Monday, December 05, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

 

2nd November

 

1708 Gur Gadhi, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

==> SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB: No institutionalized religion is safe from erosion till its tenets and doctrines have been enshrined in some tangible, though, permanent form. Great religions of the world, therefore, have taken care to prepare or compile one volume which is sovereign and supreme in its authority. Assuredly, it will employ the medium of poetry to reach out to infinity. Such a volume then, is the Guru Granth, the sacred book of the Sikhs - a volume that takes its place alongside the world's greatest scriptures, the Vedas, the Zind-Avesta, the Bible and the Koran. Its power is the power of the puissant and winged word, and no exegesis or commentary or translation can ever convey the full beauty of its thought and poetry. In all mystic literature the appeal of the numinous and the ineffable is inexplicable, if not incommunicable. And yet the great Sikh scripture is not a knot of metaphysical riddles and abstract theorizings. On the contrary, since for the most part it employs the idiom of the common people, and draws its imagery, metaphors and symbols from the home, the street and the market-place, its poetry has a rare kind of immediacy, concreteness and urgency. To see a Sikh congregation intoning the sacred hymns in unison is to see massed spiritual energy take shape before your eyes. That's how the ordinary word changes into the logos and becomes oracular. The Sikhs indeed regard the Granth as a complete, inviolable and final embodiment of the message of the Guru. There is to be no word beyond the Word. And that's how Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, spoke to the congregation shortly before his ascension.

"O Beloved Khalsa, let him who desireth to behold the Guru or Spiritual teacher,
obey the Granth Sahib. It is the visible body of the Guru."

The Guru Granth was first compiled by the Fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, in A.D. I 604 in the city of Amritsar. Its second and last version was the handiwork of Guru Gobind Singh, and it was finalized at Damdama in the year 1705. He included the hymns of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, in the new text. Since then, the authorized version has been transcribed and printed a number of times, and it abides. Its adoration or veneration is an article of faith with the Sikhs.

One of the greatest glories of the Guru Granth is its catholic character. It is a scripture completely free from bias, animus and controversy. Indeed, the uniqueness of the Granth in this respect is all the more astonishing when we think of the obscurantism, factionalism and fanaticism of the period in which it was composed. Perhaps, it is the only scripture of its kind which contains within its sacred covers the songs and utterances of a wide variety of saints, savants and bards. For it's instructive to note that a fairly substantial part of the volume carries the compositions of Hindu bhaktas, Muslim divines and Sufi poets and God-intoxicated souls in quest of Truth and Love. Of course, their hymns and couplets rendered in their own language and idiom are so dovetailed as to find a complete correspondence with themes or motifs in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus. Obviously, the idea of Guru Arjan Dev was to establish the fundamental unity of all religions and mystic experiences. It was, so to speak, an integral congress of minds and souls, operating on the same spiritual beam. To have thus elevated the songs of the bhaktas, the sufis and the bhatts to the condition of the logos was to salute the power of the Word whatever form it might take to reveal the glory of God. For it may be noticed that the Guru Granth contains the compositions and utterances of the high-born Brahmins and the proud Kashatriyas, as also of the lowly Shudras and the unlettered Jats. This was done at a time when the caste-system in India had almost paralysed the conscience of man. The revolutionary egalitarianism which such a step symbolized was thereafter to become the creed of the Sikhs. Above all, a poetic and mystic collage bespeaks the essential humility of the Sikh mind, for humility has been given a place of pride in the table of virtues drawn up by the Gurus. The Guru Granth, then, is a sui generis scripture. It is indeed a magnificent compendium of the religious, mystic and metaphysical poetry written or uttered between the I2th and 17th centuries in different parts of India. It is also at the same time a mirror of the sociological, economic and political conditions of the day. The satire on the reactionary rulers, the obscurantist clergy, the fake fakirs and the like is open, uncompromising and telling. In showing the path to spiritual salvation, the Guru Granth does not ignore the secular and creature life of man.

The poetry of the Granth is in itself a subject worthy of the highest consideration. The language principally employed is the language of the saints, evolved during the medieval period-a language which, allowing for variations, still enjoyed wide currency in Northern India. Its appeal lay in its directness, energy and resilience. Based upon the local dialects, it was leavened with expressions from Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian, Arabic and Marathi etc.

