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The Sikhs [Kindle Edition]

Patwant Singh
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $19.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Book Description

Five hundred years ago, Guru Nanak founded the Sikh faith in India. The Sikhs defied the caste system; rejected the authority of Hindu priests; forbade magic and idolatry; and promoted the equality of men and women -- beliefs that incurred the wrath of both Hindus and Muslims. In the centuries that followed, three of Nanak's nine successors met violent ends, and his people continued to battle hostile regimes. The conflict has raged into our own time: in 1984 the Golden Temple of Amritsar -- the holy shrine of the Sikhs--was destroyed by the Indian Army. In retaliation, Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Now, Patwant Singh gives us the compelling story of the Sikhs -- their origins, traditions and beliefs, and more recent history. He shows how a movement based on tenets of compassion and humaneness transformed itself, of necessity, into a community that values bravery and military prowess as well as spirituality. We learn how Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru, welded the Sikhs into a brotherhood, with each man bearing the surname Singh, or "Lion," and abiding by a distinctive code of dress and conduct. He tells of Banda the Brave's daring conquests, which sowed the seeds of a Sikh state, and how the enlightened ruler Ranjit Singh fulfilled this promise by founding a Sikh empire.

The author examines how, through the centuries, the Sikh soldier became an exemplar of discipline and courage and explains how Sikhs -- now numbering nearly 20 million worldwide -- have come to be known for their commitment to education, their business acumen, and their enterprising spirit.

Finally, Singh concludes that it would be a grave error to alienate an energetic and vital community like the Sikhs if modern India is to realize its full potential. He urges India's leaders to learn from the past and to "honour the social contract with Indians of every background and persuasion."

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Sikhism is one of the world's gentlest religions--a sort of eastern version of Anglicanism. It is as though someone had taken the best bits of Hinduism and Islam and merged them into a religion accessible even to the most secular of souls. There is no class or caste system, hence the men are all called Singh (Lion) and the women Kaur (Princess), and it makes no great claim to be the only way; indeed, unlike most religions, it actively promotes the idea that its followers may learn from other faiths. And yet, the popular image of Sikhs as fierce warriors is almost diametrically opposed to the tenets of their faith. Just how this came to be is wonderfully told in Patwant Singh's history of the Sikhs, published to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa--the most important date in the Sikh calendar.

As may be expected, Singh is a highly partisan narrator. The Sikhs are always bold and noble, and those who oppress them--the Moghuls, the Hindus, and the British--are conniving and duplicitous. But this aside, he tells a truthful story of the early days of Sikhism up to the 20th-century partition of the Punjab and the diaspora to East Africa and Britain. But the book really takes off when we reach the modern era. He provides a moving account of the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Hindu troops acting on the authority of the Indian government in 1984. This led directly to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, which in turn brought swift and widespread retribution, as thousands of Sikhs were rounded up and massacred.

What Patwant Singh doesn't answer, though, is why so many people have felt so threatened by Sikhism over the centuries. Sikhs do not proselytize their religion and they make up only two percent of the Indian population, yet they have been persecuted throughout their history. Maybe, just as nature abhors a vacuum, so religions abhor moderation. --John Crace,

