dalsingh101 Posted April 27, 2012 Report Share Posted April 27, 2012 The making of Sikh history – literally. I’d like to humbly submit the text below for my brothers and sisters consideration. I hope you enjoy reading it, and receive as much food for thought from it as I did during the translation. Especial thanks to Kam1825 for taking the time to create and share an ebook of the original work from which the translation is derived (Kavi Sainapati Rachit Sri Gur Sobha edited by Dr. Ganda Singh and published through the Publication Bureau of Punjab University of Patiala, 1st edition 1967, 4th edition 1996). Strangely, a few days after I had finished the main bulk of the translation, my own copy of the book miraculously (and unexpectedly) turned up after being missing for over four years! I’ll take that as a good sign. Anyone interested in perusing the original Panjabi text can find it here (between pages 8 and 13 in the PDF reader). Any feedback on improving the translation from knowledgeable parties is not only welcomed, but actively sought. The posts that follow this one reproduces the translation offered below, but includes my own scattered thoughts on the contents (identifiable as the blue italicised text). WJKK WJKF Quote There was only a single poet amongst those of Guru Gobind Singh ji’s court, [named] Sainapati, who wrote about Guru sahib’s historical life in a somewhat elaborate manner. If a few more of those writers present at [Guru ji’s] court had written something about the incidents in Guru ji’s life in a similar fashion, the task of composing a substantial, quality and trustworthy biography [of Guru Gobind Singh] would’ve been made considerably easier. Plus many of those knotty problems [concerning Guru ji’s life], that are currently difficult for historians to unravel would have been resolved. Yet [the reality is that] all of the intellectuals that were gathered at Guru sahib’s court were poets, and the worth and value of [such] poets arises from the magic of the language [they employ] and their flights of imagination. Such artistic creativity, however, can neither stimulate the creation of [purely] historical narratives, nor be of any use in this endeavour. For this reason, those writing from a historical perspective couldn’t depend on such works. Ether bound poetic minds cannot descend to ground level, where communication has to take place without grand imagination, on a straight forward level - using clear language. Perhaps they [poets] considered such matters to be those for lesser developed minds? It is, however, a surprising matter that historians never emerged from amongst those Hindus of ancient times, who had expertise in, and were realistic with the calculative techniques of sciences such as mathematics and astrology. Yet, whatever the reasons for this, the fact that the art of realistic, historical writing failed to take birth in ancient India cannot be denied. And had Islamic and Christian influences not arrived here [in India], it’s uncertain how much more time would have passed before attention was drawn to this skill. The psychological inclination toward (and a general awareness of) the concept of narrating events chronologically across days and weeks, precisely and without mentally projected assumptions was stimulated by external, old, single-birth [believing] Semitic races (Judaic, Christian and Islamic ideologies - Greek, Syrian and Arab etc.) In accordance to whose creeds, man has only a single birth, so that they had to settle all of their individual and collective affairs in this very existence for the lack of opportunity to do anything afterwards. Thus they had to establish their memorials (in the form of literature or architecture) within this very lifetime. And it was in this existence that efforts had to be made to provide forthcoming generations with counsel and direction to ensure that sons and grandchildren were able to continue projects that had already been initiated. And it was matters pertaining to how particular endeavours were started, the sources of materials that had been procured, details of who provided assistance or opposition. Or [details of] how their people and kinfolk traversed deserts, mountains, jungles and rivers to reach other countries. Also how, on conquering the native folk, they asserted their occupation on them and in which way they [subsequently] reinforced their rule - that they wished to communicate. Committing all of this to writing and leaving it for those who would come in future – some of whom would have been small children [at the time and thus] unable to comprehend [such matters], and some of whom had yet to take birth, was one good medium [to ensure its receipt by the intended audience]. The