Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy: An Appraisal


Gurinder Singh Mann University of California, Santa Barbara _________________________________________________ Taking W.H. McLeod’s Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion as a point of departure, this essay examines the previous generation’s understanding of Guru Nanak’s life and mission and expands upon it in light of empirical evidence culled from early contemporary sources. By questioning McLeod’s arguments regarding the paucity of general historical information about Guru Nanak’s life and his close participation in the Sant community of poets such as Kabir and Ravidas, this essay argues that the Guru founded a new community replete with a distinct set of beliefs and institutional structures. While scholars have tended to focus on the upper caste Hindu background of Guru Nanak, very little attention has been directed towards articulating the social demographics of this new community, which were overwhelmingly drawn from nomadic and low-caste Hindu society. Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of the Sikh community, is a subject of perennial interest for the Sikhs and their scholars, and a quick look at any bibliography on the subject would reflect the range and the depth of writings available on various aspects of his life and teachings. Given his relatively recent dates, there is a wide variety of sources available about his life and mission ( Jagat nistaran).1 These comprise texts, including his poetic compositions and the writings of his immediate successors and early followers; sites such as Talwandi, the place of his birth, and Kartarpur (The Town of the Creator), the center he established; and two known artifacts associated with his life. 2 These sources provide primary information for a scholarly reconstruction of the Guru’s life. Among the studies that have shaped the discussion on this issue in recent scholarship, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968) by W. H. McLeod (1932–2009) would be the first to come to mind. Since its publication, this book has served as a key source of information on the Guru and the founding of the Sikh tradition in the English language. 3 Its conclusions pertaining to the details of the Guru’s life, the import of his teachings, and the nature of his legacy in the rise of the Sikh community have remained dominant in scholarship on Guru Nanak and early Sikh history created during the last quarter of the twentieth century.4


JPS 17:1&2 With the postpartition generatio n’s work in Sikh studies reaching a close, it seems reasonabl e to begin reflecting on the field’s future expansio n.5 Beginnin g this process with a discussio n on Guru Nanak and the origins of the Sikh communi ty is logical, and making Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion the point of departure

seems pragm atic. This creates the opport unity to review a schola rly icon of the past genera tion, assess the state of schola rship around one of the most signifi cant themes in Sikh history , and simult aneous ly explor e the possibi lities for future researc h in the field. Worki

ng on this assumpti on, this essay deals with the issues pertainin g to Guru Nanak’s life, teachings , and activity at Kartarpu r, which are addresse d in three stages: how McLeod treats them in Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, my assessme nt of his positions , and the possible ways to expand this discussio n. My work in recent years with the early

which resulte d in the beginn ings of the Sikh comm unity.Sikh source s has convin ced me that the interpr etation of Guru Nanak’ s life and legacy. needs close scrutin y. interpr etation of his beliefs . This project involv es a fresh look at the issues related to the life of the founde r. and a clearer sense of the sociocult ural backgrou nd of the early Sikh communi ty. A greater understa nding of this phase of the Sikh communi ty’s history would serve both as a foundatio n to interpret develop ments in subseque nt Sikh history and a window into the medieval north Indian religious landscap e. Constru cting Guru Nanak’s Life The .

and goes on to present summari es of the Guru’s life in these texts.openin g part of Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religi on presen ts a discus sion of the Guru’s life (pp. and a set of the Janam Sakhis (“life stories” [of Guru Nanak]) written over a period of two centuries (1600– 1800). subjects each one of them to a close scrutiny. 7– 147).6 From this extensive literary corpus. and places them under the categorie s of “possible . McLeod selects 124 stories from the Janam Sakhi literature . It begins with an introd uction to the source s: the Guru Granth (a largely pre1604 text). the openin g section of the Vars (ballad s) of Bhai Gurda s (d. 1637?) .

impro bable” (18). “proba ble” (37). McLeod’ s attempt . 92– 94). and closes with a page and a half summ ary of his life that is believ ed to be historical ly verifiabl e (pp. but there cannot be any disagree ment that he is correct in starting his discussio n with early sources on the life and mission of the Guru. and “impo ssible” (39) (pp.7 In addition to his historical approach . Reacti ons to McLeod’ s work on the Janam Sakhis as a source of early Sikh history range from denuncia tion to a sense of awe.” (30). 94– 99). This discus sion is follow ed by an exami nation of the details regardi ng the Guru’s dates of birth and death (pp. 146– 147).

8 Despit e these metho dologi cal .to introd uce Sikh source s in transla tion was also a major contrib ution to the field.

G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 5 s t r e n g t h s . t h e a s s u m p t i o n s t h a t M c L e . h o w e v e r .S.

Without making a distinction between an analysis of the literary form of the Janam Sakhis and making use of them as a source for reconstructing Guru Nanak’s life. h a s i t s o w n p r o b l . While following this method. McLeod does not pay the requisite attention to the chronology of the texts under discussion. writing over two and half centuries a f t e r t h e d e a t h o f G u r u N a n a k . For instance. right at the outset McLeod argues that the Janam Sakhis as a source for the Guru’s life are “highly unsatisfactory.od brought to bear on these sources are problematic. with the result that his analysis turns out to be synthetic in nature. Instead of replacing these low-value texts with some more useful sources for the purpose of writing a biography of the Guru. and adjudicates the nature of their contents. McLeod subjects them to an elaborate analysis that ultimately confirms his basic point regarding their limited historical value (pp.” and the challenge is “to determine how much of their material can be accepted as historical” (p. swapping. McLeod introduces selected episodes from these texts. and blending episodes created by individuals belonging to diverse groups with sectarian agendas. offers critical assessment of their historical value. 8). 71– 147). Selecting.

ems. Let me illustrate the limitation of his approach with reference to a story involving Guru Nanak’s journey to Mount Sumeru that McLeod refers to several times in his Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion.10 He writes. As far as I understand. not find “compelling arguments” to dismiss it. In the Puratan Janam Sakhi manuscripts. 119).9 The resulting discussion remains centered on a formalist literary study of the Janam Sakhis and makes little advance toward delineating the Nanak of history. or impossible. McLeod’s tendency to label the episodes of the Guru’s life as possible. not in fact” deserves further scrutiny. probable. “This [Sakhi] indicates a very strong tradition and one which cannot be lightly set aside. the description of the Guru’s journey to Sumeru is part of his return from Kashmir and i s r e s t r i c t e d t o a s h o r t o p e n i n g s e n t e n c e o f S a k . When Bhai Gurdas and all of the janam-sakhis unite in testifying to a particular claim we shall need compelling arguments in order to dismiss it” (p. and McLeod’s rejection of the story on the grounds that Mount Sumeru “exists only in legend. historians are expected to make sense of the information available to them. improbable. or to interpret them as hagiography has not been very productive.

[the Guru] climbed Sumeru and arrived at a place (asthan) associated with Mahadev.” The remaining story is built around the debate between the Guru and Mahadev and other Shaivite ascetics living at this location regarding the relevance of their spiritual practices and the need for social responsibility and productivity.hi 50. The episode concludes on a seeming note of congeniality and an agreement between them that they all should meet again to continue this conversation at the . This reads: “Having crossed the Savalakhu hills.

6 JPS 17:1&2 annual fair of Shivratar i to be held at Achal. which we are told was “a threeday walk from there. a Shaivite site. is well known and is around twenty miles from Kartarpu r. How did the Sumeru apparentl y located in the Punjab hills become the “legenda ry” Mount Sumeru? There are several .” The location of Achal.

000 and lakhu is 100. and on the basis of this reading claims that Guru Nanak crossed this many hills to reach Sumeru.00 0) instead of Shivali k hills. interpr ets Savala khu parbat as 125. Finally.00 0 hills (sava is ¼ of 100. the editor of the printed edition of the Purata n Janam Sakhi that McLe od uses.11 Second.interes ting details that conver ge here.00 0 = 25. Vir Singh (1872– 1957). instead of looking toward the south from the Kashmir valley with Srinagar at its center. Vir Singh takes the reverse direction and envisions Guru Nanak traveling north. building against the backdrop of HinduPuranic mytholog y and the accounts . First.

he conclu des Sumer u is in the vicinit y of Lake Mansa rovar.13 Rather than focus on this original episode for the informati on .” McLeod is quick to reject the possibilit y of “Sumeru ” being an actual mountain and the Guru having made this journey. and as a result unable to imagine that Sumeru could be a modest seat of the Shaivite ascetics that was “a threeday walk from Achal.that appear in the later Janam Sakhis .12 Not interes ted in makin g the distinc tion betwee n the details of the Purata n accoun t of Guru Nanak ’s visit to Sumer u and its elabor ation in the later Janam Sakhis . includi ng the speculati ve comment ary of Vir Singh.

family. McLeod’ s effort does not remain restricted to scholarly analysis of the Janam Sakhis but goes beyond to advise the Sikhs to discard . and a degree of amiabilit y of the dialogue — McLeod’ s primary concern is on the physical location of Sumeru. His inability to grasp the details of this episode results in seeking its dismissal . Interestin gly. Guru Nanak ’s debate s with these figures .embed ded within it—the promi nence of Shaivit e ascetic s in both the Punjab and the border ing hills. his unequi vocal rejecti on of their way of life and the need for its replac ement with a life based on person al. and social commit ment.

”16 Unlike the gospels. he invested a great deal of time and energy to the study of this literary corpus. the Janam Sakhis are not consider ed authorita tive .15 As a result. as “seemi ngly harmle ss stories can be lethal to one’s faith.”1 4 In my view. McLe od’s analysi s of the Janam Sakhis is less inform ed by the nature and use of these source s within Sikh literature than by an interpreti ve lens that views the Janam Sakhi literature as Sikh counterp arts of the gospels. but was deeply saddened by the Sikh response to his “best scholarly work. however.them from their literar y reserv oir for the benefit of the comin g genera tions.

nor are their author s commi tted to the divine status of their subject . genera te feeling s of devoti on among their . these texts attemp t to narrate what the Guru did and said. In their own unique ways.source s of belief.

S.G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 7 l i s t e n e r s / r e a d e r s a s t h e f o l l o w e r s o f t h e p a t h p a .

M5. and the critical editions of these texts are slowly becoming available. .17 Rather than trying to overturn these accounts along the lines McLeod established. when the people who had met the Guru and had the opportunity to hear his message from himself may still have been around (Guru Nanaku jin sunhia pekhia se phiri garbhasi na parai re. 612). Miharban (pre1620). and in the process preserve his remembrance. Let me explain what I mean with some details. and Bala (1648– 1658).20 The dates of the Puratan are suggestive of an early period in the history of the community. GG.ved by him. I believe that scholars need to study early Sikh sources such as the Janam Sakhis by developing a clearer understanding of their dates of origin and the context of their production. the evidence seems to point to the rise of the Janam Sakhis in the following sequence: Puratan (pre-1600).19 This seems to be the only way to flesh out significant information available there.18 The field is fortunate to have sufficient manuscript data and related historical evidence to address these issues. On the basis of my work with the Janam Sakhi manuscripts. The evidence indicates that this text was created by someone who was part of the group that l a t e r e m e r g e d a s t h e m a i n s t r e a m S i k h c o m m u n i t y .

The possibility that the author of this text and some of his listeners knew Guru Nanak as a real person— who bathed. the importance of the Miharban and Bala Janam Sakhis falls in a different arena. Let me present some details available in the P u r a t a n J a n a m S a k h i t o s u p p o r t i t s r e l e v a n c e f o r .22 Given the variations in time of their origin and context of production. it is essential to study each of these texts separately to see what they have to offer on the Guru’s life and the early Sikh community. worked in the fields.21 Whereas the farthest limit of travels to the east in Puratan is Banaras. Elaborating on the Puratan narrative. these two Janam Sakhis expand the scope of the Guru’s travels and introduce a circle of people who would have made up the third and fourth generation of his followers. Unlike the Puratan. they both reflect the points of view of the groups that created them and mirror the divisions within the community and the polemics involved in presenting the founder in the middle decades of the seventeenth century. and had to deal with sons who were not always obedient—makes this text an invaluable source of information on the Guru’s life. Also as sectarian documents. ate food. Miharban extends the travels to Assam and Puri. rested at night.

understanding the Guru’s life. we are told that the Sikhs gathered at the Guru’s house (dargah). and not after the completion of his travels. his primary concerns.23 As for the daily routine at Kartarpur. and the contours of the early Sikh community. as it is commonly presented in current scholarship. the Puratan narrates that it was established after the first long journey (udasi) of the Guru. recited his compositions as . With regard to the founding of Kartarpur.

his home would have been a sizable establish ment large enough to accomm odate congrega tional prayers. and shared a communi ty meal (parsad/ rasoi/lan gar). provide facilities for the making and serving . listened to his expositio n of the ideas therein (katha).8 JPS 17:1&2 part of their daily prayers (kirtan). Given this descripti on.

have an audience with the Guru.24 The Purata n refers to the recitati on of Guru Nanak ’s Alaha nhia (songs of death) and Sohila (praise ) at the time of his death (Sakhi 57). his abode served as the meeting place. and put up visitor s. and meet .25 There is also the firm belief that the Sikhs in their religio us life did not follow what others around them practic ed (Sakhi 41). the Puratan reports that Kartarpu r with the Guru’s dargah at its center represent ed the sacred site for the Sikhs.26 The presence of the Guru sanctifie d it. In no uncertain terms. and there is an expectati on that the Sikhs living in distant places should make a pilgrima ge.of the food.

festivals. M1. GG. M1. and the text refers to the role of holy places. GG.their fellow Sikhs living there. 503. GG. and there is nothing that could compare with his presence (Guru saru sagaru bohithho guru . The Guru is the central figure in this vision. he is availa ble to provid e exeges is to help the Sikhs unders tand them (Sunhi sikhva nte Nanak u binavai. and the chanting of sacred verses as an integral part of religious life (Athsathi tirath devi thape purabi lagai banhi. 879). His compo sitions repres ent wisdo m (Sabhi nad bed gurba nhi. M1. 150). The se details align well with the ideas of Guru Nanak.

