Sikh Vision of Church-State Relations

By Singh, Arvinder | Political Economy Journal of India, January-June 2013 | Go to article overview

Sikh Vision of Church-State Relations


Singh, Arvinder, Political Economy Journal of India


Guru Nanak's Political Observations

Guru Nanak was not a professional political theorist and was, by and large, a religious and social reformer. He was a keen observer of the political scene and deep feelings and involvement in the problems of his times. Therefore, he reacted and responded to the contemporary situations and from these his political views can be inferred. (1) Unlike other religious reformers of medieval India he had a deep awareness of the political problems-maladministration and insecurity--which affected the daily life of the common people. This was natural for a teacher whose view of spiritual life centered round the ordinary householder and eschewed asceticism. (2)

He did not relish the foreign invasions and the cowardice shown by the people in submitting to them. He was deeply moved at the tyrannous march of the Mughals and the havoc they wrought upon the Punjab, especially upon the city named Sayyad Pur (modern Eminabad, now in Pakistan) and expressed his agony in his composition entitled Babar Vani which is in fact a soulful lament of the Guru at the cruelties perpetrated by Babar. (3)

The verses known as Babur-bani contain among other things a political comment. The army of Babur is called the marriage party of sin, brides are demanded by force, and the rites of marriage are performed by Satan and not by the qazi or the Brahman. The reference clearly is to rape. No distinction was made between women of low and high caste, or between Muslim and Hindu women. Khurasan (Kabul) was occupied in a friendly manner but Hindustan was threatened, the Mughals descended as the agency of Death, the people cried in suffering. (4)

Guru Nanak was dissatisfied with the political rule of His time. He depicts the barbaric nature of political rulers of His times in His Divine hymns. Guru Nanak said, "The dark-age is the scalpel, the kings are the butchers and righteousness has taken wings and flown". (5) He also said, "A pauper is styled a king and the blockhead is termed a scholar. The blind man is styled as a seer. So do people talk, this mischievous one is termed a leader and the liar sits as a perfect man. Nanak, thorough the Guru alone it is known, that this is the (way) or (justice) of the Dark Age, The deer, the hawks and the officials; they are called learned and clever, When the trap is laid, they trap their own class, but hereafter find no refuge". (6) To Him, "Both avarice and sin are the King and Minister and falsehood is the Master of Minit. Lust, the assistant official, is summoned and consulted and they all sit together and chalk out evil plans. The subjects are blind and, without wisdom, they satisfy the Official's fire or greed with bribe carrion". (7)

Sikh Perspective of Politics

During the Renaissance and Reformation movements Western world experienced the great revulsion of religion in the history of mankind. Western scholarship began to examine the social and spiritual phenomenon in binary relationships. They argue for reason, scientific approach, extreme empiricism, profit oriented market economy with minimum state interference and restricted sphere of State. They discard the religious beliefs and began to believe that the existence of Church (religion) is a threat to the modernity.

The new belief system gave birth to Church-State conflict in the Europe in 15th and 16th centuries. Church-State controversy changed the basic character of politics in the Europe. God centered politics is replaced by power centered politics. The sense of God's fear is replaced by unrestrained appetite for power. In gradual process the unrestrained obsession for scientific approach led them to away from religion and mysticism. The emergence of modern day liberal-democratic political systems, industrialization and modernization on the one hand and on the other side cynicism, clash among various ethnic groups, decay of ethical values and unbridgeable gulf between haves and have not's are extreme offshoots of church-state controversy in the West.

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