All days are auspicious for the Sikhs and important religious (miri-piri) events are celebrated for their spiritual significance and not due to any particular days. Yet, historiographers do try and establish as accurate a record of dates and events as possible from available original sources. This year, we commemorate 350th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh ji’s Parkaash (birth). Traditionally, Poh Sudi 7, 1723 Bikrami or 22 December, 1666 AD has been “popularised” as the date when Gobind Das (Guru Gobind Singh ji after Khalsa Vaisakhi of 1699) was born at Patna.
The date has been adjusted to 5 January according to the solar (sun) based Nanakshahi Calendar of 2003. This date was given by those who wrote many decades after the Guru period (1469-1708) e.g. Koer Singh (Gurbilas 1751), Sukha Singh (Gurbilas 1797), Santokh Singh (Suraj Parkash 1843) and Giani Gian Singh (Twarikh Guru Khalsa 1880) – see footnote*
Yet, the “Bhatt Vahis” of the Guru period give Guru Ji’s date of birth as Poh Sudi 7, 1718 Bikrami i.e. 18 December 1661 A.D. There is similar confusion about Guru Nanak Sahib’s Parkaash Divas which is traditionally celebrated on “Katak di Puranmashi” – lunar (moon) date in the Indian month of Katak. Yet, most historiographers now agree that Guru ji was born on Vaisakh Sudi 3, Samat 1526 i.e. 15 April, 1469 AD. The same goes for the Parkaash dates of Guru Hargobind ji and Guru Har Krishan ji. Bhatt Vahis and other ancient records show that both Guru ji’s were some years older than mentioned by writers and “parcharaks” going by traditional Sikh literature.
We need to understand why the records kept by the Bhatts and the Pandas, who lived during the Guru period are more reliable than those which have been written long after the Guru period. The “Vahis”are written records about families and events. The livelihood of the Bhatts and Pandas depended on these records.
The Bhatts were Brahmins and some became the early Sikhs of Guru Nanak. There are 123 Bhat compositions in Sri Guru Granth Sahib known as “Bhata(n) de Savaiyeay”. “Panda Vahis” are the genealogical records – accounts of the ancestry and descent of a person or family – maintained by Brahmin family Pandits at Haridwar which has been the place for death rites. It is claimed that family records can be traced back for over twenty earlier generations.
Guru Kian Sakhian are accounts of the Sikh Gurus written on the basis of Bhat Vahis collated by Bhai Sarup Singh Koshish towards the end of the 18th century. These are based on Sarup Singh’s own Bhat family records and have certain authority as contemporary sources regarding the events described.
So, from the above it can be seen that we come up with different dates for some of the most significant events in Sikh history of the Gurus and even later period. The divisions regarding the Nanakshahi Calendar of 2003 have added to the confusion.
As is often said, Sikhs have been too busy making history but too careless about keeping accurate historical records.
(*Ref. S. Gurinder Singhj Sacha’s research paper about Guru Gobind Singh Ji’ Parkassh date.).
Gurmukh Singh OBE