Sikh Identity and Related Questions
Dr R S Bhalla
Nations grow, develop and continue on the basis of fundamentals of identity. The significance and force of an identity of a nation serves as a principle of survival. If a nation loses its identity, that will be its deterioration leading to oblivion. The Sikh identity is the main concern of this essay. It is by protecting and maintaining the identity that the Sikhs can stand on their own feet and dedicate their lives to religious, cultural and social causes of promoting truth, human rights, justice, equality and freedom of conscience without fear or favour as is taught by the Sikh religion. However, in dealing with the question of identity, some discussions relating to and effecting the questions of identity have also been scrutinised in the paper. The paper makes a close and critical study of the question of Sikh identity and independent existence of the Sikh religion as distinct and separate from Hinduism.
The identity of a nation is a historical process. It refers to both the objective and subjective factors. Objective factors refer to factors such as culture, distinct history, territory, language, religion, etc. Subjective factors refer to the community as it projects itself through its heritage and symbols. Nation's identity is revealed by decoding, explaining and clarifying these factors. As Smith explains that:
It is this process of history and the perception of cultural uniqueness and individuality which differentiates populations from each other and which endows a given population with a definite identity, both in their own eyes and in those of outsiders.1
Nation is, therefore, a cultural concept based on both objective and subjective factors. To deny such a group or unit an identity, on whatever grounds,2 is to deny a fact on which social order is established and grounded. To repudiate the notion of nation formations or their origin is to rebel against the social fabric upon which civilizations from the mist of history to the present stage has developed. As Archer3 states that over five centuries of Sikh history, the religious beliefs of the Sikhs established them with a distinct character of self-sacrifice, moral courage and integrity. The Sikhs in India form an independent and conspicuous order of its own and have established their identity as a nation. The Sikh community has attained such an identity. It is this identity that brings the Sikh nation as distinct from other nations in India.4
Nations are basic human categories and such a nationalism cannot be controlled and restrained.5 Defending the separate and distinct identity of the Sikh nation, Sikh leaders during the tense times in India, created by the Hindu leaders, rejected the claims of Hindu leaders that Sikhism is an armed wing of Hinduism. The Sikh leaders declared that Sikhism is a separate and distinct religion; it is a separate Qaum (Nation) and they will continue to be so forever.6 The Sikhs will survive as an independent, distinct and separate existence from Hinduism and, for that reason, from any other religion because of its distinct identity. A Sikh is immediately recognised as distinct from a Hindu and, for that reason, from people of other religions, because of his appearance of a flowing beard, uncut hair piled under a turban. The External symbol or identity of a Sikh is quite distinct and is a most visibly recognised feature. This visible identity is bestowed by the Sikh Gurus. This external identity of a Sikh is mandatory if a person is to be counted as a part of the Sikh community. A Sikh's preservation of hairs as a gift of God is an article of faith that is made a part of Sikhism by the Sikh Gurus. This identity will ensure the separate, independent and distinct identity of a Sikh. The institutionalised identity of a Sikh will continue to develop, grow and further the cause of the Sikh faith. The Sikh faith will continue so long as this distinct identity is maintained and protected. It will remind a Sikh of the Gurus, their sacrifices and strengthen the treasure of spirituality. Without their external identity they will be a lost cause without any glory in the mist of history. Commenting on the Sikh's distinguished appearance as its identity, Kapur Singh states that:
The reason why Guru (Gobind) forbade shingles and shaving, are grounded in the metaphysical postulates of transcendental aesthetics, in the basic aim and objects of the Khalsa Brotherhood, which seeks to guide mankind to a path of liberation and self-realisation through organised social and political activity, in contradiction to rejection, denunciation and reunion of the world and non-cooperation with the generative, creative impulse of the Universe and, thirdly and lastly, in the cultivation of a mature and integrated personality, which deliberately outgrows personal vanity and boyishness, and accepts the principle of growth and ageing as fundamental to Sikh religious discipline.7
When such a separate and independent identity is pressured and intimidated, the sense of alienation becomes stronger. Present identity of the Sikhs' as a cultural unique community entirely to itself is getting coerced. As far back as the census of 1911 the Sikhs were regarded as a separate community. The census gave legal recognition to the Sikhs' identity as independent, distinct and separate from other religions in India. In modern India, however, the state has denied this identity of the Sikhs by classifying Sikhs as Hindus in personal laws.8 Integration of the Sikhs into the fold of the Hindus with whom the Sikhs have no religious or philosophical affinity is a categorical denial of the Sikh identity. The status of Hindus is glossed over the Sikhs; it is a revolt against the social and religious fact engrossed in the annals of the history of Sikhs in India. It is an intrusion of law, as a result of government policy, into the social arena which is and was a province of religion, morals and traditions. This status is entirely detached from the social status of the Sikhs formed through Sikh philosophy and ethics. The legal status imposed and forced on the Sikhs is to create inroads and destroy social fabric, culture and religious affinities of the Sikh community by defining a Sikh as a Hindu through statecraftship. Here one clearly finds the active role of the state in denying the identity of the Sikh religion as of independent existence. The separate and independent identity of the Sikhs is destroyed through the medium of law and not through religious assimilation which is not possible and is unthinkable. Sikhism is a separate and independent religion not linked with any other religion. It has its own religious community, scripture, ethical code and its own religious rituals. For a religion to establish itself requires all these elements. The Sikh religion has its own script known as Gurmukhi created by the second Guru, Guru Angad. The Gurmukhi script is at variance with all other Indian scripts. The creation and invention of a new script is a confirmation of a separate identity.
Hindu religion9 is based on Vedic culture and the culture of the deities like Kali and Shiva and the existence of well known rites, symbols and traditions of Hindu culture like sacred cow, the holy Ganges. Sikhism as a creed is based on the idea of one almighty, all pervading and omniscient God. It is grounded on the most sublime general truths. It is far away from Hindu beliefs and mythology. The knowledge of the Vedas and their worth are not given any place in the Sikh religion. In explaining the distinction between Sikhism and Hinduism, Dr Gopal Singh states:
Sikhism has been defined by most historians as an offshoot of the ... Hindu mystic renaissance of the middle ages ... [ but for Hindu mystics] … the scriptural authority … was the Vedas … and the loving adoration … of God was to be offered to any one of the incarnations of Vishnu, both of which doctrines Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, repudiated.10
Guru Nanak taught the Sikhs to believe in one God; it is the creator alone that should be worshipped. This forms the core of Sikhism, no other object or person is to be worshipped. The Sikh religion has ten Gurus. From the first Guru, Guru Nanak, to the tenth Guru, Guru Govind Singh, there is no difference at all in the doctrines. It is the first Guru, Guru Nanak, who provided "the steel" in the words of Narang.11 Guru Nanak provided both the form and contents of the Sikh faith and the rest of the Gurus followed them absolutely. All the Gurus expressed the same theological principles in their own words and giving the same expressions. They carried the same message as was given by Guru Nanak without a change of an iota.
In Shastri v. Muldas, the meaning of 'Hindu' was given in relation to an untouchable caste, Sudras. In giving this meaning the religious faith, beliefs and practices of the Hindu religion were taken into consideration. Gajendragadkar, J of the Supreme Court of India after quoting extensively from a number of eminent Hindu scholars on Hindu religion and philosophy, defined a 'Hindu' as one who declares and professes:
The acceptance of the Vedas with reverence, recognition of the fact that means and ways of salvation are diverse and realisation of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion.12
The above quoted philosophy is not accepted by the Sikh religion. According to the Sikh religion: All learning and teaching of the Vedas cannot lead to salvation or deliverance of a person. One who understands and contemplates God attains oneness with God.13 Guru Govind Singh in Bachitra Natak, Chapter 6, para 19, makes it very clear that: Brahma wrote four Vedas, in those Vedas he had only explained about the performance of human karma or deeds. But all those who have devoted themselves to the service of God have turned away from the Vedas. The same thought is expressed in Guru Granth Sahib: The studies of Simritis,Vedas and Puranas are of no use and without any merit without the service of God.14 Hence the acceptance of the Vedas as the highest authority and recognition of any cult of the Hindu religion is totally rejected by the Sikh religion. In explaining the Sikh religion, Macauliffe writes about the purity of thought in Sikh religion and asserts that:
It prohibits idolatry, hypocrisy, caste exclusiveness, the Sutteeism of widows, the immurements of women, the use of wine and other intoxicants, tobacco smoking, infanticides, slander, pilgrim to sacred rivers and temples of Hindus; and it inculcates loyalty, gratitude for all favours received, philanthropy, justice, impartiality, truth, honesty, all the moral and domestic virtues known to the holiest citizens of any country.15
In comparison to this background and beliefs of Sikhism, idolatry is Hinduism’s natural form of expression when a Hindu worships. In Hinduism God can be worshiped in any form, as a natural force, like water, fire, or it can be worshiped in the shape of an animal or divine incarnations, gods and goddesses that one selects according to one’s own desire and for the fulfilment of a certain purpose or purposes.
