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November 27, 2018


Guru Nanak’s Concept of Justice – Article discusses concept of justice according to Guru Nanak Dev Ji


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March 28, 2014


A detailed biography of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is added under the Sikh Gurus section.


March 10, 2014


Authenticity of Shabad Guru: Historical Perspective - Was Guru Granth Sahib ever declared a Guru or given Gurgaddi? This article refutes the Namdhari theories.

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Darbar Sahib: The Core of Sikh Faith

The Sikh shrines called Gurdwaras have always played a central role in shaping and governing the life of the Sikhs and their institutions, ethos and traditions. In the words of Bhai Gurdas, “Dharmsal (Gurdwara) is Mansarovar and the Sikhs flock there like swans.”15 Built by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev, Darbar Sahib it the epicentre of Sikh faith which has served as the principal place of inspiration, direction and rallying centre of the Sikhs. It is by its construction and placement of the Sikh scripture therein that the fifth Master Guru Arjan openly proclaimed to the world the independent identity of the Sikh faith. Thus it is the Guru who created the place as the capital and core of Sikhism. For, after installing the Scripture in the shrine, the Guru sanctified its sacredness by always sleeping on the ground in its precincts. Hence the meaningful sacredness of Darbar Sahib is the creation of the Guru himself and is not man made. The Guru created a cohesive Panth by introducing the system of ‘Daswandh’, which the ruling elite felt to be a tax levied by the Guru on his own people. It was this Guru, called the ‘Sachcha Padshah’, who created in his own life time ‘a state within a state’, hying down the foundation of direct confrontation with the Empire by his martyrdom.

The sixth Guru Hargobind projected this step further by militari­sing the Panth and building the Akal Takhat as a centre of Sikh empirical life. It was not sheer coincidence that the day of con­frontation with the Mughal Empire (i.e. the day of martyrdom of the Fifth Guru) was also the day on which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mounted the attack on the Darbar Sahib with Akal Takhat, the nucleus of inalienable Miri Piri combination in Sikh religion, as the special target. Obviously, such a calculated step had loud implications. It was from Akal Takhat that the Gurus had raised the banner of religious and political freedom and denounced the state oppression of the times. The highly cherished twin doctrine of Miri and Piri is visibly symbolised by the Akal Takhat and the Harmandar Sahib built adjacent to each other. Together they represent the unique ideal of spiritual and empirical unity handed down to the Sikhs by Guru Nanak the ideal that has sustained and nurtured them through the centuries. Throughout the entire span of its eventful history, the Temple h is been the centre of freedom and a cradle of martyrs who made supreme sacrifices to defend its sanctity.

Thus the Guru created the Akal Takhat as the official seat of authority and the venue of all socio-political deliberations of the Panth. During the turbulent period of eighteenth century, the Sikhs assembled at the Akal Takhat to discuss matters of political importance and sought spiritual and temporal blessings. Meetings of Sarbat Khalsa were convened to defend the community against the threats of the State and chalk out plans for military operation? Vital problems and dangers to the community were discussed and Gurmattas (decisions in the name of the Guru) were passed. The decisions taken at the Akal Takhat, because of its religious sanctity, were binding on the Sikhs. It was from the Akal Takhat that the Sikhs conducted their long drawn out political struggles against the foreign invaders. It has been the nucleus of crusade against every malevolent rule and a symbol of Sikh struggle for freedom. Realising its significance as the heart and soul of Sikh faith, the shrine was made, several times, the target of attack by the enemies in order to annihilate the Sikhs.

Ahmed Shah Abdali had attacked the Temple as it had become “in his eyes a rock of offence because of what it represen­ted of the religious and political importance which Sikhism had acquired”.16 The event had stimulated a great cohesion and solidarity in the Sikh community. So bitter was the Sikh reaction against Abdali that on the eve of his last raid, in 1764, an assembly of the Sikhs passed a Gurmatta, proclaiming the independence of the Sikh state and religion. The term Ghallughara, coined during Abdali’s invasion, connotes aggression, mass destruction and religious persecution and has become an integral part of the lore of the Sikhs.

It is very important to understand that the core position of Darbar Sahib is not a myth with the Sikhs but is a reality known even to the enemies of the Panth who have always planned their strategies on the basis of its being the very fount of Sikh spirit and power.

