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Max Arthur Macauliffe, a renowned author, wrote in the Preface to his famous book 'The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors' -

“I bring from the East what is practically an unknown religion.” 

Although the Sikh religion and its followers are now widely known worldwide due to its universal message, the community still faces prejudice and bias due to a lack of understanding of their faith and symbols.

This prejudice became evident during the aftermath of the Twin Towers bombing in New York on September 11, 2001, when members of the Sikh community were targeted due to mistaken identity. Therefore, there is a pressing need for authentic literature on the Sikh religion, written in the language and style of Western society, to combat this ignorance.

In this regard, Sarbpreet Singh's book 'The Story of the Sikhs (1469-1708)' is a valuable contribution to the existing literature on the subject.

About Sarbpreet Singh 

Sarbpreet Singh is a well-known author, renowned for his books 'Night of the Restless Spirits' and 'The Camel Merchants of Philadelphia'. In his book, he presents the history of Sikhism from the time of Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, drawing on both traditional Sikh sources and Western writings.

More about his book 

One of the key themes in Sarbpreet's book is the impact of Guru Nanak's travels throughout India and neighbouring countries. Sarbpreet paints a vivid picture of the Guru's encounters with people from different walks of life, highlighting the transformative effect his teachings had on those he met.

A particularly memorable encounter was Guru Nanak's meeting with Sheikh Sajjan in Tulamba, who pretended to be a friendly host but was actually a cheat. Rather than succumbing to his host's deceitful intentions, the Guru began singing. Legend has it that the hymn he recited transformed Sajjan's life, leading to the establishment of the first Dharamsal (later known as gurdwaras) in his house. Sajjan was then tasked with spreading Guru Nanak's message: "Kirt karo, naam japo, wand chhako" (engage in honest labour, recite the Name of God, and share what you have).

Sarbpreet's book highlights the pioneering efforts of Guru Nanak in awakening the masses through his soul-stirring hymns, set to music by Bhai Mardana. The impact of his teachings and travels continues to be felt today, as Sikhs all over the world draw inspiration from his message of love, equality, and social justice.

The author has done a commendable job in discussing the martyrdom of the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev. They have provided insightful quotes from Emperor Jahangir’s memoirs, ‘Tuzk-e-Jahangiri’, and Portuguese letters which offer fresh perspectives on the subject. Additionally, the author has delved into various sources regarding the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Guru's travels to the Malwa, Bangar, and Puadh areas of Punjab and his works of welfare, such as digging wells, baolis, and tanks, provided much-needed water sources in the barren land. This earned the Guru the gratitude of the Jat tribes, who joined the Sikh community in large numbers.

The Guru also gave the sturdy peasantry of Malwa a mission to "Fear not, Frighten none," which posed a threat to the unjust system. This development alarmed Aurangzeb, who was already concerned about the rising popularity of the Satnamis, a sect comprising peasants, artisans, and untouchables. He sought to end the growing influence of the Guru and ordered his execution, along with his trusted companions. The martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur is described by his son and successor, Guru Gobind Singh:

Dharam het saakaa jin keeaa ||

Sees dheeaa par sirar na dheeaa ||

For righteousness, he did this deed

Laid down his head but not his creed

Guru Nanak Dev Ji's mission to establish a fair and equitable social order was accomplished by Guru Gobind Singh. On the Baisakhi of 1699, at Anandpur, the creation of the Khalsa was proclaimed to the sound of the nagaara, marking the culmination of this mission.

The author has provided insightful accounts of the lives of the Gurus, including fascinating anecdotes and legends. However, the author has not provided references for the sources consulted, making it difficult for readers to verify the information provided. For instance, on page 277, the author cites a Muslim Saint Pir who attempted to intervene in the execution of the Guru and made a prophetic statement about the downfall of Delhi. While this is an important account, the author fails to provide the Pir's name and the source of this information.

The initiative to capture the lives of Sikh gurus through the book is a beautiful one. Those curious about the religion, and even followers can go deep into the beginning and tenets of Sikhism through this impressively written account by Sarbpreet Singh. 

*Based on an article by Mohinder Singh, published in Tribune India on 8th August 2021


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