In the seventeenth century, the Sikh community entered into a process of militarisation which would culminate in rebellion against the Mughal Empire. Images of a despotic Mughal state, religious intolerance, vulnerable Sikhs and the idea of an inevitable Sikh 'militancy' would come to characterise the period's historiography. This book examines the development of Sikh militancy in this era, highlighting how the Sikh literati, and eventually the public, engaged with the subject of Sikh religious violence. In doing so, it fundamentally challenges the coherent grand narratives of early Sikh history. Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century addresses the issue of 'doxa' in early Sikh writing and illustrates how retrospective readings have distorted the experiences of the historical Sikh community. Drawing on a range of medieval Sikh sources, it focuses on the intellectual dialogues within the community. Additionally, it attempts to embed the community within the Mughal world; assessing how far it was influenced by wider cultural, intellectual and social processes. The development of Sikh militancy in the seventeenth century was neither natural nor inevitable.Instead, a careful analysis reveals a heterogeneous community who discussed the ideas of their leaders and communally interpreted the Mughal state.
Identifying significant distinctions in the community, this work thereby questions irredentist visions of Sikh and Mughal history. Furthermore, it seeks to depict the significance of religious discourse in pre-colonial India and the capacity of historical agents to fathom 'religion'. More broadly, the study also examines the history of violence in medieval South Asia, contextualising the concepts of 'peace' and 'militancy' in medieval South Asian theology and political philosophy.
Hardip Singh Syan has a PhD in South Asian History from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has taught and worked at the University of London, the British Museum and the Institute of Historical Research.
Abbreviations vii 1. The Early History of the Sikh Community 1 2. The Emergence of Sikh Militancy, 1606-1644 48 3. Debating the Householder's Path, 1644-1675 105 4. Sovereignty and Social Order, 1675-1699 1 44 5. Critiquing Mughal Power, 1700-1708 214 Notes 251 Bibliography 297 Index 313