In the eighteenth century when prices were fixed on the heads of the Sikhs and Amritsar was made out of bounds for them and pickets were posted on all roads leading to the city, the Sikhs refused to be cowed down and vowed to protect the sanctity of the holy place. It was learnt that the Shrine was desecrated by Massa Rangar, a Lambardar of Jandiala, who indulged in orgies of drink, smoke, obscene music and dance within the holy precincts. Two Sikhs, Mehtab Singh and Sukha Singh, braving all hazards of their visit to Darbar Sahib, came in disguise and chopped off Massa’s head. Retributive action by the Government followed. Bhai Tarn’s scalp was scrapped. Bota Singh, Subegh Singh, Shahbaz Singh and other Sikhs were killed in cold blood. But no persecution could extinguish the light which the Gurus had lit in their hearts. Gordon writes, “Bands of Sikh horsemen were to be seen riding at full gallop towards Amritsar, running the gauntlet of Mohammadan troops. The message would be sent round the distant villages, “who will ride to-night?” Death was martyr’s crown on such occasions.”17 There were numerous instances of Sikh devotees who risked their lives in visiting Amritsar to take a dip in the holy tank. Some of them must have had their heads chopped by the soldiers on the vigilance duty. “Some might be slain and some might be captured but none were ever known to abjure their creed, when thus taken on their way to the sacred place.”18 The Sikhs pay homage to these martyrs in their daily Ardas.

Sikh annals record how Baba Deep Singh, the first Head of the Dam Dami Taksal, had made the supreme sacrifice of his life in defence of the shrine. Severely wounded in the battlefield, the Baba is said to have pushed forward through the enemy lines and supporting his almost severed head reached the precincts of Darbar Sahib. Bhindranwale was often heard saying that he belonged to the Taksal of Baba Deep Singh and would never shun from any sacrifice for the cause of Sikhism.

Ahmed Shah Abdali carried out his seventh invasion in December 1764. He rushed to Amritsar to make the Golden Temple his first target for the demoralisation of the Khalsa. As it happened, only about thirty Sikhs led by Baba Gurbax Singh were present in the Akal Bunga. They were ready to spill their blood for the honour of their sacred shrine. They were men of grim determination “who didn’t have a grain of fear in them; they were unmindful of slaughter and the dread of death.”19 Instead of evading the surprise attack of the mighty hordes of Abdali instinctively they came out and confronted their onslaught before they could enter the precincts of Darbar Sahib. In the brave struggle they checked the entry of the Afghan invaders into the Temple area till they died fighting to the last man.

The Shrine was plated with gold by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and came to be known as the Golden Temple. Many great martyrdoms and triumphs have been associated with this historic shrine. In the words of Rattan Singh Bhangu, an eighteenth century Sikh chronicler, “no better death is conceivable for a Sikh than that which overtakes him while defending the great cause of Sikhism at this Centre of Sikh faith.”20

Intertwined around the Shrine are the hallowed memories of their Gurus, saints and martyrs, their hopes and fears, their songs and tales of heroism, their struggles and triumphs. It reminds them of their great heritage, eventful history and tradition and of so many legends that have become attached to it through the centuries. It mirrors the entire panorama of Sikh history. It is a living monument of the spiritual yearnings and the socio-political objectives that have shaped the dynamic Sikh people and animated them over the years. The history of the Darbar Sahib is, in a way the capsuled history of the Sikhs. The Temple is not merely a structure of brick and mortar, but its every inch is soaked with the sacrifice of Sikh blood against social and state tyranny.

The Sikhs have never compromised their right to assemble at the Darbar Sahib in complete freedom. It has been a centre of resistance against the tyranny of rulers. The socio-political struggle of the Sikhs started first with the liberation of Darbar Sahib from the control of the Government-Mahant combine and continued thereafter, from its premises, for the liberation of their motherland. Forces emanating from here have caused not just ripples but great tides in the political ocean of the region. Both Gandhi and Nehru supported the Sikhs in their fight against British imperialism, conducted from its precincts. During the struggle against the British rule, the Congress leaders never objected to the combina­tion of religious, social and political objectives of the Akali Dal and the executing of their plans from the precincts of the Gurdwaras. In fact, when the Sikhs gained the control of the Darbar Sahib, Gandhi sent them a complimentary telegram: “First battle of India’s freedom won. Congratulations.”21 Rather the Akalis were projected in such flattering terms as ‘the only living wing of the national movement’, and ‘the strongest community in India.’22 In their statements, the Congress leaders supported the Akali Dal and the S.G.P.C. in all their programmes and activities. On one occasion, it described the official attack on the Akali Dal as “a direct challenge to the right of’ free association of all Indians and a blow aimed at all movements for freedom.”23 In September 1923, the Congress held a special session in Delhi and passed a resolution supporting the Akali agitation in Nabha State.24 Nehru personally visited Nabha and was put behind the bars for supporting the Akalis.25 In a long written statement, full of emotion and highly appreciative of the Akalis, Nehru attacked the high-handedness of the British bureaucracy and the arbitrary nature of justice in the State. He condemned the British for their ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘crooked ways’ and praised the Sikhs for their sufferings and sacrifice. In all Akali agitations, including the Jaitu and other Morchas, the centre of organisation and movement of the Jathas was the Darbar Sahib.

