The Making of Sikh Scripture

The Making of Sikh Scripture

The Making of Sikh Scripture

The Making of Sikh Scripture

Synopsis

The Adi Granth ("original book"), the primary scripture of the Sikhs, comprises approximately 3,000 hymns. Although the authorship of the hymns is well-recorded, the history of the compilation the Adi Granth - the creation of the Sikh "canon" - is the subject of considerable speculation and debate. In this book, Gurinder Mann attempts to construct a comprehensive secondary literature on the topic. His findings on some key issues differ from the traditional Sikh position and from the hypotheses of other 20th-century scholars, as well as raising some entirely fresh questions. Mann's revised and expanded picture of the history of the text and institution of Sikh scripture will be of interest not only to scholars of Sikhism and Sikh religionists, but to scholars of comparative canon formation.

Excerpt

The history of the Sikhs is closely associated with the Punjab, a region in northwest India that has long served to connect South Asia with the Middle East. Nanak (1469– 1539), born in an upper-caste Hindu family, founded the Sikh community in central Punjab in the 1520s. A line of gurus (preceptors) guided the early phase of its evolution. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the community expanded its base and came to be perceived as a threat by the Mughal administration at Lahore. The tensions that followed between the Sikhs and the local administration resulted in the execution of Guru Arjan (born 1563, guru 1581–1606), the fifth Sikh guru, at Lahore, and the consequent move of the Sikh center to the Shivalik hills in the 1630s. Guru Gobind Singh (born 1666, guru 1675–1708), the tenth in line, dissolved the office of the personal guru, vesting its authority in the Adi Granth (original book), the primary Sikh scripture, and in the Panth (literally “path, ” and by extension, “community”).

Working within this newly acquired frame of authority, the Sikhs were able to wear down the Mughal and later the Afghan rule in the Punjab, and eventually establish a powerful kingdom under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839). They were the last and the most difficult political power in the Indian subcontinent to fall to the British. The annexation of the Sikh kingdom in 1849, however, generated interesting opportunities for the Sikhs to immigrate to distant countries as part of the British imperial work force. In the protracted negotiations that preceded the departure of the British from the subcontinent in 1947, the idea of an independent Sikh state figured prominently, but the small size of the Sikh population in relation to other groups in the Punjab made this impossible. In independent India, the Sikhs have been engaged in ongoing conflict with the central government in Delhi. A sustained Sikh effort led to the founding of the present-day state of Punjab in 1966, where Sikhs are in the majority . . .

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