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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 influential Sikh aristocratic Sardars who had 51 acquired prestigious positions under the new Imperialism started searching some learned Granthis and Kathakars (interpreters of the Guru Granth) to meet Dr Ernest Trumpp where he wanted them to be summoned. They brought a copy of the Guru Granth which they considered correct. He desired the copy to be placed on the table before him, which they reluctantly did. He harangued a lecture of his vast knowledge and he tried to impress them that he knew the Grammar and language of Adi Granth better than them. The Granthis and priests sat meekly before him for sometime, listening patiently to his arro-gant talk. Fear of the British authorities prevented them from opening their mouth. I learn Pundit Hazara Singh maternal uncle of Bhai Vir Singh was among them. To the dismay and electrifying shock pf all Sardars and priests present, he opened the Adi Granth without showing any respect for it as one would open a book which is Greek to the person handling it. He then lighted his cigar and holding it in one hand started scanning it with the other. No one had to tell the Sikhs what they should have done under the circumstances. They wrapped up the Adi Granth and went away swearing never to see his face again, mum-bling curses on him.

Dr Ernest Trumpp, then, found no alternative ex-cept to engage two Sanskrit knowing Brahmins to assist him. At a later stage, a Nirmala scholar also came forward to render some help. Two Granthis also were engaged on payment.

Three commentaries were suggested to him, “two of which”, he says, “explained in a rough way a number of obsolete Hindi and deshi (provincial words) and the other a number of Arabic and Persian words which were re-ceived into the Granth in a very mutilated form. These commentaries though very deficient proved very useful to me, and I the copied as their owners would not part with them.

This clue clearly indicates that these two volumes were (1) Pryae Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Punjabi and Hindi and Desi words and (2) Sikh Guru Granth ji ke math se Pryae 52 farsi pad ke. Both are by Bhai Chanda Singh Giani, a well known theologian of the eighteenth century.8 Trumpp gives no clue to the third work he acquired. But if he had acquired Bhai Mani Singh’s Janamsakhi, many copies of which were available he would have got the best interpretations of all the major works of Guru Nanak and many other verses of the Founder. But his advisers on Sikh history and scrip-tures were

two Punjabi Brahmins and this is what he has to say about them:

“The Brahmins, who alone would have had the necessary erudition to lend me a helping hand, never had deigned to pay any attention to the Granth, owing to the animosity which formerly existed between the Sikhs and the Hindu community.”9 These Brahmins would not even look into the Guru Granth because this type of proud, bigoted touch-me-not Brahmins are criticized in the writings of all the Gurus and more so in the writings of such Bhaktas as Kabir, Ravidas and Namdev who were victimized, insulted and humiliated by proud Brahmins of this period. There were many sources of information on Sikh history most of which were used by J. D.

Cunningham, but Dr Trumpp relied only on these anti-Sikh Brahmin misinformers.

He had undertaken to translate the whole of Adi Granth, but he has translated less than one-fourth of it. He first asked his Granthi helpers to give a line to line meaning of which he tried to prepare a running transla-tion. He says. “I soon found that this would not do, as I frequently perceived that I had been misled by them (the Granthis). As I went on (reading) I noted down all gram-matical forms and obsolete words. I met with, and thus I gradually drew up a grammar and a dictionary, so that I could refer to every passage again. After I had gone through the Granth in this wearisome way and prepared my tools, I returned to Europe in the spring of 1872, and began to write down the translation for the press. “10 Had he learnt Punjabi and allied languages of the Guru Granth he might have been better equipped and he could have 53 prepared himself better in two years.

“Traditive = traduttire’, ‘the translator is a traitor’, is an old Italian equation; all translations involve distortion.

