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Title: Sketch of the Sikhs - A Singular Nation Who Inhabit the Provinces of Pehjab, - Situated Between the Rivers Iumna and Indus
Author: Malcolm, John
Language: English
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  A Singular Nation,
  The Rivers Jumna and Indus.


  By James Moyes, Greville Street, Hatton Garden.



This Sketch has already appeared in the eleventh volume of the Asiatic
Researches: but, as that valuable work is not in common circulation,
it is now republished; and may prove acceptable, as a short and clear
account of an oriental people, of singular religion and manners, with
whose history the European reader can be but little acquainted.



When with the British army in the Penjáb, in 1805, I endeavoured to
collect materials that would throw light upon the history, manners, and
religion of the Sikhs. Though this subject had been treated by several
English writers, none of them had possessed opportunities of obtaining
more than very general information regarding this extraordinary race;
and their narratives therefore, though meriting regard, have served
more to excite than to gratify curiosity.

In addition to the information I collected while the army continued
within the territories of the Sikhs, and the personal observations
I was able to make, during that period, upon the customs and manners
of that nation, I succeeded with difficulty in obtaining a copy of
the Adí-Grant'h[1], and of some historical tracts, the most essential
parts of which, when I returned to Calcutta, were explained to me by a
Sikh priest of the Nirmala order, whom I found equally intelligent and
communicative, and who spoke of the religion and ceremonies of his sect
with less restraint than any of his brethren whom I had met with in the
Penjáb. This slender stock of materials was subsequently much enriched
by my friend Dr. Leyden, who has favoured me with a translation of
several tracts written by Sikh authors in the Penjábí and Dúggar
dialects, treating of their history and religion; which, though full
of that warm imagery which marks all oriental works, and particularly
those whose authors enter on the boundless field of Hindú mythology,
contain the most valuable verifications of the different religious
institutions of the Sikh nation.

It was my first intention to have endeavoured to add to these
materials, and to have written, when I had leisure, a history of the
Sikhs; but the active nature of my public duties has made it impossible
to carry this plan into early execution, and I have had the choice of
deferring it to a distant and uncertain period; or of giving, from
what I actually possessed, a short and hasty sketch of their history,
customs, and religion. The latter alternative I have adopted: for,
although the information I may convey in such a sketch may be very
defective, it will be useful at a moment when every information
regarding the Sikhs is of importance; and it may, perhaps, stimulate
and aid some person, who has more leisure and better opportunities, to
accomplish that task which I once contemplated.

In composing this rapid sketch of the Sikhs, I have still had to
encounter various difficulties. There is no part of oriental biography
in which it is more difficult to separate truth from falsehood, than
that which relates to the history of religious impostors. The account
of their lives is generally recorded, either by devoted disciples
and warm adherents, or by violent enemies and bigotted persecutors.
The former, from enthusiastic admiration, decorate them with every
quality and accomplishment that can adorn men: the latter misrepresent
their characters, and detract from all their merits and pretensions.
This general remark I have found to apply with peculiar force to the
varying accounts given, by Sikh and Muhammedan authors, of Nánac and
his successors. As it would have been an endless and unprofitable task
to have entered into a disquisition concerning all the points in which
these authors differ, many considerations have induced me to give a
preference, on almost all occasions, to the original Sikh writers. In
every research into the general history of mankind, it is of the most
essential importance to hear what a nation has to say of itself; and
the knowledge obtained from such sources has a value, independent of
its historical utility. It aids the promotion of social intercourse,
and leads to the establishment of friendship between nations. The
most savage states are those who have most prejudices, and who are
consequently most easily conciliated or offended: they are always
pleased and flattered, when they find, that those whom they cannot
but admit to possess superior intelligence, are acquainted with their
history, and respect their belief and usages: and, on the contrary,
they hardly ever pardon an outrage against their religion or customs,
though committed by men who have every right to plead the most profound
ignorance, as an excuse for the words or actions that have provoked



Nánac Sháh, the founder of the sect, since distinguished by the name
of Sikhs[2], was born in the year of Christ 1469, at a small village
called Talwandi[3], in the district of Bhatti, in the province of
Lahore. His father, whose name was Cálú[4], was of the Cshatríya
cast, and Védí tribe of Hindús, and had no family except Nánac, and
his sister Nánaci, who married a Hindú of the name of Jayarám, that
was employed as a grain-factor by Daulet Khán Lódí, a relation of the
reigning emperor of Delhi. Nánac was, agreeably to the usage of the
tribe in which he was born, married to a woman of respectable family,
at an early age[5], by whom he had two sons, named Sríchand and Lacshmí
Dás. The former, who abandoned the vanities of the world, had a son
called Dherm Chand, who founded the sect of Udásí; and his descendants
are yet known by the name of Nánac Putráh, or the children of Nánac.
Lacshmí Dás addicted himself to the pleasures of this world, and left
neither heirs nor reputation.

Nánac is stated, by all Sikh writers, to have been, from his
childhood, inclined to devotion; and the indifference which this
feeling created towards all worldly concerns, appears to have been
a source of continual uneasiness to his father; who endeavoured, by
every effort, to divert his mind from the religious turn which it
had taken. With a view to effect this object, he one day gave Nánac
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. Nánac was pleased with the
scheme, took the money, and proceeded, accompanied by a servant of
the name of Bála, of the tribe of Sand'hú, towards the village where
he was to make his purchase. He happened, however, on the road, to
fall in with some Fakírs, (holy mendicants,) with whom he wished to
commence a conversation; 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 Nánac by bending their heads, and other civil
signs of acquiescence. Nánac, 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[6] replied: "Thy resolution is
good: do not delay its execution." Nánac immediately distributed his
money among the hungry Fakírs; 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 which he was much delighted. He
returned next day to his father, who demanded what profit he had made?
"I have fed the poor," said Nánac, "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 his money so fruitlessly wasted, abused poor Nánac,
and even struck him; nor could the mild representations of Nánací save
her brother from the violence of parental resentment. Fortune, however,
according to the Sikh narrators of this anecdote of their teacher's
early life, had raised him a powerful protector, who not only rescued
him from punishment, but established his fame and respectability upon
grounds that at once put him above all fear of future bad usage from
his low-minded and sordid father. When Nánac was quite a youth, and
employed to tend cattle in the fields, he happened to repose himself
one day under the shade of a tree; and, as the sun declined towards
the west, its rays fell on his face, when a large black snake[7],
advancing to the spot where he lay, raised itself from the ground,
and interposed its spread hood between Nánac and the sun's rays. Ráy
Bolar[8], the ruler of the district, was passing the road, near the
place where Nánac slept, and marked, in silence, though not without
reflection, this unequivocal sign of his future greatness. This chief
overheard Cálú punishing his son for his kindness to the Fakírs. He
immediately entered, and demanded the cause of the uproar; and, when
informed of the circumstances, he severely chid Cálú for his conduct,
and interdicted him from ever again lifting his hand to Nánac, before
whom, to the astonishment of all present, he humbled himself with every
mark of the most profound veneration. Though Cálú, from this event, was
obliged to treat his son with more respect than formerly, he remained
as solicitous as ever to detach him from his religious habits, and
to fix him in some worldly occupation; and he prevailed upon Jayrám,
his son-in-law, to admit him into partnership in his business. Nánac,
obliged to acquiesce in these schemes, attended at the granary of
Daulet Khán Lódí, which was in charge of Jayrám; but though his hands
were employed in this work, and his kindness of manner made all the
inhabitants of Sultánpúr, where the granary was established, his
friends, yet his heart never strayed for one moment from its object.
It was incessantly fixed on the Divinity; and one morning, as he sat
in a contemplative posture, a holy Muhammedan Fakír approached, and
exclaimed: "Oh Nánac! upon what are thy thoughts now employed? Quit
such occupations, that thou mayest obtain the inheritance of eternal
wealth." Nánac is said to have started up at this exclamation, and
after looking for a moment in the face of the Fakír, he fell into a
trance; from which he had no sooner recovered, than he immediately
distributed every thing in the granary among the poor[9]: 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, termed
by the Muhammedans, Khizzer, from whom he learnt all earthly sciences.

While Nánac remained in the pool, abstracted from all worldly
considerations, holding converse with a prophet, poor Jayrám was put
in prison by Daulet Khán Lódí, on the charge of having dissipated his
property. Nánac, however, returned, and told Daulet Khán that Jayrám
was faultless; that he was the object of punishment; and that, as such,
he held himself ready to render the strictest account of all he had
lost. The Khán accepted his proposal: Jayrám's accounts were settled;
and, to the surprise of all, a balance was found in his favour; on
which he was not only released, but reinstated in the employment and
favour of his master. We are told, by the Sikh authors, that these
wonderful actions increased the fame of Nánac in a very great degree;
and that he began, from this period, to practise all the austerities
of a holy man; and, by his frequent abstraction in the contemplation
of the divine Being, and his abstinence and virtue, he soon acquired
great celebrity through all the countries into which he travelled.

There are many extravagant accounts regarding the travels of Nánac. One
author[10], who treats of the great reform which he made in the worship
of the true God, which he found degraded by the idolatry of the Hindús,
and the ignorance of the Muhammedans, relates his journey to all the
different Hindú places of pilgrimage, and to Mecca, the holy temple of
the Muhammedans.

It would be tedious, and foreign to the purpose of this sketch, to
accompany Nánac in his travels, of which the above-mentioned author,
as well as others, has given the most circumstantial accounts. He was
accompanied (agreeable to them) by a celebrated musician, of the name
of Merdaná, and a person named Bála Sand'hú; and it is on the tradition
of the latter of these disciples, that most of the miracles[11] and
wonders of his journies are related. In Bengal, the travellers had to
encounter all kinds of sorcerers and magicians. Poor Merdaná, who had
some of the propensities of Sancho, and preferred warm houses and good
meals to deserts and starvation, was constantly in trouble, and more
than once had his form changed into that of a sheep, and of several
other animals. Nánac, however, always restored his humble friend to the
human shape, and as constantly read him lectures on his imprudence.
It is stated, in one of those accounts, that a Rájá of Sivanáb'hu
endeavoured to tempt Nánac, by offering him all the luxuries of the
world, to depart from his austere habits, but in vain. His presents
of rich meats, splendid clothes, and fair ladies, only afforded the
Sikh teacher so many opportunities of decrying the vanities of this
world, and preaching to the Rájá the blessings of eternal life; and he
at last succeeded in making him a convert, and resided at Sivanáb'hu
two years and five months; during which period he composed the Prán
Sancali[12], for the instruction of his followers. After Nánac had
visited all the cities of India, and explained to all ranks the great
doctrines of the unity and omnipresence of God, he went to Mecca and
Medina, where his actions, his miracles, and his long disputations
with the most celebrated Muhammedan saints and doctors, are most
circumstantially recorded by his biographers. He is stated, on this
occasion, to have maintained his own principles, without offending
those of others; always professing himself the enemy of discord, and
as having no object but to reconcile the two faiths of the Muhammedans
and Hindús in one religion; which he endeavoured to do by recalling
them to that great and original tenet, in which they both believed,
the unity of God, and by reclaiming them from the numerous errors
into which they had fallen. During his travels, Nánac was introduced
to the emperor Báber[13], before whom he is said to have defended
his doctrine with great firmness and eloquence. Báber was pleased
with him, and ordered an ample maintenance to be bestowed upon him;
which the Sikh priest refused; observing, that he trusted in him who
provided for all men, and from whom alone a man of virtue and religion
would consent to receive favour or reward. When Nánac returned from
his travels, he cast off the garments of a Fakír, and wore plain
clothes, but continued to give instructions to his numerous disciples;
and he appears, at this period, to have experienced the most violent
opposition from the Hindú zealots, who reproached him with having laid
aside the habits of a Fakír, and with the impiety of the doctrines
which he taught. These accusations he treated with great contempt;
and an author, before cited, Bhai Gúrú Dás Vali, states, that when
he visited Vatála, he enraged the Yógíswaras[14] so much, that they
tried all their powers of enchantment to terrify him. "Some," says
this writer, "assumed the shape of lions and tigers, others hissed
like snakes, one fell in a shower of fire, and another tore the stars
from the firmament;" but Nánac remained tranquil: and when required to
exhibit some proof of his powers that would astonish them, he replied:
"I have nothing to exhibit worthy of you to behold. A holy teacher has
no defence but the purity of his doctrine: the world may change, but
the Creator is unchangeable." These words, adds the author, caused the
miracles and enchantments of the Yógíswaras to cease, and they all fell
at the feet of the humble Nánac, who was protected by the all perfect

Nánac, according to the same authority, went from Vatála to Multán,
where he communed with the Pírs, or holy fathers of the Muhammedan
religion of that country. "I am come," said he, when he entered that
province, "into a country full of Pírs, like the sacred Gangá, visiting
the ocean." From Multán he went to Kírtipúr[15], where he threw off his
earthly shape, and was buried near the bank of the river Rávi, which
has since overflowed his tomb. Kírtipúr continues a place of religious
resort and worship; and a small piece of Nánac's garment is exhibited
to pilgrims, as a sacred relic, at his Dharmasálá, or temple.

It would be difficult to give the character of Nánac[16] on the
authority of any account we yet possess. His writings, especially
the first chapters of the Adí-Grant'h, will, if ever translated, be
perhaps a criterion by which he may be fairly judged; but the great
eminence which he obtained, and the success with which he combated the
opposition which he met, afford ample reason to conclude that he was
a man of more than common genius: and this favourable impression of
his character will be confirmed by a consideration 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
Muhammed and the idolatrous worship of the Hindús appeared to touch,
and at a moment when both these tribes cherished the most violent
rancour and animosity towards each other, his great aim was to blend
those jarring elements in peaceful union, and he only endeavoured to
effect this purpose through the means of mild persuasion. His wish was
to recall both Muhammedans and Hindús to an exclusive attention to that
sublimest of all principles, which inculcates devotion to God, and
peace towards man. He had to combat the furious bigotry of the one, and
the deep-rooted superstition of the other; but he attempted to overcome
all obstacles by the force of reason and humanity. And we cannot have a
more convincing proof of the general character of that doctrine which
he taught, and the inoffensive light in which it was viewed, than the
knowledge that its success did not rouse the bigotry of the intolerant
and tyrannical Muhammedan government under which he lived.

Nánac did not deem either of his sons, before mentioned, worthy of
the succession to his spiritual functions, which he bequeathed to
a Cshatríya of the Tréhún tribe, called Lehana, who had long been
attached to him, and whom he had initiated in the sacred mysteries of
his sect, clothed in the holy mantle of a Fakír, and honoured with the
name of Angad[17], which, according to some commentators, means _own

Gúrú Angad, for that is the name by which he is known by all Sikhs, was
born at the village of Khandúr, on the bank of the Béyah, or Hyphasis,
in the province of Lahore. His life does not appear to have been
distinguished by any remarkable actions. He taught the same doctrine as
Nánac, and wrote some chapters that now form part of the Grant'h. He
left two sons, Vásu and Dátu, but neither of them was initiated; and
he was succeeded, at his death[18], which happened in the year A. D.
1552, and of the Samvat 1609, by Amera Dás, a Cshatríya of the tribe of
B'halé, who performed the duties of a menial towards him for upwards
of twelve years. It is stated, that the daily occupation of Amera Dás
was to bring water from the Béyah river, a distance of six miles, to
wash the feet of his master; and that one night, during a severe storm,
as he was returning from his journey, his foot slipped, and he fell
and broke the vessel that contained the river water, opposite the
door of a weaver, who lived next house to Angad. The weaver, startled
at the noise, demanded, in a loud voice, of his wife, from whence it
proceeded. The woman, who was well acquainted with the daily toils and
the devotion of Angad's servant, replied, "It was poor Amera Dás, who
knows neither the sweets of sleep by night, nor of rest by day." This
conversation was overheard by Angad; and when Amera Dás came, next
morning, to perform his usual duties, he treated him with extraordinary
kindness, and said: "You have endured great labour; but, henceforward,
enjoy rest." Amera Dás was distinguished for his activity in preaching
the tenets of Nánac, and was very successful in obtaining converts
and followers; by the aid of whom he established some temporal power,
built Kujaráwál, and separated from the regular Sikhs the Udásí sect,
which was founded by Dherm-Chand, the son of Nánac, and was probably
considered, at that period, as heretical.

Amera Dás had two children, a son named Móhan, and a daughter named
Móhani, known by the name of B'háini; regarding whose marriage he
is stated to have been very anxious: and as this event gave rise to
a dynasty of leaders, who are almost adored among the Sikhs, it is
recorded with much minuteness by the writers of that nation.

Amera Dás had communicated his wishes, regarding the marriage of
B'háini, to a Bráhmen, who was his head servant, and directed him to
make some inquiries. The Bráhmen did so, and reported to his master
that he had been successful, and had found a youth every way suited
to be the husband of his daughter. As they were speaking upon this
subject in the street, Amera Dás asked what was the boy's stature?
"About the same height as that lad," said the Bráhmen, pointing to a
youth standing near them. The attention of Amera Dás was instantly
withdrawn from the Bráhmen, and intently fixed upon the youth to whom
he had pointed. He asked him regarding his tribe, his name, and his
family. The lad said his name was Rám Dás, and that he was a Cshatríya,
of a respectable family, of the Sóndi tribe, and an inhabitant of
the village of Góndawál. Amera Dás, pleased with the information he
had received, took no more notice of the Bráhmen and his choice of a
son-in-law, but gave his daughter to the youth whom fortune had so
casually introduced to his acquaintance[19]. Amera Dás died in the
year A. D. 1574, and of the Samvat 1631, at the village of Góndawál,
in the province of Lahore, and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rám
Dás[20], whom he had initiated in the sacred mysteries of his holy
profession, and who became famous for his piety, and still more from
the improvements he made at Amritsar, which was for some time called
Rámpúr, or Rámdáspúr, after him. Some Sikh authorities ascribe the
foundation of this city to him, which is not correct, as it was a very
ancient town, known formerly under the name of Chak. He, however, added
much to its population, and built a famous tank, or reservoir of water,
which he called Amritsar, a name signifying the water of immortality,
and which has become so sacred, that it has given its name, and
imparted its sanctity, to the town of Rámdáspúr, which has become the
sacred city of the Sikh nation, and is now only known by the name of

After a life passed in the undisturbed propagation of his tenets, in
explanation of which he wrote several works, he died, in the year A. D.
1581, and of the Samvat 1638, at Amritsar, leaving two sons, Arjunmal
and Bharatmal. He was succeeded by the former[21], who has rendered
himself famous by compiling the Adí-Grant'h[22]. The Adí-Grant'h, or
first sacred volume of the Sikhs, contains ninety-two sections: it was
partly composed by Nánac and his immediate successors, but received its
present form and arrangement from Arjunmal[23], who has blended his
own additions with what he deemed most valuable in the compositions of
his predecessors. It is Arjun, then, who ought, from this act, to be
deemed the first who gave consistent form and order to the religion of
the Sikhs: an act which, though it has produced the effect he wished,
of uniting that nation more closely, and of increasing their numbers,
proved fatal to himself. The jealousy of the Muhammedan government was
excited, and he was made its sacrifice. The mode of his death, which
happened in the year of Christ 1606, and of the Samvat 1663, is related
very differently by different authorities: but several of the most
respectable agree in stating, that his martyrdom, for such they term
it, was caused by the active hatred of a rival Hindú zealot, Daníchand
Cshatríya, whose writings he refused to admit into the Adí-Grant'h, on
the ground that the tenets inculcated in them were irreconcileable to
the pure doctrine of the unity and omnipotence of God, taught in that
sacred volume. This rival had sufficient influence with the Muhammedan
governor of the province to procure the imprisonment of Arjun; who
is affirmed, by some writers, to have died from the severity of his
confinement; and, by others, to have been put to death in the most
cruel manner. In whatever way his life was terminated, there can be no
doubt, from its consequences, that it was considered, by his followers,
as an atrocious murder, committed by the Muhammedan government; and the
Sikhs, who had been, till then, an inoffensive, peaceable sect, took
arms under Har Góvind, the son of Arjunmal, and wreaked their vengeance
upon all whom they thought concerned in the death of their revered

The contest carried on by Har Góvind against the Muhammedan chiefs in
the Penjáb, though no doubt marked by that animosity which springs from
a deep and implacable sense of injury on one part, and the insolence
and violence of insulted power on the other, could not have been of
great magnitude or importance, else it would have been more noticed by
contemporary Muhammedan writers; but it was the first fruits of that
desperate spirit of hostility, which was soon after to distinguish the
wars between the followers of Nánac and those of Muhammed: and, from
every account of Har Góvind's life, it appears to have been his anxious
wish to inspire his followers with the most irreconcileable hatred of
their oppressors.

