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The Sikhs in the South

Dr Balwant Singh Dhillon

The term ‘South India’ denotes the peninsular India which is popularly known as the Deccan and lies towards the south of Vindhiya range of mountains. The river Narbada draws another geographical boundary which separates it from the North often called the Hindustan by many of our medieval Indian chronicles. It is spread over a vast tract of land which is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the west by the Arabian Sea. The river Godawari, Krishna, Kaveri and their tributaries after making a watershed fall into the Bay of Bengal. Besides their contiguity, the various regions and sub-regions within the Deccan peninsula were culturally and historically closely linked and come to had an identity which was quite distinct than that of North-India. Before the advent of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the Vijaynagar empire of the south is known to have worked as a bulwark against the Muslim expansion into the Deccan. However, a close look at the history of the Deccan reveals that the Deccan Muslim kingdoms, namely, the Nizamshahi Kingdom of the western Deccan (1489-1636), the Qutabshahi kingdom of the eastern Deccan (1512-1687) and the Adilshahi kingdom of southern Deccan (1489-1686) enjoyed a great deal of authority and dominated the political scene before the rise of the Marathas in the middle of the seventeenth century.1 The Mughal Empire annexed these Muslim kingdoms one after another and later on shared the hegemony with the Marathas since the beginning of eighteenth century. The emergence of the Nizams of Hyderabad on the ruins of Mughal Empire presents a fine example of political opportunism that prevailed in the Deccan during those times. The European companies namely the British, the French and the Dutch vied with one and another to get hold of the coastal line of India. The fierce struggle that Tipu Sultan of Mysore waged against the British, marks a watershed in the history of India. Presently, the modern states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the union territory of Pondicherry form part of the Deccan peninsula. The purpose of above brief description of the Deccan is not to delineate its cultural, geographical and historical boundaries but to understand a little bit the people and the land in which the Sikh mission worked its way in its earlier stage of history. So far Guru Nanak’s travel to Singladip has been a major issue with which our scholars have grappled with. Consequently to unearth the history of Sikhism in the south has been out of their focus. The present study attempts to trace the history and nature of Sikh presence in the south.

The history of the Sikhs in the south may be traced back to the times of Guru Nanak. The Sikh tradition is very consistent in its observation that during one of his long travels (udasis), Guru Nanak visited the southern peninsula which also included a trip to Sri Lanka.2 Except mentioning the name of Singladip and its Raja Shivnabh, the Janamsakhi tradition does not reveal much about the places visited by Guru Nanak in the south. It seems, before the arrival of Guru Nanak in Singladip, his doctrines had already been introduced to Raja Shivnabh through the good offices of a Sikh merchant named Mansukh.3 The Raja was astonished to know that the Sikh merchant neither worshipped the idols nor performed the customary rituals associated with the Hindus. Unlike the people of that place, he arose early in the morning and having taken bath repeated the Divine Name and read the sabad Pothi. He managed his business during the day and at the fall of night sang the sabads of Guru Nanak and thereafter performed kirtan as well.4 The Janamsakhi accounts inform that the Sikh merchant made known Raja Shivnabh the bani of Guru Nanak and the Raja was very much impressed of its spiritual message and was very eager to meet the Guru in person.

Later on when Guru Nanak visited Singladip, the Raja became a Sikh of the Guru and established the Dharamsala there.5 These accounts also mention about the meeting of Sikh congregation and the quantity of flour and salt consumed in the community kitchen of the Dharamsala. Besides, there are numerous references in the Janamsakhis that during his travels Guru Nanak not only visited the southern peninsula but also interacted with the people there. Unfortunately the places visited by Guru Nanak and the persons with whom he came into contact are still shrouded in mystery. Though some scholars are sceptic about Guru Nanak’s travels in the south,6 yet Dr Kirpal Singh on the basis of Sikh sources coupled with his field work furnishes strong evidence to prove that Guru Nanak’s sojourn in the southern peninsula was not merely a myth. He is of the view that after finishing his travels in the east, Guru Nanak reached Jagannath Puri, from where he took a southern turn in order to visit the south.7

