Skip to main content Accessibility help

Ham Hindū Nahīn*: Arya Sikh Relations, 1877–1905

  • Kenneth W. Jones

South Asian scholars have long viewed communal competition in terms of majority-minority struggle, of Hindu versus Muslim, leading to the final partition of the British Raj into two antagonistic states. Punjab history offers a dramatic case of religious competitiveness between two minority communities, concerned more with their own sense of identity than with questions of power and dominance. Attempts among Punjabi Hindus to create a new, modernized and respectable religious tradition could not be contained within their community but inevitably altered existing relations with all other religions in Punjab, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian. As newly anglicized elites came into existence, they provided a growing class of alienated and marginal men. Unable to relate to the orthodox world around them, they sought to redefine that world, and in so doing created new ideological systems encompassing a reinterpretation of the past and present, plus a new vision of the future. Elaboration, defense, and dissemination of these ideologies produced both group consciousness and a heightened awareness of separation, of distance between those who accepted the new beliefs and all others. This process of identity reformation created in late nineteenth century Punjab a period of intense dynamism, of ideological and religious conflict amidst an increasingly polemical atmosphere, as each group within a given religious community, Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim, sought to project its own concepts and in the process struggled with others within their own community and beyond. This process of questioning, and its resultant answers permanently altered relations among Punjabi religious communities and, at a more fundamental level, the conceptualizations undergirding many of the groups within them.

Hide All

Research and preparation of this study were made possible by a Senior Research Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies, for the 1968-69 academic year and by continual assistance of the Bureau of General Research of Kansas State University.

1Tandon, Prakash, Punjabi Century (London: Chatto fit Windus, 1961), p. 1011. Tandon buttresses the conventional historical view of Hindu-Sikh relations prior to 1849. This interpretation stresses the lack of religious competitiveness and harmony between the two communities in contrast to later separatism. The degree to which this is an accurate picture of the past will remain unknown without extensive research in 18th and early 19th century Punjab, and without such research we have no grounds for challenging this conventional view.

2 The first British Census of Punjab, in 1855, did not differentiate between Sikhs and Hindus; the former being seen as a sub-division of the latter. In the 1871 Census and thereafter Sikhs were treated as a separate religious community.

3 The establishment of an interim elite, one existing between the British conqueror and the Punjabi population, is discussed in Jones, Kenneth W., “The Bengali Elite in Post-Annexation Punjab: An Example of Inter-Regional Influence in 19th Century Punjab,” Indian Economic and Social History Review, III, No. 4 (December, 1966), pp. 2036.

4Dayanand, Swami, Satyārth Prakāsh (The Light of Truth), trans, by Prasad, Gangs (Allahabad: The Kala Press, 1956), p. 522.

5 Ibid, p. 525. Khushwam Singh, in his History of the Sikhs, commented on Dayanand's view of the Sikhs and their scriptures. “It did not take the orthodox Sikhs long to appreciate that Dayanand's belief in the infallibility of the Vedas was as uncompromising as that of the Muslims in the Koran. The Growth was to him a book of secondary importance, and the Sikh gurus men of little learning; Nanak, he denounced as a dambhī (hypocrite).Dayanand was contemptuous of Sikh theologians because ot their ignorance of Sanskrit: his favourite phrase for any one who did not measure up to him was mahā mūrkh (great fool). Dayanand set the tone; his zealous admirers followed suit.” A History of the Sikhs, Vol. II (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 139.

6Singh, Bhagat Lakshman, Autobiography, Singh, Ganda, editor. (Calcutta: Sikh Cultural Centre, 1965), p. 135.

7 Ibid, pp. 23–28.

8Arya Patrika, September 13, 1887, p. 78.

9 Arya Patrika, December 12, 1885, p. 6.

10 Arya Patrika, May 25, 1886, p. 1.

11 The Sikh claim to infallibility of Guru Nanak was unacceptable to all Aryas. Those who stressed rationality and held a reformist image of the Samaj rejected all human claims to infallibility, while the few militant Aryas, who were beginning to see Dayanand as a rishi, an infallible prophet, would grant that status to no other religious leader.

12 Arya Patrika, May 25, 1886, p. 3.

13Quotes given below from Arya Patrika, September 13, 1887, pp. 14.

14See Arya Patrika, October 11, 1887, pp. 13. This article particularly condemned (he descendants of the Gurus who by the nineteenth century formed a religious-priestly aristocracy. “The several descendants of Curu Nanak, Guru Angad, Guru Amar Nath and Ram Das, etc., have all of them managed to lay by, during the short period of two to three hundred years, a stock of empty boasts and irrational claims which might well startle even the Pope of Rome.”