It is not the intention of the writer to deal with the Sikh religion in details since it is not the concern of the paper. However, it will not be out of place to state briefly the basic tenets of Sikhism and express specifically that the Sikh religion is quite modern, scientific and practically a sound religion. It denounced all superstitions, mythology, rituals and taboos generally found in the already existing religions of India. Its sincere and true practice can relieve one of all prejudices. Sikhism reveals the way and brings into the open the finer, supreme and sublime values of human life to get rid of hatred and egocentric attitude by spreading the message of love and universal brotherhood by protecting human rights. One finds an example of these sublime qualities in the protection of human rights in the sacrifice of the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur. Guru Teg Bahadur sacrificed his life to protect the life, liberty and freedom of conscience. He sacrificed his life to set an example and illustrate that to lead a life of free conscience is more important than the material cravings and possessions. One must not bow before injustice. If one studies the history of Sikhism one will find stupendous sacrifices made in the struggle for righteousness. This is the Sikh way of life. It is how Sikhism has been nurtured. It creates optimism, hope and healthy growth in life and makes life meaningful and worth living. The Guru stood against torture, tyranny and injustice to the people of India by the rulers of India who at that time happened to be Muslims. It is the magnanimity of the Guru, his spiritual experience, his approach to the whole humanity without any distinction of race or caste that he sacrificed his life for purity and probity to impart a moral lesson of sacrifice of worldliness for higher principles in life. This is the lesson that inculcates in a Sikh the spirit of sacrifice to oppose oppression. The aim of Sikhism is to help seek truth. The term Sikh means a disciple. In life, a Sikh is always a disciple in search of truth.
None of the Sikh Gurus ever assumed the mantle of divinity unto themselves. They never claimed any incarnation or embodiment of a supernatural spirit. The Sikhs do not believe in incarnation of God. God does not take any birth because God is formless, bodiless and not affected by time and space. God has no form or shape.16 The Gurus identified themselves with other human beings. They prayed for God's mercy and guidance on all human beings, including themselves. Sikh philosophy believes in one God as the protector of all human beings. The idea of numerous gods is not only condemned in clear and unequivocal terms, but is regarded as an insult to the very concept of God. Idolatry, which came as a result of plurality of gods, is clearly condemned in Sikh religion. Guru Granth states that: God is not outside but within man himself. His soul is created in the image of God. One can discover God in one’s self. By hanging stones around one's neck, symbolising God, one is living in a mythical world, the world of fantasy, unreal world. One is, in fact, an atheist, practising rituals and believing in taboos. By leading such a life, one achieves nothing. One is creating one’s own downfall. By doing such an act and doing such activities, one is showing one's ungratefulness to God who has given one a human body. Such acts can never lead to salvation. Such a person is despicable and spurious. One attains the kingdom of God only through contemplation on the concept of God. This is the way to attain oneness with God.17 Hindu religion gives the idea of plurality of gods. All gods are independent of each other and have separate existence, fighting among themselves to save their territory. Even for the sake of argument if one accepts that all the gods emanate from one spirit, it does not follow that they are not independent. Commenting on the idea of emanation from one God, Hobhouse states:
It leaves us with the picture of the emaciated hermit dreaming, in the trans of semi-starvation of himself as one with the centre of things, a God self-created by his own afflicted brain.18
All the above discussions lead to the establishment of two entire distinct philosophies separating Sikhism from Hinduism. Both religions are poles apart and, therefore, distinct, separate and independent of each other.
Sikhism – a New Start
The knowledge of the Vedas and their value to the Sikh religion and spiritual well being is cast in the negative. The adherents of these two religions, the Hindus and the Sikhs, follow different paths to attain spirituality and there is no commonality between the two religions. Both religions are different. A Sikh is not a Hindu.19 In spite of all these clear differences20 between the two faiths, and acceptances of their distinct characters in social and political life21 the Hindu intellectuals22 regard the Sikh religion as part and parcel of Hinduism, a reformation movement of Hinduism. If for the sake of argument one accepts that Sikhism is a reformation movement, Hinduism is still not reformed. It still keeps all its old orthodoxy regarding the notion of plurality of gods, Karma, rituals, caste system, etc. In such a case Sikhism has every right to call itself a new start, a new order, a fresh beginning, parting ways from Hinduism and staying independent in its own right. State interference with Sikh faith through law is brought in to transform the "inner forces" of the Sikh faith to the fold of Hinduism. However, in experience and practical terms both religions exists separately and independent of each other. The confusion between Sikhism and Hinduism lies in the origin of the Sikh religion. It is because of this confusion that Sikhism is sometimes wrongly described as a Hindu challenge to the growing might of Islam.23 This confusion, therefore, gives wrong reasons for the right cause for saving people from tyranny. The Sikhs never bowed and submitted to injustice and tyranny brought upon them by the Mughals. Bravery, courage and sacrifice of the Sikhs were a tribute and glory entrusted in the Sikhs by the Gurus. Cunningham24 writes that no Sikh offered to submit and no discipline of Gobind asked for quarter. Narang writing about the sacrifices and courageous spirit of Sikhism states that “The sword which carved the Khalsa's way to glory was, undoubtedly, forged by Govind.”25 There existed such a lust for never dying fame. The Sikhs waged the struggle against the tyranny of Islam, its spread by force and humiliation of other religions. The Sikhs challenged the Mughals power and at the same time continued to practice their faith in the face of all odds. The Sikh faith kept on growing and gaining strength and flourished while the Hindus humbly submitted to the Mughals’ might without offering any defence. The Sikhs with their valour and courage established a Kingdom of their own for the protection of their generations defeating the Mughals’ might. The Mughals heaped ignominy, insults, hatred against the majority population of India which happened to be Hindus. The Hindus were victimised because of their faith and wealth. They were put to injustice when Ala-ud-din declared that:
There should be left only so much to the Hindus that neither, on the one hand, they should become arrogant on account of their wealth, nor, on the other hand, should they desert their lands and business in despair.26
The Hindus' social standing in India at the time of Ala-ud-din and their treatment under Muslim rule was very abusive and indignant. It was all because of the submissiveness and rotten political will to oppose the Muslims. It becomes clear from the Hindus’ treatment:
[Hindus] are called payers of tribute, and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should, without question and with all humility and respect, tender gold. If the tax collector chooses to spit in the mouth of a Hindu, the latter must open his mouth without hesitation... God himself has commanded their complete degradation inasmuch as the Hindus are the deadliest foes of the Prophet. The Prophet has said that they should either embrace Islam or should be slain or enslaved, and their property should be confiscated to the state.27
The Muslims did not stop at these indignities to the Hindus. The Hindus were allowed only to possess corn and coarse clothes sufficient to last them for not more than six months.28
The Sikhs stood to the might of the Mughals to protect the people of India who lost their will to fight against the injustices of the Muslims. The very submissive attitude of the Hindus accepted the authority of the Muslim rulers. The disciples of Guru Nanak, the Sikhs, stood to the might of the Muslims by fully embracing the principle taught by Guru Nanak. The Guru taught29: There is no cause of concern and there is no remorse if the fighting is between equals. However, if a strong person thrashes a weak person, there is always remorse or a cause of concern. Help of the weak and the poor, struggle against oppression and injustice are essential parts of Guru's teaching. It is against this scourge and torment the Sikhs took courage to protect the people of India resting their faith on the teachings of their Guru. In such a case the Sikhs used their sword in defence of truth and righteousness, and prayed to God for assistance in its use. It is drawn when there are no other means of defence. All these events point to the fact that all utterances regarding the Hindu challenge against the growing might of Islam are baseless. The Sikhs waged war against the Muslims not to oppose and suppress their faith but to redeem people of all faiths. The proof of this is found in the help the Sikhs got even from other religious communities, including Muslims, in their fight against tyranny of the Mughals, who were also Muslims. As Ganda Singh, a scholar historian, stated that “His (Banda Singh) was a political struggle for the emancipation of his country from the tyranny of Mughals, who happened to be Muslims by faith.”30 It is an incident of history, which the Hindu intellectuals are trying to exploit, that Sikhism came into existence to save the Hindus from the Mughals' tyranny. This point is clearly explained by Ganda Singh when he states that:
The Sikhs were fired with a strong zeal to root out the Mughals from the land of India and such was the confidence inspired by them in the minds of the non-Muslim population that they come to be looked upon as defenders of their faith and their country.31
It is a conspicuous feature of Sikhism that it is not a sect of Hinduism in any form or sense or anything else. Sikhism is not a transformation of Hinduism; it is a new order. One must look at the totality of the Sikh tenets and its impact on the people who abide by those tenets. It is in the light of the tenets of the Sikh faith one will understand the contents and substance of Sikhism. Dorothy after making a comparative study of different religions states that “Sikhism should be regarded as a new and separate world-religion rather than as a reformed sect of Hindus.”32 Similarly Duncan Greenless states that “Sikhism is not a reproduction of earlier religions, but a profound modification of them, so profound that it cannot critically be regarded otherwise than as a new revelation altogether.”33 Sikhism’s centre of creative energy and faith rests and lies in the beliefs and the convictions in ten Gurus expressed in the Guru Granth Sahib, (The Holy book of Hymns) and the holy centre and focus of energy in the Golden Temple and Anand Pur Sahib.