writing itself needed to be a form that was clear, accurate and unadulterated, which could be understood and relayed without any room for error. Such objectives and ideas led to the birth of, (and provided the underlying motive for) writing narratives, daily diaries and historical chronicles amongst Semitic people. And so through imitation a strong movement/school developed, the result of which is that there is no sign of anything comparable in contemporaneous India that conforms to the quality, lucidity and accuracy of the narratives or histories etc. these people have penned. Here [in India] the writing of this type of history amongst Hindus started with the arrival of the Muslims and it has taken hundreds of years to get to the standard of Muslim clarity and solidity. On the other side, ancient India, with its belief in multiple-existences, considered this world and material life illusory. In their eyes, attachment to this transitory world was a disease; the cure to which lay in its renunciation. So if there is no fondness for the material, the question of keeping it in remembrance or cementing memories of it for posterity don’t arise. In accordance to their [the Indians] conceptualisations, human life was [an experience] of bondage and their main objective was a liberation from this. They endured life; they didn’t live it. Preserving the memories of a life was thus a meaningless matter for such ideologues. [in contrast to] Semitic folk, who would, as much as was practically possible, bury a body in a grave in order to carefully retain it, even after death. Some even had their own personalised, beautiful mausoleums or [commemorative] graves created whilst still alive, whereas Hindustanis would burn their bodies, turning them into ash, and even then, they would throw these ashes into a river to be carried away by the torrents, so that no trace was left of the remains. Besides this, according to the belief of transmigration the number of existences [a being must go through], are so numerous that they don’t even come to a gradual end. [Dal: the exact meaning of the preceding sentence is unclear to me. The original Panjabi is: ਇਸ ਤੋਂ ਇਲਾਵਾ ਆਵਾਗਊਨ ਦੇ ਯਕੀਨ ਅਨੁਸਾਰ ਜੂਨਾਂ ਦੀ ਗਿਣਤੀ ਇਤਨੀ ਜ਼ਿਆਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਸਹਿਜੇ ਕੀਤੇ ਮੁੱਕਣ ਵਿਚ ਨਹੀਂ ਆਉਂਦੀ]. And because of this there wasn’t much of an urgency to accurately remember the activities of a life. For this reason, the value of [the concept of] time couldn’t take any firm root amongst them. They [the Indians] were the type of philosophers who would take flights into higher spiritual skies. Time was an infinite, inexhaustible thing for them. So matters regarding short periods of time and the fleeting worldly lives of one or more human – were considered low level matters, to which they never paid any attention. Indian sages and ascetics were amongst world leaders in the art of writing. They created great tomes like the Vedas, Shasters, Puranas, Ramayan and Mahabharat. They wrote poetry of the highest order and gave birth to many other varieties of literature too. But mainly because of the inclinations of their minds; these were metaphysical in nature and because of this, the materialistic activities of worldly lives – in which there is much that is negative and less that is good – were not given any particular attention. This is the reason why Indians have not carefully studied Islamic and Christian historical literature even till the present time, or why no impression of any significant depth has been made upon them from any other source. [Thus] they were unable to take ownership of the type of thinking which stimulated [the creation of] realistic-history. Otherwise there was nothing to prevent anyone from writing the Guru’s diaries (ਰੋਜ਼ਨਾਮਚੇ) or biographies (ਜੀਵਨੀਆਂ) during the [earthly life-] times of the Guru sahibaans, as these [times] were contemporary to those of the Moghul emperors, when countless ordinances (ਤੁਜ਼ਕਾਂ/ਤੁਜ਼ਕਰੇ), biographies (ਜੀਵਨ-ਚਰਿੱਤਰ), autobiographies (ਸ੍ਵੈ-ਜੀਵਨੀਆਂ) and histories (ਇਤਿਹਾਸ) were being written. Shortly after Guru Angad had absorbed Guru Nanak sahib’s light [i.e. Guru Nanak ji’s physical passing], they began efforts to collect [details] of the events of Guru [Nanak] ji’s life - [or] if the dates given in the janam-sakhis are broadly correct – then within Guru sahib’s [Nanak’s] final years themselves. But because writers had been raised up upon Puranic literature, no janam-sakhi was ever prepared from the perspective of a historical chronicle (ਤਵਾਰੀਖ਼ੀ ਦ੍ਰਿਸ਼ਟੀਕੌਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਕੋਈ ਜਨਮ-ਸਾਖੀ ਤਿਆਰ ਨਾ ਹੋਈ) and nor was any other type of literature, that presented the lives of any of the Gurus comprehensively, with