M1. 1328). 1011. Aft er the establi shmen t of Kartar pur. the Guru is reported to have initiated people into the Sikh fold through the use of the ceremon y called the “nectar of the feet” (charana mrit). Nanak gur Saman i tirathi nahi koi sache gur gopala . M1. Guru sagaru amrits aru jo ichhe so phalu pave. 437.tirathu dariau . GG. GG. organize . M1. the Himalay an foothills in the north. Mecca in the west. and Guru dariau sada jalu nirmal u.27 During these travels. the Purata n reports four long missiona ry journeys —to the region of Sindh in the south. GG. 17. and the presentday Peshawar area in the northwes t.

and that the Guru continue d his travels after its establish ment. most older scholars are convince d that Kartarpu r came at the end of the Guru’s travels. and assign ed manjis (“cots.d Sikh congre gation s in distant places. and that he had no interest in building institutio ns. Where as the narrato r of the Purata n leaves no doubt that a fullfledge d effort at the founding and maintena nce of a communi ty occurred at Kartarpu r. Rathe r than attribute the institutio nal founding of a communi ty to . ” positio ns of authori ty) to local Sikhs. who were given authori ty to overse e the daily routine of their congre gation s.

Guru 1581– 1606).Guru Nanak. schola rs of the past genera tion have highlig hted the activiti es of later Gurus. 1509?.2 8 Worki ng on the basis . especi ally Guru Amard as (b. Guru 1552– 1574) and Guru Arjan (1563.

Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 9 o f h i s b e l i e f t h a t G u r u N a n a k r e j e c t e d t h e i .S.G.

and passed it on ceremonially to his successor. the Guru presented the pothi containing his compositions to Angad. Gurmukhi (the script of the Gurmukhs/Sikhs). and making sure that all concerned accept the transmission of authority before his death. which implies that from that point on Angad was in charge of the spiritual affairs (din). The Guru is presented as having conducted an open search for a successor. the Guru offered some coins to Angad. with the result that he was his formal successor and the leader of the Sikhs (Sakhi 57). In the first stage. Guru Angad.nstitution of scripture and that it started with Guru Arjan. declaring the succession in a public ceremony. McLeod and his generation missed the importance of the facts that Guru Nanak evolved a new script.29 The Puratan also informs us that the succession ceremony of Guru Nanak was performed in two stages. committed to writing his compositions in the form of a pothi (book) bound in leather. Examining Guru Nanak’s Beliefs I n t h e s e c o n d h a l f o f G u r u N a n a k a n d t h e S i k h R . In the second part. which in all likelihood indicated transference of the control of the daily affairs (dunia) of the Sikh community to him (Sakhi 56).

drew their ideas. 148– 226).”30 While supporting McLeod’s use of Guru Nanak’s compositions as the source materials and the need to situate the Guru within the context of his times. Working on this understanding.eligion. McLeod presents his interpretation of Guru Nanak’s teachings (pp.” and “a marginal contribution from Sufism.” which he defines as a synthesis of elements from “Vaishnava Bhakti.31 Explaining his formulation of the “Sant synthesis” as a reservoir from which the religious poets of the time. i n c . including Guru Nanak. He argues that Guru Nanak’s writings can be understood within the paradigm of the “Sant tradition.” “The Divine Self-Expression.” “hatha-yoga. McLeod writes: “Many of these concepts Guru Nanak shared with the e a r l i e r a n d c o n t e m p o r a r y r e l i g i o u s f i g u r e s .” and “The Discipline. he then lays out the Guru’s teachings under the headings of “The Nature of God. 149–150). one cannot help but raise issues with how he accomplished this task.” “The Nature of Unregenerate Man.” He assumes Guru Nanak to be “a mystic” seeking an “ineffable union with God” (pp. He begins by underlining the need to base this discussion on the Guru’s compositions and interpret them by situating them in their historical context.

categories.luding Kabir. 151).32 There is no denying that Guru Nanak shared ideas. It is at once evident that his thought is closely related to that of the Sant tradition of Northern India and there can be no doubt that much of it was derived directly from this source” (p. and terminology with fellow poet saints. but McLeod pushes this position to a point that leaves little .


JPS 17:1&2 provision for any significa nt originalit y for any of these individua ls’ respectiv e ideas. It is interestin g to examine how McLeod arrived at this conclusi on to assess the legitimac y of this conceptu alization. 33 Writing in 2004, McLeod reports that he started the research that resulted in Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion with the composit

ions of nonSikh saints record ed in the Guru Granth , but found that “their though t was rather difficu lt to work into a cohere nt system .” He then “turne d to the works of Guru Nanak ,” and seemin gly reache d his formul ation that all of them drew their ideas from of the “Sant

synthesis .” Withi n the context of the Guru Granth, it is fair to claim that there is a relative homogen eity of overall beliefs between the writings of the non-Sikh saints and those of Guru Nanak, and this is the reason why these people’s composit ions appear there in the first place. It is thus true that the composit ions of these saints in the Guru Granth carry

themes that align with those of Guru Nanak, and since these people came prior to the time of the Guru, it is reason able to infer that he must have borro wed these ideas from them. But the initial difficu lty that McLe od faced in reduci ng the writin g of the nonSikh saints

into “a coherent system” points to the complexi ty of their thinking and needs to be taken into considera tion when arguing for their mutual influence upon one another. We know that the composit ions of the nonSikh saints that appear in the Guru Granth represent an edited version of their literary productio n and thus reflect what largely suited the Sikh religious

on the other. howev er. As far as I can see. McLeod’ s building the argument of the “Sant synthesis ” involved reading Kabir and then extendin g his ideas to Namdev and Ravidas. 34 Barrin g Kabir (292 chaup adas and 249 shalok s). and Guru Nanak. the remainin g ten “Sants” have a total of 19 chaupad as. does not provid e eviden ce that he had made any effort to study the writin gs of these figures that appear outsid e the Sikh canon. and Ravidas (41 chaupad as). McLe od’s discus sion here. Namd ev (60 chaup adas). I believe that each of these figures has to be studied . on the one hand.and social thinkin g.

in depth before one could make a firm claim of the type McLe od made. There is. no evidence to support the assumpti on that Guru Nanak knew or had . 35 In additio n. on the other. however. It made the Guru a firm part of “Sant synthesis .” on the one hand. he must have borrowed them from his predeces sor. given the state of knowl edge in the mid1960s. McLe od assum ed that since the Guru’s ideas were availa ble in the writin gs of Kabir. This position served as a launchin g pad for his twofold analysis. and there was no way to do that. and little basis was left for a belief in the originalit y found in his writings.

and the manus cript eviden ce points toward the compo sitions of these poets enterin g the Sikh scriptu ral text during the period of Guru Amard as.access to the writin gs of Kabir or those of the other nonSikh saints.36 .

S. t h i s p r o b l e m a ti c c o n c e p t o f t . Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 11 B u il t o n i n a d e q u a t e d a t a .G.

on the one hand. It resulted in his overemphasizing the similarities between the ideas of the Guru and Kabir. which constitutes the largest single unit (4 chaupadas and 130 shaloks) after Kabir. While singing about God. and dismissal of the links between the Guru’s ideas and those of the Sufis such as Farid and Bhikhanh. the Guru is focused on the creative aspect that brought the universe into being (Ja tisu bhanha ta jagatu upia. and is immanent i n it ( S a b h t e r i q u d r a t i t u n q a d i r u k a r t a p a k i n a i p a q u .he “Sant synthesis” went on to provide the framework for McLeod’s “historical analysis” of the Guru’s writings. McLeod dismisses that role as “marginal” at best.” one cannot help but question McLeod’s selection of what he thinks constitute the primary themes in Guru Nanak’s compositions. and thus takes no interest in explaining their significance. it is important not to miss the specific aspects of the divine nature that fired the Guru’s imagination. while it is true that the nature of God is an important theme in Guru Nanak’s poetry. GG. 1036). For instance. on the other. Rather than address the role of Islam in Guru Nanak’s thinking.38 In addition to the difficulties inherent in McLeod’s formulation of the “Sant synthesis.37 McLeod does not take any note of the presence of Farid’s compositions in the Guru Granth. M1.

6.. GG.4 0 I t m a y b e h e l p f . of which seventeen evoke various levels of creation and four underscore divine sovereignty. Simultaneously. 8– 9. the Creator turned Sovereign (Sahibu/Patshahi) is understood to be deeply involved in the day-to-day making and dismantling of the world (Bhani bhani gharhiiai gharhi gharhi bhajai dhaji usarai usare dhahai. M1. Vaikhe vigsai kari vicharu.39 This interest in the creation as divine manifestation is representative of the Guru’s thinking in general and a p p e a r s i n m a n y o f h i s o t h e r c o m p o s it i o n s . M1. and initiating radical changes in the natural state of things when necessary (Nadia vichi tibe dikhale thali kare asgah. GG. 935. which enjoys the distinction of appearing three times in the Guru Granth (M1. and 347–348) and is part of Sikh prayers recited at both sunrise and sunset. GG 8). M1. It begins with a question: What is the nature of the abode where the Divine sits and takes care of the universe (sarab samale)? The answer to this appears in twenty-one verses. Guru Nanak’s interest in divine nature is thus geared toward describing how the Sovereign runs the universe and the implications of this belief for orienting human life. GG. 144). GG. M1. 464). Let me illustrate this with reference to the Guru’s composition entitled So Daru (“That Abode”).

the Guru seems perfectly at peace with the position that they cannot be expressed in human language and conceptual categories (Tini samavai chauthai vasa. the divine mystery has not been . For him. As for more philosophical aspects of divine nature. GG 839). M1.ul for scholars to consider that Guru Nanak’s reflection on the Divine is actually focused on the theocentric nature of the universe.

12 JPS 17:1&2 fathomed in human history (Ast dasi chahu bhedu na paia. GG. . 355. Jah jah dekha taha taha tu hai tujh te nikasi phuti mara. M1. Bed katabi bhedu na jata. GG. and what human beings are left with is to accept this limitatio n and make the best of the situation (Tu dariao dana bina mai machhuli kaise antu laha. 1021). M1. GG. M1.

25). Giv en this contex t of unders tandin g, the primar y respon sibility of human beings is to grasp the values that underli ne the divine creatio n of (rachn a) and caring for (samal ) the world, apply them to use in their daily routine , and in the proces s becom e an active part of the

universal harmony as well as contribut e toward it (Gagan mahi thal ravi chand dipak bane, M1, GG, 13).41 For Guru Nanak, there are two stages of spiritual develop ment: acquiring the knowled ge of truth, which seems to be easily accessibl e from Guru Nanak himself (Bade bhag guru savahi apuna bhed nahi gurdev murar, M1, GG, 504) and translatin

g this acquisi tion into one’s life (Guri kahia so kar kamav ahu, M1, GG, 933; Sacha hu urai sabhu ko upar sachu achar, M1, GG, 62) throug h labor and persev erance (Jah karnhi tah puri mat, karni bajha hu ghate ghat, M1, GG, 25). The goal of life is not to be

reached in the possessio n of truth but in its applicati on in one’s day-today activities (Jehe karam kamie teha hoisi, M1, GG, 730; Jete jia likhi siri kar, karanhi upari hovagi sar, M1, GG, 1169; Sa jati sa pati hai jehe karam kamai, M1, GG, 1330). McLe od’s elaborate expositio n of Guru Nanak’s teachings remained centered on his “theolog y” and allows no room

for ethics. There is no referen ce to the Guru’s crucial stress on a life center ed on core values such as person al purity (ishna n), social involv ement with charity (dan), forgive ness (khima ), honor (pati), humili ty (halim i), rightfu l share (haq halal), and service (Vichi dunia sev

kamiai ta dargahi basanhi paiai, M1, GG, 26; Ghari rahu re man mughadh iane, M1, GG, 1030; Ghali khai kichhu hathahu de, M1, GG, 1245). Nor is McLeod able to take note of the Guru’s overarchi ng belief that liberation is to be attained collectiv ely (Api tarai sangati kul tarahi, M1, GG, 353, 662, 877, 944, and 1039), emphasiz ing the need for commun

the Guru also spoke empha tically of collect ive liberati on (Api tarahi sangat i kul tarahi tin safal janam u jagi aia. age. or genderrelated distinctio ns. which represent ed rejection of any social. GG. Unlike other medie val poet saints. As for traditiona . M1.al living and social produc tivity. M1. and went beyon d singin g about human equalit y to actuall y challengi ng the Hindu caste hierarchy (Sabhan a jia ika chhau. 1039). GG. McLe od’s categoriz ation of Guru Nanak’s teachings brings to the forefront issues pertainin g to the most effective way to interpret Guru Nanak’s beliefs. 83) by starting the langar (commun al meal).

42 The primar y metho d has been to focus on Guru Nanak ’s compo sitions.l Sikh schola rship. The author would introd uce the contex t in which the Guru is believ ed to have written the . there have been two distinc t ways to expou nd on his compo sitions.

S.G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 13 c o m p o s it i o n u n d e r d i s c u s s i o n . w o u l d t h e n q u o t e it s t e x .

t. and explain its message in the medium of prose. and McLeod (1960s). as well as anthologies of the compositions used for the purpose of exegesis in devotional sessions.46 Whereas the commentators of the former version aimed to contextualize the composition under discussion within Guru Nanak’s life and deal with its total contents.44 The second type of analysis of Guru Nanak’s and his successors’ teachings begins with Bhai Gurdas. the writers working along these lines began to use prose as their medium of expression. w it h t h e p r e s e n t a ti o n o f a p a r . These commentaries. Beginning with the last quarter of the nineteenth century. and then elaborated upon them by paraphrasing the Guru’s writings in his own poetry. are extant beginning with the late sixteenth century. Sher Singh (1940s). the latter option involved an e x e r c i s e i n f o r m a l a n a l y s i s .45 This approach achieved a high degree of expansion in the works of Jodh Singh (1930s).43 This method of analysis of the Guru’s compositions continues till the present day and can be seen working in the writings of scholars trained in the taksals (“mints. who selected a set of themes that he wanted to share with his audience. and from this point on these writings emerged as an important genre.” Sikh seminaries).