15Singh, Bliai Amar, Ārya Saniāj aur Us Kī Bānī kī Taraf sē Dunyā kē Mukhtalif Hādīān Mazhab kī bē-i-lzzatī (Insults against the founders of different religions of the world by the Arya Samaj and its Founder) (Lahore: Dev Bidhan Press, 1890), p. 23–24. Guru Datta was an Arora by caste, hence the use of ‘Lala,’ but because of his scholarship and religious leadership soon became universally known as ‘Pandit’ Guru Datta.

l6 Ibid, pp. 24–26.

17 Bhagat Singh, Autobiography, p. 58. A few Sikhs, such as Bhai Jagat Singh and Bawa Chhajju Singh, remained within the Arya Samaj. They accepted both Arya ideology and Samaj criticisms of orthodox Sikhism.

18 Bhai Gurmukh Singh, leader of the Lahore Singh Sabha, welcomed these new members who became enthusiastic supporters of the Sabha adding greatly to its strength. Both Bhai Jawahir Singh and Bhai Ditt Singh Gyani wrote extensively. Jawahir Singh worked for the Singh Sabhas and for the Sikh educational movement. One of the first supporters of the Khalsa College concept, he later served as Secretary to the College. He also became Chief Secretary and Vice-President of the Khalsa Diwan, He wrote extensively in Urdu and Punjabi on a variety of religious and social questions relating to Sikhism. He died on May 14, 1910. Ditt Singh Gyani, a member of the depressed classes, became a close associate of Professor Gurmukh Singh after leaving the Arya Samaj. He edited the Khālsā Akhbār, served on the Khalsa College Council, the Khalsa Diwan, and the Sri Guru Singh Sabha of Lahore. He died on June 17, 1901. See Bhagat Singh, Autobiography, pp. 135–136; 143.

19An account of this meeting and of more Sikh charges against the Arya Sama) appeared in the tract, ‘Amal-i-Ārya (The Actions of the Aryas) by Singh, Bhai Jawahir (Lahore: Islamia Press, 1889); additional mention of this meeting can be found in Singh, Amar, Ārya Samāj aur Us Kī Bānī . . . , pp. 2328.

20 Āftāb-i-Punjāb, December 14, 1888, Selections from the Punjab Vernacular Press (Hereinafter SPVP), 1888, p. 340. Ājtāb-i-Punjāb, January 28, 1889, SPVP, p. 40–41; Akhbār-i-‘Ām, February 23, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 93; Rāvī, August 7, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 324; Kōh-i-Nūr, September 17, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 392; Nānak Parkāsh, August 25, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 366; Singh Sahāī, January 17, 1891, SPVP, p. 230.

21 Rāvī, August 7, 1889, SPVP, 1889. P. 324. The Rāvī warned that the Arya-Sikh “controversy is likely to lead to unpleasant consequences, [the] Government should take steps to prevent the Sikhs and the Aryas from preaching in the public streets.”

22Barrier, Norman G., The Sikhs and Their Literature: A Guide to Books, Tracts and Periodicals (1849–1919) (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1970), p. xxxv. Professor Barrier noted that “After charges against Jawahir Singh (including rape and opportunism) comes a defense of Dayanand combined with criticism of Guru Nanak. According to the Arya writer, Nanak pretended to be an avatār of God and ordered Guru Angad to commit incest with his own mother.”

23 Khair-Khwāh-i-Kashmīr, August 6, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 324; Nānak Parkāsh, September 25 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 401; Bhārat Sudhar, October 19, 1889, SPVP, 1889, p. 434; Nānak Parkāsh, April 1890, SPVP, 1890, p. 170; Bhārat Sudhār, May 31, 1890, SPVP, 1890, p. 208. The tract, Ārya Samāj aur Us Ki Bānī . . . , was written as a direct answer to Granthī Phōbiā.

24 The term shuddhi (purification) was variously interpreted. In its narrowest definition, it applied to the purification of individuals converted to another religion within their lifetime. More radical or daring Aryas applied it to those whose ancestors had been converted, and a few thinkers claimed that anyone, Hindu or non-Hindu, could be con-converted to Aryanism, since Vedic Hinduism was the wr-rcligion of mankind. All conversion was, in fact, reconversion, returning an individual to the parent fold of Hinduism. Shuddhi, as purification, was also applied to the act of transforming shudra and outcast Hindus and Sikhs to pure caste status. Interpretations and practice of shuddhi varied both at a given time and through time. For an extensive study of shuddhi in the 20th century, see Thursbay, Gene Robert, “Aspects of Hindu-Muslim Relations in British India, A Study of Arya Samaj Activities, Government of India Policies, and Communal Conflict in the Period 1923–I928,” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1972). particularly Chapter I, pp. 3178.

