Guest Posted May 24, 2004 Report Share Posted May 24, 2004 Yesterday I went to this International Sikh Conference on 400 Yrs of Siri guroo granth sahib ji. I got this booklet which has lot of articles all though conference was crap. But anyways i ll tell the sangat about my expereince in conference in the other thread. But anyway here is an interesting article. 18th Century European perspective of the Sikhs and their Scripture Dr. Balwant Singh Dhillon Head, Dept of Guru Nanak Studies G.N.D University, Amritsar. Abstract A cursory glance at the early 18th century medieval India, reveals that the Mughal Empire was on its decline and new powers were emerging on the political horizon. The rise of Sikhs in Punjab was chiefly responsible for the extinction of Mughal authority in North-west India. The stories of Sikh struggle, especially their resistance to the Afghans of Ahmed Shah Abdali, traveled to far away places such as Fort William, the head quarters of British East India Company. The Sikh incursions into gangetic Doab had brought them face to face with the British Forces stationed in the Avadh. Their growing ascendancy in the North-west of India was a potent threat to the hegemonic designs of the British in India. For more than one reason the British were anxious to know about the Sikhs and their religion, obviously to formulate their policy towards them. Besides commissioning the civil servants to get information in a clandestine manner, the British residents with the nawab of avadh and Marathas and those stationed at Delhi were pressed into service to keep a vigil on the Sikhs. They were asked to collect every possible information on the Sikhs. Some of the British residents were friendly with the Sikh Chiefs and were constantly in touch with them. Besides the British East India Company servants, Europeans of various nationalities and belonging to different strata in society had got attracted to the exotic beauty and diversity of the Indian culture. Their accounts published in quasi-historical form provide significant insights into the 18th Century life of the people of India. While dealing with Indian life in general, these writers have also commented on the Sikhs and their religion. It is worth noting that Prof. Ganda Singh has done a pioneer work to produce â€œEarly European Accounts of the Sikhs in 1962â€. At that time he introduced the writing of nine authors, which have significant bearings on the Sikh history and religion. Since then no scholar has taken interest to carry the work forward. For the last four years I have been following the subject very keenly. For the present study we have indentified about 30 European authors of 18th Century who have commented upon the Sikhs in one or another form. A close reading of the 18th century European writings on the Sikhs reveals that almost all the authors are unanimous in their view that Sikhism owes its origin to Guru Nanak. They have not found any connection- doctrinal or historical between Guru Nanak and the Sant tradition. They underline that the doctrinal on which Sikhism is based were introduced by dispensation. There is no controversy in them with respect to the nature of God in Sikhism. They found that Sikhs are theists and believe in the unity of Divine Being. They remark that Sikhs are pure monotheist. Almost all the European authors observe that 18th century Sikhs admit only one God worthy of adoration and vehemently deny divinity to Hindu Gods such as Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadev. They also inform that the Sikhs have broken free from the yoke of most of the Brahamanical superstitions. Interestingly most of the authors have taken note of the proselytizing character of Sikhism and its impact on the Indian society. They remark that unlike the Hindus the Sikhs admit proselytes of all religions and castes. Significantly Pahul, the initiation ceremony and the Khalsa code of conduct have also found mention in them. They report that Guru Gobind Singh established a ceremony to be used on the reception of new proselyte which is called Pahul. Though the Khalsa symbols- Kirpan, Kesh, Kanga, Kara and Kachera have not been described in rubric terms yet all of them find mention in one or another source. They are near unanimous to point out that use of tobacco is strictly prohibited. On the mode and object of worship almost all the authors note that the Sikhs do not admit any images or sculptures. Forester observes, â€˜their places of devotion are plain and divested of every ornament and figureâ€™. Modave sums up very beautifully the change that Sikh revolution had ushered in India. He remarks â€˜Sikhs are extremely satisfied with the changes occurring in their religion as well as in their government. All those with whom I had superstitions of other Indians. Even the insignificant practices that have been abandoned as soon as the least connection with the religious rites was found. Atleast it is perhaps unprecedented that a community should have given up so easily the laws and customs carried on since so many centuriesâ€™. Charles Wilkins who had the opportunity to Visit Takht Patna Sahib observed that the Sikhs places of worship were open to all. Though language was the major problem yet 18th century European authors have remarked on the origin, role, status and teachings of the Sikh Scripture in a very significant manners. Most of them observe that its genesis lies with Guru Nanak. The European authors had also noted that the Sikh Scriptural writings are recorded in Gurmukhi or Punjabi Script. Charles Wilkins writing in 1781 hold that Guru Nanak himself the Gurmukhi script. According to him Guru Nanak â€œleft behind him a book, composed by himself in verse and the language of the Punjab but a character partly of his own invention, which teaches the doctrines of the faith he had established. That they called his character, in honor of their founder, Goaroo-Mookhe: from the mouth of the preceptorâ€. Similarly, Crauford reiterates that the Sikh Scripture is writing in the Punjabi Dialect but in a particular character called Gurmukhi. He holds that credit goes to Guru Angad for producing the first redaction of Guru Nanakâ€™s bani, which is quite in consonance with the Sikh tradition. He holds that Guru Nanak â€œentrusted to Guru Angad the care of collecting his percepts which he accordingly did in a pothiâ€. Out 18th century European authors hold that Guru Granth Sahib, the sikh scripture had been fully installed in Gurdwaras. Charles Wilkins, who had an opportunity to join the Sikh congregation in Patna Sahib, provides a graphic account of the Sikh Liturgy which was wholly based and centered on Guru Granth Sahib. Nota Manus, another European who had a chance to visit a Gurdwara also subscribes to the above point of view. In the eyes of these European the Sikhs mode of worship comprised singing and reading of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. The object of worship and veneration was nothing else but the sole scripture i.e. Guru Granth Sahib. George Forester who traveled through Punjabi remarks that â€œA book entitled Granth, which contains the civil and religious institutes of Nanak, is the only typical object which the sisques have admitted into their places of worshipâ€. Conclusion: An analysis of all these writings reveals that 18th century European authors have offered their comments on almost all the important features of the 18th century Sikh Panth. One can easily note that in one or another manner origin and development of Sikhism, Sikh beliefs and practices, composition of Sikh society, social and religious institutions, dress and diet, mode and object of worship, the origin, role and status of Guru Granth sahib have found treatment in these works. In their opinion the theoretical, practical and sociological boundaries of Sikhism were well defined. These sources throw immense light on the lesser known facets of Sikh religious life. Though their description of the eighteen century Sikhs lacks in details yet it is sufficiently equipped to rein scribe the â€œclean slateâ€. 0 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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