Profusely referenced and exhaustively documented the plethora of original research citations mike this book an excellent resource for many a future scholar Oberoi writes well. The facts are all there and nobody can argue with them but find a serious problem with his logic perhaps with his fundamental premise. Oberoi focuses on what it meant to be a Sikh in the 1th century. It is a fascinating study: The existence of religious boundaries in Punjab with particular reference to Sikhs. The 19th century was a time of great ferment for Sikhs. Hindu practices had corrupted Sikh teachings. Having lost independent political power Sikhs faced nascent Hinduism which was anxious to claim Sikhism into its fold as just another offshoot. Many reform movements such as the Tar Khalsa and the Singh Sabha arose within Sikhism to redefine its pristine glory. Oberoi contends that within the Indian cultural setting ambiguity and fluidity marked religious particularly Sikh identity. Sikhs moved in and out of several different identities. So it was possible until very recently to have competing and ambiguous definitions of who is a Sikh Currently Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia Harjot Oberoi embarked on these Questions 16 years ago. They became a part of his research for the Masters and the Doctoral degrees. ‘The questions remain important. In 1954 Horace Miner of the University of Michigan published as of anthropologic researches Body Ritual among the is American spelled backwards. The modem Americans came across as Superstitions guilt ridden sexually repressed primitive people. it was rib tickling funny parody bur with a serious edge. When Outsiders look at a culture they bring a view and a bias; pure objectivity doesn’t exist nor can it. There are no lenses that do not dist on Miner had it his facts right and so does Oberoi; it is the interpretation that does not sit well At times Oberoi achieves the He possible He seems abiero view Sikhs as an outsider with little knowledge of Sikh tradition and less sympathy. In one example of many here is Oberoi talking of the Singh Sabhar”A new cultural elite aggressively usurped the right to represent others within this singular tradition Its ethnocentric logic subsumed other identities and dissolved alternative ideals …”” Heady stuff his writing Oberoi cites figures from the Khalsa Directory of 1900 on the number of Sikh professionals but ‘adds an egregious comment “Since there is nothing to compare these figures with it is hard to judge their accuracy.” Yet in the next paragraph he quotes without comment or demurral from the Census Report of 1881: “The Sikhs are the most uneducated class in the Punjab.”
The presence of demi-Gurus which many Sikh families revered and still do indicated not ambiguity in Sikh doctrine as Oberoi contends but laxity in Sikh practice The Hinduisation of the Sikh teaching he terms the “Saharan” tradition. Sounds good but hasn’t he applied a Hindu concept inventing anew non-existent tradition in Sikhism to denote the natural waxing and waning found in every movement? The book is replete with such writing. At times it seems like a scholarly mugging of Sikhs and Sikhism.
Despite what Sikh tradition has continuously believed despite the Clear teachings of the Guru us over ten generations despite the clearly established Sikh identity that can be verified from historical records despite all that Oberoi claims that Sikh identity as we see it ‘today was a product of the Tar Khalsa Singh Sabha and British interests. He further suggests that true Sikh identity cannot be clearly distinguished from Hindu identity and the two merge effort lessly at every level In support of this he marshals much evidence in enviable style.
Primarily he presents several examples (case histories or a laundry list?) of prominent and not Prominent 19th century Sikhs and Hindus to show that in their minds Hindu and Sikh practices were inseparable.
At times of birth marriage and death they followed Sikh rites but also consulted the Brahmin Many Sikhs followed
Hindu injunctions on caste and still do In many gurdwaras including the Golden Temple Hindu idols were installed a long side the Guru Granth have a Hindu friend who claims that Hinduism is not a religion but a culture; he follows Sikhism he says. He also worships idols. at the Hindu temple. He is an interesting study but not a definition of either Hinduism or Sikhism.) Oberoi seems not to realize that such case histories display symptomology and little else.
Wherever distinct traditions interact gray areas of overlap are inevitable Let me illustrate. For its first several hundred years a Strong movement within Christianity Jews for Jesus accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah but remained Jews. (The movement is small but still exists.) It would be foolish to conclude from this that Christian doctrine was unclear Or look at many of the present day European Jews who seem highly Christianized in their outlook and practices Yet no one would argue that a definition of who is a Jew can be derived from them The Christianized Muslims (Morison) of Africa also come to mind
Because of the common roots of Christianity and Judaism early Christian communities were probably not visibly different from the Jews even though the two religions differed in endow doctrine.