The Gurdwara Reform Movement and a number of other Morchas such as Guru Ka Bagh, keys of the Golden Temple and the Akal Takhat, Bhai Pheru Gurdwara and Gurdwara Gangsar, which played a significant role in keeping the socio-religious liberties of the Sikhs intact were all launched from the Akal Takhat. Even after Independence, all Sikh agitations, Morchas for the creation of Punjabi Suba and the ‘Save Democracy Campaign’ against the imposition of Emergency (1975) were conducted from the premises of the Akal Takhat. No objection was ever raised about the use of the Golden Temple Complex for the socio-political purposes. It was only after the launching of the Dharam Yudh Morcha (1982) that the use of Darbar Sahib for political purposes became the subject of an unsavoury controversy.

Assault on Darbar Sahib marked the climax of a consistent Government policy to weaken the Sikhs religiously. It aimed at undermining the foundations of Sikhism and depriving the Sikhs of all those glories that rendered them respectable in the eyes of the world. The news was tailored to reflect only the Government point of view.

As stated already, the attack on the Golden Temple was the last heavy stroke of a policy which had systematically accomplished socio-political and economic erosion of the Sikhs and the Punjab. It is evident that it was part of a pre-determined and consistent plan that aimed at hitting the very religious and moral source, strength and inspiration of the Sikhs. As the Sikh history shows, every ruler of the times knew full well of the fundamental impor­tance of the Darbar Sahib in the Sikh life and struggle. It was thus not accidental that practically all of them made Darbar Sahib a priority target of [their attack on the Sikhs and that also on a holy day when Sikhs assemble there as pilgrims to pray and to pay their homage and obeisance. Let us have a look at the chain of events. On the one hand are the facts that the Punjab problem was not only a creation of the Punjab Reorganisation Act but it could easily and without reper­cussions be solved constitutionally. Second, that more than once whenever the mediators were sent to negotiate with Akalis by the Centre, they always had a good and positive response from them and brought viable proposals for a solution, which the Centre was always later disinterested even to look upon. The fate of the water dispute, the cardinal issue of the Punjab problem in the courts and its withdrawal from the Supreme Court clearly indicates that settlement with the Akalis was hardly the objective in view. This happened till the end of May, 1984, as evidenced by the reports of Kuldip Nayar, Ravi and others. This showed that Prime Minister’s interest was not in a settlement but in making a show of her seeming earnestness to come to an agreement.

Further, the Centre had been repeatedly warned by responsible Sikhs and public men of the far reaching and horrendous conse­quences of such a step. In an article in the Indian Express (April 23, 1984), a prominent journalist Pran Chopra sounded a note of warning:

“What is needed anyhow is not change of the tools of law and order but a change of methods and intentions at the political level... There are rumours in New Delhi that the army might be brought in. That would be the gravest blunder politically and severely harmful to the army itself. It would be the worst form of changing tools. The army cannot do more, and in the given circumstances can probably do much less, than the present four agencies after the initial shot of confidence artificially induced by an army show runs out. The third temptation to be avoided is to make a rush upon the Golden Temple. There is nothing to be gained by it and much to be lost.”

The historical context of the earlier rulers and invaders, their choice of target including the day of attack were well known to the Centre. While all the time preparations were being made for the attack, continuous assurances were being given in and outside the Parliament that such a step was far from their contemplation. On the other hand, another chain of events political, socio-economic and religious which inter connected and unidirectional as they were unmistakably pointed out that the last step would be on the bastion of Sikh strength. In fact to an outsider who studies the two chains of events, contrasted as they were, it is evident that the policy, process and plan which had started with the rehablitation of the Sikhs, the merger of PEPSU in Punjab and rejection of the Punjabi Suba in the North could inevitably end only in the holocaust at the Golden Temple Amritsar and that the logic of this series of events could neither be interrupted nor have a different finale.