About 500 years ago, Guru Nanak founded Sikh Religion, which laid emphasis on the philosophy of social responsibility, universal brotherhood, peace and equality. During that period, there was great turmoil, strife and bloodshed in India due to unjust and tyrannical rule. Guru Nanak was greatly touched by the human sentiments of the masses. In Guru Granth Sahib, the' Mulmantra' described as the gist of theology, lays stress on the oneness of Godhead and thereby the unity of mankind.
Guru Nanak, along with all the Gurus in Guru Granth Sahib highlight the fact that it is the cultivation of virtues alone that can lead one to a spiritually elevated life.
In the present work, Dr. Anita Mehrotra, has tried to explore the multidimensional Sikh Philosophy and Religion. According to her the teachings of Sikh Religion are highly relevant even today and pave the way for peaceful existence in the world.
Anita Mehrotra is teaching in the Department of Philosophy, Mirenda House. She is a recipient of ICPR General Fellowship and U.G.C. Research Associateship. She has completed her post doctoral research from the Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi, Delhi. She has a number of articles published to her credit, some of them are-
"Sarnagati in Gita", Gita Sugita Kartavya. "Prabhu Kripa", Gita sugita Kartavya. (co-writer) "Social responsibility in Sikh Philosophy", published Journal of Sikh Studies. "Save the Planet Earth", published Journal of Religious Studies. "Humanistic Vision of Guru Granth Sahib", Interfaith Faith Study of Guru Granth Sahib.
A great deal of thought analysis has been done on Sikhism from the philosophical, literary and historical perspective. The present work deals with the conceptual background and actual writings of the Guru Granth Sahib in order to promote better understanding of Sikh Philosophy and its relevance to the modern world.
Guru Nanak, the originator of Sikh religion, can be best described as a prophet who advocated peace and equality. Guru Nanak was not only a reformer, a guide but also a great philosopher, who advocated peace and equality. He was greatly moved by the tyranny, treachery and bloodshed being perpetrated by the rulers which resulted in the feeling of insecurity amongst the masses. The prevailing political, social and religious conditions led to the rise of Sikh Religion. The masses not only suffered due to the atrocities inflicted by the rulers but also due to the religio-cultural conflicts. Such were the circumstances which demanded the rise of a personality who could save the disgruntled masses.. All this had a great impact on Guru Nanak which went a long way in moulding his attitude towards life.
The belief in the indefinable and mysterious power is as old as human race. Spiritual life begins with the theistic belief in the existence of God, who is not a static contemplative concept but a dynamic personality. Mulmantra, the sacred formula is the gist of the whole of the theology referred to in the Guru Granth Sahib. Gurus rejected the idea of the incarnation of God. Guru Nanak and all the other Gurus put great stress on the oneness of Godhead which was thought to be the right way of uniting people.
Sikh philosophy extends an opportunity for improving oneself in this very world as the gurus regarded the world as real i.e. something existing although its existence is temporal. The world was never described as sinful and full of sorrow. Guru Nanak said that it is the thinking that makes it so. The purpose of creation is not only for the sake of His sport but also that the earth is depicted as dharmasal, i.e. the school of learning.
The spiritual life presupposes the existence of the jiva one who could aspire for higher life. Jiva is not only the body but also the soul or the atman. To be born in the world is not a curse at all. Infact the physical body is referred to as the temple of God. A jiva cannot be successful in achieving his goal without the proper guidance of the guru. Sikhism believes both in personal form of Guru and Sabab as Guru, but lays greater stress on the formless Guru.
The spiritual progress is the search for Truth through truthful living. Truth is the ultimate goal of life but this goal cannot be achieved without truthful living. The spiritual life advocated by the Gurus is the most morally conscious life. The spiritual life infact provides the ethical directive to life. It envisages the synthesizing character which successfully leads to deeper humanism. As one ascends the spiritual path one becomes more and more morally evolved and thus attains the highest stage i.e. the stage of Gurmukh. It is advocated by the Gurus that the jiva should work his emancipation in and through the world. Society is the place where he acquires the moral understanding. Jiva has to inculcate the virtuous qualities in order to be worthy of treading the spiritual path.
Sikh gurus hold very strongly that the mundane life cannot be regarded as antithetical to spiritual life. Renunciation from the active worldly life is to be oblivious of ones duties to the humanity. Sikh philosophy advocates performing socially responsible action and thus willingly opting for active life, i.e. constantly engaging oneself in performing his duties towards his fellow beings. The ideal of social responsibility envisages truthful living and selfless service to the mankind.
The greatest problem facing mankind is that of peace and unity. As we all see the present world is strife torn. Universal brotherhood is a far cry. There is terrorism and society is divided on the basis of caste, creed, religion, culture, community and nations. There is no realization of the unity of existence. There is a stockpile of nuclear, biological, chemical weapons which can annihilate the world several times over. There is a pressing need to bring about peace and brotherhood. This can come about only when the inhabitants of the world are spiritually elevated and there is greater awareness of the need for universal brotherhood. This journey from the lower self to the higher self will indeed be facilitated by a deep study of higher values of life propagated in the Guru Granth Sahib. An extensive study of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a monumental work of Sikhism is indespensible for both spiritual and social life. They are intertwined and cannot be set apart in Sikhism. Its distinctive merit lies in the recognition of a social man as a religious man.
