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Guru Gobind Singh- Historical and Ideological Perspective

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by drdpsn, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. drdpsn

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    Guru Gobind Singh - Historical and Ideological Perspective
    By Madanjit Kaur

    Published by Unistar Books Pvt. Ltd., Chandigarh, India

    Pages 280, Price: Rs. 495/-.

    A Review by Dr. D. P. Singh*

    Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, was pre-eminently a man of action and has rightly been considered as a rare phenomenon in history. He was a great religious leader, a poet and a mystic, a true scholar and a philosopher, a fearless warrior and a military commander. With his spiritual dynamism, he attempted to reconcile the transcendent with the immanent through his creation of the Khalsa. He had not only introduced social transformation in India but also gave a new set of universal values and a pragmatic humanitarian vision for the formation of a global society.
    Professor Madanjit Kaur’s book titled ‘Guru Gobind Singh: Historical and Ideological Perspective’ offers an exciting bridge between the empirical and applied aspects of the great Guru’s teachings in the development of Sikhism and socio-cultural revival in India. After making a splendid in-depth study of the life and teachings of Guru Gobind Singh, she has made a successful attempt to project the dynamic vision of the Tenth Master on the destiny of the Indian Nation in context of contemporary socio-political milieu.
    The author has articulated the purpose of the book as to exemplify those aspects of the life, thought and legacy of Guru Gobind Singh, which have not been studied thoroughly by the researchers and also to bring forth the pragmatic significance of Guru’s teachings in the present context. She stresses that Guru Gobind Singh was a multifaceted personality with laudable objectives. His aim was for the social uplift of all and to free the country from the oppressive rule. His creation of the Khalsa was an act of great daring foresight to carry a never-ending war against evil. He was a pioneer Indian leader to introduce republican set up and democratic institutions. His commandment hails his vision of the cosmic man: ‘Recognise all Humanity as one in spirit’.
    In the chapter ‘Guru Gobind Singh and His Mission’, the author traces out the life history of the great Guru. With appropriate quote from ‘Bachitra Natak’ she points out that revolutionary Mission of the Guru was ‘to see that righteousness may flourish, the good may live and tyrants to be torn out of their very roots.’ To fulfil his divine mission the Guru created Khalsa, who owed allegiance to God and to none else. The author points out that Guru Gobind Singh, even in his early life, has shown military prowess in the battles of Bhangani and Nadaun. Despite having a rare military acumen, he was a prolific writer, a poet of rare sensibility and a generous patron to scholars as well. As is generally accepted, his eleven works of poetry are compiled in ‘Dasam Granth’. The author stresses that the fusion of the devotional and marital, of the spiritual and the heroic ethos are the most important feature of the literary works of Guru Gobind Singh.
    After creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh, his first battle of Anandpur Sahib, with envious hill chiefs is described in the chapter ‘Armed Struggle’. The subsequent events leading to his leaving Anandpur Sahib, his battles with Mughal forces and ultimately his journey to South have been outlined. Several historical events such as, conversion of Lachman Das/Madho Das to the fold of Khalsa as Banda Singh, ending the line of personal Guruship and his ordainment that the divine authority of the Guru would be in the Guru Granth Sahib and the temporal authority of the community would rest with Khalsa Panth, his death at Nanded and establishment of the first Sikh rule in Punjab by Banda Singh Bahadur are described in detail with authentic historical references. The author ends the chapter on the note that the Khalsa created by Guru Gobind Singh, thus, reached its zenith in the later half of eighteenth century.
    In the chapter ‘The Creation of the Khalsa and Prescribing the Sikh Articles of Faith’ the author has examined the ideological and historical importance of the creation of the Khalsa. After a thorough analysis the author concludes that founding of the Khalsa and the prescribing of the five Kakkars are synchronous products of the Baisakhi day of 1699, sanctified by Guru Gobind Singh at Anandpur Sahib. On the basis of verifiable facts and available historical evidence she opines that the emergence of the set of five Kakkars cannot be segregated from the founding order of the Khalsa and it cannot be placed somewhere later in the eighteenth century as a legacy of the Jat culture as alleged by J.S. Grewal and W.H. McLeod.