Information is inevitably lost in the abyss between the source and receptor languages and the greater the differ-ences between the two languages, the two cultures, the greater and deeper the abyss, the more perilous the cross-ings. The language produces and reflects the culture as the culture produces and reflects the language. They are inextricable.”11 Dr Ernest Trumpp was ignorant of the lan-guage and culture of Punjab, Utter Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bengal, the authors of which religion he was translating and he was equally unequipped with the language and the culture of the English, into whose language he was translating the Adi Granth. He admits that “the English language which he had learnt was already fading out of his mind by the time he was writing his Preface to it.”12 Those who considered him a great and outstanding scholar of oriental languages continued to accept what he had written about Adi Granth as gospel-truth and did not care to look beyond it. But within a decade all scholars and even the British officials started feeling that they have been cheated into believing what he has said. From the view-point of ambitious Christian Missionaries and the Imperialists his presentation of the work was remarkable in its ability of running down this heathenish religion, Sikhism, which they were sure was decaying and dying and could be easily replaced by Christianity whose superi-ority he had reflected in all the pages of his work. It was the religion of the civilized conquerors.

In order to cover up his own shortcomings and inability to translate the whole Adi Granth which he was committed to do, he passed damning remarks about the contents of Adi Granth saying: “ The Sikh Granth is a very big volume, but, incoherent and shallow in the extreme, and couched at the same time in dark and perplexing language, in order to cover these defects. It is for us occidentals a most painful and almost stupefying task, to 54 read only a single Rag, and I doubt if any ordinary reader will have the patience to proceed to the second Rag after he shall have perused the first. It would therefore be a mere waste of paper to add also the minor Rags, which only repeat, in endless variations, what has already been said in the great Rags over and over again, without adding the least to our knowledge.”13 Dr Trumpp again repeats these remarks even when he gives an incorrect outline of the contents of Adi Granth where he says, “By thus jumbling together whatever came in hand, without any judicious selection, the Granth has become the extremely incoherent and wearisome book, the few thoughts and ideas, that it contains, being re-peated in endless variations which are for the great part is nothing but a mere jungling of words.14 As Grammarian and Linguist whose studies were con-fined to Sanskrit and some Sindhi and Pashtu Grammarial essays, Dr Trumpp had no sense of history. He had a philosophic bent of mind but he looked at philosophy from the point of view of a Christian missionary and theo-logian, but with all the contemptuous and undignified remarks about the Sikhs and Sikh Scriptures he has not failed to note and record his admiration of the ‘linguistic treasures’ in the Adi Granth and draw the attention of even the Sikhs to his remarkably correct analysis of the Prosody of the Adi Granth. He says ‘Though the Granth, as regards its contents, is perhaps the most shallow and empty book that exists, in proportion to its size, it is on the other hand, from a linguistic point of view, of the greatest inter-est to us, as it is a real treasury of the old Hindi dialects, the specimens of which have been preserved therein which are not to be found anywhere else.”15 He was sure, and perhaps rightly so that further investigation into the lan-guage will fill the gap between old Prakrit dialects and the modern languages of Aryan.


The footnotes in the Chapter “Sketch of the Sikh 55 Gu-rus” indicate that Dr Ernest Trumpp had studied the following books: 1. Cunningham, “History of the Sikhs”, Dabistan, Malcolm, Sketch of the Sikhs, Mc Gregor, “History of the Sikhs” Vol. I, Attar Singh’s Travels of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh; Briggs: Siyar-ulMutakherin Attar Singh: Sakhi Book (Translation of Sau Sakhi). Yet he leans heavily on Shardha Ram Phillauri’s Sikhan de Raj di Vithiya, in which the Arya Samajist bias is visible on every page. Even where he is correct he is rejected probablyunder the advice of his Brahmin advisers who gave him some oral traditions that have no basis.

