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The Sikh People - Yesterday & Today - Book By K S Duggal
Introduction To 'The Sikh People' By K.S. Duggal
Modern India has a secular constitution where the law of the land equally respects all religions.
Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation, was a Hindu and yet he studied and venerated other religions whose hymns were regularly recited at his prayer-meetings. These included Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism. jawaharlal Nehru professed himself a non-believer and yet he visited places of worship with the apparent devotion of his countrymen. He was invested with the sacred thread as a child and Vedic ceremonials were duly observed at his cremation and to his memory. Mrs. Indira Gandhi's spiritual thirst carried her to any locale where she could find peace of mind, whether at a Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh holy place.
Within this context of many religions, Sikhism is the most modern, the most recent, and the most scientific faith amongst the great religions of the world. Its founder, Guru Nanak, had the advantage of having drunk deep at the founts of all the sacred religious lore. A life-long pilgrim, he visited the ancient Hindu temple at Puri in the east, Holy Mecca in the west, the ascetics at Manasarovar deep into the Himalayas in the north, and in the south the Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka. Venerated equally by the Hindus and the Muslims in the Punjab, he is still remembered as Baba Nanak Shah fakir/Hindu da guru, Musa/man da pir (a great sufi, revered guru of Hindus, pir of Muslims).
Guru Nanak lived through the harrowing experience of a Mughal invasion of the Punjab by Babar. This cruel invader murdered, raped, and recklessly destroyed property. The poet in Guru Nanak fearlessly condemned the atrocities committed by the Mughal forces. For a moment, it seems, he revolted even against divine justice. Said he:
And yet never, never in his voluminous writing did Guru Nanak utter a word against Islam. He decried the Turks and the Pathans who attacked his country but never the Muslims who were as much his countrymen as were the Hindus. On the other hand, while undertaking a pilgrimage to Holy Mecca, he is said to have donned the blue robes of the Muslim pilgrims:
And yet for Guru Nanak, who was born a Hindu, communal harmony was a creed which he supported vigorously throughout his life.
Guru Gobind Singh, the creator of the Khalsa, had the unique distinction of combining in himself the guru and the disciple. He baptized the Sikhs and then sat at their feet to be baptized by them. An ardent democrat in his social behaviour, many a times he declared that he owed all his glory to his people (Jnhi ki kripa se safe bam bain). At the close of his ministry he invested his authority as a guru, both temporal and spiritual, in the panth, the five elected representatives - the Panj Piaras.
The current tension among Hindus and Sikhs in the Punjab, though unfortunate in the extreme, is no new phenomenon. It raises its head periodically when mischievous elements in the society gain undue influence. Clearly there is a need for Sikhs to maintain a unique identity. A few decades ago, the Sikhs had to shout from the house-tops -- Hum Hindu nahin hain (We are not Hindus). Such declarations were used to ward off a real or imaginary attack on their identity. At that time as great a poet and patriot as Puran Singh came forward and said:
"The great Hindu culture and its innate influence on Sikh culture cannot be denied.
"The Sikh is in no sense an alien, he is born in India, he has the glorious heritage of Indian culture, he cannot be without Prahlad and Mira. Guru Gobind Singh sent his Sikhs to Banaras to study Sanskrit. He is said to have translated Krishna Lila himself.
"Our mother-country is India, our language is derived from Sanskrit, but we are modern in outlook, though also ancient as Prahlad and Krishna.
"In view of the political solidarity of India it is mischievous for anyone to suggest that we are not Hindus, and not equally Muslims. It is mischievous to multiply the points of difference with the Hindus, which are not fundamental."
What seems to bother the Sikhs currently is again the question of their identity. There are many front-rank intellectuals in the community who fear that with the onslaught of modernism, the Sikhs may be swept off their feet and lose their identity. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
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