It is stated, that this warlike[24] Gúrú, or priest militant, wore
two swords in his girdle. Being asked why he did so: "The one," said
he, "is to revenge the death of my father; the other, to destroy the
miracles of Muhammed."

Har Góvind is reputed, by some authors, to have been the first who
allowed his followers to eat[25] the flesh of all animals, with the
exception of the cow: and it appears not improbable that he made
this great change in their diet at the time when he effected a still
more remarkable revolution in their habits, by converting a race of
peaceable enthusiasts into an intrepid band of soldiers[26]. He had
five sons, Bábú Gúrúdaitya, Saurat Singh, Tégh Bahádur, Anna Ráy, and
Atal Ráy. The two last died without descendants. Saurat Singh and
Tégh Singh, or Tégh Bahádur, were, by the cruel persecution of the
Muhammedans, forced to fly into the mountains to the northward of the
Penjáb. His eldest son, Gurudaítya, died early, but left two sons,
Dáharmal and Har Ráy; the latter of whom succeeded his grandfather,
who died in the year A. D. 1644, and of the Samvat 1701. It does not
appear that Har Ráy enjoyed much temporal power, or that he entered
into any hostilities with the Muhammedans: his rule was tranquil, and
passed without any remarkable event; owing, probably, to the vigor
which the Muhammedan power had attained in the early part of the reign
of Aurungzéb. At his death, which happened in the year A. D. 1661, and
of the Samvat 1718, a violent contest arose among the Sikhs, regarding
the succession to the office of spiritual leader; for the temporal
power of their ruler was, at this period, little more than nominal.
The dispute between his sons, or, as some Sikh authors state, his son
and grandson, Har Crishn and Rám Ráy, was referred to Dehli, whither
both parties went; and, by an imperial decree of Aurungzéb, the Sikhs
were allowed to elect their own priest. They chose Har Crishn, who
died at Dehli in the year A. D. 1664, and of the Samvat 1721; and was
succeeded by his uncle, Tégh Behádur. He, however, had to encounter the
most violent opposition from his nephew, Rám Ráy[27], who remained at
Dehli, and endeavoured, by every art and intrigue, to effect his ruin:
he was seized, and brought to Dehli, in consequence of his nephew's
misrepresentations; and, after being in prison for two years, was
released at the intercession of Jayasingh, Rájá of Jayapúr, whom he
accompanied to Bengal. Tégh Behádur afterwards took up his abode at
the city of Patna[28]; but was pursued, agreeable to Sikh authors, to
his retreat, with implacable rancour, by the jealousy and ambition of
Rám Ráy; who at last accomplished the destruction of his rival. He was
brought from Patna, and, by the accounts of the same authors, publicly
put to death, without even the allegation of a crime, beyond a firm
and undaunted assertion of the truth of that faith of which he was
the high priest. This event is said to have taken place in the year
A. D. 1675, and of the Samvat 1732: but the Sikh records of their own
history, from the death of Har Góvind to that of Tégh Behádur, are
contradictory and unsatisfactory, and appear to merit little attention.
The fact is, that the sect was almost crushed, in consequence of their
first effort to attain power, under Har Góvind; and, from the period
of his death to that of Tégh Behádur, the Mogul empire was, as has
been before stated, in the zenith of its power, under Aurungzéb: and
the Sikhs, who had never attained any real strength, were rendered
still weaker by their own internal dissensions. Their writers have
endeavoured to supply this chasm in their history by a fabulous account
of the numerous miracles which were wrought by their priests, Rám Ráy,
Har Crishn, and even the unfortunate Tégh Behádur, at Delhi, all of
whom are said to have astonished the emperor and his nobles, by a
display of their supernatural powers: but their wide difference from
each other, in these relations, would prove, if any proof was wanting,
that all the annals of that period are fabricated.

The history of the Sikhs, after the death of Tégh Behádur, assumes
a new aspect. It is no longer the record of a sect, who, revering
the conciliatory and mild tenets of their founder, desired more to
protect themselves than to injure others; but that of a nation, who,
adding to a deep sense of the injuries they had sustained from a
bigotted and overbearing government, all the ardour of men commencing
a military career of glory, listened, with rapture, to a son glowing
with vengeance against the murderers of his father, who taught a
doctrine suited to the troubled state of his mind, and called upon
his followers, by every feeling of manhood, to lay aside their
peaceable habits, to graft the resolute courage of the soldier on the
enthusiastic faith of the devotee, to swear eternal war with the cruel
and haughty Muhammedans, and to devote themselves to _steel_, as the
only means of obtaining every blessing that this world, or that to
come, could afford to mortals.

This was the doctrine of Gúrú Góvind, the son of Tégh Behádur; who,
though very young at his father's death, had his mind imbued with the
deepest horror at that event, and cherished a spirit of implacable
resentment against those whom he considered as his murderers. Devoting
his life to this object, we find him, when quite a youth, at the head
of a large party of his followers, amid the hills of Srínagar, where
he gave proofs of that ardent and daring mind, which afterwards raised
him to such eminence. He was not, however, able to maintain himself
against the prince of that country, with whom he had entered into
hostilities; and, being obliged to leave it, he went to the Penjáb,
where he was warmly welcomed by a Hindú chief in rebellion against the
government. This chief gave Góvind possession of Mák'havál[29], and
several other villages, where he settled with his followers, and repaid
his benefactor by aiding him in his depredations. Góvind appears, at
this moment, to have been universally acknowledged by the Sikhs, as
their Sat-gúrú, or chief spiritual leader; and he used the influence
which that station, his sufferings, and the popularity of his cause,
gave him, to effect a complete change in the habits and religion of
his countrymen[30]. It would be tedious and useless to follow the Sikh
writers through those volumes of fables in which they have narrated
the wonders that prognosticated the rise of this, the most revered of
all their priests, to power; or to enter, at any length, into those
accounts which they, and Góvind himself, for he is equally celebrated
as an author and as a warrior, have given of his exploits. It will be
sufficient, for the purpose of this sketch, to state the essential
changes which he effected in his tribe, and the consequences of his

Though the Sikhs had already, under Har Góvind, been initiated in
arms, yet they appear to have used these only in self-defence: and
as every tribe of Hindús, from the Bráhmen to the lowest of the
Súdra, may, in cases of necessity, use them without any infringement
of the original institutions of their tribe, no violation of these
institutions was caused by the rules of Nánac; which, framed with a
view to conciliation, carefully abstained from all interference with
the civil institutes of the Hindús. But his more daring successor, Gúrú
Góvind, saw that such observances were at variance with the plans of
his lofty ambition; and he wisely judged, that the only means by which
he could ever hope to oppose the Muhammedan government with success,
were not only to admit converts from all tribes, but to break, at once,
those rules by which the Hindús had been so long chained; to arm, in
short, the whole population of the country, and to make worldly wealth
and rank an object to which Hindús, of every class, might aspire.

The extent to which Góvind succeeded in this design will be more fully
noticed in another place. It is here only necessary to state the
leading features of those changes by which he subverted, in so short
a time, the hoary institutions of Brahmá[31], and excited terror and
astonishment in the minds of the Muhammedan conquerors of India, who
saw the religious prejudices of the Hindús, which they had calculated
upon as one of the pillars of their safety, because they limited the
great majority of the population to peaceable occupations, fall before
the touch of a bold and enthusiastic innovator, who opened at once, to
men of the lowest tribe[32], the dazzling prospect of earthly glory.
All who subscribed to his tenets were upon a level, and the Bráhmen
who entered his sect had no higher claims to eminence than the lowest
Súdra who swept his house. It was the object of Góvind to make all
Sikhs equal[33], and that their advancement should solely depend upon
their exertions: and well aware how necessary it was to inspire men
of a low race, and of groveling minds, with pride in themselves, he
changed the name of his followers from Sikh to Singh, or lion; thus
giving to all his followers that honourable title which had been before
exclusively assumed by the Rajapúts, the first military class of
Hindús: and every Sikh felt himself at once elevated to rank with the
highest, by this proud appellation.

The disciples of Góvind 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 met each
other, _Wá! Gúrújí ká khálsah! Wá! Gúrújí kí futteh!_ which means,
"Success to the state of the Gúrú! Victory attend the Gúrú[34]!" The
intention of some of these institutions is obvious; such as that
principle of devotion to _steel_, by which all were made soldiers; and
that exclamation, which made the success of their priest, and that of
the commonwealth, the object of their hourly prayer. It became, in
fact, the watchword which was continually to revive, in the minds of
the Sikh disciple, the obligations he owed to that community of which
he had become a member, and to that faith which he had adopted.

Of the causes which led Góvind to enjoin his followers to regard it as
impious to cut the hair of their heads, or shave their beards, very
different accounts are given. Several Muhammedan authors state, that
both this ordination, and the one which directed his followers to
wear blue clothes, was given in consequence of his gratitude to some
Afghán mountaineers, who aided his escape from a fort, in which he was
besieged, by clothing him in a chequered blue dress, and causing him to
allow his hair to grow, in order to pass him for one of their own Pírs,
or holy fathers; in which they succeeded. This account, however, is
not supported by any Sikh writer; and one of the most respectable and
best informed authors of that sect states, that when Gúrú Góvind first
went to Anandpúr Mák'haval, which was also called Césgher, or the house
of hair, he spent much of his time in devotion, at a temple of Dúrga
Bhavaní, the goddess of courage, by whom he was directed to unloose
his hair and draw his sword. Góvind, in consequence of this pretended
divine order, vowed he would preserve his hair, as consecrated to that
divinity, and directed his followers to do the same[35]. The origin
of that blue chequered[36] dress, which was at one time worn by all
Góvind's followers, and is still worn by the Acálís, or _never-dying_,
(the most remarkable class of devotees of that sect,) is differently
stated by different authors: but it appears probable, that both
these institutions proceeded from the policy of Góvind, who sought
to separate his followers from all other classes of India, as much
by their appearance as by their religion: and he judged with wisdom
when he gave consequence to such distinctions; which, though first
established as mere forms, soon supersede the substance of belief;
and, when strengthened by usage, become the points to which ignorant
and unenlightened minds have, in all ages of the world, shown the most
resolute and unconquerable adherence.

Gúrú Góvind inculcated his tenets upon his followers by his preaching,
his actions, and his works; among which is the Dasama Pádsháh ká
Grant'h, or the book of the tenth king or ruler; Gúrú Góvind being the
tenth leader of the sect from Nánac. This volume, which is not limited
to religious subjects, but filled with accounts of his own battles, and
written with the view of stirring up a spirit of valour and emulation
among his followers, is at least as much revered, among the Sikhs, as
the Adí-Grant'h of Arjunmal. Góvind is said to have first instituted
the Gúrú Mata, or state council, among the Sikhs; which meets at
Amritsar. The constitution and usages of this national assembly will
be described hereafter: it is here only necessary to observe, that
its institution adds one more proof to those already stated, of the
comprehensive and able mind of this bold reformer, who gave, by its
foundation, that form of a federative republic, to the commonwealth
of the Sikhs, which was most calculated to rouse his followers from
their indolent habits, and deep-rooted prejudices, by giving them a
personal share in the government, and placing within the reach of every
individual the attainment of rank and influence in the state.

It could not be expected that Gúrú Góvind could accomplish all those
great schemes he had planned. He planted the tree; but it was not
permitted, according to Sikh writers, that he should see it in that
maturity which it was destined to reach: and this, these authors state,
was foretold to him by some Bráhmens, skilled in necromancy. It would
be tedious to dwell on such fables[37]; and it is time to return to
the political life of Góvind, which is marked by but few events of
importance. These are either related by Muhammedan authors, who detract
from all the pretensions of this enemy of their faith and name; by his
disciples, who exalt the slightest of his actions into the achievements
of a divinity; or by himself, for he wrote an account of his own wars.
This last work, however, is more calculated to inflame the courage of
his followers, than to convey correct information of actual events.

Gúrú Góvind Singh, in the Vichitra Nátac, a work written by himself,
and inserted in the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, traces the descent of
the Cshatríya tribe of Sóndí, to which he belongs, from a race of
Hindú Rájás[38], who founded the cities of Casúr and Lahore. He was
born, he states, at Patán, or Patna, and brought up at Madra Dés, in
the Penjáb. He went, after his father's death, to the banks of the
Cálíndí, or Yamuná, and addicted himself to hunting the wild beasts of
the forest, and other manly diversions: but this occupation, he adds,
offended the emperor of Dehli, who ordered chiefs, of the Muhammedan
race, to attack him. Gúrú Góvind describes, in this work, with great
animation, his own feats, and those of his friends[39], in the first
of his actions; in which, by his account, the arrows of the Sikhs were
victorious over the sabres of the Muhammedans[40].

This first success appears to have greatly increased the number of
Gúrú Góvind's followers, whom he established at Anandpúr, Khílór, and
the towns in their vicinity; where they remained, till called to aid
the Rájá of Nadón[41], Bhíma Chand, who was threatened with an invasion
by the Rájá of Jammu; who had been excited to hostilities by Mía Khán,
a Mogul chief, then at war with Bhíma Chand.

Gúrú Góvind gives an account of this war, which consisted of attacking
and defending the narrow passes of the mountains. He describes Bhíma
Chand and himself as leading on their warriors, who advanced, he says,
to battle, "like a stream of flame consuming the forest." They were
completely successful in this expedition; the Rájá of Jammu, and his
Muhammedan allies, having been defeated, and chased with disgrace
across the Satléj.

Gúrú Góvind next relates the advance of the son of Diláwer Khán against
him. The object of the Muhammedan chief appears to have been, to
surprise Góvind and his followers at night: but, when that project was
defeated, his troops were seized with a panic, and fled from the Sikhs
without a contest. The father, enraged at the disgraceful retreat of
his son, collected all his followers, and sent Husain Khán, who made
successful inroads upon the Sikhs, taking several of their principal
forts[42]. A general action at last took place, in which the Khán,
after performing prodigies of valour, was defeated, and lost his life.
Gúrú Góvind was not present at this battle. "The lord of the earth," he
says, "detained me from this conflict, and caused the rain of steel to
descend in another quarter."

Diláwer Khán and Rustam Khán next marched against the Sikhs, who appear
to have been disheartened at the loss of some of their principal
chiefs, and more at the accounts they received of Aurungzéb's rage at
their progress, and of his having detached his son to the district of
Madra[43], in order to take measures to quell them. At the prince's
approach, "every body," says Gúrú Góvind, "was struck with terror.
Unable to comprehend the ways of the Eternal, several deserted me,
and fled, and took refuge in the lofty mountains. These vile cowards
were," he adds, "too greatly alarmed in mind to understand their own
advantage; for the emperor sent troops, who burnt the habitations of
those that had fled." He takes this occasion of denouncing every misery
that this world can bring, and all the pains and horrors of the next,
on those who desert their Gúrú, or priest. "The man who does this,"
he writes, "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." After many more curses on apostates, he
concludes this anathema by stating, that the good genius of prosperity
in this world, and eternal blessings in the next, shall be the certain
reward of all who remain attached to their Gúrú: and, as an instance,
he affirms, that not one of those faithful followers, who had adhered
to him at this trying crisis, had received the least injury[44].

Gúrú Góvind closes his first work, the Vichitra Nátac, with a further
representation on the shame that attends apostasy, and the rewards that
await those that prove true to their religion; and he concludes by a
prayer to the Deity, and a declaration of his intention to compose,
for the use of his disciples, a still larger work; by which the Sikhs
conceive that he meant the rest of the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, of
which the Vichitra Nátac forms the first section.

An account of Góvind's war with the Rájá of Kahilúr[45], is found in a
work written in the Dúgar, or mountain dialect of the Penjábi tongue,
which gives an account of some other actions of this chief. Though
this account is greatly exaggerated, it no doubt states some facts
correctly, and therefore merits a brief notice. According to this
authority, the Rájás of Kahilúr, Jiswál, and others, being defeated and
disgraced in several actions, applied to the court of Aurungzéb for aid
against Gúrú Góvind, from whom they stated that they had received great
injuries. When the emperor asked who made the complaint, the answer
was: "It is the chief of Kahilúr, thy servant, who has been despoiled
of his country by violence, though a faithful Zemindar (landholder),
and one who has always been punctual in paying his contributions." Such
were the representations, this author states, by which they obtained
the aid of an army from the emperor.

Their combined forces proceeded against Gúrú Góvind and his followers,
who were obliged to shut themselves up in their fortresses, where they
endured every misery that sickness and famine can bring upon a besieged
place. Góvind, after suffering the greatest hardships, determined to
attempt his escape. He ordered his followers to leave the fort, one
by one, at midnight, and to separate the moment they went out. The
misery of this separation, which divided the father from the child,
the husband from the wife, and brothers from sisters, was horrible;
but it was the only chance which they had of safety, and his orders
were obeyed. He himself went, among the rest; and, after undergoing
great fatigue, and escaping many dangers, he arrived at Chamkóur, by
the Rájá of which place he was received in a kind and friendly manner.
His enemies had entered the fortress which Góvind left, the moment
he fled, and made many prisoners; among which were his mother and
his two children, who were carried to Foujdar Khán, the governor of
Sirhind, by whose orders they were inhumanly massacred[46]. The army
of the emperor, aided by the Rájás hostile to Góvind, next marched to
Chamkóur, and encompassed it on all sides. Góvind, in despair, clasping
his hands, called upon the goddess of the sword[47]. "The world sees,"
he exclaimed, "that we have no help but thee!" saying which, he
prepared, with his few followers, to make the most desperate resistance.

The emperor's army, employed at this period against Góvind, was
commanded by Khwájeh Muhammed and Nahar Khán, who deputed, at the
commencement of the siege, an envoy to the Sikh leader, with the
following message: "This army is not one belonging to Rájás and Ránás:
it is that of the great Aurungzéb: show, therefore, thy respect, and
embrace the true faith." The envoy proceeded, in the execution of his
mission, with all the pride of those he represented. "Listen," said
he, from himself to Gúrú Góvind, "to the words of the Nawáb: leave off
contending with us, and playing the infidel; for it is evident you
never can reap advantage from such an unequal war." He was stopped by
Ajit Singh, the son of Góvind, from saying more. That youth, seizing
his scimetar, exclaimed: "If you utter another word, I will humble
your pride: I will smite your head from your body, and cut you to
pieces, for daring to speak such language before our chiefs." The blood
of the envoy boiled with rage, and he returned with this answer to his

This effort to subdue the fortitude and faith of Góvind having failed,
the siege commenced with great vigour. A long description is given by
B'hai Gúrú Dás B'halé and other Sikh authors, of the actions that were
performed. Amongst the most distinguished, were those of the brave, but
unfortunate, Ajit Singh[48], the son of Gúrú Góvind, whose death is
thus recorded: "A second time the Khán advanced, and the battle raged.
Some fought, some fled. Ajit Singh, covered with glory, departed to
Swarga (heaven). Indra[49], first of the gods (Dévatás), advanced with
the celestial host to meet him; he conducted him to Dévapúr, the city
of the gods, and seated him on a celestial throne: having remained
there a short time, he proceeded to the region of the sun. Thus," he
concludes, "Ajit Singh departed in glory; and his fame extends over
three worlds, for the fame of the warrior lives for ever."

