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The Legend of Banda Bahadur

The Legend of Banda Bahadur
Item Code: IDG846
Author: Harish Dhillon
Publisher: UBS Publishers Distributors Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8174764585
Pages: 312
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.0" X 5.5"

Ever since I began work on this book eight months ago, I have been at the receiving end of many different kinds of remarks from friends and acquaintances.

How can you want to write a book on that blood-thirsty savage? Demanded one of my dear friends and all efforts to convince him that his perception of Banda Bahadur was completely wrong were defeated: a childhood conditioning on accounts based on the contemporary Muslim news writers was too strong to be dispelled.

"God! You are brave to be writing about banda Bahadur. I do hope you will have the manuscript approved by the SGPC before you send it to the publisher to ensure that it does not contain anything derogatory", another friend warned. All efforts to convince him that Banda Bahadur was a mere mortal, albeit an extremely admirable one, with of course some failings that all human beings are prone to proved futile. The glorification by Sikh 'historians' and grandmothers' tales was far too strong and he was firm in his conviction of Banda Bahadur's divinity.

Such is the enigma of Banda Bahadur an enigma that has spewed dozens of books seeking to explain him. Most of these books are wonderful works, painstakingly researched, heavily documented and beautifully written. But in the end there is something missing; he remains a historical figure who has been pulled off the shelves of a library, dusted carefully and presented to the public gaze. One cannot help feeling that once he has been looked at, he will be returned to a dusty library shelf.

The present book seeks to bring him alive. What you read is not a book of history. It is a novel based on history with Banda Bahadur as the central figure. I have done a fair amount of research, or more truthfully, banked upon a fair amount of the research done by others. I have tried as far as possible, to stay very close to history but there are points in Banda's story where the history books have been silent or what they say has seemed implausible, and here I have taken liberties for which I offer no apology.

First and foremost is the nature of Banda's mission. A perception commonly subscribed to is that Banda Bahadur was commissioned by the Guru to wreak revenge for the cruelty that had been perpetuated on the guru's family. I would like to believe that Banda's mission was the beginning of a socio-economic revolution, a feeling that is shared by Dr. Ganda Singh and Mrs. Harbans Kaur Sagoo. The reason for the Guru's visit to Madho Das ashram on the Godavari is given as the result of the Guru's desire to punish the arrogant Sadhu who through his magical couch caused discomfort to other holy men. I find myself subscribing to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta's hypothesis that the Guru had probably met Madho Das before and learning that he was now at Nanded had come to visit him again. It is this which has made me build the opening scene of my book around this hypothesis. I have used the same criterion of implausibility to avoid any mention of the so-called conflict between Banda Bahadur and Mata Sundari, Guru Gobind Singh's widow, and also of the supposed schism between the Tat-Khalsa and the Bandai-Khalsa.

The other departures from history are of a minor nature and I will perhaps be forgiven for making them. However what die-hard historians will perhaps not forgive me for are the incidents I have used to build up the character of Sushil Kaur, Banda Bahadur's first wife and their life together on the banks of the Chenab. I feel no qualms at having taken this liberty because I sincerely believe that she was a very important part of his life and that this was an important period in his story. Without any historical evidence to help me I have drawn upon my imagination and if it is flawed I must live with this failure. What, perhaps, I have no excuse for is the meeting between Bulleh Shah and Banda Bahadur. There is no real need for this meeting I the narrative. Perhaps they are right. My only justification is that I admire both men immensely and when, during my research I found that they were contemporaries and at a certain point in their stories were placed in extreme geographical proximity, the temptation to bring them together proved much too strong for me to be able to resist.

I have also erred in romanticizing all the places. Lohgarh, the ashram at Nanded the dera at Riasi all come across as larger as and more beautiful than they must have been at the time. But this has been done deliberately. Looking back at a place from another time always makes one either exaggerate it or diminish it and with my obvious admiration for Banda Bahadur, I chose to do the former.

Researching and writing this book has been a complete satisfaction in itself: the failure of my efforts cannot detract from this satisfaction just as their success cannot add to it. The language and style have been kept deliberately simple because my target readership is as always the young readers from the Punjab who through their Western education and the influences of modern life, have not had the benefit of being exposed to knowledge of their great heritage.

My deep gratitude to Bhim Inder for his invaluable help with the research material, to Hema for having the patience to type from a script in my terrible handwriting, to all the writers on Banda Bahadur who with their tremendous work and research have made my work less of a grind, to my friends and my children who have had to live with Banda Bahadur for the last eight months and have patiently fulfilled their roles as my sounding boards and above all my deepest gratitude to Iqbal without whose intercession this book would never have seen the light of day. May their tribe increase!

Harish Dhillon

From the Back of the Book

Banda Bahadur remains one of the most enigmatic and hence fascinating characters in Sikh history. On the one hand, there is a perception based on contemporary Muslim writers which make him out to be a bloodthirsty savage. On the other hand is the perception based on grandmothers' tales which idolizes him as a saint. One is left wondering as to who the real Banda Bahadur was. This book seeks to bring him alive as a flesh and blood character.

About the Author

The author, Harish Dhillon, is a teacher of Englsih who writes whenever he can find time to do so or when the inclination gets so strong that he pushes everything else aside. He is basically a storyteller who has been writing short stories for years. Many of his short stories have been published in various magazines and journals and also translated into some Indian languages. He has two novels and a collection of short stories to his credit as well as a collection of essays on Indian Writers in English. In recent years he has been focusing on subjects connected with Punjab and his books The Lives and Teaching of the Sikh Gurus and love Stories from Punjab folklore.

Dhillon's style is simple, often to the point of being childlike and naïve. When pressed on this point, he confesses that he does not know how to write in any other way. But is serves his purpose well-which is to reach out to young readers who have lost touch with their roots and their great heritage.

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