In other words. the term seva (service) in the verses of Guru Nanak can only provide the basic data. the second in all likelihood began as answers to questions from the audience by those who had an overall understanding of the message of the Gurus. and the information about the context in which these unfolded. say. a computer search of.ticular theme without having to clarify its precise position in the larger context of Guru Nanak’s beliefs. The effort in the past years to take up a theme. it involved the author’s mechanical selection of themes. as in the case of McLeod. In my view. While the first had some sense of episodic completeness in its devotion to Guru Nanak’s thinking. catalogue its appearances in the writings of the Gurus. and the resulting imposition of a system on the Guru’s ideas may have its strengths but also has the potential to become a problem. and essentially summarize these quotations remains limited. which needs to be situated w it h i n t h e l a r g e r c o n t e x t o f h i s w r it i n g s a n d t h o s e o f h i s s u . however. the nature of his activity particularly at Kartarpur. As it developed. the aforementioned approaches that analyze Guru Nanak’s teaching by focusing on his compositions need to be refined as well as expanded to include the details of his life. let alone situating it in the activity of his life.

ccessors to arrive at its significance in the Sikh thinking. McLeod focused on the early sources such as the Janam Sakhis. and for the exposition of his teaching . The Founding of Kartarpur When constructing Guru Nanak’s life.

14 JPS 17:1&2 he was content with a formal analysis of the Guru’s composit ions.47 There is no move toward linking the . and the two decades of the Guru’s life at Kartarpu r are covered in the concludi ng page and half. The sections devoted to the Guru’s life and his teachings in Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion remain mechanic ally juxtapose d.

For him. . one which does not depart far from Sant sources as far as its fundame ntal compone nts are concerne d. the selfimpose d responsib ility of overseein g its welfare. which resulte d in the gatheri ng of a comm unity. Mc Leod has little to say on the Kartar pur phase of the Guru’s life. “the pattern evolved by Guru Nanak is a reworkin g of the Sant synthesis . and the creation of a blueprint to ensure its future stability. especi ally the foundi ng of Kartar pur. and the legacy that he left for posteri ty. The categorie s employe d by Guru Nanak are the categorie s of the Sants.Guru’s beliefs with what he did during the course of his life.

” “pilgrima ge. and the doctrin e he affirms is their doctrin e” (p. Fully convince d of Guru Nanak’s rejection of “external authority.” “ritual bathing. ” “ceremo nies.”48 Having argued this with considera ble vigor. McLeod shows no interest in addressin g the issue of why he was the only one among his peers to think of founding a communi ty. 161).” and it applies to Guru Nanak in “a highly qualified sense. .the termin ology he uses is their termin ology.” “religiou s texts.” and so on. McLeo d believe s that the term “found er” implie s that someo ne “origin ated not merely a group of follow ers but also a school of though t. or set of teachin gs.

153). the lives of the people at Kartarpu r were oriented around three primary rhythms: meditatio n. He misses the interwov en vision of liberation and landscap e as reflected in Guru . he underc uts the import ance of such institut ional structu res. on the other. on the one hand.McLeo d is relucta nt to explai n why the Guru got into the enterpr ise of gatheri ng a comm unity with numer ous institut ional structu res (p. and seems to point toward its being some sort of “Hindu” group centered on meditatio n. search for liberation . By empha sizing the “religi ous” nature of Guru Nanak’ s life and legacy. and work in the fields.49 For him.

M1. migrat ory birds. He misses Guru Nanak’ s recogn ition of the beauty of creatio n and his keenne ss to see the world before replica ting it in Kartarpu r (Sabh dunia subhann u sachi samaiai. and a proactive belief in human equality . shops. the Persia n wheel. M1. rain. animal s. Tat tirath ham nav khand dekhe hat patnh bazara. bazaar s. GG. M1. sacred centers . and so on.50 Guru Nanak’s emphasis on radical monothei sm. 142.Nanak’ s poetry saturat ed with the images of the soil. 156). a life that follows a balance of religious and sociopoli tical commitm ent (din and duniya. 1410). GG. GG. plants. Dunia karanhi dinu gavaia.

The Guru’s vision of social commi tment was also deeply inform ed by his interes t in and comm entary on conte mpora ry .and so on. are not taken into consid eration at all. which disting uish him from his fellow Shaivit e or Vaishn ava saints of the period.

F o r e x a m p l e . t h e G u r u ’ s f a t h e .G.S. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 15 p o li ti c a l d e v e l o p m e n t s .

chaudhari. jai j a g a i n b e t h e s u t e . and his fatherin-law. who later emerged as the most powerful political leader in Lahore and was instrumental in inviting the ruler of Kabul. Guru Nanak’s compositions reflect his extensive interest in and knowledge of politics and his discomfort with the prevailing corruption around the key political institutions (Raje sih muqadam kute. were both revenue collectors and were thus part of the political hierarchy of the time.52 He also worked for a decade or so in Sultanpur. GG. mahajan) and offer defense against the accusations that his buffaloes had damaged the neighbor’s wheat crop (Puratan. Sakhi 4). 1286). G G . the Guru had to present himself in front of the village elders (panch. The Guru’s travels further exposed him to political realities. Mula Chonha. Kalu Bedi. mukadam.5 3 H e t o o k n o ti c e o f t h e M u . 1529).r. Babur (d. 1 2 8 8 ) . and it is significant to register that those who took up the Guru’s path at Kartarpur comprised a revenue-paying farming community with close contact to the political powers of the time who determined the terms of revenue and then ensured its collection (Fasali aharhi eku namu savananhi sachu nau. M1. M 1 . to invade the region in the 1520s. a district headquarters for Daulat Khan.51 As a teenager. mai mahadudu likhaia khasmai kai dari jai.

GG. GG. Guru Nanak rejected any justification for a system based on bribes and false witnesses (Vaddhi lai ke haqu gavai. M1. the Guru’s early upbringing provided him the opportunity to know how the political authority functioned in the village (Sakhi 3. M1. GG. but he could not accept violence in which the innocent and the hapless bore the brunt of political conflict (Je sakata sakate ko mare ta man rosu na hoi. Puratan). GG. M1. 661. In light of his belief in divine justice as the organizing principle in the world. 1032). In other words. GG. He himself was no pacifist and accepted confrontation between opposing political powers and the ensuing bloodshed as a way of life. GG. 417–418. a n d c o n d e m n a n y t e n d e n c y t h a t m a y l e a d t o w a r d a n a s . M1. the nature of its relationship with that of the local headquarters (shiq).ghal invasions. 1 2 4 5 ) . 951. His compositions underscore the need to be involved in life at all levels (Jab lagu dunia reahie Nanaku kicchhu sunhie kichhu kahie. Ghali khai kichhu hathahu dehi Nanaku rahu pachhanhahi sei. and then through it to the center at Lahore (suba). M1. Lai ki vaddhi denh ugahai. Sakata sihu mare pai vagai khasmai sa pursai. and 722). 360. 360). and was the only spiritual figure of his time to have written on the subject (which he did in the form of a set of four compositions: M1.

Remaining fixated on the “religious” nature of the community. 1245). It is reasonable to argue that these ideas played an important role in his decision first to gather a community at Kartarpur and then to prepare a blueprint for its future. M1.cetic path (Makhatu hoi ke kan parhe phakar kare hour jat gavai. GG. scholars have totally missed the possibility that Guru Nanak’s effort at Kartarpur may have been patterned on the model .

This position comes into focus in the light of the early Sikh communi ty’s understa nding of Guru Nanak’s life and activity.16 JPS 17:1&2 of Lahore. which appears a decade or so after the Guru’s death. was creating a better version of it. explains it in terms of the establish . but at the same time. The first account of the founding of Kartarpu r.

folio 215). Rai Balwa nd and Satta Dum. 966). Guru 1539– 1552. The Goindval Pothis compiled in the early 1570s refer to Guru Nanak as the “Bedi King. 966).” who supports both the religious and the temporal dimensio ns of the world (Baba Nanak Vedi Patisahu din dunia ki tek.ment of a kingdo m with a castle at its base (Nana ki raju chalia sachu kotu satanh i niv dai. GG. Rai Balwand and Satta Dum. 1504. Lahan he dhareou chhatu siri kari sifati amritu pivade. GG. and his nomin ation of a succes sor is descri bed in metap hors of the transfe rence of his royal throne to Guru Angad (b. Pinjore. and call him and his successor s as the .

54 The bards at the Sikh court of the subseq uent decade s catego rized the activit y of Guru Nanak in the areas of politic s (raj) and spiritu ality (jog).“True Kings” (Baba Nanak u.55 In his vars. Nanak Nirmal Panthu chalia. Jaland har. GG. the Guru enjoyed the supreme . Amard as. Bhai Gurdas presented the establish ment of the Kartarpu r communi ty in terms of the minting a new coin (Maria sika jagati vich. Sache Patisa h. and presen ted his line of succes sors as a divinely sanctione d royal dynasty (Sri guru raj abichalu atalu ad purakhi furmaio. 1: 45). the Bhatts. As mentione d earlier. 1390). folio 8). Angad .

and the charana mrit (initiatio n ceremon y) brought new people into the communi ty. served as agencies of internal solidarity as well as distinctio n from others such as Shaivites . The daily prayers based on the recitation of the composit ions of the Guru. and the pothi contai ning his compo sitions marke d a symbo lic versio n of it. the manjis repres ented this in distant congre gation s.authori ty at Kartar pur. followed by the langar. the Guru’s darga h (home ) served as the Sikh tirath (sacre d spot) and the destina tion of pilgri mage. In additio n. Shaktas. Vaishana vites. which involved commun al cooking and sharing food. .

schola rs have not paid adequa te attenti on to the geogra phical and demog raphic consid eration s that govern ed Guru Nanak ’s decisio n to settle there. and Sunnis . We know that Talwandi was . The Puratan reports that Guru Nanak started some sort of commun al activity at Talwandi (Sakhi 38). In additio n to the institut ional marker s presen t at Kartar pur. reference s to its establish ment in the early texts and its geograph ical location offer interestin g data. but that ultimatel y he decided to move on and establish Kartarpu r (Sakhi 40). his native village.Sufis. Thoug h the archeo logical remain s of Kartarpu r are not available .

and given this situati on. the layout of the village would have a mosqu e at its center. a highcaste Hindu conver t to Islam. which would be in proxi mity to the Hindu quarter s. .founde d by Rai Bhoa. as we can guess from the layout of village s of the time. The Purata n also mentio ns the presen ce of a temple there.

G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 17 I t s e e m s r e a s o n a b l e t o a s s u m e t h a t o n c e G u r u N a n a k s a .S.

and was aware of the fertility of the soil with plenty of rain and subsoil water ensuring the economic viability of the new community. McLeod and scholars of his generation took for granted t h a t t h e e a r l y S i k h s c a m e f r o m t h e H i n d u f o l d . worked for Ajita Randhawa.56 With regards to the demographic composition of the community at Kartarpur. and would have been of help in making this move possible. b u t n e w i n f . rather than having to function in an environment of competition with Hindu and Muslim neighbors on a daily basis (Sakhi 41). he thought of a more congenial location for its development. A host of reasons seem to be in place for his choice of the Kartarpur area. a Jat village chief in the area. His compositions manifest a high degree of sensitivity to the beauty of the natural world. His father-in-law. with the river Ravi entering the Punjab plains and the Shivalik foothills in view. would have been attractive for the Guru. This situation would also imply that the Guru knew the area well. Kartarpur was thus an ideal location for the founding of a community. Mulah Chonha. and the area around Kartarpur.w his communal experiment to be taking off in Talwandi. Its location on the pilgrimage routes marked a potential for access to a stream of spiritual seekers open to taking up a new way of life.

a closer examination of evidence from the Puratan and Bhai Gurdas regarding figures considered to be the prominent Sikhs of Guru Nanak’s day reveals a different demographic portrait. Kheda Soiri. an upper-caste (Vaishiya) group within the Hindu social hierarchy to which Guru Nanak’s family belonged. Mula Kirh.” and that this relationship resulted in the large-scale entry of Jats into the Sikh community in the closing decades of the sixteenth century. & Gajanh Upal . This understanding is. during a period of growing hostility with the Mughals. it is argued. constituted the original Sikh community.58 However.ormation sheds a different light on their socioreligious background.57 The received wisdom states that the Khatris. We are then told that the Khatris were “the teachers of the Jats. Pirthi Mal Saihgal. Rama Didi. based on the evidence that appears in the early sources. Pirtha S oiri. Shihan. Bhagta Ohri. The Puratan Janam Sakhi 2 Jats Saido and Gheho 1 calico printer (chimmba) Siho 1 blacksmith (lohar) Hassu 1 Muslim singer (mirasi) Mardana The Vars of Bhai Gurdas 9 Khatris Taru Popat.

F i r a n h a K h e h r a 1 b l a c k s m i t h G u j a r . and Bur ha Ran dha wa.18 JPS 17:1&2 3 Jats Ajit a.

it is apparent that these names do not support the type of the Khatri hegemon y argued for in current scholarsh ip.1 b a r b e r ( n a i) D h i n g a 1 M u s li m s i n g e r M a r d a n a 59 Althou gh these statisti cs are not substanti al enough to provide a firm basis to definitive ly judge the social composit ion of the early Sikh communi ty. The fact that half of the supposed Sikh leadershi p (ten out of nineteen mentione d above) came from a lower caste/out caste/no madic .

It may also be useful to reiterat e that all five people who accom panied the Guru during his travels came from an outcast e backgr ound. Nanaku tin kai sangi sathi vadia siau ka ris. M1. or any other place. GG. we have to consider the possibilit y that the people residing at Kartarpu r had . which fits well with the Guru’s affection for the downtrod den (Nicha andari nich jati nichi hu ati nichu. 15).backgr ound makes it difficu lt to accept that the social compo sition of the comm unity was domin ated by the uppercaste Khatri s. the Guru’s village. Since there is no reference to any large Khatri moveme nt to Kartarpu r from Talwandi .

