The Chobis avatar (also Chaubis Avatars or 24 Avatars) is the name given to the seventh Bani in the second holy scriptures of the Sikhs called the Dasam Granth. In the standard Dasam Granth Sahib printed in 1897, the Chaubis Avatar Bani is from page 155-page 611 of the Granyh's 1428 pages. At website of Gobind sadan, this text spans from page 643 to page 1343 of the 1478 Pages. On website [sridasam.org Sri Dasam], it spans from page 644 to 1345.
It is a collection of tales of twenty-four incarnations of the demi-god Vishnu that forms a part of the Bachitra Natak, in Guru Gobind Singh's Dasam Granth. The complete work contains a total of 4,371 verse units of which 3,356 are accounted for by Ram Avtar and Krishna Avtar. The shortest is Baudh Avatar (The Buddha) comprising three quatrains, and the longest is Krishn Avtar, with 2,492 verse units, mostly quatrains.
Chaubis Autar does not appear to be the work of one period. It was a long project which was in execution for a decade or more. While Krishnavtar is stated in verse 2, 490-91 to have been composed in Samvat 1745/AD 1688 at Paonta when Guru Gobind Singh was residing there, Ram Avtar, according to verses 860-61 was composed at Anandpur in Samvat 1755/AD 1698 near the temple of Nainadevi, close to the bank of the River Sutlej.
The texture of the language is neoclassical Braj. The poet has employed a variety of metres, and made them responsive to the passing moods or emotions and changing situations. The metres are alternately short and long in consonance with the increasing and lessening of the fury of battle. Blank verse in Punjabi has been inserted for the first time by the poet in the SirkhandT metre (Ramavtar, verses 467-70). Punjabi words keep cropping up as in the heading of a Krishnavtar episode lukmichan (hide and seek) and in referring to a king condemned to be incarnated as a lizard (kirla, in Punjabi). At one place in Ramavtar (verse 657-68) Persian words are blended with Hindi to make rekhta: the language that was the precursor of modern Urdu. The range of vocabulary thus becomes vast and varied.
Aim of Bani
The aim behind the bani was to tell the Sikh Jagat to know what these 24 avtars were, Guru sahib never worshipped these avtars but he created this historical account of Vishnu, not only vishnu but Shiv and brahma too.
The description of 24 Avtars given in Sri Dasam Granth are the incarnations of god Vishnu. The most important of all the Avtars are Rama and Krishna; It is mistaken belief of Hindus to call them as the Supreme God. It was to clarify the Mistaken Beliefs of people that the Avtars were God, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee took pains to write about these 24 Avtars, giving their limitations and pitfalls. It was never the intention to teach to worship them, but to enlighten people to Worship One Creator God Alone, Who is Infinite and is the Ultimate.
The summary of this Bani is narrated by Gobin Sadan at:
| "This is a very important literary piece. In this the stories of twenty-three Avatars of lord Vishnu have been included. These are Machch, Kachch, Nar, Narain, Mohini, Varaha, Narsingha, Baman, Parasram, Brahma, Rudra, Jallandhar, Bisan, Sheshmai, Arihant, Dev, Manu Raja, Dhanantar, Sooraj, Chandra, Ram Krishan, Nar (Arjan), Budh and Nehkalanki. Of these, Krishnavatar is the longest followed by Ramavatar and then Nehkalanki avatar. While some of the facts included are as per the scriptures, the writer has also used his own imagination to further elaborate on the facts.
At the beginning, Guru Gobind Singh Ji has clearly stated his aim for writing this literary piece. In this God has been referred to as the source and fountain head from which all avatars have come forth. Whenever the earth gets weighed down by evil and sin, God sends down lord Vishnu as an avatar. But even the avatars fall prey to their inflated ego hence face the displeasure of God who then sends another avatar. Each of these avatars is an expert at martial arts and strategies. It is this aspect of their personalities that is of utmost significance to the Guru."
Hereunder are the 38 Introductory Points of the 24 Avtars, as stated by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee, which should ever be kept in Mind while examining the translations of Hindu Sacred Books made by the Guru and included in Sri Dasam Granth. It was due to these translations of Hindu sacred books of Hindus having different approach from the Sikh; the Guru decided that his Compositions to remain separate from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee. These translations make a Sikh to appreciate GURMAT more clearly than otherwise, if any one would read judiciously.
