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The Lives and Teachings of the Sikh Gurus
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The Lives and Teachings of the Sikh Gurus
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Preface

At the time of our story, the Panjab was a much bigger geographical region than it is today. The north of this area was marked by the high Himalayas, the Hindu-Kush and the mountains of Afghanistan. In the west it was bounded by the river Indus. The south was marked by the desert of Rajasthan. The eastern boundary was not very clearly plains watered by the rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas.

This is the area where Indian civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, was born. Stone implements dating back to almost 500,000 years have been found here. Copper and bronze implements dating back to 25,000 years have also been unearthed along the banks of the Indus. The ruins of the Harappan culture found at Ropar prove the existence of a flourishing urban culture dating as far back as 2500 B.C. It was also in Panjab that the Aryans evolved Vedic religion and composed the great works of Vedic and Sanskrit literatures.

The Aryans were followed by wave after wave of conquerors: the Greeks, the Bactrians, the Scythian tribes, the Huns and then after the beginning of the eleventh century tribes who differed greatly from one another but had one common factor: their religion, Islam. The Ghaznavis, the Ghoris, the Tughlaqs, the Suris, the Lodhis, the Moghuls-all invaded North India and ruled for a time.

The Muslim tribes, when they had settled down in Panjab, directed much of their energies towards destroying non-believers. For over three hundred years, Islam and Hinduism existed side by side in Panjab in a state of constant conflict. Hinduism had a pantheon of gods and goddesses who could be worshipped as idols, and a society that was based on the caste system. Islam believed firmly in monotheism, abhorred idolatory and believed in the equality of all men.

Some attempts were made to bridge this divide. The bhaktas preached that there was only one God and He was without any form or feature. They advocated that all men were equal and preached against the caste system. The Sufis too tried to bridge the divide. For the first time, music was introduced into Muslim religious practice. The Sufis welcomed non-believers both in their homes and in their mosques and believed that all men had a right to observe their own form of worship.

But both these attempts were tentative in nature and any popular acceptance they had found was destroyed by Taimur's invasion in A.D. 1398. The Muslim ruling class turned once again to killing and robbing the Hindu masses and to destroying their temples. The average Muslim believed that he could gain merit in the eyes of God by converting non-believers, even if it was at the point of a sword. Religious practice in both religions degenerated into the performance of empty rites and rituals. The Muslims believed that circumcision, abstinence from pork and fasting during Ramzan were the attributes of good Muslims. The Hindus once again reverted to idol-worship and an even more determined belief in the caste system and the rituals of washing away their sins in holy rivers, eating vegetarian food and wearing a thread to make themselves sacred.

In 1499 Nanak embarked on an attempt to define what was common between the two religions and to purify religious practice from all the rituals and the hypocrisy that had come to surround it. His teachings were soon accepted by thousands of followers and the faith embodying these became the youngest of the great religions of the world.

This book is an attempt to relate the birth and growth of this great religion during the first two hundred years of its life through the life-stories of its ten Gurus, i.e., spiritual preceptors. This work claims no originality; everything it contains has been culled from the sources listed at the end. It has been written solely for the young readers in a simple narrative form; but unlike some other such efforts, the present attempt carefully eschews all those elements that may be considered supernatural and miraculous in nature, as the performance of, and belief in, miracles are against the basic tenets of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.

The only justification for retelling a story that has already been told so often is the firm belief that a story so beautiful and inspiring needs to be retold as often as possible. If a small fraction of the great charm of this story can communicate itself to the reader, the effort will have been worthwhile.

First of all, I am greatly beholden to Dr. Wazir Singh for editing the text, meticulousy at that, and also for suggesting improvements.

I would like to express my grateful thanks to Dr. S. S. Dhillon for obtaining all the source-material for me, to Sohan Singh for deciphering the terrible handwriting and typing out the various drafts and to Neeta Sibia for patiently reading through each draft and giving me her quiet but very valuable advice. My grateful thanks, most of all, to K. S. Bhalla for having gone through the text so very carefully, word by word, and suggesting important and meaningful corrections and modifications. To Rathin Mitra I owe a special thanks for the use of his exquisite illustrations.

 

-Harish Dhillon

About the Author

Harish Dhillon describes himself as a 'compulsive story writer' and his short stories have been published on a regular basis in journals and magazines all over the country for almost 40 years. He is also the author of two novels.

 

CONTENTS
Preface vii
Part 1 Guru Nanak 1
  Birth and Childhood 2
  Early Years 4
  Search for an Occupation 9
  At Sultanpur 14
  Travels 22
  Kartarpur 36
  Teachings 47
  The Janamsakhis 53
Part 2 Guru Angad Dev to Guru Tegh Bahadur 67
  Guru Angad Dev 68
  Guru Amar Das 82
  Guru Ram Das 95
  Guru Arjun Dev 102
  Guru Hargobind 122
  Guru Har Rai 143
  Guru Har Krishan 151
  Guru Tegh Bahadur 158
Part 3 Guru Gobind Singh 183
  Early Years 184
  Paonta 194
  The Battles of Bhangani and Nadaun 203
  The Birth of the Khalsa 213
  Sparrows Meet Hawks 227
  Vichora-Separation 239
  The Final Years 264
  Conclusion 285
Bibliography 299
Index 301

Sample Pages











The Lives and Teachings of the Sikh Gurus

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2012
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Preface

At the time of our story, the Panjab was a much bigger geographical region than it is today. The north of this area was marked by the high Himalayas, the Hindu-Kush and the mountains of Afghanistan. In the west it was bounded by the river Indus. The south was marked by the desert of Rajasthan. The eastern boundary was not very clearly plains watered by the rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas.

