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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 ...»

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“The only writer who undertook to give a full account of the Sikh religion was Dr Trumpp, a German missionary employed by the India office to translate the Adi Granth. When he visited Amritsar, the head-quarters of the Sikh religion, he, through the agency of the Civil officers, had the Sikh priests of that city summoned before him. In the course of their conference he told them he was versed in Sanskrit literature and they were not, he understood the Granth Sahib better than they. The conference ended by his pulling out his cigar case and perfuming the Granth Sahib, which lay before him on the table, with tobacco smoke. The use of tobacco not being allowed in the Sikh religion, the gyanis fled in horror at what they deemed the profanation of their volume Dr Trumpp took the Adi Granth to Munich with him, and there, aided by the German genius of industry produced what he con-sidered a translation of it. Anyone, gifted with the powers of divination, may be able to understand portions of it, and the manner in which he allowed his odium theologicum to assert itself may be found in memorials to the Viceroy.”

–  –  –




The professed object of British Raj was not to invade the territories of Sikh states in Cis-Satlej, but as soon as Bhai Uday Singh ruler of Kainthal Sikh state, founded by his grandfather in 1767 A.D., near Kurukshetra, died on 15 March, 1843,1 the British army assisted by Purbia regi-ments of U.P.

and Delhi occupied the State, arrested all Sikhs and looted and plundered the people with the sav-age lust of the conquerers. In the invading army incidently was a young brilliant scholar, Capt Joseph Davy Cunningham2 who was greatly impressed by the character and religious traditions of the Sikhs and was eagerly contemplating to write about them.

Within the city there lived the greatest poet and his- torians of the century, Kavi Santokh Singh, who had just completed his monumental work, Suraj Prakash (Gur-Pratap Suraj).

The name of this saintly poet historian had already become a legend. When the British army invaded Kainthal, he was working on the last chapter of his history which was to become indispensible to all future historians of Guru-Period of Sikh

history3. In the closing chapters of his magnum-opus, he writes:

“The Farengis (British invaders) imprisoned all Sikhs and looted and plundered peoples’ property indiscriminately. The deras of saints and scholars were also not spared. During these days of ravaging terror and persecution the true Lord protected me to such an extent that not the slightest harm came to my person.

During these horrifying days, every kith and kin, 26 every close and distant friend had become your enemy.

Violence, selfishness and greed shamelessly had sway. Even during these terrible times the Lord graciously protected me.”4 Kavi Santokh Singh moved to a safer place and completed Suraj Prakash during the next two months and with the help of some good copyists prepared two copies of the work, which when printed in the early thirties of this century ran into fourteen large-size volumes. It was in the holy city of Amritsar, he had his education, and literary as well as religious training under Giani Sant Singh, Head Grantht of Golden Temple. His great teacher died in 1834 A.D., but he now decided to go on his last pilgrimage to the holy city and offer his precious work at the feet of the Eternal Guru at Akal Takht.

The memories of his associations with the holy city were overwhelming for him. He marvelled at the great-ness, integrity and dignity of his teacher Giani Sant Singh, who was entrusted with all the gold that has been used for ornamental beauty of the Temple. And yet after he had completed his education and training, the great teacher had advised him to keep away from Lahore durbar, where the atmosphere of medieval aristocratic luxuries and de-baucheries was not congenial for his creative activities. Giani Sant Singh also took strong objection to his son Bhai Gurmukh Singh’s visits to Ranjit Singh’s durbar and expressed his extreme displeasure over his ambition in getting involved in the dirty politics of Lahore durbar.5 Gurmukh Singh disobeyed his father, while Kavi Santokh Singh obeyed his mentor and teacher and moved to the court of Maharaja Karam Singh of Patiala. He felt even more unhappy there because mischievous Brahamnical Pundits dominated his court and were caus-ing every possible hinderance in allowing him to win the Sikh Maharaja’s attention, goodwill and patronage for fear of being ousted by him as creative poet and scholar. He however, attracted the attention of Bhai Uday Singh, Raja of Kainthal and his scholarly young wife Suraj Kaur, who 27 had come on a visit to Patiala. The Raja and Rani took Kavi Saptokh Singh with them, and thereafter this small Sikh state became a haven of peace, prosperity and free creative activities, undisturbed and untrammelled by any demand whatsoever from the Raja and his durbiir. 6 It was in the last week of August 1843 Kavi Santokh Singh reached Amritsar. Maharaja Sher Singh was on the throne of Lahore and Bhai Gurmukh Singh achieved the maximum of power and patronage he could achieve, heed-less of the repeated warning of his father, that his narrow ambitions will someday land him in the pit of sorrow.

