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How Sikh History Changes From Time To Time.

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I recently researched some facets of Sikh history and here is what I have concluded. Please feel free to comment and criticize me. For the full article please see: http://tisarpanth.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/dichotomy-and-de-evolution.html?view=magazine. I have also listed my sources, if in doubt please feel free to pursue them and get back to me.

'History is written by the Victors.'
-Sir Winston Churchill. (1)
History is never static but perpetually subject to fluctuation. Maybe then, what we call the past is nothing more than an adjective to catalog the notion of the commencement of an ideal or perception subject to later rereading. If the latter is taken to be true, then an imperative exists for a necessary re-defining of history (and it's trailblazers) every so often. Where would this leave us? An individual who was ratified as a hero five decades ago, may now become a genocidal villain (we have already witnessed this in the life of Prophet Muhammad) whereas a genocidal villain, of yesteryear, may soon be vindicated as a modern hero. Then again maybe there are some characters who will always inspire dichotomy. It might serve us well to study both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, if not for a crash course in human rights violation ('the how to do it and escape') than for their military and political stratagems. Below is an abstract of pivotal figures in Sikh history who have undergone a similar evolution for political, and ethno-social means. Their past has been circumspect to fluctuation and here we attempt to dissect the truth and if possible elucidate why some were forgotten in light of others who historically triumphed.
Rama and Ravana-
Rama and Ravana are not exclusive to Sikh historicity, nor do Sikhs subscribe to their pantheons or religious observances. They however reflect the primeval Good Versus Evil (or more bluntly us and them) psyche over which many cultures/religious parcels construct their own foundations-Sikhs alike. The Ramayana, despite it's prevalence, cannot be accepted as being an authentic account in light of it's fantastic claims. Written in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the sub-continent's first great empire (2), the ode of Rama and Ravana can easily be interpreted as being an attempt to accept political loss, and the ascension of a new empire and a new way of life. Preliminary texts of theRamayana (the tale of Rama) often construes Rama to be lustful ('the son of Dasratha is indeed lustful' (3) ) forgetful of his own divinity ('the Gods reminded him...' (4)) and often imperfect in conduct. Ravana's only failing is his hubris. If perceived, in light of history and historicity, Rama can be delineated as being an amalgamation of the various conflicting powers attempting to succeed the fragmented Mauryan's. (5) Ravana then is a Mauryan; an embodiment of the past empire and it's failures. The latter perception pans out especially since it is believed that the Ramayan's birth spanned from 750 BCE-200 CE. It's contents are replete with the motif of Kshatiryas (warriors in exile) thus reflecting an internecine conflict of sorts between Kshatiryas and the higher Brahmins.
Was Ravana truly the rapist which the Ramayana inaugurates him to be? Or was he a monarch beset on all sides by fragmentation and factionalism who ultimately confronted hopes of a foreign progress via his farsightedness? History is silent on this matter, yet several Indian communities still venerate him as a noble emperor. (6) This dichotomy indicates that maybe the truth is more subtle. Ravana, or his real life counterpart, might as well have been an indigenous ruler confronted by Vedic (borrowed from the Ramayana) hordes which threatened to engulf his empire. Whatever the religiosity orbiting Ramayana it should serve as a lesson for ruler, scholar and layman alike. It is not the tale of Rama as commonly promulgated, but the tragedy of Ravana and through him revolution and utopia. Orwellian in approach, theRamayana confronts a post-revolution empire attempting to construct an utopia but teetering on the brink of collapse itself. Ultimately with the demise of it's monarch, history is re-written and the latter banished to infamy.
