News & Views
Prof Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon addressed IOSS members
Noted historian, Professor Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon addressed the members of the Institute of Sikh Studies on the 21st of March 2014 regarding the distortion of Sikh history and ethos in the Universities of Canada and America especially by the Chairs of Sikh Studies dominated by McLodian model of History writing. In his lecture he particularly mentioned the name of Anne Murphy at British Columbia University and Dr Arvinder Pal Singh Mandair of Columbia University who through their recent books has repeated the tirade perpetrated by McLeod. Prof Dhillon advised the Sikh Community to establish a regular cell of Sikh scholars to expose the mischief of Sikh hater’s.
Maj Gen (Dr) Kulwant Singh and Col Parminder Singh Randhawa also share their views with the members and suggested some meaningful and effective suggestion in this regard.
IOSS writes to Jathedar, Akal Takht Sahib on Video Recording of proceedings of ‘Decision-Making’ meetings on Panthic Matters
Respected Jathedar Sahib,
This is in reference to the news published in the Press on February 5, 2014 regarding the discussion to be held on the Nanakshahi Calendar issue by the Sikh Clergy at Akal Takht on February 6, 2014.
The Institute has played a significant role in the creation of the Nanakshahi Calendar which was passed and implemented by the SGPC in the year 2003. Since it is a fact that the Panth stands divided on this issue, we hereby request you to hold wider consultations with Panthic organisations before arriving at any final decision.
We also request you that in the interest of ‘Panthic Unity’, the proceedings of all the ‘Decision-Making’ meetings on Panthic matters be kindly Video Recorded and Uploaded on SGPC’s Website. This would enable every Sikh to comprehend the merits of the decision(s) ultimately arrived at.
Hoping for an ardent consideration.
February 5, 2014 President
Sikhs must retain their identity symbols:
February 5, 2014. Noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh said Sikh leadership should discuss and ponder over the fact that majority of them had discarded symbols of Sikh identity such as turban, long hair and beard.
Singh was speaking at the seminar, “Khushwant Singh: The Writer, Historian and Journalist,” organised by Panjab University (PU) department of English and cultural studies to felicitate and celebrate his centenary birth year on February 2.
In his address, read by his son Rahul Singh, Khushwant said he was an agnostic, but strongly believed in the sense of Sikh identity and of Sikhs retaining their symbols. “Without that, I am convinced, the Sikh religion will eventually die out and perhaps merge with Hinduism,” he added.
He also said that growth of intolerance and fundamentalism of all religions disturbed him and called upon the people and the youth to combat the menace as the society was to develop and grow as a progressive, peaceful and secular society. (Courtesy: Hindustan Times Chandigarh, February 06, 2014)
Sikh Historian Among Three Honoured
February 17, 2014. Akal Takht felicitated three Sikhs for their contribution to their respective fields at a programme in the Golden Temple Complex here today.
Former hazuri raagi Bhai Gurmej Singh, who prepared the bir of Guru Granth Sahib in Braille, was bestowed with the title of ‘Sikh Rattan’, while noted Sikh historian Kirpal Singh was conferred the title of ‘Professor of Sikhism’. Former hazuri raagi Bhai Amrik Singh Zakhmi was awarded with ‘Shiromani Raagi’ award posthumously. Bhai Harjot Singh Zakhmi received the award on behalf of his father.
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh presented them a silver plaque, a sword, a shawl and a siropa (robe of honour). The Akal Takht Jathedar said Bhai Gurmej Singh made untiring efforts to transliterate Guru Granth Sahib in Braille and spent his entire life in the propagation of Gurbani. “Kirpal Singh did a commendable work in the field of Sikh history and research while contributing to the propagation of Sikhism across the globe,” he said.
The Akal Takht Jathedar said Bhai Amrik Singh Zakhmi carried forward the tradition of performing Gurbani kirtan on the basis of raagas. (Courtesy: The Tribune, February 18, 2014)
SC to Hear Plea for Distinct Identity to Sikhs
New Delhi, March 24. The Supreme Court today agreed to hear in detail a plea for a “separate and distinct” identity for the Sikhs in the laws relating to succession, adoption, divorce and maintenance.