The assimilation of Sikhism into Hinduism is politically motivated because by regarding the Sikhs as Hindus their claim to a separate nation is negatived and they will cease to be a separate community. All such utterances about Sikhism as a part of Hinduism or a reformed sect of Hinduism are politically motivated and not based on philosophy, theology, and moral doctrines. Even in social living the lifestyle of both the communities, the Hindus and the Sikh, are poles apart. Such a political advantage, for example, was sought by Mahatma Gandhi at the time of struggle for independence of India from the British. He denied the independent and separate existence of the Sikh religion as a separate nation to negate any claim they make to any sovereign state. Mahatma Gandhi34 argued that since Guru Nanak was a Hindu reformer like all others who have founded Hindu sects, Sikhs are Hindus. Again Mahatma Gandhi advocates that from the first Guru, Guru Nanak, to the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, were reformers and defenders of the Hindu faith and he said that:
My belief about the Sikh gurus is that they were all deeply religious teachers and reformers, that they were all Hindus and that Guru Gobind Singh was one of the greatest defenders of Hinduism .... I do not regard Sikhism as a religion distinct from Hinduism. I regard it as a part of Hinduism and the reformation.”35
It was to the political benefit of the Hindus and Hindustan to hold Sikhs as Hindus, otherwise why force Sikhs into the fold of Hindus when they do not want to be a part of the Hindu community. The Sikh community has its own rudimentary organisation, patterns of behaviour and personal convictions laid down by the ten Sikh Gurus that directed their actions and demeanour. The Sikhs are the original adherents to these convictions. Again, by regarding the Sikhs as the Hindus, the existence of an independent Sikh state during the Mughal reign in India which Lord Dalhousie annexed in 1849 will look like a creation of a Hindu state against the excesses of the Muslim rulers and not a Sikh state, Khalistan, which will identify with the Sikhs' as a separate community.
One cannot realise and understand the true spirit of Sikhism unless one keeps Sikhism separate and independent of Hinduism. It cannot be regarded as an offshoot of Hinduism nor Sikhism can be regarded a variation of Hinduism. Once people converted from Hinduism to Sikhism, one cannot regard converts as an inalienable part of the Hindus. Hindus were converted to Islam by the Muslim rulers of India, one cannot argue that those converts are Hindus. As Akbar states that “[By] saying a Sikh is a Hindu is a bit like calling every Muslim a Jew: Muslims and Jews, and indeed Christians, have as much in common with one another as Hindus have with the Sikhs.”36 Again to put it to more severe scrutiny, one must remember that Christianity has its basis and foundation in Judaism. The Old Testament that constitutes the sacred book of the Jews is a part of Christian religion. Still Judaism and Christianity are two different religions. Again, Jews, Christian and Muslims believe in Ibrahim as their common prophet, despite their separate and independent existence as three different religions. If there are some resemblances between different religions of the world, it does not make them one. It is the difference that makes them different. These resemblances are due to the common issues, themes, and subject matters among the religions of the world. Sikhism's position is stated and explained by Cunningham while considering the relationship of different religions; he described and elucidated that “Sikhism stood more or less in the same relationship to Hinduism as Christianity to Judaism. Just as Christianity had provided the latent energy for Europe so did Sikhism possesses the energy to leave the stagnant Hindu society.”37
Nature of Hinduism
There is no clear-cut definition of Hinduism. It is because of the absence of any founder who established Hinduism as a faith or creed and laid down fundamental principles based on spiritual experience. As Sharma38 states that what matters in religion is its philosophy based on spiritual experience. Its nature and depth remains incomprehensible and unsound. Thapar writing about the nature and characteristics of the Hindu religion states:
Hinduism was not founded by a historical personage as a result of a revelation: it is not a revealed religion but grew and evolved from a variety of cults and beliefs, of which some have their foundation in Vedic religion, and others were popular cults.39
On account of these difficulties Alfred Lyall40 compares Hinduism to a troubled sea without shore or visible horizon, driven to and fro by the winds of boundless credulity and grotesque invention. However, there is no difficulty in defining other religions.41 Difficulties in defining Hinduism are because of the absence of the source of Hinduism and this is the cause of conflicting and contradictory traits found in different sects of the Hindu religion. Mahatma Gandhi admits that “Hinduism is an elastic, indefinable term and Hindus are not homogeneous whole like Muslims and Christians.42 Despite different nature, characteristics and distinguishing features of Sikhism as a revealed religion founded by a historical personage, Gandhi still tried to make Sikhism a part of Hinduism. He was trying to join two contradictory norms into one whole. His main policy and politics is to create confusion and complexities and to identify Indian culture, religions and traditions with Hinduism as a prevalent religion. Mahatma Gandhi’s racial prejudice and bias in favour of Hinduism distorted his vision and he failed to recognise the existence of any other religion in India. All his doings were deliberate, not in ignorance, to gain political leverage by confusing others and still posing himself as an apostle of truth. The conflict is more political rather than historical and cultural. Historically and culturally both religions are different.
