Browncast episode 80: Sikhs and Sikhism with Jodh Singh (Jungnihang)

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In this episode we talk to Jodh Singh, a young Indian-American Sikh who writes regularly on Sikh history and Sikhism. Do follow him on twitter (where he tweets as @jungnihang) and Medium (https://medium.com/@jodhsingh/ ). We discuss the origin and rise of the Sikhs, their later consolidation in colonial times and a little about current issues as well.

Image result for sikh warriors playing chess

 

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8 Replies to “Browncast episode 80: Sikhs and Sikhism with Jodh Singh (Jungnihang)”

  1. Some historical inaccuracies here.

    “The Gurus were killed for not converting to Islam”.

    No. The first Guru executed (Arjan) was killed for paying homage to Jahangir’s brother Khusrau while the two were at war over the Mughal succession. This is the explicit reason Jahangir says he killed him. Many Muslim supporters of Khusrau met the same fate. This is completely normal activity in succession wars, those associated with the losing side are executed.

    The second Guru (Tegh) was killed for setting up a rival political system in East Punjab, which included forcibly taxing the (largely Hindu) rural peasants and gathering funds in Sikh temples to strengthen his regime over rival Sikh claimants to leadership. He was reported to Aurangzeb by Hindus and Sikhs for his behavior, and executed.

    Its true that before being executed conversion to Islam was offered as a way out, but clearly that isn’t why these men were killed.

    “The 10th Guru was trying to expand his sphere of influence…so the Pahari Rajputs went to Aurungzeb and said let’s attack this guy”

    “Expand his influence” here being a euphemism for attacked and conquered the Pahari Hill States, (all of which were Hindu), causing them to appeal to the Mughals for aid.

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    1. Some historical inaccuracies here too..

      Khusro was not Jehangir’s brother. He was Jehangir’s son.

      With this level of historical knowledge why do you even bother to comment on historical topics.

      Also, it is rank stupidity to suggest that execution of guru tegh bahadur was not religiously motivated.

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      1. Yeah huge inaccuracy there, mistaking son for brother 😂😂😂.

        Religion was certainly a factor. Mughal Emperors made it clear they didn’t like Sikhism, but they didn’t like a lot of things, and many a Sikh came and went under Mughal rule without an issue.

        Its clear from the sources that these Gurus were killed for their political actions, not religion. Jahangir explicitly says he killed the Guru for harboring Khusrau during the civil war.

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    2. religion and politics is so intertwined that it isn’t worth separating the two, in this case. religion was used to justify a lot of political divisions and consolidate alliances. Religion is a core set of beliefs and was everything for many in that era. It is asinine to think religion didn’t heavily influence politics of the day. Religion was a massive motivation for how the whole story played out.

      Also, one can argue religion isn’t at the heart of any motivation. Everything is always politically motivated. Osama just wanted bitches and money, hence is porn collection and other open violations of Islam. One can argue the leadership always just wants more land and power. It’s an easy thing to turn to.
      The thing you ignore, which is huge and a big part of the reason

      Mughals embraced Islam more and more to consolidate power, is that Islam is a heavily politicized religion. It governs things like banking, succession of power, taxation, etc. To separate it from political reasons for the murder doesn’t make sense in that regard, especially given the way religion was used at the time.

      And if religion wasn’t part of it, then why was he offered conversion as a way out? Makes no sense. If something is motivated by X, then how does offering Y automatically reverse the entire situation? The answer is that the conversion would show political power aka my entire point. Religion and politics were too intertwined to separate.

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    3. > Some historical inaccuracies here.

      Sure, I welcome any discussion on my views as expressed within the podcast (or elsewhere).

      > No. The first Guru executed (Arjan) was killed for paying homage to Jahangir’s brother Khusrau while the two were at war over the Mughal succession. This is the explicit reason Jahangir says he killed him. Many Muslim supporters of Khusrau met the same fate. This is completely normal activity in succession wars, those associated with the losing side are executed.

