhis in An edition lithographed by Hafiz Qutab Din of Lahore in generally follows the earlier of the manuscript versions.
Thereafter, however, there is progressive and substantial augmenting of the text, culminating in the letterpress version which has been current for most of the twentieth century. Auxiliary verb which is conspicuous by its absence in the Guru Granth Sahib and has very low frequency in Puratan, appears in Bala on the pattern of modern Punjabi.
Many of the caseinflexions regularly used in the Puratan have disappeared in Bala. Caseinflexions were a characteristic of the old language, which have been gradually giving way to the postpositions. Again in the use of nasalization, the language of Puratan is akin to that of the Guru Granth Sahib. Many of the verbal and nominal forms which contain nasalized vowels in Bala just as in modern Punjabi are oral in the Guru Granth Sahib as well as in Puratan Janam Sakhi.
The Puratan uses the older forms of the adverbs of time and place, whereas the Bala employs the modern forms of the same adverbs. In general idiom, too, the language of the Puratan Janam Sakhi is certainly older than the language of Bala Janam Sakhi. Mcleod, W. Early Sikh Tradition. Kirpal Sirigh, Janam Sakhi Prampara. Patiala, 3. Kohli, Surindar Sirigh, ed. Janamsakhi Bhai Bala. Chandigarh, AllAboutSikhs is a comprehensive web site on sikhism, sikh history and philosophy, customs and rituals,sikh way of life, social and religious movements, art and architecture, sikh scriptures,sikh gurudwaras.
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The largest Guru Nanak Prakash , with about 9, verses, was written in the early 19th century. The four Janamsakhis that have survived into the modern era include the Bala , Miharban , Adi and Puratan versions, and each hagiography contradicts the other. The first part covers his childhood and early adulthood. The last part presents him as settled in Kartarpur with his followers.