Recognizing and understanding the aspirations of the people of the society, Guru Nanak had sown the seeds of the future society. He preached the tenets most cherished today-justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, needed to create a new society, where equality and amity prevails. He preached people to practice these ideals in thought, word and deed. He felt that it was not only the responsibility of the State and Government but also of each individual to create conditions and act positively to promote peace and amity among the people. Ideal Society devoid of exploitation, hatred, bigotry etc. is needed for peaceful co-existence. Humanitarian values are required for an ideal society free from discord and discrimination. Guru Nanak felt that 'more than food and fire, man's need was sympathy and brotherhood. '(K.A.Nizami). 'He proclaimed that the law of life for the human beings was to love another and to find God through loving devotion.' (K.A.Nizami) Hence each one of us is duty -bound to cultivate an ethic which could bring the whole of mankind together. Insistence of Guru Nanak on Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man and Humanitarian values has definitely catapulted Sikh Religion in the panorama of World Religions. The world today is striving after the noble ideals of peace, equality and brotherhood. These are the basic ideals of Sikh philosophy and religion. Guru Nanak's teachings are all the more relevant in today's world where all of us are in search of peace and unity. The whole world is striving hard to achieve it today. Guru Nanak's message is equally relevant today as it was five hundred years ago. Thus a correct perusal of the Holy Granth will definitely lead the world to enlightenment.
The General Condition prevailing in Medieval Period.
The Sikh Religion arose in the circumstances when the masses suffered aggression, perversion and suppression from the invaders and the rulers. Forceful conversions to Islam and social injustices being perpetrated by the Kings led to distrust amongst the subjects. As the religion of the foreigners was thrust on the masses, the people became more orthodox and possessed sectarian outlook which resulted in disunity.
"The century preceding Nanak's birth in 1469 AD was, therefore, generally of turmoil, mutual distrust, massacres and mal-administration. The kings were reduced as weathercocks and gale of rebellions glutted the whole country,"!
Sikh Gurus carefully handled the situation and were successful in evolving a society of such people who were united; devoted to the cause of saving the weak; who had all the boldness to fight the tyranny of the rulers and who had the capacity of sacrificing themselves for the righteousness. Guru Nanak endeavoured to form a society, which was acceptable to all where qualities like brotherhood and equality prevailed among people of all sections of the society. That is the reason why Guru Nanak is sometimes referred to as a Hindu revivalist but he engaged himself in bringing about inter-communal amity. According to Khushwant Singh:
"Sikhs were the most outstanding example of Hindu renaissance produced by Islam-an edifice built as it were with Hindu bricks and Muslim mortar".
Only a religion, devoid of the evils prevalent in Hinduism and Islam could have been accepted as Hinduism was the religion of the land and Islam was brought along with the invaders.
Punjab has been the most sensitive part of India. The people of Punjab had always suffered the atrocities of the invaders. Right from the time of the Aryans it has been a source of great attraction. S.M. Latif in his book 'History of the Punjab' says:
"Placed, as it is, by Nature in a locality which gives it a crowning position and serving as the-gateway to India, every invader from the North has by its possession, sought the road to fame. In pre-historic times, it was presumably, the Punjab that was first invaded by Aryans from their camping ground beyond the snowy ranges of the stupendous Himalayas".
Similarly H.N. Hoon says:
"The earliest home of the Aryans was Punjab; it became the seat of the most developed forms of Hindu thought. It had become the connecting link between Persia and Central Asia, and so was unavoidably affected by the ideas of these who passed to and for commercial, political or warlike purpose.”
Before the advent of Guru Nanak about 60 invasions had taken place within the span of 500 years. From the 10th century onwards the invaders came to India with the intention of looting and massacring the innocent people, which left the economy of the state in a dilapidated condition and the country wholly devastated.
Invasion of the north west India began with Muhammad-bin- Qasim in 712 AD and thus began the influx of Muslim rulers, pouring in every now and then. He had demolished many places of worship. With his invasion destability of the Kingdoms began. In 1192 in the battle of Terrain Mohammad Ghori defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan, which was a irreparable blow to the Rajput power. This particular battle had also led to the establishment of Muslim empire in Northern India. The Rajput political system being feudal in nature, the whole Kingdom of the Rajputs was divided into various parts into the hands of many people. There was also a powerful central authority. Turks had realized the weakness of the Rajput kings. They took advantage of such a condition and thus were able to divide northwest India into many smaller Kingdoms. Qutub-ud-din-Aibak established an independent Sultanate of Delhi.