      Nope, Jahangir explicitly in his autobiography writes that he was wary of the 5th Guru’s influence in the area, especially his parchar (religious preaching) to Muslims, and that his blessing of Khusrao was the point at which he scoped the Guru out and decided to put him to death such. Here is the relevant excerpt from the Jahangirnama (emphasis mine):

      “There was a Hindu named Arjan in Gobindwal on the banks of the Beas River. Pretending to be a spiritual guide, he had won over as devotees many simple-minded Indians and even some ignorant, stupid Muslims by broadcasting his claims to be a saint. They called him guru. Many fools from all around had recourse to him and believed in him implicitly. For three or four generations they had been peddling this same stuff. **For a long time I had been thinking that either this false trade should be eliminated or that he should be brought into the embrace of Islam.** At length, when Khusraw passed by there, this inconsequential little fellow wished to pay homage to Khusraw. When Khusraw stopped at his residence, [Arjan] came out and had an interview with [Khusraw]. Giving him some elementary spiritual precepts picked up here and there, he made a mark with saffron on his forehead, which is called qashqa in the idiom of the Hindus and which they consider lucky. **When this was reported to me, I realized how perfectly false he was and ordered him brought to me.** I awarded his houses and dwellings and those of his children to Murtaza Khan, and I ordered his possessions and goods confiscated and him executed.”

      >The second Guru (Tegh) was killed for setting up a rival political system in East Punjab, which included forcibly taxing the (largely Hindu) rural peasants and gathering funds in Sikh temples to strengthen his regime over rival Sikh claimants to leadership. He was reported to Aurangzeb by Hindus and Sikhs for his behavior, and executed.

      Nope, this is false. The only source for this narrative is the writings of Ghulam Hussain in 1782, further bolstered by Audrey Truschke’s claims that Aurangzeb could not have sanctioned a killing of the 9th Guru on religious grounds, and propagated by the likes of Adnan Rashid.

      The mainstream narrative of the execution of the 9th Guru is supported by a litany of sources, including contemporary ones. You can read my response to Truschke on this point here:

      https://twitter.com/JungNihang/status/1208804116115406849

      >“Expand his influence” here being a euphemism for attacked and conquered the Pahari Hill States, (all of which were Hindu), causing them to appeal to the Mughals for aid.

      Nope, this is factually incorrect. The area in which the 10th Guru primarily increased his influence was the area of Anandpur Sahib, which was a Sikh site since the time of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had purchased it and developed it as a city. This is further noted by how the first offensive battle the 10th Guru fought was at Bhangani, where Fateh Shah and Bhim Chand attacked him.

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  2. Nice podcast. The śikṣu-pantha had a tremendous positive impact on the politics and culture of N India.

    And I am always struck by how conservative the nihang look is – a warrior on horseback (aśvārohin) with long hair in a topknot (śikhā), draped in a blue vastra and wielding the traditional khaṇḍaka (Indian double-edged straight sword, lit. cleaver) is like a scene straight out of the daśarājña.

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  3. Great podcast, I was surprised by how young Jodh Singh is! I follow the man on Twitter, where he comes across older and really mature. Really appreciate his nuanced take on the CAA and other contemporary issues and knowledge of history. I think all attempts to bracket Sikhs and Sikhism as a bracket of Hinduism do them a great disservice. If a majority of them choose to dissociate from that identity and forge their own, surely that’s their prerogative. The actions of the Indian state in the recent past have clearly created further divisions, and I totally see why a certain section of them view the Hindu nationalists with suspicion.

    UK folk would be interested to know that there’s a national Sikh museum in Derby in the East Midlands, which I passed by recently. While informative on the assimilation of Sikhs in this country, it was clearly political as it goes as far as to accuse the Indian state of genocide. Diaspora dynamics is endlessly fascinating…

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  4. Very informative podcast, have to give credit to Jodh Singh for his nuanced view of Sikh history.

    The bit about diaspora brown ppl being more knowledgeable rings Very true.

    It is interesting to me how apathetic and unknowledgable urban IndianS are about the country’s culture and surrounding countries.

    I remember talking to a highly educated Maharashtrian STEM guy from Mumbai who was surprised to learn Pakistan had Punjabis too. But could list of a bunch of stats about European football.

    It’s also interesting how religious identitarian movements like Khalistan, Hindutva, Islamist movements etc are probabl much more popular among urban diaspora populations than the class of people in India who have similar economic prosperity to the western middle class.

    I think maybe it is a search for an identity among the diaspora as they have incompletely assimilate into the host society. (National identity is that of the host society, but they aren’t fully accepted as native to the new country yet. So religion and cultural history serve as a focal point of identity for the western diaspora).

    I notice the Indian diaspora in other places like Mid East or Asia are much more likely to identify as Indian.

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