From Publishers Weekly

In his preface, Singh, a Sikh writer and editor, explains that he wrote this book, in part, to counter the notion that Sikhs are little more than terrorists--a picture, he suggests, that's at least in part the product of a systematic disinformation campaign waged by the Indian government. In accessible if scholarly prose, Singh traces Sikh history from its origins in the 15th century through Indira Gandhi's 1984 storming of the Golden Temple (the holiest Sikh shrine and the event that led to Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards). Sikhs, he argues, have for centuries been an embattled people because their culture and religion defy the predominant religions in the region, as well as the Indian caste system with its ruling elite. For this reason, Hindu and Muslim rulers strove again and again to violently crush the Sikh religion; over the centuries, Sikhs grew increasingly militarized in order to defend their religion and themselves. In the riots that followed the storming of the Golden Temple, for instance, 3,000 Sikhs were killed in New Delhi when, by Singh's account, government troops were withdrawn and the Sikhs were left unprotected. The author discusses how the partition of India, the rise of fundamentalism and the perceived indifference of the Indian government to their concerns led to Sikhs' desire for a separate state in the Punjab. He does occasionally criticize what he sees as indiscriminate Sikh violence ("less saintly companions" is what he calls those who commit violent deeds), but for the most part Singh keeps his focus on demonstrating that the word terrorist is used much too often to describe Sikhs. Although Singh sometimes steers clear of important complications in his story, on the whole, this is a balanced, nuanced and well-documented study of a people little understood in the West. 8 pages of photos and 7 maps. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 598 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Image (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU8DIS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,101 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read to understand the misunderstood July 15, 2003
THe Sikhs are the least understood of the great religions of the world. In bookstores across America shelves and shelves are given over to Buddhism and Taoism but it is rare to find even one book on the Noble warriors, the Sikhs. Yet these people are in many ways a unique and amazing religious group that inhabits northwest India and has followers all over the globe(a diaspora due to their persecution). The story of the Sikhs, as painted so well in this book, shows how they have fought so hard against the attempts of the Muslims to create genocide upon them. Their Hindu neighboors have also been hostile, although this hostility has become more blatent recently under Indira Gandhi. The Sikhs were slughtered like animals during partition in 1948 by the Muslims who cleansed them from Pakistan, where not one Sikh remains in what had been their ancestral homeland. In the west Sikhs have been the target of racist attacks partly because neo-nazis think they are Muslim(due to the turbans) and partly due to jealousy since they own so many businesses. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It is obviously partisan but the author has an intricate understanding of Sikh lure and history. The author does not touch on Sikh militism unfortunatly to an extent that should be touched upon. He does not explain the Sikh revenge attacks upon Muslims in 1948. He does not explain Sikh terror which is the reason so many Hindus dislike them. But the book is nevertheless excellent.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Sikhs" by Patwant Singh January 2, 2004
In the wake of the September 11th tragedy, Sikh-Americans have been the target of misguided attacks due to their appearance. An appearance comprised of articles of the Sikh faith - a turban and unshorn beard.
Patwant Singh's book provides a vivid account of the origins, beliefs and subsequent history of this 500 year old, egalitarian faith that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent.
The book explains the significance behind the unique identity of the Sikh people - their turbans and beards - and brings to mind the sad irony that they are being mistaken, by some in the US, for the very Islamic fundamentalism that they have been fighting against since their beginnings.
The Sikhs are disciples of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh faith, who was succeeded by nine other Gurus (spiritual masters). Guru Nanak likened all religions to different travelers aiming at one and the same destination but following different paths and diverse ways. Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and last living Guru who lived from 1666 to 1708. It was this tenth prophet, that gave the Sikhs their present form and appearance, which was a culmination of the constant endeavor, struggle and sacrifices of the Gurus as well as of their innumerable followers.
In Singh's analysis of Sikh relations with Hindus, he points out that the monotheistic and egalitarian principles upon which the Sikh faith was founded proved to be in direct conflict with the philosophy and thought of the "caste-conscious" ruling Hindu-Brahmins i.e. Indira Gandhi. Singh's point is not a new one; there have been other faiths in Indian history that have been repressed by the hands of Brahmin ideology.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book April 4, 2000
By A Customer
A great history on the Sikh people. The book is not entirely impartial but is still quite accurate and is a valuable addition to my collection.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Patwant Singh's Sikhs provides a comprehensive history of the Sikhs, from their origins and traditions to recent history, considering how a humane-based movement came to blend spirituality with military beliefs. This is an essential book for any studying Indian affairs and history, providing the depth of cultural and historical reflection lacking in more casual overviews of Indian's peoples.
Diane C. Donovan Reviewer Diane C. Donovan Reviewer
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sikh Snapshot January 25, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Patwant Singh provides a thumbnail of Sikh religious and political developments from the 15th century to the present. I found the last two chapters particularly instructive given America's current Middle East challenges. The resentment created by colonial powers on indigenous societies and the irresistible urge for fledgling democracies to abuse state powers are amply described. A glossary of Indian terms, which were adequately explained for an English reading audience within the text would have been helpful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An account of Sikh History December 6, 2000
By A Customer
A very well written account of Sikh history.The coverage of attempts to undermine Sikhs over the past 500 years is thought provoking.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book for those interested in Sikh history October 7, 2000
By A Customer
An interesting book on Sikh history till modern times. Read the history from Sikh point of view.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to the Sikhs October 4, 2000
By A Customer
Patwant Singh's book is an excellent introduction to the Sikh tradition and its history. Sikh philosophy strongly repudiates the highly retrogressive and morally bankrupt institutions that continue to be endorsed, enforced, and encouraged by the Brahminical elements of Indian society. The Sikh religion is opposed to those forces that seek to divide people, and favors the promotion of a world free of caste, gender inequality, and religious intolerance. Read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars easy to read
Very well written, easy to read, concise. Don't expect a neutral opinion of the Sikhs from another Sikh, though, and Mr Singh is somewhat bitter
Published 10 months ago by Tami
3.0 out of 5 stars An introductory read to Sikhism at best
Sikhism is a faith unknown to most of us.
The book is a good read and provides a lot of bullet points, if you wish to know more about Sikhs. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Sabby
4.0 out of 5 stars Intertesting to read Sikh history
Very detailed Sikh events especially between 1700 and 1947 year. Unfortunately it did not continue into the 21st century. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Joe
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
A must for every Sikh and for folks who are interested in Religion studies. Provides basic principles of Sikhism especially the message of Universal Brotherhood and equality of... Read more
Published on April 7, 2013 by Balwant Lall
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
In this book, Patwant Singh traces the history of the Sikhs from their beginnings in the teachings of Guru Nanak in the 16th century to the present. Read more
Published on December 21, 2012 by Kurt A. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Meeting the Sikhs
I found this book to be extremely informative. It provides a historic overview of the Sikh religion and culture. The author tells of both triumphs and failures in a clear manner. Read more
Published on September 13, 2012 by RG
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome research and very balanced
The detail of the research is incredible. The bibliography and the additional reading list are well researched. Read more
Published on January 10, 2012 by Harry
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sikh
Being of Sikh background and a Seaker of that absolute truth. I feel this book does a great job to reach out to non-sikh audiances. Read more
Published on June 29, 2009 by S. Grewal
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book
If you are planning to buy a book on Sikhism this is fantastic. It gives an overview of the important facets of Sikhism and leaves the reader to further refine their search for... Read more
Published on November 2, 2006 by R. S. Randhawa
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative if somewhat biased account
Mr Singh's survey is brief. He does justice to the nationalist aspirations of the Sikhs and the various forms of discriminations against them, but does not address the more common... Read more
Published on November 29, 2001 by Alessandro Bruno
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