Five hundred years ago, Guru Nanak founded the Sikh faith in India. The Sikhs defied the caste system; rejected the authority of Hindu priests; forbade magic and idolatry; and promoted the equality of men and women -- beliefs that incurred the wrath of both Hindus and Muslims. In the centuries that followed, three of Nanak's nine successors met violent ends, and his people continued to battle hostile regimes. The conflict has raged into our own time: in 1984 the Golden Temple of Amritsar -- the holy shrine of the Sikhs--was destroyed by the Indian Army. In retaliation, Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Now, Patwant Singh gives us the compelling story of the Sikhs -- their origins, traditions and beliefs, and more recent history. He shows how a movement based on tenets of compassion and humaneness transformed itself, of necessity, into a community that values bravery and military prowess as well as spirituality. We learn how Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru, welded the Sikhs into a brotherhood, with each man bearing the surname Singh, or "Lion," and abiding by a distinctive code of dress and conduct. He tells of Banda the Brave's daring conquests, which sowed the seeds of a Sikh state, and how the enlightened ruler Ranjit Singh fulfilled this promise by founding a Sikh empire.
The author examines how, through the centuries, the Sikh soldier became an exemplar of discipline and courage and explains how Sikhs -- now numbering nearly 20 million worldwide -- have come to be known for their commitment to education, their business acumen, and their enterprising spirit.
Finally, Singh concludes that it would be a grave error to alienate an energetic and vital community like the Sikhs if modern India is to realize its full potential. He urges India's leaders to learn from the past and to "honour the social contract with Indians of every background and persuasion."
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Religion eBook: The Sikhs|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group|
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India's internal divisions and conflicts make sense only if you know something of her caste system. A unique tour de force with deep philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, it took its present form at about the beginning of the Christian era, even though the groundwork was established with the Aryan migrations into northern India around 1500 BC. On the physical side, the Aryans included a taller, larger-boned type distinguished by strong hair growth, especially beard, who settled mainly in the north, principally in the area that became known as Punjab. This type became the core of the military castes of the region, as also of the people who are the subject of this book.
"The coming of the Aryans," it has been said, "was a backward step, since the Harappan culture had been far more advanced than that of the Aryans who were as yet pre-urban." Robust and virile, with heroic appetites which included beef eating and great intakes of an amazingly potent liquor called Soma the light-skinned Aryans brought three distinct social groupings with them: Kshatriyas, the warrior rulers; Brahmins, the priestly class; and Vaishyas, who eventually evolved into traders and entrepreneurs.
After destroying the sophisticated urban North Indian civilization of the Dasyus, who peopled the Indus Valley where the Harappan culture flourished, the Aryans set about making India their home. And as with all those who have invaded India over the millennia, the Aryans too experienced a slow but steady assimilation with the existing beliefs and customs of India. Neither side, in fact, was left untouched by the assimilative experience, the attitudes and outlook of...