Guru Nanak: Swami Dayanand ate Hor Vidwana Di Nazar Wich
A Review by Jaspal Singh
Book; "Guru Nanak: Swami Dayanand Ate Hor Vidwanan Di Nazar Wich" (Guru Nanak in the eyes of Swami Dayanand and other Scholars)
Author: Bhai Ashok Singh Bagarian
Publisher: Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh. Year -2019
Pages -88, Price: Re 150/-
The booklet published in Punjabi (Gurmukhi script) last year on the eve of 550th 'Parkaash Divas' of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion is aimed at clearing the web of misconceptions and distortions weaved knowingly and unknowingly around the guru and faith by detractors over the period. The author particularly focused on Swami Dayanand, founder of Arya Samaj who was one of the main detractors who made several misrepresentations about the Guru and the Sikhism. Some of falsehoods he spelled out were deliberate and egoistic and some of them came out of his ignorance about the principles of the Sikh faith and the Punjabi language. The swami also brought out his treatise, known as Satyarath Prakash in the last quarter of the 19th century which eulogized vedas as the ultimate authority on religious and spiritual matters while downgrading other religions and their sacred texts including Sikhism as theological falsifications.
Being a devout Hindu, the swami acted as a religious reformer campaigning against superstitions and rejected some ignoble Hindu rites and idol worship. His progressive stance attracted the educated Punjabi Hindu middle class that had got exposed to new Western ideas and was already looking for a reformed Hindu religion matching their modern outlook. His reformist campaign was also influenced by some of the monotheistic and other religious practices of some of the other semitic religions and the then ruling Europeans. To serve twin purposes — one updating the Hinduism to match practices of other contemporary religions and the other to check the then threatened conversion of the Hindu lower castes to Christianity — he founded the Arya Samaj in 1875. Fearing exodus from the Hindu samaj in the face of a concerted campaign to convert Indians then launched by the Christian missionaries in India, the swamy projected the imagined supremacy of vedas, Sanskrit language, and ancient Hindu religious lore while downgrading the other religions. Through such Hindu exclusivist posturing, he contributed to the creation of an intolerant Hindu who found criminal inimical other in all other religions including the Sikhism. That is why the Arya Samajists adopted a very hostile stand towards the Sikhs in Punjab. In the beginning, many leading enlightened Sikhs including Giani Ditt Singh and Jawahar Singh got beguiled by the 'reformist campaign' of the swamy and became his followers. But soon they dissociated themselves from the Arya Samaj when the Arya Samaj launched an vicious offensive against Guru Nanak and Sikhism.
The author, a well-known Sikh theologian deals at length with the intolerant and insulting behaviour of the Arya Samaj towards the Sikhs during the last quarter of 19th and first quarter of 20th century. The author's objective of writing the booklet is to rebut falsehoods spread by the swami and his followers about Guru Nanak and sift myths about the Sikhism some of which are still creating a confusion among a majority of the Sikhs till today. Prof Kulwant Singh in his analytical preface to this bookletunderlines that the booklet carries a well-reasoned and point by point rebuttal of false and mythic representation of the Guru and Sikh ethos by Swami Dayanand.
The author presents relevant portions of ' Sityarath Parkash' that make a direct attack on Guru Nanak and the Sikh practices. Also, he mentions in requisite detail the Arya Samaj's 'sudhi' (purification) movement which was meant to bring the poor Sikhs back to the Hindu fold. Such moves estranged relations between the Sikhs and Arya Samajists. That old hostility, however, remained subdued till 1947. But it resurfaced when the Muslim factor ceased to exist in Punjab after the Partition. Thereafter, a tug-of-war began between the Sikhs and Hindus which has been continuing till the date and it has already manifested itself in various sorts of mutual confrontations particularly during the Punjabi Suba movement and tragic episodes of the 1980s. Arya Samaj's opposition to Sikh demand for the creation of a Punjabi suba on a linguistic basis as applicable to the reorganization all other Indian States and Punjabi as a State language of Punjab has caused an immense damage to Punjab by reducing the territorial boundaries of Punjab and limiting its size.
The booklet rarely uses a harsh political language even while delineating on the Indian nationalism exclusively based on the Hindu religion and ethos. Proponents of such type of nationalism deny the Sikhs their 'distinct identity' and maintain that the 'Sikhs are part of pan-Hindu samaj'. Pertinently, in his concise presentation, the author quotes several prominent non-Sikh historians, theologians and philosophers to refute logically and convincingly the distortions peddled by the swamy and his Hindutva followers against Guru Nanak and the Sikhism.
