Social Scientist. v 11, no. 120 (May 1983) p. 16.


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P S GREWAL*

Nanaks Doctrine and the Feudalisation of the Sikh Gurudom

THIS PAPER represents a preliminary attempt at comprehending Guru Nanak's ideas in the socio-historical conditions in which they developed. The course of the subsequent evolution of the Sikh Gurudom into a hierarchical institution of feudal authority and privilege is traced, showing how these factors defined the parameters of the practice of Sikhism. As such, a modest contribution is made here towards a reorientation of contemporary interpretations of Sikh history, which, by and large, uncritically raise religious conceptualisation to the status of a sociological critique.

At the time of the advent of the Turks in the 12th century A D, Indian society was witnessing a consolidation of feudalism, the manifestations of which were found in the growth of landed intermediaries, increased exploitation and pauperisation of the peasantry, growing self-sufficiency of the village owing to the relative decline of trade (as compared to the po&ition under the Guptas or even under Harsha), and a distinct hardening of the Hindu caste system "leading to decreased social mobility.

The establishment of the Delhi Sultanate did not alter the overall nature of the existing socio-economic system, but introduced ^ome changes in the detaite of the exploitative machinery of the state. Instead of the growing prominence of landed intermediaries of the earlier type, there emerged ^section called iqtadars\muqiis or nobles, of various gradation^ who were assigned land revenue grants in return for military and administrative service The old hereditary zamindars or intermediaries were integrated into this structure.

The burden of exploitation on the peasantry remained the same, and perhaps even increased to meet the demands of an expanding eropire. Trade and handicrafts did witness some revival with the introduction of new crafts and trades to cater for the needs of the new ruling class. However the economic and social condition of the artisans did not see any significant change.

*Teaches History ai Bha^at Singh College, Delhi



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