Less fortunately, the Sikh community has in recent years been
the object of considerable interest to the outside world as a
result of political differences with the Government of India.
This led in 1984 to an assault by the Indian Army on the Golden
Temple and to several years of serious disturbance in Punjab.
The situation has now quietened, but for many persons the memory
still remains, and not all those who still remember it are
Sikhs. A consequence of what was then called the Punjab problem
is that the Sikhs and their religion caught the attention of the
the Greek proverb pathe mathe suffering leads to
knowledge. The Sikhs are their brethren in other religious have
to build a future on this foundation.
McLeod is, in
fact, the discoverer of Janamsakhi traditions of Sikhism. His
insight later led to an understanding of the meaning, function
and political orientation of the Janamsakhi. Prof S.S. Sagar’s
Janamsakhi Samvad to Mulankan is a definitive exposition
of the Janamsakhi literary genre. They are hagiographical no
doubt. But to call them just hagiographical prevents us from
seeing their inner mechanism and historical contribution.
I may also add
that an understanding of the Janamsakhi narrative led to
insights into the technique of Sikh painting in the 18th century
i.e. B-40 Janamsakhi Paintings of Guru Nanak, conveying Sikh
ideology. We owe this much to W H McLeod. I wish his entry on
Janamsakhis had been more forthcoming.
culture specific. Many Hindu stories have lost their impact with
their entry into the Arabian Nights. Sikh ‘narrative’ can be
found only in the Janamsakhis, not in the secular Punjabi novel
of the modern times.
Gurbilas as a
literary genre is unique in Sikhism. The genre tries to
explicate the political programme of the community in terms of
Sikh theology. It is a challenge to Sikh politics of today and
its exponents. We can define our politics either theologically
or rationally. To do it in neither of the ways leads what is
"less fortunate". I hope the third edition of the book
would be more illuminating about this aspect.
On Adi Granth
structure McLeod writes: finally there is the bhagat bani, the
works of various sants whose compositions were in harmony with
the message of the Gurus. This is both inaccurate and inadequate
even though it repeats what is ‘generally’ said about the
holy book. The statement does not really cover the contributions
of Mardana and Farid.
introduction of miri-piri by Guru Hargobind, McLeod
writes: "as Guru he still maintained the emphasis on
spiritual matters of his five predecessors (piri). The
new element was (1) willingness to engage in worldly affairs and
to (2) physically fight for the Panthi preservation (miri).
Less fortunately, it has been maintained in recent times that
the miri of the Guru, having developed on the Guru Panth,
(3) enjoins a creation of Sikh state. The three things may or
may not follow from the idea of miri. Demonstration, not
declaration, is in order. Historical explanations can be ignored
at peril, academic and social.
Singh attributes miri piri to Dara Shukoh. On the very
first page, line 15 of Heer Waris Shah says jehre pir
di mehar manzor hoe, ghar tinhan de pirian merian ni i.e.
those who have the grace of the pir (the successor of
Sheikh Farid at Pakpattan) enjoy piri and miri in
I have no
hesitation in saying that McLeod has done the most for Sikh
studies in India and world. I plead guilty to owing everything,
minus my errors to him. Both scholar and students of Sikh
history would find the book usefully handy.
I was, unexpectedly but
pleasantly surprised to find the names of my friends Gulzar
Sandhu and Amarjit Chandan in the bibliography — a pointer to