25Sarda, Har Bilas, Life of Dyanand Saraswati (Ajmer: Vedic Yantralaya, 1946), p. 196197.

26 Arya Patrika, August 22, 1885, p. 4.

27 The history of the Shuddhi Sabhas still remains vague and unclear. Precisely when they were founded, the exact nature of their membership and support, and the distribution of this movement still need to be established by further research. We sec them through reports of specific acts of shuddhi and in stray comments by Aryas 3nd Sikhs. They arc a puzzle with few pieces.

28 The first instance of cooperation between the Gujranwala Arya Samaj and the Singh Sabha appeared in the Tribune, February 18, 1893, p. 4. Sec also Lahore Tribune, April 8, 1893, p. 4; January 24, 1894, p. 4; February 7, 1894, p. 4; March 14, 1894, p. 3; and, August 18, 1894, p. 4.

29 Tribune, February 10, 1893, p. 4.

30For an example of Arya reaclion to (his conversion, sec Sat Dharm Prachārak, August 20, 1897, SPVP, 1897, p. 766; and Chandra's, Lala Jai, lsāiōn kē Hāth sē Bhāiō kō Bachāō (Save your brethren from the hands of the Christian Missionaries) (Lahore: Kishan Chand Press, 1898).

31Graham, J. Reid, “The Arya Samaj as a Reformation in Hinduism with Special Reference to Caste.” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1942), p. 466. (Hereinafter The Arya Samaj.)

32 Sat Dharm Prachārak, January 8, 1897, SPVP, p. 40.

33 Singh Sahāī, March 12, 1895, SPVP, 1895, p. 162.

34 Tribune, April 8, 1896, p. 4.

35 Tribune, September a, 1896, p. 4.

36 N. G. Barrier, in his introduction to The Silkhs and Their Literature, gives an excellent sketch of the complex and diverse forces acting within the Sikh community to propel Sikhs toward a rccvaluation of their identity and their relations with the Hindu community. A full examination of this process lays beyond the scope of this article. See pages xviii-xxiii; xxxiv-xxxix.

37 Tribune, August 27, 1892, p. 4.

38 See Singh Sahāī, July 25, 1897, SPVP. 1897, p. 674; for arguments over whether Sikhs are Hindus, see the Tribune, February 27, 1897, p. 4; March 24, p. 4; and the great burst of controversy in 1900, in Tribune, March 10, 1900, p. 5; March 13, p. 6; March 17, p. 5; March 22, p. 5–6; March 24, p. 5–6; March 29, p. 5; April 3, p. 5–6; April 19, p. 5; and June 21, p. 5. Similar questions were argued in the pages of the Khālsā, April 4, 1900, p. 5 and April 25, p, 5–6.

39 Sat Dharm Prachārak, August 13, 1897, SPVP, 1897, p. 765; and Khālsā Bahādur, August 30, 1897, SPVP, 1897, p. 800.

40 In mid-summer an Arya preacher, Gopal Das, was charged for having used disrespectful language toward Guru Nanak and the Sikh scriptures when he gave a lecture in the Guru Hagh in Amritsar. He was acquitted, hut the case drew considerable attention in the press, especially in Sikh papers. See Āftāb-i-Punjāb, June 20, 1898, SPVP, 1898, p. 414–415; and July 25, 1898, SPVP, 1898, p. 486. For later Sikh-Arya disputes, see Akhbār~i-‘Ām, February 18, 1899, SPVP, 1899, p. 112; Sat Dharm Prachārak, June 23, 1809, SPVP, 1899, p. 362; the Khālsā Bahādur, August 12, 1899. SPVP. 1899, p. 454; and B. L. Singh, Autobiography, p. 132–133.

41 See Tribune, February 7, 1899, p. 3–4.

42Das, Lala Thakar, Sikh Hindū Hain (Hoshiar-pur: Khatri Press, 1899); and Singh, Bawa Narain, Sikh Hindu Hain (Amritsar: Mat-bakarnuni Press, 1899). Also see the account in Singh, Auto-bioghaphy. pp. 154; 133134 and 137–138.

43Singh, Sardar Kahan, Ham Hindū Nahīn (Amritsar: Khalsa Press, 1899).