He suggests that from Jagannath Puri, Guru Nanak travelled to Ganjam and from there took the old route that connected it with the southern peninsula. Enroute he visited Guntur, Kanchipuram, Trivnamalai (South Arcot) and Trichnapalli which were centre of great cultural and religious significance.8 From Trichnapalli he took a boat going down the Kaveri to Nagapatnam, a sea port. From there he took the sea route to visit east-coast of Sri Lanka or the land of Raja Shivnabh.9 On his return journey, Guru Nanak halted at Rameshwaram and passing through Ramanandpuram, Trivnamalai and Trivanthapuram reached Kotayam.10 He passed through the Malabar region, halted at Bidar and also visited Nanded. From there via Devgiri (Daultabad) he reached Baroch where the river Narbada falls into the Arabian Sea. Dr. Kirpal Singh testifies to the existence of Sikh Gurdwaras at Guntur, Kanchipuram, Trivanamalai, Sri Rangam (Trichnapalli) and Rameshwaram which existed since the early 19th century. All these Gurdwaras were build by Chandu Lal, a Wazir of the Nizam of Hyderabad, to perpetuate the memory of Guru Nanak’s visit.11

These shrines were being managed by the Udasi Sikhs when Dr. Kirpal Singh visited these in 1966. Besides this, the places sanctified by Guru Nanak, where the Sikh shrines have come up, include Tilganji (Kotayam), Bidar (Karnataka), Baroch (Gujarat) and Ujjain (M.P.).12 Thus on the basis of Sikh sources coupled with the support of external evidence, there are strong reasons to believe that Guru Nanak had been in the south. Though the exact time he spent there, the places he sanctified and the people with whom he exchanged his views, are subject to investigation. The testimony of Bhai Gurdas, a devout Sikh and contemporary of the early Sikh Gurus, is very revealing regarding the Sikh Diaspora of south India. Writing in early 17th century, he affirms the presence of a big Sikh congregation in Burhanpur.13 He not only names the prominent Sikhs of Burhanpur but also provides information about their profession. In the early 17th century there were well maintained trunk roads that connected Burhanpur to Surat, a sea port in the west, Masulipatnam, again a sea-port in the south and Agra, the Mughal capital in the North.14 Thus Burhanpur was situated on the junction of inter-regional trade routes. It was also an important administrative centre and therefore provided vast markets which naturally attracted traders from different parts of India.15 There is every likelihood that the enterprising Khatri traders from Punjab had settled at important trade centres on the trade routes that connected Agra and Masulipatnam via Burhanpur. In fact, the Sikh Khatri traders played an important role to organize the Sikh congregations at the important trade centres where they had established their business concerns. Bhai Gurdas who had seen the organization of Sikhism from very close quarters and had been in Agra to head the Sikh mission, refers to the Sikh sangats of Agra, Gwalior, Ujjain and Burhanpur.16

Therefore, it is every possibility that from Burhanpur, the Sikh traders had penetrated further deep into the south at places namely Aurangabad and Hyderabad that were on the road that connected Burhanpur with Masulipatnam. The Janamsakhi tradition refers to Pransangali, an apocryphal work supposed to have been composed by Guru Nanak while visiting Raja Shivnabh of Singladip.17 When Guru Arjun was compiling the Adi Granth and for that purpose collecting the bani from all available sources, he was apprised of Pransangali. Subsequently, he deputed a Sikh, Paira Mokha to Singladip obviously to procure it.18 On examination, Guru Arjun found it unauthentic and unworthy of inclusion in the Adi Granth. Haqiqat Rah Muqam Raje Shivnabh ki which had its origin in the second half of 17th century describes the route on which Paira Mokha supposed to had travelled to reach the land of Raja Shivnabh. It is in the form of a brief note and is found appended at the end of Banno version of the Adi Granth. Interestingly it shares the information that had descended from the Janamshakhi sources beside giving the names of places where Paira Mokha had stayed enroute to Singladip. Later on writing in 1776, Sarup Das Bhalla not only reproduces the information that he had gathered from the Haqiqat Rah Muqam and the Janamsakhi accounts but also reports about the places where Paira Mokha had stayed during his return journey. Though the exact location of some of these places is not clear yet he mentions Bijanagar, Nagapatanam, Bijapur, Arogapeth [Aurangabad?], etc., where Paira Mokha had come across Bhatra Sikh settlements.19 All these Bhatra Sikh sangats had been organised by a Bhatra Sikh of Guru Nanak called Changa Bhatra.20 The Bhatra Sikhs were small-time traders who may have settled down in the Deccan quite early in the 18th century.

