In the last two decades of the
18th century, there was a revolt in the Ahom kingdom, followed
by Burmese invasion and the absorption of Assam in British India
in 1826. In the novel, Padumkuari, published in 1891,
"a Sikh soldier, Kumedan Singh, is portrayed as a villain
and a traitor, apart from being a foreigner."
(1892-1962) changed the Sikh image in a poem, ‘Pashan Pratima’
(stone images). They are the Fullara and Chatala hills in whose
vicinity Ahom lost its independence in the battle of Haidirchaki.
"Chatala and Fullara are two young girls who fell in love
with Chaitanya Singh and his associate, the Assamese hero,
Krishnaram. They were ready to wait for the battle to end but
the two heroes were slain in the battle. The two hills appear as
two cursed daughters of gods who witness the death of Assamese
The poet "did
something which is perhaps the most desired objective of a
minority community`85. The Sikhs had married Assamese girls as
the poet might have personally witnessed. Here the Sikh image
acquired a halo so far unknown in some other parts of the Indian
In 1994, Assamese
author M.R. Goswami wrote a novelette, Tej aru Dhulire
Dhusarit Pristha, on the Delhi Sikh carnage of 1984.
The Oriya Nanak
differs from the Guru Nanak of Janamsakhis. The Oriya
Nanak may not satisfy the emotions of the Sikh faithful, but he
is dear to the Oriyas of Puri, Bhadrak, and Cuttack, because he
has been recreated out of folk memory and local experience.
The Brahmo Samaj
introduced Guru Nanak to eastern India. Madhusudan Rao
(1853-1912) used to speak of Sikhism at its meetings and never
hesitated to point out the resemblance between the preaching of
Guru Nanak and Brahmoism.
The rise of
nationalism led to a renewed interest in Guru Gobind Singh. Guru
Gobinda Singha was published in 1929. "The Sikhs
combined religion with politics; the Guru added a name, a dress,
a language, a code of conduct, etc., and thus created a vast
field of an opportunity of spiritual uplift for them."
In 1935, Lingraj
Mishra as a Hindu nationalist made out that "Sikhism
preached by Guru Gobind Singh was Hinduism." Jayamangal
Rath in 1928 anticipated Grewal and Bal in locating the social
supporters of Guru Gobind Singh. "Hordes of new people
joined the new Sikh community. Those deprived of social rights,
those persecuted and despised in society, those tortured by the
Muslims and those who were given to banditry and warlike
pursuits embraced Sikhism."
The loyalists of
the Empire gave a new twist to the contribution of Guru Gobind
Singh. "The Sikhs were loyal to the British Raj and the
militarisation advocated in their religion was a great support
to the British Empire." One Oriya writer, expanding on the
second Anglo-Sikh war, made a comic contribution to
historiography in 1878—"only an ignorant historian will
look for deeper causes."
In Assam, regional
nationalism continued to be rallied in favour or against the
local Sikhs, whereas in Orissa it lost much of its appeal before
the rising tide of nationalism. Regional nationalism played a
complex but major role in shaping the image of Sikhism in both
connection between Bengal and the Panjab is Jai Dev’s
inclusion in the Adi Granth.
We may take Tagore
as an exemplar of the Sikh image in Bengali literature. During
the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements, Tagore’s view on militant
politics underwent a change. Widespread communal riots and blood
letting by the terrorists worried the poet. He held the national
leaders responsible for the deterioration in Hindu-Muslim
relation. This made him write that the "finale" of the
Sikh history was "very tragic" and the 10th Guru bore
the responsibility for that. In fact, Tagore was echoed by
Jadunath Sarkar in Modern Review and History of
Aurangzeb. Equally, he composed Baje baje ramaybina baji
based on a Sikh hymn.
Once again, it is
clear that it is the situation in Bengal that changes the image
of Sikhism in Bengali literature; the image does not, and cannot
Bangla of Bangali Muslims) can be enthusiastic about Guru Nanak
but critical of Ranjit Singh. In a monthly in 1933, we find the
present echoing in the past: "...Shivaji, Sambhaji, Shahji,
especially Ranjit Singh...devastated mosques, majhars (graves).
Compared with that the demolition of temples by Mahmud,
Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan was insignificant."
I had to persuade
myself often that a person could master three literatures of
eastern India. Himadri is superhuman. More in admiration than in
envy I am bound to say that the book requires editorial help.
Repetitions, for example, on Tagore, mar magisterial authority.
The dates of the authors are in Christian years, but the ones of
publications are either in Saka (Saka year+78=A.D.) or BS=Oriya
year (BS+593/4=A.D.). I fail to sympathise with the author and
the publisher, so keen on self-injury; the one by calling Sikh
image ‘Sikh Studies’ and the other proclaiming The Other
Sikhs when it is nothing of the sort.