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Opinions - November 3, 2017

Will you show this Courage while you celebrate Guru Nanak Gurpurb?

BY Manisha Bangar & Pritam Singh

“Religions may be alike in that they all teach that the meaning of life is to be found in the pursuit of ‘good’. But religions are not alike in their answers to the question ‘What is good?’ In this, they certainly differ. One religion holds that brotherhood is good, another caste and untouchability are good.” Babasaheb had given this statement in one of his greatest essays on Religion, i.e., ‘Away From The Hindus’. It was the other religion that ‘holds that brotherhood is good’ that Guru Nanak built. Guru Nanak was young when he had refused to wear Janeu and had debated with Pandit. He, very profoundly, had said:


Make mercy thy cotton, contentment thy thread, continence its knot, truth its twist.
That would make a janeu for the soul; if thou have it, O Brahman, then put it on me.
It will not break, or become soiled, or be burned, or lost.
Blest the man, O Nanak, who goeth with such a thread on his neck.
Thou purchasest a janeu for four damris, and seated in a square puttest it on;
Thou whisperest instruction that the Brahman is the guru of the Hindus–
Man dieth, the janeu falleth, and the soul departeth without it.


It was this courage he had shown that the granite rock of Brahmanism was all crumbled by him, the rock on which stood the entire social structure of caste was shaken to the core and was made to fall. The God of Guru Nanak was “nirvair”, without hatred. His God could not be controlled through swindling deeds of the Brahmins, it was all encompassing One, the lord of all beings on earth.


The deluded sociologists, may believe that all religions are one and are equal in teaching irrationality and superstition, and one may also like Marx believe that religion is the cause of Human alienation, but only a true sociologist like Babasaheb could write “to forget that the primary content of religion is social is to make nonsense of religion”. A religion, for him, was essential, and could be at once a source and a fountain of hatred and it could at once be a way to establish brotherhood and fraternity. It was for the latter that Guru Nanak stood and it was for the latter that Babasaheb chose Guru Nanak and Budha. It was for this brotherhood that Guru Nanak wrote

Nanak is the companion of the lowest of the low

and of the condemned lot. He has

nothing in common with the high born.

There could be indeed no ties that he could share with oppressors, that like monsters themselves were not able to see through their own monstrous deeds. The religion he gave was also different in the way that the oppressed was not to be submissive, and had not to give himself to the oppressor; he had to simply revolt. The kind of religion that Guru Nanak opposed was very explained by Paulo Freire. He Wrote:

“Thinking from the viewpoint of the dominant classes, theologians of this impossible neutrality employ mystifying language. They consistently attempt to soften the harsh, oppressive real world and exhort dominated classes to face their sacrifice with resignation. The pain and degrading discrimination they suffer their very existence is a form of death-should be accepted by the dominated as purification for their sins. In short, the oppressed should thank their oppressors for the opportunities offered them to save themselves.”

What should the oppressed then do? Paulo Freire again wrote:

The dominated classes need to transform their suffering, not submit to it. Submission to suffering is a form of annihilation, but the transformation of suffering rekindles a faith that gives life. Only the faith that is born today, in the “today” of the struggle, can give meaning to the future-not an alienative or vague or predetermined meaning, but the meaning involved in the task of construction, a “deed of liberty. ”

The greatest expression of this fight against oppression became visible during the time of Guru Gobind Singhji and during the time of Banda Singh Bahadur. It was for this reason William Irvine wrote in his book ‘Later Mughals’:

“In all the paragans occupied by the Sikhs, the reversal of previous customs was striking and complete. A low scavenger or leather dresser, the lowest of the low in Indian estimation, had only to leave home and join the Guru, when in a short space of time he would return to his birth place as its ruler, with his order of appointment in his hand.”

And also Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm in his ‘Sketch of the Sikhs’ wrote about Guru Gobind Singhji this way:

“The extent to which Govind succeded in this design will be more fully noticed in another place. It is here only necessary to state that the leading features of those changes by which he subverted in so short a time, the hoary Institutions of Brahma, and excited terror and astonishment in the minds of the Muhammadan conquerors of India, who saw the religious prejudices of the Hindus, which they had calculated upon as one of the pillars of their safety, because they limited the great majority of the population to peaceable occupations, fall before the touch of a bold and enthusiastic innovator, who opened at once, to men of the lowest tribe, the dazzling prospect of earthly glory. All who subscribed to his tenets were upon a level, and the Brahmins who centered his sect had no higher claims to eminence than the lowest Shudra who swept his house. It was the object of Govind to make all Sikhs equal”

Not only was the caste structure abolished in the immediate Sikh society, but also the laws of Manu against the rights of women were buried deep. Women and the Dalit-Bahujans who did not, according to the laws of Manu, ever have a right to carry weapons, were to have them for their protection. The Brahminical taboos and the rituals that made man a slave of the ultimate God spiritually, and of the Brahmins temporally, were rejected; what came out was a single pool of water in which people from all castes could take bath, which anyway was an act of pollution according to the Smritis. What was pollution for the Brahmins became pure for the Sikhs, and at the same time, their every ritual, an act of defiance and an act against oppression.

It was not a religion created by the priestly class for the sustenance of priesthood, it was a religion of the oppressed, who did everything to fight against oppression, it was a religion of Santguru Kabir Ji, Santguru Namdev and Santguru Ravidas. How could Dayanand Saraswati afford to not stand against it? Instead of the ‘holy’ well, which could not be afforded to be touched by a Mallecha, the entire pool was made public. It was not just the holy well that was taken away, it was the entire ground on which the Brahmins stood. The quake waves were essential to be felt by them.

It is this religion alone that the Sikhs have betrayed; it is this religion alone that is being fought against, manoeuvred, for the benefit of the people it stood against; it was for this religion alone that Guru Nanak had poured water in the opposite direction; it is this religion that shall save humanity and the three values that are essential for the sustenance of life; the values that Babasaheb stood for, i.e., Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The question that shall always remain in front of us is: “Will You show that courage?”

“You must take the stand that Buddha took. You must take the stand which Guru Nanak took. You must not only discard the Shastras, you must deny their authority, as did Buddha and Nanak. You must have the courage to tell the Hindus, that what is wrong with them is their religion—the religion which has produced in them this notion of the Sacredness of Caste. Will you show that courage?”- Babasaheb Ambedkar, Annihilation Of Caste.

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