During the Sultanate period and Mughal rule, Punjab was engaged in intermittent warfare. It was an age of chaos. Saints have a way of arriving when times are bad and sure enough, this was the time when a remarkable man was born – a man who would transform the Punjabi consciousness permanently. This was Guru Nanak Dev. He was born in 1469 in district Sheikhupura (now in Pakistan), and spent his entire adult life roaming through Punjab – and beyond Punjab to the farthest corners of India and even westward to Mecca and perhaps to Rome. By the time he died in 1539 he had launched a powerful movement with radical rejection of caste, dogma, ritualism and superstition, and this constituted the true beginning of modern thought in India. It was said of him: "Guru Nanak shah fakir, Hinduon ka guru, Mussalmanon ka pir" – meaning, "Guru Nanak, lord of renunciation, teacher of the Hindus, guide of the Muslims".
The religio-social movement of Guru Nanak was strengthened by a line of illustrious successors for the next two centuries. In circumstances transformed a purely socio-devotional movement into a creed compelled to struggle for survival with degnity and integrity of faith. The martyrdoms of Guru Arjan (1606, AD) and Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675 AD), the fifth and the ninth master, the heroic sacrifices of the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh, find no comparison in. the history of the world. Their cause was humanity and the exaltation of the human spirit.
The compilation of the Adi Granth in 1604 by Guru Arjan Dev is a remarkable literary accomplishment. It includes the works of 36 writers - six Sikh Gurus, Hindu and Muslim saints and the works of great Bhaktas We find in the lengthy volume of 1430 large-size pages, .the coherent, composite and compact philosophical compositions like Japji, Sidha Goshta by Guru Nanak and Sukhmani by Guru Arjan. The Adi Granth, in fact, besides being the treasure-house of Indian philosophy, depicts through the poetry spreading over the centuries, the social and cultural history of Punjab.
The tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh (1661-1708 AD) created the Khalsa, an army of saint-warriors to protect the down-trodden. He infused a new spirit among the masses and they rose up against the ferocity perpetrated by the rulers. He charged his Sikhs with the responsibility of fighting for the exploited and the oppressed. He was a scholar and poet, who recreated in the forceful language the myths and the traditions of the past, Figuratively speaking, he "inspired the sparrows to fight with the hawks".
The Sikhs carried on their struggle and
after the fall of Banda Bahadur, they established themselves as
sovereign rulers of the greater part of the Punjab. This was the
age of the Misals, autonomous units participating in a republican
type of confederation in which an attempt was made to reconcile
local autonomy with central responsibility. From the misals
evolved the government of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1778-1839). He
was the first independent native Indian ruler after the centuries
of slavery. His reign, though not long, is significant because of
its concept of dharma entwined with the practice of secularism.
The text and images in this section are from the Archives of the
Punjab Govt. , Plot No. 3, sector 38, Chandigarh. Telephone Nos : 0091-172-694889, 0091-172-694997
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