Before Guru Gobind Singh set out for the Deccan in Oct. 1706, he had written Zafarnama and had deputed Bhai Daya Singh to deliver it to Aurangzeb in the Deccan. The Sikh sources inform that Bhai Daya Singh undertook the above journey and passing through Agra, Gwalior, Narwar, Kala Bagh, Sironj, Ujjain and Burhanpur reached Ahmednagar where Aurangzeb was encamping.21 Here he tracked down a Sikh named Jetha Singh who not only introduced him to the local Khalsa Sikh sangat but also provided him the logistic support to deliver the message of the Guru to the emperor.22 It indicates that some Sikhs had already settled down in Ahmednagar and perhaps Jetha Singh was the head of the local Sikhs.

We are told that when Guru Gobind Singh was marching towards the Deccan and was in the vicinity of Baghaur (Bhilwara, Rajasthan) he got the news of the death (Feb 20, 1707) of Aurangzeb. It prompted him to abandon his onward march into the Deccan and set out for Delhi. After the Mughal war of succession was over, on July 23, 1707 Guru Gobind Singh had a meeting with the new emperor, Bahadur Shah.23

The Guru apprised him of the wrongs done to him by the Mughal officials of Punjab. Instead of taking any instant decision Bahadur Shah thought of to engage the Guru in prolonged negotiations. The negotiations were still on that in Nov. 1707 Bahadur Shah had to march into the Rajputana in order to suppress the Rajput insurrection. He had not yet fully subdued the Rajputs, the news came that Kam Bakhsh had declared himself emperor in the Deccan. Subsequently, on April 20, 1707 Bahadur Shah left Ajmer to march into the Deccan.24 As the friendly negotiations were in progress, Guru Gobind Singh accompanied Bahadur Shah firstly to the Rajputana and then to the Deccan. Khafi Khan, a contemporary historian remarks, “At the time that Bahadur Shah marched towards Haidrabad, [Guru] Gobind [Singh] the chief Guru of the sect [Sikhs] came to join him [ Bahadur Shah ] with two or three hundred horsemen bearing spears and some footmen.”25 Similarly, the author of Tarikh-i-Bahadurshahi states “Guru Gobind [Singh] one of the descendants of [Guru] Nanak had come into these districts to travel and accompanied the royal camp. He was in the habit of constantly addressing assemblies of worldly persons, religious fanatics and all sorts of people.”26 On the testimony of above evidence we can say that during his sojourn in the Deccan, Guru Gobind Singh had come into contact with a wide variety of people. It might have given them exposure to the Sikh beliefs and practices.