Another outstanding feature of the Guru Granth is the precision and beauty of its prosody. Whilst a great deal of it is cast in traditional verse forms (shlokas and paudis), and could best be understood in the context of the well-known classical ragas, several hymns and songs make use of popular folklore and metres (alahanis, ghoris, chands, etc.). The inner and integral relationship between music and verse has been maintained with scholarly rectitude and concern. This complete musicalisation of thought in a scientific and studied manner makes for the unusually vigorous yet supple discipline of the Granth's metrics and notations. The entire Bani whose printed version in its current form comes to 1430 pages, is divided into 33 sections. Whilst the first section comprises the soulful and inspiring song of Guru Nanak called the Japujia, also a few selected paudis or couplets, the final section is a collection of assorted verses including the shlokas and the swayyas of the bhatts. The remaining 31 sections are named after the well-known classical ragas such as Sri, Majh, Gauri, Gujri, Devgandhari, Dhanasari, Bilawal, Kedara, Malhar, Kalyan, etc. The division, thus, is strictly based on musicology. Further more, each psalm or song is preceded by a number (mohalla) which denotes the name of the composer-Guru from Guru Nanak onwards. It may be noted that the apostolic succession extends from the First to the Tenth Guru, and the Gurus are often referred to reverentially by their place in the order. What's more, each Guru speaks in the name of the Founder Guru whose spirit informs his nine successors. The House of Nanak is indeed a spiritual decagon, based upon a geometry of vision. The major hymns - Japuji (Guru Nanak), Anand (Guru Amar Das) Sukhmani or the Psalm of Peace (Guru Arjan Dev), Rehras (Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev) are widely recited solo and in congregation by the faithful as morning and evening prayers. Their soothing and ambrosial airs have brought solace and cheer to millions of people all over the world. The Sikh philosophy as embodied in the Guru Granth is chiefly a philosophy of action and deed and consequence. Though in its essentials, it is completely in tune with the ancient Indian thought regarding the genesis of the world and the ultimate nature of reality, it moves away from quietism, passivity and abstractions. The emphasis is on shared communal experience, on purposive and idealistic involvement. The extinction of the ego or self is the corner-stone of Sikhism. A person finds fulfillment or vindiction by immersion in the sea of life. Thus the paths of renunciation, abdication, aloofness flagellation etc., are abjured. A Sikh is enjoined upon to be an insider, not an outsider. Obviously then, the Sikh philosophy is that of "the Everlasting Yea". Which is not to deny the importance or value of contemplation, stillness, inwardness etc. The ideal Sikh cultivates these qualities in the midst of business and engagement. He too regards the world as ultimately maya or illusion and the life of man as a tableau of light and shade, but the Divine goal may not be achieved except through an acceptance of the reality of this unreality, and a proper disposition of the allotted role in the phantasmagoria of life. To that extent, the relative concreteness or solidity of the world is to be endorsed as a measure of understanding. So long as man has a role to play, the artifact of the stage or the theatre has to be taken for granted. For it has thus pleased the Creator to effect the world and people it with multiples of His Self. And the whole creation moves according to a predestined plan. Many a time has the grand show on earth been mounted and dismantled. It's not given to creature man to fully comprehend the essence of reality. God, according to the Adi Granth, is Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient. He is the Initiator, and the End. He is Self-Creator and Self- Propeller. The soul too in its essence symbolizes this trinity. It has lost its state of bliss as a result of the ego and the id. Caught in the meshes of power and self, it has lost its native and true moorings, and is being tossed about by the whirligig of time. A soul thus alienated from the Lord keeps spinning through aeons and aeons of suffering. The road to heaven lies through His Grace.

The idea of the soul as the Lord's consort is repeated in the Guru Granth. The mystique of the marriage is invoked time and again to emphasize the indissoluble and ineluctable nature of the union. Man is ordained wife and commanded to live in the Will of the Lord. Any Infidelity or transgression is inconceivable. The nuptial and spousal imagery of the hymns is sensuously rich, apposite and striking. It will thus be seen that the Guru Granth offers a perfect set of values and a practical code of conduct.

-Ref. "Guru Granth Ratnavali," (pp. 28) by Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh

1780 Shaerae-Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born.

==> Maharaja RANJIT SINGH, was born on Nov. 2, 1780, to Jathaedar Sardar Maha Singh of Sukarchakia misl and mother Raj Kaur (daughter of Raja Gajpate Singh Jindpate). At a very early age, he lost his left eye to smallpox which also left numerous marks on his face. Upon his fathers death, Ranjit Singh assumed throne at the tender age of 10. During his tender, his advisor Sardar Dal Singh and Diwan LakhpatRai managed the state affairs under the guidance of his mother Raj Kaur. Bhai Pheru Singh of Gujrawallae and his government Dharamsala was selected for Guru Granth education. However, Ranjit Singh showed increasing interest in weaponry and horse-riding and quickly acquired these skills.

Ranjit Singh captured Lahore in 1799 and called a darbar, in sunmat 1858, to assumed the title of "Maharaja". He preferred to addressed as Maharaja Ranjit Singh "SinghSahib". He quickly expanded his rule from Satluj to Peshawar and from the boundaries of Tibet to Sindh. He established four subha; namely, Lahore, Peshawar, Kashmir, and Sultan. He continually expressed desire to reassert the strength of Sikh Panth and bring it under a united fold.

