«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 ...»
The Sardar was no doubt obeyed, but there was no obligation to obey beyond what they might consider to be for their own reciprocal benefit or for the well-being of the Misal.” This was undoubtedly the state of things in the beginning. There was, however, at no stage of Sikh feudal history, a haughty noblesse as in Rajputana or in medieval Europe. There was no such patriarchal element in Sikh feudalism, nor do we hear of an elaborate list of feudal obligation of military service. The feudal system of Europe has been described by Gib-bon as the offspring of change and barbarism. The Punjab system was certainly not feudal in the European sense. The all-pervading sense of brotherhood and super-added theocratic outlook would not, at least in theory allow de-struction of rank.”5 Sikh theologians, musicians, painters, artists, missionary orders like Udasis, Ninnalas, and even the Sahajdahari Saints like Bhai Sewa Ram, Sahaj Ram, Bhai Adan Shah, Bhai Santokha, Bhai Aya Ram, Bhai Rochi Ram, Bhai 261 Darbari, Bhai Daya Ram, Bhai Balla Ram, Bhai Hargopal Udasi who was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh carried on extensive missionary work in Sindh, Multan, Gujrat, Rawalpindi and remote areas of Kashmir very much as St. Francis preaches Christainity with love and service in hostile regions.
There are piles of published and unpublished works on their activites and each of these mis-sionary groups had its deras (hospices) and. Saints which still survive in one form or the other in Amritsar with innumerable branches all over India and Pakistan; each dera has a history of dedicated devotion to the Khalsa Panth. 6 Unfortunately, our historians confined their attention only to military and ‘political activities of the Sikhs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They have com-pletely ignored the work and achievements of these saints who were as deeply respected by God-fearing Muslims as by Sikhs.
In his Chapters on Eighteenth Century history of the Sikhs McLeod ignores even the published literature on this subject and constructs utterly absurd theories to give as ugly an image of the Sikhs of eighteenth century as his ingeniously framed conjectural speculations possibly can. Not a single correct historical fact, not a single date, and not a single event or assessment of historians of this period is given. We have given a glimpse into the eighteenth century history based on the works of non-Sikh historians and scholars. The eighteenth century presents the most glorious chapter in Sikh history of which every Sikh is justly proud. It should be obvious to discerning scholars how, Hew McLeod has turned a blind eye to the historical truth of this magnificant period of Sikh history and has fabricated utterly false images and presented humiliating and insulting pictures of the religious and political conditions of the Sikhs. No amount of academic bluff and de-ception can either darken or cloud the facts and truth of Sikh history and religion.
Two books of Hew McLeod are exclusively devoted to janam-Sakhis. He is right when he calls them hagiographic accounts, but he gives a misleading impression of the historical importance of hagiographic narratives, on which the early history of higher religions like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam is based.
Lord Buddha’s hagiographic narratives on which the biographies of Lord Buddha are based were written long after the founder’s death. E.J.Thomas says “all the biographies of ancient Buddhist authors are centuries later than the period of which they speak. They have all been composed after the time when the movement had broken up into separate schools, and they represent the traditions, often contradictory, preserved by these bodies, and modified in accordance with various dogmas concerning the nature of Buddha and the means of winning release.”1 The earliest dates fixed for the four Gospels, the source of life of Jesus Christ, date from 68 to 200 A.D., which means long after Jesus Christ’s death.
The search for old manuscripts of janam Sakhis began only in recent years. Out of the ten Gurus, Janam Sakhis cover the life of Guru Nanak only and to some extent his disciple and successor Angad. The first Janam Sakhi was written’ during the life time of Guru Angad 1539-1552 A.D. We have manuscripts dated Dec. 1658 A.D. We have an undated manuscript (Baba Prem Singh Hoti Mardan’s MS) whose paper, Gurmukhi script resembles 264 the Bani Pothis on the basis of which Guru Granth was compiled. Its contents also reveal that it is older than all other MSS. A further search for older manuscript is likely to bring to light near contemporary manuscripts. In the thirties of this century it was believed that there were just four or five janamsakhis; but new efforts by scholars to search for new manuscripts have yielded over a hundred manuscripts of janamsakhis but even earliest biographies of the Guru written in verse and prose, throw some light on the hitherto undiscovered janamsakhis of early eighteenth centuries.
