## _**Mahakavi**_ **Santokh Singh as Historiographer**  ### by: Kapur Singh (Sikh Review, Volume 8(6), June 1960, pages 38-43). A well-seasoned Sikh writer, Prof Balwant Singh, M. A, writing in _The Sikh Review_, Calcutta, in its May issue, tells us why Sikh history has been distorted and in this connection mentions _Mahākavī_ Santokh Singh as the person who is most to blame in this respect, and in support of this charge the writer, in particular, draws attention to the fact that the _Mahākavī_ has embellished his narration of the visit of Guru Har Gobind to Kashmir by mentioning the existence of mangoe trees 'which do not grow in Kashmir', and by attributing miracles to the Sikh Gurus, who themselves 'speak disparagingly' of them and who have 'not recorded a single miracle in the holy Book.' Without seeking to establish the status of the _Mahākavī_ as a respectable historian in the eyes of the children of an artificial education, it is possible to show that both these pieces of evidence brought forth to castigate the _Mahākavī_, do not seem to amount to much. The visit of Guru Har Gobind to Kashmir about 1625, is described by the _Mahākavī_ in his magnum opus, _Gurpratapsūryodey_, at II.V. 48-50, and throughout this narrative, the word, 'mangoe' or 'mangoe tree' is not even once mentioned or even alluded to. Twice in this narrative, the poet-historian mentions the flora and the fruits, but mentions the mangoes nowhere. At 26-28 (48), he says: > _jāe pahāran bikhai parvese, anik bhānti jahin brichhan bisese > dāram jardālū tahin khare, khare kharot so dalgan hare. > phal bahu madhur turashu rasbhare, kadlī badrī phal jharpare_. > > Then the Guru entered the mountain districts where many species of trees flourished. There were trees of pomegranate and greengages, and clusters of big chestnut trees. Trees laden with sweet, sour and juicy fruits, and there were bananas and sweet berries in ample abundance. Here the _Mahākavī_ is not presuming to give an exact description of the flora of the Kashmir valley proper but is merely referring to the flora of the mountain tracts through which the Guru passed before entering the valley proper, and therefore, even if he had mentioned the controversial mangoe, he would have, by no means, offended against the strict scientific standards required of all historians by the men of modern taste, but the amazing fact is that he does not mention the mangoe, and still he is being condemned on the false allegation that he has mentioned the mangoe. Again, at 34 (49) the _Mahākavī_ mentions the names of some fruits which the devoted Kashmiri Sikhs of the Guru brought for him to eat: > _ghane seo lekar ranglāl, guchh angūrani ker bisāl, > zardālū ar lyāye baṭant, itiādak bahubidhi arpant._ > > They brought basketfuls of red luscious apples, and also big bunches of grapes. They brought red pears and graft fruits of many varieties and these they offered to the Guru. Here again the mention of the forbidden 'mangoe' is conspicuous by its absence, though even if it had been mentioned here the fact would not have cast any serious aspersions on the poet-historiographer in respect of his knowledge of the local flora, for, here he is merely describing the fruits 'offered, and not the fruits locally grown. **Miracles** Now, with regard to 'miracles', it is true that in the _Guru Granth_, the attainment of extra-psychic powers as the goal of religious discipline, is deprecated, but neither their existence is gainsaid nor their manifestation, under all circumstances, is declared as repugnant to the Sikh view of holy life. > _nānak sā karāmāt sāhib tuṭhai jo milai_ (Var Asa II) > Nanak says that Divine Grace is the only true and genuine miracle. > _bin nāvai pehnan khān sab bād hai dhig siddhī dhig dhig karmāt_ (Var Sorath III) > Without the numinous experience of God, all is waste and weariness, all extra-psychic powers, all miracles. > > _nānak gurmukh harinām man vasai ehā siddhi ehā karmāt_ (Ibid) > Nanak declares that a truly religious person is one in whose heart resideth the experience of the Numenon, for, this is the true success, this is the truly miraculous. It is, therefore, not quite correct to say that in the _Guru Granth_ the 'miracles' are spoken of disparagingly', though a desire to possess them for their own sake is not approved as a goal of Sikh discipline. True, in the _Vacitra Nātak_, Guru Gobind Singh hints that his father declined to show ‘miracles' to Aurangzeb on the ground that it was unbecoming for godly men to show miracles to parade their holiness:' _nātak cetak karat kukājā, prabhu-logan kau āvat lājā_, but it is nowhere said that the Gurus' lives in their corporeal existance were never attended by miracles. As for the assertion that the Gurus 'have not recorded a single miracle in the holy Book', it is as devoid of factual basis as the remarks about the mangoes referred to earlier. In _Bhairo_, _Namdeo_ (3.6), for instance, it is clearly asserted that a miracle took place when the whole temple, into which Namdev's entry had been forbidden by the caste-Hindus, physically revolved on its axial base and turned its door towards its former back: _jio jio nāmā hari gun uccarai, bhagatjanān kau dehurā phirai_. Our whole attitude towards our old literature is grounded in rank ignorance, if not stupidity, and we condemn without understanding or caring to understand. Moreover, we do not seem to realize that during the last one hundred years or so, there has come about a complete break in our spiritual tradition and understanding, both, and what was plain and simple to our forefathers appears as nonsense and grotesque to us. There is no other explanation of the amazing statement which Prof. Balwant Singh has made that, ‘history and poetry make a grotesque and unnatural blend.’ It is the kind of spiritual atrophy which T.S. Eliot (in, _Dante_, London, 1925), suggests has afflicted the European mind for the last 500 years or so, which has sterilized the capacity of the European mind for 'seeing visions', and which has suppressed the kind of disciplined dreaming common to most mature cultures, by the aid of which alone it is possible to appreciate and understand the grandeur and true import of history blended with poetry. What is this 'History' which our _Mahākavī_ is supposed to have 'distorted', rendering himself a laughing stock of some of our learned men? As is naively supposed, there is not one immutable history which is either there in its native purity, or it must be deemed to have been "distorted."" At least four views of history have been recognized as valid and respectable during the past two millenia, and each one of them is respectable. Aristotle, whose respectability is equally well-established in the West and the East, and whose views. therefore, cannot be ‘laughed at’ solemnly says: (_Politics_, Ch. IX. 1451. B. _tr_. Butcher, SH., in, _Aristotle_, _Theory of Poetry and Fine Arts_, Macmillan, London, 1902) The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse and it would still be a species of history. The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may have happened. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history, for, poetry tends to express the universal, history, the particular. By 'universal’, I mean, how a person of a certain type will on occasion speak or act according to the law of probability or necessity.. the particular is, for instance, what Alcibiades did or suffered. This is the Greek view of history which is the classical view of our ancestors, the Hindus also. It sees the rhythm of the universe as a cyclic movement governed by an Impersonal Law. The apparent rhythm of the stellar cosmos is, thus, believed to be the fundamental rhythm of the universe as a whole. This astronomical view of history is a powerful corrective to the self-centredness of a historian of a type, the only type whom our present-day intellectuals recognize as respectable. But our ancestors held this astronomical view of history as its most valid form, and that is why the Hindus disdained to write an anecdotal form of history, though the Greeks have not been so whole-hearted, and moved by their keen curiosity have embodied their historical knowledge into great works of literary art. The second view of history is the Judaeo-Zoroastrian, prevalent in Israel and inherited through Jewry by the Zoroastrian Church and Islam and Christianity. This view sees the rhythm of the universe as a non-recurring movement, governed by Intellect and Will, not by the intellects and wills of the individuals, but the Intellect and Will of God, which the Judaic societies, Jewry, the Islamic _millat_, and Christian society, believed to be their tribal God, and themselves the ‘chosen people', and, hence, the centre of the world historical movement. The Marxist materialist interpretation of history with its prattle about the proletariat and the Soviet Union being the centre and microcosm of world-history is merely a crude reflex of this Judaic view of history. This picture of a non-repetitive universe, ruled by a personal and essentially tribal God, promises to give history the maximum of significance at the cost of a relapse into incurable self-centredness and bigotry. It is this kind of history with which the Muslim historiographers have made us familiar through their Persian records of the 18th and 19th centuries in India. The anonymous, Khafi Khan the writer of the annals, _Muntkhib_-_ulubub_, though, thinks it significant and important enough to record that, in the vicinity of Delhi, a few shepherd boys, while playing at the game of _King and Subjects_ actually hanged to death one of the boys, during the long reign of Aurangzab, but he does not even mention the decapitation and martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, as he found it of no significance and interest whatever in the framework of the Judeo-Islamic view of history, while the incident of the death of the shepherd boy illustrated excellently the Islamic doctrine of kingship, _Zillulah_, which invests the earthly king with absolute powers of life and death over his subjects. The third view of history is the Chinese view of history, which sees in its movement a structure like that of a piece of modern Western music, and views it as a series of variations at a theme, enunciated at a start, which in our Hindu music is called, the _sthāi_, indicated by the notation, _rahāu_, in the _Guru Granth_. According to this, the fundamental pattern and basis of the human history has been set and determined in the beginning when the first things began and the subsequent incidents of world history are not so much inter-connected and inter-dependent causally, as mere illustrative variations of the primordial fundamental pattern. This is how Mao-tse-Tung, sub-consciously seems to understand the Marxian historical materialism. Need less to say that according to this view of history the _sthāi_ is the ancient Chinese empire, and if at one period of its history, Ladakh, Tibet, or the N.E.F.A. were a component of this basic pattern, they must revert to the original fundemental position, as the rhythm and crescendo of history progresses towards the enfoldment of its originally set harmony. With this view of history, we are now, willy-nilly, being made fully aware. The fourth view of history is the modern Western view of history, in most cases, the only one with which our present-day intellectuals are vaguely acquainted. This view sees the movement of the universe as chaotic, disorderly, a fortuitous flux, in which there is no rhythm or pattern of any kind to be discerned. This is the post-Christian Western view of history, which our modern history writers have un-critically accepted, without realizing that notion of 'chance', which is fundamental to this view, is not a positive concept, but a negative one, absence of discernible order. To say that there is no discernible order is not to prove or establish that there is no order present whatever. This view of history, therefore, is the most superficial and childish, and it is this 'history' which we seem to have set before us as the only true and respectable form of history, and the result is that although a large mass of material of Sikh history has been sifted and discovered during the last few decades, its assemblage has neither illumined a single dark corner of the epiphany of Sikhism, nor has it inspired a single soul towards a better understanding of the Sikh historical movement. It is in spite of all its clarity, dead as the dodo and cold as mutton. A hundred histories of this kind are not worth a page of what _Mahākavī_ Santokh Singh wrote, in his happy and divine blend of the Indo-Greek and Judaic views of history. That is why the _Gurpratāp-sūryodey_ has inspired millions, delighted an equal number, and has made history-aware half a dozen generations of Hindus and Sikhs of north-western India, and may continue to do so for decades to come. That is not to say that the doors to further historical research are closed, or that there is any finality in the historical data accumulated by the _Mahākavī_, but that he is no laughing matter for some of our _giānis_ is beyond doubt. [[1843 Suraj Prakash/Suraj|Suraj]] ![[kapur singh.jpg]]