Referring to the perpetual campaigning of the Arya Samajists against the Sikhs the author cites the case of Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia who willed his large property to a trust which was appropriated by the Arya Samaj people in 1898. They argued in the court that the 'Sikhs are part of the Hindu Samaj' covered under the Hindu Succession Act which debarred the changing of 'will' of the Sardar in favour of his wife. Such were the offensive acts of Arya Samaj that made Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha to pen down his book 'Hum Hindu Nahi' (We are not Hindus).
The booklet carries relevant portions from the writings of Max Arthur Macauliffe and other prominent historians to reason out that Guru Nanak founded altogether a new and unique religion based on universal principles and for the welfare of entire humanity. Incessant attempts made by the Arya Samajists to impose the Hindu hegemony on the Sikhs have created strong apprehensions in the mind of the latter. Some Sikhs openly voice their fear that the Sikhism might not be drowned into the vast Hindu ocean as it had already swallowed Buddhism. The author has underlined several references from Satyarath Prakash where the swamy described Guru Nanak as "illiterate not well-versed in Sanskrit, the language of devtas". The well-thought out choice of Gurmukhi for gurbani delivering a spiritual message to the common man was mistakenly referred to by the swamy as 'gaon ki bhasha' (rustic language). The fact is that Guru Nanak's choice of Punjabi in Gurmukhi script has been proved correct historically as well and part of reason for the university of his spiritual message is the choice of a language of the masses and shrinking of Sansktrit as a language of Brahmins only. Translation of Holy Bible in 1610 into English language under the royal patronage from the ancient Latin Hebrew languages have smiliarly is responsible for the spread of Christianity. Besides rubutting on the Swamy's sweeping contentions himself, the author puts on record writings of some known vedic and Sanskrit scholars who have presented the Guru and gurbani as a gift to humankind. These scholars included Swamy Shiv Nand Sarasvati from Tamil Nadu, Pandit Brij Nath, Swami Ramaji, Swami Vivekananda and Dr K L Shesgiri Rao. The booklet also quotes at length prominent Islamic scholar Mohammad Iqbal who termed the guru as 'mard-e-kaamal' who shook the Indian subcontinent from the deep slumber of ignorant superstitutions.
The author also makes a reference to Rabindranath Tagore who was wonderstruck by Guru Nanak's 'aarti' verse (Raag Dhanasri, p. 1, p. 663) encompassing the entire universe. Elaborate references have been cited from the writings of for scholarly Indian President Dr Radha Krishnan and Dr Zakir Hussain on Guru Nanak, gurbani and cardinal percept of Sikhism- kirat karo, vand chhako and naam japo. They affirm that following of the Sikh principles makes life disciplined and attuned to the service of humanity.
The booklet also cites works of several other scholars like Dalai Lama, Jain Saints, Marathi scholar K M Munshi and Dr V Raghvan of Madras University who have highlighted Guru Nanak's message of universal brotherhood and equality of human beings. The author exposes the Arya Samaj's claims as farcical as it opposed the caste system by furnishing a list of the Arya Samaj heads–all of them belonging to the Brahmin upper caste. So was the so-called 'Jaat Paat Torak Mandal' of the Arya Samaj which had deliberately 'postponed' its conference in Lahore in 1935 where Dr Ambedkar was invited to deliver his speech on the ignominious caste system. Thereafter, Baba Saheb Ambedkar had to publish his prepared speech in the shape of a book, "Annihilation of Caste". Mention has been made by the author that the Hindu caste-system had entered into the Sikh society too in 19th century and Giani Ditt Singh, a Dalit Sikh scholar suffered caste humiliation even in gurdwaras. This is a crude lesson to the Sikhs of the day.
Those who are interested to understand how the Indian Nationalism gradually morphed into 'Hindu Nationalism' must go through this booklet. Common Sikhs should also read a simple description of the recent history in the booklet to get a fair idea about the present predicament that the minorities are facing in the Indian political dispensation of the day. The booklet vociferously demand the starting of a second Sikh Renaissance movement like the earlier Singh Sabha Lehar to cleanse the management of major Sikh institutions mainly the SGPC from the grip of dirty Sikh politics. Infact, the author attributes the writing of this book as necessitated by the present day rot in Sikh religion and polity. To conclude, the booklet is a wakeup call for the Sikh Panth to make a badly required course correction well in time.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2020, All