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«AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION O thou that buttest the high mountain, seeking to dislodge it with thy horns, take pity, not on the mountain but on thy head ...»

-- [ Page 24 ] --

Qazis, miracle mongering Yogis and ascetics. We find how the Gurus and the enlightened Sikhs met the political challenges of blood-thirsty rulers, corrupt ministers and greedy inhuman administrators.

If hostile critics and new breed of self-style western scholars like Hew McLeod do not see it, this is because they are blinded by ingrained prejudice, cultivated open bias, and an incurable passion for self-opinionated destructive criticism, which knows no rules of academic propriety or respect for historic facts and truths of religions other than their own.

Hew McLeod in his extraordinary zeal to condemn all aspects and all ideals of Sikhism has not cared to know what Hindu caste system is. He confuses castes with rural and urban professions. In Hindu society a Jat, a Sansi, a carpenter, a distiller of wine belongs to the same lower castes - and they were all treated as menials. Bhai Gurdas enumerates nearly fifty professions of artisans, and yet most of them belonged to the same castes. The Gurus gave spiritual equality, social equality and political equal-ity to all, by virtue of which a cobbler Lall Singh, a lead-ing warrior was able to kill Jaspat Rai even when he was sitting in howda of an elephant, protected by thousands of soldiers. A carpenter youth hardly in his twenties, named Sukha Singh emerged as the hero and leader of Chhota Ghallughara (Lesser Holocaust) when he was ac-cepted as commander to lead the Sikhs out of Mughal encirclements.

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (a kalal family of distillers) and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, from a carpenters family always led the central command by virtue of their spiritual greatness as Sikhs and their outstand-qualities of leadership in peace and in the battlefield. The Brahmins and Kshatriyas were given equal opportunities but the glory of leadership went to the one who deserved by virtue of his genius and ability. We will deal with the so called Jat supremacy trumpeted by Hew McLeod in Chapter 10 of this book. This is a myth created by those who do not know that any superiority of caste, tribe or race has no 185 place in Sikh history and society.

The various lower castes of the Hindus could never visit a temple. They could never sit in the same row with upper castes to eat or to drink anything. But from the time of Guru Nanak to this day people of all races, all religions, all castes and creeds, men, women and children can go to the Sikh temple, join the congregation without ever being questioned and sit anywhere they like in Langar (community-kitchen) and eat to their fill. To this day one can see the richest men sitting along with the poorest persons, the Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Christians sitting and partaking the same food as brothers and sisters of one human family. There is no such example in any racial, tribal, religious and cultural get-together in Sikh congre-gations in the name of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh in any other other religion or society and poitical order in world religions.

–  –  –

MISSIONARY INGROUPS, DISSENTERS

AND DISOWNED HOSTILE GROUPS

As a religious and cultural organization, Sikhism is an open Society. The Gurus as Prophets, with divine gifts, exercised their authority through humility, inspiring dis-cipline. They reposed complete trust in illumined disciples, who in the form of assembly were known as Sadh Sangat. The Gurus had set the principle of sharing their spiritual authority on the principle;

–  –  –

Sikh Gurus treated the enlightened Sikhs with great reverence and they accepted the will of an assembly of such sain tly Sikhs as the voice of God. This was the principle Oh which the Khalsa Brotherhood was ultimately built.

While true Sikhs lived in devout obedience and discipline set forth by the Gurus, even members of the Guru’s family who desired to set up their own religious orders were allowed to do so, but they were not allowed to inter-fere in the continuing mainstream of Sikhism, upheld by legitimate successors.

Even though priests were necessary for certain functions 187 of temple organization, no priestly class was instituted. Any disciplined religious-minded Sikh could per-form these functions. But no religion can survive without an organized missionary work. The missionary orders which were organized by the Sikh Gurus during their life time were Masands, Udasis, Sewa Panthis and Nirmlas.

MASANDS Guru Amar Das trained the first group of Sikh mis-sionaries, who were called Masands from the Persian word masnad which meant “Related to the Throne”, or One who derived his authority directly from the Throne. Perhaps, for the first time in the history of the world, the trained missionaries included women, who held independent dioceses or areas of spiritual jurisdiction. The first and second batch of masands under Guru Amar Das and Guru Ram Das were distinguished and saintly missionar-ies who are still remembered in the areas in which they served.

