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Art. XIV. Sketch of the Sikhs: a singular Nation who inha
bit the Provinces of the Penjab, between the Rivers Jumna and Indus. By Brigadier-General Sir John Malcolm. Large Svo.
E knew little of the Seeks, Sic'hs, or Sikhs,* as a distinct sect
of Hindoos, till the short account of them which appeared in the fourth volume of the Asiatic Researches. Mr. Charles Wilkins found at Patna a college of this sect. Curiosity led him to ask permission to enter it; he was told it was a place of worship, open to all mankind; but he was desired, as a mark of respect, to take off his shoes. He was then conducted to a carpet, and seated in the midst of a numerous assembly. On each of six or seven low desks was placed a book. In the chancel was an altar covered with a cloth of gold, upon which was laid a round black shield over a sword. On a low desk near the altar was a large folio book. Notice was presently given that it was noon, the hour of divine service; on which the great book and desk were brought with some
eremony from the altar, and placed at the opposite extremity of the ball. An old man with a reverend silver beard, kneeling before the desk, attended by a person with a drum, and two or three others with cymbals, opened the book and chanted to the time given by them; at the conclusion of every verse, the congregation joined in a response with countenances exhibiting great marks of joy. It was a hymn in praise of the unity of the Deity. • I was singularly delighted,' says Mr. Wilkins, with the gestures of the old man: I never saw a countenance so expressive of infelt joy, whilst he turned about from one to the other, as it were bespeaking their assents to those truths which his very soul seemed to be engaged in chanting forth.' A young man next stood forth, and pronounced with a loud voice and distinct accent a kind of litany, in which, at certain periods, all the people joined in a general response, saying Wa Goorvo! They prayed against temptation; for grace to do good; for the general good of mankind; and for a particular blessing on the Seeks. A short benediction from the old man, and an invitation to a friendly feast, terminated
Mr. Wilkins was informed that the founder of their faith was named Nāneek Sah, a Hindoo of the military caste, who lived about four hundred years ago in the Penjab; that the great book he had seen was of his composing ; that this book informs them there is but one God, filling all space, and pervading all matter; and that he is to be worshipped and invoked; that there will be
* Seek, according to Mr. Wilkins, signifies • learn thou.' • Sikh or Sicsha,' says Sir John Malcolm, is a Sanscrit word, which means a disciple or devoted follower.'
sday of retribution, when virtue will be rewarded and vice punished; that it commands universal toleration, and forbids disputes with those of other persuasions; that it denounces all crimes against mciety; inculcates the practice of all the virtues, but particularly universal philanthropy, and a general hospitality to strangers and
Such is the substance of Mr. Wilkins's information collected in 1781, which is calculated more to excite than to gratify curiosity. In 1805, General (now Sir John) Malcolm, while serving with the British army in the Penjab, collected materials for elucidating the
bistory, manners and religion of the Sikhs. His Sketch of this singular people appeared in the eleventh volume of the Asiatic Researches, and is now republished in a separate work. We here learn that Nanac Shah was born in 1469, at a small village in the province of Lahore, of the Cshatreya caste and Vedi tribe of Hindoos
. Nanae was from his infancy inclined to devotion, and bis indifference for all worldły concerns gave great uneasiness to his father, who endeavoured by every effort to divert his mind from the serious turn it had taken.
With a view to effect this object, he one day gave Nanac a sum of money to purchase salt at one village in order to sell it at another; in the hope of enticing him to business by allowing him to taste the sweets of commercial profit. Nanac was pleased with the scheme, took the mobey, and proceeded, accompanied by a servant of the name of Bala, of the tribe of Sand’hu, towards the village where he was to make his purebase
. He happened, however, on the road, to fall in with some faod kirs, (boly mendicants,) with whom he wished to commence a conver
sation; but they were so weak from want of victuals, which they had not tasted for three days, that they could only reply to the observations of Nanac by bending their heads, and other civil signs of aequiescence, Nanac, affected by their situation, said to his companion with emotion, "my
father has sent me to deal in salt with a view to profit; but the gain of this world is unstable and profitless ; my wish is to relieve these poor men, and to obtain that gain which is permanent and eternal." His companion replied, “thy resolution is good ; do not delay its execution *** Nanac immediately distributed his money among the hungry fakirs
, who, after they had gained strength from the refreshment which it obtained them, entered into a long discourse with him on the unity of God, with wbich he was much delighted; be returned next day to bis father, who demanded what profit he had made. “ I have fed the poor," said Nanac, “ and have obtained that gain for you which will endure for ever.” As the father happened to have little value for the species of wealth which the son had acquired, he was enraged at having bis money so fruitlessly wasted, abused poor Nanac, and even struck him; nor could the mild representations of Nanaci save her brother from the violence of parental resentment.' The superstitions of his countrymen had, however, raised up for YOL, IX, NO, XVIII,
Nanac a powerful protector against the ill-usage of his father. While yet a youth, and tending the cattle in the fields, he fell asleep; and as the meridian sun shove full on his face, a large black snake, raising itself from the ground, interposed its broad hood between Nanac and its rays. The chief of the district witnessed this unequivocal sign of his future greatness, and having overheard Calu punishing his son, chid him severely, and interdicted him from ever listing his hand against him. Anxious, however, to fix him in some worldly occupation, the father prevailed on his son-in-law Jayram to admit him into partnership in liis business, which was that of a grain-factor. He attended at the granary for some time; but his heart was still bent on its first object.