However, it is absolutely incorrect and misleading to say as Hew McLeod does that janamsakhis are sacred writings.
No Guru ever canonized any janamsakhi of Guru Nanak and they are treated as early hagiographic accounts of the Founder of Sikhism. No single janamsakhi provides the complete biographical material of Guru Nanak. They lead the researcher to the right sources in regional historical traditions and documents of places visited by Guru Nanak.
There are mythical stories, but even behind these mythical stories there are some historical events and docu-ments. For example, the story of Kaliyuga meeting Guru Nanak in Puri is a pure myth. It is the type of story resembling Mara meeting Buddha and devil meeting Christ in the early years of their meditations for Enlightenment. But what surprised me was the same story introduced in Puratan janamsakhi and two more versions of janamsakhis say that Kaliyuga met Guru Nanak at Puri in Orissa many years after Guru Nanak achieved Enlightenment. In my fifteen years of research tour to places visited by Guru Nanak, when I visited Puri, I was told that Kaliyuga was, the name of the Panda who was the first to become the Guru’s disciple. His family still lives there and have sufficient documents not only to prove historical events they nar-rate, but they also give other details of Guru Nanak’s stay in Puri. I was able to find documents clearly indicating that Guru Nanak (known as Nanakacharya) in Eastern and south India and Sri Lanka documents 265 and inscriptions met and stayed at Puri with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, on which meeting I wrote an article in 1963 and was pub-lished in Sep’63 issue of the Sikh Review. Thus, the myth in the janamsakhi is a myth which all historians reject but it has led to the historical truth that Guru Nanak had blessed Panda Kaliyuga that his wishes to have a son would be fulfilled1mt he asked him to name the son, ‘Satya-yug”. The descendents of Satyuga are still living in Puri.
There is a tendency among scholars like Hew McLeod to condemn hiagiographic of prophets and saints as unbelievable humbug except those of Jesus Christ. What then are-hagiographic narratives and what is their historical importance ? This is what the average reader of religious literature does not know. To denounce them as unscientific history is not only unwise but even irrational and irresponsible approach to sources of ancient history Collier’s Encyclopaedia defines hagiography as “the historical science which studies and treats documents or writings about holiness, holy persons and saints. It is usual to make distinction between the hagiographic writings which make up the source material of the modern science of hagiography and the later critical hagiography.”2 Encyclopaedia Brittanica says, “ Hagiography derived from the Greek (holy: saint) is the branch of historical studies dealing with the lives of the saints and the devotion paid to them through the centuries. The need for specialized study was created by the special nature of the documents concerned;
acts of martyrs, lives of saintly monks, bishops, princes or virgins and accounts of miracles taking place at the tomb or in connection with their relicsicons and status.”3 The word holiness is used here and in Sikh literature in the sense Rudolf Otto defines it. Holy is something more than morally good. “There is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name. It is pre-eminently a living force in the Semetic religions.”4 “From the earliest times, Christainity particularly 266 Churches honoured the anniversaries of the members of the Church who had suffered martyrdom. List of the martyrs was kept to identify the heroes and to certify the proper date of each anniversary.”5 “These anecdotes of the lives of saints a type of literature in a class of its own, inspired as it is by keen administration, by a desire to instruct the reader and often also by the intentions of attracting pilgrims to the shrine of a miracle worker. These pious writings, although presenting great variety, yet share so many characteristics that they form a special branch of literature and should be studied as a group.”6 Rudolf Otto calls this historical literature “non-rational” or “suprarational” in the depths of divine nature. He says “The ‘irrational’ is today a favourite theme of all who are too lazy to think or too ready to evade the arduous duty of clarifying their ideas and grounding their convictions on the basis of coherent thought.”7 Jesuit Father Herbert Roseweydeand Jean Bolland collected these hagiographies after research and analytical study and published Acta Santorium ‘’Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other Principal Saints” by Alban Butler (first published in 1750). It is still the best collection based on the hagiographic accounts. They are of abundant historical, hagiographical and cultural importance. In this very tradition hagiographic literature janamsakhis which have escaped organized distortions or corruption at the hands of such hostile cults as Minas (Prithimal’s son and grandson), Handalyas, have immense historical, philosophical and cultural value.