When Guru Arjun ascended the pontific throne, his selfish and aggressive elder brother, Prithi Mal started bribing and corrupting the masands. This game of bribing and corrupting the Masands and encouraging them to seek patronage of the Mughals, encouraged them to misuse the tithes and funds of religious offerings. Whenever, in Sikh history, a religious leadership or missionary group has misappropriated funds and used it for personal aggrandisement, it has become deadly cancer in the stom-ach of the religious organization and its moral and spiri-tual death has become an unavoidable certainty. Guru Gobind Singh issued hukamniimiis against these masands, asking Sikhs to disoown and reject them but at the same time cautioning Sikhs not to be harsh on those who are dutiful and





good. Here are Guru Gobind Singh’s comments on masands :

Whoever offers to serve the masaitds They tell him: come offer everything And all your gifts to us, 188

–  –  –

Guru Gobind Singh, Thirty-three Swaiyas, 29, 30

Guru Gobind Singh made two things clear to the Sikhs:

A missionary or organizational system built to preach, interpret and disseminate Sikhism is worth respect and moral support by Sikhs so long as it maintains its inner purity, honesty and credibility. As soon as the members of a religious system within the Sikh Panth becomes corrupt, greedy and immoral to the extent of ex-ploiting and looting the people, the missionary system should be eliminated; its organizers thrown out as cheats and thiefs, and an entirely new missionary organizations built for which enlightened, religious people should be selected. Thus ended once for all the Masand system.1 UDASIS Guru Nanak’s elder son Sri Chand was a celibate, with ascetic temperament and when he saw his father going on missionary tours in the dress of Udasis (recluses who 189 renounce the world) he started training himself as an ideal Udasi and prospective successor to his father. The first surprise Sri Chand got was when Guru Nanak gave up his Udasi dress and lived in ordinary Punjabi dress which everyone wore. The second suprise Sri Chand got was when he chose Angad as his successor six months before his death and asked him to set up his ontific seat at Khadur. Kartarpur, where Guru Nanak had spent the last twenty years of his life, was left to the exclusive control of the family, where Sri Chand carried on his missionary activities preaching ascetic ideals in the name of Guru Nanak without much success.

When Guru Nanak passed away in 1539 A.D, Sri Chand was 43 years old while Guru Angad was hardly 35 years of age. Sri Chand could not believe that an outsider who had become a disciple of his father only during the last fifteen years of his life could know more about him than a religious minded son like him who was a born celibate (bal-jati), whose selfcontrol, ascetic habits and yogic powers were known to everyone. He lived to the age of 133 years and found that there were five most brilliant successors on his father’s puntific throne, but during a whole cen tury of his activites he could not find one wor-thy successor among his Udasis disciples, while Guru Hargobind still had spiritually gifted sons.

Sri Chand sought the permission of Guru Hargobind to bestow his mantle on his elder son, Baba Gurditta, who was hardly sixteen years old, and expressed his fervent desire that the Udasis should henceforth be disciplined, trained and given the status of a highly respected mission-ary wing of Sikhism.

Under the guidance of Baba Gurditta, the first four orders of the Udasis were organized. They were known as Dhuan (literally Ascetic Fires set up by Yogis and Siddhas) under four outstanding leaders: (1) Balu Hasna, (2) Almast (an intoxicated saint and mystic, (3) Bhai Phul, (4) Bhai Goind. Baba Gurditta died at the age of 25, but Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Hari Krishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh 190 continued to help in training and expanding these missionary groups; and the new Udasi leaders appointed by them and sent to new centres were called Bakhshish (The Blessed Ones).

Udasis like the two other religious orders founded subsequently were partly monastic, partly saintly missionary organizations. The Udasis completely gave up worldly ambitions, secular life, and devoted themselves exclusively to missionary work. The Khalsa Panth considered this missionary order inseparable part of the Sikh nation, and the most respected part. Management of historical Sikh temples was exclusively left to them all over India. They went to the remote corners of India, established missionary centres in all places visited by Guru Nanak from Kabul to Decca, and from Nepal to Kanya Kumari and Rameshwaram.