Though Góvind showed an invincible spirit, and performed prodigies
of valour, having killed, with his own hand, Nahar Khán, and wounded
Khwájeh Muhammed, the other leader of the emperor's troops, it was
impossible to contend longer against such superior numbers; and he at
last, taking advantage of a dark night, fled from Chamkóur, covering
his face, according to the Sikh author, from shame at his own disgrace.

This sketch of the life of Góvind is compiled from his own works, and
those of other Sikh writers, such as Nand and B'hai Gúrú Dás; and the
events recorded, allowing for the colouring with which such narratives
are written in the East, appear to be correct: the leading facts are
almost all established by the evidence of contemporary Muhammedan
writers, to whom we must trust for the remainder of his history; as
the authorities we have followed end at the period of his flight from

Most accounts agree that Gúrú Góvind, after his flight, was, from a
sense of his misfortunes, and the loss of his children, bereft of
his reason, and wandered about for a considerable time in the most
deplorable condition. One account states, that he died in the Penjáb;
another, that he went to Patna, where he ended his days; a third, taken
from a Sikh authority[50], asserts that Gúrú Góvind, after remaining
some time in the Lak'hi-Jungle, to which he had fled, returned without
molestation to his former residence in the Penjáb; and that, so far
from meeting with any persecution from the Muhammedan government, he
received favours from the emperor, Baháder Sháh; who, aware of his
military talents, gave him a small military command in the Dek'hin,
where he was stabbed by a Patán soldier's son, and expired of his
wounds, in the year 1708, at Nadér, a town situated on the Godaveri
river, about one hundred miles from Haiderabad.

It is sufficiently established, from these contradictory and imperfect
accounts of the latter years of Gúrú Góvind, that he performed no
actions worthy of record after his flight from Chamkóur: and when we
consider the enthusiastic ardour of his mind, his active habits, his
valour, and the insatiable thirst of revenge, which he had cherished
through life, against the murderers of his father, and the oppressors
of his sect, we cannot think, when that leading passion of his mind
must have been increased by the massacre of his children, and the
death or mutilation[51] of his most attached followers, that he would
have remained inactive; much less that he would have sunk into a
servant of that government, against which he had been in constant
rebellion: nor is it likely that such a leader as Gúrú Góvind could
ever have been trusted by a Muhammedan prince: and there appears,
therefore, every reason to give credit to those accounts which
state, that mental distraction, in consequence of deep distress and
disappointment, was the cause of the inactivity of Gúrú Góvind's
declining years. Nor is such a conclusion at all at variance with the
fact of his being killed at Nadér, as it is probable, even if he was
reduced to the state described, that he continued, till the close of
his existence, that wandering and adventurous life to which he had been
so early accustomed.

In the character of this reformer of the Sikhs, it is impossible not
to recognise many of those features which have distinguished the most
celebrated founders of political communities. The object he attempted
was great and laudable. It was the emancipation of his tribe from
oppression and persecution; and the means which he adopted, were such
as a comprehensive mind could alone have suggested. The Muhammedan
conquerors of India, as they added to their territories, added to their
strength, by making proselytes through the double means of persuasion
and force; and these, the moment they had adopted their faith, became
the supporters of their power against the efforts of the Hindús; who,
bound in the chains of their civil and religious institutions, could
neither add to their number by admitting converts, nor allow more than
a small proportion of the population of the country to arm against
the enemy. Góvind saw that he could only hope for success by a bold
departure from usages which were calculated to keep those, by whom they
were observed, in a degraded subjection to an insulting and intolerant
race. "You make Hindús Muhammedans, and are justified by your laws,"
he is said to have written to Aurungzéb: "now I, on a principle of
self-preservation, which is superior to all laws, will make Muhammedans
Hindús[52]. You may rest," he added, "in fancied security: but beware!
for I will teach the sparrow to strike the eagle to the ground." A fine
allusion to his design of inspiring the lowest races among the Hindús
with that valour and ambition which would lead them to perform the
greatest actions.

The manner in which Góvind endeavoured to accomplish the great plan
he had formed, has been exhibited in the imperfect sketch given of
his life. His efforts to establish that temporal power in his own
person, of which he laid the foundation for his tribe, were daring and
successful in as great a degree as circumstances would admit: but it
was not possible he could create means, in a few years, to oppose, with
success, the force of one of the greatest empires in the universe. The
spirit, however, which he infused into his followers, was handed down
as a rich inheritance to their children; who, though they consider Bábá
Nánác as the author of their religion, revere, with a just gratitude,
Gúrú Góvind, as the founder of their worldly greatness and political
independence. They are conscious, indeed, that they have become,
from the adoption of his laws and institutions, the scourge of their
enemies; and have conquered and held, for more than half a century, the
finest portion of the once great empire of the house of Taimúr.

Gúrú Góvind was the last acknowledged religious ruler of the Sikhs.
A prophecy had limited their spiritual guides to the number of ten;
and their superstition, aided, no doubt, by the action of that spirit
of independence which his institutions had introduced, caused its
fulfilment. The success, however, of Banda, a Bairági, who was the
devoted follower and friend of Gúrú Góvind, established their union
under his banners. A short period after Góvind's death, the grief
of Banda at the misfortune of his priest, is said, by Sikh authors,
to have settled into a gloomy and desperate desire to revenge his
wrongs. The confusion which took place on the death of Aurungzéb,
which happened in the year 1707, was favourable to his wishes. After
plundering the country, and defeating most of the petty Muhammedan
chiefs that were opposed to him, he thought himself sufficiently strong
to venture on an action with Foujdar Khán, the governor of the province
of Sarhind, and the man of all others most abhorred by the Sikhs, as
the murderer of the infant children of Gúrú Góvind. This action was
fought with valour by the Muhammedans; and with all that desperation on
the part of the Sikhs, which the most savage spirit of revenge could
inspire: and this, aided by the courage and conduct of their leader,
gave them the victory, after a severe contest. Foujdar Khán fell, with
most of his army, to whom the enraged Sikhs gave no quarter. Nor was
their savage revenge satiated by the destruction of the Muhammedan
army: they put to death the wife and children of Vizír Khán, and almost
all the inhabitants of Sarhind. They destroyed or polluted the mosques
of that city; and, in a spirit of wild and brutal rage, dug up the
carcasses of the dead, and exposed them to be devoured by beasts of
prey. Encouraged by this success, and hardened by the lessons of Banda
to deeds of the most horrid atrocity, the Sikhs rushed forward, and
subdued all the country between the Satléj and the Jumna; and, crossing
that river, made inroads into the province of Sáháranpúr[53]. It is
unnecessary to state the particulars of this memorable incursion,
which, from all accounts, appears to have been one of the severest
scourges with which a country was ever afflicted. Every excess that the
most wanton barbarity could commit, every cruelty that an unappeased
appetite of revenge could suggest, was inflicted upon the miserable
inhabitants of the provinces through which they passed. Life was
only granted to those who conformed to the religion, and adopted the
habits and dress of the Sikhs; and if Behádur Sháh had not quitted the
Dek'hin, which he did in A. D. 1710, there is reason to think the whole
of Hindústan would have been subdued by these merciless invaders.

The first check the Sikhs received was from an army under Sultán Kúli
Khán. That chief defeated one of their advanced corps at Pánipat'h,
which, after being dispersed, fled to join their leader Banda, at
Sarhind. The death of Behádur Sháh prevented this success from being
pursued; and the confusion which followed that event, was favourable
to the Sikhs. Banda defeated Islám Khán, the viceroy of Lahore, and
one of his fanatic followers stabbed Báyezíd Khán, the governor of
Sarhind, who had marched out of that town to encounter this army.
This, however, was the last of Banda's successful atrocities. Abdal
Sámad Khán, a general of great reputation, was detached, with a large
army, by the emperor Farakhseir, against the Sikhs, whom he defeated
in a very desperate action; in which, agreeable to Muhammedan authors,
Banda performed prodigies of valour, and was only obliged to give way
to the superior numbers and discipline of the imperialists. The Sikhs
were never able to make a stand after this defeat, and were hunted,
like wild beasts, from one strong hold to another, by the army of
the emperor; by whom their leader, and his most devoted followers,
were at last taken, after having suffered every extreme of hunger and

Abdal Sámad Khán put to death great numbers of the Sikhs after the
surrender of Lóhgad, the fortress in which they took refuge; but sent
Banda, and the principal chiefs of the tribe, to Dehli, where they were
first treated with every kind of obloquy and insult, and then executed.
A Muhammedan writer[55] relates the intrepidity with which these Sikh
prisoners, but particularly their leader, Banda, met death. "It is
singular," he writes, "that these people not only behaved firmly during
the execution, but they would dispute and wrangle with each other who
should suffer first; and they made interest with the executioner to
obtain the preference. Banda," he continues, "was at last produced, his
son being seated in his lap. His father was ordered to cut his throat,
which he did, without uttering one word. Being then brought nearer the
magistrate's tribunal, the latter ordered his flesh to be torn off with
red hot pincers; and it was in those moments he expired: his black soul
taking its flight, by one of those wounds, towards the regions for
which it was so well fitted."

Thus perished Banda; who, though a brave and able leader, was one of
the most cruel and ferocious of men, and endeavoured to impart to his
followers that feeling of merciless resentment which he cherished
against the whole Muhammedan race, whom he appears to have thought
accountable for the cruelty and oppression of a few individuals of the

Though the Sikhs, from being animated by a similar feeling, and
encouraged by his first successes, followed Banda to the field, they
do not revere his memory; and he is termed, by some of their authors,
a heretic; who, intoxicated with victory, endeavoured to change the
religious institutions and laws of Gúrú Góvind, many of whose most
devoted followers this fierce chief put to death, because they refused
to depart from those usages which that revered spiritual leader had
taught them to consider sacred. Among other changes, Banda wished to
make the Sikhs abandon their blue dress, to refrain from drinking and
eating flesh; and, instead of exclaiming _Wá! Gúrúji ki Futteh! Wá!
Khálsaji ki Futteh!_ the salutations directed by Góvind, he directed
them to exclaim, _Futteh D'herm! Futteh dersan!_ which means, "Success
to piety! Success to the sect!" These innovations were very generally
resisted; but the dreaded severity of Banda made many conform to his
orders. The class of Acálís[57], or immortals, who had been established
by Gúrú Góvind, continued to oppose the innovations with great
obstinacy; and many of them suffered martyrdom, rather than change
either their mode of salutation, diet, or dress; and, at the death of
Banda, their cause triumphed. All the institutions of Gúrú Góvind were
restored: but the blue dress, instead of being, as at first, worn by
all, appears, from that date, to have become the particular right of
the Acálís, whose valour, in its defence, well merited the exclusive
privilege of wearing this original uniform of a true Sikh.

After the defeat and death of Banda, every measure was taken, that an
active resentment could suggest, not only to destroy the power, but to
extirpate the race, of the Sikhs. An astonishing number of that sect
must have fallen, in the last two or three years of the contest with
the imperial armies, as the irritated Muhammedans gave them no quarter.
After the execution of their chief, a royal edict was issued, ordering
all who professed the religion of Nánac to be taken and put to death,
wherever found. To give effect to this mandate, a reward was offered
for the head of every Sikh; and all Hindús were ordered to shave their
hair off, under pain of death. The few Sikhs, that escaped this general
execution, fled into the mountains to the N. E. of the Penjáb, where
they found a refuge from the rigorous persecution by which their tribe
was pursued; while numbers bent before the tempest which they could not
resist, and abandoning the outward usages of their religion, satisfied
their consciences with the secret practice of its rites.

From the defeat and death of Banda till the invasion of India by Nádir
Sháh, a period of nearly thirty years, we hear nothing of the Sikhs;
but, on the occurrence of that event, they are stated to have fallen
upon the peaceable inhabitants of the Penjáb, who sought shelter in
the hills, and to have plundered them of that property which they were
endeavouring to secure from the rapacity of the Persian invader.

Enriched with these spoils, the Sikhs left the hills, and built
the fort of Dalewál, on the Rávi, from whence they made predatory
incursions, and are stated to have added both to their wealth and
reputation, by harassing and plundering the rear of Nádir Sháh's army,
which, when it returned to Persia, was encumbered with spoil, and
marched, from a contempt of its enemies, with a disregard to all order.

The weak state to which the empire of Hindústan was reduced; and the
confusion into which the provinces of Lahore and Cábul were thrown, by
the death of Nádir; were events of too favourable a nature to the Sikhs
to be neglected by that race, who became daily more bold, from their
numbers being greatly increased by the union of all those who had taken
shelter in the mountains; the readmission into the sect of those who,
to save their lives, had abjured, for a period, their usages; and the
conversion of a number of proselytes, who hastened to join a standard,
under which robbery was made sacred; and to plunder, was to be pious.

Aided with these recruits, the Sikhs now extended their irruptions
over most of the provinces of the Penjáb: and though it was some time
before they repossessed themselves of Amritsar, they began, immediately
after they quitted their fastnesses, to flock to that holy city at the
periods of their feasts. Some performed this pilgrimage in secret, and
in disguise: but in general, according to a contemporary Muhammedan
author, the Sikh horsemen were seen riding, at full gallop, towards
"their favourite shrine of devotion. They were often slain in making
this attempt, and sometimes taken prisoners; but they used, on such
occasions, to seek, instead of avoiding, the crown of martyrdom: and
the same authority states, that an instance was never known of a Sikh,
taken in his way to Amritsar, consenting to abjure his faith."

It is foreign to the object of this sketch to enter into a detail of
those efforts by which the Sikhs rose into that power which they now
possess. It will be sufficient to glance at the principal events which
have marked their progress, from the period of their emerging from the
mountains, to which they had been driven after the death of Banda,
to that of the conquest and subjection of those fine provinces over
which their rule is now established. This sect, as has been before
stated, have never admitted a spiritual leader since the death of Gúrú
Góvind. It was success, and the force of a savage but strong genius,
which united them, for a period, under Banda; and they have, since his
death, had no acknowledged general, leader, or prince. Each individual
followed to the field the Sirdar or chief, who, from birth, the
possession of property, or from valour and experience, had become his
superior. These chiefs again were of different rank and pretensions:
a greater number of followers, higher reputation, the possession of
wealth, or lands, constituted that difference; and, from one or other
of these causes, one chief generally enjoyed a decided pre-eminence,
and, consequently, had a lead in their military councils. But,
nevertheless, they always went through the form of selecting a military
leader at their Gúrú-matá, or national council; where, however,
influence prevailed, and the most powerful was certain of being elected.

Such a mode of government was in itself little calculated to give that
strength and union which the cause of the Sikhs required: but the
peculiarities of their usages, the ardent character of their faith, the
power of their enemies, and the oppression they endured, amply supplied
the place of all other ordinances. To unite and to act in one body,
and on one principle, was, with the first Sikhs, a law of necessity:
it was, amid the dangers with which they were surrounded, their only
hope of success, and their sole means of preservation: and it was to
these causes, combined with the weakness and internal contests of their
enemies, to which this sect owes its extraordinary rise,--not to their
boasted constitution; which, whether we call it an oligarchy, which
it really is; or a theocracy, which the Sikhs consider it; has not a
principle in its composition that would preserve it one day from ruin,
if vigorously assailed. But of this their history will furnish the best

Encouraged by the confusion which took place on the first Afghán[58]
invasion, the Sikhs made themselves masters of a considerable part of
the Duáb of Rávi and Jaléndra[59], and extended their incursions to the
neighbouring countries. They, however, at this period received several
severe checks from Mír Manu, the governor of Lahore, who is said, by
Muhammedan authors, to have been only withheld from destroying them by
the counsel of his minister, Kodá Mal, who was himself a Sikh of the
Khalása[60] tribe. Mír Manu appointed Adína Bég Khán to the charge of
the countries in which the Sikhs maintained themselves; and, as that
able but artful chief considered this turbulent tribe in no other light
than as the means of his personal advancement, he was careful not to
reduce them altogether; but, after defeating them in an action, which
was fought near Mak'havál, he entered into a secret understanding with
them, by which, though their excursions were limited, they enjoyed
a security to which they had been unaccustomed, and from which they
gathered strength and resources for future efforts.

At the death of Mír Manu[61], the Sikhs took all those advantages,
which the local distractions of a falling empire offered them, of
extending and establishing their power. Their bands, under their most
active leaders, plundered in every direction, and were successful in
obtaining possession of several countries, from which they have never
since been expelled: and their success, at this period, was promoted,
instead of being checked, by the appointment of their old friend, Adína
Bég Khán, to Lahore; as that brave chief, anxious to defend his own
government against the Afgháns, immediately entered into a confederacy
with the Sikhs, whom he encouraged to plunder the territories of Ahmed
Sháh Abdáli.

The Afghán monarch, resenting this predatory warfare, in which the
governor of Lahore was supported by the court of Dehli, determined upon
invading India. Adína Bég, unable to oppose him, fled; and the Sikhs
could only venture to plunder the baggage, and cut off the stragglers
of the Afghán army; by which they so irritated Ahmed Sháh, that he
threatened them with punishment on his return; and, when he marched
to Cábul, he left his son, Taimúr Khán, and his vizír, Jehán Khán, at
Lahore, with orders to take vengeance on the Sikhs for all the excesses
which they had committed. The first expedition of Taimúr Khán was
against their capital, Amritsar, which he destroyed, filling up their
sacred tank, and polluting all their places of worship: by which action
he provoked the whole race to such a degree, that they all assembled at
Lahore, and not only attempted to cut off the communication between the
fort and country, but collected and divided the revenues of the towns
and villages around it. Taimúr Khán, enraged at this presumption, made
several attacks upon them, but was constantly defeated; and being at
last reduced to the necessity of evacuating Lahore, and retreating to
Cábul, the Sikhs, under one of their celebrated leaders, called Jasa
Singh Calál, immediately took possession of the vacant Subah of Lahore,
and ordered rupees to be coined, with an inscription to the following
import: "Coined by the grace of Khálsah jí, in the country of Ahmed,
conquered by Jasa Singh Calál."

The Sikhs, who were so deeply indebted to the forbearance of Adína Bég
Khán, now considered themselves above the power of that chief; who, in
order to regain his government from them and the Afgháns, was obliged
to invite the Mahráta leaders, Raghunát'h Ráo, Sáheb Pateil, and Malhár
Ráo, to enter the Penjáb. Aided by these chiefs, he first advanced to
Sarhind, where he was joined by some Sikhs that remained attached to
him. Sámad Khán, the officer who had been left in charge of Sarhind by
Ahmed Khán, found himself obliged to evacuate that place; which he had
no sooner done, than the Sikhs began to plunder. The Mahrátas, always
jealous of their booty, determined to attack and punish them for this
violation of what they deemed their exclusive privilege: but Adína
Bég receiving intelligence of their intentions, communicated it to
the Sikhs; who, taking advantage of the darkness of the night, saved
themselves by flight.