chronological accuracy to emerge subsequently. It doesn’t appear as if anyone carefully preserved the personal records (ਵਹੀਆਂ) of the Guru’s households either, which would have provided some measure of assistance [in writing history]. All the way up to the ninth Guru, whichever extant hukamnamas (addressed to sangats) we can obtain, do not furnish any date or year, meaning even these are of no help in trying to present events in accordance to a tight chronological framework. It is only in the time of Guru Gobind Singh ji, when their clerical system appears to have been in effect [that such conventions were used]. All of their [Guru Gobind Singh’s] hukamnamas provide dates, months and years from Sammat 1780 Bikrami (1691 AD) onwards. It was not customary to leave signatures of one’s own name at that time, but Guru sahib’s own writing is present on every hukamnama [in a form] referred to as a symbol (ਨੀਸਾਣ). In many places, the summarised contents of a hukamnama have also been provided. And not only this, the number of lines penned by scribes have been supplied at the ends, so that no subsequent omissions or additions can occur. Many of the hukamnamas contain a number [that corresponds] to a clerical register too. In this way, some of Guru Sahib’s personal creations (Ram avatar, Krishan avatar etc.) also give the year, month and date [of completion] in their concluding sections. These things are signifiers of Guru ji’s understandings and perceptions, and hazoor’s inclinations towards the historical. But regretfully, where the ill will of the hill rajahs and oppression of the Moghul government compelled Guru Gobind Singh ji to vacate Anandpur Sahib in 1705 [AD], innumerable volumes of literature, as well as the accounts, clerical records and files of Anandpur were all destroyed or sacrificed at the Sarsa river [during that evacuation], with which priceless, original sources for Guru sahib’s life and Sikh history were destroyed. Amongst all of India’s, great (nonMuslim) religious figures, Guru Gobind Singh was the first to start the custom of writing one’s own narrative (an autobiography). Prior to Guru Gobind Singh ji, nobody had written their ‘personal narrative’ – whether this be in Sanskrit, Braj bhasha, Hindi or any other language. Guru sahib’s ‘apnee katha’ greatest virtues are its factuality (ਯਥਾਰਥਕਤਾ) and neutrality (ਨਿਰਪੱਖਤਾ), which are two great attributes of [modern] historiography [‘ਅਪਨੀ ਕਥਾ’ here refers to a subsection of a Dasam Granth composition called Bachhitar Natak (ਬਚਿੱਤ੍ਰ ਨਾਟਕ literally ‘wonderful drama’) and is believed, by mainstream Sikhs, to be a autobiographical account by Guru Gobind Singh himself]. Despite being written in a poetic form (in accordance to the prevalent custom at the time) there is a considerable reserve in the given statements, and they are not exaggerated at all. Nor is any bitter or harsh language used for the enemy at any place. Sainapati, the author of Sri Gur Sobha has endeavoured to proceed along these very principles[?] (ਪੂਰਨਿਆਂ), as laid down by Guru sahib, and has managed to achieve a high degree of success in his effort. When Panjabi magazines and newspapers started to be issued under the Singh Sabha movement’s drive for religious propagation and social reform, a desire for preserving and publishing literature in Panjabi arose too. The drift towards an affection and enthusiasm for history begotten through Bhai Santokh Singh’s Sri Gurpartaap Suraj Granth and Giani Gian Singh’s Panth Prakash and Twarikh Guru Khalsa, also caused some further attention to be drawn in this direction. At the start of the 20th century the Chief Khalsa Diwan established a Historical Research Subcommittee and Sardar Karam Singh made up his mind to dedicate his life to the investigation and scrutiny of history. At this time Bhai Takhat Singh ji began to collect books for people conducting historical research and enquiry, making this [a central] consideration of the Bhai Ditt Singh library in Ferozpur. This was also the period where Bhai Vir Singh, in 1914, had Rattan Singh Bhangu’s Pracheen Panth Prakash published and composed many other historical tracts. During these very days Akali Kaur Singh ji Nihang inititated his own hunt for historical works and other literature. It was during this search that he came to receive two handwritten volumes of the poet Sainapati’s composition Sri Gur Sobha, and after performing a comparison between them, he had them published in Poh 457 Nanakshahi, Bikrami (December 1925 AD) through Bhai Nanak Singh Kirpal Singh Hazooria in Amritsar. It was in this way that this book [sainapati’s Gursobha] came to light. .................... Patiala 23 June 1967 2 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.