own and a language consistantly of a scholar well-versed in Sikh doctrines. The interpolated stories have different lan-guage and even theories and ideas which Bhai Mani Singh rejects elsewhere.
As all saints and Sikh missionaries wished to have some janamsakhi in their ashrams independent efforts were made to collect anecdotes and prepare janamsiikhis on the basis of pick and choose Sakhis. We have now innumerable varieties and versions of janamsakhis. There are now groups of janamsakhis which are virtually the same but the copyists have at random included or excluded some Sakhis. Whenever a scholar picks up a manuscript he gives a fanciful name to it, which tends to give the impression that it is the oldest and best.
Some years ago Sikh Princes and sons of aristocratic families who joined Christian Convent schools were proud of acquiring Christian names such as William, Teddy, Robert, Anthony etc.
In order to raise their social status in British society they preferred to be treated as Anglo-Indians rather than as Indian Sikhs. Similarly janamsakhis were given such fanciful names as Walayat waujanam Sakhi, (A foreign manufactured janam Sakhi), Adi janam Sakhi, Prachin janam Sakhi, janam Sakhi Meharban, Bale Wau janam Sakhi. The impression given by the last two names has been that it is Meharban who wrote it and it is Bhai Bala who wrote Bale-Wali janam Sakhi.
Another dangerous trend has been to place the janam Sakhi Manuscript a scliolar is studying or working on, at the top, and either totally condemn or give inferior and insignificant position to other janam Sakhis. Instead of giving an analytical as well as historically and lingusitic exposition of a manuscript and giving a balanced comparison with others, the one-sided emotional praise of one janam Sakhi and building up far-fetched conjectural criticism of all other manuscripts has led to a situtation which has been exploited by scholars like Hew McLeod, who has built up outright condemantion of all janam Sakhis and would have proved that Guru Nanak did not exist but has failed to do so.
But that is what he has tried to prove but the writings of Guru 268 Nanak in Guru Granth provide an irrefutable proof of Guru Nanak’s historical existence. He might have attempted this misadventure also.
Everyone who claims to study and publish a particular Janam-sakhis forgets the existense of other historically im-portantJanamsakhis on the basis of which Sarup Das Bhalla, Sant Ram Chibber, Kavi Santokh Singh wrote full length biographies of Guru Nanak which have pushed Janam sakhis to the background. When Walayat-wali Janamsakhi was pa-tronized, the cheap, thoroughly corrupted Bale-wali Janamsakhi sold in Bazar Mai Sewa, Amritsar, was used to condemn all Janamsakhis having Bhai Bala as the compan-ion along with Mardana. These scholars did not care to see that the Colebrock’s manuscript (called Walayat wali) was a crude eighteenth century manuscript of a Janamsakhi, in which many things were missing and beter copies of the same manuscript were available in Punjab. When Dr Kirpal Singh published Meharban’s Janamsakhi, he ignored the fact that Guru Arjun had condemned the Minas and the basic historical contents of the Janamsakhi, and for centuries the Sikhs have not touched it, because he corrupts Bani and historical facts. He also glosses over the fact that Meharban carried on the anti-Sikh cult teachings and willfully corrupted Sikh history and doctrines, by saying that the word “Mina” was used only against Prithimal and not against his son Meharban.”8 If this condemnatory prefix was attached to the father Prithimal, and his grandson Harji (known as Harji Mina) how was it possible that the son who multiplied the cult-mischief and innovations ten-folds, would not be called a Mina.