The Sikh sources corroborate the Mughal chronicles that Guru Gobind Singh travelled to the Deccan in the company of Bahadur Shah. On reaching Burhanpur, the Guru stayed back there for some days whereas the emperor continued his march. As said earlier, Burhanpur had developed into a flourishing Sikh centre in the south since the time of Guru Hargobind. Now a Sikh of Guru Tegh Bahadur was heading the Sikh mission there. He was a saintly personality and a respected figure among the Sikhs of Burhanpur. He played a host to the Guru and his entourage.27 Obviously, it was good opportunity for Guru Gobind Singh to preach his mission and establish his contact with the Sikhs who had been the disciples of his father and grandfather as well. It would not be improper to mention here that in 1757 Hathi Singh, son of Ajit Singh, the adopted son of Mata Sundri took his abode in Burhanpur and died there in 1782.28 He had a small following in Burhanpur and a shrine was erected in his memory. It is said on receiving the royal message Guru Gobind Singh left Burhanpur to catch up with the emperor before he reached Nanded.29 After a few days’ company Bahadur Shah marched towards Hyderabad whereas the Guru separated himself from the royal camp to put up his stay in Nanded. Obviously, he continued to address the assemblies of local people to apprise them about the mission he was following. Here the initiation of Madho Das, a bairagi into the order of Khalsa turned out to be one of the most eventful incidents in the life of Guru Gobind Singh. Rest is history, how Banda Singh Bahadur exterminated the Mughal authority and established first Sikh rule in the Punjab. It was in Nanded that Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last in Oct., 1708. Before that he had abolished the personal line of Guruship and conferred upon the Sikh Scripture the authority of Eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

The events that unfolded at Nanded were of far-reaching consequences for the Sikhs. An obscure town of Nanded, which was quite unknown henceforth came to be known as Abchal Nagar, where they believe the Tenth Master is ever present. Consequently, it is deeply embedded in the Sikh psyche as Hazur Sahib, an exalted seat of spiritual authority and an important pilgrimage centre where the Sikhs aspire to pay their homage once in a lifetime. According to the Sikh sources, some Sikhs accompanying the Guru dispersed to different cities of the Deccan whereas a few of them settled down permanently in Nanded. Santokh Singh, a dedicated Sikh of the Guru took upon himself to manage the religious affairs of the Sikh shrine.30 We have absolutely no information that how a small band of these Sikhs survived in the Deccan but sources at hand suggest that the Sikhs were very much conspicuous in the south since the beginning of the second half of 18th century. Significantly some of them had adopted military profession and were employed as officers in the Mysore state. Way back in 1939, B A Saletore has unearthed three records: a sanad in the possession of Joddidar, Malur taluka and two stone inscriptions at Varadanduhalli and Tambuhalli in the same taluka of Malur, are in Kannad language and script. All these three records were found in Mysore state and were placed in 1761 and 1762. They give a short history of a Sikh military officer called Hardaya Ram, the son of Ramchandra and the grandson of Gopal Singh. Hardaya Ram who held the rank of Jamadar had granted revenue free land grants to the religious shrines and persons in order to feed the Bairagis and Brahmins.31 These records speak volumes of benevolence and catholicity depicted on the part of the Sikhs settled in the Deccan. The story of Sikh enterprise in the south does not end here. Though the examples of Sikh adventurers operating in the Deccan in the second half of the 18th century are very few yet they deserve appreciation and proper evaluation at the hands of scholars.

According to B A Saletore, “By the middle of the eighteenth century an enterprising Sikh military adventurer had already made his presence felt in the politics of Karnataka.”32 This was Hari Singh, a daring Sikh military officer who held the rank of Jamadar under general Devarajaya of Mysore. The author of Hydernama who was in the service of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan confirms the fact that Hari Singh was in the service of Mysore State. He was a rival to Hyder Ali and had nearly eclipsed him in 1756.33 However, Hyder Ali in the same year got the chance to do away with his Sikh rival. Hyder Ali understood the military prowess of the Sikhs that is why after he had got complete military and political control of Mysore, he entertained in his service capable Sikh military officers namely Risaldar Surat Singh, Jamadar Chhattar Singh and Jamadar Ranjit Singh.34 Another contemporary author, Ram Chander Rao Punganoory who wrote his work in the Marathi language not only corroborates the evidence of Hydernama regarding the rivalry between Hari Singh and Hyder Ali but also informs about certain Sikh captains who were playing active role in the political developments taking place in Karnataka in 1761.35 Another contemporary chronicle, Karnamah Haidri describes the valour of another Sikh military leader, Guroo Buksh Singh who was commanding the fort of Jeet Peeth (Chetput) in 1780. Hyder Ali had besieged the fort and had given order to his soldiers to attack the town. “After the commandant, who was a Sikh named Guroo Buksh [Singh ] had held out with great spirit two or three days, he was killed at one of the gates of the fort and the fort was therefore taken.”36 All these examples prove that the Sikhs were very much conspicuous in the Deccan during the second half of eighteenth century. They were famous for their valour and military skills. Some of the states in the Deccan had employed the Sikhs in their armies and capable Sikh military leaders held high ranks.