Nais. A survey of the names of the villages in the vicinity of Kartarpu r also shows that the Jats and those who worked for them (Kalals.come from its immed iate vicinit y (Sakhi 40). its develop ment under the Sultans (fifteenth century). Lohar.60 Let us. and further consolid ation under the Mughals (1526-). As for the history of the central Punjab during this period.61 The arrival of the Persian wheel (harhat) was the key instrume nt in the region’s develop ment. then. consid er an alterna tive scenari o of the compo sition of the origina l Sikh comm unity. . the local traditi ons mentio n the region’ s devast ation by the Mango ls (1390s).

63 As for the social history of the Jats. and that by the 1520s these people were suffici ently powerf ul to enter the memoi rs of the ruler of Kabul. and Gardizi’s Zainul Akhbar (eleventh century).) were its primar y inhabit ants. who was on his way to becom e Emper or Babur.Tarkh anhs. the founde r of the great Mugha l dynast y.62 He remem bers them as troubleso me and problema tic. and their resistanc e to external interfere nce also surfaces in the sources such as the Chachna ma (eighth century with a Farsi version prepared in the thirteent h century). etc. there seems to be an interestin g evolution in the first half of the .

second millen nium. The Al Hind (early elevent h centur y) labels these nomad s as the “low Shudra s”; Abul Fazal’s Ain-iAkbari (late sixteen th centur y) record s them as large landho lders (zamin dars) on both sides of the river Ravi; and the Dabist an-iMazah ib (mid-

seventee nth century) elevates them a notch up to the lowest rung of the Vaishiyas .64 During this period, the Jats took up

G.S. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy

19 s e tt l e d a g r i c u lt u r e a n d b e c a m e p r i m a r y p r o d u c e r s o f t h

e food that the urban society consumed. Given the situation, it is not hard to explain the Jat elevation in the hierarchy from a low caste to the bottom of an upper-caste level. No citydwelling Hindu would have relished the idea of eating the stuff produced by supposedly low or outcaste people. It is also important to register that we cannot take it for granted that the Jats necessarily perceived themselves as Shudras, Vaishiyas, or even part of this caste-based society. Once settled, however, they would be in search of ways to construct ties with the society around them. As part of this agenda, we can understand their large-scale entry into Islam in west Punjab, the Sikh path in the central areas, and the beginning of a tedious process of working out a relationship with the caste hierarchy within Hindu society in the areas now known as Harayana and western Uttar Pradesh.65 Guru Nanak’s move to Kartarpur raises the possibility that he was aware of this sociodemographic situation, and that this might even be a factor in his decision to go there. The place offered fertile soil as well as a large constituency of rural people who were in search of a socioreligious identity. Given his own landowning, farming family setting—the only Sikh Guru

t o h a v e c o m e f r o m t h i s b a c k g r o u n d — G u r u N a n a k w o u l d h a v e h

His calling the Creator the Great Farmer. Hoi kirsanhu imanu jamai lai bhistu dozaku murhai ev janhi. 595. GG. 19). seeing the beginning of the universe in terms of sowing seed (Api sujanhu na bhulai sacha vad kirsanhu. M1. M1. 24. M1. GG. Man hali kisranhi karanhi saramu panhi tanu khetu. given their own traditions of tribal justice and resistance to any outside infringement in their activity. “the language of the Jats. w h o b e li e v e d t h a t h e h a d b e e n a s s i g n e d a m i s s i o n o f c r e a ti n g . M1. namu biju santokhu sauhaga rakhu gharibi vesu. It may also be interesting to point out that the author of the Dabistan-i-Mazahib considers Guru Nanak compositions to be in Jataki.”66 Guru Nanak’s concerns with corruption associated with political institutions and discomfort with injustice referred to earlier would have worked well with these people. GG. Kartarpur’s location thus points toward the possibility of an interesting meeting between a substantive figure.ad no problems in building ties with the Jat neighbors and invite them to join his path.” who have “no regard for Sanskrit language. and interpreting the key values in terms related to farming would have been of considerable fascination for these people (Amalu kari dharati biju sabdo kari sachu ki ab nit dehi panhi. pahila dharti sadhi kai sachu namu de danhu. GG 1171).

M1. 150. Api tarahi sangati kul tarahi tin safal janamu jagi aia. M1. 1039). and people who lived in its vicinity and were searching for a community that could help their transition from a nomadic to sedentary lifestyle. Hari kirati rahiras hamari Gurmukhi Panth atitang. . GG. M1. GG. GG. 360.a new dispensation (Dhadhi sachai mahali khasami bulia sachi sifiti salah kaparha paia.

20 JPS 17:1&2 Joining a leader who affirmed human equality (Sabhan a jia ika chhau. M1. GG. 83) and dreamed of building a society without corruptio n and oppressi on would have offered a more attractive alternativ e than becomin g part of the Hindu social hierarchy or locate themselv es within the class differenti ations prevalent within Muslim society.67 The evidence .

In other words. For instanc e. Sri Chand. Furtherm ore. and the land for Dehra Baba Nanak. which served as the primar y Sikh seat after the death of Guru Nanak. the village of Guru Angad . followin g the authority of Guru Nanak’ successor . establish ed after the flooding of Kartarpu r came as a gift from Ajita. a Randhaw a Jat.at our dispos al points to an impres sive presen ce of the Jats at the time of Guru Nanak ’s death in 1539. the two Sikh sites that rose to prominen ce after the disappear ance of Kartarpu r were directly associate d with the Jats. belong ed to the tribe of the Khaira Jats. the village that Guru Nanak’s son. Khadu r.

came from a Jat backgr ound.68 The locatio n of Kartar pur seems to support the view that the Jats and their rural ancillarie s constitut ed the core of the original Sikh communi ty. and Ajita Randh awa. who was also a potenti al candid ate for the gurush ip. who helped rehabil itate the Guru’s family at Dehra Baba Nanak. the two most promi nent figures of the time. If found viable.. and scholars in the field need to examine this issue in the days ahead. this shift of stance in the social composit ion of the early Sikh communi ty would call for a new set of paramete rs to understa nd the origin as well as later . Guru Angad . Buddh a Randh awa.

little is known about the life and ethos of the Jats and their outcaste rural ancillarie s but. What was there in Guru Nanak ’s messa ge that attract ed these people ? How did these erstwh ile nomad s adopt the conten ts of his messa ge to their needs and aspirat ions? Was the early Jat experi ence of joining the Sikh comm unity so successfu l that this prepared the ground for the other Jat tribes living around to follow suit in the subseque nt decades? These questions would need to be addresse d as scholarsh ip develops. it seems reasonabl e to argue that being . as mentione d earlier.develo pment s in Sikh history . Furthe rmore.

69 This discussio n would also have a direct bearing on issues related to caste and gender within Sikh society. need to be reassesse d. the overarchi ng perceptio ns that Sikh beliefs as well as social constitue ncy emerged from the larger Hindu context. as well as that their history is essentiall y one of carving out of a distinct identity from that of the parent communi ty. If the overwhel . Emerg ing from McLe od’s Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religi on. Makin g this distinc tion would have huge implic ations for our unders tandin g of the concer ns and motiva tions of the early Sikh comm unity.nomad s they had no organi c relatio nship with the Hindu caste hierarc hy.

how approp riate is it to use casterelated catego ries to explai n early Sikh society ? If the Sikhs themse lves now use these terms. then it would be helpful to locate .ming majori ty of the origina l comm unity was not part of the caste hierarc hy.

Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 21 t h e r e a s o n s a n d p r e c i s e p o i n t o f t h e ir e n tr y i n t o t h e S i k .S.G.

Having accomplished this task. scholars can think through these issues and create a narrative that can provide a higher degree of historical accuracy than the one in current circulation. and the sociocultural background of the early caretakers (Sikhs). the treatment of women in the nomadic society and customs such as widow marriage and the absence of sati (burning alive on the pyre of the dead husband). the Sikhs may be the only major tradition where the origin of the community can be constructed strictly from contemporaneous sources. the nature of the seed he sowed there (his beliefs). Conclusion W h e r e d o s c h o l a r s i n S i k h s t u d i e s g o f r o m h e r e ? T h r e e o p ti . a narrative of the origin of the Sikh community needs to incorporate an understanding of the life of the master (khasam) of Kartarpur (Nanak). and the variations among different caretakers. In the same vein. and so on. changed circumstances. scholars can attempt to assess how the original seedlings thrived in their subsequent transplantations in different locations.h discourse. After all. Building on the evidence whose bulk. need to be brought into focus to help understand the happenings within the early Sikh community. range.70 In my view. and depth expand with the passage of time.

my primary interest lies in how to move forward and develop a fresh narrative of Guru Nanak’s life.73 While fully agreeing with Grewal about the limitations of McLeod’s work. Given the critical mass of scholars presently working in the field and the availability of the large corpus of published materials.71 The second option has appeared in J. where he points out the limitations of McLeod’s research findings pertaining to different periods and themes of Sikh history. see his paper in this issue.74 I suggest a three-stage process to execute this a g e n d a . F ir s t. s c h o l a r s n e e d t o r e t u r n t o t h e e a rl y t e x t u a l s . there is a large constituency of scholars in the field who believe that Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion marked a “paradigm-shift” in “a historiographical revolution” in Sikh studies. S. First. On the basis of my reading of Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion presented here and my past years’ immersion in the early documents. and they would expect future research to build and expand on its conclusions. Grewal’s recent writings.72 For his detailed critique of McLeod’s work. this goal does not seem beyond reach. and legacy. I believe that effort to build on the received wisdom or even maintain the status quo would be counterproductive for the field. beliefs.ons seem to be available.

.ources. and flesh out historical details from them. numismatics. they need to expand the pool of information by including art. situate them in their socioliterary contexts. sites. Second. iconography. artifacts. date them with some degree of precision.

22 JPS 17:1&2 and so on.75 As I have attempte d to show that the terms such as the “Sant synthesis . the informati on gathered around the landmark s in Sikh history should be presented in emic Sikh terminol ogy.” and “the disciplin e” populariz . Finally. and then seek out informati on that these sources can provide.” “unregen erate man.

Let me close this essay by underli ning the need for precisi on in schola rly unders tanding of Guru Nanak and early Sikh history. The first relates to the name of Guru Nanak. The Akali Dal. Two events associate d with Guru Nanak’s fifth birth centennia l that unfolded on the campuse s of the universiti es in the Punjab serve as interestin g pointers in this direction. but more work needs to be done before we can cull out a set of terms that may presen t the frame of referen ce adequa tely. a Sikh political party. sponsore d a set of public .ed by Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religi on would not do. which ruled the Punjab in the late 1960s.

After the gradua tion of the first batch of students.” The state governm ent. after protracte d resistanc e. buckled under and . The institut ion was named “Guru Nanak Univer sity” and was inaugu rated with great fanfare .” which they argued was “Guru Nanak Dev.celebr ations in 1969 to comm emorat e the Guru’s birth. a public controver sy erupted that resulted in the rise of a political campaig n to expand its name. The people spearhea ding this move were emphatic that the institutio n named in honor of the Guru must carry his “full name. and the establi shmen t of a new univer sity in Amrits ar was the jewel in this crown.

there is no referen ce to “Dev” in the writin gs of Guru Nanak or those of his succes sors or early follow ers. and the present generatio n does not even seem to remembe r that this controver sy erupted in the early history of their universit y. As far as I know.grante d their wish by expan ding the name of the univer sity by a legisla tive act in 1975. Is it part of the name or does it mark an honori fic that was added later? No one seemed to be clear about these issues while changing the name in the 1970s.76 The next instance concerns the date of birth of Guru Nanak and the debate that unfolded around it on the campus of Punjabi Universit .

y. In the fall of 1969. On this occasi on. Patiala . a highly respected historian of the time. entitled Sources on the Life and Teaching s of Guru Nanak. believed to have been in late Novemb er . this univer sity organi zed an array of activiti es to celebr ate the event. it was edited by Ganda Singh (1900– 1987). a univer sitybased journal of history. While the conferen ce at the universit y campus was synchron ized with the celebrati ons of the Guru’s birth. of which an interna tional confer ence held in Septe mber was the prize item. was released. and was distribute d to the participa nts. a special issue of The Panja b Past and Presen t.

1469 (Visak h) as his date of birth. . the editori al appear ing in the journal issue argued for April 15. A genera tion of schola rs has come and gone since the event. but no clarity seems to have emerg ed on this basic issue.(Katak di Puran mashi) .

S. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 23 A f i n a l d e t a il r e v o l v e s a r o u n d t h e r e f e r e n c e t o t h e e a rl .G.

it is important to point out that a name such as the Nanak Panth.81 In other words. but a sectarian/external label the nature of which is criticized in the mainstream Sikh literature. it must be underscored that this term does not appear in the writings of Guru Nanak. Focusing on details such a s t h e s e w o u l d h e l p s c h o l a r s w o r k t o w a r d d e v e l o p i n g a m o . or those of his successors and their followers.79 The Dabistan-iMazahib.78 It first shows up in the Janam Sakhi attributed to Miharban (d. a first cousin of the sixth Sikh Guru.”77 Although scholars such as McLeod and many others of his generation use this label freely and without question. 1595?. Guru Hargobind (b. the name assigned to the early Sikh community in current scholarship is not a self-designation. a mid-seventeenthcentury Farsi text. is criticized in the writings of Bhai Gurdas and is categorically denounced in the poetry created during the period of Guru Gobind Singh (1675-1708). is the first non-Sikh document to use the name the Nanak Panthi along with the Gursikh to refer to the community. Guru 1606–1644). which evokes the idea of “personal” following of a leader.y Sikh community as the “Nanak Panth.80 Furthermore. the leader of a major Sikh sectarian group of the time (Minhas/Chhota Mel). and even more important for us. 1640).