It is difficult to find a definition of Hinduism either in Encyclopaedia Britannica or in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. Hinduism has no tenets that can be summarised; its tenets are widespread beliefs often of contradictory nature. Radhakrishnan43 commenting on the Hinduism states that it has come to mean a heterogeneous mass of philosophy, religion, mythologies and magic. This gives the idea that Hinduism is an anthropological process rather than a religion. Viswanathan44 states that “Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life... Hinduism is more a culture than a religion.” Prof Diwan45 states that any definition of 'Hindu' in terms of religion will always be inadequate. However, Diwan stresses that the Hindu religion has a remarkable feature of permitting religious innovations and time and again new dimensions are added to the Hindu religion. For example, “The Dharamashastra did not prescribe any ceremony for conversion to Hinduism. It is a modern development that a person can be converted into Hinduism by performing some rituals. It is what started new as an innovation from other religions.”46 It absorbs new ideas like a sponge.47 It is of fluid quality and of dynamic nature. It allows an incorporation of variety of changes because of its built-in flexibility. Keeping in view all these explanations about Hinduism one can state that Hinduism is all absorbing process and not a religion but a way of life. This clearly explains and advocates that Hinduism adopts all types of creeds from any source which serve its purpose. It could not provide any developed and coherent fundamentals of its own since it is an open system. All these explanations about Hinduism are given here not with a view of rejecting or accepting any of these explanations about the nature of Hinduism but these are given to explain that as compared to Hinduism, Sikhism is a wholesome religion. Sikhism cannot be regarded as a part of or offshoot of Hinduism. Sikhs do not become Hindus because the Hindus call them a sect of Hinduism.
Religious prejudices against Sikhs in India
The Republic of India, is a caste and race ridden country. It is echoed and generally reflected as a Hindu state. It is openly projected as a Hindu country by the majority Hindu community of India. India has a religion-culture-social setting. But this idea is not new. Swami Dayanand wrote a book Satyarth Prakash in 1874 and launched a movement called Arya Samaj, to revitalise Hinduism by criticising religious founders of all other religions. Swami Dayanand passionately advocated for the revival of Hinduism based on the philosophy of Vedas because to him the Vedas are of immense value and present the truth, the only truth. In pre-independence India, that is before 1947, Hindu leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, known as the father of Indian nationalism, Bankim Chander Chatterjee, etc., bounced on this bandwagon to establish Hindu nationalism. Mahatma Gandhi paid rich tributes to these leaders. The revival movement has its roots in the past. India was conceived a Hindu state long before independence. Golwarker, Madhav Sadashiv, a Hindu thinker and intellectual expressed this idea and stated:
Minorities must live by the grace of the majority; only a Hindu could be a true Indian; those whose faith did not originate on this sub-continent were ‘foreigners’. Muslims, Christians, Jews and Parsis would have to adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu race and culture… may stay in the country, wholly subordinate to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment - not even citizen’s rights …. In this country Hindus alone are the nation and the Muslims and others, if not anti-national, are at least outside the body of the nation.48
Golwarker’s advocacy did not regard Sikhs as foreigners since their faith had grown on the Indian soil. Moreover he included Sikhs in the category of Hindus. However, if the Sikhs were not Hindus, as the Sikhs claim, then by becoming a minority nation within India, they must remain subordinate to the Hindus. According to Golwarker the Hindu religion is the only religion, a true religion. All non-Hindus must submit or sub-merge their identity into the Hindu Identity. It was the only way they can live in India. The non-Hindus had to accept a second grade status in India. He was relegating all communities to a lower level than Hindus if they want to stay in India. It was nothing short of a militant adaptation towards other communities for quest of power which they lost for centuries first to the Muslims and later to the British. This shows hatred and arrogance towards other communities in India. Golwarker demanded from other communities in India an unquestionable obedience to the Hindus. Again, this means that the whole social, political and judicial system should be geared towards attaining this end. This is the same type of thinking as of Hitler that the German race is superior to all other nations living in Germany. It was the idea of superior race that brought down the fall of Hitler. Hitler's whole philosophy and statecraft was based on the idea of superiority of German race. Golwarker was not even interested in extending rights to 'foreigners' including the right of citizenship since he had no idea of human rights or he did not care for human rights. However, all such utterances of misguided, chauvinist and avaricious zealot Hindus look good only on paper. The nature, character and attitude of the Hindus as defined by Golwarker defy the actual reality of Hindu courage and bravery as noted by a Hindu intellectual during the Mughal period despite their superior majority population strength. He directs the attention to the fact of submissive attitude and abusive treatment of Hindus during the Mughal period in India. He states all the restrictions and prohibitions the Hindus were subject to in the observation of their religious duties. The Hindus were not free to exercise their basic religious rites and ceremonies. They were completely under the control of the Mughals. Narang states that:
The popular religion about the time of Nanak's birth, was confined to peculiar forms of eating and drinking, peculiar ways of bathing and painting the forehead and other such mechanical observances. The worship of idols wherever they were permitted to exist, pilgrimages to the Ganges and other sacred places whenever they were allowed, [and] the observance of certain ceremonies like the marital and funeral rites.49
Gupta, to the same extent, states that:
During all this period the Hindu masses were completely demoralised and emasculated. They were forbidden to eat grain of a superior quality, to wear rich garments or to ride good horses or in palanquins and carriages. In certain provinces they could ride only on a donkey.50
The Hindus could not produce a single leader who will defend them against these injustices. Before the advent of the Sikhism by Guru Nanak, the Hindus were so depressed and demoralised that they were struggling for their self-preservation in the face of Islam's onslaught. There was no one to whom they could appeal to protest and protect them, no one who could stand and fight the indignities inflicted on them. As Narang states:
The storm threatened to sweep everything before it and the Hindus, evidently, thought it more politic to preserve chaff as well wheat than to try to winnow and lose both. The priests, the hereditary guardians of Hinduism, lazy and lifeless like all hereditary incumbents of high positions, could not unite all Hindus together so as by one united action to hurl back the waves of invasion.
The centuries of invasion, foreign misrule and persecution had produced the greatest depression and the spiritual subjection and stagnation had aggravated the demoralisation to an enormous degree.51
The only way to put an end to such tyrannical rules and establish a social dignity was to start a religion that would make nationalism a religion. It was done by Sikhism, a new creed. Guru Govind Singh, according to Narang,52 performed such a task. According to Narang,
The Hindus as a race were too mild by nature, too content in their desires, too modest in their aspirations, too averse to physical exertion. They had religion but no national feelings. The only way to make a nation of them was to make nationalism their religion.53
Modern thought regarding the revival of Hinduism is an outcome of the past frustrations, pent up feelings and downgrading suffered by the Hindus. The Hindu revival movement is a reaction to establish their superior character in the presentday India. This superior character is now getting expressed by the Hindu revivalists. The idea of Hindu hegemony influenced the idea and personality of Mahatma Gandhi. As French and Sharma54 state that “Gandhi was both a product and an agent of religious ferment in India .... He also expressed the wish that he had ‘no other wish in this world but to find light and joy and peace through Hinduism.’” He was very religious, a devout Hindu, though he always claimed to be a secular leader. His inner self was dedicated to the Hindu philosophy. His conscience and his deep convictions believe in the superiority of Hinduism. One has to accept that there is nothing wrong with his devotion to his religion but it is always wrong for him to reject people of other faith and at the same time project himself as the defender of all faiths in India. All the outcome of his actions led to favour Hindus. He perceived the whole population of India as homogeneous unit but his action were inconsistent from what he projected himself. Under the guise of his secular philosophy his aspiration for the ‘Ram Raj’ was very obvious. This infuriated the Muslim League in its struggle for independence and the League became very vocal for the creation of Pakistan. Mahatma Gandhi gave the impression to the Hindus that they are the backbone of the independence movement against the British.55
Gandhi56 said that the Congress party belongs to every citizen of India - Hindu, Muslim, Parsee, Sikh, Christian, Jews and others. It is the most representative of the nation. However, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad,57 a Muslim with a deep sense of true Indian patriotism and a backbone leader of the Congress party, who remained in India with the Congress party even after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, clearly pointed out the Hindu nature of the Congress party and their dominance and hegemony in the party. He cited two cases to point out the Hindu character and revivalist nature of the Congress party. Two leaders, one Muslim from Bihar and another a Parsee from Bombay won in the elections but these leaders were rejected and relegated to play second fiddle to Hindu leaders because of their religion. It was one of the many instances wherein the Hindu religion had assumed a total role and control of Indian party politics. Azad stated and clearly asserted that the Muslim League was right in its view that the Congress party was biased in favour of Hindus and was neutral only in name. Azad stated that the rejection of leaders in Bihar and Bombay by leaders like Patel, Nehru and Dr Rajinder Parshad was obviously on religious grounds. Gandhi did nothing to correct this injustice and, in fact, never tried to intervene. It was Hindu religious pressure that led to the rejection of non-Hindu leaders. This was and even at present the central aspect of the India-Hindu national life. The entire national campaign was raised to Hindu religious level. Gandhi, mixing his religious and political stakes, stated that:
My devotion to truth has drawn me into the field of politics and I can say without the slightest hesitation and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.58
Here the secular national euphoria of the Congress party failed and showed their Hindu bias. The Congress party was never free from bias. It never lived up to the idea of secular nationalism which it claimed to be its professed idea. Such attitudes and other happenings aroused suspicion among the Muslims and the Muslim leaders described Gandhi a ‘cunning fox’ and a ‘Hindu revivalist,’59 and called for the creation of Pakistan as a separate and independent sovereign nation for the Muslims. Dr Zakir Husain, who later became the President of India, states that Gandhi stood for Hindu revivalism.60 Mahatma Gandhi even denied the status of a nation to Muslims and it was the cause of creating Pakistan.61 Jinnah, a Muslim leader, was insisting on regarding Muslims a separate nation since both Muslims and Hindus represent different religion and social order. They could not evolve a common nation. In 1937, Jinnah declared at a session of the Muslim League held at Lucknow that enemy of the Muslims is the Congress party; it is a Hindu body and is championing the cause of Hindustan for Hindus. Islam is an integrated religion and culture. Jinnah stated that:
The Muslims of India ... were a nation with a 'distinct culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions’. ‘India has never been a nation... It only looks that way on the map. The cows I want to eat, the Hindu stops me from killing. Every time a Hindu shakes hands with me he has to wash his hands. The only thing the Muslim has in common with the Hindu is his slavery to the British.’62
Congress party in the pre-independence and post-independence India, and other major political parties in present India, are the parties of Hindus furthering the cause of the revival of Hinduism. One can argue that other minority communities are also involved in the membership of the Congress party according to the share of their population. Here the question is not academic but factual since decisions of the party are based on majority and the majority is always that of Hindus and the minority has to follow the majority. This is the nature and character of India's democracy and secularism.