In spite of all these findings, the exact role played by the Sikhs in the politics of Deccan in eighteenth century, is a matter of further investigations. The British sources provide very meaningful insights into the life of Sikh Diaspora of the south. The British officers of the Army of Deccan had taken cognizance of the Sikh presence in the Deccan. An officer of this army while passing through Nanded in Oct. 1818 provides a vivid account of the activities of vibrant Sikh centre there. He says, “At this place [Nanded] we were much gratified by a visit to the Seik college, where there are upwards of three hundred of that class instructed in matters of their religion, but the whole establishment is seemingly conducted with great regularity and application. The sages who preside there deliver out their lectures from their respective stalls, occupying at a convenient distance from each other two sides of the hall of audience. These instructors appeared venerable, pious, and respectable old men, seated upon carpets, and having large and richly embroidered pillows before them, whence from their books they delivered out their discourses to their hearers. The Seik student always appears in public well dressed, and in stature, deportment, and habit, strikes the visitor at once with a pre-possession in his favour. They are generally tall, of elegant symmetry, and in their countenances alone carry an expression of superiority and manliness far above any other tribe in India. They generally dress in dark clothes, with lofty blue turbans, and are on all occasions armed with a sword and shield, and many of them with an instrument of war which they use with the greatest dexterity and effect.”37 He not only describes the weaponry of the Sikhs but also explains the shape of chakar (quoit) and the Sikh art of its usage with which he was very much impressed as a strike weapon. He says, “These weapons fly through the air faster than the eye can follow them and the Seik makes as sure of hitting an object the size of a man at seventy or eighty yards, as the best marks man could with a rifle. These weapons are used with best effect against bodies of cavalry, where even at the distance of two hundred yards, one of them coming in contact with the horse’s leg or body will be sure to break the former or plunge right into the latter. The Seiks use also bows and arrows with great skill, and are elegant horsemen, on these occasions using the spear and matchlock, and on all public ceremonies displaying their beautifully embroidered black banners with curious devices upon them”.38

In 1819 another British officer had come across a body of Sikh soldiers which was employed by the Nabob of Ellichpur. He was highly appreciative of the elegant looking Sikhs and their weaponry especially the use of chakar (quoit) which they used with much precision. He remarks, “In advancing towards a small village [on the borders of Khandesh] which had belonged to the Peishwa, and refused to submit to the son of Ellichpoor Nabob. I was much amused with the appearance of the Nabob's troops, a scene somewhat new to me, as it exhibited the costume of almost all the eastern nations; Persian in chain armour; Seiks in their elegant and peculiar dress, and armed with their chukras; spearmen, bowmen and matchlockmen etc. All these together formed a strange but cheerful variety, in a body of troops not more than a thousand in number. The chukra which I have just mentioned is a ring of iron, with the outer edge sharpened. The Seiks throw this weapon with great precision and force.”39

Capt Moyale Sherer who had travelled extensively in the Deccan, in Jan 1820 in the vicinity of Bidar, had a chance to inter-act with a Sikh detachment which had been employed by Chandu Lal, a wazir of Hyderabad. He writes “In my march forward, at a place called Sunjum, where there was a sort of fair, I saw a party of Seiks. They were infantry, armed with swords, creeses and matchlocks and carrying a curious missile weapon like quoit [chakar], but lighter and with sharp edges. These they whirl round the finger, and throw with unerring and fatal precision, to the forehead of an opponent. I hardly ever saw and where men more graceful, strong, and well made. Their complexions were a fair olive. They wore beards curling round the chin. Their turbans small and high, and peculiar in form. The loin-cloth wrapped close under the fork, leaving the limb unencumbered, save by a light handsome sandal. Their women were handsome, with fine forms, and their robes much loaded with ornament. Some of them told me they were now in the service of Chunder Lall [Chandu Lal]; that in the Nizam’s dominions but two or three thousand were generally entertained: bit two or three of them told me they had served in the last war in the very north of Hindustan against the forces of Candhar. At sunset, they assembled round the oldest, a venerable looking man, who wore a long dark blue robe, and sung a hymn. He also repeated some form of prayer.”40