Once the details of the founding of the Sikh community and the terms required to name and explain them are in place. Amritsar (September 20. I am indebted to Dr. 2010).re accurate and nuanced narrative of the happenings during this early phase of Sikh history. I believe a clean start is necessary to delineate the origin of the Sikh Panth (the path of the Sikhs). people in the field can then move on to interpret the developments in subsequent history. and Harpreet Singh read the early drafts of the paper. 2010). Ami P. Lund (June 16. and John S. and then one can map how it turned into the gaddi rah (big path) of Bhai Gurdas and the param marag (great path) of the late seventeenthcentury anonymous author at the court of Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Nanak Dev University. Grewal.S. Joginder Singh Ahluwalia. and Department of History. Kristina Myrvold and Dr. Shah. Sukhdev Singh Sohal for their invitations.82 *This is a revised version of the presentations made at the Center for Theology and Religious Studies. Hawley commented upon its later versions. Rahuldeep Singh Gill. and J. I am grateful to them for their valuable insights. Notes 1 A r e c e n t b i b li o g r a p h y o f w ri ti n g s i n E n g li s h r e c o r d s o v . Lund University.

see Rajwant Singh Chilana.er six hundred entries on Guru Nanak. International .

The writings in Punjabi on the Guru are far more extensive and spread over a much longer period of time.24 JPS 17:1&2 Bibliogr aphy of Sikh Studies (Dordrec ht: Springer. 30–60. 2005). The opening statement of the Puratan Janam Sakhi reads: “The life story of Baba Nanak from the beginnin g to the end [who] came to liberate .

1977). Kahn Singh Nabha presents the number as 947 in his Mahan Kosh [1930] (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag. 1945). ed. 437. see Purata n Janam Sakhi. Sahib Singh counts them as 357 composit ions and 3 Vars in his Sri Guru Granth Darpanh (Jalandhr : Raj Publisher . 2 Schola rs count Guru Nanak ’s compo sitions record ed in the Guru Granth (GG) in differe nt ways. Rattan Singh Jaggi (Patial a: Pepsu Book Depot. ” For its publis hed edition . see his Banhi Biaura [1902] (Amritsa r: Khalsa Tract Society. Chara n Singh provid es the figure of 974 poetic stanzas. 1981).the world. 124– 125 .

36. Tvarikh Gurdaria n (Amritsa r: Buta Singh Pratap Singh.” in my Making of Sikh Scripture (New York: Oxford Universit y Press. 2001). a pothi and a chola associ ated with the Guru are extant. Sri Guru Tirath Sangraih (Kankhal : Sri Nirmal Panchaya ti Akharha. As for the artifact s. Mahan . For details. Kahn Singh Nabha. see “The Guru Harsah ai Pothi. Giani Gyan Singh. 1: 17. 1990). 58. 1961). 33–40. 288–289. undated [1919?]). and entries on the chola in Tara Singh Narotam. see his Sri Guru Grant h Praka sh [1977] (Patial a: Kalam Mandi r.s. 1884). and Piara Singh Padam suppor ts the figure of 974 .

26–44. Kirpal Singh et al. Gurbach an Kaur (Patiala: Bhasha Vibahg. ed. Janam Sakhi Miharba n. and Varan Bhai Gurdas. 1969). ed. “Growin . Arsi Publisher s. ed. see Ganda Singh. Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala. 1987). For referen ces to the Guru in the writin gs of his succes sors and early follow ers. 2010). 477. For the latest research on Bhai Gurdas. 1969).. 1962.Kosh. Gurshara n Kaur Jaggi (New Delhi. (Amritsa r: Khalsa College. Source s on the Life and Teachi ngs of Guru Nanak (Patial a: Punjab i Univer sity. 2 volumes. ed. see Purata n Janam Sakhi. For the details of his life. see Rahuldee p Singh Gill.

and extensive travels to Sikh pilgrima ge centers. Unfortun . ” Ph.g the Banya n Tree: Early Sikh Traditi on in the Works of Bhai Gurda s Bhalla. dissert ation (Unive rsity of Califor nia. Santa Barbar a. which involves learning the recitation and interpreta tion of the Guru Granth. the study of Sikh historical writings. 3 When discuss ing the impact of McLeo d’s book. and as a result had no access to the book. D. They receive eight to ten years of training in the taksals. one must be clear that the traditio nal Sikh scholar s worked in Punjabi. Their work prepares them to become granthis. practice in kirtan. 2009).

and many scholar s writing in Englis h are not .ately. there is very little scholar ly literatu re availab le on the taksals .

F r o m .G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 25 e v e n a w a r e o f t h e p r e s e n c e o f t h e s e i n s ti t u ti o n s.S.

see his “Guru Nanak and the Social Problem. Piara Singh Padam (1923– 2001). 1971). p u s h i n g h i m o u t o f a n y p u b li c r o l e . W. there were efforts to register differences with Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. Fauja Singh Bajwa (1918–1983). Unfortunately..among the products of these taksals. Leitner. Fauja Singh got embroiled in a controversy of his own in 1975. he made a two-pronged argument: Guru Nanak was deeply concerned about the social issues of his times. In this essay originally presented at a conference in 1969. his message differed in fundamental ways from those of his contemporaries. Among scholars who work in English. 141–150. For information on the early history of the taksals. and Joginder Singh Vedanti (1940–) could be counted as the major figures of the past century. 28– 37. engaged with McLeod’s argument with a high degree of seriousness. . a historian based in Punjabi University. ed. see G. F o r d e t a il s. Perspectives on Guru Nanak (Patiala: Punjabi University. 1975). Randhir Singh (1898–1972). Shamsher Singh Ashok (1903–1986). History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab [1883] (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag. and given this area of his interest.” in Harbans Singh. when he was attacked by university-based scholars as well as those outside a c a d e m i a .

” For this review. and responses to it by Trilochan Singh’s “Letter to the Editor” (August 1974). Digby registers his discomfort with his “ruthless approach” to unearth the “Nanak of history. 79–89. Journal of Sikh Studies (February 1974). 301–313.” Journal of Sikh Studies (February 1975). 122–126.” Having situated McLeod’s work in this tradition. S. which he described as “the latest and one of the most valuable additions to the corpus of Christian missionary writings on the religious sociology of India. Grewal’s “Freedom and Responsibility in Historical Scholarship. whose type and pattern were established early in the century. Simon Digby (1932– 2010). 124–133.see his “Execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur—A New Look” [1966]. see the Indian Economic and Social History Review 7:2 (1970). Digby’s ideas seemingly did not reach the Punjab and as a result could not become part of the discussion of McLeod’s work in any important way. Published in a Bombay-based journal. and J. and his “weak grasp of Sufi literature.” his use of “Protestant theological terms” to explain Guru Nanak’s ideas. Some scholars attempted to engage with McLeod’s a p p r o a c h a n d a r g u e d t h a t t h e r e a r e d if f e r e n t w a y s t o u n d e . an expert on Islamic literature of South Asia. was the only Western scholar to present a substantive review of McLeod’s work.

For early efforts in this direction. Guru . see Harbans Singh (1923–1995). but none of these succeeded in challenging McLeod’s argument in any significant way or emerge as a viable alternative to his presentation.rstand the Guru’s life.

Grewal (1927–). 1969). S. and J.26 JPS 17:1&2 Nanak and the Origin of the Sikh Faith (Patiala: Punjabi Universit y. Guru Nanak in History (Chandig arh: Panjab Universit y. 1969). It might also be useful to mention that McLeod’ s writings evoked a hostile response within some circles. He reports that he was not invited to the internatio .

As McLeod’ s status rose on the North America n academic scene in the 1980s.nal confer ence arrang ed by Punjab i Univer sity in Septe mber 1969. 2004). and Kapur Singh denou nced the book there. whose interest in Sikh studies began after his retiremen t from Indian Administ rative Services in 1969. Early respon ses to the book includ ed Kirpal Singh’ s critique publishe d in The Sikh Review (Februar y-March 1970). see his Discov ering the Sikh: Autobi ograp hy of a Histor ian (New Delhi: Perma nent Black. Daljeet Singh’s oppositio . 63–64. The second round of this attack was spearhea ded by Daljeet Singh (1911– 1994).

” This denun ciation of McLe od’s writin gs and. and stunted the growth of the programs at the Universit y of British Columbi a (1987– 1997) and the . This criticism barred the Sikh studies programs at Toronto Universit y (1986– 1992) and Columbi a Universit y (1988– 1999) from attaining permane nce. those of others who were thought to have been working with him largely unfolded in North America.n to his works becam e increas ingly striden t. With some degree of effort. by extensi on. he was able to bring togeth er some suppor ters who were ready to help him save “Sikh schola rship from the missio nary onslau ght.

Univer sity of Michi gan (1992– 2004) during the nascen t stages of their develo pment. see Gurde v Singh. Contesti ng Interpret ations of . S. Contes ting Interp retatio ns of the Sikh Traditi on (New Delhi: Manohar. Discover ing the Sikh. Daljeet Singh and his associate s could not distingui sh between McLeod’ s training in biblical studies and what they perceive d as his “mission ary designs” to erode the foundatio n of the Sikh tradition. ed. see Grewal. 1998). Perspe ctives on the Sikh Traditi on (Patial a: Siddha rth. 215– 237.. and Hew McLeod. J. 1986). 154–191. Grewa l. In my view. For details of these debate s.

I am not convince d that McLeod’ s character ization of .the Sikh Traditi on. He argued that he was an atheist and attack on his researc h was part of an effort to protect the Sikh traditions from historical scrutiny. 121-135. 128.” South Asia Research (14: 1994). Given the fact that the people McLeod refer to in his discussio n were products of Western modes of educatio n and wrote in English. see his “Cries of Outrage: History versus Tradition in the Study of Sikh Commun ity. As a result. McLe od’s respon se to their criticis m was no less enigm atic. they could not identif y the precise nature of what irked them in McLe od’s writin gs.

.them as “traditi onal schola rs” and their motiva tion as being center ed on protect ing “traditi ons” have much justific ation.

S. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 27 4 T h e a u t h o ri t y o f G u r u N a n a k a n d t h e S i k h R e l i g i o n .G.

See his Evolution of the Sikh Community (Oxford: Clarendon Press.was established soon after its publication. Embree. Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer. thereby further strengthening its influence and authority in the field. 47– 91. see J. T. For those who built on McLeod’s interpretation of early Sikh history. S. Who Is a Sikh? The Problem of Sikh Identity (Oxford: Clarendon Press. and many others that deal with the Sikh tradition in a limited way. 1997). 1989). The impression that McLeod h a d a c q u ir e d a m a s t e r y o f P u n j a b i p r o v i d e d a h i g h d e g r e e o . for its critique. As for general acceptance of the conclusions of the book in the 1980s. see Harjot Oberoi.. 33–47. 1994). 1988 [1958]). Historical Perspectives on Sikh Identity (Patiala: Punjabi University. 1997). The Construction of Religious Boundaries (New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Songs of the Saints of India (New York: Oxford University Press. and A. McLeod himself and some other scholars built their interpretation of the events in later Sikh history on the research results of this book. 1988). 1976). see John S. ed. Grewal. The Sources of Indian Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press. and Sikhism (New York: Penguin.

which included the establishment of Punjabi University. 7 F o r c ri ti c i s m o f M c L e o d ’ s u s e o f t h e J a n a m S a k h i s. This period has seen the production of more scholarly literature on the Sikhs than in their entire earlier history. Amritsar (1969). 1971). as well as the celebrations of the centennials of the birth of Guru Gobind Singh (1966) and Guru Nanak (1969). ed. The Gian Ratanavli. s e e G . and Sarupdas Bhalla. Jasbir Singh Sabar (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University. Mahima Parkash. 6In addition to the texts mentioned in note 2. Patiala (1962).f authenticity and authority to his writings in the eyes of many Western scholars who were happy to use them for basic information they needed about the Sikhs. and the elevation of the Granth to the position of the Guru Granth (2008). ed. 1986). Vir Singh [1926] (Amritsar: Khalsa Samachar. the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur (1975) and Guru Arjan (2004). the inauguration of the Khalsa (1999). Utam Singh Bhatia [1776] (Patiala: Bhasha Vibhag. and Guru Nanak Dev University. 5It may be useful to reiterate the landmarks of this period. 1993). see Puratan Janam Sakhi. ed.

i–x. It may be useful to record that the translated version of the book did not include this part. see Guru Nanak de Udesh (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev .” Panjab Past and Present (October 1970). “Editorial.anda Singh.

but he did not want to bring them to the forefront . It seems clear that Ganda Singh had fundame ntal differenc es with McLeod’ s research results. 1974).28 JPS 17:1&2 Universit y. Ganda Singh’s evaluatio n raises importan t questions regarding the issue of academic responsib ility of a senior scholar toward new research. In my view.

79. 1988).” not “carpi ng criticis m. 198–199. and Nripinde r Singh. see Surjit Hans. 8 For McLeod’ s translatio ns. His argum ent that McLe od’s work needs “symp athy. 1990). see The B– 40 Janam Sakhi (Amritsa r: Guru Nanak Dev .lest they provid e fuel to the fire alread y gatheri ng around the book. see note 3.” hurt the rise of a health y debate so essenti al for a field at an early stage of growth . The Sikh Moral Tradition (New Delhi: Manohar. A Reconstr uction of Sikh History from Sikh Literatur e (Jalandha r: ABS publicati ons. For positive assessme nt of his work on the Janam Sakhis.