What Jinnah stated about the Muslims, is also true of the Sikhs who have their own history, tradition, customs, calendar, moral code and their own script, known as Gurumukhi script, invented and introduced by Guru Angad, the second Guru of the Sikhs. This is a major contribution to the identity of Sikhism. Mahatma Gandhi says that "The liberty of faith, conscience, thought and action which we claim for ourselves must be conceded equally to others.”63 His contradictory and confusing statements are intentional and deliberate to confuse others. All the confusion that he created in general, and for the Sikhs in particular, which still continues, has affected the general thinking in judging him both in terms of the contribution to the revival of Hinduism, degrading other religions and social matters like caste system. One cannot suggest, because of his double and dubious role, how the history will judge him.
Gandhi’s attitude towards the Sikhs remained very discriminatory because he wanted the Sikhs to declare themselves as Hindus or part of the Hindu community. He did not spare the Sikhs when he vigorously protested to the conversion of untouchables (schedule castes, the lowest caste among the Hindus) in India to the Sikh religion.64 He was against the conversion of Harijans to Sikhism. He was not worried about the welfare or rehabilitation, or any other good of the untouchables. His fear was to preserve the Hindu society and maintain its superiority and numerical strength, and that was the real question before Gandhi. It was the main problem that was boggling his mind. Gandhi said that "Sikhism is a part of Hinduism ... Dr Ambedkar wants a change of religion. If becoming a Sikh amounts to conversion, then this kind of conversion on the part of Harijans is dangerous... conversion as well change of community can only be a personal matter. If you can persuade the Sikhs to accept Sikhism is a part of Hinduism ... I will have no objection to Harijans calling themselves RAMANUJIS or Sikhs.”65 Dr Ambedkar wanted to convert to the Sikh religion. He was convinced and had realised the separate existence of Sikhism as a different religion and not an offshoot of Hinduism. He definitely wanted a change of faith. Dr Ambedkar, a powerful voice and a spokesperson of the depressed classes, wanted to break the bondage of Hinduism to free the people of untouchable stigma since he knew that Hinduism could not get rid of caste system and accept Sudras. The very foundations of Hinduism are based on Varn Ashram Dharma and it got acceptance both in Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana, the two great epics of Hinduism. Moreover according to Vedic scriptures, the caste system originated with Brahma, the creator. The caste system and untouchability have, therefore, got divine sanctions in Hinduism and are the main cause of social inequalities in India. By sticking to caste system, the Hindus feel, without any moral indignity, that they are performing religious duties. They do not have any indignation by treating lower caste as lepers. The Hindus must realise that a leper is also a human being. The high caste Hindus instead counsel the lower caste that by performing their duties responsibly they can move to a higher caste in their next birth. The theory of Karma was linked to incarnation in the next birth and this was used to perpetuate caste system and, thus, continue social inequalities. The untouchables were told that their low caste was a result of their past deeds. Their good deeds will lead to their future birth in a high caste.
Gandhi, in fact, was the defender of the caste system. He was quite convinced and absolute certain that the religious sanctions support the caste system as a part of Hinduism. He rebuffed all the approaches made to him to help in bridging the gap between the caste Hindus and the lower castes. Gandhi was once approached by the untouchables that he should try to get intermarriages between the upper castes Hindus and the lower caste Hindus. He refused to enter into such a task. He then was asked to make effort to make it possible that both the caste Hindus and lower castes sit together for sharing a meal. He even refused that. For every other task, social, political or religious, he threatens with a fast unto death but for this noble cause of removing untouchability from the caste system he was not ready to turn a straw.
Gandhi, as a Hindu tradition, will not eat in the house of a non-Hindu whom he will consider a low caste. Baig states that Gandhi once stated that:
I have taken nothing but a fruit in Mohammedan or Christian household... In my opinion the idea that inter-dinning and inter-marrying is necessary for nationalist growth is a superstition borrowed from the west. Eating is a process just as vital as the other sanitary necessities of life. And if mankind had not, much to its harm, made of eating a fetish and an indulgence, we should have performed the operation of eating in that light and there are thousands of Hindus still living who will not eat their food in the presence of anybody.66
If a Muslim enters in a kitchen of a Hindu family, it is considered impure and a Hindu will perform the purification process of ritual ablution. Thapar67 states that the Hindus regard the Muslims as a new sub-caste rather low in the scale. It is, therefore, not only that the low caste Hindus are shunned but Muslims are also included in the same category. A Hindu considers it an act of outcaste to eat cooked food from those whom a Hindu considers a low caste, their touch makes the food impure and it gets polluted. It will destroy the purity of caste and leads to ritual ablution to regain purity. Caste system and untouchability are the two pillars of Hinduism. Gandhi instead of promoting unity and relationship between the high caste Hindus and the untouchables to get rid of the sting and stink of caste system, himself created a new caste of Harijans - Children of God.68 Macnicol writing about the caste system and the superiority of upper caste Hindus states:
Tulsidas, a Hindu poet writes that a Brahmin must be honoured though devoid of every virtue and merit, but a sudra never, though distinguished for every virtue and learning.69
The Hindu religion is based on caste system. It has blinded the sense of fairness in the Hindus. They have become habitual of discarding others but themselves. Anything different from them is either condemned or effort is made to assimilate it within the Hindu fold. It is this attitude they showed towards the Sikhs. Hindus always denied the independent, separate and distinct existence of Sikhism. To prove their point they cite the sacrifice of the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, as a sign of oneness for the protection of Hinduism. Guru gave his life to save the Hindu religion from the excesses of the Muslims’ injustices and tyranny. But the Guru gave his life not to protect Hinduism but to protect the liberty and freedom of conscience. He wanted to prove that for a person to lead a meaningful life, conscience is more important than material cravings and possessions. All these utterances that the Guru sacrificed his life to save Hinduism, in fact, showed the total ignorance and misunderstanding of and about Sikhism. It seems that the Hindus have no clue about what Sikhism is and how it differs from Hindu philosophy, morals and culture. The ignorance of Mahatma Gandhi70 becomes more evident when he said that Guru has not said anywhere that you must grow beards, carry kirpan and so on. Gandhi never knew that Guru Nanak is visualising God with Kesas (Hair).71 The Guru Granth Sahib states that God created all men and women in His own shape and form, in His own image.72 The Guru wants to keep the same shape and form and image that God gave to him to keep affinity with God. The Guru would like to see his disciples to follow his example. It is further stated that to keep its progeny in pure form, the Guru categorically commanded and directed them to keep their long hair and cover or protect them with a turban.73 Guru Gobind Singh prescribed some conditions including Kesas (hair) and Kirpan as mandatory for the Khalsa, baptised order of the Sikh faith. These very conditions Gandhi regards as frivolous. Mahatma Gandhi says that “To day the Sikhs say that if they give up Kirpan they give up everything. They seem to have made the Kirpan into the religion.”74 Here it seems that Gandhi never read any literature about Sikhism. He made up his own gestures to suit his purposes. It also shows that religion did not count except where it served Mahatma Gandhi's explicit and definite political purpose. He deliberately and intentionally misled the public about the Sikh faith. One can also state that these statements of Mahatma Gandhi are naive and armchair. These are the result of generations of bias against the Sikhs. Mahatma Gandhi failed to realise that Christ, the founder of Christianity, was himself a Jew. He founded and started a new religion in a new form with different ideas from the Jews. The same is true of the Sikh religion.
