Open main menu

Page:Provincial geographies of India (Volume 1).djvu/195

This page needs to be proofread.
ch. xviii]

message to deliver to a peasantry naturally impatient of the shackles of orthodox Hinduism. Sikhism is the most important of all the later dissents from Brahmanism, which represent revolts against idolatry, priestly domination, and the bondage of caste and ritual. These things Nanak unhesitatingly condemned, and in the opening lines of his Japji, the morning service which every true Sikh must know by heart, he asserted in sublime language the unity of God.

The Gurus between Nanak and Govind.— The first three successors of Nanak led the quiet lives of great eastern saints. They managed to keep on good terms with the Emperor and generally also with his local representatives. The fifth Guru, Arjan (1581-1606), began the welding of the Sikhs into a body fit to play a part in secular politics. He compiled their sacred book, known as the Granth Sahib, and made Amritsar the permanent centre of their faith. The tenets of these early Gurus chimed in with the liberal sentiments of Akbar, and he treated them kindly. Arjan was accused of helping Khusru, Jahangir's rebellious son, and is alleged to have died after suffering cruel tortures.

Hitherto there had been little ill-will between monotheistic Sikhs and Muhammadans. Henceforth there was ever-increasing enmity. The peasant converts to the new creed had many scores against Turk officials to pay off, while the new leader Hargovind (1606-1645), had the motive of revenge. He was a Guru of a new type, a lover of horses and hawks, and a man of war. He kept up a bodyguard, and, when danger threatened, armed followers flocked to his standard. The easy-going Jahangir (1605-1627) on the whole treated him well. Shahjahan (1627-1659) was more strict or less prudent, and during his reign there were several collisions between the imperial troops and the Guru's followers. Hargovind