421.The Man in Blue – Shah Jahan & Aurangzeb

What changed in the Mughal empire after the death of Jahangir ? Was Jahangir like the intolerant Aurangzeb, or was there an important difference between the two ?

John F Richards in his book ‘The Mughal Empire’ writes that Guru Arjan was not made a martyr because he was not a Muslim. He was killed because he had a popular following and was seen as a potential alternative centre of power in the Panjab.

Jahangir was a follower of a quietist Vaishnava ascetic, whose teachings were further removed from mainstream Islam than the teachings of Guru.

Shah Jahan and even more Aurangzeb were not interested in learning from, or recognising the value of the Dharmic traditions of the sub-continent. How religious they really were is difficult to tell, but they clearly were ‘politically’ more Islamic than Akbar and Jahangir.

Akbar promoted intermarriage with the Rajputs and other Indian elites. Whatever his other motives were, he realised that he could not even count on the support of all ‘Indian’ Muslims, and that he needed support from the Hindu ‘upper classes’ in order to survive. Jahangir continued this policy.

When under Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb this policy changed, it took away their most powerful tool to integrate new militant groups that confronted them. What you see under Aurangzeb is that members of the ruling Maratha Bhonsla family who joined the Mughals, almost always went back to their old allegiance, as they had no chance to become part of the Mughal ruling elites as the Rajputs became under Akbar.

The result was that every time the Mughals thought that they had the situation in the ‘Deccan’ under control and went back north, the insurrection in the south would flare up again. Unrest in the south created the opportunity to successfully rebel to Sikhs in the North West, Jats in what is now UP, various Nizams and Nawabs ruling as governors on behalf of the Mughal Patishah and formerly loyal Rajputs.

No government can rule if they do not have the respect of a substantial part of the population. Respect might be based on fear or on the expectation of rewards, under Aurangzeb non-Muslims lost their fear and got no rewards.

Under Aurangzeb the Mughal empire reached its greatest expansion, but he was the last of the great Mughals. After his death his successors, weakened by the constant wars, rapidly lost control over many of their territories.  Aurangzeb died in 1807 and the Mughals carried on till 1857, but their Empire was gradually taken over by the East India Company.

378.The Man in Blue – Bhagat Ravidas Panthis I

In view of the recent tension between Sikhs and the followers of Bhagat Ravidas I want to clarify the position between us Sikhs and the followers of Bhagat Ravidas. Forty sabads of Ravidas are included in the Guru Granth.

‘Guru’ Ravidas

The followers of Ravidas call him Guru, which means ‘teacher’ or ‘bringer of light into darkness’. For Sikhs the word Guru has a specific meaning, but we should not pick a fight with those who use the term in the more general Indian way. The sabads of Ravidas that are included in the Guru Granth are part of our eternal Guru, and as such Ravidas is part of the Sikh Guru.

The teachings of Ravidas are in tune with those of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Sudras & Jats

The followers of Ravidas and Kabir tend be people of low caste. When I visited a friend of mine in a village near Hoshiarpur whose family were of so-called low caste, the Sikhs from the local Gurdwara dominated by Jats would not greet me, as I was staying with Ravidas panthis of low caste.

Saying to each other that Guru teaches unity of mankind is not relevant for the Ravidas panthis, as long as Sikhs do not practice what Guru teaches. When we start practicing Guru’s teachings we can reach out to the Ravidas panthis and share the sabads of our eternal Guru.

Guru Granth Sahib

Because of our ‘respect for the Guru Granth’ Sikhs love to fight with those groups that do not give the same importance to the Guru Granth Sahib as we do. Instead of being happy that non-Sikhs read the Guru Granth and see it as an important source of teaching and inspiration, we want to take the Guru Granth away from Ravidas or Námdhari Gurdwaré / Temples.

I am very happy that we do not set out to convert others in the way that Christians and Muslims do. But the attitude of many Sikhs is not very open-minded either. The Guru speaks to everybody, the Guru considers everybody who is a serious student of the Guru of Gurus to be a sikh. The way of life set out in the Guru Granth Sahib can be followed by all of all ‘dharms’.

Think about these three definitions : 1) a ‘sikh’ is someone who is a serious student of God. 2) A ‘Sikh’ is someone who recognises the leadership of the Guru Granth & Guru Panth as ordained by Guru Gobind Singh. 3) A ‘Khalsa’ is someone who is totally committed to Guru’s teachings and as a sign of that commitment has taken amrit and wears the 5 Ks.

To be continued

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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