History of Sikhs

  • By Khushwant Singh
  • May 2015

Editor – A dear friend asks me for an article that gave the history of Punjabi Sardars or Sikhs as they are commonly known. We present links of the most comprehensive piece on the subject written by the respected Khushwant Singh and also relevant links below. Link 23 has names of dhabhas in Amritsar.

Singh’s article was published in Outlook on the occasion of the 300th Anniversary of Khalsa. To read online click here. To read in PDF format. This article is courtesy and copyright Outlook magazine.

Excerpts from article, ‘While the Adi (first) Granth is essentially a distillation of the Vedanta in Punjabi, the Dasam (10th) is a compilation of tales of valour of Hindu goddesses, some composed by the Guru himself, others by bards of his court.

As a consequence of these historic changes, we have several brands of Sikhs. There are Hindus who believe in Sikhism, visit gurudwaras, have a Granth Sahib in their homes and perform rituals according to Sikh rites. A large section of them are from Sindh, mainly Amils. Then there are Sahaj-dharis (slow adopters) who don't wear the external forms of the Khalsa viz, unshorn hair and beard. The majority of Sikhs are Khalsa who undergo baptism (pahul), take vows to observe the five Ks-kesh, kangha, kaccha, kada and kirpan-and add the suffix Singh, and if female, Kaur, to their names.

The relationship between Hindus and Sikhs has always been roti-beti ka rishta (breaking bread in common and giving daughters in marriage), or nauh-maas da rishta (as fingernail is to the flesh).

The roots of Sikhism lie deep in the Bhakti form of Hinduism. Guru Nanak picked what he felt were its salient features: belief in one God who is undefinable, unborn, immortal, omniscient, all-pervading and the epitome of Truth; belief in the institution of the Guru as the guide in matters spiritual; unity of mankind without distinction of caste; rejection of idol worship and meaningless ritual; sanctity of the sangat (congregation) which was expected to break bread together at the Guru ka Langar; the gentle way of sahaj to approach God while fulfilling domestic obligations; hymn singing (kirtan); emphasis on work as a moral obligation.

The compilation of the Adi Granth around 1604 AD was a landmark in the evolution of Sikhism. Though an eclectic work with compositions of Hindu and Muslim saints, it echoes the Vedanta through most of its nearly 6,000 hymns. There is a new breed of Sikh scholars who bend backwards to prove Sikhism has taken little or nothing from Hinduism. All they need to be told is that of the 15,028 names of God that appear in the Adi Granth, Hari occurs over 8,000 times, Ram 2,533 times, followed by Prabhu, Gopal Govind, Parbrahm and other Hindu nomenclature for the Divine.The purely Sikh coinage 'Wahe Guru' appears only 16 times.

Bhindranwale's followers spread terror in the state by killing eminent Hindus like Lala Jagat Narain, founder-owner of the Hind Samachar group of newspapers (his son Ramesh Chandra too was killed later). Thereafter, hardly a day went by when gangs owing allegiance to Bhindranwale did not kill between 10-20 Hindus and Sikhs opposed to his ideology.When Bhindranwale was arrested from his Chowk Mehta residence, it was at a date and time of his own choosing (Zail Singh was then Union home minister and enjoyed the support of Mrs Gandhi's son, Sanjay). When he was released, he felt he would be safer in the Golden Temple complex than in Chowk Mehta. He took up residence in the Akal Takht and began to fortify it.

Killings, bank robberies, extortions, hijacking of planes continued apace. Bhindranwale discovered the easiest way of preventing the absorption of the Khalsa into Hinduism was to create a gulf between Sikhs and Hindus. For a while he succeeded in splitting the two communities.’

I am also presenting links to other articles that will provide insights and information on Punjab.

1. Punjab: A lethal combination of religion and politics by sanjeev nayyar. First published in Hindustan Times Mumbai it traces the history of Punjabi Sardars from about 1880 to 2000. To read click here.

2. E tour of Hari Mandir or Golden Temple as it is popularly called. To see pics click here. Did you know that Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated gold for gold plating to three temples. One is Hari Mandir. Two is Kashi Vishwanath Mandir. Three is Jwalamukhi Mandir in Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Do read photo captions informative.

3. History of Punjabi Language compiled by sanjeev nayyar. Click here to read.

4. Unbreakable Hindu Sikh bond by Dr Arvind S Godbole Click here to read.

5. Why was the First Son made a Sikh by sanjeev nayyar Click here to read.

6. How British created the Dowry system in Punjab compiled by sanjeev nayyar based on a book ‘Dowry Murder, The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime by Veena Talwar Click here to read.

7. Punjabis love food. No better place than Amritsar. To see Amritsar Food Click here to read.

8. Pics of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama in Amritsar. To see pics click here. This collection tells about Ranjit Singh’s victories in battle. Note that Punjabis under Maharaja Ranjit Singh defeated the Afghans. ‘The fort of Attock traditionally regarded as the sentinel of India in the border with Afghanistan was recaptured in 1813 making North India free from the Afghans. The battle was won under the overall command of Ranjit Singh with Diwan Mokam Chand in operation with Hari Singh Nalwa and others’.

9. Conquering Afghanistan: What the West can learn from India by Rakesh Krishnan Simha Click here to read.

10. Pics of Sri Keshgarh Sahib Gurudwara in Anandpur where Khalsa was founded in 1699 Click here to read.

11. The Khalistani Movement in the 1980’s took back Punjab by decades. Did you know that about 21,000 Indians lost their lives due to this movement. To read details click here.

12. As a Punjabi Mona was saddened when fellow Punjabis blew up an Air India plane that departed from Toronto in 1985 killing 325 people. Read ‘The Kanishka Verdict: The families agony’ here

13. Pics of Hola Mohalla Festival ie held in Anandpur Sahib every year. To see pics click here.

14. Pics of Jallianwala Bagh. To see pics click here.

15. Pics of Golden Temple Langar. To see pics click here.

16. Pics of People of Anandpur Sahib clicked during Hola Mohalla Festival which attracts people from all over Punjab. To see pics click here.

17. Pics of Naina Devi Mandir ie closely associated with Guru Govind Singhji and attracts lakhs of Sikh devotees. To see pics click here

18. Pics of Hemkunt Sahib in Dev Bhoomi, Uttaranchal. To see pics click here.

19. Pics of Gatka, a martial game performed by the Nihangs amongst others. To see pics click here.

20. Pics of Durgiana Mandir ie a replica of the Hari Mandir. To see pics click here.

21. Pics of Nankana Sahib where it all started, Guru Nanak was born. To see pics click here.

22. Close to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is a Gurudwara where Guru Nanak Dev visited. To see pics click here.

23. See pics of Nangali Sahib Gurudwara in Poonch and Mattan Sahib Gurudwara in Anantnag, both in Jammu and Kashmir. To see pics click here.

23. Names of good Dhabas in Amritsar – Kesar ka Dhabha, Kundan Dhabha, Kanaiya ki Puri (chole bathure) and Surjit food both on Lawrence road, Bharwan ka Dhabha. To buy Juttis or Mojris visit Jannat 9815144765, 9781541616.

24. Many years ago Khushwant Singhji wrote a letter in Outlook that Punjabis killed Urdu in Punjab. When I spoke to Punjabis born between 1925-32 they said that Urdu was the language of administration when they grew up, they learnt Urdu in school. This got me to research the origins of Urdu and how did Punjabis kill Urdu. To read History of Urdu click here.

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