. Sikhs of the Khals a Rahit (Oxfor d Univer sity Press. The Chaup a Singh RahitNama (Unive rsity of Otago. 1987). 2006). 1980). The Textua l Source s for the Study of Sikhis m (Toto wa: Barnes and Nobel. . 1989). ed. 1984).Univer sity. King’s essay in Gurdev Singh. and The Prem Sumar ag (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y Press. and Jasbir Singh Mann et al. eds.. Advance d Studies in Sikhism (Irvine: Sikh Commun ity of North America.. 2003). see Noel Q. Perspect ives on the Sikh Tradition . The legitimac y of McLeod’ s use of an historical approach has also come under attack from diverse quarters.

the universe rose as a result of the divine comman d (hukam/ bhanha) and follows a course set in historical time (see his cosmolo gy hymn GG. For instance. For Guru Nanak. It seems to me that the histori cal approa ch synchr onizes well with Sikh unders tandin g of the past. and Sikhs believe their history to be an integral part of the divine design for human history. see the releva nt section s in Arvind -Pal S.For a recent critiqu e. the Sikh view of time is linear. 1035– 1036). Manda ir. Religi on and the Specte r of the West (New York: Colum bia Univer sity Press. 2010). The Sikhs began to .

Referenc es to historical events begin to appear in the writings that are included in the Guru Granth. GG. see Balwand and Satta. for the develop ments during the sixteenth century. for a discussio n of this issue in . and the Purata n Janam Sakhi registe rs a reason ably good consci ousnes s of issues such as that of histori cal chrono logy. 966.record their own history soon after the comm unity’s foundi ng. The daily ardas (Sikh suppli cation) is essenti ally a thanks giving prayer for the divine support through various phases of the communi ty’s sociopoli tical and ideologic al develop ment from the beginnin gs to the present day.

137– 177.Guru Arjan’ s time. The earlies t manus cript of Sakhi Babe Nanak ki Adi to Ant tak. see Surjit Hans. dated . A Recon structi on of Sikh Histor y.

G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 29 1 6 4 0 . w a s e x t a n t u n ti l t h e 1 9 7 0 s . s e e T h e P u r a t a n J a n .S.

can be traced back to the times of Guru Nanak (d. 1920). for discussion of its history and contents. 136–137. “Ardas. 59–60. Puratan Sikh Ardasa (Amritsar: Gurmat Press. 119– 122. 1997). 1–17.am Sakhi ed. see Lal Singh Gyani. and Piara Singh Padam. 1952). For the text of the ardas. 11 Given his emphasis on the need for skepticism. 279–286. 75. the year of completion of the Mahima Parkash. 1539). unless the history of the sources employed in an account created in 1776. see the English version of Sikh Rahit Maryada (Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. 1997). 9–11.” in his Guru Ghar (Amritsar: Singh Brothers. 11. I am not convinced that it could serve as a significant source of information for an “historian. Gyani. 49.” 10 Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. the limitations of whose editorial c a p a b il it i e s l a t e r b e c a m e a s u b j e c t o f a d o c t o r a l r e s e a r . Rattan Singh Jaggi. 9For instance. it is strange that McLeod seems satisfied to use an edition of the Puratan Janam prepared in 1926 by Vir Singh. Puratan Ardasa te Bhaugati Parbodh (Amritsar: Panch Khalsa Press.

12 The Puratan Janam Sakhi. Guru Nanak Dev University. see Harinder Singh. “Bhai Vir Singh’s Editing of Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangu.” Ph. Amritsar. see MS 766. the Punjabi meru simply means a “hill” and sumeru thus becomes a big hill. thesis (Guru Nanak Dev University. it may be useful to think of other possibilities such as the Jogis based there named it Sumeru.ch.D. 13 Instead of associating this with the Puranic mythology. given their influence their followers began to call it Sumeru. ed. “Sikh children who receive a Western-style education will assuredly imbibe attitudes which encourage skepticism. folio 1930. and having done so they are most unlikely to view traditional janam-sakhi perceptions with approval. Given the emphasis which is typically laid on stories concerning Guru N a n a k t h e r e i s a ri s k a b o u t S i k h i s m a s a w h o l e m a y c o m e t o . Vir Singh 175–176. 1990). as part of the vernacularization process. I became aware of the last meaning while reading Giani Naurang Singh’s commentary on the Sarab Loh Granth. 14 McLeod writes.

but at least they should be aware of the risks involved in adopting . For some the price may be worth paying.be associated with the kind of marvels and miracles which are the janam-sakhi stock-intrade.


JPS 17:1&2 the tradition al approach .” See his Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society (New York: Columbi a Universit y Press, 1989), 21–22. 15 For comment aries on the Janam Sakhis, see The Gian Ratanavl i, Sakhi 1; Ratan Singh Bhangu (d. 1847), Sri Guru Panth Parkash, ed. Balwant Singh Dhillon

(Amrit sar: Singh Brothe rs, 2004), 16, and 178– 183; Ernest Trump p (1828– 1885), The Adi Grant h [1877] (New Delhi: Munsh iram Manoh arlal, 1978), i–vii; Gurmu kh Singh (1849– 1898), The Janam Sakhi Babe Nanak Ji ki, ed. M. Macau liffe (Rawa lpindi: Gulsha n Punjab

Press, 1885), 1– 10; and Karam Singh (1884– 1930), Katak ke Visakh [1912] (Ludhian a: Lahore Book Shop, 1932 ). Two doctoral theses, Jagjit Singh’s “A Critical and Compara tive Study of the Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak upto the Middle of the Eighteent h Century” (1967); and Piar Singh’s “A Critical Survey of Punjabi Prose in the

Sevent eenth Centur y” (1968) , were submit ted at Panjab Univer sity, Chand igarh. 16 For McLe od’s writin gs on the Janam Sakhis , see his Early Sikh Traditi on: A Study of the Janam Sakhis (Oxfor d: Claren don Press, 1980); The B–40 Janam -sakhi (Amrit sar: Guru Nanak

Dev Universit y, 1980); and “The Janamsakhis,” in his Evolutio n of the Sikh Commun ity, 20– 36; “The Hagiogra phy of the Sikhs,” in Essays in Sikh History, Tradition , and Society [1994] (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y Press, 2007), 35–53; and “The Life of Guru Nanak,” in Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Religion s of India in Practice (Princeto

M1. . Guru Nanak descri bes himsel f as an ordina ry human being who has been assign ed the path of singin g the praises of the Creator (Manhas murati Nanaku namu. GG. 468. GG. M1. 91. GG. 350. M1. and 150. M1. Koi akhe adami Nanaku vechara. 434. see his Discov ering the Sikhs. and 660. 991. GG. Nanaku bugoyad janu tura tere chakran pakhaq. 449461.n: Princet on Univer sity of Press. Kare karae sabh kichhu janhe Nanaki sair ev kahie. Hau dhadhi hari prabhu khasam ka hari kai dari aia. 17 Within his own writin gs. For the recepti on of these writin gs. GG. 150– 151. 1995). M1. and 1057). 721.

Hawle y. The Puratan Janam Sakhi.18 For a creativ e way to addres s this issue. S. see J. and Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala. Gurbach an Kaur.” in Three Bhakti Voices : Mirab ai. 19 The two edition s. Rattan Singh Jaggi. ed. ed. 89– 98. represent excellent critical scholarsh ip. 2005). . Surdas . “Mira bai in Manus cript. and Kabir in Their Times and Ours (New Delhi: Oxfor d Univer sity Press.

S.G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 31 2 0 T h e e a rl i e s t k n o w n m a n u s c ri p t s i n c l u d e t h e P u r a .

ed. for reference to a copy of Miharban Janam Sakhi prepared in 1651. and] Chatrbhuj pothi puran hoi. 1696) that his father. I base them on the following evidence. There is firm evidence that Bala Janam Sakhi was compiled after the death of Baba Handal (1648). Khalsa College (Samat 1708 Vaisakh Vadi ekam nu [Miharban. As for the dates of these texts’ composition. 149– 150. and the Miharban Janam Sakhi (1754). had completed his Janam Sakhi by 1619. Hariji. and an elaborately illustrated manuscript dated 1658 was extant until recently. see the opening and sections of Sodhi Hariji Krit Goshatan Miharban kian. 21 The echoing of the Purtatan images in the literature of the Miharaban family leaves little doubt that this text was available to them.tan Janam Sakhi (1640). see Sodhi Hariji Krit Goshatan Miharban kian. 234. 22 The Miharaban and t h e B a l a J a n a m S a k h i s w e r e p r o d u c ti o n s o f t h e s e c t a ri a n g . We have on record the claim of Hariji (d. folio 676). The text of the writing of the Gurus that appear in the early Puratan manuscripts is pre-Kartarpur Pothi (1604). see Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala. 1977). Krishna Kumari Bansal (Sangrur: the editor. see MS 427B. Miharban. the Bala Janam Sakhi (1658).

23 It may be useful to point out that this itinerary is not accepted in current scholarship. Phil. Sankhep Jivan Charitar Sri Guru Baba Handal Ji (Jandiala: Gurudwara Sri Guru Baba Handal Ji. 1989). and Sodhi Hariji Krit Goshatan Miharban kian. respectively. see MS 2306. see Pritam Singh and Joginder Singh Ahluwalia. For more on this text and family. For additional writings of this family.roups led by Miharban and Baba Handal. For Janam Sakhi of Miharban. see Varinder Kaur. Amritsar. Sikhan da Chhota Mel: Itihas te Sarvekhanh (San Leandro. California: Punjab Educational and Cultural Foundation. An undated manuscript entitled. Janam Sakhi Baba Handal (folios 1602). 84–97. see Harbans Singh. undated [1990s]). “Parchi Baba Handal: Sampadan te Itihasik Visleshanh. dated 1650 (Sakhi Guru Hariji ke mukh ki likhi Samat 1707. folio 164b). is available with his descendents at Jandiala Guru. 2009). 24 A dis cu ssi on of the rel ati on shi p of the po siti on of the Gu ru an d the lay ou t . 1 5 4 . Guru Nanak and the Origin of t h e S i k h F a i t h . near Amritsar. Khalsa College. thesis (Guru Nanak Dev University. and Rajinder Pal.” M.

of his house with the model of a Sufi master and his hospices .

Religiou s Moveme nts and Institutio ns in Medieval India (New Delhi: . on the one hand. on the other. For general informati on about the period.. see J. would shed light on the nature of relations hip of the early Sikhs to these groups. Grewal. and the hillock (tillas) of the Shaivite ascetics. ed. S.32 JPS 17:1&2 (khanqa h).

26 For an essay on this import ant theme. Organiz ational and Institutio nal Aspects of Indian Religiou s Moveme nts (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advance d Study. see the Purata n Janam Sakhi manus cript dated 1690. 25 For the singin g of the Alaha nhia. 28 . folio 273b. O’Conne ll. Grewa l.S. ed.Oxfor d Univer sity Press. “Sacre d Space in Sikhis m. 27 It is importan t to reiterate that the Puratan’s account of Guru Nanak’s travels is much less elaborate than the ones available in the Miharba n and the Bala Janam Sakhis. see J. 1999).” in Joseph T. 2006)..

see Hew McLe od. 23– 24. Worki ng within this larger contex t. Sikhis m. see his “Repack aging the ineffable ” . 134–171. and the Grant h. Pashau ra Singh argues that the compo sitions of the early Gurus were preser ved in both oral and written form (aidesmemoire ).For this interpr etation of the rise of institut ions such as the langar . see his Life and Works of Guru Arjan (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y. and the institutio n of scripture formally started with Guru Arjan. and 30–31. the manjis . Press. Christop her Shackle’ s recent statemen t also attributes the first “canonic al” version of Sikh scripture to Guru Arajn. 2006).

complete d during the . 2(2008 ). ” Bulleti n of School of Orient al and Africa n Studie s 71. 257. He begins his expositio n of Guru Nanak’s ideas with an analysis of the mangal but fails to mention that it appears for the first time in the Kartarpu r Pothi (1604).changi ng styles of Sikh scriptu ral comm entary. An other examp le of McLe od’s anachr onistic discus sion of Guru Nanak ’s theolo gy based on eviden ce from the writin gs of other Gurus can be found in his discussio n of the mangal/ mulmant ar (“invocat ion”/”the root formula” )—a string of epithets that refer to different aspects of the Divine.

53–54. who is claimi ng to deal only with the ideas of Guru Nanak. see my Making of Sikh Scripture . For a discussio n of the mangal. The terms Satinam u. While explic ating the “Sikh concep tion” of the Divine . and Ajuni that appear in the mangal are not used in Guru Nanak’s verses.period of Guru Arjan. and his favorite epithets for . 1979). it is fine for Jodh Singh to start his discus sion with the manga l–– see his Gurm at Nirnh ay [1932] (Patial a: Bhash a Vibha g. Akal Murati. 1––but not for McLe od.

S. N i r a n k a r u . Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 33 t h e D i v i n e s u c h a s K a r t a r u .G. a n d S a h i b u a .

1986). Although I was vaguely aware of this issue of terminology earlier. i–x.re not available in this text.” and “discipline” to label the Guru’s ideas may not have sounded unreasonable to people in the late 1960s. Hawley’s presentation entitled “What Is Sikh Theology?” at Columbia University on March 31. For a discussion Guru Amardas’ year of birth. In this unpublished p a p e r. see Guru Amardas: Srot Pustak ed. McLeod’s use of Protestant terms such as “theology. 1990. Ganda Singh complemented McLeod for “understanding. h e l a i d o u t t h e i s s u e s i n v o l v i n g t h e u s e o f t e r m s f r . but writing in 2010 we are better equipped to understand this problem. 30 There was a general welcome accorded to this section of the book after its publication. 227-229. see Panjab Past and Present (October 1970). Raijasbir Singh (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University.” “divine self-expression. 29 For a discussion of this pothi. appreciating and presenting [the Guru’s] teachings in a very lucid and convincing manner”.” “unregenerate man. 33–40. it was crystallized for me with John S. Needless to say. see my Making of Sikh Scripture.

1– 34. M1. tesrha kari gian ve Lalo. GG. 32 There is no evidence to support McLeod’s category of a Sant. For me. see Nirvikar Singh. “Guru Nanak and the ‘Sants’: A Reappraisal. 722). for McLeod’s response to this article and Singh’s rebuttal to that. M1. see International J o u r n a l o f P u n j a b S t u d i e s 9 : 1 ( 2 0 0 2 ).om one tradition to explain the ideas of the other and the problems inherent in this effort. This comes further into focus when we note that none of the Guru’s illustrious contemporaries on the Indian side made claims for divine sanction.” International Journal of Punjab Studies 8:1 (2001). and these are an integral part of the prophetic tradition on the Judeo-ChristianIslamic side. GG. 142. 3 3 F o r m . a historian is obligated to take into account Guru Nanak’s belief that his compositions represent the divine voice (Tabalbaz bichar sabadi sunhia. 31 McLeod’s discussion is built around the dichotomy between the supposed Sikh belief in “divine revelation” and his need to analyze the Guru’s beliefs by situating them in their historical context. 1 3 7 – 1 4 2 . Jaisi mai avai khasam ki banhi.

The Sants: Studies in Devotional Traditions of India (Delhi: Motilal .. eds. see Karine Schomer and W. H.ore on this theme. McLeod.

“Guru Nanak and the ‘Sants’: A Reapprai sal. 2009). 3– 7. 1–6. S. John S. Songs of the Saints of India. and Identity (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y Press. Nirvikar Singh.” 1– 34.34 JPS 17:1&2 Banarsid ass. Institutio ns. The Sikhs: Ideology. Grewal. and J. 3– 21. 1987). Hawley and Mark Juergens meyer. .

Nor does he take any note of the effort that went into the selecti on of these compo sitions for the Sikh scriptural text. the available composit ions of those who believed in the . those who believed in iconic worship were labeled as unbaked stuff (kachi banhi) and discarded . the writings of the non-Sikh saints were vetted in two stages. In the first.34 The bibliog raphy in the book does not indicat e that McLe od paid much attenti on to the writin gs of these saints that appear outsid e the Sikh canon. From our knowled ge of the early Sikh manuscri pts. In the second.

2003). 111– 117. The Bhaga ts of the Guru Grant h Sahib (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y Press. see my Makin g of Sikh Script ure. Hawley. For these details. “The Received Kabir: Beginnin gs to Bly.formle ss God were subject ed to close scrutin y and the ones that confor med to the Sikh beliefs in family and social life were selecte d. S. 267–278. 25–58.” in Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai. 2003). 35 The secondar y . and J. Kabir: The Weaver’s Song (New Delhi: Penguin. and Kabir in Their Times and Ours. Surdas. Pashau ra Singh. Vinay Dharwar dkar.

Kabir Grant havali (Pondi chery. 1959). 1–28. 1957). 1951). Sant Namdev ki Padavali (Poona. Vaude ville. Vaudevil le. 9–31. Charlo tte Vaude ville. 1917). 7–11. The Bijak of Kabir (Hami rpur.literatu re referre d to in this discus sion includ e Ahma d Shah. and Parasura m Chaturve di. ” History of Religion s 3 (1964): 221–222. Au Cabar et de l’Amo ur: Parole s de Kabir (Paris. “Kabīr and Interior Religion. The names of the publisher s are not . 709–733. iv–v. Uttari Bharat ki Santparamap ara (Prayag. Bhagirat h Misra and Rajnaray n Mauraya. 1964).

For the entry of the bhagat banhi into the Sikh scriptural corpus during the times of Guru Amardas .mentio ned in the bibliog raphy provid ed in the book. see my Goindval Pothis: The Earliest Extant Source of the Sikh Canon (Cambrid ge: Harvard Oriental Series. Sri Guru Granth Prakash. . 47–48. 36 In my view. 1996). the suppos ed similar ities betwee n the two compo sitions of Kabir and Guru Nanak quoted to make the point that Guru Nanak had access to the writin gs of his predec essor are too vague to support this argument . see Piara Singh Padam.

S.G. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 35 3 7 T h e r e i s n o t a s i n g l e r e f e r e n c e t o B a b a F a ri d i n t h .

Simultaneously. S h i v . see entries under his name in the index. Let me present one instance to challenge this situation.” more than one hundred times in his compositions. J a ti . 39 The categories that represent the creation include the musical modes (rags). Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. water. 254. fire). GG 1038). it might also be intriguing to note that the Guru uses Sahib. a n d s o o n ). McLeod and many others of his generation use Akal Purakh (Being beyond time) as the core epithet for God in Guru Nanak’s writings.e second section of the book. The problem with this usage becomes apparent when one presents the simple fact that this epithet appears only once in the Guru’s compositions (Tu akal purakhu nahi siri kala. h o l y p e o p l e ( S i d d h . M1. 38 See his “Influence of Islam upon the Thought of Guru Nanak. l . S a ti . which comes from Arabic and means “Sovereign. 292–308. the deities (Brahma.” in his Sikhism and Indian Society (Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. 1967). a n d s o o n ). elements (air. It comes from Indic roots and brings in a set of philosophical connotation to explain the Guru’s conception of the divine.

Mecca/haj).” is about the universe and how the human beings should function in it. GG. and so on). light. G u . hajis. GG. 40 See his 54-verses composition entitled Onkar (M1. 74. sky. gods (such as Brahama. 4 2 F o r tr a d it i o n a l S i k h s c h o l a r s h i p .earned people (such as writers). Mahesu). the opening thirteen verses catalogue the absence of what Guru Nanak associates with the world—natural objects (sun. 1036). which though entitled “One God. humans (men and women). GG. sacred spots (tirath. The same type of structure unfolds in his cosmology hymn (M1. beautiful women. s e e T a r a n S i n g h . Katebs). religious personas (jogis. social hierarchy (Varan)––and the final three declare that the Creator brought all these into being and one can only make sense of this with the help of the Guru. qazis). de kanu sunhahu ardas jiu. rich people. sacred spots. khans. 929–938). Sabh srisati seve dini rati jiu. warriors. moon. shaikhs. M5. sacred texts (Veds. and others. gopis. 41 This idea runs though the writings of all the Sikh Gurus. rivers. Bishanu. mullahs. Shashatars.

a summary of his argument appears in Pashaura Singh. 2000). Meaning and Authority (New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 241–257. 1980). For .rbanhi dian Viakhia Parnalian (Patiala: Punjabi University. The Guru Granth: Canon.

36 JPS 17:1&2 another statemen t on this theme.. 43 For the comment aries on Guru Nanak’s composit ions.. see my “500 years of Sikh Educatio nal Heritage. 2005). 335–368. eds. see the relevant sections in the early Janam Sakhis. Five Centurie s of Sikh Traditio n (New Delhi: Manohar . ” in Reeta Grewal et al. The .

earlies t manus cript of this type that has come to my notice contai ns a collect ion of the vars in the Guru Granth . which containe d the core composit ions used for daily recitation s. Kahn Singh Nabha. Guru Nanak Sagar (Patiala: Kalam Mandir. 1898). 44 Piara Singh Padam. and the texts such as these came to be known as the Panj Grant his and Das Granthis. Sri Gurmat Nirnhay Sagar [1876] (Kankhal : Sri Nirmala Panchaiti Akharha. 1993). Gurmat . its orthog raphy belong s to the late sixteen th centur y. Althou gh undate d. 45 See Tara Singh Narotam. 73–178.

which still is in manuscri pt form with very few scholars aware of its existence . and Sher Singh. also falls in this category.Prabh akar [1898] (Amrit sar: Chatar Singh Jiivan Singh. Bhagwan Singh’s Rahit Darpanh (pre1877). Gurm at Nirnh ay. 2005). and Gurm at Sudha kar [1899] (Patial a: Bhash a Vibha g. 1979). 46 See previous note. McLeod’ s discussio n does not create the impressi on that he had the opportun ity to immerse himself in the writings of the . Jodh Singh. 1986 . Philos ophy of Sikhis m [1944] (Amrit sar: Shiro mani Gurdw ara Parban dhak Committ ee.

and a set of Protestan t categorie s and terms that he thought was adequate to unlock the ideas of any thinker irrespecti ve of his or her linguistic or cultural context. and propos e a narrati ve of this crucial period of Sikh history that can be suppor ted with firm eviden ce.Guru. I see here a young schola r comin g to the Guru’s compo sitions with precon ceived notions about the medieval religious landscap e of north India. Instea d. think throug h the nature of the issues related to his life and teachi ngs. 47 The portrait of the Guru that emerged in Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion coordinat es closely with in .

Prefac e. but the data at our disposal indicate a shift between the portraits that predated the midnineteent h century and the iconogra phy that . 1991). A serious discus sion of the iconog raphy of the Guru has yet to appear.his image of halfclosed eyes lookin g toward the heaven s availa ble in the calend ar art of the 1960s. see McLe od’s Popul ar Sikh Art (Delhi: Oxfor d Univer sity Press.

G. F o r d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e s e .S. Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 37 b e c a m e p o p u l a r a ft e r w a r d .

227–231. ed.issues. Piety and Splendour (New Delhi: National Museum. see Manmohan Singh. H. McLeod. and its author e x p r e s s e s t h i s f o rt h ri g h tl y . folio 15. 2000). The Guru is presented as being deeply upset with the prevailing corruption around the political institutions. GG. 49 See his “On the Word Panth: A Problem of Terminology and Definition. 5. It i s . h o w e v e r. The Evolution of the Sikh Community. N. 48 W. “Bird Images in Guru Nanak’s Hymns. 793. i n t e r e s ti n g t . and B. 1999). 52 Reference to the village elders appears in the Puratan Janam Sakhi manuscript dated 1758. see Susan Stronge. 51 Kabir refers to the authority and attitudes of the revenue collectors in his verse Hari ke loga mo kou niti dasai patwari. 53 The Puratan presents Guru Nanak’s critique of the politics of the time in some detail.” Panjab Past and Present (April 1979). 50 For an interesting discussion. The Art of the Sikh Kingdom (London: Victoria and Albert Museum..” Contributions in Sociology 12:2 (1979). Goswamy.

K a l a n a u r. Miharban did not want to risk annoying the Mughal authorities with whom his family worked closely. see Rattan Singh Jaggi. 2005). For an interesting comment on the concept of the king being responsible for the concerns of both din and dunia. and the author of the Gian Ratnavali did not need to bring it into the discussion. t h e t o w n w h e r e t h e M u g h a l e m p e r o r A k b a r w a s c .o reflect on why the Guru’s discomfort with the politics of the time is absent in the Miharban Janam Sakhi and the Gian Ratnavali (post1760s). and the Vedi Patisahu here refers to Guru Nanak’s family caste. Bedi. Blochmann [1927] (Delhi: Low Price Publications. Sikh Panth Vishavkosh (Patiala: Gur Ratan Publishers. 170–172. 2001). as the Sikhs themselves were the rulers by the time of his writing? 54 The sounds “b” and “v” are interchangeable in Punjabi. H. see Abul Fazal. 2: 1334– 1337. 56 As for the location of Kartarpur. Sialkot was in its north (20 miles). Ain-iAkbari. 55 For more on the Bhatts. Could it be that by elaborating on this. tr.

. Batala in the south (15 miles).oroneted in the 1550s. (5 miles). in the southeast. and Lahore in the west (20 miles).

. 22–28. and 36– 37.J. 58 McLeod.38 JPS 17:1&2 57 For a discussio n of the Kartarpu r period. 2004). 59 In addition. N. we have six names that do not carry any reference to the social station of these people (Malo. Sikhism.: Prentice Hall. see my Sikhism (Englew ood. 14–15.

Japuva nsi. ed. Annete Susanna h Beveridg e [1921] (Delhi: Low Price Publicati ons. tr. lived in Talwa ndi. The Baburna ma. 2003). 11: 13–14. who was suppos edly a childh ood friend of Guru Nanak . tr. Kalu. 454.Manga . Guru Nanak’s father’s elder brother. and so did the descen dents of Lalu. 61 Sujan Rai Bhandari . 62 The Baburna ma. Thacksto . Ranjit Singh Gill (Patiala: Punjabi Universit y. 78-79. Wheeler M. 1972). Jodh. Khulasat -utTavarikh [1696]. Jivai). Bhagir ath. 60 The Bala Janam Sakhi opens with the claim that Bala. see Bhai Gurda s’ Varan.

Chandig arh. 1881– 1971: A Geograp hical Appraisa l. thesis (Panjab Universit y. 1979).D. Khaira s.n (New York: Oxfor d Univer sity Press. and Randh awas. “Change s in the Distribut ional Pattern of the Sikhs in India. 63 Cited in Irfan Habib. see Surinderj it Kaur.” Ph. Chahal s. . 1996).. 315. 34. Gills. Manns . The village s around Kartar pur were inhabit ed by the tribes of Bajwa s. Kahlo ns. It might also be useful to mentio n that the Jats and their rural ancillarie s constitut ed over 90 percent of the Sikh communi ty when the numbers begin to become available .

200– 215. Barrier . eds. G. 401. 94–95.” Iranic a 137 (1948) . 1976).“The Jats of Punjab and Sind. does not seem to includ e this reference . 64 Alberuni’ s India. Vladi mir Monor sky.. ed. “Gardi zi in India. Essays in Honor of Ganda Singh (Patial a: Punjab i Univer sity. It is interestin g that this position is tangentia lly evoked in Bhai Gurdas’s Var 8. Ainslie Embree (New York: Norton Library. tenth with the Kshatriy as. .” in Harba ns Singh and N. whom he equates with the Khatris. devoted to the society around him. Its ninth stanza deals with the Brahmin s. 1971).

and twelfth with the Jains. Lohars . “Nanak Panthis.eleven th with the Vaisha yas. and for their . Chhim bas. For the referen ce to the Jats in Dabist an-iMazah ib. 54 and 57. The place ment of the Jats and the Jainis with all other outcast es is interes ting. see Ganda Singh. Jats. and so on.” Panjab Past and Present 1 (1967). Barber s. Oil maker s.

Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 39 a p p e a r a n c e i n t h e A i n i A k b a r i.G.S. s e e T a b l e 1 i n I r f .

