Sikh Missionary Society
Sikh Missionary Society U.K. (Regd)
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Taking Amrit
The Sikh Symbols

Sikh Missionary Society: Publications: The Sikh Symbols:

The Background

The Background

The Sikh form - the wearing of uncut hair with a turban and the unshaven beard - is the product of history over the years of social and religious development in the indo-gangetic valley in India. The Aryan people from Eurasia emigrated to India as they had emigrated into Western Europe. This happened about 2000 B.C. The Aryan race is an Indo-European race. This shifting of people was not rapid. It continued slowly and steadily, together with their cattle and goods, for hundreds of years. These people settled down and there arose the Vedic Aryan civilisation in India. Their spoken and written language was Sanskrit. It was then that the great un- named sages composed the four Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas. The great epics, Ramayna and Mahabharata came from these same people at a later date. At this time the Aryan people divided themseles into four castes. Initially it was a sort of economic division of labour and people could be transferred from one caste to another. The Brahman was responsible for education and worship; the Kashatrya became the warrior and hence the ruler; the Vaishas organised trade and farming; the last and lowest of all - the Shudras served all the higher castes. This division of labour worked successfully for some centuries until it became rigid and an evil in itself. In its hey-day, the Brahman was known for his scholarship and holy living, the Kashatrya was well known for his bravery, justice and power. These two higher castes established their ascendancy and kept long hair and wore turbans in token of their learning and political power respectively. The turban was thus a symbol of great status and power. Also there lived many holy men called Rishis who kept their hair uncut. This implied holy living according to God's Will. Later on the Rajputs wore turbans and rode on horses and elephants. They fought great battles and ruled over most of Northern India until 1000 A.D.

It was in the eleventh century that hordes of Arabs and Afghans came to India as invaders. They established their rule and were followd by Pathans and Turks until in the first quarter of the 16th century the Moghals came with their artillery and became rulers of India. They imposed their religion and culture on the subject people of India. Because they were Moslems, they considered it their sacred duty to convert non-moslems at the point of the sword. They reserved the right of bearing arms and riding horses for themselves. Millions of Hindus became Moslems through fear of the sword of the Moslem tyrants. The Hindus i.e. the Aryans - the followers of Buddha and Mahavira, of Rama and Krishans had become completely demoralised and were as if dead.

The Sikh Gurus, right from Guru Nanak, always stood as champions of the cause of tolerance and freedom of religion for all. In 1606 A.D. Guru Arjan, the fifth in line of the Sikh Gurus, was martyred in Lahore (Pakistan) on the orders of the Moghal emperior Jehangir. Then came the turn of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru who went to Delhi in 1675 to protest against the bigotry and oppression of emperor Aurangzeb. He was martyred in the square called Chandni Chauk (Old Delhi). This wave of merciless repression and religious oppression had to be halted.

The martyred body of Guru Tegh Bahadur lay in the square in the capital but no Sikh dared to come and claim it for cremation. Some of the eminent Sikhs had already been tortured to death. It was there that Bhai Mati Dass, the chosen companion of the Guru, was sawn into two as if he were a log of wood. The fear of the Moghal tyranny was such that no one dared to proclaim his faith openly. There was also another reason -- the Sikh form was in no way different from that of other common people and there was no significant distinction between a Sikh and the rest of the populace. In the afternoon of the tragic day, a dust storm overwhelmed the sky and two Ranghretta Sikhs of Delhi at once appeard and took away the head of the martyred Guru, wrapped it in fine cloth and marched to Anand Pur situated in the hills of the Punjab, a distance of more! than 300 miles from Delhi, where the young Guru Gobind Rai lived. Although only nine years old, the young Guru received his father's head with gratitude and cremated it with honour. He embraced the ~ two Sikhs and addressed them as the Guru's sons although  according to Hindu thinking these two Sikhs belonged to I untouchable castes. Another Sikh of Delhi, then stole a chance of  taking away the Guru's body and cremated it by setting fire to his own house.

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