    The most important function of religious symbols is to express certain patterns of religious beliefs. These allow man to discover a certain unity of the world and at the same time to become aware of his own destiny as an integrated part of the world. Similarly the Sikh symbols, five Kakkars of the Khalsa, are the manifestation of the sacred and are charged with significant religious symbolism. ‘Five Kakkars of the Khalsa’ is the topic taken up for discussion in the fourth chapter of this book. The author points out that the five Kakkars obligatory for a member of the Khalsa brotherhood are Keshas (Uncut hair- the keeping of hair is regarded as an indicator of living in accordance with the way of Nature), Kangha (Comb, a means to keep the hair neat and tidy,- is also seen as a symbol of discipline of mind), Kirpan (sword, -signifies dignity and self respect, a readiness to fight but only in self-defence, or for the protection of the weak and oppressed), Kara (an iron bracelet,- provides the same orderly control over the sword which the comb does over the hair. It is an emblem of wholeness, perfection and divinity) and Kaccha (a pair of short breeches of tailored cloth, -signifies manly reserve in commitment to the procreative world as against renouncing it altogether). Professor Madanjit Kaur stresses that the five Kakkars are not mere signs of identification but are communicative symbols of Sikh religious values. These Kakkars have provided a distinct identity to the Sikh community and generated a vital force, a strong sense of belonging, solidarity, nationality and ethnicity to it.
    A critical analysis of the tale of invoking Goddess Durga, before the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh, is taken up in the chapter titled, ‘Durga Worship Story - A Critique’ After a detailed analysis of the diverse view-points of various historians, the author concludes that Guru Gobind Singh had neither any need to invoke the Goddess, nor had he at any time sought her help or blessings. Goddess worship is ideologically in complete opposition and contradiction to the Sikh tradition both in the hymnsof the Guru Granth Sahib and the accepted hymns of Guru Gobind Singh. Professor Madanjit Kaur stresses that the story of Durga Worship has to be rejected as a myth and an unreality, both, on the basis of the historical and ideological evidence.
    The Sikh concept of the Guru, the doctrine of Sri Guru Granth Sahib as visible body of the Guru, the closing of personal Guruship and the succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are the issues taken up for discussion in the chapter ‘The Guruship and Succession of Sri Guru Granth Sahib’. The author points out that the nature of Guruship as stated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is that the supreme being is Himself the Guru, whose chosen channel for communication to humanity is the institution of the Guru. The Sikh Gurus have taken considerable pains to emphasize the point that the Bani (the holy scripture) and not the body (the person) is the Guru. After a detailed analysis the author has conclusively proved that Guru Gobind Singh had invested the Guru Granth Sahib with Guruship and commanded the Sikhs to accept it as their future Guru.
    In the chapter ‘Institution of Panj Piaras: Its Potential and Significance in The Sikh Community’ Professor Madanjit Kaur points out that by forming the unique institution of Panj Piaras about half a century before French philosopher, J. J. Rousseau introduced his theory of ‘Social Contract’ (1762) and about a century and a half before Karl Marx formulated his ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’ (1848), the great Guru Gobind Singh had made a most notable contribution to the modern political thought by introducing the idea of the Republic of the Five. Through this innovation he infused the democratic spirit at grass root level among the Sikhs and generated a revolutionary change in the political attitude of the Indian masses. The Guru was the forerunner of the theory of a classless society and sovereignty of the people. The institution of Panj Piaras has proved to be a strong measure in fostering cohesion and integration in the Sikh community. The author concludes that it is the dire need of the hour to strengthen and revive the institution of Panj Piaras at the global level for consolidating the present position and future survival of the Sikhs as a minority all over the world.
