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Sketch of The Sikhs - Book By Lt. Colonel Malcolm, Prithipal Singh Kapur
From The Frontcover Of Book 'Sketch of The Sikhs' Book By Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm - Prithipal Singh Kapur
The present work, a first serious study on Sikhism by a European, was originally published in 1812. The author, John Malcolm (2.5.1769-30.5.1833) served in the army of East India Company and later in the diplomatic service. Subsequently, he joined Lord Lake who was advancing towards Punjab in pursuit of Jaswant Rao Holkar. Here, his contact with the Sikhs, made him understand their religion, beliefs and practices. He was the first among the European writers who got interested in Sikhism and tried to reach out to the primary and original Gurmukhi sources of the Sikhs. Malcolm's work surpasses all the earlier European accounts on the Sikhs because he opted to adopt historical methodology which had by then, got a foothold in Europe. The treatment of the issues he handles is not only scholarly but analytical as well.
Malcolm's work, with all its shortcomings, however, remains a fundamental contribution to the British historiography on the Sikhs. It not only substantially enhances the knowledge of his contemporaries about the Sikhs but also exercises considerable impact on the subsequent writers of Sikh history.
When with the British army in the Penjab, in 1805, I endeavoured to collect materials that would throw light upon the history, manners, and religion of the Sikhs. Though the subject has been treated by several English writers, none of them had possessed opportunities of obtaining more than very general information regarding the extraordinary race; and their narratives therefore, though meriting regard, have served more to excite than to gratify curiosity.
In addition to the information I collected while the army continued within the territories of the Sikhs, and the personal observations I was able to make, during that period, upon the customs and manners of their nation, I succeeded with difficulty in obtaining a copy of the Adi-Granth, and of some historical
1. The sacred volume of the Sikhs. The chief, who gave me this copy, sent it at night, and with either a real or affected reluctance, after having obtained a promise that I would treat it with great respect. I understand, however, that the indefatigable research of Mr. Colebroke has produced not only the Adi Granth, but also the Dasima Padshah ka Granth; and that, consequently, he is in possession of the two most sacred books of the Sikhs.
tracts, the most essential parts of which, when I returned to Calcutta, were explained to me by a Sikh priest of the Nirmal order, whom I found equally intelligent and communicative, and who spoke of the religion and ceremonies of his sect with less restraint than any of his brethren whom I had met within the Penjab. This slender stock of materials was subsequently much enriched by my friend Dr. Leyden, who has favoured me with a translation of several tracts written by Sikh authors in the Penjabi and Duggar dialects, treating of their history and religion; which, though full of that warm imagery which marks all oriental works, and particularly those whose authors enter on the boundless field of Hindu mythology, contain the most valuable verifications of the different religious institutions of the Sikh nation.
It was my first intention to have endeavoured to add to these materials, and to have written, when I had leisure, a history of the Sikhs; but the active nature of my public duties has made it impossible to carry this plan into early execution, and I have had the choice of deferring it to a distance and uncertain period; or of giving, from what I actually possessed, a short and hasty sketch of their history, customs, and religion. The latter alternative I have adopted: for, although the information I may convey in such a sketch may be very defective, it will be useful at a moment when every information regarding the Sikhs is of importance; and it may, perhaps, stimulate and aid some person, who has more leisure and better opportunities, to accomplish that task which I once contemplated.
In composing this rapid sketch of the Sikhs, I have still had to encounter various difficulties. There is no part of oriental biography in which it is more difficult to separate truth from falsehood than that which relates to the history of religious impostors. The account of their lives is generally recorded, either by devoted disciples and warm adherents, or by violent enemies and bigoted persecutors. The former, far from enthusiastic admiration, decorate them with every quality and accomplishment that can adorn men : the latter misrepresent their characters, and detract from all their merits and pretensions. This general remark I have found to apply with peculiar force to the varying accounts given, by the Sikh and Muhammedan authors, of Nanac and his successors. As it would have been an endless and unprofitable task to have entered into a disquistion concerning all the points in which these author differ, many considerations have induced me to give a preference, on almost all occasions, to the original Sikh writers. In every reserach into the general history of mankind, it is of the most essential importance to hear what a nation has to say of itself; and the knowledge obtained from such sources has a value, independent of its historical utility. It aids the promotion of social intercourse, and leads to the establishment of friendship between nations. The most savage states are those who have most prejudices, and who are consequently most easily conciliated or offended : they are always pleased and flattered, when they find, that those whom they cannot but admit to posses superior intelligence, are acquainted with their history and respect their belief and usages : and, on the contrary, they hardly ever pardon an outrage against their religion or customs, though committed by men who have every right to plead the most profound ignorance, as an excuse for the words or actions that have provoked resentment.
Table Of Contents For 'Sketch of The Sikhs' Book By Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm - Prithipal Singh Kapur
|Editor's Introduction : Imprints||9|
|Author||Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm - Prithipal Singh Kapur|
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