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  1. Why are there so many profiles on FB of nihangs who worship durga and kali ? If we're going to be shakti worshippers, then why beat around the bush with identity crisis. why not just accept we're hindus if we're going to worship the same gods and goddesses they do ? this is frustrating to see fellow sikhs go down this line
  2. I am not contending against the positive, and negative, factions here regarding the manifestation of the Devi by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. What I would like to offer is a fresh perspective on this event and analyse it's plausible evolution. Please read my article before commenting. Thank you! I am colouring in all the quotes and important bits. Kalika at the Anandpur Court. The dual forms of Kalika, as a puritanical mother and pristine warrior, amalgamated in a sixteenth century India to birth a third more socio-political form, that of Goddess granting sovereignty. The latter perception emerged during a troubled milieu. Perpetual invasions, of the sub-continent, had reduced it's Aboriginals to the status of slaves trampled under the military foot of Islamic conquerors. Kalika's mythos, as a penultimate resort of salvation, endeared her to the indigenous monarchy which adopted her as a tool to measure their own right to reign and successes. Yet the question remained, who would this political Goddess elect to subdue and expel the Mohammedan foe? It was a significant query not lost on Akali-Nihung Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who decided to utilise it for the Khalsa and the latter's political pursuits. Evolving exegetical perceptions, in historic and contemporary Khalsa politics, have played a crucial role in shaping the standard outlook on many traditional aspects of the latter. As Purnima Dhavan elucidates, 'while the narrative content of the recent Sikh past appears to achieve a more concrete narrative by the end of the 18th century, the meanings derived from this past occupied a contested terrain as the exegetical traditions within Sikhism became diverse.' (1) Kalika is an adroit example of the latter citation. Fenech contends that the Kalika, for the Khalsa, was initially not a spiritual metaphor but a political aide. In this he is supported by Alison Busch and Robin Rhinehart. Both scholars contend that the adoption of Kalika, in the court and works of Akali-Nihung Guru Gobind Singh Ji, was a political manoeuvre calculated to preserve his own patrimony and also empower his fiefdom. Busch affirms that the origins of the Khalsa-Kalika relationship lie in the Guru's adoption of a courtly ethic. He wanted to connect his court with that of the Mughal-Rajput courts not only in grandeur but also fashion. Despite the Guru's articulation of a distinct ethos, from that of both Islam and Hinduism, he was an ardent celebrator of his pluralistic heritage; and employed it arbitrarily. Fenech believes that the latter enabled him to, 'reassure them (the local inhabitants) that while the Sikhs, and their Guru, articulated a different dharmic-or religious- and ideological vision... they were nevertheless sensitive to local tradition...' (2) Thus, in such a milieu, he (the Guru) set about adopting and re-designing local traditions and customs to fit in with Khalsa dictums. The celebration of Diwalia, and Dusshera, evidence this but there was also another social reason for this. A distinct populace, of the Guru's own apostles were drawn from amongst the agrarian Jats. The latter, an agriculturalist class, often engaged the neighbouring Rajputs in violent combat over ideological and territorial matters. Ratan Singh Bhangu evidences the latter, in his Prachin Panth Prakash, when he cites the Guru's refusal to unite his Kingly neighbours and lead them against the Islamic tyrant. Instead, as per Bhangu, he decides to re-structure the militant mentality of the Jats, and Shudras, and bestow sovereignty upon them. (3) This affirmation of suzerainty orbited one pivotal complication. How to convince the oppressed peasants that they were regal material? How to eradicate an almost centuries-old psyche that they were nothing more than the dredges of a radical religiosity? To this end the Guru adopted Kalika. His neighbouring domains were ringed with temples paying obeisance to the Goddess. Each structure depicted it's patron receiving a sword from the Goddess herself, affirming the his right to reign over his wards. She was well ingrained in the minds of his apostles, and to this end the Akali-Nihung re-birthed her legend for his own purposes. Busch notes that the Dasam, and Sarbloh, Granths' employ Kalika in a metaphorical capacity. Microscopic attention is paid to her battles, but in a major contrast to simultaneous renderings, the works of the Guru depict no reverential undertone towards the Goddess. For him she is nothing more than another warrior, attempting to restore a semblance of peace to the divided heavens. It was the link between Kalika and sovereignty, which served the Guru so well, that lead to Udasi Sukkha Singh proclaiming, 'an immense effort was expanded in procuring the presence of Kalika. No sight of her manifestation could be obtained. In this current milieu of degeneracy, no other group at the time had made her appear within the world other than the Khalsa.' (3) This manifestation of the Kalika is an event not located in either the Dasam Granth, the Sarbloh Granth or even the Sri Gur Sobha despite the latter's utilisation of Kalika. Thus, it is proper to conclude that the event is not a creation or even occurrence of the Guru era. Post-Guru era texts such as the Gurbilas series, Chibber's Bansavalinama and other biographies are however replete with the incident. Anne Murphy elucidates upon this variation, 'later Gurbilas texts (attributed to Koer Singh) include Kesar Singh Chibber's Bansavalinama, feature an organizational structure... features strong mythological content and a clearer sense, appropriate to it's time of composition, of political sovereignty in relation to the Mughal state and other smaller Hindu Kings from the Punjab hills.' (4) It is the conclusive element, of her statement, which exegesis the evolving Khalsa-Kalika relationship. Amalgamated with indigenous culture, these later authors wished to provide an indigenous backdrop for the Khalsa's right to sovereignty. Thus Kalika, the divine mother of sovereignty, was employed. Even this metaphorical tale, however, weathered an evolution. It's ultimate form, by the dawn of the nineteenth century, read as an affront to Brahmin orthodoxy. Chibber's rendition of the incident is as follows: -The Akali-Nihung is contacted by Brahmins who come to know his plans to manifest the Khalsa. They ask him to join their Havan, and assist in manifesting Kalika to aid him. - The Akali-Nihung readily agrees, but once atop Naina-Devi proves the falsity of their beliefs and instead summons a much rawer, much aggressive form of Kalika. -This form bestows him with a cleaver, and assures him that she will lend his Khalsa the support it requires to uproot the Mughals. -Subsequently, in his exegesis of Uggardanti, he alludes 'the panth was manifested to uproot the Turks (Muslims).' (5) His account, amongst others, evidences several points amongst them being: 1.) Early Khalsa historians were often adept at utilising local, and national, myths to justify their own right to prowess. 2.) The myth of Kalika's manifestation, despite being ambiguous, is also figurative. Chibber, and his companions, wished to depict to their Hindu counterparts that the Khalsa had more of a right to reign than them after the Islamic invader was expelled. Thus Sukkha Singh's proclamation, '...no other group at the time had made her appear within the world other than the Khalsa.' (6) 3.) These writers often perceived themselves as being sub-continental traditionalists and utilised this factor in their works. Their land was the abode of Dharma, and as such was sacrosanct for it's content. In the words of Rhinehart, 'the goddess (Kalika) is something of an outsider to the Hindu pantheon; when the Gods are in trouble, she is the option of last resort, a fierce fighter, a protector. She stands somewhat apart from the social order of the Gods, but is ready to step in when needed... This is not unlike the way some Sikhs came to see themselves. Fighters and defenders of Indian culture, but not exactly within the Hindu fold.' (7) 4.) This event became an opiate, and a justification, for the peasantry's revolt under the Khalsa. Utilising sub-continental myths, the Khalsa promised to engineer an era emulating that of Ram-Chandra and Krishna; demi-gods who ruled as mortals and assured perfectness. Kalika became an important component of this vision, as it was with her blessings that both Ram-Chandra and Krishna achieved their reigns; and the Khalsa would too. The conclusive say on the matter however remains the Akali-Nihung's. For him sovereignty, in figurative terms, was bestowed upon that individual who was a possessor of prowess and a master of war. Thus one finds him saying, in theSri Bhagauti Astotar, 'grant this blessing of suzerainty to I your slave. Always protect me the Guru, Shah (an imperial title), Gobind!' (8) For him Kalika was ever-present in the form of the sword, and as such a perpetual verification of his right to reign. His later apostles would re-vamp this vision to achieve a fine balance between indigenous mythology, and historic justification. As Murphy contends, Chibber and Koer Singh were not hampered by European notions of time and thus wove myth, religion and reality into one semblance. (9) But it is Dhavan who retains the conclusive say on the matter. Busch pinpoints the political appeal of Kalika, citing that the latter was misinterpreted to say that, 'the Guru reverenced the Goddess.' (10) But the exegetical variation is highlighted by Dhavan who so readily contends, '...the meanings derived from this past occupied (and still occupy) a contested terrain as the exegetical traditions within Sikhism became diverse!' (11) Sources: (1) Murphy Anne; (2012) The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 93-94. (2) Fenech E. Louis; (2013) The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 5-6. (3) ibid, pg. 6. (4) Murphy Anne; (2012) The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 92-93. (5) Accessed from http://sikh-reality.blogspot.co.nz/2010/04/bansavalinama-ugardanthi-explanation.html (6) Fenech E. Louis; (2013) The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 6. (7) ibid pg. 7. (8) Akali-Nihung Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Sri Bhagauti Astotar, Dasam Granth. (This Bani is omitted in modern Dasam Granth publications under the aegis of the SGPC). (9) Murphy Anne; (2012) The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 94-95. (10) Fenech E. Louis; (2013) The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 7. (11) Murphy Anne; (2012) The Materiality of the Past: History and Representation in the Sikh Tradition. Oxford University press, NY, USA. pg. 93-94.