Major H Bevan who had spent thirty years in India (1808-1838) takes note of the Sikh seminary of Amravati. Though he inaccurately describes Sikhism as a sect of the Hindus yet his remarks are worth noting. For example he says, “At Omroutty we saw a Sikh college for the sect of Hindoos called Sikhs. They are a fine athletic race of men; they use a singular weapon, something like a quoit, which they throw with such precision as to cut of the legs of sheep at a distance of fifty or sixty yards. We were gratified by several exhibitions of their skill while we remained in the neighbourhood.”41

The role of Chandu Lal, a Wazir of the Nizam of Hyderabad, in the politics of the Deccan particularly his benevolence and entertainment of the Sikhs in the Deccan has not yet come under the focus of scholars of Sikh studies. He descended from a Punjabi khatri family which had long been in the Deccan and was very influential at the court of Hyderabad. His ancestors had already come under the influence of a Udasi Sikh sage, Pritam Das Nirban and consequently they had been very generous towards the Udasi establishments. The British chronicles refer to Chandu Lal as a Sikh of the Nanakpanthi persuasion, who in spite of his preoccupation with the state affairs took keen interest in the welfare of the Sikhs in south India.42 In the early decades of 19th century the administration of Hyderabad was in a flux. The Nizam and his chiefs simply because of their indulgence in debauchery had thrown the administration out of gear. Inefficiency and incompetency had crept into every branch of establishment. The British were looking for a person who could fill the void. In this scenario, Chandu Lal who was long employed under the two former Prime Ministers was considered the most capable person to hold the office of Wazir. The British espoused his cause and thus in 1810, Chandu Lal arose to the office of Prime Minister of Hyderabad.43 He was distasteful of the military establishment of the Nizam and the chiefs who wasted revenue of the state by holding big jagirs. Consequently, some of the powerful zamindars had attempted to overthrow the authority of the Nizam. The forces employed from time to time to subdue these refractory chieftains had been found of no consequence. Obviously, to get hold of the unruly and disgruntled elements in the dominions of Nizam, Chandu Lal required the services of a dedicated band of soldiers.
For it he looked towards his brethren in faith, the Sikhs. We know he was constantly in touch with Maharaja Ranjit Singh also. The British sources inform that Chandu Lal inducted 5000 Sikhs into the army of Nizam. These Sikh soldiers were chiefly stationed at Hyderabad but some of them were posted at Nanded and Aurangabad as well.44 The jealousy and antipathy of the Muslim zamindars towards Chandu Lal can be well judged from the fact that in 1831 supported by the Muslims of Hyderabad, they ransacked his mansion and several of the Sikhs stationed there, were put to sword.45 We find that not only Chandu Lal but his close relatives were also holding key positions in the administration of Hyderabad. For example, Govind Bux, a younger brother of Chandu Lal administered the Marathwada region and his seat of authority was at Aurangabad. Similarly, another relative, Seetal Das (a half brother of Chandu Lal) was a high ranking officer in the army of Hyderabad.46

