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are her sons, who regulate it; but they teach that there is a god (Narayana) superior to them, who created the world and innumerable other worlds, which, and the periods of their creation, are known only to himself.
The Shikh doctrines, as taught by their founder, Nanock, inculcate, that devotion to God is to partake of God, and finally to obtain absorption into the divine essence. The Shikhs believe in transmigration, a multiplicity of heavens and hells, and future births; and that mankind will be punished or rewarded according to their merits or demerits.
God, they say, is pleased with devotion which springs from the heart; outward forms he disregards. He is infinite, omnipotent, invisible : nothing can speak his praise; nothing describe his power. Every thing is absorbed in him: all that exists in the world is of him. The millions of Hindu deities, with Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, as well as Mahomet and all other divine personages, are subject to his power; nothing in fine is equal to him,except the Gurus, or spiritual teachers of the Shikhs.
Notwithstanding this reservation, the fundamental doctrines of the Shikh religion, as taught by Nanock, breathe the purest spirit of holiness, truth, justice, benevolence, a regard towards sentient animals, and that meek and inobtrusive devotion of the heart which acknowledges the deity in all his works, and leads to the worship of him, regardless of outward forms and observances, in silent meditation and prayer.
Such, and other not less excellent doctrines, appear to have been those inculcated by the founder of, and his immediate successors among the Shikhs; but how soon the staff of the wandering and pious pilgrim, and the devotion of the mind-absorbed ascetic, were exchanged for the sword and shield, and predatory ravages of the mountain warrior, the following pages will shew.
The founder of this sect, as before intimated, was Nanock, a Hindu of the Khetrie caste, who was born in the year 1469, at the village of Talawundy (now called Rhaypore), about sixty miles westward of Lahore, He is said to have travelled through most of the countries in India, and even into Persia and Arabia, preaching his doctrines in peace, and preserving an unaffected meekness and simplicity of manners. He died at
Rawee, a village to the north of Lahore, in the year 1539, at the age of seventy: at which time not less than one hundred thousand persons in different countries had adopted his tenets, and considered him as their Guru, or religious guide.
After the death of Nanock, the Shikhs had successively for their leaders Anghudu, Amaradasu, Ramdasu, Arjunu, Hurree Govindu, Harra Rayu, Hurreekissen, Teg Bahadur, and Govindu Singh. These leaders, sometimes molested and sometimes unopposed by the Mogul emperors of Dehli, continued to increase their followers, till Govindu Singh, in consequence of his two sons having been barbarously put to death in cold blood by the governor of Sirhend, mustered the Shikhs and attacked the Mahomedans, all of whom, of every age and sex that fell into their hands, were immediately massacred. This person possessed more of the character of a military chief than of that of the leader of a religious sect: he made many alterations in the established institutions of his predecessors, better adapted to the martial spirit which he had laboured to infuse into the minds of his adherents. On his death, which was caused by assassination in 1708, he limited the number of the Shikh priests to ten; in consequence of which no successor was appointed to him. Bunda, one of his disciples, however, raised a force, and committed many predatory attacks on the Mahomedans, which were accompanied by the utmost cruelty and rapacity. His successes drew to his standard a large body of the Shikhs; but the Moguls, after some desperate and sanguinary conflicts, at length overpowered them, and they were only saved from destruction by the death of the emperor Bahadur Shah. The weakness and disasters of the succeeding reign checked the progress of active pursuit; but persecution still continued, and the Shikhs were obliged to seek safety in concealment. At length they emerged from their hiding-places, but were again defeated, and compelled to fly to the recesses of the wild and mountainous country, or, to save their lives, to exteriorly renounce their religion, and profess themselves to be Mussulmen.
Very little was known of the Shikhs for more than a quarter of a century, and the name of the sect was almost unheard of in the Mogul territories. But this bold and daring people were only overpowered, not subdued.
Again, the distractions of the Mogul empire enabled them to emerge from their mountain fastnesses. Sanguinary battles both with the Moguls and Afghans, which lasted for a long series of years, and in which both parties exercised the most monstrous barbarities against each other, ensued : but victory, after having often wavered, finally crowned the standard of the Shikhs, and established the once pious followers of Nanock, and the subsequently adventurous, but lawless, bands of Govindu and his successors in arms, as one of the most powerful and warlike states of northern Hindustan. These people are brave, hardy, active, singularly abstemious, and capable of undergoing extraordinary fatigue: their cavalry, according to Mr. Foster, from whose travels I have abstracted much of this account, have been known to march forty or fifty miles a day for several successive days. Bread baked in ashes, and tares and vetches parched, are commonly their only food.
