Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official eBook

William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,051 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

b.  The Sikhs are mostly, but not all, Jats.  The organization is essentially a religions one, and a few Brahmans and many members of various other castes join it.  Even sweepers are admitted with certain limitations.  The word Sikh means ‘disciple’.  Nanak Shah, the founder, was born in A.D. 1469.  The Adi Granth, the Sikh Bible, containing compositions by Nanak, his next four successors, and other persons, was completed in 1604.  A second Granth was compiled in 1734 by Govind Singh, the tenth Guru.  The only authoritative version of the Sikh scriptures is the great work by Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion (Oxford, 1909, 6 vols.).

The political power of the sect rested on the institutions of Guru Govind, as framed between 1690 and 1708.  In 1764 the Sikhs occupied Lahore.  Full details of their history will be found in Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs (1st ed., 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1849, suppressed and scarce; 2nd ed. 1853); and more briefly in Sir Lepel Griffin’s excellent little book, Ranjit Singh (Oxford, ‘Rulers of India’ series, 1892).

c.  See R. 0.  Temple, ‘The Coins of the Modern Chiefs of the Panjab’ (Ind.  Ant., vol. xviii (1889), pp. 321-41); and C. J. Rodgers, ’On the Coins of the Sikhs’ (J.A.S.B., vol. 1.  Part I (1881), pp. 71- 93).  The couplet is in Persian, which may be transliterated thus:—­

    Deg, tegh, wa fath, wa nasrat be darang
    Yaft az Nanak Guru Govind Singh.

The word deg, meaning pot or cauldron, is used as a symbol of plenty.  The correct rendering is:—­

    Plenty, the sword, victory, and help without delay,
    Guru Govind Singh obtained from Nanak.

d.  This prophecy has not been fulfilled.  The annexation of the Panjab in 1849 put an end to Sikh hopes of ‘conquest and plunder’, and yet the sect has not been ‘swallowed up in the great ocean of Hinduism’.  At the census of 1881 its numbers were returned as 1,853,426, or nearly two millions, for all India.  The corresponding figure for 1891 is 1,907,833.  At the time of the first British census of 1855 the outside influences were depressing:  the great Khalsa army had fallen, and Sikh fathers were slow to bring forward their sons for baptism (pahul).  The Mutiny, in the suppression of which the Sikhs took so great a part, worked a change.  The Sikhs recovered their spirits and self-respect, and found honourable careers open in the British army and constabulary.  ’Thus the creed received a new impulse, and many sons of Sikhs, whose baptism had been deferred, received the pahul, while new candidates from among the Jats and lower caste Hindoos joined the faith.’  Some reaction then, perhaps, took place, but, on the whole, the numbers of the sect have been maintained or increased.  (Sir Lepel Griffin, Ranjit Singh, pp. 25-34.) For various reasons, which I have not space to explain, the statistics of Sikhism are untrustworthy.  The returns for 1911 show an increase of 37 per cent. in the Panjab.  We may, at least, be assured that the numbers are not diminishing.

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