One morning, as he sat in a contemplative posture, a holy Mahommedan fakir approached and exclaimed, “Oh Nanac! upon what are thy thoughts einployed ? Quit such occupations, that thou mayest obtain the inheritance of eternal wealth." Nanac is said to have started up at this exclamation; and, after looking for a moment in the face of the fakir, he fell into a trance, from which he had nu sooner recovered, than he immediately distributed every thing in the granary among the poor; and after this act, proceeded with loud shouts out of the gates of the city, and running into a pool of water, remained there three days; during which some writers assert, he had an interview with the prophet Elias, from whom he learnt all earthly sciences.'
From this period he began to practise all the austerities of a holy man, travelled to the different Hindoo places of pilgrimage, and visited the temple of Mecca. A celebrated musician of the name of Merdana was the companion and partaker of the adventures of this errant devotee. • Poor Merdana, who had some of the propensities of Sancho, and preferred warm houses and good meals to deserts and starvation, was coustantly in trouble, and more than once had his form changed into that of a sheep, and of several other animals. Not so his master, who resisted all the temptations thrown in his way.* To Mahommedans as well as Hindoos, he held forth the some doctrine, earnestly entreating both to abjure the errors into which they had fallen, and to revert to that great and original tenet, the Unity of the Deity. He preached before the Emperor Baber, who was so pleased with him as to offer him an ample maintenance, which he declined on the ground of a full
It i; impossible to read this part of the story, without adventing to the singular coincidence between the adventures of Navac, and those of Appollonius of Tyana, who had also his Merdana, in the person of a sunple squire and buitoon, named Daruis. The sober sense of the west quickly reduced the pretensions of this miracle-monger to their just level; and even in India, the hot-bed of credulity and imposture, it is suf. ficiently manifest, that if the institutes of Nanac had not, at an early period, assumed a cast wholly military, as little would now be heard of bim as of the thousand other juggling fakirs and yogees who have, from time to time, aspired to potoriety by the extravagance of their devotions.
confidence in him who provided for all, and from whom alone a
• Kirtipur continues a place of religious resort and
In the fabulous account of Nanac's life and travels, enough appears to warrant the conclusion that he was a man of more than common genius ;' and we think that Sir Jolin Malcolm, in the tollowing passage, has formed a pretty correct estimate of the object of his life, and the means he took to accomplish it.
Born in a province on the extreme verge of India, at the very point where the religion of Mahommed and the idolatrous worship of the Hindus appeared - to touch, and at a moment when both these tribes cherished the most violent rancour and animosity towards each other,
great aim was to blend those jarring elemenis in peaceful union; and he only endeavoured to effect this purpose through the means of mild
persuasion. His wish was to recal both Mahommedans and
government under which he lived.'
upon his followers to graft the resolute courage of the
the Hindoos had been so long manacled, to make converts from all castes and tribes, and to open to men of the lowest condition the prospect of worldly wealth and glory; to level the Brahmin with the Sudra; to make all Sikhs equal; and to let their advancement depend solely on their own exertions. To rouse their vanity he changed their name from Sikh to Sing, or lion, an honourable distinction assumed by the Rajaputs, the first military class of Hindoos. • The disciples of Govind were required to devote themselves to arms; always to have steel about them in some shape or other; to wear a blue dress; to allow their hair to grow; to exclaim, when they meet each other, Wa! Guruji ká khalsal! Wa! Guruji ki futteh! Success to the state of the Guru! Victory, attend the Guru !
The neighbouring Rajas baving made war on the Sikhs, applied to the Emperor Aurungzeb for assistance. He sent his son for the purpose of subduing them. At the prince's approach, says Govind, every body was struck with terror. Unable to comprehend the ways of the eternal, several deserted me and fied, and took refuge in the lofty mountains. He then denounces every misery that this world can bring, and all the pains and horrors of the next, on those who desert their Gúru or spiritual leader. “The man who does this shall neither have child nor offspring ; his aged parents shall die in grief and sorrow, and he shall perish like a dog, and be thrown into hell to lament.' His followers fought desperately against superior forces; his mother and his two children were taken prisoners and inhuinanly massacred, his son was slain in battle, and Govind, overwhelmed by numbers, tled from Chamkour, and sunk under his misfortunes.
A prophecy had limited the number of spiritual guides to ten; and Gurú Govind, being the tenth in succession, was the last acknowledged ruler. But a devoted follower and friend of his, nained Banda, taking advautage of the confusion which ensued on the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, established the union of the Sikhs under bis banners. Having subdued all the petty chiefs in his neighbourhood, he attacked Foujdar Khan, governor of Sarhind, the man most abhorred by the Sikhs, as the murderer of the infant children of Guru Govind. The Sikhs fought with that desperation which a spirit of revenge usually inspires. The Khan fell, with most of bis army; his wife and children were put to death together with a great part of the inhabitants of Sarhind; the mosques were destroyed or polluted; the carcasses of the dead dug up and exposed to be devoured by beasts of prey. In a word, the whole country between the Setlej and the Jumna was subdued by the Sikhs. To stop the career of these merciless invaders, which threatened the enipire of Hindostan, several armies were sent against them; and at length Banda was overcome, and fled with