Mahatma Gandhi’s sub-conscious, in fact, had already accepted the idea of Hindus’ dominance. He firmly retained and followed the idea of Hindu hegemony despite his saintly image he projected to the public. Gandhi’s actions were ruled by his sub-conscious and not by the niceties that he preached. This was his uncanny way, double standard and lack of clear thinking in terms of nationalism and secularism that led to his murder by a group of Hindu fundamentalists75 on January 30, 1948. Gandhi defied his own outlook and a friend-of-mankind approach when he objected to the marriage of Vijay Laxmi Pandit, the sister of Jawahar Lal Nehru, to a Muslim boy. He threatened to take a fast unto death if she went ahead with the marriage.76 The Congress party of India of which Gandhi was the political and spiritual leader rejected the name Hindustan77 for India after India gained independence in 1947. Hindustan was the name given to India by the Muslims as a place of the Hindus when they first arrived and occupied India. This shows the narrowness of Gandhi's national and secular outlook. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi forgot that the word Hindu was also given by the Muslims to the people of India of which he felt very proud to call himself a Hindu. All the secularism of Gandhi's Congress party was a farce since the prejudices and Hindu bias were evident in their actions. For example, after India got independence in 1947, the central government with Jawahar Lal Nehru as Prime Minister paid for the construction of Somnath Temple, a religious Hindu temple. Secularism does not teach the promotion of any one religion by the state when the state funds are collected from the public which also include other communities. Sangat Singh writing about the construction of Somnath Temple states that:
With the Indian independence in 1947, Hindu revivalism underpinned by the state power and machinery resumed its onward march after a hiatus of one thousand years. The first task undertaken immediately after independence by the new government, avowing secularism and composite nationalism, was the decision to reconstruct, at the state expenses, the Somnath Temple, which, in the words of K M Munshi, had served as a galling reminder of the degradation of the Hindus. And the cabinet meeting was presided over by Jawahar Lal.78
In fact this was an affront to show the other communities in India that India is a Hindu country. Their dominance is now established and other communities must accept and acknowledge the Hindu dominance.
Gandhi was himself a confused person, a trickster with a double personality to suite into the circumstances. His way of posing as a fakir in love with humanity duped the public and he succeeded in that. On the one hand, he calls Guru Gobind Singh a defender of the Hindu faith and, on the other hand, he calls him a “misguided patriot.”79 This double lifestyle and dubious philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi led Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of British India in 1947, to detest and remark that Gandhi is a “malevolent old politician … shrewd, obstinate, domineering, double-tongued”, with ‘little true saintliness in him.’80 The prefix Mahatma in India language means saint but the people who dealt with him think about him otherwise because of his behaviour and conduct. In fact the character analysis of Mahatma Gandhi reveals his dark side hidden behind the general impression with which he fooled the people. With his tricky ways he really played heavy with the Sikhs.
In practice the Sikh community came to know about these tricks of Gandhi and the prejudices of the Hindu community against them in every day issues those favour the Sikhs.81 For example, in 1961and again in 1981 in a census of language issue the Hindus living in Punjab, speaking Punjabi in their daily life, as a matter of habit, recorded Hindi as their mother tongue instead of Punjabi. This was to keep the Sikhs at a disadvantage in the adjustments and fixing of boundaries for Punjab.
Origin of the Word ‘Hindu’
It would not be out of place to mention the introduction of the word ‘Hindu’ into the Indian culture. The word Hindu was first used by the Muslims in India in the eighth century. Akbar82 states that the term Hindu was given currency by the Arabs in the eighth century. This was the time when the Muslims first started coming to India. They came as invaders and established themselves as rulers of India. The word Hindu is of Persian origin. The Pears Encyclopaedia83 and in a dictionary published by the Education Department of the Government of Punjab, the word Hindu is defined as a thug, thief, etc. This meaning of the word was used for the people of India or the culture of the Indo-Gangetic region by the Muslims when they discovered that the people of the region practice usury as a source of their living or income; money lending was the chief business. Usury was a regular feature in the economic and social life of the people of the region. The Muslims popularised the word Hindu for the people of the region since usury is banned in the Muslim religion and is condemned as a sin in the Koran84 which states: Those who devour usury shall not rise again, save as he riseth whom Satan, hath paralysed with a touch; and that is because they say 'selling is only like usury', but God has made selling lawful and usury unlawful. God shall blot out usury, but shall make alms-giving profitable, for God loves not any sinful behaviour. They wanted to differentiate between themselves and the people of the region by calling them Hindus. This gave them a distinctive character and separate identity from the Hindus. Commenting on the word Hindu, Professor Sher Singh Sher stated that the word was unknown in ancient Aryan Scriptures, including the Vedas and other authentic Sanskrit scriptures. He states:
… the word ‘Hindu’… means a culture of Indo-gangetic region and not the name of any religion… the word 'Hindu' was not a native word, but was attributed to the Aryan inhabitants of this region by the foreign invaders who were Muslims … the word was not available in any ancient scriptures, including the Vedas and other authentic Sanskrit Shastras … this word has been given by the foreigners with a view to humiliate … as the word, according to their language means “thief, dishonest, thug.” Further, all the religions of India have adopted native names and those native names have noble meanings representing major traits of that religion, e.g., the word ‘Budh’ means ‘enlightened’, the word ‘Jan’ means ‘victorious’ (on vices), Sikh means 'learner' … due to the ignorance of the people they have accepted that name.85
The Persian word Hindu was used to convey a shameful meaning to humiliate the people of the region for the practice of usury which the Muslim abhor and condemn. One may assume or conclude for the time being that the name ‘Hindu’ given by the Muslims may be relevant to the inhabitants owing to their social mode of living, but it cannot be concluded as relevant to start any ‘ism’. As Diwan said that any definition of ‘Hindu’ in terms of religion will always be inadequate.86 Therefore, there may be Hinduism but there is no Hinduism in existence as a religion. Akbar calls Hinduism a loosely defined culture.87 Smith88 says that there is no such thing as “Hinduism”. Hinduism as a religion is strictly illogical and untenable. Here one can argue that if Sikhism is a part of Hinduism and Hinduism is not a religion, then Sikhism is also not a religion since a part cannot be different in nature and character from the whole. Minor variations may be possible to some extent if they do not affect the core of the whole but if the part is totally different then it is not a part of the whole. The part has its own existence, separate distinct and independent of the whole and, therefore, it is not a part of the whole. Again, if there is no such thing as Hinduism, Sikhism as a religion established and founded by the historical personalities can in no way be regarded as a part of Hinduism. The political conditions, the political power, and religious zeal of the Muslims, were responsible for the evolution and permanent fixation of the idea of Hinduism as a religion. Nevertheless, it has come about and has been accepted89 by the majority of the inhabitants of India. So to be consistent with the process of evolution and with the layman's ignorance about the origin and connotation of Hinduism it is at present accepted as a religion. However, it does not matter in whatever sense one may interpret it.