According to British history, Maharaja's title is "Sher-e-Punjab", the Lion of Punjab. His court was always filled with able generals. He built an extremely loyal and powerful force. He was a humble person. When the Granthis of Delhi Gurudwara visited his court in Lahore, he used his beard to wipe their feet. Further when he was declared Tankhaia by Akali Phulla Singh, he prompted presented his bare back for the declared punishment.,/P>

More than his own popularity, Maharaja Ranjit Singh worked for the propagation of Vaaheguru's name. He constructed the fort GobindGadh in Amritsar, named after Guru Gobind Singh Patshah. He established a beautiful garden named after Satguru Ram Dass Ji Patshah.

Ranjit Singh never forgot to humor the democratic feeling, or rather, the theocratic feeling of the Sikhs. He professed to rule "by the grace of God". He issued coins in the name of Guru Nanak with the encryptions :-

"Akal Purakh Ji Sahayae
Daego Taego Fateh Nusrat Baedrang
Yahaftaj Nanak Guru Gobind".

On April 25, 1809, a friendship treaty was signed with the British. This treaty set Satluj as the boundary between the British and Sikh empires. Maharaja Ranjit Singh maintained his friendship with the British throughout his reign.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was gifted with the ability of immediate assessment of strengths and weakness of a person on first sight. He personally knew all people working for him and received their daily reports. He did not waste even a minute of his and continually kept himself busy. He was well versed with the feelings of his subjects.

Maharaja Ranjit was also popular for his charity. From the information gathered by Col. Lawrence from his counsellors, Maharaja Ranjit Singh spent 12,00,000 rupees annually on charity apart from his generous distribution of gifts and jagirs.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh died on June 27, 1839 as a result of illness. At the time of his death, Maharaja's forces were made of 92,000 foot soldiers, 31,800 horseback soldiers and 784 big guns. In addition to brave generals like Sardar Sham Singh Attari, Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, Sardar GossKhan, Phulla Singh Akali, and Diwan MohakamChand, there were several American, British, European, French, Italian, and Russian officers. The total annual revenue of the kingdom was 32475000 rupees.

Maharaja Ranjit's other sons, Tara Singh, Sultan Singh, Kashmir Singh and Peshaura Singh were never popular.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 1019-1020)

For conventional biographies refer to :-

Lepel H. Griffin, Ranjit Singh (1892);
N.K. Sinha, Ranjit Singh (1933); and
Khushwant Singh, Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of the Punjab (1962).

For an eyewitness account of the personality and court of Ranjit Singh, see :-

Emily Eden, Up the Country: Letters Written to Her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India, 2 vol. (1866, reissued 1978);
W.G. Osborne, The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing (1840, reprinted 1973).

For further details interested readers are refered to :-

Anil C. Banerjee (1985), "Khalsa Raj," AbhinaV Publications, Delhi, 277p
Bhagat Singh (1990), "Maharaja Ranjit Singh And His Times," ISBN 81-85477-01-9, Sehgal Publishers, Delhi, 491p.
Bikram Jit Hasrat (1977), "Life and Times Of Maharaja Ranjit Singh: A Saga Of Benevolent Ruler," V.V. Research Inst. India, 466p
Dolly Sahiar (1981), "Maharaja Ranjit Singh as Patron Of The Arts," Marg Publications, Delhi, 138 pages
Fakir S. Wahee-du-din (1984), "Ranjit Singh Asali Roop," Punjabi University Patiala, 159 pages (Punjabi)
Fakir S. Wahee-du-din (1981), "Real Ranjit Singh." Punjabi University Patiala, 212 pages
Fauja Singh (1984), "Maharaja Ranjit Singh: Politics Society and Economy," Punjabi University Patiala, 384 pages
G. Khurana (1985), "British Historiography on the Sikh Power in Punjab," Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 174 pages
Hari Ram Gupta (1991), "History of the Sikhs Vol. 5: The Sikh Lion of Lahore," 81-215-0515-X, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 630 pages
Hari Ram Gupta (1975), "Panjab on Eve of First Sikh War," Panjab University, Chandigrh, 555 pages
Jagmohan Mahajan (1990), "Annexation of Punjab," ISBN 81-85215-06-5, Spantech Publisher, Delhi, 133 pages
Kartar S. Duggal (1989), "Ranjit Singh a Secular Sovereign," ISBN 81-7017-244-6, Abhinav Publications, Delhi, 143 pages
Khushwant Singh (1971), "Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab," Orient Longman Press, Delhi, 165 pages
Prem S. Hoti, "Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh," Lahore Book Shop, Ludhiana, 208 pages
S.R. Bakshi (1991), "History of the Punjab: Maharaja Ranjit Singh," ISBN 81-7041-540-6, Anmol Publications, Delhi, 315p
Sohan S. Seetal (1982), "Sikh Empire and Maharaja Ranjit Singh," Lahore Book Shop, Ludhiana, 187p
Sohan S. Seetal (1986), "Sikh Raj Te Sher-e-Punjab," Seetal Pustak Bhandaar, 203p
  1879 Singh Sabha Lahore was established. The Singh Sabha, Amritsar, became a movement with Bhai Gurmukh Singh, Professor of Mathematics and Punjabi, Oriental College, Lahore, as its moving spirit. He did a remarkable job in propagating the Singh Sabha ideals and establishing Singh Sabha, Amritsar. Later, he helped in forming the Singh Sabha, Lahore, with Diwan Buta Singh as its President and himself as its Secretary. Its leading Its leading lights were Bhai Jawahar Singh, Bhai Dit Singh and Bhai Maiya Singh. This Singh Sabha fought on two fronts, it raised its voice against the conservative Sikh leaders on the one hand and on the other hand, it countered the activties of the Christian Missionaries as well as the onslaught of the Arya Samajists. In its two fold program, it gave a crushing blow to the gurudom and caste system as well. The number of sabhas rose to 120 by 1899. The rapid increase, in the number of Singh Sabhas led to the founding of the General Sabha at Amritsar in 1880 which developed into Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar on April 11, 1883.