- Chaupai – Now I recite as I have seen the feats of the 24 incarnations.O Saints! Listen to it attentively; Poet Shyam will describe them according to wisdom blessed him by God.
- As and when many inimical persons emerge (and the spirit of righteousness decreases), it is supposed that the incarnation of god Vishnu take place. The Time aspect of the Lord God (Kal) beholds the feats of all and ultimately perishes one and all.
- Kal is the ultimate Creator of all and ultimately subsumes all in Him. He assumes His many forms and at the end merges all in Him.
- KAL created the Ten Incarnations and in all of them pervades Himself (The Transcendent Lord). Beside ten, fourteen other incarnations have also been created and the feats they have performed are delineated here.
- Kal (Supreme Lord) keeping His Own Name concealed and not shouldering any blame holds all others responsible for their evils. This fact I know already that He keeps Himself detached from the temporal activities of this world.
- Kal Himself creates, Himself destroys but making others the efficient CAUSE FOR THE GOOD AND EVIL HOLDS THEM RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR DEEDS.
- The so called 24 incarnations, O Lord, could not maintain even an iota of You. Becoming worldly kings they got deluded in the worldly affairs and are known by many names.
- O Lord! You have been deluding one and all but You Yourself were never deceived by anybody. That is why You are called the Deluder (Chaliya) also. Seeing the saints suffering, You become anguished and that is why You are called Friend of the poor (Deen-bandhu).
- Time to time You annihilate the whole Universe and that is why this world calls You KAL also. On different occasions and in different Ages You have been helping the saints and accordingly these Avtars have been counted by the saints.
- Seeing the helpless, You show Your kindness and realizing this we call You the Friend of the poor ones. Your compassionate sentiments rain upon the saints and that is why the world calls You the Treasure of Compassion.
- You always wipe out the troubles of the saints and that is why Your one Name is Trouble Wiper, Sankatharan. You have been destroying the suffering of the saints and that is why You are called Perisher of the Suffering.
- You are ever Eternal and none could know Your mystery. That is why Your Name is Infinite, and is also known. In the world You through Your Light assume the forms of all and that is why Your Name is called the Creator also.
- None could perceive You so far, so Your Name is Imperceptible, is also known. You never take birth in the world and that is why You are called Unborn by the people.
- In the process of knowing Your mystery, the poor fellows, Brahma, Vishnu, Mehesh etc. have got tired. Moon and Sun also ponder upon You, that is why You are known as their Creator.
- You also remain without any guise so the world says You are beyond ALL THE GARBS. Your Invisible Form is not known to anybody and that is why You are delineated as Imperceptible.
- Your Beauty is Incomparable and Form Infinite, guise or no guise You are different from all. You are the Giver to all and You Yourself beg from nobody. That is why we know you in the form of Creator.
- You do not get influenced by the omens and the auspicious time etc., this s known to whole world. No Mantra, Yantra or Tantra can make You happy and even through different garbs none could attain You.
- The Creatures of the world are deeply engrossed in their own selfish ends and none has identified the Transcendent Lord. To attain You many go to the cemeteries or the cremation grounds but in both these places no Lord is there.
- These both types of persons engrossed in their infatuations and oral debates are waste, but O Lord! You are different from these both. Attaining Whom one clears away the delusions of the heart, before that Lord, no one is Hindu or a Muslim.
- One uses beads and the other keeps rosary; one recites the Holy Koran and the other Purans. Persons of both these sects are dying while opposing each other and none of these have got the fast color of the love of the Lord.
- Those who have dyed the fast color of the Lord, their repudiating the worldly shame dance in sheer happiness. Those who have identified the one primal Lord from their hearts the sense of duality has perished.
- Those who are absorbed in the sense of duality i.e. who consider them separate from the Lord are in fact away from meeting Lord, the Supreme Friend. Who has even a BIT UNDERSTOOD THE Lord in fact has understood Him as the Supreme Reality.