    In the ‘Ideological Perspective of the Khalsa’, on the basis of authentic historical evidences, the author emphasizesthat by the creation of the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh infused the spirit of valour, heroism and sacrifice in the Sikhs. Khalsa was created as an organisation to practice the way of life preached by Guru Nanak (the founder of Sikhism), as individuals and as a society based on the principles of equality, justice, universal brotherhood, service and love. By creation of the Khalsa Guru Gobind Singh gave a solid framework of social solidarity to the Sikh community and a martial race to the Indian Nation. ‘Definition of the Khalsa’ is the topic of discussion for the next chapter. After a thorough analysis of the available historical references Professor Madanjit Kaur points out that the term Khalsa stands for an Amritdhari Sikh (baptised Sikh). Generally a Sikh is also addressed as Khalsa. But in the real essence the term Khalsa reflects the integrity of an individual personality of a trustworthy and reliable baptised (Amritdhari) Sikh.
    ‘Guru Gobind Singh’s Philosophy of Life’, ‘Social Vision and Humanism of Guru Gobind Singh’ and ‘Legacy and Impact’ are the topics taken up in the next three chapters. The author elucidates that fearlessness is the keynote of the philosophy of the Guru Gobind Singh. He was an inspired patriot and a true lover of humanity, who preached the lesson of all embracing love in conformity to the sublime code of morality and social ethics-never to usurp the rights of the others and cause suffering. Love is the keynote of Guru Gobind Singh’s ideology, which has been considered as an essential pre-requisite for the devotion of God. In his hymns much emphasis is laid on the value of Seva (voluntary service) of the humanity. In his ideology the Guru has equated the sword with God. The sword was taken to be a symbol of power, self-respect, dignity and shield for the self-defence and for the protection of the weak and oppressed. According to him non-violence and love must remain the rule, while the sword had its justification only in exceptional cases, when the cause was just and great and when other remedies had been tried without yielding results. His literary works bear the stamp of his versatile genius and enduring relevance of his philosophy of life. In his writings the Guru shows his deep concern for the preservation and conservation of the eco-systems of the nature in order to protect the cosmic unity of the universe, which is the creation of the God. The author emphasizes that Guru Gobind Singh’s life is a matter of historic and national significance. He not only protected the glorious cultural heritage of our multi-national country but had also introduced new innovations pertaining to social change and social transformation.
    He also introduced a universal value pattern through his unique and practical philosophy of life. The author points out that one of the most fascinating aspects of Guru Gobind Singh’s social philosophy is undoubtedly his humanism. He was a prophet preaching equality and fraternity. Bread and liberty, symbolised by two terms Degh (cauldron) and Tegh (Sword) are the key concepts of Guru Gobind Singh’s socio-political ideology, which upholds economic equality and political and cultural liberty (human rights) for all. Guru Gobind Singh’s message is one of optimism, of the victory of good over evil. His teachings have great relevance for the modern man to build up a global society with a commitment to peace and goodwill of all humanity.
    The author has summed up the discussion with the topic; ‘Grandeur of the Khalsa; The Sikh Coins’. After making a comparative study of the coins issued by various military leaders of Khalsa Prof. Madanjit Kaur expresses that Sikh coins can be considered as a rare and unique visual source of socio-cultural history of Punjab, of the religious attitudes and belief system of the Punjabis during eighteenth and nineteenth century and the grandeur of the Khalsa heritage.
    Prof. Madanjit Kaur has done a momentous work in projecting the multifaceted personality of Guru Gobind Singh to the modern world through this book. Guru Gobind Singh’s philosophy of life, Social vision, Legacy and Humanism comes out brilliantly through this work. A large number of multicoloured photographs of the places and relics associated with the Guru Gobind Singh have also been included in the book, which makes its reading much more interesting. Though there has been some repetition of Gurbani quotes and textual material in the book yet it does not take the reader astray rather it makes the things clear on the spot. Although the book is a gist of research papers prepared / presented at various conferences / seminars by the author, yet each article is complete in itself, and is a treat to read. The younger generation of the Sikhs is likely to gain much from this historical and ideological treatise. I strongly recommend that this book should be on the shelves of all libraries and be distributed by all Gurudwaras. It is imperative that the Sikh youth of today are encouraged to read works of this nature.



    * Dr. D. P. Singh, M. Sc., Ph. D., P.E.S.1 is a senior faculty member at Govt. College, Dera Bassi-140507, Dist. Patiala, Punjab, India
     
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