The Sikh Revolution
– Who Are its Creators ? –
I have just gone through Prof Gurnam Singh Mukatsar’s The Creators of the Sikh Movement : Sant-Satguru Namdev, Kabir, Trilochan, Ravi Das and Sain, Bahujan Samaj Prakash, Mukatsar 2004, p 416). It is a voluminous work, divided into 16 chapters: it has no sheet of contents, indicates no chapter number, nor has any index. Above all, it is repetitive, verbose, and written with a particular slant.
As the title itself shows, author regards the five, what he regards as Hindus from backward classes, as ‘Creators’ of the Sikh movement. Even if, for the sake of supposition, one goes with the thesis that the Sikh movement started much earlier than Guru Nanak, how could one exclude other Bhaktas – 14 in all – whose hymns have been included in Guru Granth Sahib? And, the first of them, chronologically, comes Bhagat Sheikh Farid, a Muslim of high caste. Precisely, Sheikh Farid says, “ Says Farid God is immanent in His creation, and the creation lives in parameters set by God; how can one call any one bad, when no one is without Him.” 1 And, the hymns of Sheikh Farid, as also of Namdev and some others, are found only in Guru Granth Sahib. Sheikh Farid’s followers are well spread over both in India and Pakistan, and are extremely grateful to the Sikh movement for preserving his hymns in Punjabi, as these are not found amongst his considerable literature in Persian language. Could not they also legitimately say that Farid was the precursor, pillar or the founder around whom the Sikh philosophy revolves?
How was Kabir a Hindu from a backward class? Basically, he was a Muslim, and according to his Salokas in Guru Granth Sahib he went to Mecca on Haj several times. Once, God met him there (or he had a vision), and told him that God lived only there? Later, he said (Guru Granth Sahib) that if Allah lived in one mosque (at Mecca) only, then what for the whole of world was? He also said that if performing circumcision made one a Muslim, what would you do to a women. Then, he said, it would be better to remain a Hindu (Guru Granth Sahib). He was very critical of Brahmins, and asked them if he was born of a Brahmin woman, why didn’t he come through the other reproductive process (Guru Granth Sahib)? Though Kabir got his initiation at the hands of Ramanand unintentionally, Prof Gurnam Singh is reluctant to mention that, because Ramanand was a high class Hindu. Kabir on his own says, and Guru Arjun endorses him on that (Guru Granth Sahib, p 1136) that he is neither a Hindu, nor a Musalman. His body was summum-bonum of Allah-Ram. The author is chary of mentioning that too.
Before proceeding further, it will be of interest to dilate further on the author. Prof Gurnam Singh Mukatsar has been mentioned as National President of the Kaumi Bamsaif (kOmI bwmsyP) and All India Samaj Parivartan Manch (All India Association for Social Change). He has already published a number of works on Ravidas and Kanshi Ram, besides (1) How Indian People Became Downtrodden; (2) Banaras Ke Thagg; (3) Ghulamgiri; (4) The Struggle is On, or I shall not Die a Hindu, and other such works. It can be said that this work can be seen to represent the viewpoint of the downtrodden classes, or rather what is being fed to them by their intellectuals.
In another paper “Ki Sikh Hindu Hain, Ja(n) Nahin” ( Are the Sikhs Hindus or Not ) published in the journal Begham Shehr of March 2007 (p 17), the author speaks of the rise of the Sikh Dharma, whose basic philosophy, in his words, was laid down by four great men, namely, Sant-Satgur Bhagat Namdev, Sant Satgur Bhagat Kabir, Sant Satgur Bhagat Ravi Das and Guru Nanak, in that order.
It may be seen that firstly, the author drops the names of Bhaktas Trilochan and Sain (sYx) from the status of ‘creators’ of the Sikh movement, accorded to them in the work of 2004. May be, because of a few of their hymns being found in Guru Granth Sahib, and nowhere else. Secondly, he mentions Namdev, Kabir and Ravidas each as a Sant-Satgur” as well as a “Bhagat”, besides Nanak whom he mentions as Guru, in that order.
But the question is what is his own conviction? Does he believe in all that his “Sant Satgurus” say, or does he have doubts in his mind about their credibility?
