S I K H I S M



Guru Nanak Dev ji, born in 1469, was a religious and social revolutionary. He protested against the industice done to the people by both the political rulers and the religious authorities of the time.

The ruling community, the Muslims, came from the Middle East. Being all Powerful, they considered themselves superior human beings and denied the social rights to their Hindu subjects. They wanted the Hindus to become Muslims and used force to achieve this aim. They often tortured them and even killed them for refusing to give up their faith. Brahmans, the priestly class, too, sucked the blood of the poor Hindu masses. They had the sole right to perform social and religious functions and therefore were able to extract forced donations from them. To refuse the helpless people their social and religious rights, the Brahmans cooperated with the ruling Muslims. About a fifth, of the local Indian people were degraded as low-caste, untouchables and treated even worse than animals.

Because of these pressures, many Hindus became Muslims. Low cast people adopted Islam to wash the stigma of being considered low grade human beings.

The Brahmans assumed the status of the highest class. According to them, the Khatris, the fighting class were next, while the working majority, Vaish, farmer and traders, were given the third rnark in society. Women were considered "incompleted" and "unclear" persons and were not entitled to the same status as men.

To educate people regarding their human rights and Sikh philosophy, Guru Nanak founded the institutions of sangat and pangat, where all people would sit together as equals without any kind of discrimination on the basis of birth, worth, sex, creed, color, etc. Where they joined together to sing praises of the Lord, their congregation was called sangat and when they sat together at to eat langar, they were called pangat. To obtain solace, all people, HIndu and Muslims irrespective of their caste flocked to join sangat and pangat. The idea of providing equal rights to all human beings was a revolutionary concept.

This organized movement which rejected the oppression of the people, through political, social or religious authority, was not to the liking of the rulers or the Hindu religious leaders. They wanted to destroy this movement and for that purpose they adopted all possible means within their power. The Gurus fearlessly continued to preach against the repressive policy of the state. When the state adopted violent methods to finish this movement of religious and human rights, the Sikhs were forced to defend themselves with the sword.

Guru Amar Das ji was charged with defiling the Hindu faith because he permitted everyone including the untouchables to take water from the same baoli (open well with steps reaching the water level) and letting everyone sit togather as equals in the pangat. The Guru was summoned to the court. Akbar, the then emperor of Delhi, listened to both sides and rejected the memorandum of the people who complained against the Guru. Later, during the rule of Jehangir who had decided to cheak the wave of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev ji was arrested, taken to Lahore, and tortured to death in 1606. Instead of being demoralized or terrorized because of this violence as intended by the rulers, the Sikhs exibited great bravery and fearlessness. They repulsed all four attacks of the Emperor's army during the life of Guru Arjan Dev ji.

The harassment of the Gurus continued far into the seventeenth and eighteeth centuries. Guru Teg Bahadur ji, the ninth Guru and his three associated Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das, Bhai Dyal were tortured and brutally killed. Guru Gonind Singh ji was also attacked many times and forced to leave Anandpur sahib, of course, after being assured of peace. Breaking their oaths, the joint army of the Hindu rajas and the Emperor of Delhi attacked the Sikhs when they were out of the fort. Thousands of Sikhs and all four sons of the Guru saheb were killed. The older two gave their lives at Chamkaur sahib battle-field defending religions freedom and human rights. The yonger two were murdered by the Nawab of Sirhind while upholding their religious faith.

The Sikhs defeated the Imperial army at Mukatsar in the last battle after which the Guru established a new Sikh centre at Talwandi, District Bhatinda. The Gurdwara there is now known as Takhat Damdama Sahib.

After the death of Guru Gobind Singh ji in 1708 at Nanded (Hajur Sahib), Maharashtra, the Sikhs continued their struggle against state repression, first, under the guidance of Baba Gurbakhsh Singh, Popular as Banda Singh Bahadur, up to 1716 and them under other Sikh leader chosen after his death. The people finally obtained full freedom from all kinds of state and religious terrorism. Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims ruled Punjab under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.




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