image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Theo-Political Sikhi In Hindu Rashtra (Nation) - Part 4

Part 4 - The enemy within (continued)

 

    The Singh Sabha reform movement started in 1873 as a reaction to the activities of other religions seeking converts. Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement preaching the authority of the Vedas, was active in Punjab. It was founded by Dayananda Saraswati a sannyasi, on 7 April 1875, in Bombay and later announced more formally in Punjab in 1877 at Lahore. His main publication Satyarath Prakash made derogatory comments about other religions, including Sikhi e.g. at page 443 (chapter IX), he wrote that Guru Nanak did not possess any learning.

Many Hindus regarded Sikhism as a sect of Hinduism. To clarify this confusion, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha wrote, &ldquoHum Hindu Nahi&rdquo (We i.e. Sikhs, are not Hindus) in 1898, giving comprehensive examples from Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh tradition of the sovereignty of the Nirmal Panth (later Khalsa Panth) of Guru Nanak. This clarification also exposed the ideological enemy within who was capable of more lasting damage than any external threat. As we have seen, Brahmanic thought had already infiltrated Sikh ideology through the influence, first of the Udasi cult of Baba Sri Chand and later the take-over of gurdwaras by the ascetic Nirmalas as they started arriving in Panjab from places like Benaras. For more than 50 years after the fall of the Khalsa Raj led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716, the main-stream Khalsa Sikhs were too busy fighting the Mughal oppression. The Mughal rulers had the support of Hindu rajas and their own Hindu ministers (diwans). In fact, the first Sikh Ghalughara (holocaust) was led by Diwan Lakhpat Rai of Lahore in 1746.

During the 60 years of Khalsa sangharsh (freedom struggle), the Udasis and later the Nirmalas had no difficulty in taking over Sikh centres. They wrote Sikh history according to own Vedic bias. Yet, there is hardly any mention of Nirmalas in Sikh tradition before the 19th century. They were liberally patronised by the Sikh chiefs content that they were looking after gurdwaras. As mentioned by some sources, after the evacuation of Anandpur in 1705, some Sikhs went to places like Hardvar, Allahabad and Banaras and set up deras. Sangats had been set up in these parts during the parchar tours of Guru Tegh Bahadur. In time, due to local Vedic milieu, their successors started preaching a blend of Sikhi and Vedanta.

When Sikhs re-established themselves in Punjab towards 1770, the successors of those Sikhs returned to Punjab. With their knowledge of Vedic lore they had no difficulty in taking over control of many gurdwaras and Sikh centres from the Udasis. Scholars like the poet Bhai Satokh Singh belonged to this school. Their influence in Sikh centres continues to this day through sants and deras despite the reforms introduced by the Singh Sabha movement.

It is possible that next generation Sikh scholars can put the Singh Sabha movement started in the late 20th Century, back on track. The challenge of Hindutva can also add to the urgency to re-discover the Nirmal Panth of Guru Nanak and recover the Sikhi lessons learnt during the Guru period of 239 years from 1469 to 1708 CE.

 

Gurmukh Singh OBE