On Guru Nanak he claims to have based his account on janamsakhis (Colebrook MSS) and Bala’s janamsakhi Lithographed copy. He calls Guru Nanak Founder of Sikh ism whose works are dark and unintelligible to him. To the Christian missionaries like him, the miracles of Guru Nanak’s biographic accounts are rubbish and absurd,” but similar miracles in the Gospels are authentic and must be accepted. Those French scholars like Ernest Renan and many German scholars who tried to rationalize the miracles of the Bible and showed disbelief in them lost their Govt posts in France and Germany. Of this he was aware. He, however, believes that Guru Nanak’s disap-pearance in the stream (Bein) near Sultanpur and initiation into a prophetic Call was a historical fact. It was Nanak’s initiation into Guruship.

On all other Gurus his statements are blistering with error.

Guru Nanak selected a Kshatriya as his successor “because Brahmin of any note or learning had not joined him.” Angad was altogether unlettered and could himself neither read or write,” and a few of his verses in the Granth are a poor repetition of the words of Nanak and shallow in the extreme.

“16 He rightly says “All the Sikh Gurus call themselves ‘Nanak’, in order to designate themselves as legitimate successors of Nanak.” About Guru Amar Das also he says “Though unlettered like his master, who could teach him only the few simple tenets, he had heard him-self from Nanak, he composed many verses, which 56 are conspicuous for simplicity and cleanness.”17 “Ram Das, though without any scientific education gave himself much to literary work”. He states “Guru Arjun was the first to meddle with politics and he contemptuously asserts that he inserted considerable extracts from earlier popular saints in the Granth Sahib i.e. the Book held sacred as the Bible of the Sikhs, supplanting gradually the authority of the Veda and Puranas, which the unlettered people had never been able to read, whereas the Granth was composed in their mother-tongue, intelligible to the vulgar.” “Under Guru Arjun the Sikhs became a self-governing people within the State.”18 He gives confused and conflict-ing traditions about his martyrdom. His account of Guru Hargobind is based on Dabistiin mainly, and says “Guru Hargobind has given quite a different appearance to the Sikh community. The peaceful Faqirs were changed into soldiers and the Gurus’ camp resounded with the din of war; the rosary was laid aside and the sword buckled on. 19 Nearly thirty years earlier, Cunningham, with his honest historical perceptions and insight into the moral and spiritual struggle of Sikhs and Sikhism, had summed up the historical process of Sikh religion thus: “Nanak disengaged his little society of worshippers from the Hindu idolatory and Mohammadan superstition, and placed them free on a broad.basis of religious and moral purity; Amar Das preserved the infant community from declining into a sect of quietists or ascetics; Arjun gave his increasing followers a written rule of conduct and a civil organiza-tion. Hargobind added the use of arms and a military system; Gobind Singh bestowed upon them a distinct political existence and inspired them with the desire of being socially free and nationally independent. No further legislation was required; firm persuation had been elaborated, and a vague feeling had acquired consistence as an active principle.

The operation of this faith became a fact, is only now in progress, and the fruit it may yet bear cannot be foreseen. Sikhism arose, where fallen and corrupt Brahmanical doctrines were most 57 strongly acted on by the vital and spreading Mohammedan belief. “20 Dr Ernest Trumpp with his Christian Missionary bias, and professedly anti-Sikh Punjabi Brahmin advisers and guides, and a staunch Arya Samajist book “Sikhan de Raj di Vithiya” as his source of Sikh history, gives selfcontradic-tory, and malicious opinions and passes

unsubstantiated remarks about Sikh Gurus and their teachings:

His state-ments about Guru Gobind Singh’s life and teachings are wrong and utterly false. God alone knows from where he got such facts as: “The Guru offered the head of twenty five or five Sikhs at Naina Devi to please the goddess Durga.” He confuses the Battle of Bhangani (the first battle) with the battle of Chamkaur, the last battle. He either did not care to read and know the correct facts about Guru Gobind Singh’s life and work or he ignored them and has recorded these hearsay stories and street-gossips which denigrate the image of Guru Gobind Singh.


Although Trumpp tries to bring out many metaphysical and ethical doctrines of Sikhism, he starts with his usual offensive criticism: “Nanak was not a speculative philosopher, had no regular

school training.” The doctrines on which he emphasizes are:


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