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AMAR KATHA,

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AMAR KATHA, of unknown authorship, comprises a mixture of diverse hagiographic traditions bearing on the life of Guru Nanak. The work remains unpublished, but several manuscripts are known to exist: for instance, two of them, dated AD 1818 and 1872, respectively, are preserved in the Guru Nanak Dev University Library at Amritsar, one, dated 1877, in the Punjabi University Museum, Patiala, one, dated 1870, at the Panjabi Sahitya Akademi, Ludhiana, and one, dated 1825, in the Sikh Reference Library until it perished in the Army attack in 1984. Compiled probably towards the end of the eighteenth century, Amar Katha draws upon all the prevalent janam sakhi cycles such as Puratan, Miharban and BaJa along with the interpolations introduced by the Handalias (q.v.).This miscellany narrates Guru Nanak`s life in terms of the usual legend, myth and miracle.

It begins with the customary invocatory passages seeking immortality for the reader as well as for the listener. These are followed by the first cluster of about seven (in some manuscripts split into twelve) sakhis. Opening with an account of the genesis of the Universe, this section tells us how Niranjan Nirankar, the Immaculate Formless One, ramained in a nebulous state for full 144 aeons; how He, then, created by His will mays, followed by the creation of various gods and goddesses. It was through gods Visnu, Brahma and Siva that human beings were created.

Then Nirankar ordained Baba Nanak (who is none other than Nirankar`s manifest facet) to retrieve the four Vedas for the benefit of mankind. Here follows the account of the four aeons detailing their salient features and enlisting the incarnations of Nirankar each aeon had witnessed. This section ends with Guru Nanak`s advent in the dark age, to show mankind the way to liberation. The following section on Janampatri is extension of the Bala tradition. The date of the Guru`s birth given here is the full moon day of the month of kartik in 1526 Bk/AD 1469an example of the compiler following the Bala tradition which has been used as the broad framework into which anecdotes and accounts picked from other current sources have been fitted.

Then there are sakhis reiterating the significance of surrender to the Guru`s will and of the company of the holy in realizing the Supreme Being. A few of the sakhis attempt to explain some of the sayings of Guru Nanak. Some are purely folkloristic in character containing fragments from old ballads sung by minstrels to extol Guru Nanak. Since most of the sakhis comprising this work have been lifted from different traditions, the change in idiom and style becomes apparent with change in the source from where a particular sakhi is picked.

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