Religions of South Asia, Vol 3, No 2 (2009)

Re-thinking the Guru: Towards a Typology of Forms of Religious Domination in Pre-Colonial Pañjāb

James M. Hegarty
Issued Date: 12 Sep 2010


In this paper, I explore the role of hagiographical tradition in the formation of Sikh identity and in shaping the attitude’s of Sikhs to non-Sikhs in eighteenth-century Pañjāb. I focus on one particular hagiography, the B40 Janam Sākhī, which tells of the life and deeds of Guru Nānak. I suggest that, by inserting Nānak and his work in a range of dramatic scenarios, the B40 develops a perspective on the Guru and the austere devotional ideals of his verse that considerably widens their social appeal and cosmic scope, and establishes an arena for the formation and adaptation of forms of religious identity and domination amongst Sikhs. I suggest that this form of analysis may serve to enrich and broaden the productive scholarly dialogue concerning the social and political life of the suffix ‑ism, the designation ‘religion’ and the development of a wide variety of, by turn, cherished and vilified definitional perspectives in South Asian studies.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v3i2.183


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