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Traditions, Personalities and Memories: Aspects of Sikh History, 1469-1914

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Item Code: HAN880
Author: Chhanda Chatterjee
Publisher: Primus Books, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789355723383
Pages: 293
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5x6.5 INCH
Weight 514 gm
Book Description
About the Book

Traditions, Personalities and Memories: Aspects of Sikh History, 1469-1914, Essays in Honour of Sardar Saran Singh highlights the traditions of self-sacrifice associated with the Sikh Gurus and their renowned followers. Ironically, these great traditions ended up being undermined during the most glorious phase of Sikh history-the rule of Maharajah Ranjit Singh-so much so that both the British sympathizers, Chief Khalsa Diwan and the Singh Sabhas, as well as the anti-British Namdharis, tried to revive these noble traditions. Persecuted by the British rulers, the Namdharis sustained their anti-colonial activities through the Ghadar movement in the twentieth century.
The legacy of Baba Gurdit Singh, explored in this volume, is also intertwined with those of the Ghadarites, owing to his expedition with Sikh migrants from Punjab to Vancouver on his chartered ship Komagata Maru, to circumvent the repressive strategies of the white dominions of Canada and the US against the Indian migrants. Around the same time, Ghadarites, retired army personnel and radical Bengali anti-colonial forces began to collaborate closely in Calcutta, which became the hub of these revolutionary activities. This volume is an effort to join these dots across history, highlight the varying sacrificial traditions and the fascinating personalities associated with such sacrifice and to rekindle the memories cherished by Sikhs over centuries.

About the Author

Chhanda Chatterjee is Senior Research Fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research, attached to the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi. A former Professor of history, she has also served as the Director of Centre for Guru Nanak Dev Studies, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Her previous publications include Punjab and Awadh: Ideology, the Agrarian Social Structure and Imperial Rule, 1858-1887 (1999); Tagore and the Sikh Gurus: A Search for an Indigenous Modernity (2014); and The Sikh Minority and the Partition of the Punjab, 1920-1947 (2019).


It is a matter of great pleasure and honour for me to write a few words on professor Chhanda Chatterjee’s edited volume entitled Traditions, Personalities and Memories: Aspects of Sikh History, 1469-1914, Essays in Honour of Sardar Saran Singh. As far as the author of the book is concerned, she is a well- known historian of national and international repute. A number of very significant and relevant books/publications on Sikh history are to her credit, such as The Sikh Minority and the Partition of Punjab 1920-1947; Tagore and the Sikh Gurus: A Search for an Indigenous Modernity; and Ecology, Sikh Legacy, and the Raj: Punjab, 1958-1987. Professor Chatterjee's formulations, especially regarding Sikh history and the history of Punjab, are really thought provoking. She has dared to reveal several rare historical documents in her books and made a balanced and pertinent commentary on them. For instance, I remember a very important historical document being published in her book, Tagore and the Sikh Gurus: A Search for an Indigenous Modernity a letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Tagore, requesting him to dissuade Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar from joining the Sikh religion along with lakhs of his followers.
As per the title of the book, various significant aspects of Sikh history have been discussed here in detail. The volume contains the research papers presented in two different seminars held at Visva-Bharati University between 2015- 2016 under the auspices of the Centre for Guru Nanak Dev Studies.


A volume on Sikh history from Bengal is a novelty, and yet this became possible through the sanction of a Centre for Guru Nanak Dev Studies for Visva-Bharati by the University Grants Commission in May 2013 under the UGC scheme of 'Centre for Epoch-making Personalities'. The initiative had been taken by our respected Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajat Kanta Ray, who had been in office from 2006 to 2011. The sanction, however, came too late, when Professor Ray's tenure had come to an end. As it always happens, Professor Ray's successor did not show much enthusiasm for it, and the Centre for Guru Nanak Dev Studies did not receive any patronage from him. Despite all odds, we could organize two seminars with the funds that the UGC had sanctioned and invited renowned scholars and authors from Punjab to add vibrancy to the spirit of regional co-operation, which had been the aim of this project. Dr Mohinder Singh, Director of National Institute of Punjab Studies and Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, Professor Indu Banga, former Professor, Panjab University, Chandigarh, Dr Jaspal Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala and Professor Param Bakhshish Singh, former Registrar, Punjabi University, Patiala, had graced the seminars with their presence as chief guests and keynote speakers. Many scholars from Visva-Bharati University and Jadavpur University expressed their interest in Sikh Studies and contributed papers.


The present volume, which is a collection of papers presented in two different seminars held in Visva-Bharati in 2015-16 under the auspices of the Centre for Guru Nanak Dev Studies, is concerned with dominant Sikh traditions, important personalities and persistent memories, which haunt and yet continue to inspire the Sikh community to surmount all hurdles in the path of its progress. The daily prayer or Ardas of the community continues to remind the Sikhs how their early martyrs laid down their lives in defence of their convictions. Personalities like those of the Gurus, the young Sahibzadas (sons of Guru Gobind Singh), the Blessed Forty, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayal Das, who suffered a gruesome end for having stood by the Guru Teg Bahadur, Lubana Lakhi Das who set his own house on fire to be able to perform the last rites of Guru Teg Bahadur without being noticed by the imperial authorities, Jaita, the Ranghar, who carried Guru Teg Bahadur's head, hiding it among piles of grasses to Anandpur to his young son and the many nameless Sikhs who embraced death but never surrendered to apostasy. In more recent times, Gurdit Singh dared a long voyage to Canada to explode the British Empire's myth of equality for all its subjects. The voyage of his ship, Komagata Maru exposed how the Empire and its white dominions were feeding on cheap colony labour and trying to shake it off once their need had been satisfied.

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