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Prof. Puran Singh: The Sikh People

This article is based on excerpts from the Spirit of the Sikh written by Professor Puran Singh in 1920's and publis...

This article is based on excerpts from the Spirit of the Sikh written by Professor Puran Singh in 1920's and published by Punjabi University Patiala in two volumes during 1982. Puran Singh was a great scientist, mystic poet, and a visionary and interpreter of the Sikh cultural consciousness. This article reflects the personal views of the great Sikh scholar which seem to be relevant for understanding Sikhism and the geopolitical aspirations of the Sikhs.

To read earlier ones, follow:
Part I

2. The Sikh People

The Sikh people, unlike other people of India, are a race of straight forward men of action, whose simple minds, informed of the Eternal by the Guru, shrinks from the idle speculation of the Brahminical mind, and also shrinks from the too theological law of the Muslim, and lives the simple, austere life of incessant labour that characterises the tiller of soil everywhere. They have an inventive genius and love the practical persuits of life - agriculture, tool-making and engineering. They are, as a people, fond of colonisation. Given opportunities and modern education, this nation has potentialities of progress which no other set of people in India possesses in so remarkable a degree [6].

Four hundred years ago, the inhabitants of the Punjab were all slaves. The invaders that came by the Khyber Pass destroyed by the sword all Indian hopes of ever becoming a self-governing nation. What could the invaders have achieved if the will to die for freedom were there in the soul of India?

Out of the downtrodden, oppressed, lifeless slaves of the Punjab, Guru Gobind Singh moulded a nation which has in it the potentialities of a progressive nation of men. In the whole of India, the Sikh nation is the brightest spot still which has an inexhaustible will to die for the love of its ideals. When they are called upon, the Sikhs seek death as moths seek light. Guru Gobind Singh cut the moorings of this nation form its racial past and a nation wholly modern in spirit and mind sprang up out of the Guru's mind, with a highly inspiring and most deeply reactive tradition and history of it own.

The Sikh was made to be a feast-giver on the roadside, to spend as the day ended, all he earned daily: and it is his self degeneration if he accumulates and thinks of the morrow. The thought of the morrow for a Sikh is irreligious. To a true Sikh, death is better than security earned with dishonesty. His giving away of his labour and love is like the lamp distributing light, like the rose distributing its fragrance. A Sikh's spontaneous and natural function of life is such; otherwise he is not a true Sikh.

The Culture created by the Guru is in one word, the all-mind divine culture. The Sikh, like the Guru, like sunlight and air and water belongs to all: he is culture-embodied, love-incarnate, sweet fragrance of humanity that kindles dead souls. Men are very rare and the Sikh still more so.

If you wish to know the Sikh, love him. There is a gleam under the stack of hay, such as Moses beheld at Sinai. The Sikh body politic is a heap of immense matter in which still scintillates the spirit. The hair of the Sikh distinguishes him and his unique love. In Brahmanical India, the spirit itself would have died without those who have worn this rather unkempt exterior. And those of Brahmanical India who might desire life, and having got the life spark to maintain it, have similarly to isolate themselves [7].

Religious fanaticism was that the Guru never allowed to enter his court. Religious superstition was eradicated from the very blood of the Sikh. The Guru cleaned with his sword the darkness that clung and clings still to the endless philosophical hair splitting of the Hindu and the Jain. The liberation of the human mind was the first and foremost thought of the Guru. He liberated man from the slavery of the Devas, the Vedas, and put him to work [8].

If the Sikh, as he was born, had ever been afforded opportunities of spiritual isolation from the rest of world, to develop his powers of self-realisation, and his instincts of art and agriculture and colonisation, his would have been by now, one of the best societies of divinely inspired labourers, of saints living by the sweat of their brow.

But Brahminism was there to engulf it from within. His political temper, the result of his complete mental liberation and his passionate love of liberty pitched him against the Moghuls from the time of its birth. Out of the jaws of death, if the Khasla has still come out, there is much hope for it yet. All is not yet lost.


Prof. Hardev Singh Virk
Department of Physics, Guru Nanak Dev University
Amritsar - 143005, India.
E-mail: [email protected]



6. Ibid, Vol. II, p. 311.
7. Ibid, Vol. I, p. 6.
8. Ibid, Vol. II, p. 321.


Related Article: 

Puran Singh: A Whitman Re-Incarnated In Punjab

Prof. Puran Singh: The Sikh Gurus

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