In the Sikh scriptures, a Bhagat is not the one who only worships God, but also a hero (sUrmw) who also leads a social and political revolution. He quotes Kabir to say, Bgq kry koeI sUrmw, only a hero can do Bhakti. Again, he quotes Kabir (p.15) to say to a women who is going to give birth to a child, should bear a Bhagat, philanthropist or a hero, otherwise why loose her luster.2 Here, Kabir’s first advice for a worldly mother is to give birth to a Bhagat. Kabir himself uses the terms guru and bhagat in the same sentence to make explicit what he wants to say, “Brahmin is the guru of worldly people, but not a guru of bhagatas”.3 Obviously, Gurnam Singh Mukatsar has either not applied his mind to the theme of his work, or he does not fully agree with Kabir, who prefers to call himself a Bhagat.
Guru Granth Sahib, uses synonyms of bhagat, sadhu, sant, guru. Kabir himself explicates, “To shave off the mother of that guru who does not remove the duality of mind.”4 Hindu terminology used the term guru with a great degree of depreciation for one who teaches the other about any of the musical instruments.
It would be interesting to look at the author’s views on Bhagat Nam Dev of Maharashtra. The authority for his hymns is only Guru Granth Sahib. Bhagat Nam Dev, apart from his rendezvous with the Almighty, talks of two main incidents in his life. These are mentioned by the author himself a number of times.
Firstly, Nam Dev was insulted by Brahmins and made to get out of the temple, as he came from a low caste. Nam Dev sat on the back of the temple and started worshipping the name of the Lord. He also said that if after his death, even if he gets salvation, of what use that would be? And lo, the face of Deora or the temple started moving towards him: took a turn of 180 degrees, and Brahmins, to their surprise, got to the backside of it. (pp 56, 63)
This incident of turning to the reverse side of the face of the temple is accepted by Guru Ram Das who mentions about it in Guru Granth Sahib twice, in Rag Asa and Rag Suhi, and also by Bhai Gurdas once in Var 10, stanza. (But see, how after mentioning it a number of times, the author seeks to deal with it as per his limited understanding.)
Nam Dev was born at Narsi Vamini in Satara District of Maharashtra, and this Brahmin temple, whose face he caused to be turned, is situated at nearby Pandarpur. Prof Gurnam Singh Mukatsar may himself go to Pandarpur to see the turned face of the Deora, which is still in existence! He has made similar remarks about Guru Nanak’s turning the face of the mosque at Mecca. I would not venture into that, and also Guru Nanak’s taking the young son of Pir Dastgir at Baghdad into the different world, or his leaving the imprint of his palm at the huge boulder at Hasan Abdal, now in Pakistan.
This brings us to the second incident in Nam Dev’s life. Stung by Nam Dev’s spiritual attainments, the Brahmins conspired, as per their crooked nature. The Ruler’s cow somehow died. The Brahmins went in unison and told him that Nam Dev had the powers to revive the cow. And lo, Nam Dev was taken to the ruler. He was bounded hand and foot, and told to revive the cow in 8 gharis, or 24 hours. The author avers.
Nam Dev’s description of the incident is given in Guru Granth Sahib, and need not be repeated here. After 7 gharis, the Lord riding on His vehicle made his presence felt to Nam Dev. He made him three offers: (1) If you like, I can make this land upside down, i.e., cause a revolution; (2) If you like, I can make this part of land fly high in the sky, (so that people get afraid as to what they are upto); and (3) If you like I can revive this dead cow. Nam Dev, for whatever reasons, chose the third option. The cow came to life, cried for its calf and immediately yielded milk for the Ruler. The qazis and mullahs paid their salutation to Nam Dev. But Nam Dev knew that if tomorrow someone from the ruler’s family, or someone else near or dear to him, dies, he would be required to repeat his performance or face the consequences. He therefore, ran away from Maharashtra and came down to settle himself at village Ghuman, near Gurdaspur in Punjab.
What was the impact of Nam Dev’s achievements in Maharashtra? Obviously, Nil. Kabir too in his times faced political oppression, but did not react violently, and chose to put up with it.
I wrote in the third chapter of my work The Sikhs in History that till Bhai Mani Singh’s martyrdom, it was ingrained in the Sikhs to lead their lives as per the hymns of the Sikh Gurus, but pay equal reverence to the Bhagat Bani. This got mixed up after that. What Bhagat Nam Dev and certain other Bhaktas did was not in accordance with the Sikh principles. For instance, Guru Hargobind’s 9-year old son Baba Atal was one evening playing with his mate a game that was to be resumed next morning and completed. Baba Atal went to his house next morning, and was told that his age-mate had died last night. Not caring for that, Baba Atal called for his mate, who got up and accompanied him to the game. Shortly afterwards, Guru Hargobind scolded his son saying that some children die during child-birth, others after that or in their teens, some in their youth and so on. It was not for them to intervene in God’s scheme of things. Baba Atal understood that. He took a sheet of cloth, put it over his body and expired near Harmandir, where now a 9-storey Gurudwara named after him stands.
