Odd as it may sound, the Sikhs - a unique religious community in the world - have, by and large, remained unsung, except in local fable and folklore. It is surprising that the epic story of such a striking and dynamic people has lain buried in private and public archives for so long. Of late, however, scholars, historians and writers have increasingly turned to the rich ores of Sikh civilization and quarried significant patterns and leitmotifs which define the existence of this community. The Heritage of the Sikhs is among the most distinguished in the line.
In a way, an assignment of this nature is an act of pilgrimage, for the gates would not open except to those who are touched by faith and ardour. It is, therefore, not only one's literary but also spiritual credentials which should be in order. Few amongst the living Sikhs are better suited than Harbans Singh to chronicle the ministry and estate of Sikhism. Apart from a disciplined and lapidary English idiom so characteristic of his work, he brings to bear upon the subject a sophisticated mind and a prismatic imagination.
It is a measure of his perception that he has intuitively seized upon the miraculous paradox of Sikhism, namely its affirmation of opposites. For the Sikhs are at once an extrovert and introvert people, given as much to the plough and the sword as to the rosary and the hymn. Their view of life comprehends both the body's raptures and the soul's ecstasies and agonies. It is a journey that may start on the Olympic track and end up on the road to Calvary. Their whole story indeed is a dialectical crisscross of, what may be called, horizontal and vertical planes of reality.
Professor Harbans Singh, the renowned Sikh historian, was Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism published by the Punjabi University, Patiala.
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