A Review by Lt Gen Kartar Singh
Author: Amandeep Singh Marda & Parmjit Singh
Both are Second Generation Sikhs who were born in the UK, educated there and, as they attained adulthood, felt a fire within and a voice urging them "Do you know that you are a Sikh - yet you know nothing about Sikhism". With this, the urge to search for their cultural heritage (VIRSA) got greater and greater. Who are we? Are we really Sikhs who know not what that means? were the questions that constantly hounded them. And so they gradually launched themselves into a search for their identity.
A decade of research, travel, visits to Institutions, Libraries, and Museums, in Britain and across the world, including their ancestors abode, brought its reward. They now possessed a burgeoning collection of vintage photographs and evocative paintings. Besides their notebooks were crammed with jottings taken from historical accounts extolling Sikh bravery and courage. 1999 brought into focus "The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms" when the Victoria and Albert Museum held an exhibition to mark the tercentenary of the formal establishment of the Khalsa in 1699. This later toured internationally to showcase our arts on the world stage. The active part and liberal contribution made by these two Sikhs to the Exhibitions Curator, Susan Stronge provoked her into urging them to share their findings in a book. Thus was conceived the "Warrior Saints" project. On it's release, the first edition was a success and quickly sold out. Fourteen years on, the authors felt it might to revisit the theme and produce a book for a worldwide audience.
This First volume of "Warrior Saints" gives the development of Sikh martial culture covering, as per the authors, "practices, philosophical under-pinnings and institutions, both military and political - by tracing the founding and growth of the Sikh Warrior Saint against a backdrop of political and religious oppression."
In this book their aim is, to give a clear picture of the development of 'Sikh Martial Culture' covering practices both military and political. They thus trace the founding and growth of Sikh "Warrior Saints." After a two page lucid introduction wherein the authors vividly trace the people of ancient Punjab, their origins, the ruggedness of the terrain and the invasions from the North which brought near constant turmoil at their doorstep for years on end. Coupled with an ethic of hard work and a robust attitude to battle and justice was born the Sikh Warrior who was opposed to tyrannical rule. The book clearly defines that from the founding day of their faith, the Sikhs have been enjoined by their Gurus to confront social injustice as an integral part of their spiritual path, regardless of the cost.
Subsequent to this introduction the book then covers briefly the following periods:-
(a) The Ten Gurus and the Mughal Empire ( 1469-1708)
(b) Mughals, Afghans and the Rise of the Sikh Misls (1708 - 1799)
(c) Rise of the Sikh Raj (1799-1845)
(d) Fall of the Sikh Raj, First Anglo Sikh War ( 1845 - 1846)
In these pages, the authors have very briefly covered the philosophy of the Ten Gurus and just the major events in the history of Sikh Misls, major events during the Sikh Raj and the first Anglo Sikh War. This offers good reading for the younger generation of Sikhs in India and abroad, before they delve into detailed history, philosophy, invasions and battles of this period. This will certainly whet the appetite of our younger generation and many will then feel the urge to research the valiant deeds of their ancestors. The aim of the authors of motivating Sikh youth to retain pride in their heritage would be fulfilled. This could surely give a necessary revival to Sikhism in Punjab and the Diaspora.
The authors have certainly collected precious material with years of travel. They initially possessed little understanding of the significance of their burgeoning collection of vintage photographs and evocative paintings. Providentially this helped them take active part in the Victoria and Albert Museum's Exhibition. 'The Arts of the Sikh kingdoms' as mentioned earlier. This was indeed a magnanimous tribute to the Sikhs by the British Museum.
The book is replete with Vintage photographs and detailed quotes. Here the authors have produced precious material collected over years of travel. Most of these Illustrations are rare and original. The quotes are elaborate and explanatory. This is astonishing "Pictorial History' and a gem of a collection for students of Art and History. Reading the book promises a smooth and excitingly pleasant journey through the ages of history of the WARRIOR SAINTS as desired by the authors. Young and old would enjoy reading this - I dare say youth more than the too wisely critical elders.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2013, All