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History And Philosophy Of The Sikh Religion (Part I & II) - Book By Prithipal Singh Kapur

From the cover of the Book 'History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion' By J. S. Grewal

The first comprehensiive work on the history and religion of the Sikhs was produced by Khazan Singh, an Extra Assistant Commissioner. He was aware that many Sikhs and non-Sikhs had written on this subject. He had a lot appreciation for the 'splendid work' of Macauliffe, and he looked upon the work of Giani Gian Singh as extremely useful. However, most of the works published by English writers were 'extremely defective' and 'in many ways misleading'. A systematic account of the religion and history of the Sikhs, a truer and a fuller account, was needed. Towards this end, Khazan Singh published his work History and Philosophy of the Sikhs Religion in two volumes in 1914 on the basis of nearly all the important sources available at that time.


About The Author of 'History And Philosophy Of The Sikh Religion (Part I)'

Prithipal Singh Kapur , well known historian and educationist, has been the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Director, Punjab State University Text Book Board. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism at Punjabi University, Patiala. He wrote edited more than a dozen books on Sikh history including Jassa Singh Ramgarhia (Pbi.), Punjab da Virsa (Pbi.), Master Tara Singh: Itihasak Pakh Ton (Pbi.), The Divine Master : Life & Teachings of Guru Nanak (edited).


Introduction To 'History And Philosophy Of The Sikh Religion (Part I)' By Prithipal Singh Kapur

Historical writing on Sikhism can be viewed in the right perspective only if it accepted that bedrock of the story of the Sikhism is the doctrine propounded by Guru Nanak and his successors.Secondly it has to be noted that the first stage of historical writing on Sikhism presented itself as accumulation of such records only; wherein the main focus remained the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. That is why we find the earliest writings on the Sikhs as no more than story-telling by the Sikhs themselves and referral by others. The eighteenth and nineteenth century writings on the Sikhs; especially belongs to this genre. However, from the nineteenth century onwards, and particularly after the annextation of the Punjab, when the western influence began to permeate, we find even the classicists attempting such writings in verse as well as in prose that would contain fuller account of the rise and fall of the Sikh kingdom, besides the history of the Sikh Gurus. As the interaction increased between the British officers and their subordinates, the Indian officers belonging to different faiths vied with one another, to present before their British masters; what they thought to be the real complexion of the faith that they professed and highlight such peculiarities therein which could claim to have superiority over the other traditions. But not many Sikh officers got attached to in-depth study of their religion and history. However, we come acroos the names of Khazan Singh and Sewa Ram Singh who can be rated as pioneers in Sikh historical writings. While Khazan Singh brought out a 2-volume set entitled History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion (1914), Sewa Ram Singh confined his study to the construction of the biography of Guru Nanak and logical presentation of the Sikh doctrine (A Critical Study of the Life and Teachings of Sri Guru Nanak Dev, the Founder of Sikhism, 1904 and The Divine Master: Life and Teachings of Guru Nanak, 1930).

Khazan Singh was among the earliest beneficiaries of the Anglo-Indian system of education introduced by the British in Punjab. Hailing from Sialkot district (now in Pakistan), he decidedly belonged to the new middle class; and was able to make it to the P.C.S. because  of his perseverance and hardwork. Interestingly, Syad Mohammad Latif the celebrated author of the voluminous work on history of the Punjab (first published in 1889 A.D.) also belonged to the same cadre of civil service. Khazan Singh won admiration from his superiors for his 'honesty and sincerity'. But despite his loyalty to the British regime, he remained an ardent Sikh who had a firm belief in the divinity of Guru Nanak and originality of his creed. His devotion to the faith impelled him to undertake the task of producing a comprehensive work on the history and religion of the Sikhs in two volumes which remains the first such work accomplished by a Sikh. Khazan Singh did not see any contradiction in the teachings of Guru Nanak and the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh.

A modern historiographer might dismiss Khazan Singh as an amateur, attempting to compile a narrative of events concerning the origions of the Sikh faith; its progress and rise of the Sikhs to a sovereign status in the land of their birth. Some others might describe the re-appearence of Khazan Singh's work in an edited form as an exercise in futility but those interested in having a glimpse of the earliest complextion of Sikh historiography and understanding the pioneer's approach  to the subject, will surely find its re-appraisal worth the exercise. It is interesting that Khazan Singh does not seek to trace the origin of Sikh religion as a reformist movement or as a phenomenal consequence of Hindu-Muslim contact. He also does not care to perceive the relationship of the Sikh doctrine with the teachings of the Bhaktas who flourished in India during the period immediately preceding Guru Nanak or happened to be his contemporaries. He looks at the 'Universe in Flux' as the cause of Nanak's appearance in history and perhaps borrows this thesis from Bhai Gurdas (var I, pauri 17) and hastens to conclude that "Khalsa religion  is practically the renaissance of the oldest of the religion of the world with few modifications if any, and it was the sacred mission of Guru Nanak to restore the oldest and catholic religion in the world". It is noteworthy that Khazan Singh takes pains to delineate the state of religion and society in the age of Nanak and thereafter brings into focus the relevance of the mission of Guru Nanak.

