History of the Sikhs and Their Religion
A Review by Dr Avtar Singh Gill
Editors: Dr Kharak Singh & Dr Kirpal Singh
Publisher: Dharam Parchar Committee, SGPC, Sri Amritsar
Pages 427; Price: Rs 125/-
This volume covers the darkest as well as the most glorious period of the Sikh history and consists of four major parts, namely, Part I - Mughal Sikh Relations 1708-1716; Decades of Repression 1716-1765, Part II - Misl Period 1765-1799 and Sri Harmandir Sahib in the eighteenth century; Part III - Eminent Sikh personalities and Part IV - Sikh Relations with other Powers, besides an Appendix covering the Khalsa and other denominations etc.
The Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh is the executing agency of the Sikh History project and with the deep enthusiastic, active support and dedication of Sikh historians, a clear and honest picture of the role of the Sikhs in the historical development of the 18th century has been marvellously brought out before us, lest we forget our rich heritage of suffering martyrdom in our fight against grave injustice, genocide and exploitation, continuously for over half a century and the earning of a rich harvest of the martyrs, a great source of inspiration to our future generations.
This volume dealing with various aspects of past Sikh history starts with the period of Banda Singh Bahadur, very popular for his saintly blessings, who fought for every good cause with selfless devotion and was the forerunner of the first Sikh state during the Post-Guru period of the Sikh history. At Samana alone, in couple of hours, his forces put to death some ten thousand Mughal troops converting the town into a heap of ruins. He won the great battle of Chaper Chiri and sacked Sirhind in no time. Going through the detailed version of his progress and ultimately his captivity and end of his rule and life in 1716, made the Sikhs greatly proud of that able, enterprising leader of the Sikhs. He was selected by Guru Gobind Singh and who had successfully hoisted the flag of First Sikh Republic in the North-West of India three hundred years back, struck the coins and issued orders under his own seal and made us feel proud for changing not only the course of the Sikh history but also of the then Punjab and the whole of India.
From the year 1716, for about four years, the Mughals had set upon the complete extermination of the brave Sikhs, during the rule of Zakariya Khan. Budha Dal and Taruna Dal then were organised.
Two chapters deal with some of the great martyrs of this period, namely Bhai Tara Singh of Van (1726), Bhai Mani Singh (1738), Bhai Bota Singh (1730), Bhai Mehtab Singh (1745), Haqiqat Rai (1742), Bhai Taru Singh (1745), Bhai Subeg Singh and Shahbaz Singh (1745), Bhai Sukha Singh (1741) and Baba Deep Singh (1757).
One chapter is devoted to Chhota Ghalughara (massacre) that took place near Kahnuwan where seven to eight thousand Sikhs were put to death and a large number of Sikhs were taken to Lahore and beheaded at Shaheed Ganj, outside Delhi Gate. Eminent Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and British scholars and historians have contributed to this part of the history. One chapter gives details of the five years rule of Mir Mannu, who had got slaughtered thousands of Sikhs but could not succeed in his objective. The daring spirit of the Sikhs and their rich and brave tradition made their faith more attractive. A long chain of Muslim historians have also acknowledged the daring spirit of the Khalsa, despite their organised persecution. Wadda Ghallughara during the sixth invasion of Abdali was the second Great Massacre of the Sikhs in 1762. The war plan and the situation in which the Sikhs were encircled in village Kup and beyond have been detailed in one chapter. Several Sikh leaders of different Misls had taken part in this battle. Full details of the cold blooded murder of some twenty to thirty thousands Sikhs have been recorded, lest the rich heritage of Sikh martyrdom be lost or forgotten to posterity.
One Chapter exclusively gives details of Diwan Kaura Mal. Very authentic details have been given how he had helped the Sikhs and how the later aided his forces resulting in his victory in Multan. Kaura Mal who rose to the position of Dewan and General, was a hero who had offered eleven thousand rupees at Sri Darbar Sahib for the work of Sarovar which was earlier got filled with earth by Lakhpat Rai. We must feel proud that Bhai Vir Singh, the renowned Sikh scholar was one of his descendants.
An informative history of the period of Abdali’s seven invasions from 1748 to 1767 in the then Punjab, has been narrated. The Sikhs under the leadership of the valiant and competent leaders like Nawab Kapur Singh, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Chharat Singh, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Tara Singh Ghaiba, Gujar Singh Bhangi, Baghel Singh Karorsinghia and others had hit-hard at the invaders and the great sacrifices made by the Sikhs had resulted in the creation of the Sikh states, making them the Masters of their Motherland with full sovereign authority.
A long chapter has been devoted to the Misl organisation, Gurmatta system and their civil and military administration with particular references to their observance of the Khalsa ideals, the women participation, non-discrimination against the Muslims, civil and criminal justice, military system, fiscal system and the mode of fighting. Really, the system of confederacy and democracy had existed in the Dal Khalsa which had continued right upto the coming of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to power.
The bowing out in abject humiliation by the Mughal, Afghan and Abdali oppressors after repeated attacks on the Sikhs for two decades, brought on the surface a very chivalrous and glorious period in the history of India. One chapter exclusively deals with prominent Misls like the Bhangi Misl, Singhapuria or Faizullahpuria, Ahulwalia, Ramgarhia, Sukarchakia, Kanhiya, Dallewalia, Phulkian, Nakai, Nishanwalia and Karorsinghia and some of their problems. A chapter deals with the Sikh coins (1710-1799). Long history has been given as to when and by whom the coins were struck. Banda Singh Bahadur was the first who had in his mind the concept of sovereignty of the Khalsa. Three pages as Annexure show the photographs of the coins of Misl period, Anandgarh coins, Multan Coins and the earlier period coins.