The Pujaris of the Golden Temple, and the city dignitaries came to receive Kavi Santokh Singh in the out-skirts of the city. A palaki (palanquin) was brought to carry him to the holy shrine. But the saintly poet-historian refused to be carried in a palaki in the holy city. Along with his wife and children the saintly poet, frail in body and very tender at heart, walked humbly through the crowd, greeting the people who showered flowers on him from all sides. For the first time the Sikh people of this century of intellectual and moral degradation showed greater respect and affection for a Poet and scholar than they had shown for their Rajas and Maharaja.

Two eye-witness accounts describe him as having middle height, slender body, wearing a shirt, turban and kachh as his dress. He offered his prayers at the Golden Temple with profound devotion, and then offered a copy of Sitraj Prakash at the Akal Takht which was received by Bhai Gurmukh Singh, who is believed to have kept it in his father’s library. 7 A few days after Kavi Santokh Singh left Amritsar, a fierce storm raged over the city. One of the nishan sahibs (National Sikh Flag) fixed in the precincts of Akal Takht broke to pieces. This was taken as a bad omen and portended dark days ahead. But the warning went unheeded.

A week later, on September 15 the Sandhawalias treacherously murdered not only Sher Singh but also his son Partab Singh and then occupied Lahore fort. Later 28 on, that very day, they even managed to outwit the arch-traitor Dhyan Singh, the Dogra Chief to the fort, where they assassinated him. Had they disposed off Hira Singh and Suchet Singh, the Dogras hegemony and treacherous power in the Sikh kingdom would have ended once for all. Bhai Gurmukh Singh and Misser Beli Ram were im-prisoned. They were also brutally murdered.8 Gurmukh Singh’s library where the copy of Suraj Prakash was kept, was looted and plundered.

Recently, under Rajiv Gandhi’s rule the historic residence of Giani Sant Singh and Bhai Gurmukh Singh was razed to the ground to keep the Golden Temple under the shadow of guns and tanks as long as they can wield power under the pretext of beauti-fying the holy shrine. The ugliness and injury thus caused is visible to the naked eye.9 Towards the end of September Kavi Santokh Singh returned to Kainthal where here was some semblance of peace and order created by the occupation army. Some- time in October 1843 the great poet and historian passed away, having achieved what no single historian had achieved so far. The depressing situation hurt him deeply. Having deep faith in the fact that God and the Eternal Guru will ultimately bless his work, he breathed his last seeking rest and peace at the feet of the Lord, little know-ing that his work will be placed side by side with Guru Granth and will become one of the most important and abiding sources of Sikh history and his presentation of history will become one of the most respected historical and religious traditions.

In February 1846, the British army entered Lahore led by a 25 year old scholarly civil servant Robert Needham Cust who has left so vivid a portrayal of the event which a film camera alone could present. He was present at the battles of Mudki, Ferozepore, and had buried Major George Broadfoot. He was also present at the battle of Sabraon. Now he was Assistant Political Agent to the Governor-General, who had camped outside Lahore. He was also accompanied, as he notes in his diary, by Joseph Davy 29 Cunningham, “At length I reached the outskirts of the place, and passing through the crowds of scowling sol-diery, looking daggers at the Feringi. I came immediately under the walls of the citadel of Lahore.” He admits that total annexation was the ultimate goal, but now “the Brit-ish conquerors had to take the middle course and destroy the army.”10 Robert Needham Cust claimed to be the first Euro-pean to doff his hat to Maharaja Dalip Singh. On his second visit to him on 7th March 1846 he was accompa-nied by J.D.

