JAPU, with the Punjabi complimentary ji commonly suffixed to it as ah honorific, is the opening composition of Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. At the head of the table of contents of the volume, this composition is recorded as Japu Nisdnu, meaning the `flag composition Japu` or, according to some other excgeis `authcnticated/a/m`. The title Japu is from the verb japand (lit. to repeat orally) or what is meant for meditating or repeating, usually silently, with or without the help of a rosary, of the name of a deity or of a mantra (lit. spell, incantation).

Japuji is the most riveting Sikh prayer recited by the devout early in the morning. The composition is not assigned to any particular rdga or musical measure, as is the rest of the Scriptural text. It, however, forms part of the liturgy for the preparation of amril, consecrated water used in the Khalsa initiatory rites. Japuji is universally accepted to be the composition of Guru Nanak, the founding prophet of Sikhism, although, unlike other scriptural hymns and compositions, it remains anonymous without being credited individually to any of the Gurus.

Opinion is however divided about the date and manner of its composition.One conjecture is that it came to be given its present form and arrangement as a serialized collection of some of Guru Nanak`s revelatory meditations at a later period of his life at KartarpuronRavi, possibly by Bhai Lahina (Guru Arigad) at his own behest. The sloka at the close of the Japuji also appears with a slight variation in Guru Granth Sahib, p. 146, where it has been unambiguously credited to the second Guru (Guru Arigad). That the thought was Guru Nanak`s own is evidenced in his sabda in Rag Maru (GG, 102021). But in a fragment of the PurdtanJanam Sdkhi, that has come down to us, the Japuji is recorded to have been uttered by Guru Nanak at the time of his mystical encounter with the Master which is supposed to have occurred in the River Bciri much earlier.

Preceded by what is called Mul Mantra, the basic statement of creed, the Japu comprises an introductory sloka and 38 stanzas traditionally called pauns and a concluding sloka attributed by some to Guru Angad. The initial sloka too appears again in the Scripture as a preamble to the 17th astapadi of Guru Arjan`s famous composition Sukhmam, the Psalm of Peace. The entire composition including the Mul Mantra, two slokasand the thirty-eight pauns form the sacred morning prayer Japuji Sahib or Japu Nisdnu. It serves as a prologue to the Scripture and cncapsules Guru Nanak`s creed and philosophy, as a whole. It embodies in a concentrated and compact style his vision of the Ultimate Reality and traces the path which a seeker must adopt to realize it.

The Mul Mantra, comparable to Gdyatn Mantra of traditional Hinduism and the Kalimd of Islam, defines the nature of Reality as the One Transcendent, the Timeless Creator, owing Its Existence to Itself, realizable only through the Guru`s grace. The Truth or the True One, as the initial sloka announces, ever was, is, and shall forever be. He is unattainable through intellectual workouts or austerities. How can the Truth be realized? How can the barrier of falsehood be demolished? The answer is, by moulding one`s life in accordance with hukam and razd, i.e. His Will and Pleasure. Hukam is the regulative principle controlling the entire created existence.

The understanding of hukam will rid the seeker of his Iamness which individuates him and throws a wall around him separating him from his spiritual essence. One can attain the truth by glorifying His Name and singing constantly His praises. The self-governing Lord of Lords is unknowable, indescribable and inscrutable. The individual`s one and only one duty is to pray that he always remembers Him who is the sustainer of all that exists. 

There is no other way to comprehend Him except to attune our consciousness to Him by listening to or about Him {suniai or sravana).Realization will come through reflection, meditation and faith (manana and mannan) and a loving remembrance (bhdu or nididhydsana). Among the objects of reflection and meditation are the illimitable expanse and variety of the created nature. Through this awareness of the vastness of His creation will break forth upon the seeker`s consciousness the ineffability of God, the ever existent Creator, true King of kings whose will reigns supreme.