As said earlier, Chandu Lal was a Punjabi khatri and was well inclined towards the Udasi sect of the Sikhs. Surely, he was a Nanakpanthi but political exigency had brought him closer to the Khalsa Sikhs. The Khalsa Sikhs had rendered him military support when he needed it badly and for it he was greatly indebted to them. Being a Nanakpanthi his attachment to the message of Sikhism was but natural. Chandu Lal paid back to the Khalsa by creating endowments for the Sikh shrines in the south. As mentioned earlier, he not only located the places sanctified by Guru Nanak in the south but also built the gurdwaras there and helped the Udasi Sikhs to manage them. He was instrumental to sanction a liberal grant to the Sikh shrine of Nanded. Walter Hamilton writing about Nanded in 1820 states, “At this place [Nanded] there is a Seik college erected on the spot where Gooroo Govind [Singh] was assassinated, which in 1818 contained 300 students under the patronage of Nizam’s Prime Minister Raja Chandu Lal.47

Chandu Lal’s generosity to the non-Sikh shrines is also well reflected in a copper plate in the Mallapura Math at Puspagiri, Belur taluka of Mysore state. It is written in Sanskrit and Telgu and carries the statement, “Instructed by the wisdom of the named [Guru] Nanak, Chandulal Prabhu on the specified date (1821) granted the village of Ningala in the Khasba taluka as agrahara (brahmin endowment) for the decorations, illuminations and offering of the god Mallikarjuna.”48 He even patronized the men of letters which are well recorded in a Gurumukhi document written at Hyderabad in 1825.49 It seems his benevolence had attracted religious scholars from Punjab who glorify him as a great benevolent. We observe that old Sikh shrines existed at Rameshwaram, Salur, Bhaker and Shivakanji and some of the old shrines at Burhanpur, Aurangabad, Surat, Bombay, Amravati, Nirmal, etc., possessed the manuscript copies of Guru Granth Sahib. It points to their period of establishment as well as the role played in organising the Sikhs of south India. On the basis of above study, we can say that the Sikh presence in the south dates back to the times of Guru Nanak. Since the beginning of 17th century Burhanpur had emerged into a vibrant Sikh centre where a sizeable number of Sikhs had settled down to live in. The Sikh traders especially the Khatris and Bhatras played an active role to organize the Sikh sangats at important trade centres that dotted the trade routes crisscrossing the southern peninsula. Guru Gobind Singh’s sojourn in the south especially his stay and preaching in and around Nanded was of great consequences for the expansion of Sikhs in south India. Towards the middle of 18th century some enterprising Sikh military leaders chiefly because of their valour and skills in warfare had joined the services of Mysore State and were playing active role in the political developments in Karnataka. Though Chandu Lal, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad was a Nanakpanthi but political exigency had brought him closer to the Khalsa ranks. He was not only instrumental to induct the Sikhs into the services of Hyderabad but also performed singular job to patronize the Sikh shrines in south India. Chandu Lal and other Sikh leaders extended their patronage to the non-Sikh shrines in south India which reflects their liberal and benevolence attitude. The British sources testify to the existence of two Sikh seminaries located at Nanded and Amravati that were imparting knowledge of Sikhism. Evidence at hand suggests that besides the Khalsa Sikhs, the Udasi Sikhs were also managing the Sikh shrines in south India. It seems most of the Sikhs that we have noticed in the south were the natives of Punjab and were soldiers by profession. A few of them belonged to the religious class responsible for the care of Sikh shrines. The nature or quantum of influence of the Sikhs on the natives of the south and vice versa is another issue which has not yet been ascertained. The foregoing discussion is a preliminary attempt which brings to light some lesser known facets of the Sikh Diaspora of south India. An indepth and thorough study may yield much more promising results.