  3. Despite forming an extensive component of the sub-continental psyche, Durga still remains an elusive individual in the ongoing taxonomy between literal and metaphorical. An amalgamation of tenderness and blood-thirstiness, Durga unfortunately escapes all notions of definition and recognition. Who is she? And what truly is her purpose in the veiled religiosity which encapsulates all sub-continental faiths? The answers are numerous and disparate on many terms, subsequently a new precedent was ingrained for Durga when Gurmat became prevalent. No more was she a goddess worthy of worship but a metaphor for the multi-tapestried dictums birthed by the latter. The Akali-Nihung, the Nirmala and Udasi school identified her as an extrapolation of the metaphorical construction which aimed to signify and provide a human-based identification of spiritual precepts. Her very anatomy was an exegesis of broad spiritual concepts which had universal parallels. Their identifications are still retained by their descendants and disciples even in the contemporary period. Durga's limbs not only provide striking magnetism which one gravitates towards on viewing her, but are representatives of much broader practicalities. Each limb makes a unique distinction with it's contemporary and defines one of the nine modes of devotion, prevalent in many orientalist traditions. Usually these nine modes are professed towards a deity but in Gurmat they are reserved for the 'Shabad' or the word, a physical embodiment of the creator and the inheritor of the Guru's doctrines. Despite being victims of extensive scrutiny and unwarranted criticism, these modes are prevalent in Sikh shrines even today. 1.) 'Sravan'- This is the first representation of Durga's limbs. It defines the hearing of the creator's praises (or one's indigenous deity). As per Gurmat 'Sravan' occurs when one listens to the 'Shabad(s)' contained within the three parallel Granths. 2.) 'Kirtan'- The musical recitation of the creator's praises, it has become a tradition of profound importance in the Khalsa ethos and is practiced even today. Despite undergoing successive evolution(s), as per time, Khalsa tradition still retains the mystical procedure of performing 'Kirtan' as done by it's early forebears. 3.) 'Simran'- Remembrance (contemplation) of the creator's name(s). As per Western doctrines this can easily be taxonomized as being meditation. It is central to the Khalsa ethos, and suffers from heavy ignorance. 4.) 'Padsevena'- Voluntary (heavily emphasized) service and offering at the creator's abode. The Sikh Guru's heavily emphasized this dictum amongst their disciples. 5.) 'Arachana'- Worship of the creator. 6.) 'Bandana'- Reverential submission before the creator. 7.) 'Dasyam'- The cultivation and observance of emotions, which dictate one to be a servant of the creator. 8.) 'Sakhyam'-Preservation of an emotional bond of companionship attached to the creator. 9.) 'Atma-Nivedana'- The final act of devotion, surrender of oneself to the creator. By adopting an indigenous deity, and the vernacular associated with her, Gurmat constructed a new precept for it's adherents; one which did not stratify the deity's original disciples yet established the creator above her. http://tisarpanth.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/an-exegesis-of-multi-limbbed-durga.html
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