INDIA BEFORE GURU NANAK
After its climax, Buddhism started degenerating in India. Statues of Buddha and Budhisattvas became very common and were installed in their temples. Buddhist monks preached lesson of non-violence and non-resistance which made the people non-aggressive even in self defence.
When Buddhism was driven out of India, the Hindu society set up their own gods and goddesses and began to worship their stone images. The Hindu priests who had been for centuries, the self-made custodians of religion and its teachings, had reduced the religion to a mockery performing rites and rituals and superstitious ceremonies devoid of any sense and meaning.
“The Hindu leaders neglected to teach the spiritual realities to the people at large who were sunk in superstitions and materialism. Religion became confused with caste distinction and taboos about eating and drinking.....”, writes Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a philosopher and former President of India.
The Hindu society was over-ridden with caste system. The religion became the privilege only of the upper class called the Brahmans. The sacred religious books were neither accessible to the other classes nor could the people understand them because they were written mostly in Sanskrit, a language not spoken by the masses. Religious reading, writing and teaching was strictly the monopoly of the Brahmans. The lowest of the lowest class was called the Untouchables. A touch or even a shadow of these untouchables seemed to pollute the higher classes.
Such was the condition of Hindu India when Muslim invaders from the west began pouring in large numbers one after the other. For the Muslim invaders, from Mahmood of Gazni in the eleventh century to the Moghuls in the sixteenth century (at the time of Guru Nanak), the Punjab was always the gateway of India. All these Muslim invaders massacred men, women and children without mercy, plundered their homes, desecrated and demolished their temples and robbed the wealth of these temples. The Hindus were converted to Islam at the point of the sword. Nobles, scholars, sufies, poets and philosophers who also came along with these invaders, settled in the various parts of India, and they laid the foundation of Indo-Muslim culture in the country.
Many Muslim historians have given account of the happenings of that time. A few examples of the treatment of Hindus by the Mohammadan conquerors of India, are given below :
Shahab-ul-Din, King of Gazni (1170-1206), put Prithwi Raj, King of Ajmer and Delhi, to death in cold blood. He massacred thousands of the inhabitants of Ajmer who opposed him , reserving the remainder for slavery (The Kamiu-t Tawarikh by Asir). In the Taj-ul-Ma’asir by Hassn Nizam-i-Naishapuri, it is stated that when Qutb-ul-Din Aibak (1194-1210) conquered Meerat, he demolished all the Hindu temples of the city and erected mosques on their sites. In the city of Aligarh, he converted Hindu inhabitants to Islam by the sword and beheaded all those who adhered to their own religion.
Abdulla Wassaf writes in his Tazjiyat-ul-Amsar wa Tajriyat ul Asar that when Ala-ul-Din Khilji (1295-1316) captured the city of Kambayat at the head of the gulf of Cambay, he killed the adult male Hindu inhabitants for the glory of Islam, set flowing rivers of blood, sent the women of the country with all their gold, silver, and jewels, to his own home, and made about twenty thousand maidens his private slaves.
Ala-ul-Din once asked his Qazi 1, what was the Mohammadan law prescribed for the Hindus. The Qazi replied, “Hindus are like the mud; if silver is demanded from them, they must with the greatest humility offer gold. If a Mohammadan desire to spit into a Hindu’s mouth, the Hindu should open it wide for the purpose. God created the Hindus to be slaves of the Mohammadans. The Prophet hath ordained that, if the Hindus do not accept Islam, they should be imprisoned, tortured, finally put to death, and their property confiscated.”
Sayad Mohammad Latif writes in his history of the Punjab,
“Great jealousy and hatred existed those days between the Hindus and Mohammadans and the whole non-Muslim population was subject to persecution by the Mohammadan rulers.”
Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh scholar, writes, “My Lord, it is strange that the people of Kalyug (dark age or the age of falsehood) have developed the attitude of a dog and they take pleasure in swallowing ill-gotten things. The rulers commit sins and those who are herdsmen, are killing the sheep themselves. The people being ignorant are not in a position to discriminate between truth and falsehood. Those who pose as benefactors are engaged in amassing wealth by fraudulent means. Love between man and woman is based on money, they meet at pleasure and depart at will. The Qazi who occupies the seat of justice, accepts bribes and then passes unjust orders.”
Guru Nanak describes the situation as :
‘Kings are butchers
Cruelty their knife, and
Sense of duty and responsibility have taken wings
(Slok Mohalla 1, p-145)
It has always been believed that whenever the Righteousness vanishes from this world and the Falsehood takes its place, there has been a call from the Heaven to restore peace and justice on earth. Out of the dark clouds of falsehood, hypocrisy, injustice, cruelty and bigotry, there came a ray of sunshine from the Heaven as described by Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh apostle :
“Heaven at last heard the prayers of the people, Guru Nanak was sent to the world.
The disciples met and drank the nectar of his Lotus feet,
And realized the Divine in this age of materialism.
Guru Nanak re-established Dharma,
All castes he merged into one caste of man.
The rich and the poor he brought on one level,
From this Founder of Humanity a new race of love goes forth ;
In humility they bow down to each other.
The Master and the disciple became one,
His song of Nam gives us a new life,
He is the Saviour in this age of materialism.
Nanak came, the world was lighted,
The sun rose, the darkness disappeared.
Wherever the Guru put his foot,
It became the temple of worship.
The far-famed seats of the Sidhas changed their names,
The Yoga-houses became Guru-houses.
Humanity resounded with his divine hymns ;
In every house of the disciple, the Lord was worshipped.
The Guru went in all directions,
Seeking his own all over the earth.
A river of love and peace
Flows in us singing his song.”
(Bhai Gurdas, Var 1-pauri 23,27)
Heaven at last heard the cries and prayers of the oppressed and there appeared the Savior of Humanity, Prophet of Peace, Fountain of Heavenly Love and Ocean of Virtue in the name of GURU NANAK, the founder of Sikh religion.
1. Qazi - A Mohammadan high priest.