The Sikhs are universally respectful and proud of their Gurus intimate contact with eastern India, representing the territories of Assam, Bengal and Orissa under British rule. It may be debated, however, whether the Gurus disciples are generally aware of how the Panthic message has been transmitted and perceived over the centuries in this part of the country. Their comparative lack of enthusiasm may be partly due to the bulky nature of these sources as well as the difficulty of having them together in a public library or any single private collection. These materials are in regional languages and carry a distinct local flavour, differing significantly from those of the manjha-malwa-doaba wastershed. They suggest not only the spirit of plurality in Indian cultural traditions, but also Sikhism's intimate link with it. Their identification and appreciation is likely to enrich our understanding of Sikhism in the wider context of the Indian unity and diversity.
The present study seeks to deal with some of these interesting issues recorded in three eastern Indian languages, namely, Assamese, Bengali and Oriya published over a century between the First Sikh War (1845) and the Partition of India (1947). In the process it outlines the history of the Sikhs and reveals how the message of Sikhism has been perceived in the context of different local issues by numerous eastern Indian authors.
About the Author:
Himadri Banarjee holds the Chair of Guru Nanak Professor of Indian History, Department of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. His published work includes Agrarian Society of the Punjab: 1849-1901 (1982). He has also edited a volume for the Indian History Congress entitled the Khalsa and the Punjab: Studies in Sikh History, to the 19th Century (2002). He is currently working on a two-volume history of the Sikhs and Sikhism in eastern India.
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