They learnt the languages of these regions, prepared absolutely correct copies of Guru Granlh, and installed them in these places and interpreted the Sacred scriptures and preached the life-stories of the Gurus as best as they could.

The Udasi centres still exist in Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Jullundur, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Ayudhia, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Hardwar, Dehradun, Banaras and Lucknow. In 1956, I met the Udasi Sain t Lall Baba, who lived in a house boat in Calcutta. He was over 150 years old, very alert and active and talked of the last days of Ranjit Singh’s Raj of which he had some vivid memories.

When the masands of Ram Rai cremated him while he was still in samadhi and captured his derii, Guru Gobind Singh expelled these armed treacherous masands and installed Punjab Kaur to reorganize the dera on Udasi principles. She adopted an Udasi youth as her spiritual son and lived upto 1744 A.D.

to establish the Dehradun dera exclusively on Udasi pattern.

She rendered great help to the Holy Mothers, Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devi during Banda period and for long after that.

But the masands who burnt Ram Rai alive captured the Lahore and some other deras of Ram Rai and helped the Mughals 191 and Afghans for which reason a social boycott of these Ram Raiyas of Punjab was established. They were virtually eliminated and in due course most of the deras of Ram Rai came under the control of Mata Punjab Kaur. The dera is still run on Udasi pattern but perpetuates the memory of Ram Rai as their Guru and their ardasa includes all the first seven Gurus, Sri Chand, Baba Gurditta and Ram Rai.

Nearly fifty per cent, if not more, absolutely correct recensions of Guru Granth, Vars of Bhai Gurdas and works of Bhai Nand Lall were written by Udasi scribes and pre-served in Sikh shrines supervised by Udasis. As Udasis, Nirmalas and Sewa Panthis were organized by Guru Hargobind, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh as missionary wings, the Khalsa respected them as indis-pensable part of the Panth, and just as the Khalsa had complete responsibility for military activites the Udasl, Sewa Panthl, Nirmala, Sahajdharls and Khalsa saints were given equal and free participation in religious and cultural af-fairs. It is the Udasis who constructed the canal which brought fresh water to the Sacred Pool in Amritsar. The two flags in front of Akal Takht and ceremonies related to them were re-established by Udasis. Over a hundred prominent Udasi saints and mystics are well known for their missionary work in Kabul, Dacca, Gorakhmata, Puri, Rameshwaram, Allahabad, Hardwar and a number of places in Punjab.

Foreseeing disastrous results of the moral degradation of Ranjit Singh’s durbar and British invasion, the eminent Udasi saint Nirban Pritam summoned an assem-bly of all the Udasi saints and leaders at Paryag (Allahabad) in 1879. The central authority was organised under “Panchavati Akhara” and the whole organization was based on a democratic system.

No single Udasi was to be authority. Four mahants were elected to form the central council, namely Mahant Ganga Ram, Katushth Brahm, Anup Brahm, and Atal Brahm. Sant Nirban Pritam kept himself out. Guru Granth was to be their Supreme Guru and Guide, for ever in future.

192 How devoted and committed the Udasis were as Sikh missionaries, can be assessed from the following incident reported in Thomas Hardwicke’s “Narrative of a Journey to Srinagar”. (p. 450) Udasis as well as Nirmalas had pitched their camps hoisted their flags, and started Akhand Path of Guru Granth three days before the Kumbh mela at Hardwar. Naga Sadhus who called themselves Gosain Sannyasins were given magisterial control of the fair both by the Maratha and the British and they charged every Hindu pilgrim eight annas to one rupee. They went about armed with deadly weapons and would fire, flog and torture everyone who did not fulfil their demand. Captain Hardwicke relates how these Naga Sadhus slavishly served British officers, who were there, by offering them special facilities.

The Udasis and Nirmalas refused to give any money because they were not Hindus but Sikh missionaries. The Nagas at first threatened and then carried out the threats by stopping the recitation of Guru Granth and burning their flag.

While the Nirmalas went away quietly, the Udasis resisted.

They were brutally attacked by all types of weapons and many of them were killed. The Guru Granth was chopped with axes.

All the pilgrims who had come for guru-ka-langar were also either killed or injured. The in-ciden t took place in April 1796.



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