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Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021
Outlook.com
Review

The Lion In Winter

Classic reissue, of import to both those from the Punjab and those whose lives it shaped

The Lion In Winter
The Lion In Winter
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

The birth of Guru Nanak on April 15, 1469, was an event of immense import for the country. Travelling constantly with Bala and Mardana, he debated with sadhus, sufis and yogis. His message was simple: there is no Hindu, no Mussalman. God to him was the truth, but higher still was truthful living. He accepted no division of caste, class or gender. He opposed Sati and all the oppressive practices of Brahminism. He discouraged yogic austerities, and asked people to live full and holy lives. The four gurus who followed him carried these teachings of humanism further. Guru Ram Das started the city of Amritsar around the temple; Guru Arjun compiled the Granth Sahib, containing the poetry of the gurus, and of the reformation sants like Kabir, Farid, Tukaram and Valmiki. Guru Arjun also became the first martyr of the faith at the hands of Jehangir.

The young Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) started turning the Sikhs into warriors, willing to defend themselves. In the Amritsar area, the Sikhs began to clash regularly with the Mughal army from Lahore. The ninth guru, Tegh Bahadur, became the next martyr in 1675 at Delhi by Aurangzeb’s orders. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), only nine at the death of his father, transformed the Sikhs into the Khalsa, a Cromwellian commonwealth of fighters. On the Baisakhi day of 1699, at Anandpur Sahib, he created a casteless brotherhood by anointing the Panj Pyaras. He bowed before the five, and requested his own initiation. The guru was no longer their superior, and merged himself into a fraternity of soldier-sants. This new force in the Punjab, largely composed of the lowly, the dispossessed and the powerless, immediately clashed with the Hindu hill rajas, and the Mughal forces. The Sikhs won some, and lost others, but they put into the field a determined, bold, and fearless force. Henceforth, till Ranjit Singh took Lahore in 1799, there would be no rest for the Mughal government, in the swathe from the Indus to Delhi.

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