The Lahore Singh Sabha, as opposed to that in Amritsar, was more democratic in character. It had members from all sections of the Sikh Society. The Lt. Governor of Punjab, Sir Robert Egerton, agreed to become its patron and the Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne, lent his support to the Sabha.

==> SINGH SABHA, a reform group of Amritdhari GurSikhs who objectively sought the eradication of the wrong practices in re-establishing the true traditions of GurSikhism. Their initial efforts for religious propagation and education resulted in the establishment of "Sri Guru Singh Sabha", Amritsar, in 1872. Sardar Thakur Singh Sandawalaia was the first chief, while the temporary offices and gathering facilities were organized at Guru Ka Bagh. The objectives of Singh Sabha, Amritsar, were to inculcate the principles of SIkh religion as preached by the Sikh Gurus among the Sikhs with a view to restoring Sikhism to its pristine purity, preach the principles of Sikh religion by word of mouth, by publication of historical and religious books, and through magazines and newspapers, encourage propagation of Punjabi, reclaim apostates and attract the sympathies of those highly placed in public adminsitration to the educational progress of the Sikhs. The Singh Sabha was to shun politics.

Next in 1879, another Singh Sabha was established at the Prakash place of Guru Ram Das Patshah, in Lahore. Diwan Buta Singh and Bhai Gurmukh Singh were the chiefs of this organization. The successful efforts of these Singh Sabhas resulted in several Singh Sabhas springing around the country. Singh Sabha had a clear perception of Sikhism as enunciated by the Sikh Gurus, and was determined to restore it to its original shape, without any compromise with Hindusim. A number of Singh Sabhas were established and affiliated to the Singh Sabha, Lahore. Amrit Prachar (administration of baptism) to all, including Muslims and lower classes, was an effective movement which, however, brought about conflict with certain Pujaris of the Sikh shrines. Gradually, the Singh Sabhas constructed their own gurudwaras with granthis, ragis, and updeshaks, and they became centres of new rivivalism.

The warming up of the Singh Sabha activity was discernible by a decision to establish Khalsa Diwan at Amritsar. This came into being in 1883 to oversee the functioning of over three dozen Singh Sabhas. There were, however, differences over the provisions of the conmstitution of the Khalsa Diwan. THese resulted in a break, with Lahore Singh Sabha spearheading a Khalsa Diwan at Lahore with a membership of all except three of the Singh Sabha affiliated to it. Suffices to say that the Singh Sabha Lahore, became the focal point of the Sikh reform movement.

The Singh Sabha movement played its historic role by exposing the evils which had crept into the social and religious life of the Sikhs. It reclaimed Sikhism from "a state of utter ossification and inertia and articulated the inner urge of Sikhism for reform and gave it a decisive direction." It not only checked the relapse of the Sikhs into Hinduism but also retaliated by carrying prosewlytsing activities into the Hindu camp. A large number of Hindus were baptised and the Sikh population which was 17,06,165 in 1881 rose to 21,02,896 in 1901 and never dwindled again. Thus the Singh Sabha movement proved to be the elan vital in the regeneration of the Sikh society.

In 1888, Khalsa Diwan was established in Lahore. Subsequently, on Nov. 10, 1901, Shiromani GurSikhs gathered at Ramgarhia Bunga, Amritsar, and laid the foundation of Chief Khalsa Diwan. This organization actively corrected numerous traditions in GurSikhism and continues to do so til today.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 193) The Sikhs in History, by Sangat Singh, 1995

???? Baba Prem Singh of Hoti Mardaan, a great Sikh historian passed away.
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