At places, Prof Gurnam Singh Mukatsar makes very sweeping statements and gives the impression that he lacks in basic understanding of not only Sikhism, but also of the so-called backward class Bhaktas. He, throughout his repetitive work, does not mention even once about the revelation Guru Nanak had in 1499, at the age of 30, when he started on an extensive tour which took him, unlike any holy man earlier, to various parts of India and abroad. It was during this revelation that Guru Nanak was led to the court of God, lasting over three days, when he had a broad vision of God’s sovereignty, creation and expanse. This revelation was more fuller than the one Lord Buddha had 2000 years earlier.5
Guru Nanak after his revelation (as per Guru Granth Sahib) spoke of countless, or hundreds of thousands of regions, constellations like our own which had countless Suns and Moons. Later, Guru Arjun the fifth Nanak (in Salok Sanskriti, Guru Granth Sahib) speaks of our Solar system’s getting older and getting a reduction in its sphere when a time may come that God may fold up his creation. This aspect of the Sikh Guru’s revelation has now in 20th and 21st centuries been confirmed by the American and European Scientists who have been, and are, finding new constellations. Only on June 1, 2007, they came across a Sun in outer constellation, 100 times more powerful than our Sun. The point is, that the revelations of Guru Nanak and his successors were more authentic and credible, as against other Prophets’ vision or their rendezvous with God. It was immediately after that, that Guru Nanak sought to sum up the personality of God in 14 monosyllables in his Invocation or Mul Mantra,6 which provides the quintessence of his philosophy.
Throughout his journeys afterwards, Guru Nanak makes no mention of Vedas, Shastras, Smritis, Puranas, or any other body of literature for what he was saying. He also makes no mention of all the Bhaktas whose hymns, because of identity of their outlook, he collected from various parts of India and abroad, and jotted them down in his Vehi.7 Gurnam Singh’s contention that the Sikh Gurus confined themselves within the vocabulary used by the so-called five backward class Bhagats is untenable and a statement of a mind which is unable to fathom either the depth of the Sikh scripture or even of the given Bhaktas. Guru Nanak’s hymns are so compact, so abbreviated that these are impregnated with a philosophical content. He has given new meanings to a given word. I would be hesitant to go into that depth here, or go into the Bhaktas' words for comparative purposes. I regard all these Bhaktas jivan mukats, a status beyond the reach of ordinary human beings.
It was Guru Nanak’s humility and that of his successors, that the name of various Gurus was not mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib, though from the script, Mahla 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 9, it was clear to which Guru the particular hymn relates. The names of various Bhaktas – Muslims or non-Muslims, Brahmins or others including the so-called backward castes, or outcastes – were mentioned with all the reverence, as all these persons who figured therein, were, as stated earlier, jeevan muktas, liberated while still alive.8 This term jeevan mukta is not used by Prof Gurnam Singh because of his own limitations. Guru Nanak had enunciated a philosophy of universal humanism irrespective of caste, creed, sex, one’s place in life, etc. Now, look at the author’s mature assertion (p 299) that it was ordained by the Guru (which? when? and where?) that only the names of ‘basic creators’ of the movement (and he thinks of only 5 backward class ‘Hindus’ as basic creators) was to be registered. Though Guru Granth Sahib mentions 6 Gurus, 14 Bhaktas, 14 bards and four others, what makes him think that only the so-called five people from backward classes were ‘basic creators’. Unless one takes out this sectarian class-consciousness from one’s brain, no composite growth is possible in Sikhism. This applies to all sections of society, be they Khatris, Aroras, Jats, Ramgarhias, Mazhbis, or others. I have already mentioned till Bhai Mani Singh all classes of Sikhs paid full obeisance to Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
These Bhaktas were like springs of fresh and healthy water, some small, others medium or big. Some springs functioned for some time, others for a greater time. I have shown that Nam Dev had to migrate from Maharashtra to Punjab, while the followers of Kabir, who was most vocal critic of Brahminism at Benaras then, was forced by Brahmins to fall within Brahminical framework afterwards, though they could not extinguish the flame. It was the Sikh movement under Guru Nanak, which had introduced the principles of martyrdom in his followers, which flowed like a torrent and caused a dent in Brahminical thinking, though it earned the latter’s utmost hostility. Guru Hargobind and later Guru Gobind Singh, while manifesting the Khalsa, decided to instil in his followers, coming from lower section of society, a spiritual, social and political revolution. This produced within them the spirit to rule and produce a ruling class.9
In the confederacy of 11 Misls in 18th century, the Sikhs from backward classes or Mazhbis were the flag bearers of the Dal Khalsa. They established their rule in Naraingarh area of Ambala Distt. During early 19th century, when the English extended their protective umbrella over Phulkian states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Faridkot, etc., and also to Kalals or (Ahluwalias) of Kapurthala, the English refused a similar status to the Mazhbis of Naraingarh, who in their perverse view, had only established their Zamindari over the area and could not be equated with the rulers. There was an upward social mobility amongst various classes, to wit Jats, Kalals (wine distillers) or Ahluwalias, Thokas, Ramgarhias and that branch of Sansis to whom belonged Ranjit Singh and his collaterals. All other Sansis till 1947 were classified as a Criminal Tribe and treated as such by the British. The Mazhbis also lost in the bargain for their failure to establish a state/rule. They, however, were a fighting force in Ranjit Singh’s army, and were raised as such in the English army: the Mazhbis or the Sikh Light Infantry (SLI) won laurels during the British rule, and their position after decolonisation in 1947 was quite on the top as a fighting force. The SLI was deliberately got badly mauled by Rajiv government in 1987 when it was the first regiment sent to Sri Lanka against the LTTE, withdrawn and resent, to be the last to come out. The government of India was feeling nervous at the existence of such a compact force following its onslaught of Operation Blue Star in 1984.
The historians of medieval history, some aligned to Brahminism, others themselves being of a Brahminical orientation, treated all these springwells of revolt against Brahminism, as a reform movement and not a revolutionary movement. The Bhaktas, except like Mira Bai, who is unnecessarily drawn in by Prof Gurnam Singh, repudiated Hinduism, while Mira Bai’s followers fell in the other category. The fault lies with the backward classes themselves who, for lack of consciousness, failed to distinguish between their friends and foes. The backward classes failed to assert their position. It also happened in 20th century when the British announced their Communal Award in 1932, giving appropriate representation to the Muslims, the Backward Classes, and the Sikhs, and others. Brahmins and Brahminical Hindus, the most crooked class, was reduced to inanity. It was here that backward class leaders like Dr B R Ambedkar failed, and failed miserably. He not only fell into the trap of M K Gandhi, the most scheming mind of all Hindus, but also knowingly failed to take any lead. He had clearly enunciated that the deliverance of backward classes lies in their getting out of the Hindu fold. Gandhi did not, mischievously, object to his going in for Christianity or Islam (both outside the Indian culture), but was dead set against his joining Sikhism, which fell within the Indian culture. His entering into Poona Pact of 1933 was an act of humiliation, and one of betrayal. The British, too, knowing that M K Gandhi was their plant in the Indian movement, obliged. They issued a proclamation that untouchables were Hindus and would get special concessions, only if they remained within the Hindu fold, and not otherwise. Gandhi ensured that depressed classes remain depressed for all times to come; he emerged as father figure of modern Hinduism, with inbuilt inequalities.
Ambedkar unfortunately formed part of the deal. Later, his assumption of Ministership in Nehru administration in 1946, and acting as a Law Minister to push through the Hindu-Constitution in 1949, sealed the fate of minorities and of the backward classes. Ambedkar pushed through the Constitution, Article 25.2(b) mentioning Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as falling within the Hindu parameters. Ambedkar did not move out till he was ousted, like another camp follower, Baldev Singh, in 1952. He later chose to adopt Buddhism, despite article 25.2(b) above, which he could have chosen in 1932-33, before falling a prey to the Poona Pact. His brain befuddled at that moment, now the Brahmins, thanks to him, had scuttled Indian Buddhism to fall within the Hindu framework, with Brahmins playing a controlling role over Buddhist shrines in India. The sufferings of backward classes, of which they are the victims, is the consequence of the false moves or lack of them by their own leaders. Kanshi Ram, a schedule caste Sikh and convert to Buddhism, tried to set right the position in the last quarter of the 20th century. But now, in 2007, the success of Mayawati, in U P with the help of Brahmin infiltrators sets in place the importance of scheduled caste or backward class captive vote as a plaything for her, seeking political power leading to a control over the centre.