- As much as yogis, ascetics, the shaven heads and Muslim Fakirs are there, they assuming their different guises are looting the world. The saints whose total base is the Name of the Lord, never become manifest before the people and keep themselves concealed.
- The worldly creatures show their hypocrisies just for the sake of bread and butter because without hypocrisy they do not get any monetary profits. The person who has concentrated upon one supreme reality, has never shown any pretensions to anybody.
- Without pretensions the selfish ends are not attained and none bows before anybody. Has this belly not been there attached with the body, no body would have been king or a pauper in this world.
- Those who have accepted God as One, have never shown pretensions to anybody. Such person gets his head cut but never repudiates the Truth. And only such person accepts this body as a particle of dust.
- Split ear, the individual is known as Yogi, who being variously hypocritical goes to the forest. If he has not realized the essence of the Name of the Lord, he is neither useful in the forest nor he remains of any use for the household.
- How long this poet can describe because one tongue cannot know the mystery of the Infinite. May be somebody has crores of tongues, even then the end limit of Your ocean of qualities cannot be known.
POINT 29 IS MOST IMPORTANT – PLEASE NOTE.
- The Primal Lord, called the KAL is the Father of the whole Creation. It is from Him emerged the tremendous radiance, which is known by the Name of Bhavani. This God’s Light (Jot) is called Bhavani or Durga or Kali, etc., which created this Universe. (In Gurmat God’s Light (Jot) in all is called Guru, Satguru or Satguru Poora, verily God Himself).
- First He articulated Oankar and this resonance became diffused in the whole world. From this and the combination of Prakriti and Pursha, the world got expanded.
- The creation got created and since then this is known as the world. Grossly the four mines of creation are described (these are, egg, fetus, sweat and vegetation). I have not that much of power that could describe their various names.
- The Lord created both powerful and the weak and cleared the distinction of the high and low. The Mighty Kal (Lord) assuming bodies through His Light (Jot), manifested Himself in different forms.
- As and when He assumes the body by putting His Light, He becomes popular in the forms of different incarnations. But ultimately all merged in the Supreme Form of the Lord.
- As much as the number of the Jivas are there in the world, consider them all enlightened by the One Flame of the Lord. Whole of world subsumes in the Lord God, Who is known in the form of KAL
- Whatever is perceptible is given the name of Maya by our mind. He, the One pervades through all and people have established Him according to their own understandings.
- The Invisible Lord permeates all, and all the creatures according to their station in life due to their karmas beg of Him. Whosoever has known that Lord as One, only he has attained the Supreme Reality.
- His One Formless Form is superb and He only is at one place, a King and at other a pauper. He has entrapped all variously but Himself is detached from all, and none could know His mystery.
- In different forms He has created all and He only annihilates them differently. He never takes any responsibility of any wrong done; jivas are rather held responsible for their evils.”
The Guru at the onset clarified his views, called Gurmat, which has no commonality with any other ideology. After these Introductory clarificatons, follows the translation of Hindu Puranic stories on 24 Avtars. Invariably the Guru at the end of translation of the life of each Avtar, gave his views where he differed. The views expressed in the translations of the life of Avtars, are not the views of the Guru.
The 24 Avtars are the incarnations of god Vishnu, who himself was full of limitations. These three Trinity gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva had their weaknesses; they even committed crimes, told lies and indulged in adulterous affairs. Points 1 –6, 32 and 29 given above are Most Important. KAL is GOD, Who subsumes all the Creation. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib it is repeatedly stated that there is NO OTHER DESTROYER EXCEPT GOD. God’s Light (Jot) in all creatures, we call it Guru, Satguru and Satguru Poora; verily God Himself. Here the Guru states goddess Chandi , Bhaviani, Durga, Bhaawati, Kali, etc. are none else but God’s Light (Jot), which created the Universe, the Immanent or the Functional God, as part of the Transcendent God. This will explain the Guru’s version of Chandi Chritrars. Chandi or God’s Light or God in Man fights with the temptations of the instinctual passions, depicted as varied names of Demons.
The Chaubis Avtaar
The Chaubis Avatar is the second largest work within Dasam Granth Sahib covering 5297 verses, it recounts the 24 incarnations of Vishnu:
- Manu Raj,
- Buddha, and
- Nehklanki (Kalki).