From fame to infamy and back. The curious case of Banda Singh Bahadur and Binod Singh-
Sir John Malcolm in his Sketch of the Sikhs observes: 'though the Sikhs, from being animated by a similar feeling, and encouraged by his first successes, followed Banda to the field, they do not revere his memory; and he is termed, by some of their authors, a heretic ; who, intoxicated with victory, endeavoured to change the religious institutions and laws of Guru G6vind, many of whose most devoted followers this fierce chief put to death...' (7) Banda Singh Bahadur is often officiated as being the primary Sikh ruler. To him we will apply the template which we birthed in our previous discussion regarding the Ramayana. Important points to acknowledge are:
*The genesis of a mythos.
* The marginalizing of any opposing history or historic figure.
*The politics behind such actions.
In 1708 A.D. Guru Gobind Singh Ji dispatched both a newly converted Banda, and the chief custodian of the Akal-Takhat, Akali-Nihung Binod Singh to subdue the Mughals in Punjab, wreck mass havoc and if plausible establish territorial supremacy for the Khalsa. Up till the Khalsa's sudden surrender of the Punjab (8), relations between Banda and Binod Singh were icily cordial if not fully warm. It was in the aftermath of Banda's declaration of a pseudo-Guruship that the real conflict commenced. (9) Incensed by certain 'reforms' propagated by the now vain Banda, Binod Singh and a mass body of the Khalsa parted from him under the aegis of Mata Sundar Kaur Ji and commenced harassing Mughal and 'Bandai' (Banda's own apostles) alike. (10) Curiously however by the dawn of the Sikh Empire, under Ranjit Singh, Banda's image had undergone a mass variation. No more was he a traitor, but an embodiment of Khalsa sovereignty and the latter's prolonged bloody history. Binod Singh meanwhile was marginalized as being nothing more than a minor inconvenience. (11)
The latter situation is an obfuscating one, especially in light of the fact that a Nihung under Ranjit Singh-Ratan Singh Bhangu, author of the Sri Gur Panth Prakash- ardently criticizes Banda in his biography of the Khalsa nation. Ironically in lieu of any substantial academic vindication on the propagation of a 'Banda like no other' myth, during this era, we can somewhat amateurishly conclude then that this rebirth of Banda was probably politically oriented. Banda Singh's figure however prophetically boomed during the post-Singh-Sabha colonial era. The ascension of a radical Hindu movement, oriented towards establishing sole Hindu supremacy sub-continent wide, lead to a parallel Sikh offshoot which attempted to battle it and pursue ethnonationalism simultaneously. Banda became the bone of contention between both parties. Several prominent Hindu scholars attempted to cast him as a Hindu assisting his 'weakened Sikh brothers;' whereas Sikh academicians fought back with historic proof establishing Banda to be autonomous of Hinduism.
Criticism of Banda during this time was heavily ignored and even vilified by a 'colonialised' Sikh academia which desired to circumvent his imperfectness altogether. The result? The image of a perfect 'Banda like no other' became ossified in Sikh thought and any criticism was (and is) 'academically refuted' or dismissed as being nothing more than a 'political, social or even religious conspiracy.' (12) Let us now summarize all of the above via the criterion which we mentioned in this sub-section's beginning.
*The genesis of the mythos:
'A Banda like no other,' commenced under Ranjit Singh and was later ossified by colonial and post-colonial Sikh and non-Sikh scholars.
*The marginalizing of any opposing history or historic figure:
Even today Binod Singh is asserted to have betrayed Banda Singh in pursuit of parochial goals. Other then in Nihung Dals, no mention is made of him and many authors have discarded him altogether from their works. Historians such as Dr. Ganda Singh, despite acknowledging the fluidity of their field, continually (and often myopically) asserted any criticism of Banda to be a produce of an overbearing and radical mentality. Binod Singh meanwhile was vilified as the real traitor who betrayed the 'Sikh cause.'
*The politics behind such actions:
Ethnonationalism, and maybe a discomfort at the first Sikh sovereign's temporary transgressions.
