The Ganjnama is written in classical Persian but also employs Arabic vocabulary. It was composed some time after the creation of the Khalsa in 1699. The poet eulogises the ten Gurus in this long poem attributing them with many titles traditionally attributed to the greatest prophets and Sufi Masters in the Islamic world. In this way the poet seeks to enhance the significance of the Gurus in the eyes of his readers.
The Ganjnama in its entirety is a lesser known composition of the poet, though many of the verses are often portrayed in paintings of the Gurus or sung as shabads in contemporary kirtan. Examples of these are the ‘Nasro mansoor Guru Gobind Singh” and “Badshah Darvesh Guru Gobind Singh” verses.
The composition begins with a Persian translation of the opening lines of Asa di Vaar followed by a eulogy of the Eternal Satguru. The poem is then followed by praise of the ten historical Gurus in successive form specially emphasising the mystical letters in the names of the Gurus. For instance, the poet breaks down the name 'Nanak' into its individual letters (n-â-n-k) and portrays the mystical dimensions of Guru Nanak's being. According to the poet, the name ‘Nanak’ expresses the Guru's divine attributes as the face of Khudâ, the greatest mystic the world has ever produced and a benefactor on mankind. In this way there is a play of letters transcending their base appearance lifting each letter on to a cosmic and mystical dimension.
Handwritten Gurmukhi calligraphy of the Ganjnamâ composition.
Ganjnama reproduces Guru Nanak's mystical revelation in the Beas river where Guru Nanak was summoned by God to spread his light to the worlds. From the beginning of the poem, it is made clear that Guru Nanak was summoned with a divine mission and approval to begin a new path by God himself. When God summoned the Guru in the river, the poet captured the lines such “I have created you for this purpose that you may become a Master to lead the world towards the right path" (Man turâ âfrîdam az paye ân, ki shavî rehnumâ b-jumlâ jahân)."
One of the purposes of the composition, and the poetry of Bhai Nand Lal at large, is to show the internal unity of the Gurus and the light that continues in each body of the Gurus. This phenomenon is also addressed in the Guru Granth, Dasam Granth as well as the vaars of Bhai Gurdâs. This is specifically reflected in the Joti Bigâs writings in which the unity is clearly spelled out with verses such as "Guru Nanak is Guru Angad... Guru Tegh Bahadur is Guru Gobind Singh... Guru Nanak is Guru Gobind Singh" This aspect of Sikh philosophy is also emphasized in the Ganjnama, yet in a more indirect way. Bhai Nand Lal makes sure to repeat many of the attributes and titles of Guru Nanak and apply them to the Guru’s successors. This is made within the text but many cross-textual references are also made. In the Joti Bigâs Guru Nanak is refered to as the Murshid-ul-Âlamîn (The spiritual master of all worlds) and Rehmat-ul-Muznabîn (a blessing for sinners). In the first line of the Ganjnama praising Guru Angad, Bhai Nand Lal begins by applying these exact titles on the second Guru, hereby showing a continuity of the office of the Guru. The body has changed but the light has remained. This phenomenon is seen throughout the Ganjnama where the same attributes and titles are given to several Gurus to show their internal unity. Guru Gobind Singh is, as popularly known, titled as the Badshah Darvesh (Saintly King) while Guru Har Rai is titled as the Sultân Darvesh (Saintly King).
Other titles that are given to the Guru following clear mystical sufi patterns are Jahânbân-e-Kalîm (Caretaker of the worldly abode), Afsar-e-Afsarân (King of Kings) and Sarvar-e-Kaunan (Master of this world and the next).
Ganjnama furthermore contains indirect references and paraphrasing of Quranic verses, where attributes traditionally applied to Allah are given to the eternal Guru. One example is Surah 57 v. 3:
Huwa al awal wa al âkhir, wa al zahir wa al bâtin, wa huwa bikulli shay-in âlîmun
He is the First and the Last, the manifest and the unmanifested: and He has full knowledge of all things.
Compare this to Ganjnama on the section on Guru Gobind Singh:
Sultân al awal wa al âkhir, wa bazir al bâtin wa al zahir.
He is the First and the Last King; He sees all, is manifest as well as unmanifested.
In the above, Bhai Nand Lal has paraphrased a Quranic verse, but adapted it to the royal terminology of the Ganjnama praising the Guru in majestic terms. By adding Sultan in the beginning of the verse the Guru becomes the first and the last King which again is a reference to the internal unity of the Gurus,- the Sultan is Nanak and Gobind at once, the first and the last. The whole line shows a clear mark of Quranic inspiration, but applied to the Eternal Gurus. The poet is also refining the Quranic verse by making the rhythm more consistent. By changing the order of zahir and batin in the original, the poet makes sure that there is a consistent rhyme and in this way enhances the rhythmical unity contained in the verse.
The Ganjnama composition requires further research by scholars and mystics alike. Interesting facets are revealed by the Ganjnama and amongst these are the clear resemblance of the lines of Guru Har Rai and Guru Gobind Singh, the only two Gurus having lines that follow a similar structure of applying an attribute followed by the name of the Guru - Guru Karta Har Rai/Guru Gobind Singh. In this case the Gurus have strikingly similar attributes. Is there a reason why the poet has made the lines so similar in the cases of Guru Har Rai and Guru Gobind Singh? Could it be a reflection of the historical fact that the poet got acquainted with Sikhi during the reign of Guru Har Rai via Dara Shikoh and he therefore makes a link between Guru Har Rai and Guru Gobind Singh?
Furthermore, the section on Guru Har Rai entitles him as the Gardan-zane sarkashân (decapitator of the heads of tyrants), while no such description or battles are to be found in the Sikh historical writings regarding Guru Har Rai.