- The introductory thirty-eight chaupais or quatrains refer to the Supreme Being as unborn, invisible but certainly immanent in all objects. Whenever evil predominates, saviours of the humanity or avatars emerge by His hukam, i.e. order, to reestablish righteousness. They fulfil His will and purpose. Akal Purakh who creates them ultimately subsumes them all in himself. The poet asserts his monotheistic belief here and while enumerating the avatars discountenances any possibility of their being accepted as the Supreme Being, i.e. Akal Purakh.
- In the epilogue to one of the episodes in Krishnavtar occurs a statement repudiating the worship of popular deities like Ganesa, Krishna and Vishnu (verses 43440). The Supreme Being, called in the Guru's authentic idiom, Mahakal (the Supreme Lord of Time) is acknowledged as the Succourer to whom prayer is made to keep operative the defensive might (tegh) and dispensing of charity (deg). Thus is set forth the basic principle of the Sikh faith amid a long literary exercise.
- The poet asserts that he, having descended from the martial Ksatriyas, cannot think of adopting the attitude of a recluse towards the disturbed conditions of his time. The greater part of the tales of Ramavtar and Krishnaavtar are taken up with battlescenes evoked through many alliterative devices with the clash and clang of arms constantly reproduced. At the close of Krishnavtar, in a kind of postscript, is proclaimed the crusader's creed, which is ever "to remember God, to contemplate holy war;and, unmindful of the destruction of the perishable body, to embark the boat of noble repute." The poet has thus extracted the element of heroism from the prevalent stories without projecting the attitude of a worshipper, with the sole purpose of inspiring his followers with the resolve to fight for Dharma, i.e. to uphold righteousness.
- Another component of the Chaubis Autar is Nihkalank Avtar which is a sustained expression of appearance of Nihkalank who would destroy evil and establish righteousness.
- An interesting phenomenon observable in Krishn Avtar is the sliding of the poet from Krsna's mythical career into his own contemporary scene. Among the heroes mentioned some bear medieval Rajput names (Gaj Singh, Dhan Singh, Surat Singh); some Muslim like Nahar Khan, Tahir Khan, and Sher Khan. In verse 1602 malechh which was the pejorative term used for Muslims is used. The name of the city of Delhi appears, which is an anachronism. Such anachronisms indicate how the poet's consciousness was touched by the turmoil in contemporary Mughal times.
- The entire chapter is very narrative and speaks of Dharam always being protected by the Almighty and how this has occured through the various eras. The section covering Sri Krisha, Sri Ram, and Nehklanki is the longest. Each Avtar brings with him a special technique or method of warfare to defeat the enemy he is facing.
- It is this aspect that appeals to the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa as much of this forms the basis for the higher martial art skills within Shastar Vidiya. The avtars can be categorised as being either:
- Shastardhari (using weapons and battle techniques to uphold Dharam, eg, Narsingha)
- Shaastardhari (using wisdom to overcome unrighteousness, eg, Buddha)
- Kalyaandhari (who change their environment through great deeds, eg, Machh)
- The ballad enforces the view that although each Avtar has great powers and carried out great deeds, they all succumbed to egotism. The 'Atma' (soul) of these great beings still derived its strength from 'Parmatma' (Highest of all Souls, ie. the Almighty). The chapter also reinforces the traditional Sikh philosophy than none other than the Almighty Nirankar (formless) God is to be worshipped.
- Following the Chaubees Avtar are 2 ballads: Brahm Avtar (343 verses) and Rudra Avtar (498 verses).
- Chaubis Avatar - accounts of twenty-four incarnations of the Vishnu, according to the Hindus, and Brahmavatar and Rudravatar, selected because of their warlike character. or it maybe that in Indian religion most scriptures focused on the supremacy of One deity over another. Guru Gobind Singh to show the unity of Ik Oankar, intergrated the trimurti into the Bachitar Natak Granth.
- C.H. Loehlin, The Granth of Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa Brotherhood. Lucknow, 1971
- Dharam Pal Ashta, The Poetry of the Dasam Granth. Delhi, 1959
- Ratan Sirigh Jaggi, Dasam Granth Parichaya. Delhi, 1990
- Gurmat info
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