As Khazan Singh proceeds, he first looks at the source-material available to him critically. He found them scanty and not very reliable. He examines the accounts of the authors like Khafi Khan and their sources of information on the Sikhs particularly in the light of the "orders of prohibition in regard to chronicles issued by Aurangzed". Khazan Singh notes that "these orders were strictly enforced and do not appear to have been withdrawn" immediately after the death of Aurangzeb. He also notes that information about various occurrences and transactions did not reach Khafi Khan who begs that variations in his stories may be excused. Khazan Singh also critically analyses the references of the Hindu traditionalists who initially looked askance at the utterances of Guru Nanak . His anaysis of the Janam Sakhis and the possible interpolations made therein, though not penetrating; has to be seen in the light of the advancement of historical knowledge and methodology followed at the time, when Khazan Singh was engaged in this exercise. For him, Guru Granth and vars of Bhai Gurdas are primary sources. But he uses Santokh Singh and Gian Singh extensively although he laments that these works had been produced more or less under the influence of Brahmin priestly class who were then looked upon as men of knowledge. Despite all this, he refrains from taking a negative approach or getting cynical towards the sources he handles. This remains the merit of his work throughout. Like his contemporary biographers of Guru Nanak (Sewa Ram Singh ) and Guru Gobind Singh (Bhagat Lakshman Singh), he used the available sources with sceptical mind and ensured that narrative of his comprehensive account remained close to rationality while he presented Sikhism as a new faith with a distinct identity. Herein lies the importance of Khazan Singh's history and philosophy of Sikhism which was intended to be a 'truer and fuller account of the Sikhs' presented in the language of the rulers of the time.

Still he refrains from including such accounts in his narrative that bring in miraculous or legendary tales. Khazan Singh appears to be more interested in the origin of Sikh faith than in the political history of the Sikhs. That is why me find him least fair to Banda Singh Bahadur, where he chose to follow Giani Gian Singh in toto without any critical analysis of the situations and circumstances. As compared to this, his portrayal of the eighteenth century struggle waged by the Sikhs against the Mughals and the Afghans and their perseverance, though bereft of historical references, describes the conditions of the times vividly with insight and zeal.The account of Sikh Misls and achievement of Maharaja Ranjit Singh are too sketchy to be taken seriously. For the downfall of the Khalsa Kingdom, Khazan Singh holdes intrigues and counter intrigues of the courtiers responsible and as a loyal officer of the British Government he hails "the restoration of good benign and constitutional government  which ensured religious tolerance and peace to the people".

Khazan Singh sought to present the Sikhs as "a community who occupy a prominent place among the Indian races on account of their martial instincts and loyalty to the British" and he wanted Sikhism to be looked upon as a universal religion with a cosmopolitan character. as a bureaucrat, he was an ardent admirer of the British and their administrative system which earned him the title of Sardar Sahib. As a devout Sikh and  a staunch reformist, the Sikh affairs ever remained close to his heart and this fact  is mentioned by Narain Singh M.L.C. (Gujranwala) and S.B. Mehtab Singh who often consulted him during negotiations for the legislation of Gurdwara Act of (1925). But he had no admiration for the Akalis and their struggle against British. As such, he remained critical of the Gurdwara management and Master Tara Singh, the Akalis stalwart; even after the passage of the Gurdwara Act (1925).  He stuck to this position till his death in 1953 A.D. It is in the light of these facts that we have to understand his position as a historiographer who gives little space to diplomatic relations between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the British and the wars of the Sutlej fought in 1845-46 and 1848-49 where the British policies could have to be projected in bad light.

The impotance of Khazan Singh's History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion, lies in the fact that it was the first comprehensive account of the Sikh history presented by a Sikh in English. Though it might not stand favourably in comparison to some insightful studies made by his contemporary British officers and Syad Muhammad Latif, yet it did attract attention and inspired many a budding scholar to engage themselves in the area of historical study of the Sikhs and Sikhism. Thirty-six years after the publication of Khazan singh's  work , two stalwarts of the field of Sikh studies namely Teja Singh and Ganda Singh who had written extensively on various periods of Sikh history, preseted to the scholarly world their History of the Sikhs, vol. I (1469-1765) which they themselves described as "The first attempt to write a history of the Sikhs from a secular stand-point, to show how the foundations of their characters were laid by the Gurus who were their temporal as well as spiritual guides, how their political institutions grew out of their religious origins and national needs, how sufferings intensified their character and moulded their national aim, which was nothing less than the deliverance of their country from the grip of the foreigners and how the Sikh cause which was the country's cause, triumphed after a severe and patient struggle extending over a century and ultimately gave the Sikhs the sovereignty of the Punjab". If seen in this perspective, Khazan Singh's work can be rated as earliest of the serious and purposeful  studies in the field of Sikh historiography.


Table of Contents For 'History and Philosophy of The Sikh Religion' - Book By Khazan Singh & Prithipal Singh Kapur




  Part I : History  
  Editor's Introduction 7
  Introduction 13
I. Guru Nanak 61
II. Guru Angad 112
III. Guru Amar Das 115
IV. Guru Ram Das 120
V. Guru Arjan Dev 123
VI. Guru Hargobind 131
VII. Guru Har Rai 144
VIII. Guru Har Krishan 149
IX. Guru Tegh Bahadur 152
X. Guru Gobind Singh 165
XI. Banda Bahadur 204
XII. The Tat Khalsa 225
XIII. The Misls or Singh Confederacies 257
XIV. Maharaja Ranjit Singh 290
XV. Successors of Ranjit Singh 300


Author Khazan Singh & Prithipal Singh Kapur
Cover Hardbound
Volumes 2
Language English

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History And Philosophy Of The Sikh Religion (Part I & II) - Book By Prithipal Singh Kapur

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