A Bench comprising Justices RM Lodha and Kurian Joseph passed the order on a petition questioning the logic behind including Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists in the laws meant exclusively for Hindus.
According to the petitioners, Birendra Kaur and Rohit Garg, the Anand Marriage (Amendment) Act 2012, notified in June that year, had solved only the problem of registration of marriages by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. Earlier, they had to register their marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.
For other matters relating to succession, adoption, divorce and maintenance, people professing these three faiths still had to resort to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956, they contended. (Courtesy: The Tribune, March 25, 2014)
Need to Dig Facts Before Dubbing Ajnala Victims Martyrs: Sikh Body
Amritsar, March 6. Representatives of various Sikh bodies have taken an exception to reports dubbing ‘Kalianwala Khu’ incident as part of the country’s first war of Independence.
A statement issued by Gurpreet Singh of Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha says that Sikh bodies held a meeting at the office of International Sikh Confederation in Chandigarh on Wednesday. It mentions the participants felt that the mortal remains excavated from the well could not have been of any Sikh or Punjabi.
They have demanded setting up of a committee of scholars to study the incident and put it in right perspective. It was felt that till the time a complete report on the incident is not prepared, Sikh organisations should refrain from eulogising the event as being part of the Sikh history. “The considered view is that the well was called Kalianwala Khu because it had bodies of Purbias, who had deserted the British army in favour of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Mughal emperor of Delhi. Sikhs had been at war with the Mughals since the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas in 1704.
“The British army comprising ‘Hindustani’ soldiers, including the Purbias, had attacked Punjab in 1848 (an independent kingdom then), which resulted in Punjab’s annexation to the British. Punjabis not only lost their kingdom but their women folk were also subjected to insult at the hands of these Purbias,” the release reads. (Courtesy: The Tribune, March 7, 2014)
US military to allow Sikhs with Turban on Case by Case Basis.
A Sikh can be allowed to enter the US military with turban and beard, the Pentagon has said, noting that the approval in this regard would be given on a case-by-case basis and there is no universal or automatic approval to the new relaxed religious norms.
“It does,” the Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters Friday when asked if the new relaxation in religious norms for the military personnel announced a day earlier means that the Sikhs would now be allowed to wear their turbans.
“I think there were some Sikhs that were talking about this policy. It does allow for that. But, again, it has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, evaluated by the unit commander, and the mission can’t suffer as a result of accommodating some of these religious requirements,” he said.
“So it’s yes, a Sikh can request the wearing of religious attire, but, again, it has to be looked at case-by-case,” he said, adding that there is no automatic approval or universal application of this new rule.
“If by automatic, you mean universally and apply all at once, no. Two points need to be made clear about this. One, we’re saying as a department we will accommodate these preferences and religious requirements. Number two, the mission can’t suffer as a result,” Kirby said.
“If a service member is requesting a waiver for something that doesn’t require changes in a uniform, like, for instance, or grooming an appearance standard set by the service, those can be handled at the unit level, and we think they should be handled at the lowest level possible,” he said.
“If, however, the request requires a waiver of service policy with respect to grooming standards or appearance or the wearing of a uniform, then it’s going to go higher in the chain of command, perhaps all the way up to the personnel chief of the service,” Kirby said.
Describing this as a welcome move, Sikh-Americans said they would work with the Pentagon to improve the rules.
“The Sikh Coalition is deeply appreciative that the Pentagon established a formal process so that aspiring Sikh American Soldiers and other soldiers of faith may request accommodation of their articles of faith,” the Washington-based Sikh Coalition said.