The history of Sri Harmandir Sahib, commencing from the year 1588 to 1604 and thereafter is illuminating, though on some occasion, it was plundered and occupied by the Mughals. Yet the Sikhs have been avenging the sacrilege of the sacred shrine even at the risk of their lives. The Art and Architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib has been fully brought forward. The concept of the total complex was not the handiwork of an individual mind but of the outcome of the composite mind of the whole Khalsa.
There used to be some 76 buildings, known as Bungas, around the Parikarma of the holy tank of the Golden Temple which were earlier used as Rest Houses for pilgrims and storage of luggage but later on, education was also imparted there, their details have been narrated in one chapter, namely, Evolution of Bungas. With the passage of time, except a few, all the Bungas were demolished to widen the Parikarma. It is really because of the services of these Bungas rendered to the Khalsa that they are daily remembered in the daily Ardas (prayer) as Bunge-Jugo-Jugo-Atal.
Part III of the volume is exclusively devoted to a galaxy of valiant and competent Sikh leaders of the 18th century who had greatly contributed in uniting the Sikhs, after wresting power from the Mughals and the Abdali. Nawab Kapur Singh (1697 - 1753) took Pahul from the hands of Bhai Mani Singh and it has been fully explained how Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Jai Singh Kanhiya, Naudh Singh, Gulab Singh Dallewalla, and Sham Singh Karorsinghia had received Pahul from that great religious leader. A detailed account of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia right from his birth, his experties and territorial acquisition, his relations with Rajputs, Ala Singh of Patiala and Charhat Singh Sukarchakiya has been remarkably brought out and the Khalsa really feel proud of this great warrior and a valiant General who had succeeded in creating history not only for the Sikhs but for the country as well, when he successfully united various misaldars together. History also reveals that Baba Ala Singh (1691 - 1765), the founder of the Patiala State had gone close to Ahmad Shah Abdali who had appointed him as the Governor of Sirhind in 1765. He even handed over other areas to Ala Singh which was not tolerated by the Dal Khalsa. Baba Ala Singh was also an ally of the Marathas. Yet it has been recorded that his relations with the Dal Khalsa were cordial and his moral character shows like a beacon of light, seen against the depravity, and plunder so frequently indulged in by contemporary rulers.
The life story of Sardar Baghel Singh Karorsinghia, hailing from village Jhabal brought out in details, proves that he was really a very powerful General who had not only conquered Jalandhar, Ambala and the North-West of present Haryana, but had occupied many towns of East Punjab, Haryana and Utter Pardesh. Mughals, Marathas, Afghans, Rohillas and even the British were scared of him. Really, he has been counted among greatest Generals in the Khalsa community.
Part IV describes the history of Sikh Relations with other powers, namely, Rajputs, Marathas, Bharatpur Jats, Rohilla, Afghans, Nawab of Avadh and others in detail. Sikh scripture and its tenets were well-known to the people of Rajputana. The Sikh Gurus enjoyed cordial relations with the Rajput chiefs, especially of the Jaipur House and the triple league of Udaipur, Jaipur and Jodhpur, formed in 1708 to fight against the Mughals was largely attributed to the influence of Guru Gobind Singh. I feel that details of the period of persecution of the Sikhs and their refuge in Rajputana need more exploration, in this respect, by the scholars. The Sikh sway over Delhi and even beyond for over six months with the might of Sardar Baghel Singh, assisted by other Sikh chiefs like Tara Singh Ghaiba, and Rai Singh Bhangi has been well narrated. Really, the credit goes to Sardar Baghel Singh for establishing Gurdwaras in Delhi over two centuries back, I salute him.
The rise of George Thomas had brought Marathas and the Sikhs nearer and they both fought against the British together but, in the last phase, the Maratha-Sikh understanding did not last long. The political relations of Sikhs with Bharatpur Jats, started in 1761, had concluded in 1764 and the Sikhs were encouraged to support their ally. The Rohilla Chief had felt humbled. Sadly, as detailed in this volume, the domestic quarrel among the Bharatpur Jats led to the differences with the Sikhs in the last decade of the 18th century. Similarly, the Sikh-Rohilla relationship which subsisted for some period broke down on account of mutual jailousies among the Sikh Sardars. The political relations between the Sikhs and the Nawab of Avadh were revolving around the Sikh activities in the Jamuna-Ganga Doab where the English held their sphere of interest indirectly. The Sikhs and the Nawab were never seriously concerned with each other indirectly. It has been amply brought out how the Sikhs pursued a very prudent and cautions policy towards the Nawab and the time came when a number of Sikh missionaries had peacefully settled in that area on account of the generous attitude of the Nawab of Avadh towards the Sikh settlers.
In the Appendix, the history of the Tatt Khalsa, the Udasis, the Nirmals, Gulabrais, the Handalies and Gangushahias has been recorded to differentiate them from each other. The Tatt Khalsa has attained significant status in view of the blessings of Guru Gobind Singh. The book has rightly concluded that the Sikh movement after Banda Singh Bahadur was not affected by their malice towards the Khalsa like that of the old denomination like Dhirmalias, Minas and Ramrayas, because of the simple reason that they had already been made ineffective by Guru Gobind Singh.
I gratefully accepted the duty to write a review of this part of the Sikh history. On going through this volume, I really found that a good effort has been made to sincerely collect authentic historical information with the assistance of great scholars and an honest picture of the role of the Khalsa, in the historical development of the 18th century has been presented. I bow my head, in great respect, before the great contributors.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All