As the Christian visit on clarified and unfolded with time the two religious traditions diverged. Now no one would call a Christian some type of “reformed” Jew. Similar reasoning and historical process applies to the young religion of the Sikhs In the simpler smaller more intimate units of society such as a village significant mixing of practices occur. Such units are fascinating but useless for defining the parent doctrine or for the study of religious borders. They are great for looking at the gray areas between religions how people accommodate to different needs and demands in their quiet ways It is here that find Oberoi’s work most fascinating and useful His excellent and sleight forward social history.
it would also be incorrect to compare the role of the Singh Sabha etc to that of Martin Luther or other reformers in Christianity The historical circumstances were different as was the development of the parent Church other argued doctrinal differences and practices based on them. The 19th century S’ formers debated Sikh practice its corruption not doctrine Sikh reformers did not add a new belief doctrine dogma tenet to Sikhism that was non-existent
The Construction of Religious Boundaries Culture Identity and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition According to Dr. Oberoi in the early Guru period Sikh as a category was still problematic and empty It needed to be correlated with historical intervention.
Dr. Oberoi thinks that Adi Granth was collated (CRB p p 54-55) whereas Pashaura Singh thinks Gum Arjan Dev used a process to change Guru Nanak’s Bani before formerly including it in the a M Granth. Arjan Dev ji was also influenced by social political consideration to produce the Adi G Like Trump Dr. Oberoi thinks that Adi Granth is the most voluminous and structured of the early 171 Century devotional anthology Is Guru Granth an Anthology According to Webster Dictionary 1 p. 38) anthropology is a collection of poetry or prose chosen to represent the work of a particular a literary school or a national literature)
Dr Oberoi compares Adi Granth with Surdas Ka Pada Fateh Pur Manuscript of 1582 A.D. As Su Ka Pada had the same features as Adi Granth Dr Oberoi feels that Adi Granth was neither the first the last of such collection. So the uniqueness of Adi Granth as a secular Dhur Ki Bani is called question by Dr Oberoi (CRB p. 54) be
Stories of Guru Nanak travel are created out of Janam Sakhis which are mythical texts (CRS p.5: These stories take Guru Nanak to Mecca or Hardwar and make him behave as if he has no fixed identity (Here Dr. Oberoi is dancing to the times of Dr. McLeod’s research of Janam Sakhis) (CRS p. 56).
Just as there is no fixed Guru Nanak in the Janam Sakhis there is no fixed Sikh identity in the early Guru period (CRB p. 56). Sikh world view of earlier Guru period allowed Sikhs to cut and sell their long hair to feed Guru Nanak (CRS p 56). It is very important to note that the Eurocentric Social Sikh historians will pick up only those episodes from Janam Sakhis that point to the later inconsistencies Sikh psyche. Dr. Oberoi forgets that the quest for early Sikh identity was enshrined in challenging the Status quo. The displacement of Brahmin the non use of Sanskrit the challenge to Sati customs and Purdha and the institution of Langar to get rid of the caste systems and writing Gun Bani in Panja so that common persons could share it were the pillars of Sikh identity in the early Guru period.
Guru Arjan was executed not martyred (Oberoi Pashaura and McLeod and J S Hawley would not use the word Manyrdom for Guru Agjan. It appears it comes out of their collective group thinking.
Finally the Jat influx into Sikhs produced the real Sikhs. So the Sikhs became Khalsa’s with the non-Dharma It is sad that a “Sikh Scholar” sitting on an University of British Columbia Sikh chair is So anti-Sikh that he does not Seem to respect the Sikh Scripture the Sikh Guns and the Sikh traditions because of his Eurocentric-Racist’ scholarship _ He has no idea the pain and hurt he is causing to those who collected money so that 4 Sikh chair be started that would enhance the image of the community
He is a misplaced Marxist anthropologist who should be removed from the “Chair” and Sent to teach Social Sciences in other departments of the University of British Columbia.
If he stays longer in the Sikh Chair he may do further damage if the University of British Columbia does not respect the sentiments of Canadian Sikhs legal and political measures should be taken.
What Freud was ‘to the females Jensen and Rushton\to the Blacks Oberoi is to the Sikhs?
Article extracted from this publication >> July 22, 1994