The Shikhs are now divided into two great sects: one, the followers of the more simple doctrines of Nanock, are termed Kulasas; the other, the martial adherents of Govindu Singh, are called Khalsas : the latter principally inhabit the Punjab. These sects are governed by separate leaders, some of whom command two or three thousand men, others ten or twelve thousand, and others armies of considerable strength.* The assembly of the confederated chiefs is termed the Gurumuta, or great council of the Shikhs; which is called together only in cases of emergency wherein the general body of the nation is concerned. On these occasions every one is expected to lay aside all private considerations, and to have his proceedings regulated alone by the welfare of his country, and the interests of his religion.
Sir John Malcolm, in his admirable sketch of the history of the Shikhs, has stated, that these councils, which are held at Amrita Suru, are convened by the ukalees, a sort of militant priests, who have the direction of all religious affairs at that place. They wear chequered clothes, and bangles or bracelets of steel round their wrists, initiate converts, and have almost the sole direction of religious ceremonies at Amrita Suru, where they
* Runghit Singh is said to possess a force of 100,000 men.
reside, and of which they deem themselves the defenders, and, consequently, never desire to quit it except in cases of great extremity. This order of Shikhs have a place, or boonga, on the banks of the sacred reservoir of Amritu Suru, where they generally resort : they 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, and going through any of their religious ceremonies at Amrita Suru."
" When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated (in the Council), the Adee-Grunthu and Dushuma Padshahee Grunthu* are placed before them. They all bend their heads before these scriptures, and exclaim “Wah! gooroojeda khalsa! wah! gooroo jēēkēē phūteé! 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 Nanock, to eat and to give others to eat, next receive the salutation of the assembly, who then rise, and t ukalees pray aloud, while the musicians play. The ukalees, 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 of Shikhs; 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. The ukalees then exclaim, “Sudars (chiefs), this is the Guru Muta! on which prayers are again said aloud. The chiefs after this set down, and say to each other, the sacred Grunthu is betwixt us; let us swear by our scripture to forget all internal disputes and to be united.' This moment of religious fervour 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 army against the common enemy.”
* Sacred books of the Shikhs. The first written by their founder Nanock; the other (as its name imports) by their tenth leader, Govindu Singh.
There does not appear to be any restriction against individuals of other sects becoming Shikhs. A person so disposed communicates his intentions to a grunthee, or priest, with whom he enters upon some preparatory studies. Certain initiatory ceremonies of meat offerings, drinking five times with a short ejaculation from a cup filled with sherbet, worshipping the sacred books, and invocations for the blessings of Nanock and Govindu then take place, which are closed by a discourse from the priest on the religion which the disciple has just embraced, and his being instructed in a prayer of considerable length relating to it. Women of other sects may equally with men become Shikhs; but their sherbet must be stirred with the back of a knife instead of the edge of it, as is done with that for the men. A person who would become a Khalsa, or military Shikh, must permit his hair and beard to grow for some weeks previous to initiation.
The sacred books, or shastres of the Shikhs are reverenced and read daily at stated periods, both by the religious leaders and individuals. These books are carefully preserved in their temples, and worshipped with various ceremonies. They are kept wrapt up in rich cloths, which, previous to the books being used, are removed with great respect; the officiating Grunthees and worshippers bowing with the utmost reverence as the coverings are taken off.
These sacred books are written in a peculiar character, called Guru Mhukee, or language of the Gurus. They do not exclude the doctrines of the principal Hindu deities, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Yama, Indra, Durga, &c.; but they teach that Narayana is the only true and supreme god. To him alone, they say, should adoration be paid; as absorption in him is the highest reward of man. External ceremonies and devotions may raise men to the inferior heavens, and produce future births ; but by internal holiness alone can man unite himself with Narayana.
The Shikhs, like the Hindus, have various orders of religious mendicants : they are also divided into castes; but, nevertheless, eat together. The flesh of animals, with a few exceptions, is not prohibited from being eaten, or spirits (in which they sometimes indulge to excess) from being drank. They burn their dead, and, although contrary to the law of Nanock, women