Rereading Jassa Singhs' Alhuwalia and Ramgarhia. Realpolitik versus theocracy-
Modern-era, and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia is a humanitarian like no other; his name-sharing counterpart ( an eerie-similarity) on the other hand, Jassa Singh Alhuwalia meanwhile has been marginalized, maybe due to his historical adherence to the Nihung order? Lets flip a few pages back to 1748 A.D. and we see Ramgarhia besieging the fortress of Ram-Runi under the command of Adina Beg Khan. (13) The besieged are composed of two-hundred Sikhs sitting among their deceased, and now rotting, two-hundred companions. Frustrated, they finally lambaste Ramgarhia and threaten to expel him from their socio-cultural, and religious, ranks if his defiance against them continues. Ramgarhia is chastened and immediately capitulates. His actions buy temporary peace for the Sikhs who in this uneasy ceasefire prepare for a mass offensive against the Mughals. A new hero has arisen. No more is Ramgarhia the bane of the Sikhs. He has now become a pivotal leader in their affairs.
But Ramgarhia's rise to power, and his realpolitik, earn him many foes in the succeeding years. The most ardent, and overbearing, among the latter is Akali-Nihung Jassa Singh Alhuwalia, 4th Commander-In-Chief of the Budha-Dal and paramount custodian of the Akal-Takhat. Both men are trailblazers but internecine friction ensures mass hostility on both sides with the result that Ramgarhia is forced to go into exile for over 12 years. (14) The latter is but a short sketch of a pivotal, and often icy, political relationship which foreboded the internal decay and fall of the Khalsa Misls. Both Alhuwalia and Ramgarhia were valued generals of their era, yet the fact that both often communicated with each other via their swords begs the question, why? Let us attempt to slay this multi-headed hydra via a point-by-point basis.
1.) What in the blazes was Ramgarhia doing in cohort with the Mughals?
Sikh-Mughal relations, in the seventeenth century, were not a close-cut matter of 'kill, kill, kill!' Complexities, and anomalies, existed and Ramgarhia was only one of many of the latter. The need to create a territorial, and political, state brought the fledgling Sikhs in direct confrontation with the already hostile, and religiously incensed, Mughals. Ramgarhia's father was a pivotal player in the early Sikh sovereignty campaign headed by Banda Singh. Several theories exist over as to why he deserted his brethren, although recent research defiantly refutes this notion and instead indicates expulsion. It seems that Ramgarhia senior committed infanticide and was subsequently revoked of his privileges and ousted by the Khalsa. (15) Incensed- for him events were not as black and white as they were for his judges- Ramgarhia senior offered his services to the Mughal governor at Lahore and was subsequently accepted as a Captain in the latter's forces. Ramgarhia junior would soon inherit this position along with his three brothers.
2.) But weren't the Mughals thirsty for Sikh blood during this era?
Ramgarhia's capitulation, at Ram-Runi, indicates two things. One, he was contemplating striking it alone and two, it seems pressure was increasing on him day by day to preserve his integrity in the eyes of suspicious Imperialists. How did Ramgarhia survive and gain employ in such an ambivalent era? Let us cast a glance at the contemporary Mughal empire, our subject's long-time employer. It's administration had become decentralized in the absence of any effective leadership, and all outposts outside Delhi had announced a subtle autonomy. Adina Beg Khan, and other governor-generals, were not only tasked with subduing the Sikhs but also confronting hostile third parties such as the raiding Afghanis, marauding Persians and occasional Mujhaideen incensed by the state's support of one Islamic sect. (16) Men like Khan, in order to preserve their own skins and defy their masters, formed coalitions with various Sikh chiefs and often enrolled them in their own ranks, thus Ramgarhia's survival.
3.) Wasn't internal forgiveness and pardon a part of the then Sikh structure?
