Sikh Reht Maryada
Secretary, Dharam Parchar Committee
Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar)
TO THE ENGLISH VERSION OF REHT MARYADA
This English version of the Sikh Reht Maryada is a faithful
translation of the Punjabi original. Translations do not generally need
prefaces. Why the author of this version has chosen to write a preface,
therefore, needs to be explained.
of any work is an extremely hard job: translation of a book of laws
is very much harder, particularly if the laws in question are moral
or religious rules or social conventions which inevitably embody subtle
nuances of a religion's metaphysical, moral and social philosophy. The
translator in this case becomes burdened with the dual responsibility
of ensuring that his translation embodies the full as also the exact
import of the original.
the specific context of the Sikh Reht Maryada, that was essential for
two reasons. Like any book of laws and rules promulgated by any other
religion, the English version of the Sikh Reht Maryada may be taken
as a key to the Sikh spiritual and social philosophy. It must, therefore,
most faithfully, reflect the views of its exalted authors (men of profound
learning, who had not only deeply meditated on Sikhism but lived it
and who drew upon the collective wisdom of an extraordinarily fervent
generation of Sikh divines and intellectuals, apart from a large number
of texts, for compiling these rules) untainted by the translator's own
moral or cognitive predilections which may affect his interpretation
of these rules without his being even aware of it.
The second reason why the English version should embody the full and
exact import of the original is that with the Sikh diaspora over the
globe, the links of the Sikh migrants to other Indian states and foreign
countries with Punjabi are loosening. Also, people, the world over,
have begun to evince interest in Sikhism and some have embraced this
religion. For ensuring uniformity of observances and avoiding unintended
heresy, it was absolutely necessary that the English version of the
Reht Maryada was not just a translation but a totally exact version
of the Reht Maryada.
For securing that, the author of this Version has tried his level best
to translate the original Punjabi text literally. Where the words used
in the original did not have exact equivalents in English or embodied
exotic concepts, he has employed descriptive phrases to bring the ideas
they convey within an English knowing reader's ken.
For these very reasons, he has religiously adhered
to the original text, appending footnotes where elaborations were necessary.
At one or two places, he has interpolated a phrase. But that was to
impart specificity to the context after making sure that the interpolation
did not, in the least, affect the sense or tenor of the text. As regards
the footnotes in the ensuing version, these fall into two categories.
The original (Punjabi) version, had some footnotes. For the author of
this version, they were the part of the sacrosanct text. They appear
in this version against numerals. The footnotes contributed by him appear
against astrick marks.
But, the author of this version has made a rather radical departure
from the system of division of the original text and recast the text
into divisions and sub-divisions devised entirely by him without rearranging
the text. He submits it in all humility that he had found the division
and classification of the original text some-what confusing. He felt
that dividing the text into sections, chapters and articles would place
the subject matter of the text in a clear and intelligible perspective.
So, without tempering with the text in the slightest and preserving
the subject-wise classification in the original, he has organised the
entire text into six sections, thirteen chapters and twenty seven articles.
Headings for most of the chapters were available in the original text.
Where they were not, they have been provided by him.
And now, a few remarks which are indirectly but nonetheless, vitally
relevant to the essence of this translator's mission : producing an
English version of the Sikh Reht Maryada with the object of promoting
uniformity in the Sikh conduct and observances in the interest of deeper
religious cohesion. The Sikh Reht Maryada, as the ensuing preface to
the original Punjabi text will show is the product of collective Panthic
wisdom. What is more, some of the greatest Sikh scholars and savants
of all times contributed to it and deliberated on its contents. So this
work should take precedence on any sectional beliefs and preferences.
In a wider context, the contents of the Reht Maryada should be taken
as the final word as to the matters they deal with. That will foster
And finally, this English version of the Reht Maryada is in a very real
sense the product of a collective endeavor. Into its making have gone
not only this translator's modest talent for translation and labour
but also the initiative taken by Dr. Surjit Singh Gandhi, who, in fact,
prepared a version himself for the S.G.P.C. and put that at this translator's
disposal -- this translator thankfully acknowledges having relied on
it for guidance in relation to several subjects and constant goading
by Principal Satbir Singh, a well-known Sikh Scholar and a member of
S.G.P.C. and S.Manjit Singh, during whose earlier tenure of office as
Secretary, S.G.P.C., the preparation of this version was taken up. No
less valuable is the contribution of those who went through the manuscript
to ensure that it completely corresponded to the Punjabi original. Considering
the high status of these persons in the realm of Sikh religious learning,
their approval of this English version of the Reht Maryada should bestow
on it the status of an authentic version. Omitting to mention the name
of Mr. Mewa Singh (who so painstakingly prepared the type-script from
a none too neat manuscript) in this context, will be an unpardonable
lapse. And finally, equally valuable in the production of the work has
been the contribution, in its laser typesetting, of Mr. Gurvinder Singh
of Standard Data & Word Processors, Patiala, a young man endowed with
extraordinary competence and immense patience.
This translator humbly dedicates his labour to all those who search
for guidelines as to the truly Sikh conduct for self-education or for
regulating their secular and religious life.
Patiala, 31st August, 1994