Notes and References

1. H. Fukazawa, ‘Maharashtra and the Deccan’, The Cambridge Economic History of India, eds. Dharama Kumar and Tapan Raychaudhuri, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, Vol. I, 1982, p. 193.
2. Kirpal Singh, Janamsakhi Prampara, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1990, pp. 70-95.
3. Ibid., p. 78.
4. W.H. McLeod, B.40 Janamsakhi, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 1980, pp.157-59.
5. Ibid., p. 160.
6. W.H.McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, OUP., New Delhi, 1968, pp. 114-117.
7. Kirpal Singh, op.cit., p. 72.
8. Ibid., pp.73-77.
9. Ibid., pp. 83-84.
10. Ibid., pp.72, 74.
11. Ibid., pp.76,83.
12. Ibid., pp.88,92.
13. Bhai Gurdas, Var 11.30
14. H. Fukazawa, op.cit., p. 203.
15. Tapan Raychaudhuri, ‘Inland Trade’, The Cambridge Economic History of India, Vol. I, p. 340.
16. Bhai Gurdas, Var 11.27, 30.
17. Puratan Janamsakhi, ed. Bhai Vir Singh, Khalsa Samachar, Amritsar, 1959, pp. 86-90.
18. Sarup Das Bhalla, Mahima Parkash, Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, Patiala, 1970, pp.361-362.
19. Ibid., pp.365-367.
20. Ibid., p.367.
21. Sukha Singh,Gurbilas Patshahi 10, Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, Patiala, 1989, pp. 347-348.
22. Ibid., p. 348.
23. Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, Eng. Tr. Bhagat Singh, The Punjab Past and Present, Punjabi University, Patiala, Vol. XVIII, Oct., 1984, p.24.
24. William Irvine, The Later Mughals, Oriental Books, New Delhi, 1971, p. 67.
25. Elliot and Dowson, History of India as Told by its Own Historians, Kitab Mahal, Allahabad, 1964, p. 413.
26. Ibid., p.566.
27. Sukha Singh, op.cit., pp. 418-422.
28. Ganda Singh ed., Gursobha, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1980, p. 150; Randhir Singh, ed., Gur Parnalian, S.G.P.C., Amritsar, 1977, p. 120.
29. Sukha Singh, op.cit., pp. 426-443.
30. Ibid., p.445.
31. B.A. Saletore, ‘The Sikhs in the South’, Indian History Congress, 1939 Session, reproduced in Himadari Banerjee ed., The Khalsa and the Punjab, Tulika, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 70-71.
32. Ibid., p. 72.
33. Ibid., also see Govt. of Karnatka, Annual Report of the Directorate of Archaeologyand Museums in Karnataka for the year of 1930, Mysore 1993, p. 83,
34. B.A. Saletore, op.cit., p. 73; Annual Report of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums in Karnataka, p. 106.
35. Charles Philip Brown, Memoirs of Hyder and Tipoo, Rulers of Seringapatam, written in the Mahratta Language by Ram Chunder Punganuri, Simkins and Co., Madras, 1849, pp. 5, 26.
36. Meer Hussain Ali Khan, Karnamah Haidri, Eng. Tr. Col. W. Miles, The History of Hydur Naik, Oriental Translation Fund, London, 1842, p. 381.
37. Lt. Gen. Sir T. Hislop Bart, Summary of the Mahratta and Pindarree Compaign During 1817, 1818 and 1819, E. Williams, London, 1820, pp. 85-86.
38. Ibid., pp. 87-88.
39. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and its Dependencies, Vol. VII, January to June 1819, London, 1819, p. 152.
40. Cap. Moyle Sherer, Sketches of India, Longman, London, 1824, pp. 325-26.
41. Maj H Bevan, Thirty Years in India, Vol. II, Pelham Richardson, London, 1839, pp. 5-6.
42. Walter Hamilton, The East India Gazetteer, Vol. II, Parbury, Allen & Co., London, 1828, p. 290; The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register, Vol. VII, January-April 1832, Parbury, Allen & Co., London, 1832, p. 17.
43. H.T. Prinsep, History of the Political and Military Transactions, London, 1825, p. 11.
44. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register, Vol. VII, January-April 1832, p. 17.
45. Ibid.
46. Calcutta Magazine and Monthly Register, Smith & Co., 1831, pp. 344-348.
47. Walter Hamilton, op.cit., p. 290.
48. B.A. Saletore, op.cit., pp. 71-72.
49. Kahn Singh Nabha, Mahan Kosh, Bhasha Vibhag Punjab, Patiala, 1974, p. 1156


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