Stretching from Sindh province, Northwest Frontier and into the Punjab, the Islamic invasions had led to many Hindus in these provinces living as second class citizens who could not practise ancient Dharmic rituals as this was seen as blasphemy by the Muslim tyrants, often leading to inhumane torture and persecution if caught, while other Hindus in these areas had been converted to Islam forcefully. Islam prescribed a death penalty for Murtee worship and many Hindus had been put to death in this region. However, while the Rajputs, Marathas, Ahom kings and many other Hindu warriors fought countrywide across the length and breadth of India against Islamic tyranny, there evolved alongside a spiritual and Dharmic rennaisance spurred by several Hindu saints and Akhara sadhus which became to be known as the Bhakti movement. Saints of the South such as Tyagaraja, from Mewar Rajasthan such as Meerabai to Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir , Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, RaviDas in the North, all strived to rejuvenate Sanatan Dharmic philosophies through composing hymns and Bhajan Kirtans in praise of the Hindu pantheon of Gods such as Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, all echoing the message of the Vedas and Upanishads . They stressed devotion over theology.They travelled countrywide as poets or bards with their own groups of devotees and followers singing the greatness of the Supreme Being Shri Hari, a brave response of defiance against the Islamic onslaught, by involving local people therefore keeping the Dharmic tradition alive. In Haridwar, Kashi , Ayodhya and in the Himalayas, centres or ashrams of spiritual learning began to flourish and groups of sages known as Shiva Akharas, Vishnu Akharas, Vairagis, Nagas , Siddhas and Yogis known as Udasis roamed the forests keeping the Dharmic spirit alive.
In Punjab, Guru Nanak Dev, born in a Vaishnava family, founded a Bhakti movement or Panth which was based on Advaitic ( literally non-duality) principles, a branch of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, found mainly in the Upanishads as well as other traditions of Hindu Dharma. Some authentic accounts prove he may have belonged to a Brahmin family i.e. the fictional story of his rejection on wearing the sacred thread which could possibly have been concocted by the British 'historian' Max Macauliffe in an attempt to colour Brahminism with shades of superstition and arrogance since the so called Sikh history has been proven to be replete with later edited versions, which have been designed by those secularists with vested interests, as I will explain here. However, this new movement required none of the ritualistic worship of Hindu Dharmic traditions, though keeping in line with Vedantic thought, and instead flourished more in this region due to the fact that places of Hindu worship had been ransacked and ritual practises had been banned by the Muslim rulers. Soon several Hindus flocked to Guru Nanak and welcomed this new resurgent Dharmic movement as a way out of their oppressed and much downtrodden lives and in due course this, like many other offshoots of Hindu Dharma, crystallized into a distinctive sect later on during the 19th century, known as Sanatan Sikhism, while followers of this movement came to be known as Sikhs or Shishyas ( Disciples). Guru Nanak Dev had remained a Hindu throughout his life, while spending most of his time for spiritual quest in the company of sadhus such as Sant Gorakhnath and other great spiritual Yogis of Kashi. His elder son Shri Chand had become a Sanyasi and had set up the Udasi Sant order, with thousands of his own followers.
|Baba Shri Chand|
This Hindu tradition of associating with Brahmins and sadhus for spiritual guidance had continued upto the last tenth Guru, Shri Gobind Rai who was a self professed protector of Hindu Dharma:
Sakal jagat main Khalsa Panth gaje Jage dharam Hindu sakal bhand bhaje ~
Guru Govind Singh :''The Khalsa sect will roar around the world. We will awaken Hindu Dharma so that its enemies will flee''His father Guru Teg Bahadur had maintained company of several Brahmins such as Mati Das, Pandit Sati Das as well as Dayal Das and also ensured Gobind Rai a good education in Vedas and Sanskrit as well as Persian languages under the guidance of a Kashmiri Brahmin teacher known as Pandit Kripa Ram, who was also a trained warrior belonging to the military Brahmin class. All the ten Gurus had lived as Hindus and married according to the traditional Sanatan Dharmic ceremony of walking around the sacred fires under the guidance of the Brahmin priests.
Historic portraits of Guru Nanak Dev painted during his time show Nanak Dev sporting a sandalwood tilak on his forehead, wearing a Seli Topi ( a loosely woven cap) and wearing the Rudraksha mala typical of a Hindu saint of the medievel period and engaged in discussions with many Hindu saints and yogis of the time. However, by the end of the 19th century an Islamised version of portraits of NanakDev would take over the earlier images of this great saint.