Cunningham and Col. Irvine.11 Lawrence was his model and master and he was proud to be called a Punjabi belonging to Lawrence school of thought. It was his duty to bring Gulab Singh the arch-traitor to the camp of the Governor-General for talks. The cringing manner, the sly methods of evading orders, calculated duplicity and deliberate vacillation of Gulab Singh annoyed Needham Cust. He threatened to go without him when Raja Gulab Singh virtually refused to accompany him. When he agreed, he took Diwan Dina Nath into his howda lest he gives a slip. Lord Hardinge also found him to be extremely roguish. Writing to Lady Hardinge on 2 March 1846 from Lahore, Lord Hardinge states: “If I had been a bachelor and not humanised by a wife and children, I am sure, I should have been very ambitious, but my opportu-nity occuring late in life, I am rather discreet and moder-ate and somewhat a philosopher, I rather like diplomacy when regulated by integrity.

I am in every step anxious that the mode of accomplishing my object be above all suspicion. The man whom I have to deal with - Gulab Singh, is the greatest rascal in Asia. We can protect him without inconve-nience and give him a slice of the Sikh territory which balances his strength and as he is geographically our ally I must forget he is a rascal and treat him with what he does.” 12 This ‘unprincipled liar’ and ‘self-seeking opportunist’ and the most ruthless tyrant who inflicted the most sadistic pun-ishment on simple-minded helpless Kashmiris, betrayed the Khalsa government of Lahore at every step and this 30 crafty strategist bought Kashmir for seventy-five thousand rupees, thus paying about seven naya paisa for every Kashmiri, and setting up a dynasty of “Tyrants of Jammu and Kashmir.”13 Robert Needham Cust was first in Punjab from 1846 to 1849 and then from 1858-1864. Henry Rawlenson be-lieved “Robert Cust was not a success in India because he was “too honest and too outspoken to make a successful govt. servant.” Montgomery his strongest supporter, wrote in a letter some years later, “You have essentially a-legisla-tive turn of mind, and have ability and knowledge….no other public officer possesses. You are essentially a Punjabi brought up in John Lawrence’s school and know what we require, while at the same time, you are alive to the progress Government should make as we become more ripe and advanced.”14 As an activist of John Lawrence school he was against the prevailing policy in which “one half of the Europeans in India wished to destroy the natives by sweeping punishment, and the other half wish to save their sinful souls by missions.” He strongly criticized the fanatic spirit about conversion and education; “We are a clique in the Punjab, rather too much, I think, though I am a part of it.” This clique was convinced of the shallowness of this heathen-ish religion, Sikhism. He was of the opinion that Sikh institutions should be pushed towards decay and ultimate death. In his Sikhland article he wrote in 1847, “Leave the Golden Temple to itself, and withdraw from it the patron- age of the state, resume the lands set aside for the sup-port of the various brotherhoods, and the splendour of the institution will pass away. The gilded dome will lose its lustre, the marble walls will fall out of repair, the great Golden Temple will no longer be a snare for the vulgar, who are ever deceived by outward show. To act thus would be to act impartially, and in accordance with the true principles of noninterference.”15 It is in this way the non- missionary Lawrence clique wished to strike a blow “deliberately” and in “cold blood” at “what he thought was a decaying Sikhism in 1847.

31 Kavi Santokh Singh died in 1843. J.D. Cunningham started collecting material and planning the writing of his History of Sikhs in 1844, as he tells us in his preface to the first edition.

In 1849, his honestly and conscientiously written wellresearched and quite authentic book about Sikhs and Sikhism was published in London. It was en-titled “A History of the Sikhs: From the Origin of the Nation to the Battles of the Satlej” by Joseph Davy Cunningham, pub-lished by John Murray, London. Mr. Kaye, the Editor of Calcutta Review write a 35 page review on the book prais-ing Cunningham’s labours and revealing the British atti-tude towards not only the book but also towards Sikhs and Sikhism which according to the policy of the con-querors had to be denigrated in the eyes of the world.

He says “We cannot speak of it with unmixed con-demnation, and still less can we bring ourselves to pro-nounce a condemnating sentence. It is a work that keeps the judgement of the critic in a constant state of oscilla-tion.

He (Cunningham) is a laborious, painstaking writer; and though very prejudiced and often wrong, manifestly conscientious.

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