It was, but the demands for an autonomous empire were ever-growing and transgressions were hard to sweep under the carpet. Ramgarhia, despite being situated in the middle of the Sikh influence, was often at odds with colleagues such as Baghel Singh KaroraSinghia and any other critics. His brothers' impunity however often embroiled him in trouble and this point soon became a beating stick to assault his credibility. Matters finally came to a head when he attempted to gloss over his brothers' unprovoked offensive against Alhuwalia and the latter's entourage. The succeeding year, he was expelled from Punjab and a mass portion of his territory taken over by the Kanihyaas.
Chief, Warrior, Politician, Ruler and forever Accused. Ala Singh of Patiala and his defence-
Reviled as a traitor to the Sikh cause, was Ala Singh of Patiala truly the inimical tactician he is being made out to be currently? Or were there more poignant powers at work which made him adopt a divergent course from that of his fellows?
Whilst the Sikh Misls were fighting for their survival in the 1730's, Ala Singh (with occasional assistance from the Shahida Misl) (17), was laying the foundation for the future state of Patiala. The son of a petty landlord, under Mughal rule, he had arisen to Goliathian prominence and even been recognized as a regal persona by both his brethren and their inimical foe, Ahmad Shah Abdali.
1.) Was Ala Singh not subject to the stringent measures self-imposed by the Sikhs upon themselves?
Ala Singh resided in the Malwa and had emerged as the latter's pontificate cultivator. Various political incentives, and marriages, often buttressed his leadership ambitions and offered him an insurance not available to his fellows. The fact he was related to imminent men such as Bhai Ram Dayal, befriended by me such as Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, and enjoyed the support of pedagogues such as Baba Mool Chand also worked well in his favor. (18)
2.) What was Ala Singh's defense?
Even though Ala Singh's ability to call upon his kin, and brethren, played a pivotal role in his rise to power; realpolitik also played a decisive factor. Malwa was more prone to repeated Afghani incursions than it's neighboring Majha. This not only placed Patiala right in the grasp of the foe, but also placed ardent stress upon it's logistics; Ala Singh's defense often orbited these points. His ironic situation juxtaposed with his ardent support of his brethren (though subtle) and grasp ofrealpolitik was enough for most Sikh chiefs to forgive him.
3.) So how did perceptions change?
Maharajah Ranjit Singh's interference in Patiala's affairs-in the early nineteenth century- ultimately lead to the Cis-Sutlej treaty which guaranteed the state extensive support from the neighboring British protectorate. Authors, and historians, such as Ratan Singh Bhangu took this as a cue to cast Ala Singh in a dis-favorable light.
(2) Doniger, W; (2009) The Hindus: An Alternative History, Oxford University Press, NY, USA; pg. 213-216.
(3) ibid, pg. 225.
(4) ibid, pg. 222.
(5) ibid, pg. 216.
(6) Sadasvia, S; (2000) A Social History of India, S.B. Nangia A.P.H Publishing Corporation, New-Delhi, India; pg. 165.
(8) See The Anachronistic Sovereign 1, Tisarpanth Blogspot for a full exegesis from the Sri Gur Panth Prakash.
(9) ibid, from Bhangu.
(10) ibid, from Bhangu.
(11) ibid, from Bhangu. It is important to note that Bhangu is extensively critical of Banda whilst praiseworthy of Binod Singh.
(12) Rise of the Khalsa, animated film directed by Prabhjot Singh Makkar; produced by Vismaad.
(13) Dhavan, P; (2011) When Sparrows Became Hawks. The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition. 1699-1799. Oxford University Press, New-York, America, pg. 74.
(14) Singh Kazan; (1920) History of the Sikhs, New Delhi Press, India, see section titled Sikh-Misls.
(15) Dhavan, P; (2011) When Sparrows Became Hawks. The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition. 1699-1799. Oxford University Press, New-York, America, pg. 82.
(16) See Gandhi's Sikhs in the Eighteenth Century.
(18) Dhavan, P; (2011) When Sparrows Became Hawks. The Making of the Sikh Warrior Tradition. 1699-1799. Oxford University Press, New-York, America, pg.107.

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