The Sikh Revolution or the Sikh Movement flowed like a flood in Punjab and might have yielded positive results, but for the Brahminical infiltrators and for failure of leadership. Prof Gurnam Singh’s contention that the backward classes in Sikhism had their sway till the end of Banda Singh Bahadur is a misreading of the Sikh history. The writings of Qazi Noor Mohammad, who fought against the Sikhs in 1764, tend to show the egalitarian character of the Sikh movement till at least 1765, and again in 1920s. The defeat of Sikhism in 1845 and again in 1849 was a great victory for Chanakyaniti of Sam, (equality) dam (concession) dand (reprisals) and bhed (dissentions) by Brahminical and Dogra forces, actuated by putr-moh (love for dynasty) of Ranjit Singh who showed a miserable lack of understanding of the Sikh ethos. Now again, Sikhism is pulsating in an uneasy state. The hope that the Sikh masses could look towards their downtrodden brethren lies dashed because of lack of vision and direction to the backward classes, their sense of history; their place in Bahujan Samaj is ill-digested and lies athwart.
There is all-round failure of leadership of backward classes – scheduled castes and scheduled tribes – who constitute about 28 percent of Indian population. Their leadership, whether within the government or outside, whether ruling or amidst the opposition, is incapable, thoughtless and incompetent. They have got reservation in services, including the creamy layer. There is a vast opportunity available for the entry of SCs and STs in one of the biggest employers – the Armed Forces. Since the British did not give them any representation, the caste Hindu who controls the levers of power in India does not favour that, or has not opened up the avenues to the backward members of the society. If such scheduled castes, the Mazhbis, representing the Sikh Light Infantry were one of the best fighting forces in British India, who have shown their mettle in 1947-48, 1962, 1965 or 1971 wars, why can not a SC or ST from Hindu sector? If Hindu SC or ST is not considered a suitable material let him be subjected to Sikh initiation. Herein lies the importance of Bahujan Samaj, which itself needs a new feedback, a new direction and a different orientation. One remembers Dr Ambedkar’s words that for their salvation, the backward classes need to come out of the Hindu fold. With due apologies, Buddhism has not risen upto the mark, or is not considered appropriate.
Herein lies the opportunity for the Bahujan Samaj, especially in Punjab, to give a wake up call to reorient itself into a meaningful future. Will they?
1 PrIdw Kwlk Klk mY, Klk vsY rb mwih [ mMdw iksno AwKIAY, jw iqs ibn koie nwih[
2. This hymn does not finds place in Guru Granth Sahib. Some people attribute it to Kabir, others to Surdas.
3 bwhmn guruU hY jgq kw, Bgqn kw gur nwih ] Guru Granth Sahib, p.180
4 mwie mUMfau iqs guru kI jw qy Brm n jwie ] Guru Granth Sahib, p. 17
5 Lord Buddha makes no mention of God; and Guru Nanak makes no mention of Lord Buddha, though they had identity of outlook in social philosophy. Guru Nanak, however, makes critical references of Jain practices and condemns them severely.
6. The Mul Mantra has been translated elsewhere by the author as follows: The Only Infinite One (1), the Only Supreme Being – God (oankar) the Eternal (sati), the Universal Spirit (namu), the Creator (karta), the All-Pervading (Purakhu), the Sovereign (nirbhau), the Harmonious (nirvairu), the Immortal (akala), the Embodiment (murti), the Un-incarnated (ajuni), the Self-existent (Saibhan), the Enlightener (guru), the Bountiful ( prasad)!
7. Guru Nanak was son of a Patwari and it was common practice with that class to maintain a number of Vehis of various sizes - very big, big, intermediary and small. My family also had four vehis recording various social and cultural matters.
8 I may mention that pen name of Nanak is used as the author of all the compositions of all the six Gurus and of Bhai Mardana whose compositions find place in SGGS. Some of the Gurus have paid special tributes to Guru Nanak for his higher attainments. Bhatts in their panegyrics have mentioned of the Ist five Gurus as well. The name of Guru Gobind comes only once in the last Salokas of the ninth Guru when just before his decimation, he says that ‘the name of Lord remains, that of His saints remains, and also of Guru Gobind’ - nominated now to lead the Sikh movement.
9 jau qau pRym Kyln kw cwau! isr Dr qlI glI myrI Awau [ ieq mwrg pYr DrIjY isr dIjY kwx n kIjY [ If you want to play the game of love, come my way, when you tread this path, lay down your head, without murmur. ( Guru Nanak, SGGS p. 1412.)
10. ijn kY jwq jnm kul AwhI [ srdwrI n BeI ikdwhI [ ienhI ko srdwr bxwaU[ rwj krn kI rIq isKwaU[ ( guru goibMd isMG ). In whose caste, family tree, no one became a leader of men. I would make them leaders and teach them the process of rule.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All