M. [2010] at Sonepat (Haryana). the district units of various states would hold r a ll i e s a c r o s s t h e c o u n tr y . The Political System of the the Jats of Northern India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 299–300.” On the day. 2003). C. Chand. s a i d Y a s h p a l M a li k .an Habib. and Nonika Datta. Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. “The Jats of Punjab and Sind.” 65For references to the Jats in later writings. 1966). 1999). They are protesting against the government’s failure to grant OBC (Other Backward Class) status to the Jat community of Punjab. K. which will be observed as “Jat Chetavani Divas. A History of the Sikhs [1848] (New Delhi: S. 1985). see Joseph Davey Cunnigham. Pradhan. From the press on this issue in 2010: “Amritsar: The All-India Jat Reservation Sangharsh Committee launched its rath yatra from the Golden Temple here today. R. The yatra will pass through various districts of three states before culminating on September 13. Qanungo. History of the Jats [1925] (Delhi: Delhi Originals. Forming an Identity: A Social History of the Jats (New Delhi: Oxford University Press. n a ti o n a l p .

67 I have seen this type of process unfolding in my lifetime. 66 See Ganda Singh. August 29. Gurjar etc. I remember the Gujjar pastoralists coming down from the hills and attempting to spend winters or settle down temporarily in the Punjab. which had already declared to disrupt the Commonwealth Games. Kamboj. 2010). Beginning with the early 1960s.“ The Tribune (Chandigarh.” Panjab Past and Present 1 (1967). Ahir. He alleged that the community was feeling dejected over the continuous indifferent attitude of the governments at the Centre and three states which had adopted double standards by granting the status to other similar caste and communities like Yadav. and urban society was happy to buy cheaper milk. While the farmers were happy to offer their fallow fields for free cattle manure in return. With the a g ri c u lt u r e h a v i n g b e c o m e m o r e i n t e n s i v e i n t h e P u n j a b . “Nanak Panthis.resident of the committee. 54. the Gujjars were invariably seen as petty criminals who carried arms and were always ready to steal. Saini. He said the community had been fighting for getting the OBC status for the past 19 years.

their plight has worsened.in the past decades. . and one often sees them squeezed with their cattle onto the open areas along the roads.

see Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala. For general reference s to his .40 JPS 17:1&2 68 This was the only point of transition of leadershi p in Sikh history when a Jat candidate was in the running for the office of Guruship . ed. Kulwind er Singh Bajwa (Amritsa r: Singh Brothers. and Mahima Prakash Vartak. 51–52. 460. 2004 [1770?]).

see releva nt section s in Gurbil as Patsha hi Chhev in (Amrit sar. 1998[1 718?]) .D. 2002). Dharm Singh (Amrit sar: Guru Nanak Dev Univer sity. Baba Buddha Jivani (Amritsa r: Navin Prakasha n. 2005). see Jasbir Singh Bhalla. Amarjit Kaur. 1981[1 790?]). 1981). “Punjabi Sahit Vich Babe Buddhe da Sarup. thesis (Guru Nanak Dev Universit y. Baba Buddha Ji (Amritsa r: Guru Nanak Dev Universit y.life and activit y in the eighte enth centur y writin gs. and Harnek . Shiro mani Gurdw ara Parban dhak Comm ittee. Sabinderj it Singh Sagar. For recent writings on him.” Ph. and Kavi Saund ha ed.

171–196. and an import ant late sevent eenthcentur y text entitle d . Goshati Ajite Randha we nal hoi is also available . For those who built on McLeod’ s work. see his Evolutio n of the Sikh Commun ity (1975). 2008). 1–19 and 83–104. 3–61 and 228– 250. Sri Guru Grant h Sahib: Viakhi a te Sande sh (Patial a: Gurma t Prakas han. Essays in Sikh History. Tradition .Singh. see Harjot Oberoi. and Society (2007). 42–62. Sikhism (1997). 69 For the details of McLeod’ s argument . but his name appear s promi nently in the writin gs of Bhai Gurda s. “Ritual L ittle is written about Ajita Randh awa.

Textures of the Sikh Past (New Delhi: Oxford Universit y Press.. 3. eds. ” in J. Randhir Singh [1953] (Jalandha r: New Book Company . See Prem Sumarag . Sikh Histor y and Religi on in the Twenti eth Centu ry (Toron to: Univer sity of Toront o Press. ed. 30–35. produced around 1700. O’Con nell et al. 2000). 71 Tony Ballenty ne.and Count er Ritual.. 70 This would also provid e the approp riate contex t to interpr et the code of condu ct and belief (rahit) statement s pertainin g to the ritual details of the remarria ge ceremon y of widows. This understa nding . 1988).. T. 2007). ed.

” in J. see his “Legacie s of the Sikh Past for the Twentiet h Century.. T.implie s that Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religi on is secure as the master narrati ve of the foundi ng of the Sikh traditi on. 72 Grewal’s early position was that “with mild disagree ment here” and “a minor differenc e there. McLe od’s later writin gs and those of others that were crafted around its argum ents deserv e the curren cy they have enjoyed in the past decades. eds.. Sikh History and . and as a corolla ry of this.” one could work with McLeod’ s overall interpret ation of Sikh history. O’Conne ll et al.

M o r e r e c e n tl .S.G. 1 8 . Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 41 R e l i g i o n i n t h e T w e n t i e t h C e n t u r y .

y. I n m y v i e w . and Identity. see his Sikhs: Ideology. 2007). 73 I divide McLeod’s scholarship into two broad areas: interpretations of various phases of Sikh history and translations of the early Sikh texts (see note 8). Grewal. he has registered McLeod’s limitations as to how he was not able to achieve the goals he had set up for himself in his study of the Janam Sakhis. 160–164. S. my differences with his work are centered on the dating of the translated d o c u m e n t s. M c L e o d d i d n o t h a v e t h e o p p o rt u n it y o . As for the latter category. 3– 4. he also contends that McLeod’s argument that Guru Nanak’s life story has to remain brief carries little significance in the light of the fact that we have far more detailed information about him than any other figure of his period.” as well as his resulting interpretation of the circumstances of the rise of the early Sikh community. Lectures on History. Institutions. See J. I have already registered my differences with his research results regarding the founding of the Sikh community. Writing in 2009. he expanded on Karine Schomer’s argument regarding the nature of medieval Indian poetry to question McLeod’s joining of Guru Nanak and Kabir as parts of the “Sant synthesis. Society and Culture of the Punjab (Patiala: Punjabi University.

It has been a deeply agonizing experience to critique McLeod’s scholarship. and in the absence of any empirical evidence he dated these texts where he thought they fitted best in the trajectory of Sikh history he himself had created. the Vars of Bhai Gurdas before 1604. 7 4 T h i s i s a s i m p o rt a n t f a c e t o f t h e p r e v i o u s g e n e r a ti o n . For the beginning of my differences with McLeod’s interpretations... say. 142–143. The Prem Sumarag in the early nineteenth/late eighteenth century. 1993). The Chaupa Singh Rahit-Nama in the mideighteenth century. and Sri Guru Panth Prakash in 1841. for references to these dates.r the time to study the early manuscripts of these texts. 17-18. eds. there is no basis to support McLeod’s dating of.” in John Stratton Hawley et al. the Puratan Janam Sakhi after 1604. Studying the Sikhs: Issues for North America (Albany: State University of New York Press. see his Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. but I feel obliged to present these thoughts for the consideration of younger scholars. In the light of the data available to us. see my “Teaching the Sikh Tradition. with which I started my own journey into the wonderland of Sikh studies in the early 1980s.

’s legacy. . Shamsher Singh Ashok. These scholars were involved in preserving manuscripts. and Piara Singh Padam. developing their repositories. which began with the pioneering efforts of Ganda Singh in the 1930s and manifested in the selfless service of many others like Randhir Singh.

and 81. 2 vols. For Shamshe r Singh Ashok’s monume ntal works.42 JPS 17:1&2 preparing their catalogue s. see Rattan Singh Jaggi. (Patiala: . see notes 3. 1: 714–716. For Ganda Singh’s biograph y. 68. For Randhir Singh. and making them available in print. see his Punjabi Hath Likhatan di Suchi. Sikh Panth Vishavko sh.

1 (June 2005). and 79. 1961 and 1963). The conventi onal framewo rks that have dominate d the efforts to carve out a distinct subject .Bhash a Vibha g. and Sikh Refere nce Librar y Amrits ar dian Hath Likhat Pustak an di Suchi (Amrit sar: Shiro mani Gurdw ara Praban dhak Comm ittee. 44. 1968). 8. and notes 2. 75 It may be useful to mention another position on this issue. ArvindPal Singh Mandair writes: “The study of Sikhs and Sikhism today is at a major turning point. In Sikh Formati ons 1. For Padam ’s contrib ution. 1995). 36. see his Rahitn ame (Amrit sar: Singh Brothe rs. 3.

At the same time as we all. when the old certaintie s are being reassesse d or giving way to new modes of thought. in some measu re.area of Sikh Studie s over the last four decade s appear s increas ingly unhelp ful. against the backdr op of globali zation and the emerg ence of new theoret ical interve ntions in the human and social scienc es. come to terms with a ‘New Age’ in the twentyfirst century. there is a serious intellectu al challenge for those of us engaged with the study of Sikhs and Sikhism. This challenge is all the more pressing for it has also come at a juncture when there is generatio . if not irrelev ant.

Replacin g the model of biblical studies that McLeod brought to Sikh studies with a new one based on the thinking of the “towerin g .” Mand air’s claim that “Sikh Studies” need to outgrow the supposed ly “convent ional framewo rk” seems reasonabl e. but how this goal is to be achieved is the key question.nal change talking place in the acade mic leaders hip of the subject . with the toweri ng ‘greats ’ of the 1960s and 1970s gradua lly giving way to a new genera tion who now neither share their minds et nor are any longer comfo rtable with metho dologi es that have so long dominate d the field.

and the contribut ion of the large history and other related . the nature of their religious affiliatio n. as Manda ir seems to do in his recentl y release d Religi on and the Specte r of the West (2010) . a publicati on produced at the time of the universit y’s silver jubilee celebrati on.‘greats ’” like Hegel and Derrid a. 76 No referen ce regardi ng the change of the name appear s in Guru Nanak Dev Universit y: A Profile (1994). may not be much of an answer to this proble m. It would be interestin g to examine this episode and find out the basis on which the present name was argued for by its supporter s.

depart ments on the campu s in this discus sion. The fact stands. howev er. that there were .

Mann: Guru Nanak’s Life and Legacy 43 d if f e r e n c e s o n w h a t n a m e s h o u l d b e u s e d t o b u il d a n i n s .G.S.

Dharam Panth dhariou.” Sikhism 9–15. GG. and t h e N ir a l a P a n t h (t h e u n i q u e p a t h . Lahnai Panth Dharam ka kia. 77 See McLeod’s “The Nanak Panth. the Bhatts describe them as the Utam Panth (the best path/the community of the best. 503).” in Who Is a Sikh?. GG. S a b a d i j i t i s i d h i m a n d a . Ik Utam Panth sunio gur sangat. 714). Maria sika jagat vichi Nanak Nirmal Panth chalia. Hari kirati rahirasi hamari Gurmukhi Panth atitang. 1401. 1: 45). M1. 360). and considers them to constitute the Gurmukh Panth (the community of the Gurmukhs. GG. and Harjot Oberoi. 477 (entries under Nanak-panth and panthis).titution honoring the founder of the tradition. M1. Guru Arjan assigns them the name of Sach da Panth (the path of truth. 1406) and Dharm Panth (the path of morality. GG. 7–22. 78 Guru Nanak calls the people at Kartarpur as the Sikhs (Sunhi sikhvante Nanaku binavai. M5. and Bhai Gurdas uses the epithets of the Nirmal Panth (the pure path/ the community of the pure. GG 1406). The Construction of Religious Boundaries. GG. Var. “The Early Nanak Panth. Kal jal jam johi na sakai Sach ka Pantha thatio.

li kitosu apanha Panth Nirala. Var. B a r a h p a n t h s a d h i e k e g u r m u k h i g a d d i r a h c h a l i a ( V . see “Apanhi Katha. 79 The Miharban Janam Sakhi 1:8.” Panjab Past and Present 1 (1967). Bhai Randhir Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University. It is interesting to note that the term Nanak Panthi does not appear even in Sujan Rai Bhandari. Sainapati. ed. 1972). 81 Bishnai das avatar nav ganhia (Var 14:4). ed. Sri Gursobha. see Ganda Singh. 82 Satigur sacha patisahu gurmukhi gaddi rah chalia (Var 5:13). For a discussion on Guru Hargobind’s year of birth. 65.” in Shabadarth Dasam Granth. Khulasat-utTavarikh [1696]. Khashtam Guru de Khat Darshan (Patiala: Kalam Mandir. and Guru Amardas: Srot Pustak. “Nanak Panthis. 1:37). For a denunciation of personal following. 47-71. and Das avatar akar kari purkharath kari nav ganhae (Var 16:10). 52 and 56. 80–81. Ganda Singh (Patiala: Punjabi University. see Piara Singh Padam. 1: 71–72. Satigur sacha patisahu gurmukhi gaddi rah chalande (Var 5 : 2 0 ). 1994). 1967). 80 For this section in the Dabistan-i-Mazahib.

Hukami razai chalanha gurmukhi gaddi rahu chalia (Var 12:17). Gurmukhi . Liha andar chaliai jiau gaddi rah.ar 7:12). Hukami razai chalanha sadh sanghi nibahu (Var 9:14). Barah panth ikatar kar gurmukhi gaddi rahu chalia (Var 18:14).

44 JPS 17:1&2 .

. Babanhai ghari chal hai gurmukhi gaddi rahu nibhai (Var 26:31). Sachu samanh sach vich gaddi rah sadh dang vahinha (Var 24:6).gaddi rahu sachu nibihiai (19:19). and Sachui vanhaji khep laic hale gurmukhi gaddi rahu nisanhi (29:12). see notes 70 and 73. The name Param Marag is an alternative title in the early manuscripts of the text that is known as the Prem Sumarag in current scholarship.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful