05. A Sant-Sipahi by Himself: The Spiritual and Military Autobiography of Guru Gobind

A Sant-Sipahi by Himself: The Spiritual and Military Autobiography of Guru Gobind
Denis Matringe

The present article is concerned with a particular specimen of royal poetry written in the Shivaliks: a seemingly autobiographical poem attributed to the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Gobind, born in 1666; he was the Guru from 1675 to his death in 1708. The text I am going to examine is found in the second sacred book of the Sikhs, the Dasam Granth, and is entitled Bacitra Nataka (The Wonderful Drama). Though it has recently been used by scholars engaged in new approaches of Sikh history, it has not been studied, so to speak, for itself, except by Robin Rinehart in her recent, illuminating survey of the Dasam Granth. After having presented the composition of the poem, I shall focus on the way in which the latter produces the portrait of a sipahi, a king fighting for dharma, and how it proposes an origin myth of the Sikh Gurus’ lineage. I shall finally touch upon the way in which, in the Bacitra Nataka, Gobind appears also as a Sant advocating a renewed Sikh conception of God, virtue and sin, based on the guramati inherited from N?nak but showing awareness of the identity-assertions of the Rajputs from the Shivaliks.

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