Man must learn to submit to His will and pleasure. This in a nutshell is the substance of the leaching underlying stanzas 1 to 27, couched in a simple and direct style.The remaining stanzas, though exploring the same theme of search for Godrealization are cast in a more concentrated idiom and are pregnant with classical allusions and mystic content. It is for this reason that some commentators ascribe this part of the Japu to a later period of the Guru`s life. Pointing the way to realization.

Guru Nanak immediately rejected the path of the Nalha Yogis, and their magical and mystical powers and practices. The path to Godrealization comprises five stages. Man`s spiritual progress begins in Dharam Khand, that is, the realm of duty or morality.The first requisite is the purity of conduct. This temporal and spatial earth is the field for righteous action.

From here, God in his grace will lead the individual, if he has been living virtuously and if he has been true to his social obligations, to the next stage. The stage following will be that of Gian Khand, the region of knowledge. This will mean the dawning in the individual`s consciousness of the knowledge of the vastness of God`s creation and the comparative puniness and insignificance of the individual`s existence. The third stage is Saram or Srama Khand, the region of toil not physical hard work but inward cogitation and meditation on knowledge gathered through the physical faculties so as to train the reflective faculty, intellect, and mind in such a way as to acquire an understanding of the godly and spiritual qualities.

But the real spiritual force comes into effect at the next stage, Karam Khand, the region of grace. It is the descent of God`s grace that ushers the seeker`s soul to vistas of indescribable beauty, heroism and bliss. Beyond these four regions is the region of eternal Truth, Sach Khand, the abode of the Formless One creating innumerable universes and revelling in the vision of His own creation. In the last paun (stanza 38), the Guru employing the imagery of the mint shows how the elixir of the True Word is prepared and eternal bliss attained by cultivating certain qualities issuing from the Grace of God.

“Patience is to act (diligently) as the goldsmith does and moral discipline the smithy; right understanding his anvil and knowledge his hammer; God`s fear his bellows and sustained hard work his fire; thus does the elixir drop into the vessel of devotion and the Word realized in the true mint.” In the concluding sloka, the imagery used changes. “Air is the Guru, water the father, and the vast earth the mother. The whole world is playing in the laps of the two nurses, i.e., Day and Night.” The great sustaining principle, Dharma, watches their deeds and categorizes them whether they arc acceptable or not.

Those whose actions prove acceptable will obtain seats closer and others will be cast far behind. Those, sayeth Nanak, “who have cherished the Name Divine will emerge triumphant and save not only themselves, but countless others, too.” The sloka has traditionally become part of the Sikh liturgy and is recited singly or in unison by the sangal at the end of a service. The language of the Japu is old Punjabi mixed with sddh bhdshd or sadhukan, the lingua franca of holy men in medieval India, with liberal borrowings of conceptual vocabulary from Arabic and Persian as well as from Braj and Sanskrit, their form freely modified to suit the Punjabi idiom, script and inflectional system.

Even some philosophical terms have been invested with special connotations different from those carried in the source languages. The style is generally terse, compact and direct, and mythical allusions are minimal. The vision of the poet far transcends time and space as exemplified in phrases such as `asankh ndv asanakh thdv.` `ddi, anilu, anddi, andhaii` and `khand, mandal, varbhandd.` The message of the Japu is abiding in nature and universal in application. It simply describes the nature of Ultimate Reality and the way to comprehend it, and is not tied to any particular religious system. 

In a word it simply defines Sikhism, the religious view of Guru Nanak.The Japu carries an important message. Over the centuries it has shaped the Sikh ethos of devotion and action. JAPU, popularly known as/dp Sdhib, by Guru Gobind Singh, is the introductory invocadon in his Dasam Granlh. In this hymn the unicity of the Supreme Being is proclaimed and He is delineated as the One amidst the multiplicity of his creation.

The positive and the negative attributes of the Creator are sung so as to illuminate the human spirit. The exact dale of the composition of this poem is not known, but it is commonly accepted as one of Guru Gobind Singh`s earlier compositions.The four years of his early youth he spent at Paonta were the most creative, and the Japu is generally believed to have been composed during that period. Jap is a Sanskrit formation, derived from the root jap which means `to utter in a low voice`. In common usage, Jap means adoration by repeating reverentially God`s name as a sacred formula, fdp is a regular part of the Indian religious discipline wherein God is remembered by innumerable names signifying and symbolizing His different attributes and deeds. Like Guru Nanak`s Japu, Guru Gobind Smgh`sJdpu is a text for daily recitation.