After the fall of Sarhind, the Mahrátas, accompanied by Adína Bég
Khán, advanced to Lahore, and soon expelled both the Sikhs and the
Afgháns from the principal towns of the provinces of Sarhind and
Lahore; of which they not only took possession, but sent a governor to
the province of Multán; and Sáheb Pateil advanced to the Attock[62],
where he remained for a few months. But the commotions of Hindústan
and the Dek'hin soon obliged these foreigners to abandon the Penjáb;
which they did the same year they had reduced it. They appointed Adína
Bég Khán governor of Lahore. He died in the ensuing year; and, by
his death, afforded an opportunity to the Sikhs, which they eagerly
seized, to make themselves again masters of the province of Lahore.
Their success was, however, soon checked by Ahmed Sháh Abdáli; who,
irritated by their unsubdued turbulence, and obstinate intrepidity,
made every effort (after he had gained the victory of Pánipat'h, which
established his supremacy at Dehli) to destroy their power; and, with
this view, he entered the Penjáb early in 1762, and overran the whole
of that country with a numerous army, defeating and dispersing the
Sikhs in every direction. That sect, unable to make any stand against
the army of the Abdáli, pursued their old plan of retreating near the
mountains; and collected a large force in the northern districts of
Sarhind, a distance of above one hundred miles from Lahore, where the
army of Ahmed Sháh was encamped. Here they conceived themselves to be
in perfect safety: but that prince made one of those rapid movements
for which he was so celebrated, and reaching the Sikh army on the
second day, completely surprised, and defeated it with great slaughter.
In this action, which was fought in February, 1762, the Sikhs are said
to have lost upwards of twenty thousand men, and the remainder fled
into the hills, abandoning all the lower countries to the Afgháns, who
committed every ravage that a barbarous and savage enemy could devise.
Amritsar was razed to the ground, and the sacred reservoir again
choaked with its ruins. Pyramids[63] were erected, and covered with
the heads of slaughtered Sikhs: and it is mentioned, that Ahmed Sháh
caused the walls of those mosques, which the Sikhs had polluted, to be
washed with their blood, that the contamination might be removed, and
the insult offered to the religion of Muhammed expiated[64].

This species of savage retaliation appears to have animated, instead
of depressing, the courage of the Sikhs; who, though they could not
venture to meet Ahmed Sháh's army in action, harassed it with an
incessant predatory warfare; and, when that sovereign was obliged, by
the commotions of Afghánistan, to return to Cábul, they attacked and
defeated the general he had left in Lahore, and made themselves masters
of that city, in which they levelled with the ground those mosques
which the Afgháns had, a few months before, purified with the blood of
their brethren.

Ahmed Sháh, in 1763, retook Lahore, and plundered the provinces around
it; but, being obliged to return to his own country in the ensuing
year, the Sikhs again expelled his garrison, and made themselves
masters of the Penjáb; and, from that period until his death, a
constant war was maintained, in which the enterprise and courage of
the Afgháns gradually gave way before the astonishing activity and
invincible perseverance of their enemies; who, if unable to stand a
general action, retreated to impenetrable mountains, and the moment
they saw an advantage, rushed again into the plains with renewed
vigour, and recruited numbers. Several Sikh authors, treating of the
events of this period, mention a great action having been fought,
by their countrymen, near Amritsar, against the whole Afghán army,
commanded by Ahmed Sháh in person; but they differ with regard to the
date of this battle, some fixing it in 1762, and others later. They
pretend that the Sikhs, inspired by the sacredness of the ground on
which this action was fought, contended for victory against superior
numbers with the most desperate fury, and that the battle terminated
in both parties quitting the field, without either being able to claim
the least advantage. The historians of Ahmed Sháh are, however, silent
regarding this action; which, indeed, from all the events of his long
contests with the Sikhs, appears unlikely to have occurred. It is
possible the Sikhs fought, at Amritsar, with a division of the Afghán
army, and that might have been commanded by the prince; but it is very
improbable they had ever force to encounter the concentrated army of
the Abdális; before which, while it remained in a body, they appear,
from the first to the last of their contests with that prince, to have
always retreated, or rather fled.

The internal state of Afghánistan, since the death of Ahmed Sháh,
has prevented the progress of the Sikh nation receiving any serious
check from that quarter; and the distracted and powerless condition
of the empire of India has offered province after province to their
usurpation. Their history, during this latter period, affords little
but a relation of village warfare, and predatory incursions. Their
hostilities were first directed against the numerous Muhammedan chiefs
who were settled in the Penjáb, and who defended, as long as they
could, their jágírs, or estates, against them: but these have either
been conquered, or reduced to such narrow limits, as to owe their
security to their insignificance, or the precarious friendship of
some powerful Sikh chief, whose support they have gained; and who,
by protecting them against the other leaders of his tribe, obtains a
slight accession of strength and influence.

The Sikh nation, who have, throughout their early history, always
appeared, like a suppressed flame, to rise into higher splendour from
every attempt to crush them, had become, while they were oppressed,
as formidable for their union, as for their determined courage and
unconquerable spirit of resistance: but a state of persecution and
distress was the one most favourable for the action of a constitution
like theirs; which, formed upon general and abstract principles,
required constant and great sacrifices of personal advantage to the
public good; and such can alone be expected from men, acting under the
influence of that enthusiasm, which the fervor of a new religion, or a
struggle for independence, can alone impart, and which are ever most
readily made, when it becomes obvious to all, that a complete union in
the general cause is the only hope of individual safety.

The Sikhs would appear, from their own historians, to have attributed
the conquests they made entirely to their valour, and to have
altogether forgot that they owed them chiefly to the decline of the
house of Taimúr, and the dissensions of the government of Cábul.
Intoxicated with their success, they have given way to all those
passions which assail the minds of men in the possession of power.
The desire, which every petty chief entertained, of increasing his
territories, of building strong forts, and adding to the numbers of his
troops, involved them in internal wars; and these, however commenced,
soon communicated to numbers, who engaged in the dispute as passion or
interest dictated. Though such feuds have, no doubt, helped to maintain
their military spirit, yet their extent and virulence have completely
broken down that union, which their great legislator, Góvind, laboured
to establish. Quarrels have been transmitted from father to son; and,
in a country where the infant is devoted to _steel_, and taught to
consider war as his only occupation, these could not but multiply in
an extraordinary degree; and, independent of the comparative large
conquests in which the greater chiefs occasionally engaged, every
village[65] has become an object of dispute; and there are few, if any,
in the Penjáb, the rule of which is not contested between brothers or
near relations[66]. In such a state, it is obvious, the Sikhs could
alone be formidable to the most weak and distracted governments. Such,
indeed, was the character, till within a very late period, of all their
neighbours; and they continued to plunder, with impunity, the upper
provinces of Hindústan, until the establishment of the power of Daulet
Ráo Sindíá, when the regular brigades, commanded by French officers
in the service of that prince, not only checked their inroads, but
made all the Sikh chiefs, to the southward of the Satléj, acknowledge
obedience and pay tribute to Sindíá: and it was in the contemplation of
General Perron, had the war with the English government not occurred,
to have subdued the Penjáb, and made the Indus the limit of his
possession: and every person acquainted with his means, and with the
condition and resources of the Sikhs, must be satisfied he would have
accomplished this project with great ease, and at a very early period.

When Holkár fled into the Penjáb, in 1805, and was pursued by that
illustrious British commander, Lord Lake, a complete opportunity was
given of observing the actual state of this nation, which was found
weak and distracted, in a degree that could hardly have been imagined.
It was altogether destitute of union. And though a Gúrú-matá, or
national council, was called, with a view to decide on those means
by which they could best avert the danger by which their country was
threatened, from the presence of the English and Mahráta armies, it
was attended by few chiefs: and most of the absentees, who had any
power, were bold and forward in their offers to resist any resolution
to which this council might come. The intrigues and negotiations of all
appeared, indeed, at this moment, to be entirely directed to objects of
personal resentment, or personal aggrandizement; and every shadow of
that concord, which once formed the strength of the Sikh nation, seemed
to be extinguished.


[1] The sacred volume of the Sikhs. The chief, who gave me this copy,
sent it at night, and with either a real or affected reluctance, after
having obtained a promise that I would treat it with great respect. I
understand, however, that the indefatigable research of Mr. Colebrooke
has procured not only the Adí-Grant'h, but also the Dasima Pádsháh ká
Grant'h; and that, consequently, he is in possession of the two most
sacred books of the Sikhs.

[2] Sikh or Sicsha, is a Sanscrit word, which means a disciple, or
devoted follower. In the Penjábí it is corrupted into Sikh: it is a
general term, and applicable to any person that follows a particular

[3] This village, or rather town, for such it has become, is now called
Ráyapúr. It is situated on the banks of the Béyah, or Hyphasis.

[4] He is called, by some authors, Kálú Védí; but Védí is a name
derived from his tribe or family.

[5] Several Sikh authors have been very precise in establishing the
date of the consummation of this marriage, which they fix in the month
of Asárh, of the Hindú æra of Vicramáditya, 1545.

[6] Bála Sand'hú, who gave this advice, continued, through Nánac's
life, to be his favourite attendant and disciple.

[7] The veneration which the Hindús have for the snake is well known;
and this tradition, like many others, proves the attachment of the Sikh
writers to that mythology, the errors of which they pretend to have
wholly abandoned.

[8] Ráy, a title inferior to that of a Rájah, generally applied to the
Hindú chief of a village, or small district.

[9] This remarkable anecdote in Nánac's life is told very differently
by different Sikh authors. I have followed the narrative of Bhacta
Mallí. They all agree in Nánac's having, at this period, quitted the
occupations of the world, and become Fakír.

[10] Bhai Gúrú Vali, author of the Gnyána Ratnávali, a work written in
the Sikh dialect of the Penjábí.

[11] Though his biographers have ascribed miracles to Nánac, we never
find that he pretended to work any: on the contrary, he derided those
who did, as deriving power from evil spirits.

[12] It is believed that this work of Nánac has been incorporated in
the first part of the Adí-Grant'h.

[13] This interview must have taken place in 1526 or 1527; as it is
stated to have been immediately after Daulet Khán Lódí had visited
Paniput, in 1526; where that prince had fought, and subdued Ibrahim,
emperor of Hindústan.

[14] Recluse penitents, who, by means of mental and corporeal
mortifications, have acquired a command over the powers of nature.

[15] Kírtipúr Dehra, on the banks of the Rávi, or Hydraotes.

[16] He is, throughout this sketch, called Nánac. Muhammedan historians
generally term him Nánac Sháh, to denote his being a Fakír, the name
of Sháh being frequently given to men of celebrity in that sect. The
Sikhs, in speaking of him, call him Bábá Nánac, or Gúrú Nánac, father
Nánac, or Nánac the teacher; and their writers term him Nánac Nirinkar,
which means Nánac the omnipresent.

[17] This fanciful etymology represents the word Angad as a compound
of the Sanscrit _Ang_, which signifies _body_, and the Persian _Khúd_,
which signifies _own_. This mixture of language is quite common in the
jargon of the Penjáb.

[18] Angad died at Khandúr, a village about forty miles east of Lahore.

[19] Though a contrary belief is inculcated by Nánac, the Sikhs, like
the Hindús, are inclined to be predestinarians, and this gives their
minds a great tendency to view accidents as decrees of Providence; and
it is probable that this instance of early good fortune in Rám Dás,
by impressing his countrymen with an idea of his being particularly
favoured of Heaven, gave rise to an impression that promoted, in no
slight degree, that success which it anticipated.

[20] No dates of the events which occurred during the rule of Rám Dás
are given in any of the authorities from which this sketch is drawn.
One author, however, states, that he lived in the time of Akber, and
was honoured with the favour of that truly tolerant and great emperor.

[21] Arjunmal, or Arjun, as he is more commonly called, according to
B'hai Gúrú Dás B'halé, the author of the Gnyán Ratnávalí, was not
initiated in the sacred mysteries of his father. This author says, that
Arjun, though a secular man, did not suffer the office of Gúrú, or
priest, to leave the Sóndi tribe. "Like a substance," he adds, "which
none else could digest, the property of the family remained in the

[22] Grant'h means book; but, as a mark of its superiority to all
others, is given to this work, as "The Book." Adí-Grant'h means,
the first Grant'h, or book, and is generally given to this work to
distinguish it from the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, or the book of the
tenth king, composed by Gúrú Góvind.

[23] Though the original Adí-Grant'h was compiled by Arjunmal, from
the writings of Nánac, Angad, Amera Dás, and Rám Dás, and enlarged and
improved by his own additions and commentaries, some small portions
have been subsequently added by thirteen different persons, whose
numbers, however, are reduced, by the Sikh authors, to twelve and a
half: the last contributor to this sacred volume being a woman, is only
admitted to rank in the list as a fraction, by these ungallant writers.

[24] Several historical accounts of the Sikhs, particularly that
published by Major Browne, which is, in general, drawn from authentic
sources, appear to be in error with regard to the period at which this
race first took arms, which the last author states to have occurred
under Gúrú Góvind; but several Sikh authors, of great respectability
and information, agree in ascribing to the efforts of Har Góvind, the
son of Arjun, this great change in the Sikh commonwealth; and their
correctness, in this point, appears to be placed beyond all question,
by a passage in the Ratnávalí of B'hai Gúrú Dás B'halé; who observes,
"That five phials (of divine grace) were distributed to five Pírs
(holy men), but the sixth Pír was a mighty Gúrú (priest). Arjun threw
off his earthly frame, and the form of Har Góvind mounted the seat of
authority. The Sóndi race continued exhibiting their different forms
in their turns. Har Góvind was the destroyer of armies, a martial Gúrú
(priest), a great warrior, and performed great actions." The mistake
of some European writers on this subject probably originated in a
confusion of verbal accounts; and the similarity of the name of Har
Góvind, the son of Arjunmal, and Góvínd, the last and greatest of the
Sikh Gúrús, the son of Tégh Bahádur. In the Persian sketch, which Major
Browne translates, the name of Har Góvind is not mentioned. The son of
Arjunmal is called Gúrú Rám Ráy, which is obviously a mistake of the
author of that manuscript.

[25] Nánac had forbidden hog's flesh, though a common species of food
among the lower tribe of Hindús, in compliance with the prejudices of
the Muhammedans, whom it was his great wish to reconcile to his faith
by every concession and persuasion.

[26] It is stated, by a Sikh author named Nand, that Har Góvind, during
his ministry, established the practice of invoking the three great
Hindú deities, Brahmá, Vishnu, and Síva: but this is not confirmed by
any other authority which I have seen.

[27] The violent contests of the Sikhs are mentioned by most of
their writers; and, though they disagree in their accounts, they all
represent Tégh Behádur as falling the innocent sacrifice of Muhammedan
despotism and intolerance; which, from the evidence of all respectable
contemporary Muhammedan authors, would appear not to be the fact.
Tégh Behádur, agreeable to them, provoked his execution by a series
of crimes. He joined, they state, with a Moslem Fakír, of the name of
Hafiz ed Dín; and, supported by a body of armed mendicants, committed
the most violent depredations on the peaceable inhabitants of the
Penjáb. The author of the Seir Mutákhherin says he was, in consequence
of these excesses, put to death at Gwalior, and his body cut into four
quarters, one of which was hung up at each gate of the fortress.

[28] A Sikh college was founded in that city.

[29] A town on the Satléj.

[30] Gúrú Góvind is stated, by a Sikh author of respectability, B'hai
Gúrú Dás B'halé, to have been fourteen years of age when his father was
put to death.

[31] The object of Nánac was to abolish the distinctions of cast
amongst the Hindús, and to bring them to the adoration of that Supreme
Being, before whom all men, he contended, were equal. Gúrú Góvind,
who adopted all the principles of his celebrated predecessor, as far
as religious usages were concerned, is reported to have said, on this
subject, that the four tribes of Hindús, the Bráhmen, Cshatríya,
Vaisya, and Súdra, would, like _pán_ (betle-leaf), _chunám_ (lime),
_supári_ (betle-nut), and _khat_ (_terra japonica_, or _catechu_),
become all of one colour, when well chewed.

[32] Some men of the lowest Hindú tribe, of the occupation of sweepers,
were employed to bring away the corpse of Tégh Béhadur from Dehli.
Their success was rewarded by high rank and employment. Several of
the same tribe, who have become Sikhs, have been remarkable for their
valour, and have attained great reputation. They are distinguished,
among the Sikhs, by the name of Ran-Rata Singh.

[33] That is, equal in civil rights. He wished to remove the
disqualifications of birth, and do away cast. That he did not
completely effect this object, and that some distinctions of their
former tribes, particularly those relating to intermarriage, should
still be kept up by the Sikhs, cannot be a matter of astonishment to
those acquainted with the deep-rooted prejudices of the Hindús upon
this point; which is as much a feeling of family pride as of religious

[34] Spiritual leader.

[35] The goddess Durgá Bhavání is said, by a Sikh author, to be
represented, in some images, with her hair long and dishevelled.

[36] This institution is also said to be borrowed from the Hindú
mythology. Bála Rám, the elder brother of Crishna, wore blue clothes;
from which he is called Nilámbar, or _the clothed in dark blue_; and
Shitivas, or _the blue clothed_.

[37] One of the most popular of these fables states, that in the year
of the Híjerah 1118, Gúrú Góvind, agreeably to the directions he had
received from two Bráhmen necromancers, threw a number of magical
compounds, given him by these Bráhmens, into a fire, near which he
continued in prayers for several days. A sword of lightning at last
burst from the flame of fire; but Góvind, instead of seizing this
sword in an undaunted manner, as he was instructed, was dazzled by its
splendour, and shrunk from it in alarm. The sword instantly flew to
heaven; from whence a loud voice was heard to say, "Gúrú Góvind! thy
wishes shall be fulfilled by thy posterity, and thy followers shall
daily increase." The Bráhmens were in despair at this failure; but,
after deep reflection, they told Góvind, there was still one mode of
acquiring that honour for himself, which appeared, by the decree that
had been pronounced, doomed for his posterity. If he would only allow
them to take off his head, and throw it into the fire, he would be
resuscitated to the enjoyment of the greatest glory. The Gúrú excused
himself from trying this experiment, declaring that he was content
that his descendants should enjoy the fruits of that tree which he had

[38] These Rájás appear, from the same authority, to be descended in a
direct line from Hindú gods.

[39] The following short extract from the translation of the Vichitra
Nátac, will show that Góvind gave his friends their full meed of
praise, and will also exhibit the character of his style: "Cripál
rages, wielding his mace: he crushed the skull of the fierce Hyát Khán.
He made the blood spurt aloft, and scattered the brains of the chief,
as Crishna crushed the earthen vessel of butter. Then Nand Chand raged
in dreadful ire, launching the spear, and wielding the sword. He broke
his keen scimitar, and drew his dagger, to support the honour of the
Sóndi race. Then my maternal uncle, Cripál, advanced in his rage,
and exhibited the skilful war-feats of a true Cshatríya. The mighty
warrior, though struck by an arrow, with another made a valiant Khán
fall from his saddle, and Sáheb Chand, of the Cshatríya race, strove
in the battle's fury, and slew a blood-thirsty Khán, a warrior of
Khorásan." After recording the actions of many others, Góvind thus
describes his own deeds: "The blood-drinking spectres and ghosts yelled
for carnage; the fierce Vetála, the chief of the spectres, laughed
for joy, and sternly prepared for his repast. The vultures hovered
around, screaming for their prey. Hari Chand, (a Hindú chief in the
emperor's army,) in his wrath, drawing his bow, first struck my steed
with an arrow: aiming a second time, he discharged his arrow; but the
Deity preserved me, and it passed me, and only grazed my ear. His
third arrow struck my breast: it tore open the mail, and pierced the
skin, leaving a slight scar; but the God whom I adore saved me. When I
felt this hurt, my anger was kindled; I drew my bow and discharged an
arrow: all my champions did the same, rushing onwards to the battle.
Then I aimed at the young hero, and struck him. Hari Chand perished,
and many of his host; death devoured him, who was called a Rájá among a
hundred thousand Rájás. Then all the host, struck with consternation,
fled, deserting the field of combat. I obtained the victory through the
favour of the Most High; and, victorious in the field, we raised aloud
the song of triumph. Riches fell on us like rain, and all our warriors
were glad."