44 Tribune, April 26, 1900, p. 4.

45 Quotes given below from Arya Patrika, April 27. 1886, p. 4–5, from a lecture by Lala Junja Behari Thaper.

46 Quotes given below from the Khālsā, May 23, 1900, p. 2.

47 Bhagat Singh was as well a founding member of the Lahore Arya Samaj. His career is an excellent example of the changing identification patterns among some educated Sikhs, although he may have been personally more unstable than many of his peers.

48Quotes given below from Singh, , Autobiography, p. 161162.

49 Ibid, p. 162–163.

50 Reid Graham provides a description of one such ceremony. “The principal feature of the Parvesh ceremony (of shuddhi), was the investment of the person desiring admission with the Yajnopavit Sanskar. First there was the Mundan Ceremony or shaving the head; then all put on new dhotis [clothing] Havan was performed. The Gayatri was explained to them and then the Yajnopavit Sanskar was performed. They were told their five daily duties and the sixteen Sanskars they were to perform. A copy of Dayanand's Mahayajnavsdhi was given each. They were then declared to be in the Samaj. Almost all the people present took Shcrbat at their hands.” The Arya Samaj, p. 465.

51 Khālsā, June 6, 1900, p. 3–4.

52 Quotes given below from Khālsā, June 13, 1900. p. 3–4.

53 The Khālsā, June 13, 1900, p. 2; July 25, 1900, p. 2; and Arya Patrika, December 8, 1900, p. 7, quoted in Graham, The Arya Samaj. p. 492.

54 Khālsā, July 4, 1900, p. 3; and Tribune, June 28, 1900, p. 3.

55 Quotes given below from Khālsā, August 8, 1900. P. 3–4.

56 The Khālsā, August 15, 1900, p. 3.

57 See Akhbāri-i-‘Ām, March 13, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 168 and March, 25, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 202; April 2, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 220; Sat Dharm Prachārak, March 2t, 1902, SPVP, 1902, p. 217–218; Khālsā Akhbār, July 18, 1902, SPVP, 1902, p. 475–476; Tribune, October 30, 1902, p. 5; Omakari, Mahan Singh, Sāhib Diyāl kē Parā-grandah Khayālōn kī Portāl (A Repayment for the Dirty Tricks of Sahib Dayal) (Amritsar: Wazir Hind Press, 1904);Singh, Bhai Ganda, Nuskha-i-Khabt-i-Dayanāndiyān (Prescriptions for the Insanity of the Followers of Dayanand) (Amritsar: Amar Press, 1904); An Answer to Lala Sahib Dyal's Ilāj-i-Wāhmat-i-Diytt Singhia (Remedy for the Whims of Ditt Singh); and Singh, Bawa Chhajju, The Ten Gurus and Their Teachings (Lahore: Punjab Printing Works, 1903).

58 Quotes given below from The Sikhs and Sikhism, November 8, 1904, p. 5.

59 The Sikhs and Sikhism, May 16, 1904, p. 7; also see Tribune, September 1, 1900, p. 4; September 27, 1900, p. 5; and October 13, 1900, p. 5.

60 Khālsā Bahādur, January 24, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 15; Sat Dharm Prachārak, February 1, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 123; Sanātan Dharm Gazette, January 31, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 153; Akhbār-i-‘Am.

April 17, 1901, SPVP, 1901, p. 266; Ahlu-wālia Gazette, August 1, 1902, SPVP, 1902, p. 436; Ahluwālia Gazette, August 16, 1902, SPVP, 1902, p. 467; Public Gazette, November 24, 1902, SPVP, 1902, p. 583.

61 Quotes given below from Tribune, May 11, 1905, p. 3.

62 Panjabee, May 15, 1905, p. 1.

63 See Akhbār-i-‘Ām, May 16, 1905, SPVP, 1905; Tribune, May 18, 1905, p. 5; Tribune, May 20, 1905, p. 5; Panjabee, May 22, 1905, p. 4–5; Tribune, May 23, 1905, p. 4; Panjabee, May 29, 1905, p. 3; Tribune.,. May 30, p. 5; June 1, 1905, p. 5; July I, 1905, p. 5; June 3, 1905, p. 5; Panjabee, July 3, 1905, p. 2; Tribune, June 3, 1905, P. 3; June 8, 1905. P. 5; Panjabee, July 10, 1905, p. 1; Tribune, June 22, 1905, p. 5; August I, 1905, p. 3; Arya Messenger, August 1, 1905, SPVP, 1905, p. 276–277; and Sat Dharm Prachārak, September 1, 1905, SPVP, 1905, p. 323.

64 Quotes given below from Panjabee, June 12, 1905, p. 3.

* We are not Hindus.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed