The Compassionate Guru: Founding Sikh, Nanak Sahib
Shortest -- and loudest -- interview the old battle-ax ever gave. Last, too.
That was the Sikh revenge for "Operation Bluestar," the temple raid. By the way, that's another of these lame ops titles they keep coming up with. Should've called it "Operation Blowback," or "Operation Indira, Are You Sure?"
For the Sikhs, this was just like Chapter Two Million in a long and glorious series of battles, assassinations and massacres. The Sikhs were born in the Punjab, the coolest part of India. Every conqueror in history headed that way as soon as he got his learner's license at 15. Punjab was the last, and the toughest place Alexander himself ever tried to take. He was so impressed with the army of Pontus, as they called it then, that he said every Punjabi deserved to be called Alexander. Which was high praise, since Alex was never known for modesty.
Before him even those lazy necrophiliac Egyptians had a stab at the Punjab. I couldn't believe it when I read it, but apparently those Nile-side loungers had the energy to attack the Punjab. Everybody had a turn, though it was the Persians and the Afghans who turned invading the Punjab from a healthy, occasional fun evening into an unhealthy obsession.
And that was before Islam was added to the subcontinental mix. By the time Sikhism started, about 400 years ago, the Mughal emperors, basically a bunch of land pirates who swooped down out of Afghanistan to plunder the plains, had tried to convert India to Islam by using the time-honored method of appealing to the prospect's common sense: "Convert or we'll hack you into a million tiny pieces." The Hindu majority, under the thumbs of hundreds of feudal kings, tried to weasel out of conversion so they could hang on to their own homegrown miseries, like the caste system. The Hindus' ultimate weapon was simple inertia and birthrate. The Afghans' sword arms just got tired after a while, hacking in that heat, and they said, "Aw, the Hell with it." Northern India settled into a lazy routine with the occasional massacre, a lot of bribery, nasty little village snobs hating each other.
A brave Sikh martyr takes a Moghul bath
Then along comes the founder of Sikhism, Nanak, and says, "There is no Muslim, there is no Hindu." Meaning the Hell with both of you. Sikhs were radicals from the start. All the little traditions people know about them started out as in-your-face rebel yells in the Punjab. Like those beards: only the Mughal were allowed to wear long hair and beards. So the Sikh all let theirs grow longer than John and Yoko's. That name, "Singh," every Sikh guy has? It means "Lion" but the real point is that it replaced all the caste names they had before. Like Malcolm making his last name "X."
The Mughals didn't like it. They said so pretty clearly. Take the early career of the sixth Sikh guru, an orphan named Gobind Rai. It was the Mughals who made him an orphan, by torturing his dad to death. See, in the old Punjab death was nothing, death was what you got if the head man was in a good mood. Most of the time they weren't in a very good mood, so you got real slow, horrible deaths. At least somebody at the Mughal court was nice enough to FedEx Gobind a package with his dad's head in it, Seven-style.
Gobind decided right about then to end the whole peacenik tradition of Sikhism. He had a sense of style, so to set the mood he called all the Sikhs together and came onstage with a big huge sword and said, "My sword wants blood. Who wants to supply it? I need a volunteer!" Well, he would've bombed as a stage magician because there was a looooooong silence, no hands raised, till an Untouchable convert came up. Gobind took him into a tent and came out alone, bloody as an apprentice butcher. Four more volunteers and the crowd was beginning to grumble. Then Gobind revealed the trick, which you've all probably guessed already especially if you remember Sunday school, Isaac and Abraham: the five dudes were alive! Heroes! All in new armor! Ready to kill!