[40] Hyát Khán and Nejábet Khán are mentioned as two of the principal
chiefs of the emperor's army that fell in this first action. Góvind,
speaking of the fall of the latter, says: "When Nejábet Khán fell, the
world exclaimed, Alas! but the region of Swarga (the heavens) shouted

[41] A mountainous tract of country, that borders on the Penjáb. It
lies to the N. W. of Srínagar, and the S. E. of Jammu. The present
Rájá, Sansár Chand, is a chief of great respectability. His country
has lately been overrun by the Rájá of Nepál and Gore'ha. I derived
considerable information regarding this family, and their territories,
from the envoy of Sansár Chand, who attended Lord Lake, in 1805, when
the British army was in the Penjáb.

[42] Though the account of this war is given in a style sufficiently
inflated for the wars of the demons and angels; yet, as Góvind relates,
that Husain Khán returned a messenger, which one of the principal
Rájás had sent him, with this message to his master; "Pay down ten
thousand rupees, or destruction descends on thy head;" we may judge,
both from the demand, and the amount of the contribution, of the nature
of this contest, as well as its scale. It was evidently one of those
petty provincial wars, which took place in every remote part of the
Indian empire, when it was distracted: and, at this period, Aurungzéb
was wholly engaged in the Dek'hin, and the northern provinces were
consequently neglected, and their governments in a weak and unsettled

[43] This must have been in the year 1701, when Baháder Sháh was
detached from the Dek'hin to take charge of the government of Cábul,
and was probably ordered, at the same time, to settle the disturbances
in the Penjáb.

[44] There is a remarkable passage in this chapter, in which Gúrú
Góvind appears to acknowledge the supremacy of the emperor. "God," he
says, "formed both Bábá (Nánac) and Báber (the emperor of that name).
Look upon Bábá as the Pádsháh (king) of religion, and Báber, the lord
of the world. He who will not give Nánac a single damri, (a coin the
sixteenth part of an ana,) will receive a severe punishment from Báber."

[45] Kahilúr, or Kahlóre, is situated on the Satléj, above Mák'havál.
It is near the mountains through which that river flows into the
Penjáb. Another place of the name of Kahilúr, or Kahlóre, is situated
a short distance from Lahore, to the N. E. of that city.

[46] The Muhammedan authors blame Vízír Khán for this unnecessary and
impolitic act of barbarity.

[47] Bhavání Durgá.

[48] In the Penjábi narrative of B'hai Gúrú Dás B'halé, the actions
of Ajit Singh, and Ranjít Singh, sons of Góvind, are particularly
described; and, from one part of the description, it would appear
that the family of Góvind, proud of their descent, had not laid aside
the _zunár_, or holy cord, to which they were, as belonging to the
Cshatríya race, entitled. Speaking of these youths, the author says:
"Slaughtering every Turk and Pahlan whom they saw, they adorned their
sacred strings, by converting them into sword-belts. Returning from the
field, they sought their father, who bestowed a hundred blessings on
their scimetars."

[49] The Sikh author, though he may reject the superstitious idolatry
of the Hindús, adorns his descriptions with every image its mythology
can furnish; and claims for his hero the same high honours in Swarga,
that a Bráhmen would expect for one of the Pándu race.

[50] Mr. Foster has followed this authority in his account of the Sikh
nation: and I am inclined to believe that the part of it which relates
to Gúrú Góvind's dying at Nadér, in the Dek'hin, of a wound received
from a Patán, is correct; as it is written on the last page of a copy
of the Adí-Grant'h, in my possession, with several other facts relative
to the dates of the births and deaths of the principal high priests of
the Sikhs.

[51] Both at Chamkóur, and other forts, from which the famished Sikhs
attempted to escape, many of them were taken, and had their noses and
ears cut off.

[52] Meaning Sikhs; whose faith, though it differs widely from the
present worship of the Hindús, has been thought to have considerable
analogy to the pure and simple religion originally followed by that

[53] This province lies a few miles to the N. E. of Delhi, between the
rivers Jumna and Ganges.

[54] They were taken in the fort of Lóhgad, which is one hundred miles
to the north-east of Lahore. This fortress was completely surrounded,
and the Sikhs were only starved into surrender, having been reduced to
such extremes, that they were reported to have eaten, what to them must
have been most horrible, the flesh of the cow.

[55] The author of the _Seir Mutákherin_.

[56] It is necessary, however, to state, that there is a schismatical
sect of Sikhs, who are termed Bandái, or the followers of Banda, who
totally deny this account of the death of Banda, and maintain that
he escaped severely wounded from his last battle, and took refuge in
B'habar, where he quietly ended his days, leaving two sons, Ajit Singh
and Zoráwer Singh, who successfully propagated his doctrine. This sect
chiefly resides in Multán, Tata, and the other cities on the banks of
the Indus. They receive the Adí-Grant'h, but not the Dasama Pádsháh ká

[57] An account of this class of Sikhs will be hereafter given.

[58] A. D. 1746.

[59] The country between the rivers Raví and Béyah, and that river and
the Satléj.

[60] A sect of non-conformist Sikhs, who believe in the Adí-Grant'h
of Nánac, but do not conform to the institutions of Gúrú Góvind. They
are called Khalása. This word is said, by some, to be from _khális_,
_pure_ or _select_, and to mean the purest, or the select: by others,
from _khalás_, _free_, and to mean the freed or exempt, alluding to the
tribe being exempt from the usages imposed on the other Sikhs.

[61] A. D. 1752.

[62] The empire of the Mahrátas had, at this proud moment, reached its
zenith. The battle of Pánipat'h took place soon afterwards; since which
it has rapidly declined.

[63] This is a very common usage amongst eastern conquerors. The
history of Jénghíz Khán, Taimúr and Nádir Sháh, afford many examples of
this mode of treating their vanquished enemies.

[64] Foster's Travels, Vol. I. p. 279.

[65] All the villages in the Penjáb are walled round; as they are in
almost all the countries of India that are exposed to sudden incursions
of horse, which this defence can always repel.

[66] When the British and Máhráta armies entered the Penjáb, they
were both daily joined by discontented petty chiefs of the Sikhs, who
offered their aid to the power that would put them in the possession of
a village or a fort, from which, agreeably to their statement, they had
been unjustly excluded by a father or brother. Holkár encouraged these
applications, and used them to his advantage. The British commander
abstained from all interference in such disputes.


Neither the limits of this sketch, nor the materials from which it is
drawn, will admit of my giving a particular or correct account of the
countries possessed by the Sikhs, or of their forms of government,
manners, and habits: but a cursory view of these subjects may be
useful, and may excite and direct that curiosity which it cannot expect
to gratify.

The country now possessed by the Sikhs, which reaches from latitude
28° 40' to beyond latitude 32° N., and includes all the Penjáb[67], a
small part of Multán, and most of that tract of country which lies
between the Jumna and the Satléj, is bounded, to the northward and
westward, by the territories of the king of Cábul; to the eastward, by
the possessions of the mountaineer Rájás of Jammu, Nadón, and Srínagar;
and to the southward, by the territories of the English government, and
the sandy deserts of Jasalmér and Hánsyá Hisár.

The Sikhs, who inhabit the country between the Satléj and the Jumna,
are called Málawá Singh, and were almost all converted from the Hindú
tribes of Játs and Gujars. The title of Málawá Singh was conferred upon
them for their extraordinary gallantry, under the Baírágí Banda, who is
stated to have declared, that the countries granted to them should be
fruitful as Málwá, one of the provinces[68] in India. The principal
chiefs among the Málawá Singhs, are, Sáheb Singh, of Patiálá; B'hangá
Singh, of T'hánésur; B'hág Singh, of Jhind; and B'hailal Singh, of
Keintal. Besides these, there are several inferior chiefs, such as
Gúrúdah Singh, Jud'h Singh, and Carm Singh; all of whom have a few
villages, and some horse, and consider themselves independent; though
they, in general, are content to secure their possessions by attaching
themselves to one or other of the more powerful leaders.

The country of the Málawá Singh is, in some parts, fruitful: but those
districts of it, which border on Hánsyá and Carnál, are very barren;
being covered with low wood, and, in many places, almost destitute of
water. Sarhind was formerly the capital of this country; but it is now
a complete ruin, and has probably never recovered the dreadful ravages
of the Bairágí Banda, who is stated not only to have destroyed its
mosques, but to have levelled all its palaces and public buildings
with the ground. Patiálá is now the largest and most flourishing town
of this province, and next to it T'hánésur, which is still held in
high religious veneration by the Hindús; who have also a very high
reverence for the river Seraswetí, which flows through this province.
The territories of the chiefs of Málawá Singh are bounded to the N.
W. by the Satléj; between which and the Béyah, is the country called
the Jaléndra Beit, or Jaléndra Dúáb; the Sikhs inhabiting which are
called the Dúábá Singh, or the Singhs who dwell between the rivers[69].
The country of Jaléndra Dúáb, which reaches from the mountains to
the junction of the Satléj and the Béyah, is the most fruitful of all
the possessions of the Sikhs; and is, perhaps, excelled in climate
and vegetation by no province of India. The soil is light, but very
productive: the country, which is open and level, abounds with every
kind of grain. That want of water, which is so much felt in other
parts of India, must be here unknown; as it is found every where in
abundance, within two, or at furthest three, feet from the surface of
the soil. The towns of Jaléndra and Sultánpúr are the principal in the

The country between the Béyah and Ráví rivers is called Bári Dúáb,
or Mánj'há; and the Sikhs inhabiting it are called Mánj'há Singh.
The cities of Lahore and Amritsar are both in this province; and it
becomes, in consequence, the great centre of the power of this nation.
Ranjít Singh, of Lahore; Fateh Singh[70], of Alluwál; and Jud'h Singh,
of Rámgadiá[71]; are the principal chiefs of this country.

The country of Bári is said to be less fertile, particularly towards
the mountains, than Jaléndra; but, as it lies on the same level, it
must possess nearly the same climate and soil.

The inhabitants of the country between the Ráví and Chanháb, are called
D'harpí Singh, from the country being called D'harpí. The D'haníghéb
Singh are beyond the Chanháb[72], but within the Jéhalam river.

The Sind Singh is the term by which the inhabitants of the districts
under the Sikhs, bordering on the Sind, are known; and Nakái Singh is
the name given to the Sikhs who reside in Multán. With the leaders of
the Sikhs in these provinces, the extent of their possessions, or the
climate and productions of the country under their rule, I am little
acquainted. Those in Multán, as well as those settled on the river
Jéhalam, are said to be constantly engaged in a predatory warfare,
either with the officers of the Afghán government, or with Muhammedan
chiefs who have jágírs in their vicinity.

The government of the Sikhs, considered in its theory, may, as has been
before stated, be termed a theocracy. They obey a temporal chief, it is
true; but that chief preserves his power and authority by professing
himself the servant of the Khálsá[73], or government, which can only
be said to act, in times of great public emergency, through the means
of a national council, of which every chief is a member, and which is
supposed to deliberate and resolve under the immediate inspiration and
impulse of an invisible being; who, they believe, always watches over
the interests of the commonwealth.

The nature of the power established by the temporal chiefs of the
Sikhs, has been sufficiently explained in the narrative of their
history. It will be necessary, before any account is given of the forms
and actions of their Gúrú-matá, or great national council, which is
intended to have a supreme authority over their federative republic, to
take a view of that body of Acálís, or immortals, who, under the double
character of fanatic priests and desperate soldiers, have usurped
the sole direction of all religious affairs at Amritsar, and are,
consequently, leading men in a council which is held at that sacred
place, and which deliberates under all the influence of religious

The Acálís[74] are a class of Sikh devotees; who, agreeably to the
historians of that nation, were first founded by Gúrú Góvind, whose
institutes, as it has been before stated, they most zealously defended
against the innovations of the Bairágí Banda. They wear blue chequered
clothes, and bangles, or bracelets of steel[75], round their wrists,
initiate converts, and have almost the sole direction of the religious
ceremonies at Amritsar, where they reside, and of which they deem
themselves the defenders; and, consequently, never desire to quit it
unless in cases of great extremity.

This order of Sikhs have a place, or Bungá[76], on the bank of the
sacred reservoir of Amritsar, where they generally resort, but are
individually possessed of property, though they affect poverty,
and subsist upon charity; which, however, since their numbers have
increased, they generally extort, by accusing the principal chiefs of
crimes, imposing fines upon them; and, in the event of their refusing
to pay, preventing them from performing their ablutions, or going
through any of their religious ceremonies at Amritsar.

It will not, when the above circumstances are considered, be thought
surprising, that the most powerful of the Sikh chiefs should desire
to conciliate this body of fanatics, no individual of which can be
offended with impunity, as the cause of one is made the cause of the
whole; and a chief, who is become unpopular with the Acálís, must not
only avoid Amritsar, but is likely to have his dependants taught, when
they pay their devotions at that place, that it is pious to resist his

The Acálís have a great interest in maintaining both the religion and
government of the Sikhs, as established by Gúrú Góvind; as, on its
continuance in that shape, their religious and political influence
must depend. Should Amritsar cease to be a place of resort, or be no
longer considered as the religious capital of the state, in which all
questions that involve the general interests of the commonwealth are
to be decided, this formidable order would at once fall from that
power and consideration which they now possess, to a level with other

When a Gúrú-matá, or great national council, is called, (as it always
is, or ought to be, when any imminent danger threatens the country, or
any large expedition is to be undertaken,) all the Sikh chiefs assemble
at Amritsar. The assembly, which is called the Gúrú-matá, is convened
by the Acálís; and when the chiefs meet upon this solemn occasion, it
is concluded that all private animosities cease, and that every man
sacrifices his personal feelings at the shrine of the general good;
and, actuated by principles of pure patriotism, thinks of nothing but
the interests of the religion, and commonwealth, to which he belongs.

When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated, the Adí-Grant'h and
Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h are placed before them. They all bend their
heads before these scriptures, and exclaim, _Wá! Gúrúji ká Khálsa! Wá!
Gúrúji ki Fateh!_ A great quantity of cakes, made of wheat, butter,
and sugar, are then placed before the volumes of their sacred writings,
and covered with a cloth. These holy cakes, which are in commemoration
of the injunction of Nánac, to eat and to give to others to eat, next
receive the salutation of the assembly, who then rise, and the Acálís
pray aloud, while the musicians play. The Acálís, when the prayers
are finished, desire the council to be seated. They sit down, and the
cakes being uncovered, are eaten of by all classes[77] of Sikhs: those
distinctions of original tribes, which are, on other occasions, kept
up, being on this occasion laid aside, in token of their general and
complete union in one cause[78]. The Acálís then exclaim: "Sirdars!
(chiefs) this is a Gúrú-matá!" on which prayers are again said aloud.
The chiefs, after this, sit closer, and say to each other: "The sacred
Grant'h is betwixt us, let us swear by our scripture to forget all
internal disputes, and to be united." This moment of religious fervor
and ardent patriotism, is taken to reconcile all animosities. They
then proceed to consider the danger with which they are threatened,
to settle the best plans for averting it, and to choose the generals
who are to lead their armies[79] against the common enemy. The first
Gúrú-matá was assembled by Gúrú Góvind; and the latest was called in
1805, when the British army pursued Holkár into the Penjáb.

The principal chiefs of the Sikhs are all descended from Hindú tribes.
There is, indeed, no instance of a Singh of a Muhammedan family
attaining high power[80]: a circumstance to be accounted for from
the hatred still cherished, by the followers of Gúrú Góvind, against
the descendants of his persecutors: and that this rancorous spirit
is undiminished, may be seen from their treatment of the wretched
Muhammedans who yet remain in their territories. These, though very
numerous, appear to be all poor, and to be an oppressed, despised
race. They till the ground, and are employed to carry burdens, and to
do all kinds of hard labour: they are not allowed to eat beef, or to
say their prayers aloud, and but seldom assemble in their mosques[81];
of which few, indeed, have escaped destruction. The lower order of
Sikhs are more happy: they are protected from the tyranny and violence
of the chiefs, under whom they live, by the precepts of their common
religion, and by the condition of their country, which enables them
to abandon, whenever they choose, a leader whom they dislike; and the
distance of a few miles generally places them under the protection
of his rival and enemy. It is from this cause that the lowest Sikh
horseman usually assumes a very independent style, and the highest
chief treats his military followers with attention and conciliation.
The civil officers,--to whom the chiefs intrust their accounts, and
the management of their property and revenue concerns, as well as the
conduct of their negotiations,--are, in general, Sikhs of the Khalása
cast; who, being followers of Nánac, and not of Gúrú Góvind, are not
devoted to arms, but educated for peaceful occupations, in which they
often become very expert and intelligent.

In the collection of the revenue in the Penjáb it is stated to be a
general rule, that the chiefs, to whom the territories belong, should
receive one half of the produce[82], and the farmer the other: but
the chief never levies the whole of his share: and in no country,
perhaps, is the Rayat, or cultivator, treated with more indulgence.
Commerce is not so much encouraged; heavy duties are levied upon it by
all petty rulers through whose districts it passes: and this, added to
the distracted state in which the Penjáb has been, from the internal
disputes of its possessors, caused the rich produce of Cásmír to be
carried to India by the difficult and mountainous tract of Jammu,
Nadón, and Srínagar. The Sikh chiefs have, however, discovered the
injury which their interests have suffered from this cause, and have
endeavoured, and not without success, to restore confidence to the
merchant; and great part of the shawl trade now flows through the
cities of Lahore, Amritsar, and Patiálá, to Hindústan.

The administration of justice in the countries under the Sikhs, is
in a very rude and imperfect state; for, though their scriptures
inculcate general maxims of justice, they are not considered, as the
Old Testament is by the Jews, or the Korán by the Muhammedans, as
books of law: and, having no fixed code, they appear to have adopted
that irregular practice, which is most congenial to the temper of the
people, and best suited to the unsteady and changing character of their
rule of government. The following appears to be the general outline of
their practice in the administration of justice.

Trifling disputes about property are settled by the heads of the
village, by arbitration[83], or by the chiefs. Either of these modes,
supposing the parties consent to refer to it, is final; and they must
agree to one or other. If a theft occurs, the property is recovered,
and the party punished by the person from whom it was stolen, who
is aided on such occasions by the inhabitants of his village, or
his chief. The punishment, however, is never capital[84]. Murder is
generally revenged by the relations of the deceased, who, in such
cases, rigorously retaliate on the murderer, and often on all who
endeavour to protect him.