Some Indian writers, like Diwan, are of the view that the word Hindu is derived from and is a distortion of the word Sindh. But this is to misrepresent the facts. Sindh is the name of a river in India before 1947. After partition of India into two parts, India and Pakistan, the river Sindh became a part of Pakistan. It was not the name of the community. It was the name of a geographical feature of the landscape of India. It is, therefore, wrong to assume that the name Hindu is derived from the geographical feature and taken up by the inhabitants of India. The people of Sindh region are still known as Sindhi and not Hindi or Hindu. These inhabitants of the Sindhi valley are quite different from the Hindus in their beliefs, philosophy, language and culture.
Taking both the accounts given above of the word ‘Hindu’ it cannot be justified that Hinduism is a religion in the sense as other religions are known in India. During Asoka’s reign “the so-called religion” of Asokan India did not even have names. It must not be imagined that the masses of India in those days were Hindu in any meaningful sense of the term.”90 Similarly Diwan states that “Before the advent of Muslims in India, the term Hindu had no creedal connotation.”91
Leaving aside the discussion about the origin of the word Hindu, a new trend has started in India of tracing the ancient history to find out the ancient Indian names of cities, towns, rivers, etc. When the foreigners came to India as rulers they changed old names to suit their own purpose and to fit into their own cultural identity. They imposed new names on India culture with respect to Indian towns and villages. After India gained independence from the British in 1947, the foreign names came under public pressure and the ancient original names were reintroduced. For example, Hindustan which was a foreign name given by the Muslims when they came to India in the eighth century had been replaced by Bharat. The foreign name Bombay is replaced by the original old name Mumbai, after the name of a deity worshipped in the area, a friendly and noble gesture to pay respect and honour to a noble cause. Madras is replaced by Chennai, Calcutta is replaced by Kolkata, etc. The time has come when the word Hindu which is a foreign term should also be replaced by some ancient Dharma feature. That will be the continuation of the original feature of India rather than the slavish character carried by the word Hindu. Changing of the names and introducing new names based on old culture and ancient history is not a phenomenon peculiar to India, it is happening all over the world. In 1972 when Ceylon became independent, the foreign name Ceylon was replaced by the old cultural and ancient name Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese name. Similarly the foreign name Burma was replaced to suit the cultural-social identity and given a new name Myanmar in 1988 after a military coup, and new names were also given to some cities as Rangoon became Yangon. There are a number of cases all over the world where the newly independent countries have reverted to their old original names to remove the foreign stigma and assert their independent national status and cultural identity. Such reactions are the natural outcome for the newly gained independence from foreign imperialist powers which trespassed into other countries.
From the above discussion it is concluded by many Hindu writers that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life since it lacks stable fundamental principles and keeps shifting, absorbing and inventing new innovations. On the other hand, Sikhism is based on stable fundamental principles laid down by the Gurus who gave birth to Sikhism. Sikhism is started as a goal for spiritual salvation through the spiritual experiences of the Sikh Gurus (Prophets). The Sikh religion was founded by Guru Nanak, the first Guru. Referring to this Thapar states:
Nanak founded independent religious community.... That the Sikhs survived as an independent religious community... To become a follower of Nanak demanded a greater rejection of the outward manifestations of Hinduism or Islam. This tended to create a strong feeling of community the Sikhs. Nanak insisted that the new community must be actively involved in society and not become another isolated sect. After the death of Nanak, the Sikhs emerged with a separate religion. The later adoption of visible distinguishing symbols by the Sikhs further accentuated their separateness.92
The Sikh Gurus laid down a code of social and moral living. In Sikhism both social and moral code are two sides of the same coin, their relation is like milk and whiteness. The Sikh view is that: By Karma (actions or deeds), even by good Karma, a person cannot attain salvation, unless the Karma has its basis on moral principles. Moral principles guide a person towards good Karma but good Karma without moral principles may be actuated by greed or selfishness.93 Actions cannot go wrong when the goal is laid down and a person is guided towards that goal. Both social and moral life are tied together into one strand. The Sikh concept of Miri and Piri gives the unity of moral and temporal life.94 In the Sikh faith both moral and social code follow from Sikh religion and are not separate from the Sikh religion. Sikhism's unique philosophy establishes Sikhism as a separate religion, independent of other religions. Macauliffe says:
Now there is here presented a religion totally unaffected by Semitic or Christian influences. Based on the unity of God, it rejected formalities and adopted an independent ethical system, rituals and standards which were totally opposed to the theological beliefs of Guru Nanak's age and country... it would be difficult to point to a religion of greater originality or to a more comprehensive ethical system.95
Similarly to clarify the separate and independent existence of Sikh religion, Cunningham states that:
It was reserved for Nanak [the founder of Sikh religion] to perceive the true principles of reform, and to lay those broad foundations which enabled his successor Gobind to fire the minds of his countrymen with a new nationality, and to give practical effect to the doctrine that the lowest is equal with the highest, in race as in creed, in political rights as in religious hopes.96
It is the function of this paper to analyse and explain, as far as possible, and make clear by critical appreciation the existence of Sikhism as an independent, separate and distinct religion from Hinduism. Both the religions, Sikhism and Hinduism, are separate because both the religions can exist without the help of each other. Both are independent because both exist in their own right. The most distinguished mark of Sikh religion lies in the authenticity and originality which is not found in any other religion. It has authenticity since what is written in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book, is written by the founder of the Sikh religion. It has originality since the Sikh religion has given many new concepts that were not found in any other religion. For example, in Sikh religion one who turns to God truly and sincerely and follows the path of righteousness, God forgives all the sins.97 Person enjoys the life of bliss, the old sins are forgotten and forgiven and starts on a clean slate. If this forgiveness is not given by God, there is no idea of praying to Him and requesting for His bounties. Again Macauliffe, speaking about the authenticity of Sikh religion, states:
The Sikh religion differs as regards the authenticity of its dogma from other great theological systems. Many of the great teachers the world has known have not left a line of their own composition, and we only know what they taught through tradition or second-hand information.... But the composition of the Sikh Gurus are preserved, and we know it first-hand what they taught.98
In a Sikh Forum, Internationale Meinungen Uber Sikhi, Professor of Guru Nanak Chair, Yadavpur University, West Bengal, Professor Anil Chandra Banerjee in the same vein and expression states:
In Brahmanical Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism generations of teachers and commentators gave new shapes of religions and philosophical doctrines and sometimes changed them beyond recognition. The six schools of Hindu philosophy branched off into different groups of thinkers. The same process divided Jains and Buddhist into different and sometimes warring sects. None but a great and far-sighted founder can formulate doctrines capable of surviving the shocks of political and social revolutions for centuries.
It is the uniqueness of the Sikh religion that makes it a different and separate religion. It is its unique character that makes it differ without any doubt from Hinduism. It is its unique character that makes it independent of all other religions. Despite all these qualities of Sikhism as an independent, separate and distinct religion from Hinduism, if Hindus still insist that Sikhism is a part of Hinduism, then it is their misfortune in understanding Sikhism. Or one can say that it is a deliberate attempt on their part to misguide the world. The Sikhs, however, are not worried about the Hindus’ tricks, confusions and misunderstanding of the Sikh faith. This faith of the Sikhs in Sikhism is utmost stern.
1. Smith, Anthony D., The Ethnic Origin of Nations, 1986, p. 22; John A Armstrong, Nations Before Nationalism, 1982.
2. Macartney, C.A., National States and National Minorities, 1934, pp. 192-208.
3. Archer, John Clark, The Sikhs and Their religion, 1938, p. 42.
4. Conner, C., “The Politics of Ethnonationalism” in 27(1973) Journal of International Affairs 2.
6. The Tribune (India), June 29& 30, 2005.
7. Kapur Singh, Parasara Prasna, 1989, pp. 83-84.
8. See Hindu Marriage Act 1955, section 2; Hindu Succession Act 1956, section 3; The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, section 2.
