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A Jesuit Account of Gurū Arjan’s Martyrdom, 1606

  • Amandeep Singh Madra
  • Parmjit Singh

Abstract

Acritical turning point in the early history of the Sikhs was arguably the martyrdom of Gurū Arjan, the fifth Sikh Gurū, at the hands of the then Mughal emperor, Jahāngīr. This marked the first of two Gurū-martyrs and remains an evocative symbol of martyrdom in the Sikh tradition. For Sikhs, this event marked the coming-of-age of the early panth when its own critical mass had sufficiently ruffled Imperial feathers and jolted their faith-based community to seriously consider the call to arms that was championed by the martyred Gurū’s son, Hargobind. The origins of the primary self-image of the Sikh as a warrior have their genesis in this very act. However, from the point of view of the Imperial news writers, commentators, and diarists, the event was hardly worthy of mention.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    E.R Hambye s.j., “A Contemporary Jesuit Document on Gurū Arjun Dev’s Martyrdom,” in Punjab Past and Present: Essays in Honour of Dr Ganda Singh, ed. Harbans Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1976), 115.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Irfan Habib trans., “Sikhism and the Sikhs 1645–46: From ‘Mobad,’ Dabistān-ī-Mazāhib,” in Sikh History from Persian Sources, ed. J.S. Grewal and I. Habib (New Delhi: Tulika, 2001), 67.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Hari Ram Gupta, History of the Sikhs, 5 vols (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1978–1991), 1: 144–54.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Shaikh Ahmad Farūqī Sirhindī, Maktūbāt-i-Imām-i-Rabbānī (Lucknow, 1889), letter 193, quoted in Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindī: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971), 74.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    The Portuguese letter has been previously translated into English in John A. D’Silva, “The Rebellion of Prince Khusru According to Jesuit Sources,” Journal of Indian History, vol. V (1927), 267–81 and also in Father Fernão Guerreiro, Jahangir and the Jesuits trans. C.H. Payne (London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1930), 11–12. A short paper with fresh translation in E.R. Hambye s.j., “A Contemporary Jesuit Document on Gurū Arjun Dev’s Martyrdom,” in Punjab Past and Present: Essays in Honour of Dr Ganda Singh, ed. Harbans Singh and N. Gerald Barrier (Patiala: Punjabi University, 1976), 113, sheds further new light on this account. Additional commentary on the portion relating to Gurū Arjan can be found in Dr Ganda Singh, Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (who reproduces John A. D’Silva’s translation), Gopal Singh, History of the Sikh People (1469–1978) (New Delhi: World Book Centre, 1979. Revised and updated edition, New Delhi: World Book Centre, 1988), 194fn., and J.S. Grewal, and Irfan Habib, ed. and trans., Sikh History from Persian Sources (New Delhi: Tulika, 2001), 58.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Amandeep Singh Madra and Parmjit Singh 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amandeep Singh Madra
  • Parmjit Singh

There are no affiliations available

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