The character of the Sikhs, or rather Singhs, which is the name by
which the followers of Gúrú Góvind, who are all devoted to arms, are
distinguished, is very marked. They have, in general, the Hindú cast
of countenance, somewhat altered by their long beards, and are to
the full as active as the Mahrátas; and much more robust, from their
living fuller, and enjoying a better and colder climate. Their courage
is equal, at all times, to that of any natives of India; and when
wrought upon by prejudice or religion, is quite desperate. They are
all horsemen, and have no infantry in their own country, except for
the defence of their forts and villages, though they generally serve
as infantry in foreign armies. They are bold, and rather rough, in
their address; which appears more to a stranger from their invariably
speaking in a loud tone[85] of voice: but this is quite a habit,
and is alike used by them to express the sentiments of regard and
hatred. The Sikhs have been reputed deceitful and cruel; but I know
no grounds upon which they can be considered more so than the other
tribes of India. They seemed to me, from all the intercourse I had
with them, to be more open and sincere than the Mahrátas, and less
rude and savage than the Afgháns. They have, indeed, become, from
national success, too proud of their own strength, and too irritable
in their tempers, to have patience for the wiles of the former; and
they retain, in spite of their change of manners and religion, too much
of the original character of their Hindú ancestors, (for the great
majority are of the Hindú race,) to have the constitutional ferocity
of the latter. The Sikh soldier is, generally speaking, brave, active,
and cheerful, without polish, but neither destitute of sincerity nor
attachment; and if he often appears wanting in humanity, it is not so
much to be attributed to his national character, as to the habits of a
life, which, from the condition of the society in which he is born, is
generally passed in scenes of violence and rapine.

The Sikh merchant, or cultivator of the soil, if he is a Singh, differs
little in character from the soldier, except that his occupation
renders him less presuming and boisterous. He also wears arms, and is,
from education, prompt to use them whenever his individual interest,
or that of the community in which he lives[86], requires him to do so.
The general occupations of the Khalása Sikhs has been before mentioned.
Their character differs widely from that of the Singhs. Full of
intrigue, pliant, versatile, and insinuating, they have all the art of
the lower classes of Hindús, who are usually employed in transacting
business: from whom, indeed, as they have no distinction of dress, it
is very difficult to distinguish them.

The religious tribes of Acálís, Shahíd, and Nirmala, have been
noticed. Their general character is formed from their habits of life.
The Acálís are insolent, ignorant, and daring: presuming upon those
rights which their numbers and fanatic courage have established, their
deportment is hardly tolerant to the other Sikhs, and insufferable to
strangers, for whom they entertain a contempt, which they take little
pains to conceal. The Sháhíd and the Nirmala, particularly the latter,
have more knowledge, and more urbanity. They are almost all men of
quiet, peaceable habits; and many of them are said to possess learning.

There is another tribe among the Sikhs, called the Nánac Pautra,
or descendants of Nánac, who have the character of being a mild,
inoffensive race; and, though they do not acknowledge the institutions
of Gúrú Góvind, they are greatly revered by his followers, who hold it
sacrilege to injure the race of their founder; and, under the advantage
which this general veneration affords them, the Nánac Pautra pursue
their occupations; which, if they are not mendicants, is generally
that of travelling merchants. They do not carry arms; and profess,
agreeably to the doctrine of Nánac, to be at peace[87] with all mankind.

The Sikh converts, it has been before stated, continue, after they have
quitted their original religion, all those civil usages and customs
of the tribes to which they belonged, that they can practise, without
infringing the tenets of Nánac, or the institutions of Gúrú Góvind.
They are most particular with regard to their intermarriages; and, on
this point, Sikhs descended from Hindús almost invariably conform to
Hindú customs, every tribe intermarrying within itself. The Hindú
usage, regarding diet, is also held equally sacred; no Sikh, descended
from a Hindú family, ever violating it, except upon particular
occasions, such as a Gúrú-matá, when they are obliged, by their tenets
and institutions, to eat promiscuously. The strict observance of these
usages has enabled many of the Sikhs, particularly of the Ját[88] and
Gujar[89] tribes, which include almost all those settled to the south
of the Satléj, to preserve an intimate intercourse with their original
tribes; who, considering the Sikhs not as having lost cast, but as
Hindús that have joined a political association, which obliges them
to conform to general rules established for its preservation, neither
refuse to intermarry[90] nor to eat with them.

The higher cast of Hindús, such as Bráhmens and Cshatríyas, who have
become Sikhs, continue to intermarry with converts of their own tribes,
but not with Hindús of the cast they have abandoned, as they are
polluted by eating animal food; all kinds of which are lawful to Sikhs,
except the cow, which it is held sacrilege to slay[91]. Nánac, whose
object was to conciliate the Muhammedans to his creed, prohibited hog's
flesh also; but it was introduced by his successors, as much, perhaps,
from a spirit of revenge against the Moslems, as from considerations of
indulgence to the numerous converts of the Ját and Gujar tribe, among
whom wild hog is a favourite species of food.

The Muhammedans, who become Sikhs, intermarry with each other, but are
allowed to preserve none of their usages, being obliged to eat hog's
flesh, and abstain from circumcision.

The Sikhs are forbid the use of tobacco[92], but allowed to indulge
in spirituous[93] liquors, which they almost all drink to excess; and
it is rare to see a Singh soldier, after sunset, quite sober. Their
drink is an ardent spirit[94], made in the Penjáb; but they have no
objections to either the wine or spirits of Europe, when they can
obtain them.

The use of opium, to intoxicate, is very common with the Sikhs, as
with most of the military tribes of India. They also take B'hang[95],
another inebriating drug.

The conduct of the Sikhs to their women differs in no material respect
from that of the tribes of Hindús, or Muhammedans, from whom they are
descended. Their moral character with regard to women, and indeed in
most other points, may, from the freedom of their habits, generally
be considered as much more lax than that of their ancestors, who
lived under the restraint of severe restrictions, and whose fear of
excommunication from their cast, at least obliged them to cover their
sins with the veil of decency. This the emancipated Sikhs despise: and
there is hardly an infamy which this debauched and dissolute race are
not accused (and I believe with justice) of committing in the most open
and shameful manner.

The Sikhs are almost all horsemen, and they take great delight in
riding. Their horses were, a few years ago, famous; and those bred in
the Lak'hi Jungle, and other parts of their territory, were justly
celebrated for their strength, temper, and activity: but the internal
distractions of these territories has been unfavourable to the
encouragement of the breed, which has consequently declined; and the
Sikhs now are in no respect better mounted than the Mahrátas. From a
hundred of their cavalry it would be difficult to select ten horses
that would be admitted as fit to mount native troopers in the English

Their horsemen use swords and spears, and most of them now carry
matchlocks, though some still use the bow and arrow; a species of arms,
for excellence in the use of which their forefathers were celebrated,
and which their descendants appear to abandon with great reluctance.

The education of the Sikhs renders them hardy, and capable of great
fatigue; and the condition of the society in which they live, affords
constant exercise to that restless spirit of activity and enterprise
which their religion has generated. Such a race cannot be epicures:
they appear, indeed, generally to despise luxury of diet, and pride
themselves in their coarse fare. Their dress is also plain, not unlike
that of the Hindús, equally light and divested of ornament. Some
of the chiefs wear gold bangles; but this is rare; and the general
characteristic of their dress and mode of living, is simplicity.

The principal leaders among the Sikhs affect to be familiar and easy
of intercourse with their inferiors, and to despise the pomp and
state of the Muhammedan chiefs: but their pride often counteracts
this disposition; and they appeared to me to have, in proportion to
their rank and consequence, more state, and to maintain equal, if not
more, reserve and dignity with their followers, than is usual with the
Mahráta chiefs.

It would be difficult, if not impracticable, to ascertain the amount
of the population of the Sikh territories, or even to compute the
number of the armies which they could bring into action. They boast
that they can raise more than a hundred thousand horse: and, if it
were possible to assemble every Sikh horseman, this statement might
not be an exaggeration: but there is, perhaps, no chief among them,
except Ranjít Singh, of Lahore, that could bring an effective body of
four thousand men into the field. The force of Ranjít Singh did not,
in 1805, amount to eight thousand; and part of that was under chiefs
who had been subdued from a state of independence, and whose turbulent
minds ill brooked an usurpation which they deemed subversive of the
constitution of their commonwealth. His army is now more numerous than
it was, but it is composed of materials which have no natural cohesion;
and the first serious check which it meets, will probably cause its


[67] A general estimate of the value of the country possessed by the
Sikhs may be formed, when it is stated, that it contains, besides other
countries, the whole of the province of Lahore; which, agreeable to Mr.
Bernier, produced, in the reign of Aurungzéb, two hundred and forty-six
lacks and ninety-five thousand rupees; or two millions, four hundred
and sixty-nine thousand, five hundred pounds sterling.

[68] This province now forms almost the whole territory of Daulet Ráo

[69] With the chiefs of the Sikhs in the Jaléndra Dúáb we are little
acquainted. Tárá Singh is the most considerable; but he and the others
have been greatly weakened by their constant and increasing internal

[70] Fateh Singh is, like Ranjít Singh, of a Ját family.

[71] Jud'h Singh, of Ramgadiá, is of the carpenter cast.

[72] The term Gujarát Singh is sometimes given to the inhabitants of
this Dúáb, of which the chiefs of Gujarát and Rotás are the principal

[73] The word Khálsá, which has before been explained to mean the state
or commonwealth, is supposed, by the Sikhs, to have a mystical meaning,
and to imply that superior government, under the protection of which
"they live, and to the established rules and laws of which, as fixed by
Gúrú Góvind, it is their civil and religious duty to conform."

[74] Acálí, derived from Acál, a compound term of _cál_, _death_, and
the Sanscrit privative _a_, which means _never-dying_, or _immortal_.
It is one of the names of the Divinity; and has, probably, been given
to this remarkable class of devotees, from their always exclaiming
Acál! Acál! in their devotions.

[75] All Singhs do not wear bracelets; but it is indispensable to have
steel about their persons, which they generally have in the shape of a
knife or dagger. In support of this ordinance they quote the following
verses of Gúrú Góvind:

  Sáheb beá ki rach'ha hamné,
  Tuhi Srí Sáheb, churi, káti, katár--
  Acál purukh ki rach'ha hamné,
  Serv lóh di rach'ha hamné,
  Servacál di rach'ha hamné,
  Serv lohji di sada rach'ha hamné.

which may be translated: "The protection of the infinite Lord is
over us: thou art the lord, the cutlass, the knife, and the dagger.
The protection of the immortal Being is over us: the protection of
ALL-STEEL is over us: the protection of ALL-TIME is over us: the
protection of ALL-STEEL is constantly over us."

[76] The Shahíd and Nirmala, two other religious tribes among the
Sikhs, have Bungás, or places, upon the great reservoir of Amritsar;
but both these are peaceful orders of priests, whose duty is to address
the Deity, and to read and explain the Adí-Grant'h to the Sikhs. They
are, in general, men of some education. A Sikh, of any tribe, may be
admitted into either of these classes, as among the Acálís, who admit
all into their body who choose to conform to their rules.

[77] A custom of a similar nature, with regard to all tribes eating
promiscuously, is observed among the Hindús, at the temple of
Jagannáth, where men of all religions and casts, without distinction,
eat of the Mahá Prasád, _the great offering_; i.e. food dressed by the
cooks of the idols, and sold on the stairs of the temple.

[78] The Sikh priest, who gave an account of this custom, was of a high
Hindú tribe; and, retaining some of his prejudices, he at first said,
that Muhammedan Sikhs, and those who were converts from the sweeper
cast, were obliged, even on this occasion, to eat a little apart from
the other Sikhs: but, on being closely questioned, he admitted the fact
as stated in the narrative; saying, however, it was only on this solemn
occasion that these tribes are admitted to eat with the others.

[79] The army is called, when thus assembled, the Dal Khálsá, or the
army of the state.

[80] The Muhammedans who have become Sikhs, and their descendants, are,
in the Penjábi jargon, termed Mezhebi Singh, or Singhs of the faith;
and they are subdivided into the four classes which are vulgarly,
but erroneously, supposed to distinguish the followers of Muhammed,
Sayyad Singh, Sheikh Singh, Moghul Singh, and Patán Singh; by which
designations the names of the particular race or country of the
Muhammedans have been affixed, by Hindús, as distinctions of cast.

[81] The Muhammedan inhabitants of the Penjáb used to flock to the
British camp; where, they said, they enjoyed luxuries which no man
could appreciate that had not suffered privation. They could pray
aloud, and feast upon beef.

[82] Grain pays in kind; sugar-cane, melons, &c. pay in cash.

[83] This is called Penchayat, or a court of five; the general number
of arbitrators chosen to adjust differences and disputes. It is usual
to assemble a Panchayat, or a court of arbitration, in every part of
India, under a native government; and, as they are always chosen from
men of the best reputation in the place where they meet, this court has
a high character for justice.

[84] A Sikh priest, who has been several years in Calcutta, gave this
outline of the administration of justice among his countrymen. He spoke
of it with rapture; and insisted, with true patriotic prejudice, on its
great superiority over the vexatious system of the English government;
which was, he said, tedious, vexatious, and expensive, and advantageous
only to clever rogues.

[85] Talking aloud is so habitual to a Sikh, that he bawls a secret
in your ear. It has often occurred to me, that they have acquired it
from living in a country where internal disputes have so completely
destroyed confidence, that they can only carry on conversation with
each other at a distance: but it is fairer, perhaps, to impute this
boisterous and rude habit to their living almost constantly in a camp,
in which the voice certainly loses that nice modulated tone which
distinguishes the more polished inhabitants of cities.

[86] The old Sikh soldier generally returns to his native village,
where his wealth, courage, or experience, always obtains him respect,
and sometimes station and consequence. The second march which the
British army made into the country of the Sikhs, the headquarters were
near a small village, the chief of which, who was upwards of a hundred
years of age, had been a soldier, and retained all the look and manner
of his former occupation. He came to me, and expressed his anxiety to
see Lord Lake. I showed him the general, who was sitting alone, in
his tent, writing. He smiled, and said he knew better: "The hero who
had overthrown Sindiá and Holkár, and had conquered Hindústan, must
be surrounded with attendants, and have plenty of persons to write
for him." I assured him that it was Lord Lake; and, on his lordship
coming to breakfast, I introduced the old Singh, who seeing a number
of officers collect round him, was at last satisfied of the truth of
what I said; and, pleased with the great kindness and condescension
with which he was treated by one whom he justly thought so great a man,
sat down on the carpet, became quite talkative, and related all he
had seen, from the invasion of Nádir Sháh to that moment. Lord Lake,
pleased with the bold manliness of his address, and the independence
of his sentiments, told him he would grant him any favour he wished.
"I am glad of it," said the old man; "then march away with your army
from my village, which will otherwise be destroyed." Lord Lake, struck
with the noble spirit of the request, assured him he would march next
morning, and that, in the mean-time, he should have guards, who would
protect his village from injury. Satisfied with this assurance, the old
Singh was retiring, apparently full of admiration and gratitude at Lord
Lake's goodness, and of wonder at the scene he had witnessed, when,
meeting two officers at the door of the tent, he put a hand upon the
breast of each, exclaiming at the same time, "_Brothers! where were you
born, and where are you at this moment?_" and, without waiting for an
answer, proceeded to his village.

[87] When Lord Lake entered the Penjáb, in 1805, a general protection
was requested, by several principal chiefs, for the Nánac Pautra,
on the ground of the veneration in which they were held, which
enabled them, it was stated, to travel all over the country without
molestation, even when the most violent wars existed. It was, of
course, granted.

[88] The Játs are Hindús of a low tribe, who, taking advantage of the
decline of the Moghul empire, have, by their courage and enterprise,
raised themselves into some consequence on the north-western parts of
Hindústan, and many of the strongest forts of that part of India are
still in their possession.

[89] The Gujars, who are also Hindús, have raised themselves to power
by means not dissimilar to those used by the Játs. Almost all the
thieves in Hindústan are of this tribe.

[90] A marriage took place very lately between the Sikh chief of
Patiálá, and that of the Ját Rájá, of B'haratpúr.

[91] Their prejudice regarding the killing of cows is stronger, if
possible, than that of the Hindús.

[92] The Khalása Sikhs, who follow Nánac, and reject Gúrú Góvind's
institutions, make use of it.

[93] Spirituous liquors, they say, are allowed by that verse in the
Adí-Grant'h, which states, "Eat, and give unto others to eat. Drink,
and give unto others to drink. Be glad, and make others glad." There
is also an authority, quoted by the Sikhs, from the Hindú Sástras,
in favour of this drinking to excess. Durgá, agreeably to the Sikh
quotations, used to drink, because liquor inspires courage; and this
goddess, they say, was drunk when she slew Mahíshásur.

[94] When Fateh Singh, of Aluwál, who was quite a young man, was with
the British army, Lord Lake gratified him by a field review. He was
upon an elephant, and I attended him upon another. A little before
sunset he became low and uneasy. I observed it; and B'hág Singh, an old
chief, of frank, rough manners, at once said, "Fateh Singh wants his
dram, but is ashamed to drink before you." I requested he would follow
his custom, which he did, by drinking a large cup of spirits.

[95] Cannabis sativa.


There is no branch of this sketch which is more curious and important,
or that offers more difficulties to the inquirer, than the religion of
the Sikhs. We meet with a creed of pure deism, grounded on the most
sublime general truths, blended with the belief of all the absurdities
of the Hindú mythology, and the fables of Muhammedanism; for Nánac
professed a desire to reform, not to destroy, the religion of the
tribe in which he was born; and, actuated by the great and benevolent
design of reconciling the jarring faiths of Brahmá and Muhammed, he
endeavoured to conciliate both Hindús and Moslems to his doctrine, by
persuading them to reject those parts of their respective beliefs and
usages, which, he contended, were unworthy of that God whom they both
adored. He called upon the Hindús to abandon the worship of idols, and
to return to that pure devotion of the Deity, in which their religion
originated. He called upon the Muhammedans to abstain from practices,
like the slaughter of cows, that were offensive to the religion of the
Hindús, and to cease from the persecution of that race. He adopted,
in order to conciliate them, many of the maxims which he had learnt
from mendicants, who professed the principles of the Súfi sect; and
he constantly referred to the admired writings of the celebrated
Muhammedan Kabír[96], who was a professed Súfi, and who inculcated
the doctrine of the equality of the relation of all created beings to
their Creator. Nánac endeavoured, with all the power of his own genius,
aided by such authorities, to impress both Hindús and Muhammedans with
a love of toleration and an abhorrence of war; and his life was as
peaceable as his doctrine. He appears, indeed, to have adopted, from
the hour in which he abandoned his worldly occupations to that of his
death, the habits practised by that crowd of holy mendicants, Sanyásís
and Fakírs, with whom India swarms. He conformed to their customs; and
his extraordinary austerities[97] are a constant theme of praise with
his followers. His works are all in praise of God; but he treats the
polytheism of the Hindús with respect, and even veneration. He never
shows a disposition to destroy the fabric, but only wishes to divest
it of its useless tinsel and false ornaments, and to establish its
complete dependence upon the great Creator of the universe. He speaks
every where of Muhammed, and his successors, with moderation; but
animadverts boldly on what he conceives to be their errors; and, above
all, on their endeavours to propagate their faith by the sword.

As Nánac made no material invasion of either the civil or religious
usages of the Hindús, and as his only desire was to restore a nation
who had degenerated from their original pure worship[98] into
idolatry, he may be considered more in the light of a reformer than
of a subverter of the Hindú religion; and those Sikhs who adhere to
his tenets, without admitting those of Gúrú Góvind, are hardly to be
distinguished from the great mass of Hindú population; among whom there
are many sects who differ, much more than that of Nánac, from the
general and orthodox worship at present established in India.