9. Heimseth,C., Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reforms, 1964; McCulley, English Education and the Origin of Indian Nationalism, 1966.
10. Dr Gopal Singh, Sikhism - Its Unique Contribution to Human Civilisation (1982) The Sikh Review, p 30.
11. Narang, Gokul Chand, Transformation of Sikhism, 1946. p. 25.
12. 1966 S.C. 119.
13. Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 655 & 747, Translated by Dr.Gopal Singh.
14. Ibid. P. 761.
15. Macauliffe, M.A., The Sikh Religion, 1909, Vol. 1 p. xiii.
16. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1.
17. Ibid. P. 739.
18. Hobhouse, L.P., Morals in Evolution, 1951, p. 477.
19. Diwan, P. “Family Law” in The Indian Legal System, edited by Joseph Minattur, 1978, p. 637; Dasgupta R.K. “Sikh Identity A New Voice in Religious History” The Statesman Weekly, June 3, 2000; Radhakrishnan, Occassional Speeches and Writings, second series, 1957. P. 376.
20. Daljit Singh, Essentials of Sikhism, 1844, ch. 12
21. Newsweek, December 21, 1992, p. 26.
22. Banerjee, Indu Bhushan, Evolution of the Khalsa 1936, p.12; Narang, Gokul Chand, Transformation of Sikhism, 1945, p. 198.
23. Dr Gopal Singh, 'Sikhism - Its Unique Contribution to Human Civilisation" 6(1971) The Sikh Review 30.
24. Cunningham, J D, History of the Sikhs, 1997, 120 & 284.
25. Narang, Gokul Chand, Transformation of Sikhism, 1946, p. 25.
26. Sinha, N.K. & Banerjee, A C, History of India, 1944, p. 275.
27. Ibid. Pp. 261-262.
28. Macauliffe, M.A., The Sikh Religion, 1909, vol. I, p. xli.
29. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 360, trans. By Dr. Gopal Singh
30. Ganda Singh, A Brief Account of the Sikh People, 1971, 32.
31. Ibid. 28; Dr. Gopal Singh, The History of the Sikh People,1988, p. 416.
32. Field, Dorthy, The Religion of the Sikhs, 1976, pp. 10 & 76.
33. Greenless Duncan, The Gospel of the Guru Granth Sahib, 1991, pp. clxxiii -clxxiv.
34. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 1976, vol. 63, p. 294. (Hereinafter referred to Collected Works).
35. Ibid. Vol.28, 263.
36. Akbar, M J, India: The Siege Within, 1996, p. 94.
37. Cunningham, J D, History of the Sikhs, 1997, p. 341.
38. Sharma, D S, Studies in the Renaissance of Hinduism, 1944, p. 637.
39. Thapar, Romila, A History of India, 1966, p. 132; Philip H Ashby, Modern Trends in Hinduism, 1974, pp. 7-14.
40. Lyall, Alfred C, Asiatic Studies Religious and Social, 1976, p. 3.
41. A Sikh means a Disciple, A Buddh means an Enlightened, A Jain means a Victorious over evil.
42. Collected Works, vol. 30, p. 25
43. Radhakrishnan, S. The Hindu View of Life, 1926, p. 37.
44. Viswanathan, Ed, Am I a Hindu, 1993, p. 1.
45. Diwan, P., Hindu Family Law, 1982, p. 3.
46. Ibid, pp. 4 & 5.
47. Viswanathan, Ed., Am I a Hindu, 1993, p. 2.
48. Golwarker M.S. We, 1939, p. 40; Gyanendra Pande, Hindu and Others: The Question of Identity, 1992. The book states about the Hindu mind. It is trying to create militant Hindus threat to other communities and establishing the superiority of the Hindus; Dr. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People, 1985, p.671.
49. Narang, Gokul Chand, Transformation of Sikhism, 1946, p.30.
50. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs, 1973; Sinha, N.K. & Banerjee, A.C. History of India, 1944, pp. 233 & 293.
51. Narang, Gokul Chand, Transformation of Sikhism, 1946, p. 29-31
52. Ibid, p. 130.
54. French Hal W & Sharma Arvind, Religious Ferment in India, 1981, p. 155.
55. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, p. 140
56. Collected Works, vol. 42, p. 258.
57. Azad, Maulana Abul Kalam, India Wins Freedom, 1959, pp. 16-18.
58. Gandhi, M.K., The Story of My Experiment with Truth,1949, pp. xi-xii.
59. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, p.128.
60. Durga Das, India from Curzon to Nehru and After, 1981, p. 183.
61. Ajit Singh Sarhadi, Punjabi Suba, The Story of the Struggle, 1970, p. 135.
62. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, p. 130.
63. Collected Works, vol. 19, p. 104.
64. Captain HG, Singh, Let the Whole Truth be Known, 1986, pp. 7-8; Dhillon, Gurdarshan Singh, India Commits Suicide, 1992, p. 25.
65. Collected Works, vol. 63, p. 235.
66. Baig, M.R.A., The Muslim Dilemma in India, 1974, p. 60.
67. Thapar, Romila, A History of India, 1966, p. 294.
68. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, p. 122; Maya Vati , lawyer and a Member of the Indian Parliament, now a Chief minister Of Utter Pardesh, herself belongs to the lower castes of India. She expressed her feelings about Mahatma Gandhi who claimed himself a champion of the lower castes. She states that Gandhi was the biggest Manuvadi, that is, a caste system promoter. He opposed Dr. Ambedkar on every issue. Gandhi, in fact, became an anathema to the people of lower castes. India Today, March 31, 1994.
69. MacNicol, Living Religions of Indian People, 1934, p. 42.
70. Ibid, vol. 90, p. 470.
71. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 829, trans. by Dr. Gopal Singh.
72. Ibid. p. 1349.
73. Ibid. p. 1084.
74. Collected Works, vol. 68, p. 2.
75. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, ch. 16.
76. Dr. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People, 1979, p. 671.
77. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, p. 213.
78. Sangat Singh, The Sikhs in History, 2005, p. 9.
79. Collected Works, vol. 26, p. 426.
80. Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins, Freedom at Midnight, 2007, pp. 22.
81. Dr.Lalvani, K.T., & Iyenger, S.R., Hindu-Sikh Conflict in Punjab - Cause and Cure, 1983, Satwinder Singh, Khalistan- An Academic Analysis, 1982, pp. 50-52.
82. Akbar, M.J. India: The Siege Within, 1996, p. 100; Thapar, Romila, A History of India, 1966, p. 132.
83. Pears Encyclopaedia, J.48, edited by Christopher Cook, 1975, p. 93.
84. Koran 1,vi.
85. Cr. M.1 356-M/ 1984, pp. 4-5.
86. Diwan P. Modern Hindu Law, 1982, p.3.
87. Akbar, M.J. India: The siege Within, 1996, p.100.
88. Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, The Meaning and End of Religion, 1962, pp. 65-66.
89. Diwan, P, Modern Hindu Law, 1982, p. 1.
90. Reat, Noble Ross, Buddhism A History, 1951, pp. 48-49.
91. Diwan, P. Family Law, 1982, p. 1.
92. Thapar, Romila, A History of India, 1966, pp. 311-312.
93. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 919, para. 18, trans, Dr. Gopal Singh.
94. Daljit Singh, "Sikhism: A Miri Piri System" in Recent Researches in Sikhism edited by Mann, Jasbir Singh & Kharak Singh, 1990, pp. 42-60.
95. Macauliffe, M.A., The Sikh Religion, 1909, vol. 1, p. liv.
96. Cunningham, J D, History of the Sikhs, 1997, p. 34.
97. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 855 & 995. trans. by Dr. Gopal Singh
98. Macauliffe, M A, The Sikh Religion, 1909, vol. 1, p. lvii.
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