He is said to be the founder of first Muslim Rule in India. He established the Slave Dynasty after assassinating Mohammad Ghori in 1206 AD. The Mughal Empire was founded in 1526.
"The period between the 2nd battle of Terrain 1193 AD, to the first battle of Panipat, 1526 AD there sat on the throne of Delhi no less than 35 sultans belonging to five different dynasties-all Sunni Muslims professing the same orthodox religion and ruling in the name of the same religious creed"
The masses had to suffer due to the frustration and bad temper of the rulers. This had disturbed the whole set up of the society. The people did not feel secure and their properties were also not safe, which added further to their worries and demoralization:
"The population was bound to be demoralized, disappointed and dismayed, in such a situation. There could be no possibility of stead-fastness or faithful devotion. People and their leaders became corrupt and treacherous, and administrators careless about their duties due to political fluctuations".
Before the establishment of Mughal empire in India, there were five dynasties which ruled for 320 years. These were: Slave dynasty, Khilji dynasty, Tughlaq dynasty, Sayyid dynasty and the last one was the Lodi dynasty. The masses under their rule had suffered tremendously. Ala-ud-din Khilji, spared no opportunity in making such policies as were needed to crush the masses. He did not want them to raise their heads as a strong opposition politically. The attitude of the Masters who later came to the throne of Khilji and Tughlaq dynasties did not change and thus the condition of the ruled was deteriorating day by day and the gulf between the rulers and the ruled was aggravating. With the invasion of Timur a fresh setback was provided to the people of Northern India for he came with the aim of religious war against Hinduism, whose forces engaged in plundering and molesting people. He left the people of India in a state of bankruptcy as the trade was hampered and cultivation harmed. On the whole the state was totally devastated. Due to this reason chaos and confusion prevailed everywhere.
The Sayyid rulers .... were too weak to consolidate the withering parts of Delhi Sultanate and hence north-west India comprising Punjab was divided into small principalities viz., Samana, Sirhind, Dialpur, Multan etc., and moreover the nobles ruling over these areas were fighting with each other for the sake of supremacy. The Sayyid dynasty 'neither politically nor culturally did contribute anything worthwhile to the history of medieval India'.
Bahlol Lodi was the first ruler of the Lodi Dynasty to get to the throne of Delhi. He was able to maintain law and order in his empire. The Lodi Kingdom was not just one central authority ruling from Delhi but divided into many semi-independent principalities governed by the leaders of Afghan tribes, amirs, etc. The Lodhi Kingdom was a confederacy. Bahlol Lodi was a powerless king. The Lodis had in fact lost the imperial majesty, which had been enjoyed by the rulers of Khilji dynasty.
'The Lodhis not only ruled over a much less extensive territory; they ruled over a state in which the institution of monarchy was far less exalted and the central power was much weaker. During the Lodi period, the Sultan, in relation to the over-mighty nobles a chief who was tolerated and not a master who was obeyed; he was the primus inter pares raised to the masnad primarily to preside over racial monopoly of political power'.
The Muslim hatred was reflected from their continued looting of the places of worship.
'Some rulers like Sikander Butshikan (idolbreaker) of Kashmir or Sikander Lodi of Delhi did indulge in this work of idol-breaking and desecration to please their Muslim subjects'.
Sikander Lodi who took over the throne of Delhi after Bahlol has been described as the worst of the Lodi rulers. After capturing Delhi, he destroyed the places of worship within his own empire. He also adopted ferocious policies against the Hindus. He prohibited the Hindu masses from visiting pilgrim centres and taking bath there. Hindu himself had ordered massacre of the Hindus at Kurukshetra. Although born of a Hindu mother he did not desist from killing the Hindu pilgrims at Thahesar. He had no mercy for the Hindus and so he was called the persecutor of the Hindus. He ordered the execution of Budhan Shah for the reason that he declared the religion whether Islam or Hinduism, if followed in true spirit was acceptable to God, and that Allah and Ishwar are equal. Sikander Lodi had ruined many places of worship. The shrines at Mathura were all destroyed by him. Hindu temples and places of worship were being turnedinto caravan sarais. He had prohibited the Hindus to perform any idolatrous rites. No Hindu was allowed to shave his beard. All the subjects were strictly told to follow the customs of Islam. Such an attitude of the ruler towards the Hindus had hurt their religious sentiments and they were wholly against Sikander Lodi but being politically weak they were not able to do anything significant. Then came the last Lodi ruler, Ibrahim Lodi who was careless and inexperienced.
Babar taking advantage of the weakness of the rulers of Delhi attacked Hindustan several times. Babar had all the intention of capturing Punjab for Afghanistan was not a rich country. It had low output of agriculture. It was not even rich in minerals. He had defeated the last Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi in 1526 AD at Panipat and established his first Mughal Empire in India. He also followed in the footsteps of his predecessors making no appreciable change in the policies against masses. In his reign also Hindus were greatly tortured. He had destroyed all the temples in Punjab. Even the Jain idols near Gwalior were not spared.
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