The first successors of Nánac appear to have taught exactly the
same doctrine as their leader; and though Har Góvind armed all his
followers, it was on a principle of self-defence, in which he was
fully justified, even by the usage of the Hindús. It was reserved for
Gúrú Góvind to give a new character to the religion of his followers;
not by making any material alteration in the tenets of Nánac, but
by establishing institutions and usages, which not only separated
them from other Hindús, but which, by the complete abolition of all
distinction of casts, destroyed, at one blow, a system of civil polity,
that, from being interwoven with the religion of a weak and bigoted
race, fixed the rule of its priests upon a basis that had withstood the
shock of ages. Though the code of the Hindús was calculated to preserve
a vast community in tranquillity and obedience to its rulers, it had
the natural effect of making the country, in which it was established,
an easy conquest to every powerful foreign invader; and it appears
to have been the contemplation of this effect that made Gúrú Góvind
resolve on the abolition of cast, as a necessary and indispensable
prelude to any attempt to arm the original native population of India
against their foreign tyrants. He called upon all Hindús to break
those chains in which prejudice and bigotry had bound them, and to
devote themselves to arms, as the only means by which they could free
themselves from the oppressive government of the Muhammedans; against
whom, a sense of his own wrongs, and those of his tribe, led him to
preach eternal warfare. His religious doctrine was meant to be popular,
and it promised equality. The invidious appellations of Bráhmen,
Cshatríya, Vaisya, and Súdra, were abolished. The pride of descent
might remain, and keep up some distinctions; but, in the religious code
of Góvind, every Khálsa Singh (for such he termed his followers) was
equal, and had a like title to the good things of this world, and to
the blessings of a future life.

Though Gúrú Góvind mixes, even more than Nánac, the mythology of the
Hindús with his own tenets; though his desire to conciliate them, in
opposition to the Muhammedans, against whom he always breathed war and
destruction, led him to worship at Hindú sacred shrines; and though the
peculiar customs and dress among his followers, are stated to have been
adopted from veneration to the Hindú goddess of courage, Dúrga Bhavání;
yet it is impossible to reconcile the religion and usages, which
Góvind has established, with the belief of the Hindús. It does not,
like that of Nánac, question some favourite dogmas of the disciples of
Brahmá, and attack that worship of idols, which few of these defend,
except upon the ground of these figures, before which they bend,
being symbolical representations of the attributes of an all-powerful
Divinity; but it proceeds at once to subvert the foundation of the
whole system. Wherever the religion of Gúrú Góvind prevails, the
institutions of Brahmá must fall. The admission of proselytes, the
abolition of the distinctions of cast, the eating of all kinds of
flesh, except that of cows, the form of religious worship, and the
general devotion of all Singhs to arms, are ordinances altogether
irreconcileable with Hindú mythology, and have rendered the religion
of the Sikhs as obnoxious to the Bráhmens, and higher tribes of the
Hindús, as it is popular with the lower orders of that numerous class
of mankind.

After this rapid sketch of the general character of the religion of
the Sikhs, I shall take a more detailed view of its origin, progress,
tenets, and forms.

A Sikh author[99], whom I have followed in several parts of this
sketch, is very particular in stating the causes of the origin of
the religion of Nánac: he describes the different Yugas, or ages of
the world, stated in the Hindú mythology. The Cáli Yug, which is the
present, is that in which it was written that the human race would
become completely depraved: "Discord," says the author, speaking of the
Cáli Yug, "will rise in the world, sin prevail, and the universe become
wicked; cast will contend with cast; and, like bamboos in friction,
consume each other to embers. The Védas, or scriptures," he adds,
"will be held in disrepute, for they shall not be understood, and the
darkness of ignorance will prevail every where." Such is this author's
record of a divine prophecy regarding this degenerate age. He proceeds
to state what has ensued: "Every one followed his own path, and sects
were separated; some worshipped Chandra (the moon); some Surya (the
sun); some prayed to the earth, to the sky, and the air, and the water,
and the fire, while others worshipped D'herma Rájá (the judge of the
dead); and in the fallacy of the sects nothing was to be found but
error. In short, pride prevailed in the world, and the four casts[100]
established a system of ascetic devotion. From these, the ten sects
of Sanyásís, and the twelve sects of Yógis, originated. The Jangam,
the Srívíra, and the Déva Digambar, entered into mutual contests. The
Bráhmens divided into different classes; and the Sástras, Védas, and
Puránas[101], contradicted each other. The six Dersans (philosophical
sects) exhibited enmity, and the thirty-six Páshands (heterodox sects)
arose, with hundreds of thousands of chimerical and magical (_tantra
mantra_) sects: and thus, from one form, many good and many evil forms
originated, and error prevailed in the Cáli Yug, or age of general

The Sikh author pursues this account of the errors into which the
Hindús fell, with a curious passage regarding the origin and progress
of the Muhammedan religion.

"The world," he writes, "went on with these numerous divisions,
when Muhammed Yara[102] appeared, who gave origin to the seventy-two
sects[103], and widely disseminated discord and war. He established the
Rózeh o Aíd (fast and festivals), and the Namáz (prayer), and made his
practice of devotional acts prevalent in the world, with a multitude of
distinctions, of Pír (saint), Paighamber (prophet), Ulemá (the order
of priesthood), and Kitàb (the Korán). He demolished the temples,
and on their ruins built the mosques, slaughtering cows and helpless
persons, and spreading transgression far and wide, holding in hostility
Cáfirs (infidels), Mulhids (idolaters), Irmenis (Armenians), Rumis (the
Turks), and Zingis (Ethiopians). Thus vice greatly diffused itself in
the universe."

"Then," this author adds, "there were two races in the world; the one
Hindú, the other Muhammedan; and both were alike excited by pride,
enmity, and avarice, to violence. The Hindús set their heart on Gangá
and Benares; the Muhammedans on Mecca and the Cáaba: the Hindús clung
to their mark on the forehead and brahminical string; the Moslemans
to their circumcision: the one cried Rám (the name of an Avatár), the
other Rahím (the merciful); one name, but two ways of pronouncing it;
forgetting equally the Védas and the Korán: and through the deceptions
of lust, avarice, the world, and Satan, they swerved equally from the
true path: while Bráhmens and Moulavis destroyed each other by their
quarrels, and the vicissitudes of life and death hung always suspended
over their heads.

"When the world was in this distracted state, and vice prevailed,"
says this writer, "the complaint of virtue, whose dominion was
extinct, reached the throne of the Almighty, who created Nánac, to
enlighten and improve a degenerate and corrupt age: and that holy man
made God the Supreme known to all, giving the nectareous water that
washed his feet to his disciples to drink. He restored to Virtue her
strength, blended the four casts[104] into one, established one mode of
salutation, changed the childish play of bending the head at the feet
of idols, taught the worship of the true God, and reformed a depraved

Nánac appears, by the account of this author, to have established
his fame for sanctity by the usual modes of religious mendicants. He
performed severe Tapasa[105], living upon sand and swallow-wort, and
sleeping on sharp pebbles; and, after attaining fame by this kind of
penance, he commenced his travels, with the view of spreading his
doctrine over the earth.

After Nánac had completed his terrestrial travels, he is supposed to
have ascended to Suméru, where he saw the Sidd'his[106], all seated in
a circle. These, from a knowledge of that eminence for which he was
predestined, wished to make him assume the characteristic devotion of
their sect, to which they thought he would be an ornament. While means
were used to effect this purpose, a divine voice was heard to exclaim:
"Nánac shall form his own sect, distinct from all the Yatís[107] and
Sidd'his; and his name shall be joyful to the Cáli Yug." After this,
Nánac preached the adoration of the true God to the Hindús; and then
went to instruct the Muhammedans, in their sacred temples at Mecca.
When at that place, the holy men are said to have gathered round him,
and demanded, Whether their faith, or that of the Hindús, was the best?
"Without the practice of true piety, both," said Nánac, "are erroneous,
and neither Hindús nor Moslems will be acceptable before the throne of
God; for the faded tinge of scarlet, that has been soiled by water,
will never return. You both deceive yourselves, pronouncing aloud Rám
and Rahím, and the way of Satan prevails in the universe."

The courageous independence with which Nánac announced his religion to
the Muhammedans, is a favourite topic with his biographers. He was one
day abused, and even struck, as one of these relates, by a Moullah, for
lying on the ground with his feet in the direction of the sacred temple
of Mecca. "How darest thou, infidel!" said the offended Muhammedan
priest, "turn thy feet towards the house of God!"--"Turn them, if you
can," said the pious but indignant Nánac, "in a direction where the
house of God is not."

Nánac did not deny the mission of Muhammed. "That prophet was sent,"
he said, "by God, to this world, to do good, and to disseminate the
knowledge of one God through means of the Korán; but he, acting on the
principle of free-will, which all human beings exercise, introduced
oppression, and cruelty, and the slaughter of cows[108], for which
he died.--I am now sent," he added, "from heaven, to publish unto
mankind a book, which shall reduce all the names given unto God to
one name, which is God; and he who calls him by any other, shall fall
into the path of the devil, and have his feet bound in the chains
of wretchedness. You have," said he to the Muhammedans, "despoiled
the temples, and burnt the sacred Védas, of the Hindús; and you have
dressed yourselves in dresses of blue, and you delight to have your
praises sung from house to house: but I, who have seen all the world,
tell you, that the Hindús equally hate you and your mosques. I am
sent to reconcile your jarring faiths, and I implore you to read
their scriptures, as well as your own: but reading is useless without
obedience to the doctrine taught; for God has said, no man shall be
saved except he has performed good works. The Almighty will not ask
to what tribe or persuasion he belongs. He will only ask, What has he
done? Therefore those violent and continued disputes, which subsist
between the Hindús and Moslemans, are as impious as they are unjust."

Such were the doctrines, according to his disciples, which Nánac taught
to both Hindús and Muhammedans. He professed veneration and respect,
but refused adoration to the founders of both their religions; for
which, as for those of all other tribes, he had great tolerance. "A
hundred thousand of Muhammeds," said Nánac, "a million of Brahmás,
Vishnus, and a hundred thousand Rámas, stand at the gate of the Most
High. These all perish; God alone is immortal. Yet men, who unite in
the praise of God, are not ashamed of living in contention with each
other; which proves that the evil spirit has subdued all. He alone is a
true Hindú whose heart is just; and he only is a good Muhammedan whose
life is pure."

Nánac is stated, by the Sikh author from whom the above account of his
religion is taken, to have had an interview with the supreme God, which
he thus describes: "One day Nánac heard a voice from above exclaim,
Nánac, approach!" He replied, "Oh God! what power have I to stand in
thy presence?" The voice said, "Close thine eyes." Nánac shut his eyes,
and advanced: he was told to look up: he did so, and heard the word
_Wá!_ or _well done_, pronounced five times; and then _Wá! Gúrújí_, or
_well done teacher_. After this God said, "Nánac! I have sent thee into
the world, in the Cáli Yug (or depraved age); go and bear my name."
Nánac said, "Oh God! how can I bear the mighty burthen? If my age was
extended to tens of millions of years, if I drank of immortality, and
my eyes were formed of the sun and moon, and were never closed, still,
oh God! I could not presume to take charge of thy wondrous name."--"I
will be thy Gúrú (teacher)," said God, "and thou shalt be a Gúrú to
all mankind, and thy sect shall be great in the world; their word is
Púrí Púrí. The word of the Bairágí is Rám! Rám! that of the Sanyásí,
Om! Namá! Náráyen! and the word of the Yógís, Adés! Adés! and the
salutation of the Muhammedans is Salám Alíkam; and that of the Hindús,
Rám! Rám! but the word of thy sect shall be Gúrú, and I will forgive
the crimes of thy disciples. The place of worship of the Bairágís is
called Rámsála; that of the Yógís, Asan; that of the Sanyásís, Mát;
that of thy tribe shall be Dherma Sála. Thou must teach unto thy
followers three lessons: the first, to worship my name; the second,
charity; the third, ablution. They must not abandon the world, and they
must do ill to no being; for into every being have I infused breath;
and whatever I am, thou art, for betwixt us there is no difference.
It is a blessing that thou art sent into the Cáli Yug." After this,
"_Wá Gúrú!_ or _well done, teacher!_ was pronounced from the mouth of
the most high Gúrú or teacher (God), and Nánac came to give light and
freedom to the universe."

The above will give a sufficient view of the ideas which the Sikhs
entertain regarding the divine origin of their faith; which, as first
taught by Nánac, might justly be deemed the religion of peace.

"Put on armour," says Nánac, "that will harm no one; let thy coat of
mail be that of understanding, and convert thy enemies to friends.
Fight with valour, but with no weapon except the word of God." All
the principles which Nánac inculcated, were those of pure deism; but
moderated, in order to meet the deep-rooted usages of that portion of
mankind which he wished to reclaim from error. Though he condemned the
lives and habits of the Muhammedans, he approved of the Korán[109].
He admitted the truth of the ancient Védas, but contended that the
Hindú religion had been corrupted, by the introduction of a plurality
of gods, with the worship of images; which led their minds astray
from that great and eternal Being, to whom adoration should alone be
paid. He, however, followed the forms of the Hindús, and adopted most
of their doctrines which did not interfere with his great and leading
tenet. He admitted the claim to veneration, of the numerous catalogue
of Hindú Dévas, and Dévatás, or inferior deities; but he refused them
adoration. He held it impious to slaughter the cow; and he directed
his votaries, as has been seen, to consider ablution as one of their
primary religious duties.

Nánac, according to Penjábi authors, admitted the Hindú doctrine of
metempsychosis. He believed, that really good men would enjoy Paradise;
that those, who had no claim to the name of good, but yet were not
bad, would undergo another probation, by revisiting the world in the
human form: and that the bad would animate the bodies of animals,
particularly dogs and cats: but it appears, from the same authorities,
that Nánac was acquainted with the Muhammedan doctrine regarding the
fall of man, and a future state; and that he represented it to his
followers as a system, in which God, by showing a heaven and a hell,
had, in his great goodness, held out future rewards and punishments to
man, whose will he had left free, to incite him to good actions, and
deter him from bad. The principle of reward and punishment is so nearly
the same in the Hindú and in the Muhammedan religion, that it was not
difficult for Nánac to reconcile his followers upon this point: but
in this, as in all others, he seems to have bent to the doctrine of
Brahmá. In all his writings, however, he borrowed indifferently from
the Korán and the Hindú Sástras; and his example was followed by his
successors; and quotations from the scriptures of the Hindús, and from
the book of Muhammed, are indiscriminately introduced into all their
sacred writings, to elucidate those points on which it was their object
to reconcile these jarring religions.

With the exact mode in which Nánac instructed his followers to address
their prayers to that supreme Being whom he taught them to adore, I
am not acquainted. Their D'herma Sála, or temples of worship, are,
in general, plain buildings. Images are, of course, banished. Their
prescribed forms of prayer are, I believe, few and simple. Part of the
writings of Nánac, which have since been incorporated with those of his
successors, in the Adí-Grant'h, are read, or rather recited, upon every
solemn occasion. These are all in praise of the Deity, of religion, and
of virtue; and against impiety and immorality. The Adí-Grant'h, the
whole of the first part of which is ascribed to Nánac, is written, like
the rest of the books of the Sikhs, in the Gúrúmuk'h[110] character.
I can only judge very imperfectly of the value of this work: but some
extracts, translated from it, appear worthy of that admiration which is
bestowed upon it by the Sikhs.

The Adí-Grant'h is in verse; and many of the chapters, written by
Nánac, are termed Pídi, which means, literally, a ladder or flight of
steps; and, metaphorically, that by which a man ascends.

In the following fragment, literally translated from the Sódar rág ásá
mahilla pehla of Nánac, he displays the supremacy of the true God,
and the inferiority of the Dévatás, and other created beings, to the
universal Creator; however they may have been elevated into deities by
ignorance or superstition.

  Thy portals, how wonderful they are, how wonderful thy palace,
    where thou sittest and governest all!
  Numberless and infinite are the sounds which proclaim thy praises.
  How numerous are thy Peris, skilful in music and song!
  Pavan (air), water, and Vasantar (fire), celebrate thee;
    D'herma Rájá (the Hindú Rhadamanthus) celebrates thy praises,
    at thy gates.
  Chitragupta (Secretary to D'herma Rájá) celebrates thy praises;
    who, skilful in writing, writes and administers final justice.
  Iswara, Brahmá, and Dévi, celebrate thy praises;
    they declare in fit terms thy majesty, at thy gates.
  Indra celebrates thy praises, sitting on the Indraic throne
    amid the Dévatás.
  The just celebrate thy praises in profound meditation,
    the pious declare thy glory.
  The Yatís and the Satís joyfully celebrate thy might.
  The Pandits, skilled in reading, and the Rishíswaras,
    who, age by age, read the Védas, recite thy praises.
  The Móhinís (celestial courtezans), heart alluring,
    inhabiting Swarga, Mritya, and Pátálá, celebrate thy praises.
  The Ratnas (gems), with the thirty-eight Tírt'has (sacred springs),
    celebrate thy praises.
  Heroes of great might celebrate thy name; beings of the four kinds
    of production celebrate thy praises.
  The continents, and regions of the world, celebrate thy praises;
    the universal Brahmánda (the mundane egg),
    which thou hast established firm.
  All who know thee praise thee, all who are desirous of thy worship.
  How numerous they are who praise thee! they exceed my comprehension:
     how, then, shall Nánac describe them?
  He, even he, is the Lord of truth, true, and truly just.
  He is, he was, he passes, he passes not,
    the preserver of all that is preserved.
  Of numerous hues, sorts and kinds,
    he is the original author of Máyá (deception).
  Having formed the creation, he surveys his own work,
    the display of his own greatness.
  What pleases him he does, and no order of any other being
    can reach him.
  He is the Pádsháh and the Pádsáheb of Sháhs;
    Nánac resides in his favour.

These few verses are, perhaps, sufficient to show, that it was on a
principle of pure deism that Nánac entirely grounded his religion.
It was not possible, however, that the minds of any large portion
of mankind could remain long fixed in a belief which presented
them only with general truths, and those of a nature too vast for
their contemplation or comprehension. The followers of Nánac, since
his death, have paid an adoration to his name, which is at variance
with the lessons which he taught; they have clothed him in all the
attributes of a saint: they consider him as the selected instrument of
God to make known the true faith to fallen man; and, as such, they give
him divine honours; not only performing pilgrimage to his tomb, but
addressing him, in their prayers, as their saviour and mediator.

The religious tenets and usages of the Sikhs continued, as they had
been established by Nánac[111], till the time of Gúrú Góvind; who,
though he did not alter the fundamental principles of the established
faith, made so complete a change in the sacred usages and civil habits
of his followers, that he gave them an entirely new character: and
though the Sikhs retain all their veneration for Nánac, they deem
Gúrú Góvind to have been equally exalted, by the immediate favour and
protection of the Divinity; and the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, or book
of the tenth king, which was written by Gúrú Góvind, is considered, in
every respect, as holy as the Adí-Grant'h of Nánac, and his immediate
successors. I cannot better explain the pretensions which Gúrú Góvind
has made to the rank of a prophet, than by exhibiting his own account
of his mission in a literal version from his Vichitra Nátac.

"I now declare my own history, and the multifarious austerities which
I have performed.

"Where the seven peaks rise beautiful on the mountain Hémacuta, and the
place takes the name of Sapta Sringa, greater penance have I performed
than was ever endured by Pándu Rájá, meditating constantly on Mahá Cál
and Cálica, till diversity was changed into one form. My father and
mother meditated on the Divinity, and performed the Yóga, till Gúrú
Déva approved of their devotions. Then the Supreme issued his order,
and I was born, in the Cáli Yug, though my inclination was not to come
into the world, my mind being fixed on the foot of the Supreme. When
the supreme Being made known his will, I was sent into the world. The
eternal Being thus addressed this feeble insect:

"--I have manifested thee as my own son, and appointed thee to
establish a perfect Pant'h (sect). Go into the world, establish virtue
and expel vice."--

"--I stand with joined hands, bending my head at thy word: the Pant'h
shall prevail in the world, when thou lendest thine aid.--Then was
I sent into the world: thus I received mortal birth. As the Supreme
spoke to me, so do I speak, and to none do I bear enmity. Whoever shall
call me Paraméswara, he shall sink into the pit of hell: know, that I
am only the servant of the Supreme, and concerning this entertain no
doubt. As God spoke, I announce unto the world, and remain not silent
in the world of men.