This is the area where Indian civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, was born. Stone implements dating back to almost 500,000 years have been found here. Copper and bronze implements dating back to 25,000 years have also been unearthed along the banks of the Indus. The ruins of the Harappan culture found at Ropar prove the existence of a flourishing urban culture dating as far back as 2500 B.C. It was also in Panjab that the Aryans evolved Vedic religion and composed the great works of Vedic and Sanskrit literatures.

The Aryans were followed by wave after wave of conquerors: the Greeks, the Bactrians, the Scythian tribes, the Huns and then after the beginning of the eleventh century tribes who differed greatly from one another but had one common factor: their religion, Islam. The Ghaznavis, the Ghoris, the Tughlaqs, the Suris, the Lodhis, the Moghuls-all invaded North India and ruled for a time.

The Muslim tribes, when they had settled down in Panjab, directed much of their energies towards destroying non-believers. For over three hundred years, Islam and Hinduism existed side by side in Panjab in a state of constant conflict. Hinduism had a pantheon of gods and goddesses who could be worshipped as idols, and a society that was based on the caste system. Islam believed firmly in monotheism, abhorred idolatory and believed in the equality of all men.

Some attempts were made to bridge this divide. The bhaktas preached that there was only one God and He was without any form or feature. They advocated that all men were equal and preached against the caste system. The Sufis too tried to bridge the divide. For the first time, music was introduced into Muslim religious practice. The Sufis welcomed non-believers both in their homes and in their mosques and believed that all men had a right to observe their own form of worship.

But both these attempts were tentative in nature and any popular acceptance they had found was destroyed by Taimur's invasion in A.D. 1398. The Muslim ruling class turned once again to killing and robbing the Hindu masses and to destroying their temples. The average Muslim believed that he could gain merit in the eyes of God by converting non-believers, even if it was at the point of a sword. Religious practice in both religions degenerated into the performance of empty rites and rituals. The Muslims believed that circumcision, abstinence from pork and fasting during Ramzan were the attributes of good Muslims. The Hindus once again reverted to idol-worship and an even more determined belief in the caste system and the rituals of washing away their sins in holy rivers, eating vegetarian food and wearing a thread to make themselves sacred.

In 1499 Nanak embarked on an attempt to define what was common between the two religions and to purify religious practice from all the rituals and the hypocrisy that had come to surround it. His teachings were soon accepted by thousands of followers and the faith embodying these became the youngest of the great religions of the world.

This book is an attempt to relate the birth and growth of this great religion during the first two hundred years of its life through the life-stories of its ten Gurus, i.e., spiritual preceptors. This work claims no originality; everything it contains has been culled from the sources listed at the end. It has been written solely for the young readers in a simple narrative form; but unlike some other such efforts, the present attempt carefully eschews all those elements that may be considered supernatural and miraculous in nature, as the performance of, and belief in, miracles are against the basic tenets of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.

The only justification for retelling a story that has already been told so often is the firm belief that a story so beautiful and inspiring needs to be retold as often as possible. If a small fraction of the great charm of this story can communicate itself to the reader, the effort will have been worthwhile.

First of all, I am greatly beholden to Dr. Wazir Singh for editing the text, meticulousy at that, and also for suggesting improvements.

I would like to express my grateful thanks to Dr. S. S. Dhillon for obtaining all the source-material for me, to Sohan Singh for deciphering the terrible handwriting and typing out the various drafts and to Neeta Sibia for patiently reading through each draft and giving me her quiet but very valuable advice. My grateful thanks, most of all, to K. S. Bhalla for having gone through the text so very carefully, word by word, and suggesting important and meaningful corrections and modifications. To Rathin Mitra I owe a special thanks for the use of his exquisite illustrations.

 

-Harish Dhillon

About the Author

Harish Dhillon describes himself as a 'compulsive story writer' and his short stories have been published on a regular basis in journals and magazines all over the country for almost 40 years. He is also the author of two novels.

 

CONTENTS
Preface vii
Part 1 Guru Nanak 1
  Birth and Childhood 2
  Early Years 4
  Search for an Occupation 9
  At Sultanpur 14
  Travels 22
  Kartarpur 36
  Teachings 47
  The Janamsakhis 53
Part 2 Guru Angad Dev to Guru Tegh Bahadur 67
  Guru Angad Dev 68
  Guru Amar Das 82
  Guru Ram Das 95
  Guru Arjun Dev 102
  Guru Hargobind 122
  Guru Har Rai 143
  Guru Har Krishan 151
  Guru Tegh Bahadur 158
Part 3 Guru Gobind Singh 183
  Early Years 184
  Paonta 194
  The Battles of Bhangani and Nadaun 203
  The Birth of the Khalsa 213
  Sparrows Meet Hawks 227
  Vichora-Separation 239
  The Final Years 264
  Conclusion 285
Bibliography 299
Index 301

Sample Pages











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