Within a span of a century, the movement had gained momentum and spread from Punjab to North West Frontier during and after Guru Nanak Dev's time and Gurudvaras were constructed in several places. This was an opportunity for the Hindus of these regions to install Murtees of the Hindu pantheon of Gods in these Gurudvaras which served as centres of gathering and worship in an otherwise hostile environment that had been imposed upon them by the Islamic rulers. Those Hindus who had already joined this sect as well as those Hindus who had chosen to remain within the traditional Dharmic fold, worshipped together at these centres. The fourth Guru, Shri Ram Das, had stumbled upon an ancient Vishnu tank, a very popular pilgrimage site for Hindu worship during the time of Emperor Ikshvaku, the ancestor of Lord Rama and it is a well known fact that Lord Buddha had also performed auterities at this very place when he renounced all material ties with his Kingdom and family members. Guru Ram Das excavated the tank and laid the first stone for foundation for a grande structure known as Hari-Mandir or Hari meaning Vishnu's temple. The site became to be known as AmritSar ( Pool of Nectar) and HariMandir soon became the centre for Hindu and Sikh worship, later on to be known as the Golden Temple. Here the compilations of writings of the Gurus known as Adi Granth was placed along with Murtees of Hindu Gods such as Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu as well as a life size murtee of the sixth Guru Shri HarGovind, later to be removed by separatist Sikhs, some of them who had been converted to Christianity, belonging to the Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha movement during the end of the 19th century,which had been engineered and fostered by the British Regime occupying India at the time. This was a ploy to plant the seeds of establishing a separate Sikh identity from its parent Sanatan Dharmic heritage , and the Singh Sabhias collaborated with the Colonial forces as their stooges and were launched as a movement towards the end of the 19th century. The Tat Khalsa began to radically change and rewrite 'Sikh' history, conveniently expunging all signs of Hindu philosophy and historical accounts which had been initially propogated by all the ten Gurus of this Hindu sect. Heavy tones of blatant anti Hindu as well as anti Brahminical sentiments replaced the earlier authentic records of the great history of this region. The leading figure of the Tat Khalsa was headed by the 'historian' Max Macauliffe, an Irishman whom the neo Sikhs of today regard as a great scholar and historian and an authority on the history of Sikhism and Punjab. In a systematic attempt to turn the Sikh soldiers against the Indian freedom movements, the colonial forces ensured great minority privileges for Sikhs in order to make governing of the Indian sub continent an easy task, and they began a massive drive to convert many Sikhs to Christianity whilst at the same time taking over the running of HariMandir at Amritsar. Their aim : To Christianise Sanatan Sikh heritage and to make HariMandir a place of Christian worship by drawing plans to turn the site into a Church complex.
In 1882, Macauliffe achieved the position of Deputy Commissioner in Punjab. With the help of Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha of the Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha, Macauliffe wrote the popular Tat Khalsa Singh Sabha-sanctioned text that outlined Sikh history according to the views of the Tat Khalsa scholars of the time. In it, he states the reasons for writing his extensive work on the Sikhs:
"It is admitted that a knowledge of the religions of the people of India is a desideratum for the British officials who administer its affairs and indirectly for the people who are governed by them so that mutual sympathy may be produced. It seems, at any rate politic to place before the Sikh soldiery their Guru’s prophecies in favor of the English and the texts of their sacred writings which foster their loyalty."
- - - The Sikh Religion’,1909, M.A. Macauliffe, Preface xxii
This highly encouraged several Sikh scholars of the time to rewrite Sikh history in the manner that the British preferred, therefore promoting a sense of contempt towards anything remotely that sounded Hindu, especially Hindu bravery against Islamic hordes. In an attempt to Christianise and de-Hinduise the Adi Granth, additions were made to several instances of Gurus' lives which were obvious copies of myths from Abrahamaic scriptures and many contortions crept in. HariMandir was replaced with Arabic/Persian words like Darbar Sahib. Myths of a sufi saint Mir Mian supposedly having laid the founding stone for HariMandir were circulated and widely promoted by the Tat Khalsa. Words of the great Gurus such as Tegh Bahadur were manipulated in an attempt to give them a somewhat 'Sikh' appearance. The incident of the ninth Guru having died for Kashmiri Brahmins showed further contradictions present in Sikh historical accounts, in his statement to Aurangzeb before his execution:
Tin te sun Sri Tegh Bahadur / Dharam nibaahan bikhe Bahadur Uttar bhaniyo, dharam hum Hindu
Atipriya ko kin karen nikandu