FARĪDKOṬ ṬĪKĀ, the earliest full-scale exegesis or annotated version of the Gurū Granth Sāhib, was prepared under the patronage of the princely rulers of the state of Farīdkoṭ. Hence its popular name Farīdkoṭ Vālā Ṭīkā or, for short, Farīdkoṭ Ṭīkā. Its full title is Ādi Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib Jī Saṭīk. Saṭīk literally means with ṭīkā, annotation or commentary.
The Gurū Granth Sāhib is an anthology of spiritual poetry of six of the Gurūs and a number of medieval saints as well as of some of the followers contemporary with the first five Gurūs. The language used is, by and large, Punjabi or Hindi, not difficult to understand. Yet, because of its poetic form and philosophical content and the linguistic peculiarities bequeathed it by a long range of time and space it spanned, the Scriptural text transmitted to the laity required to be annotated and explained. In consequence arose a whole body of exegetical literature; also several schools of interpretation. The starting-point is that corpus itself. Successive Gurūs clarified, elaborated and expounded in their own verse the meaning of the compositions they had inherited. The Janam Sākhīs contain these interpretations clothed in much hagiographical detail. This is especially so in the case of writers attempting to provide a setting and background to the hymns they are expounding. One prominent example is the pothī by Bābā Miharbān. The writings of Bhāī Gurdās (d. 1636) are placed by some in the same category.
During the eighteenth century and up into the early part of the nineteenth, the task of interpreting and preaching the Holy Writ primarily rested with the Udāsī and Nirmalā schoolmen. In the worst days of persecution they were left unmolested. They remained in control of Sikh shrines and institutions; also during the time when the Sikhs had established their authority in the Punjab. All instruction was carried out orally. The only writings of this period were the Rahitnāmās which were, strictly speaking, rules of conduct rather than works of exegesis. The first Udāsī exegete of this period who left a written record of his scriptural studies was Ānandghana, who completed his ṭīkā of Japu in 1795, followed by exegeses of several other bāṇīs. Ānandghana was the first to separate historical account from interpretative comment. His interpretations are saturated with Upaniṣadic lore and are densely Vedantic rather than Sikh, and are apparently a conscious reincubation of Hindu ideology in Sikh thinking.
Nirmalā scholars generally echoed the Udāsī trend of interpreting Sikh scriptural texts in the inflated style prescribed by Hindu commentators on Upaniṣadic and Vedic texts. Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh (1788-1843), the most prominent among the Nirmalās, did write his Garabgañjanī Ṭīkā (ṭīkā to humble the garab, i.e. pride, of Ānandghana) in criticism of Ānandghana's interpretations in his Japu Ṭīkā, but he too was writing from within the Hindu framework and represented a deep Brāhmaṇical influence. Besides ṭīkās, annotation of scriptural writings continued to flourish throughout the nineteenth century in the form of Prayāi (glossaries) and Koś (dictionaries), two prominent illustrations being Granth Gurū Girārath Koś (1895) and Prayāi Ādi Srī Gurū Granth Sāhib Jī De (1898).
A new phase of exegetical writing began with the advent of Western learning. It was, in fact, a Westerner scholar, Ernest Trumpp who first took up an end-to-end English translation of the entire Gurū Granth Sāhib. But Trumpp's scorn for traditional interpretations of the faith and his overt antipathy towards it earned him the reproach of the entire Sikh people. Following the publication of Trumpp's work in 1877, unfinished though it remained, Rājā Bikrām Siṅgh, ruler of Farīdkoṭ (1842-98) and patron of the Amritsar Khālsā Dīwān, commissioned a full scale commentary in Punjabi on Gurū Granth Sāhib. The first draft prepared by Giānī Badan Siṅgh of Sekhvāṅ was ready by 1883. It was then revised by a synod of Sikh scholars representing a wide variety of schools of thought current among the Sikhs, with Mahant Sumer Siṅgh of Paṭnā Sāhib as chairman. Other members of the committee were Giānī Harbhajan Siṅgh of Amritsar, Sant Siṅgh of Kapūrthalā state, Jhaṇḍā Siṅgh of Gurdwārā Nānakīāṇā Sāhib, near Saṅgrūr, Rāi Siṅgh of Jaṅgī Rāṇā, Dhiān Siṅgh of Sekhvāṅ, Paṇḍit Hamīr Siṅgh Saṅskritī, Paṇḍit Bālak Rām Udāsī Saṅskritī and Bābā Bakhtāvar Siṅgh Giānī. The revision was completed during the time of Rājā Bikram Siṅgh, but he did not live long enough to see publication of the work he had sponsored. The printing started during the reign of his successor, Rājā Balbīr Siṅgh (1869-1906). Three volumes came out during his time and the fourth and final one during the reign of his successor, Mahārājā Brijindar Siṅgh (1896-1918). By this time the first edition had already run out. A large number of the sets had been presented free of cost to gurdwārās and to scholars. The rest were sold at a nominal price. Meanwhile, suggestions for further revisions and for the use of standard Punjabi instead of Braj in the exegesis had been pouring in from various Siṅgh Sabhās and Khālsā Dīwāns. The Mahārājā ordered, in August 1918, the formation of a revision committee and, pending the revision, ordered the publication of a second edition to meet the immediate demand. However, his untimely death a few months later (22 December 1918) upset the entire plan. The proposed revision never took place, though a second edition did appear in 1924. Mahārājā Brijindar Siṅgh's successor Rājā Harindar Siṅgh was averse to the idea of a revision. He used to say that the ṭīkā had been commissioned by his ancestors and it must remain in the same form and style in which they had left it. The original copy of the ṭīkā is still preserved in the toshākhānā of the late Rājā. There have, however, been reprints of the original brought out by the Languages Department (Bhāshā Vibhāg) Punjab, the first one in the series appearing in 1970.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)