The sheer size of the Gurū Granth Sāhib and the rituals that are observed when it is enthroned and opened for recitation, make for difficulties in its use as a book of private devotion. From quite early on it therefore became common to compile gutke or short anthologies of the principal hymns, the best-known being those called pañj-granthī, containing five major hymns. Over time other hymns were also added.

The manuscript

This gutkā (anthology) was prepared between 1828–1830 for Mahārānī Jind Kaur, popularly known as Rānī Jindān (1817–1863). It consists of three compositions from the Gurū Granth Sāhib, beginning with Gurū Nānak’s Sidh Gosṭi, followed by Bāvan Akharī and Sukhmanī, two compositions by the fifth spiritual master of the Sikhs, Gurū Arjan.

The text is beautifully written in Gurmukhi script with white letters and embellishments on a black background, with ruled and coloured margins and gold and white rules between the lines. Each hymn begins with a full-page coloured illustration, and includes individually numbered folios and a colophon indicating the date of completion. The first illustration depicts Gurū Nānak as a young man, in dialogue with the Sidhs (Hindu ascetics). The remaining two depict Gurū Nānak as an old man in profile, being fanned by a disciple while his companion Mardānā plays the rabāb.

Why is it significant?

Described as ‘a jewel of a prayer book’, this manuscript was lavishly produced for Mahārānī Jind Kaur, wife of Mahārājā Ranjīt Singh and mother of Dalīp Singh. After Ranjīt Singh’s death in 1839, and following the assassination of his first three successors, his youngest son Dalīp Singh ascended the throne in Lahore in 1843 at the age of five. Mahārānī Jind Kaur acted as Regent of the Sikh Empire on his behalf from 1843 until 1846.

The following note is pencilled on the fly-leaf: ‘Tales of Nanuk. This book written in Goormookhee, the Punjabee character, belonged to the Muharanee Jhinda of Lahore, mother of Muharaja Duleep Singh – L Bowring 1848’.