“We are disappointed, however, that the presumptive ban on Sikh articles of faith remains intact. We will respectfully work with our nation’s military leadership to improve these regulations,” the organisation said in a statement (Courtesy: The Indian Express, Jan 25, 2014)
Lecture on Hari Singh Nalwa
Sh R. P Singh, General Secretary of Gujranwala Welfare Association reports that a lecture on General Hari Singh Nalwa was organised on 26th Feb.2014, at Shivalik Public School, Sector 41-B Chandigarh. Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, the Vetern General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to consolidate North – Western frontier of INDIA and roll back the Afghan invasions. He ably administered Kashmir & Hazara territories and effectively controlled the wild tribes of Peshawar. According to ‘Attok Gazetteer’, the Mughal rulers could only exact nominal revenue from them and regular administration was never attempted for centuries. Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapur, former Pro Vice Chancellor, GNDU & eminent Historian elucidated Gen Hari Singh Nalwa’s qualities as a General and recounted his major achievements in various battles fought by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to consolidate his kingdom. After the collapse of Mughal Empire, Punjab was divided into various small confederacies. Ranjit Singh, with the help of his able General, Hari Singh Nalwa established the Sovereign State of Punjab which extended from river Satluj to Jamrod in the West.
Others who spoke on the occasion include Dr Kirpal Singh, eminent historian and Patron and Sh D S Bedi, Chairman of the Association. Vote of thanks was extended by Sh B S Behl.
Letters to Editor
A Counter View
The review of my book “The Making of the Sikh Empire” by Gen. Dr Kulwant Singh is highly tilted. How almost half of the review length is devoted analyzing the life and times of Banda Bahdur that took up no more than 10% of the book is indicative of reviewer’s own bias. While conceding that I “relied a great deal on sources of prominent Persian, British and other writers, often quoting them in the main narration and footnotes”, Gen. Dr Kulwant Singh then accuses me of “selective use of references from the diverse secondary sources of Sikh history”. Regrettably, Gen. Dr Kulwant Singh failed to note my own concerns articulated in the introduction that “Idealizing biographies, coloured embellishments, inconsistencies, contradictions between historians, gaps in narratives and distrust of oral traditions prejudice our understanding of the ascendancy of Sikh power in Punjab in the 18th century”. I do not wish to engage in counter accusations but suffice it to say that Unlike the Marathas who, in 1761, fought the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali at the battle of Panipat, determined to rid Punjab of the scourge, there is no similar resistance in the chronicles of the misls.
Bhupinder Singh Mahal
ਰੋਸੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ਉਤਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ (Don’t be Angry, Please Answer)
A gentleman made certain observations/queries regarding Sikh theology and some facts pertaining to the life of Guru Nanak. The questions posed by him and extracts from the answer given by the IOSS team are being published here for the benefit of the reader (- Editor).
1. Observation: This noble man (Guru Nanak) left Hindu polytheism to learn Muslim monotheism; he learned and lived among them.
Reply by IOSS team
a) Guru Nanak neither shuttled between Hindu polytheism and Muslim pantheism nor acquired his belief in monotheism from Muslims and Islam, but realized through his own individual mystical experience in the Oneness of Divine Energy permeating the entire creation and manifesting its presence through the existing life forms of all the visible and invisible species. It came to him as a Divine revelation and he expressed this revelation through his verses which are recorded in the Sacred Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Right from the first verse the Mool-Mantra (Japji), throughout the whole scriptural text, Guru Nanak’s stress upon monotheism, pantheism, immanence and loving compassion of God without any malice or favour towards any species. Even a random, cursory reading of Guru Nanak’s verses will reveal his faith in monotheism of God and attributes.
b) Kindly refer to the text of Mool Mantra and first verse of Raag Asa known as Sodar where the Guru details how the praises to the One God are being sung in different ways by a variety of divinities as well as mortal species. (please read any good English translation like that of Prof G.S. Talib, Punjabi University, Patiala - Punjab).
2. Query: How come his followers (unlike the British Puritans) become so hostile to the Muslims due to their grievances against the Muslim ruler?
Reply by IOSS team
a) Regarding the perceived Sikh hostility towards Muslims, it must be noted that Sikhs are hostile toward none. They believe in universal brotherhood of man taught to them by their Gurus with their practical example. The principle of hostility towards none was practiced even in the battlefield when Bhai Ghaniya served water even to the opponents who at that time happened to be Muslims, lying wounded in the battlefield.
b) As far as the battles of the Sikhs with the Mughals are concerned, it started with Muslim emperor Jahangir’s execution of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev for preaching a faith which the Muslim emperor believed was anti-Islamic and turning people into kafirs. Please go through Janahgir’s own words from his auto-biographical memoir Tuzke-Jahangiri about it. Jahangir writes: “There lived at Goindwal on the bank of river Biah (Beas) a Hindu named Arjun in the garb of a pir and sheikh, so much so that he had by his ways and means captivated the hearts of many simple minded Hindus, nay, even of foolish and stupid Muslims, and he had poised himself about as a religious and worldly leader. They called him Guru, and from all directions, fools and fool worshippers were attracted towards him and expressed full faith in him. For three or four generations they had kept this shop going. For a long time the thought had been presenting itself to me that I should either put an end to this false traffic or he should be brought into the fold of Isalm.” Jehangir tried though unsuccessfully, to put an end to this false traffic by roasting alive the Sikh Guru on a hot iron plate. It was the hostility of Jehangir towards Sikhs which later fuelled the battles between the Sixth Guru and the emperor.
c) Even after such extreme form of persecution of the Guru, when the emperor extended a hand of genuine friendship towards the sixth Guru, the successor and son of the fifth Guru, responded magnanimously and after burying the hatchet, would often go on hunting expeditions with the emperor.
d) Later, even after Emperor Aurangzeb’s execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur for standing against the emperor’s forcible conversions of Indians to Islam, and more brutal killing of Guru Gobind Singh’s two younger sons by the Moghul emperor appointed Governor of Sirhind and several other executions, Guru Gobind Singh reciprocated the friendship of the emperor Bahadur Shah, the son of Aurangzeb.
e) During Baba Banda Singh Bahadur’s capture of Sirhind, no harm was caused to the holy Rouza Sharif, the Mausoleum of the Nakshbandi order of Islam, next in sacredness to the holy Kaaba (Mecca). Prior to Guru Arjan’s persecution, Guru Nanak had protested against Babar’s invasion and senseless killing of innocent Indians. Guru Nanak’s protest is recorded in his verse popularly known as Babarvani, “Jaisi Main Avey Khasam ki Bani” which form a part of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and has been recorded at page 722.
f) During Guru Angad and Guru Amardas’ tenure, the Mughal emperor Akbar had very cordial relations with the house of Nanak giving strength to the idea of universal brotherhood propagated by the Sikh Gurus .
g) A Muslim Saint Sain Mian Mir was so honored in the house of Nanak that he was requested to lay the foundation stone of the holiest shrine Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar. Bhai Mardana, the lifelong companion of Guru Nanak was a Muslim, and several other Muslims served the Sikh Gurus with devotion. Two topmost ministers in the cabinet of Maharaja Ranjit Singh happened to be Muslims.
h) It must also be remembered that Sikh Gurus and their followers had no enmity against Islam. Innumerable verses in the Sikh scripture refer to the basic tenets of Islam and exhorting Muslims to be good Muslims. Verses of Muslim saint Baba Farid find a respectable place in the Sikh scripture.
All this goes on to prove that the Sikh hostility is not towards Islam or Muslims as people, but against the tyranny of Muslim rulers and their Islam-centric, and sectarian rule and persecution of Sikh Gurus and several Sikh warriors. Sikhs respect all religions including Islam and bear no hostility towards anybody except towards injustice and tyranny.
3. Query: If Guru Nanak is not the originator of Sikhism as noted by the renowned scholars of Sikh history, why and with whose authority was it evolved into a religion of Sikhism in his name by the later Gurus?
Reply by IOSS team
a) It is an undisputed fact that Sikhism in its conceptual as well as structural base owes its origin to Guru Nanak. If there is any scholar who states anything to the contrary, he is either ignorant of Guru Nanak’s spade work at Kartarpur, or it is scholar’s subjective opinion which certainly is biased.
b) Guru Nanak himself gave the authority to the succeeding Gurus for the propagation of his message. He himself appointed Bhai Lehna, the second Guru rejecting the claims of his two ascetic sons. Guru Nanak authorized him to carry on his mission. Using the authority bestowed on him by Guru Nanak, Guru Angad appointed the third Guru, Guru Amardas ji to carry forward the message of Guru Nanak, and so on and so forth. All the succeeding Sikh Gurus were appointed as per the same principle. All of them had Guru Nanak’s mandate with them. The most authentic and detailed information about the appointment of each successor Guru is contained in Guru Granth Sahib in the composition by Satta and Balwand, two famous bards in the Guru’s court. These bards recorded Guru Nanak’s passing on the succession of his pontification to Guru Angad during his life time. The account, being the most authentic, was given a place in Guru Granth Sahib by the fifth Guru when he compiled it. The composition refers to succession of five Sikh Gurus upto Guru Arjan Dev. English translation of the same is available. It is recorded in the Sikh scripture at p. 966-968. About the succession of Guru Angad Dev to Guru Nanak, it says: Nanak started the royal dynasty within the firm citadel and foundation of truth. Then was the umbrella over the head of Lehna placed, Who by utterance of Divine laudation quaffed amrita.The instruction of the Master concerning the Divine self was the mighty sword of endeavour of his self. The master to the Disciple made obeisance with Nanak still alive: While living himself, the Master drew on Angad’s forehead the paste-mark. The proclamation concerning Lehna by Nanak was now spread The same light permeated him, the same praxis Only the Master his visible form had changed. Over Lehna’s head waved the immaculate umbrella, The holy Preceptor Pheru’s son, then in Khadur took abode.
c) The very fact that all the Sikh Gurus whose verses are recorded in the sacred Sikh text refer to themselves as “Nanak” in their compositions, endorses the idea of Guru Nanak being the originator of Sikhism. Since Gurbani text is an authentic source and that it is the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, Sikhism and Sikh religion, the nomenclature “Nanak” stands for all the Sikh Gurus who succeeded Guru Nanak successively. All the Sikh Gurus and the Sikh scripture belong to Sikhism and represent Sikhism.
d) As to the authority which mandated the origin and evolution of Sikhism, it is in the form of a commandment that Guru Nanak received during his mystical communion with the Supreme Divine Being. There are innumerable references, direct and indirect, in the scriptural verses of Sikh Gurus as well as the compositions of bards which are recorded in the Sikh scripture.
4. Query: Much of the stuff is based on the “Janam sakhi” anecdotes. While some writers dispute their authenticity, the others regard Guru Ji as no more than a Sadhu or a Sufi! Is this reading of the Sikh history wrong?
Reply by IOSS team
a) Janam Sakhis are biographical accounts of Guru Nanak’s life and incidents and anecdotes related to Guru Nanak’s life which also provide the context in terms of locale and timing of Guru Nanak’s composition. These carry a lot of information about the life of the Guru. No doubt there is an element of imagination attached as is often there in most of the biographical and historical fiction. Janamsakhis are also an integral part of Sikh canon and enhance one’s knowledge of Guru Nanak and his gospel.
b) Those, who are bent upon doubting the authenticity of genesis and evolution of Sikhism and are fond of sniping at its founder by regarding him as a Sadhu, a Sufi or by any other nomenclature, should realize that there is a very thin line between a saint/sadhu/sufi and a prophet/founder of an organized religion. It is from the realm of the spiritual and the mystical that every religious ideology has emerged and acquired its validity. Sikhism and its founder are no exception to this phenomenon.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All