"As God spoke, so do I declare, and I regard no person's word. I wear
my dress in nobody's fashion, but follow that appointed by the Supreme.
I perform no worship to stones, nor imitate the ceremonies of any one.
I pronounce the infinite name, and have attained to the supreme Being.
I wear no bristling locks on my head, nor adorn myself with ear-rings.
I receive no person's words in my ears; but as the Lord speaks, I act.
I meditate on the sole name, and attain my object. To no other do I
perform the Jáp, in no other do I confide: I meditate on the infinite
name, and attain the supreme light. On no other do I meditate; the name
of no other do I pronounce.

"For this sole reason, to establish virtue, was I sent into the
world by Gúrú Déva. 'Every where,' said he, 'establish virtue, and
exterminate the wicked and vitious.' For this purpose have I received
mortal birth; and this let all the virtuous understand. To establish
virtue, to exalt piety, and to extirpate the vitious utterly. Every
former Avatár established his own Jáp; but no one punished the
irreligious, no one established both the principles and practice of
virtue, (Dherm Carm). Every holy man (Ghóus), and prophet (Ambia),
attempted only to establish his own reputation in the world; but no
one comprehended the supreme Being, or understood the true principles
or practice of virtue. The doctrine of no other is of any avail: this
doctrine fix in your minds. There is no benefit in any other doctrine,
this fix in your minds.

"Whoever reads the Korán, whoever reads the Purán, neither of them
shall escape death, and nothing but virtue shall avail at last.
Millions of men may read the Korán, they may read innumerable Puráns;
but it shall be of no avail in the life to come, and the power of
destiny shall prevail over them."

Gúrú Góvind, after this account of the origin of his mission, gives a
short account of his birth and succession to the spiritual duties at
his father's death.

"At the command of God I received mortal birth, and came into the
world. This I now declare briefly; attend to what I speak.

"My father journeyed towards the East, performing ablution in all the
sacred springs. When he arrived at Triveni, he spent a day in acts
of devotion and charity. On that occasion was I manifested. In the
town of Patna I received a body. Then the Madra Dés received me, and
nurses nursed me tenderly, and tended me with great care, instructing
me attentively every day. When I reached the age of Dherm and Carm
(principles and practice), my father departed to the Déva Lóca. When
I was invested with the dignity of Rája, I established virtue to the
utmost of my power. I addicted myself to every species of hunting in
the forests, and daily killed the bear and the stag. When I had become
acquainted with that country, I proceeded to the city of Pávatá, where
I amused myself on the banks of the Calindri, and viewed every kind
of spectacle. There I slew a great number of tigers; and, in various
modes, hunted the bear."

The above passages will convey an idea of that impression which Gúrú
Góvind gave his followers of his divine mission. I shall shortly
enumerate those alterations he made in the usages of the Sikhs, whom it
was his object to render, through the means of religious enthusiasm, a
warlike race.

Though Gúrú Góvind was brought up in the religion of Nánac, he appears,
from having been educated among the Hindú priests of Mathura, to
have been deeply tainted with their superstitious belief; and he
was, perhaps, induced by considerations of policy, to lean still
more strongly to their prejudices, in order to induce them to become
converts to that religious military community, by means of which it
was his object to destroy the Muhammedan power.

The principal of the religious institutions of Gúrú Góvind, is that
of the Páhal,--the ceremony by which a convert is initiated into the
tribe of Sikhs; or, more properly speaking, that of Singhs. The meaning
of this institution is to make the convert a member of the Khálsa, or
Sikh commonwealth, which he can only become by assenting to certain
observances; the devoting himself to arms for the defence of the
commonwealth, and the destruction of its enemies; the wearing his hair,
and putting on a blue dress[112].

The mode in which Gúrú Góvind first initiated his converts, is
described by a Sikh writer; and, as I believe it is nearly the same
as that now observed, I shall shortly state it as he has described
it. Gúrú Góvind, he says, after his arrival at Mák'haval, initiated
five converts, and gave them instructions how to initiate others. The
mode is as follows. The convert is told that he must allow his hair
to grow. He must clothe himself from head to foot in blue clothes. He
is then presented with the five weapons: a sword, a firelock, a bow
and arrow, and a pike[113]. One of those who initiate him then says,
"The Gúrú is thy holy teacher, and thou art his Sikh or disciple."
Some sugar and water is put into a cup, and stirred round with a steel
knife, or dagger, and some of the first chapters of the Adí-Grant'h,
and the first chapters of the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, are read; and
those who perform the initiation exclaim, _Wá! Gúrúji ká Khálsa! Wá!
Gúrúji kí Fateh!_ (Success to the state of the Gúrú! Victory attend
the Gúrú!) After this exclamation has been repeated five times, they
say, "This sherbet is nectar. It is the water of life; drink it."
The disciple obeys; and some sherbet, prepared in a similar manner,
is sprinkled over his head and beard. After these ceremonies, the
disciple is asked if he consents to be of the faith of Gúrú Góvind. He
answers, "I do consent." He is then told, "If you do, you must abandon
all intercourse, and neither eat, drink, nor sit in company with men
of five sects which I shall name. The first, the Mína D'hirmal; who,
though of the race of Nánac, were tempted by avarice to give poison to
Arjun; and, though they did not succeed, they ought to be expelled from
society. The second are the Musandiá; a sect who call themselves Gúrús,
or priests, and endeavour to introduce heterodox doctrines[114]. The
third, Rám Ráyí, the descendants of Rám Ráy, whose intrigues were the
great cause of the destruction of the holy ruler, Tégh Singh. The
fourth are the Kud i-már, or destroyers[115] of their own daughters.
Fifth, the Bhadaní, who shave the hair of their head and beards."
The disciple, after this warning against intercourse with sectaries,
or rather schismatics, is instructed in some general precepts, the
observance of which regard the welfare of the community into which he
has entered. He is told to be gentle and polite to all with whom he
converses, to endeavour to attain wisdom, and to emulate the persuasive
eloquence of Bábá Nánac. He is particularly enjoined, whenever he
approaches any of the Sikh temples, to do it with reverence and
respect, and to go to Amritsar, to pay his devotions to the Khálsa,
or state; the interests of which he is directed, on all occasions, to
consider paramount to his own. He is instructed to labour to increase
the prosperity of the town of Amritsar; and told, that at every place
of worship which he visits he will be conducted in the right path by
the Gúrú (Gúrú Góvind). He is instructed to believe, that it is the
duty of all those who belong to the Khálsa, or commonwealth of the
Sikhs, neither to lament the sacrifice of property, nor of life, in
support of each other; and he is directed to read the Adí-Grant'h and
Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, every morning and every evening. Whatever he
has received from God, he is told it is his duty to share with others.
And after the disciple has heard and understood all these and similar
precepts, he is declared to be duly initiated.

Gúrú Góvind Singh, agreeably to this Sikh author, after initiating the
first five disciples in the mode above stated, ordered the principal
persons among them[116] to initiate him exactly on similar occasions,
which he did. The author from whom the above account is taken, states,
that when Góvind was at the point of death, he exclaimed, "Wherever
five Sikhs are assembled, there I also shall be present!" and, in
consequence of this expression, five Sikhs are the number necessary to
make a Singh, or convert. By the religious institutions of Gúrú Góvind,
proselytes are admitted from all tribes and casts in the universe. The
initiation may take place at any time of life, but the children of the
Singhs all go through this rite at a very early age.

The leading tenet of Gúrú Góvind's religious institutions, which
obliges his followers to devote themselves to arms, is stated, in
one of the chapters of the Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h, or book of
the tenth king, written in praise of Dúrga B'havání, the goddess of
courage: "Dúrga," Gúrú Góvind says, "appeared to me when I was asleep,
arrayed in all her glory. The goddess put into my hand the hilt of a
bright scimitar, which she had before held in her own. 'The country
of the Muhammedans,' said the goddess, 'shall be conquered by thee,
and numbers of that race shall be slain.' After I had heard this, I
exclaimed, 'This steel shall be the guard to me and my followers,
because, in its lustre, the splendour of thy countenance, O goddess! is
always reflected[117].'"

The Dasama Pádsháh ká Grant'h of Gúrú Góvind appears, from the extracts
which I have seen of it, to abound in fine passages. Its author has
borrowed largely from the Sástras of the Brahméns, and the Korán. He
praises Nánac as a holy saint, accepted of God; and grounds his faith,
like that of his predecessors, upon the adoration of one God; whose
power and attributes he however describes by so many Sanscrit names,
and with such constant allusions to the Hindú mythology, that it
appears often difficult to separate his purer belief from their gross
idolatry. He, however, rejects all worship of images, on an opinion
taken from one of the ancient Védas, which declares, "that to worship
an idol made of wood, earth, or stone, is as foolish as it is impious;
for God alone is deserving of adoration."

The great points, however, by which Gúrú Góvind has separated his
followers for ever from the Hindús, are those which have been before
stated;--the destruction of the distinction of casts, the admission of
proselytes, and the rendering the pursuit of arms not only admissible,
but the religious duty of all his followers. Whereas, among the Hindús,
agreeable to the Dherma Sástra, (one of the most revered of their
sacred writings,) carrying arms on all occasions, as an occupation, is
only lawful to the Cshatríya or military tribe. A Bráhmen is allowed to
obtain a livelihood by arms, if he can by no other mode. The Vaisya and
Súdra are not allowed to make arms their profession, though they may
use them in self-defence.

The sacred book of Gúrú Góvind is not confined to religious subjects,
or tales of Hindú mythology, related in his own way; but abounds in
accounts of the battles which he fought, and of the actions which were
performed by the most valiant of his followers. Courage is, throughout
this work, placed above every other virtue; and Góvind, like Muhammed,
makes martyrdom for the faith which he taught, the shortest and most
certain road to honour in this world, and eternal happiness in the
future. The opinion which the Sikhs entertain of Góvind will be best
collected from their most esteemed authors.

"Gúrú Góvind Singh," one[118] of those writers states, "appeared as the
tenth Avatár. He meditated on the Creator himself, invisible, eternal,
and incomprehensible. He established the Khálsa, his own sect, and, by
exhibiting singular energy, leaving the hair on his head, and seizing
the scimitar, he smote every wicked person. He bound the garment of
chastity round his loins, grasped the sword of valour, and, passing
the true word of victory, became victorious in the field of combat;
and seizing the Dévatás, his foes, he inflicted on them punishment;
and, with great success, diffused the sublime Gúrú Jáp (a mystical
form of prayer composed by Gúrú Góvind) through the world. As he was
born a warlike Singh, he assumed the blue dress; and, by destroying
the wicked Turks, he exalted the name of Hari (God). No Sirdar could
stand in battle against him, but all of them fled; and, whether Hindú
Rájás, or Muhammedan lords, became like dust in his presence. The
mountains, hearing of him, were struck with terror; the whole world
was affrighted, and the people fled from their habitations. In short,
such was his fame, that they were all thrown into consternation, and
began to say, 'Besides thee, O Sat Gúrú! there is no dispeller of
danger,'--Having seized and displayed his sword, no person could resist
his might."

The same author, in a subsequent passage, gives a very characteristic
account of that spirit of hostility which the religion of Gúrú Góvind
breathed against the Muhammedans; and of the manner in which it treated
those sacred writings, upon which most of the established usages of
Hindús are grounded.

"By the command of the Eternal, the great Gúrú disseminated the true
knowledge. Full of strength and courage, he successfully established
the Khálsa (or state). Thus, at once founding the sect of Singh, he
struck the whole world with awe: overturning temples and sacred places,
tombs and mosques, he levelled them all with the plain: rejecting the
Védas, the Puráns, the six Sástras, and the Korán; he abolished the
cry of Namáz (Muhammedan prayer), and slew the Sultans; reducing the
Mírs and Pírs (the lords and priests of the Muhammedans) to silence, he
overturned all their sects; the Moullahs (professors), and the Kázis
(judges), were confounded, and found no benefit from their studies. The
Bráhmens, the Pandits, and the Jótìshis (or astrologers), had acquired
a relish for worldly things: they worshipped stones and temples, and
forgot the Supreme. Thus these two sects, the Muhammedan and Hindú,
remained involved in delusion and ignorance, when the third sect of
the Khálsa originated in purity. When, at the order of Gúrú Góvind,
the Singhs seized and displayed the scimitar, then subduing all their
enemies, they meditated on the Eternal; and, as soon as the order of
the Most High was manifested in the world, circumcision ceased, and the
Turks trembled, when they saw the ritual of Muhammed destroyed: then
the Nakára (large drum) of victory sounded throughout the world, and
fear and dread were abolished. Thus the third sect was established, and
increased greatly in might."

These extracts, and what I have before stated, will sufficiently show
the character of the religious institutions of Gúrú Góvind; which were
admirably calculated to awaken, through the means of fanaticism, a
spirit of courage and independence, among men who had been content,
for ages, with that degraded condition in society, to which they were
taught to believe themselves born. The end which Góvind sought, could
not, perhaps, have been attained by the employment of other means.
Exhortations respecting their civil rights, and the wrongs which they
sustained, would have been wasted on minds enslaved by superstition,
and who could only be persuaded to assert themselves men, by an
impression that it was the will of Heaven they should do so. His
success is a strong elucidation of the general character of the Hindú
natives of India. That race, though in general mild and peaceable,
take the most savage and ferocious turn, when roused to action by the
influence of religious feeling.

I have mentioned, in the narrative part of this Sketch, the attempt of
the Bairágí Banda to alter the religious institutions of Gúrú Góvind,
and its failure. The tribe of Acálís (immortals), who have now assumed
a dictatorial sway in all the religious ceremonies at Amritsar, and
the Nirmala and Shahid, who read the sacred writings, may hereafter
introduce some changes in those usages which the Sikhs revere: but
it is probable that the spirit of equality, which has been hitherto
considered as the vital principle of the Khálsa or commonwealth,
and which makes all Sikhs so reluctant to own either a temporal or
spiritual leader, will tend greatly to preserve their institutions
from invasion: and it is stated, in a tradition which is universally
believed by the Sikhs, and has, indeed, been inserted in their sacred
writings, that Gúrú Góvind, when he was asked by his followers, who
surrounded his death-bed, to whom he would leave his authority?
replied, "I have delivered over the Khálsa (commonwealth) to God, who
never dies. I have been your guide, and will still preserve you; read
the Grant'h, and attend to its tenets; and whoever remains true to the
state, him will I aid." From these dying words of Gúrú Góvind, the
Sikhs believe themselves to have been placed, by their last and most
revered prophet, under the peculiar care of God: and their attachment
to this mysterious principle, leads them to consider the Khálsa (or
commonwealth) as a theocracy; and such an impression is likely to
oppose a very serious obstacle, if not an insuperable barrier, to
the designs of any of their chiefs, who may hereafter endeavour to
establish an absolute power over the whole nation.


Printed by J. Moyes, Greville Street, London.


[96] This celebrated Súfi, or philosophical deist, lived in the time
of the Emperor Shér Sháh. He was, by trade, a weaver; but has written
several admired works. They are all composed in a strain of universal
philanthropy and benevolence; and, above all, he inculcated religious
toleration, particularly between the Muhammedans and Hindús, by both of
whom his memory is held in the highest esteem and veneration.

[97] Nánac was celebrated for the manner in which he performed Tapasa,
or austere devotion, which requires the mind to be so totally absorbed
in the Divinity, as to be abstracted from every worldly thought, and
this for as long a period as human strength is capable of sustaining.

[98] The most ancient Hindús do not appear to have paid adoration
to idols; but, though they adored God, they worshipped the sun and

[99] B'hai Gúrú Dás B'halé.

[100] Bráhmen, Cshatríya, Vaisya, and Súdra.

[101] Different sacred books of the Hindús.

[102] Yár signifies _friend_; and one of the prophet's titles, among
his followers, is Yar-i-Khudá, or _the Friend of God_.

[103] The Muhammedan religion is said to be divided into seventy-two

[104] There is no ground to conclude that casts were altogether
abolished by Nánac; though his doctrines and writings had a tendency to
equalize the Hindús, and unite all in the worship of one God.

[105] A kind of ascetic devotion, which has been before explained.

[106] The Sidd'his (saints) are the attendants of the gods. The name is
most generally applied to those who wait on Ganésa.

[107] The name Yatí is most usually applied to the priests of the
Jainas; but it is also applicable to Sanyásís, and other penitents.

[108] Nánac appears on this, and every other occasion, to have
preserved his attachment to this favourite dogma of the Hindús.

[109] This fact is admitted by Sikh authors. It is, however, probable,
that Nánac was but imperfectly acquainted with the doctrines of that

[110] A modified species of the Nágari character.

[111] Certainly no material alteration was made, either in the belief
or forms of the Sikhs, by any of his successors before Gúrú Góvind.
Har Góvind, who armed his followers to repel aggression, would only
appear to have made a temporary effort to oppose his enemies, without
an endeavour to effect any serious change in the religious belief or
customs of the sect to which he belonged.

[112] It has been before stated, that all the followers of Góvind do
not now wear the blue dress, but they all wear their hair; and their
jealous regard of it is not to be described. Three inferior agents of
Sikh chiefs were one day in my tent; one of them was a Khálsa Singh,
and the two others of the Khalása tribe of Sikhs. I was laughing and
joking with the Khálsa Singh, who said he had been ordered to attend
me to Calcutta. Among other subjects of our mirth, I rallied him on
trusting himself so much in my power. "Why, what is the worst," said
he, "that you can do to me, when I am at such a distance from home?" I
passed my hand across my chin, imitating the act of shaving. The man's
face was in an instant distorted with rage, and his sword half drawn.
"You are ignorant," said he to me, "of the offence you have given.
I cannot strike you, who are above me, and the friend of my master
and the state. But no power," he added, "shall save these fellows,"
alluding to the two Khalása Sikhs, "from my revenge, for having dared
to smile at your action." It was with the greatest difficulty, and only
by the good offices of some Sikh chiefs, that I was able to pacify the
wounded honour of this Singh.

[113] The goddess of courage, Bhavání Durgá, represented in the Dasama
Pádsháh ká Grant'h, or book of kings of Gúrú Góvind, as the soul of
arms, or tutelary goddess of war, and is thus addressed: "Thou art the
edge of the sword, thou art the arrow, the sword, the knife, and the

[114] Gúrú Góvind put to death many of this tribe.

[115] This barbarous custom still prevails among the Rájapúts in many
parts of Hindústan.

[116] Agreeably to this author, Gúrú Góvind was initiated on Friday,
the 8th of the month B'hádra, in the year 1753 of the æra of
Vicramáditya; and on that day his great work, the Dasama Pádsháh ká
Grant'h, or book of the tenth king, was completed.

[117] An author, whom I have often quoted, says, Gúrú Góvind gave
the following injunctions to his followers: "It is right to slay a
Muhammedan wherever you meet him. If you meet a Hindú, beat him and
plunder him, and divide his property among you. Employ your constant
effort to destroy the countries ruled by Muhammedans. If they oppose
you, defeat and slay them."

[118] B'hai Gúrú Dás Bhalé.


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Transcriber's Notes

Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Inconsistent hyphenation fixed.

Pp. 41, 78fn: Dehli -> Delhi.

P. 63fn: Kahlúr -> Kahilúr.

P. 71: a town situate -> a town situated.

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