It is one of the regimen of five Sikh prayers to be repeated every day.It is also one of the five bdms which arc recited as amrit is being churned for the rites of Sikh initiation. The composition comprises 199 versepieces in 10 different metres, namely Chhappai, Bhujangprayat, Chachari, Rual, Bhagvaii, Haribolamana, Charpat, Madhubhar, Rasaval and EkAchliari, which arc repeated with varying effects. How incapable human intellect is of defining and counting all of His names is proclaimed at tlie very beginning.

Guru Gobind Singh describes the Creator as beyond marks and symbols, castes and hues, forms and garbs. He is immutable, selfluminous, limitless and the Supreme Sovereign of all the three worlds. Every particle of Nature proclaims, “He is Infinite, He is Infinite.” God is beyond all religions and denominations: Namastan amajabe. Namastasatu ajabe. (Japu, 1`7).

He is formless, invisible, immeasurably great; His mystery is impenetrable, His glory is indefinable, His holiness is unsurpassable. “Hail Thee, Lord Eternal! Hail Thee, ever Merciful! Hail Thee, Thou Supremely Beautiful! Hail Thee, Sovcrcgin of all” (Japu, 19). He is Destroyer and Creator: He is Death, yet the Sustaincr. Darkness and light, tumult and peace may appear contradictory to the finite human mind, but God is above these contradictions. He is darkness as well as supreme illumination.

The Supreme Being, called Akal, the Timeless in Japu, may manifest Himself in many forms, shapes, colours, qualities, quantities, but ultimately He is One: “ek murali anek darsan km rup anek hhel kheli akhel khelan, ant ho phiri ek” (Japu, 81). He is allpervading and is the essence of all spiritual experience. A significant aspect of this composition is its characteristic language. In the Japu, Guru Gobind Singh has employed with telling effect, powerful rhythmic and flowing alliterative diction a mixture of Braj Bhasha, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Punjabi.

Sanskrit words have been used both in their original (tatsam) and popular (tadhhav) forms.Words of Arabic and Persian origin have also been used in abundance. The peculiarity lies in fusing words of Sanskrit origin with those from Arabic and Persian, fdpu is the example of a language popular in varying degrees in northern India when Bhakha or Hindi was developing. Such verbal experiments served the purpose of imparting universality and catholicity to the expression.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Aslit.i, Dliarain Pal, The I`oeli`y of the Dnsam Granlh. Del lii, 1959 2. Loclilin, C..H., 77)i” Gmnfh of Guru Gohind Singh find the K/inlsfi KrothnlKwd. Lucknow, 1971 S. Copal Singli, Thus Sfwke the Truth Master. Paliala, 1978 `1. Jaggi, Rattan Singh, Das/im Grnnlh Pnrirhnya. Delhi, 1990 5. Randhir Singh, Bhai, and Taran Singh, ed., Sabadarth Dasam Granth. Paliala, 1977

References :

1. Talib, Giil`bachan Singh, /eihuji: Thr Immortal Prn^rr Chant. Delhi, 1977
2. Sohan Singh, The Seekrr`s Palh. Calcutta, 1959
3. I`uran Singh, The fapji nfCum Nnnnk. Amrilsar, 1929 o1. Wazir Singh, Humanism of Gw-u Nanak. Delhi, 1977
4. Ram Singh, Japji da Vis/in t.e Rup. I.iiclhiana, 1969
5. Vohra, Asha Nand, jnpuji da Alaiikdrik Saundarya. Ruhlak, 1975
6. Jaggi, Rattan Singh, ed., Curiwm Tike: Anandghana. Patiala, 1970
7. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Japuji Satvk. Amrilsar, 1950