The unifying theme in the life of Guru Gobind Singh was confrontation with the Mughals, which culminated in a struggle for political power. This fact is brought into sharp focus when we consider the Guru’s life and legacy simultaneously in the contexts of the Mughal Empire, its feudatory states in the hills, and the Sikh movement. The creation of the Khalsa in 1699 as a political community with the aspiration to rule made conciliation or compromise with the Mughal state almost impossible. Their long struggle ended eventually in the declaration of Khalsa Raj in 1765.
Using contemporary and near contemporary sources in Gurmukhi, Persian, and English, J.S. Grewal presents a comprehensive study of this era of Sikh history. The volume elaborates on the life and legacy of Guru Gobind Singh and explores the ideological background of the institution of the Khalsa and its larger political context. Grewal, however, emphasizes that the legacy of the Khalsa was also social and cultural. This authoritative volume on the tenth Guru is a significant addition to the field of Sikh studies.
J.S. Grewal is former professor and vice chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. Until recently, he was Professor of Eminence at the Punjabi University, Patiala, India.
In celebration of the tercentenary of Guru Gobind Singh's birth, I wrote (jointly with S. S. Bal) a biographical study of Guru Gobind Singh for the Panjab University. It was published in 1967, and reprinted in 1987. Three other biographies of Guru Gobind Singh were published in 1965-7. But none of them gave references to the sources used for the statements made in the text. Historians of a new generation have referred to our biographical study as an 'authoritative' and a 'seminal' work. The present study is distinguished by the use of contemporary and near contemporary sources in Gurmukhi, Persian, and English as much as its widened scope.
This study has 12 chapters placed in four parts. The first part has two chapters. The first relates in a way to historio-graphical context, highlighting new perspectives on issues and sources which have emerged in the past few decades. The second chapter outlines the context provided by the Mughal state for developments related to the Sikh Panth. Far from being an inert framework, the Mughal state was an active agency for shaping events.
The second part too has two chapters on the pre-Khalsa decades. Chapter 3 relates to the early life and the first decade of Guru Gobind Singh's Guruship and chapter 4 deals with his political activity from 1685 to 1698. The third part has three chapters. Chapters 5 and 6 relate to the literary activity at the court of Guru Gobind Singh from 1685 to 1698, and the social and political import of courtly literature. The institution of the Khalsa, the most momentous event of Guru Gobind Singh's life, forms the subject of chapter 6.
The fourth part has 5 chapters. Escalation of conflict between the Mughal authorities and Guru Gobind Singh, resulting in the evacuation of Anandpur, is the subject of chapter 8. In chapters 9 and 10, Guru Gobind Singh negotiates a peaceful settlement with Aurangzeb and Bahadur Shah. On the failure of negotiations, Banda was commissioned as a Singh to lead the Khalsa Singhs in revolt against the Mughal state in a bid for Khalsa Raj. In chapter 11, Guru Gobind Singh enunciates the last commandment of his life, the vesting of Guruship in the Granth and the Panth. The political, social, and cultural legacies of Guru Gobind Singh are discussed in chapter 12.
A number of controversial themes have been discussed in short appendices: (a) Khalsa identity in a recent study of the Sikh warrior tradition; (b) Ani Rai's Jangnama; (c) Guru Gobind Singh's speech on the Baisakhi of 1699; (d) Koer Singh's Gurbilas; (e) Bhai Nand Lal's homage to the Sikh Gurus; (f) Signification of the term 'Khalsa'; (g) Perspectives on the Zafarnama; (h) How to account for Guru Gobind Singh's presence near Bahadur Shah (1707-8); (i) Mata Sundari, Mata Sahib Devi, and the Khalsa Panth; and (j) Hanne Hanne Patshahi.
The sub-title of the book, 'Master of the White Hawk', is added with deference to its association with Guru Gobind Singh in popular Sikh art and lore. Incidentally, the Mughal emperor Akbar was also fond of the white hawk.
Working on this book, I have become indebted to a number of institutions and individuals. I may mention in particular Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha Library, Punjabi University, Patiala; the Library of its Department of Punjab Historical Studies; A. C. Joshi Library, Panjab University, Chandigarh; Bhai Gurdas Library, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; and Sikh History Research Library, Khalsa College, Amritsar. Among the persons who have been helpful throughout this work, I would like to mention Professor Indu Banga, Dr Karamjit K. Malhotra, Professor Sheena Pall, and Professor Reeta Grewal (my daughter). Without their sustained interest and active support, the book would not have been completed. I am grateful to them.
I am thankful to Komal for typing out several drafts of the book with diligence and care.
It has been a pleasure to work with the OUP team. I appreciate their professional concern.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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