CHANDI CHARITRA, title of two compositions by Guru Gobind Singh in his Dasam Granth, the Book of the Tenth Master, describing in Braj verse the exploits of goddess Chandi or Durga. One of these compositions is known as Chandi Charitra Ukti Bilas whereas the second has no qualifying extension to its title except in the manuscript of the DASAM GRANTH preserved in the toshakhana at Takht Sri Harimandar Sahib at Patna, which is designated Chandi Charitra Trambi Mahatam. The former work is divided into eight cantos, the last one being incomplete, and comprises 233 couplets and quatrains, employing seven different metres, with Savaiyya and Dohara predominating. The latter, also of eight cantos, contains 262 couplets and quatrains, mostly employing Bhujang prayat and Rasaval measures. In the former, the source of the story mentioned is Satsaf or Durga Saptasati which is a portion of Markandeya purana, from chapters 81 to 94. There is no internal evidence to confirm the source of the story in the latter work, and although some attribute it to Devi Bhagavat Purana (skandh 5, chapters 2 to 35), a closer study of the two texts points towards one source, i.e. Markandeyapurana. Both the works were composed at Anandpur Sahib, sometime before AD 1698, the year when the Bachitra Natak was completed. The concluding lines of the last canto of Chandi Charitra Ukti Bilas as included in the Dasam Granth manuscript preserved at Patna, however, mention 1752 Bk / AD 1695 as the year of the composition of this work.
In these compositions, Chandi, the goddess of Markandeya purana, takes on a more dynamic character. Guru Gobind Singh reoriented the old story imparting to the exploits of Chandi a contemporary relevance. The Chandi Charitra Ukti Bilas describes, in a forceful style, the battles of goddess Chandi with a number of demon leaders, such as Kaitabha, Mahikhasur (Mahisasur), Dhumra and Lochana. The valiant Chandi slays all of them and emerges victorious. The battle scenes are portrayed with a wealth of poetic imagery. The last incomplete canto contains an invocation to God addressed as Siva. The second Chandi Charitra treats of the same events and battles, though in minuter detail and in a somewhat different mode of expression. The main point of these works, along with their more popular Punjabi counterpart Var Sri Bhagauti Ji Ki, commonly known as Chandi di Var, lies in their virile temper evoked by a succession of powerful and eloquent similes and by a dignified echoic music of the richest timbre. These poems were designed by Guru Gobind Singh to create among the people a spirit of chivalry and dignity. This is the name given to the fourth Bani in the second holy scriptures of the Sikhs called the Dasam Granth. This text spans from page 175 to page 297 of the 1478 pages of this holy book of the Sikhs. (Original text is over 1428 pages).
The summary of this Bani is narrated by Gobin Sadan at:
| "The Chandi Charitra follows and in fact is a part of the Bachittar Natak. The aim of writing this piece was to inspire the common man to rise up against the tyrannical rulers of the time and to fight and sacrifice all they had for their freedom. He invokes the blessings of the Almighty God thus.
Deh Shive bar mohe ihe. Shubh karman tey kabhoo na taron.
This composition is in the form sawaiye-an Indian metre of one and a quarter line. The mood is essentially forceful and fierce. The descriptions of the battles have been brought out beautifully through the use of similes and metaphors. The battle scenes are a true portrayal of the strategies and maneuvers of warfare as practiced in the times. The style is lucid and clear leading to a vivid and true presentation of the theatre of war. Although based on the Durga Saptashati of the Markandey Puran, the writings have an independent form and style giving them an identity of their own.
The third piece of writing associated with the portrayal of Chandi is called Chandi di Vaar. Written in fifty-five stanzas, this is the only composition this is in Punjabi. The first stanza of Chandi di Vaar forms the introductory part of the ardaas, the Sikh prayer.
Pritham bhagouti simar key Guru Nanak layin dhyay....
Following the invocation, this composition highlights the major events and incidents about Chandi as mentioned in the ancient writings. The remaining portion is a description of war. Since it is written in such a clear style and deals with matters related to war it appeals strongly to soldiers and warriors. In the ancient times literature of this kind was read during the wars to enthuse the warriors to heights of glory and heroism even today the same tradition prevails.
The main reason for writing about Chandi so many times was that Guru Gobind Singh Ji wanted to affect a sea change in the mental make up of the society, to enthuse and encourage them for the war of Righteousness that he planned to undertake. Thus Chandi the embodiment of might in the female form was described in all her majesty and glory, her strength and might. And as expected through his inspirational writings the Guru was able to transform the character of the multitudes totally. At the same time, he agrandised the image of the mother placing it on a pedestal unequalled by any."
The aim of these ballads (1st one has 233 verses, the 2nd has 266 verses, the 3rd has 55 verses) is to inspire warriors to stand up for truth and righteousness in the face of tyranny and oppression. On a deeper level they deal with the internal struggle to control basic animal instincts. All 3 ballads are extremely metaphorical and deeply narrative in nature, and describe the battles of Durga (also known as Chandi, Bhawani, Kalika) against many demon warlords (such as Sumbh, Nisumbh, Chandh, Mundh, Domar Lochan and Rakt Beej). Based on the tales of Durga in Markandey Puraan, these ballads also weave in the intricacies of the higher power (Akal) that controls creation, yet is also within it. The 3rd ballad, Chandi Di Vaar is also the source of the 'Ardas' (an invocation read daily by all Sikhs).
Jaap | Akal Ustat | Bachitar Natak | Chandi Charitar | Chandi di Var | Gian Prabodh | Chobis Avatar | Brahm Avtar | Rudar Avtar | Shabad Hazare | Swayyae | Khalsa Mahima | Shastar Nam Mala | Charitropakhyan | Zafarnama | Hikayats
- Ashta, Dharam Pal, The Poetry of the Dasam Granth. Delhi, 1959
- Loehlin, C.H., The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh and the KHALSA Brotherhood. Lucknow, 1971
- Jaggi, Ratan Singh, Dasam Granth Parichaya. -Delhi, 1990