Repository of Sikh Ethos
A Review by Kanwalpreet Singh
Title: Turn of the Century: Sikh Concerns and Responses
Author : Dr Kharak Singh
Publisher: Singh Brothers, Amritsar
Price: Rs. 650/- Pages: 514 pages
Kharak Singh had been involved in dealing with contemporary Sikh issues during his lifetime. He died on August 6, 2008, having written various articles and held seminars to highlight issues that have proved to be challenging to the Sikh community. Many articles included in this collection are editorials which the author wrote for the journal Abstracts of Sikh Studies of the Indian Institute of Sikh Studies.
This book is a compilation of the editorials as well as other articles that Kharak Singh wrote. His daughter, Birendra Kaur, has compiled this 514-page volume with a missionary zeal. The articles spanning years have most of the controversies listed.
The work argues with researchers who have written on the Sikh Panth. The author puts forth arguments, for he feels that the facts stated by them are not supported historically. He takes on T. N. Madan, one of the researchers, to task for assuming that Guru Nanak’s religion is part of the Bhakti movement and Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh’s principle of Miri-Piri is different from the religion of Guru Nanak. Kharak Singh examines Sikhism as a religion starting from Guru Nanak and discusses how the nine Gurus carried the message of the first Guru forward adding their essence to it but never departing from Guru Nanak’s vision. He quotes the Tenth Master: “Nanak transformed himself into Angad and spread dharma in the world. He was called Amar Das in the next transformation. A lamp was lighted from the lamp... .”
Besides historical controversies, he discusses about the Sikh’s struggle during Independence and also the role of the leaders at the national level regarding the minorities. He gives due importance to Khudai Khidmatgars and Abdul Ghafar Khan who were shocked and felt “betrayed” when the Congress came to terms with the Muslim League regarding the partition of India. The author clarifies that though Kabir, the great saint, is held in high esteem by Sikhs, yet Guru Nanak was not a disciple of Kabir as believed by many. The primarily the difference is that while Kabir “was a misogynist and accepted ahimsa”, Guru Nanak recommended a householder’s life and equality of men and women. “In Sikhism or according to Guru Nanak, the world is real.” Deeds determine one’s closeness to God, for pacifism and pessimism have no place in Sikh thought and life.
Further, the author discusses about the Nanakshahi calendar and how it has been planned according to seasons. He also worries about apostasy which has not only inflicted the Sikh religion but has become a worldwide phenomenon. “Sikh rahit lays equal emphasis on both internal rahit as well as external form”. He also praises selfless workers like Sardar Jagjit Singh, Giani Ditt Singh, Giani Gurdit Singh and others who spent their lives setting the Panth’s house in order both from internal as well as external dangers. He is nostalgic about the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the “Sarkar-e-Khalsa” that he set up as per the wishes of the Tenth Guru.
Emotionally charged, Kharak Singh foremost clarifies the authenticity of Guru Granth Sahib which is revered by Sikhs all over the world. There have been various schisms that claim to have the real ‘bir’, but the author through various articles in the Abstracts of Sikh Studies and elsewhere has proved the sacredness of each and every word in Guru Granth Sahib. He sets to rest the doubts about the Dasam Granth written by the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh. He is troubled about the disunity among the members of the Panth. He stresses on the need for meeting the challenges on the education front, for the latter helps mould a vibrant community. The other points of discussion are the Gurudwara Legislation, All-India Sikh Gurudwaras Act, need for SGPC and its strength and weaknesses and the tasks before the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
These and many other issues are the examined, some at length. The book familiarises the readers with the various controversies and then goes about presenting the writer’s point of view. This shows his grasp of the subject which has been close to his heart.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All