Tag Archives: Sikh history

Readings for June – Singh Sabha Movement

14 Jun

Readings on the Singh Sabha Movement.

  1. Singh Sabha Movement by Prin. Teja Singh (from the book, Essays in Sikhism) It is a small reading; don’t let the pdf file size (4.87 mb) fool you.
  2. Singh Sabha Movement by New England Sikh Study Circle
  3. Singh Sabha Movement by Gurdarshan Singh (Chapter from the book ‘History and Culture of Punjab’). Opens in Google Books. (This reading has got more numbers and dates than the above two have.)


KEY PEOPLE & THEIR WORK: Below are some links related to people who played a key role in the Singh Sabha Movement, their work and some key events that occurred during that period.

  1. A short write-up on Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha here and here.
  2. And on the book “Hum Hindu Nahin” by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha written during the Singh Sabha Movement
  3. On Bhai Ditt Singh
  4. On Bhai Vir Singh (from SikhiWiki) (One of his works: Sundri)



  1. “From Ritual to Counter-Ritual: Rethinking the Hindu-Sikh Question 1884 – 1915”  – by Harjot Oberoi (At the heart of the controversy is his overarching thesis that Sikhs did not have a form and identity distinct from the Hindus until the Singh Sabha Movement).
  2. “Women in the Singh Sabha Movement” – by Doris Jakobsh (from “Relocating Gender in Sikh History”)
  3. “The Historical Roots of Sikh Communal Consciousness” – by Harnik Deol (from Religion and Nationalism in India: The case of Punjab)
  4. Singh Sabha Movement – A Revival” – by Dr. Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon (from the document put together by Sikh scholars across the world and submitted to the University of British Columbia).

Do Good Intentions Equal Accuracy?

18 Nov
Among the many Western writers who have written about Sikhism, Cunningham is undoubtedly considered to be one of the most creditable and venerable. And for good reason too. His historical accounts and corresponding footnotes are comprehensive and meticulous. Even more, the facts and perspectives that he presents are not based on any political agenda. So naturally, I embarked on this book with high expectations and very little knowledge of the post-Guruship era.

As expected,  I was really impressed by the extent to the details of events and references were provided. However, I began to question the reliability of the information regarding the Guruship era, an area which I am a little more familiar with. I am referring to the following sections:

Quote 1:
“Nanak had sanctioned or enjoined secular occupations, Arjun carried the injuction into practice, and the impulse thus given speedily extended and became general. The temper and the circumstances of Har Gobind both prompted him to innovation; he had his father’s death to move his feelings in surpassing the example of his parent even the jealous dogma of the Hindu law…” (pg 50)
According to my interpretation, this section could mean several different things:

1. Guru Har Gobind took Sikhism in a very different direction. Many people believe in the teachings of the first five Gurus, but not from Guru Hargobind and on due to their military approaches. Is Cunningham agreeing with them in this stage and saying that Guru Har Gobind took Sikhism in a very different direction? Does it simply mean that during Guru Har Gobind Ji’s contribution to the development of Sikhism was great?  Interestly, I have read how this military approach was in the development even with the earlier Gurus. For example, Guru Angad Dev Ji actually promoted the sport of wrestling and physical strenth amongst his Sikhs. (Please correct me if I am wrong about this. )

2. Part of his motivation was to simply do something different.

Quote 2:
“but the adventorous Har Gobind became a hunter and an eater of flesh and his disciples imitated him in these robust practices. The genial disposition of the martial apostle led him to rejoice in the companionship of a camp, in the dangers of war, and in the excitements of the chase, nor is it improbable that the policy of a temporal chief mingled with the feelings of an injured son…” (Pg 50)
To me, this seems more like he was into a military approach partly for hte wrong reasons. “An injured son”, this makes it seem personal. More like this was about the death of his father, rather than the revered Guru.  What do you think? Am I reading too much into all of this?

Quote 3:
“Har Gobind appears to have admitted criminals and fugitives among his followers, and where a principle of antagonism had already arisen they may have served him zealous without greatly reforming th practice of their lives; and, indeed, they are stated to have believed that the faithful Sikh would pass unquestioned into heaven.” (Page 50)
Is this saying that Guru Har Gobind did not reach this group of people on a deeper level?

Quote 4:
“Har Gobind became a follower of the Emperor Jahangir…On the death of Jahangir in 1628, Har Gobind continued in the employ of the Muhammadan Government”” (Page 51)
Please tell me that I am completely misunderstanding what he is saying!
So if indeed I am not misunderstanding his quotes, then this makes me question the other facts and opinions that he presents in the book, especially when he explains the motives for many Sikh, Hindu and Muslim rulers.  I searched for any online literature that refutes the accuracy and reliability of Cunningham, and have not found much. So what do you guys think..have I completely taken his statements out of context? I would love to hear from you!

First Book

29 Oct

We intend to kick-off our reading with the ‘History of the Sikhs‘ by J.D. Cunningham as our first book of this season. The book has a short introduction section that gives a brief overview of the book with a paragraph summary of each chapter. I have scanned that book section and have posted the pdf file here.

Reproduced below is a summary of the book (as it appears on the back cover).

Cunningham - Front Cover

Cunningham - Front Cover

“During a very important period of the history of the Sikhs, the author – Cunningham – spent eight years of his service from 1838 – 1846 in close contact with the Sikhs. The result of his eight years residence was to give him a partiality which is only too clearly visible in his handling of the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities with the British. The whole book bears evidence of most meticulous care, and the voluminous footnotes show the breadth and variety of author’s study.

Indeed, as the result of (the author’s) certain strictures upon the policy of the government of India in dealing with Gulab Singh of Jammu, the author was dismissed from his employment from the political department and sent back to regimental duty. The principal object in writing this history has not always been understood. The author’s main endeavor was to give Sikhism its place in the general history of humanity, by showing his connection with different creeds of India, by exhibiting it as a natural and important result of the Muhammadian conquest, and by impressing upon the people of England the great necessity of attending to the mental changes in progress. A secondary object was to give some account of the conncetion of the English with the Sikhs and in part with the Afghans, from the time they began to take a direct interest in the affairs of these races, and to involve them in their web of their policy for opening the navigation of the Indus, and for bringing Turkestan and Khorasan within their commercial influence.

Cunningham. Joseph Davey, General (1812 – 1851) came to India in 1834 as an officer in the Bengal Engineers. He took part in the first Sikh Was (1846). He thus had ample opportunities for knowing the Punjab and its people. His History of the Sikhs is one of the most authoritative works on the subject. His general sympathetic approach to the subject and his frank truthfulness gave great offence to this superiors and brought about his relegation from special political appointment to ordinary duty. He died at Ambala in 1851.