I

With the capture and execution of Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716, the first phase of the Sikh Reconquista of Hindustan had come to a gruesome close – he was martyred alongside 740/80 of his companions; a further 2,000 Sikhs were imprisoned and executed in reprisals following his capture, most of them civilians.

Banda Singh Bahadur had led the combined Sikh forces as the Commander-in-Chief (Jathedar), and after a series of successful campaigns had established the first Sikh territorial state. (A form of non-territorial state building within the overarching Mughal imperial structure had been commenced by Guru Nanak himself with…


When the world witnessed the first images of the farmer’s protest in the March to Delhi, as the haze of smoke grenades and the vapour of water canons subsided, from amidst the fog emerged the figure of the Sikh – I don’t mean only the Herculean Singh (but him too as a representation) – of the the Sikh as an Archetype.

The Archetype of the Sikh manifests itself in various forms, attracts psychic reactions and countereactions, both subliminal and absolutely basic.

What I mean by this can be understood by considering instances of how non-Sikh Indians respond to the most…


the beliefs of all people

To call something a myth is to call it lies. It is a label, perhaps a libel too, which signifies that he who believes in that myth is a liar. Or, deluded. Or, led astray and is one to be saved. One more, among many. Who are not, us.

While it might be fine for the fundamentally committed, or the omnipotently aware, to mythologise the beliefs of all they choose to, as scholars committed to the cause of sarbat da bhala, and as a culture that is confident enough to know there is no one exclusive path to liberation, we…


The owl of Minerva takes flight at dusk. So did the hawk of Guru Gobind Singh.

Movement I

In Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s Orison (Aarti) of Guru Gobind Singh, we witness the reflection of a civilization looking at itself in mirror. Batalvi was the spiritual inheritor of the legacy of Bulleh Shah, the voice, like him, of a broken land. I say legacy, perhaps it would be better to say responsibility. Or burden. And it is a hard one to bear. When the rarefied thought of a culture speaks through the voice of a single mortal, if the vessel is not made of the strongest materiel, it will shatter. As Batalvi did. Bulleh Shah, despite his faith of being…


May 02 2021

There is a cave in South Africa which tells an interesting story about human beings and our place on earth. In the cave one finds full skeletal remains of large cats which tells us that this was a den of these animals. Additionally there are many fragmentary bones of various other animals in the cave, with all of them bearing tooth marks of these large cats, meaning that they were brought into this den and eaten by these predators – among these remains of prey are bones of Homo erectus.

Then, at a much later level…


A world system is essentially a trans-civilisational entity : which allows us to and leads us towards understanding human history as an integrated whole. This does not mean that one theoretical framework can explain or account for all ideas, institutions or personalities or even explain the human experience of all people of the world; arguably, no historical theory can do that, in fact nothing imagined by human beings can, for that one would need to be a god.

However, we as students of history can select a limited dimension of reality, primarily created out of words and numbers, and maybe…


Sakee and Gura met at the Cliff at the Edge of the World every afternoon, where sitting under a copse of trees by a rocky outcrop, they would, till evening fall, talk of things of love. They would speak of a past when they weren’t best of friends and laugh at it – Gura loud and boastfully, and Sakee in a shy timorousness, as if made of bells, a melody, echoed from far away on a breeze caressed day.

Every day, they met, for many unchanging years They spoke of many futures, in which they both got old, in a…


- the land and the people, Part I of III

In this essay, I’m going to conduct an overview survey of the human geography of the lands controlled or politically dominated by Sikhs in the 18th and 19th centuries. The the main motivation for this essay is some discussions recently on Twitter regarding the nature of various forms of kingdoms and empires in Northern India, especially in modern times.

I had proposed that the Mughal and Afghan empires were, essentially, foreign in the Indian civilisational domain. To which some had raised an argument that Sikhs themselves were conquerors in lands which became part of the Sikh dominions. My intention here…


Prologue to a Fog of Ages

For days the traveller had walked the wilderness to reach the desolate sands of the red desert. His only companion was a young khamel, bought from a merchant of Ptaha at the fair of the Crafter god in the temple city of Kayanoor. Ah, Kayanoor! A pearl of the deserts, even if its city-folk were all too haughty, and merchants all the choicest crooks. A city of soaring spires, gleaming golden against the azure desert sky, and only slightly lighter than the sky were the vast globular domes of its grand temples. …


- an investigation and a proposed resolution

The problem of free will is an unresolved and perhaps irresolvable problem of philosophy. In one sense, it is the oldest philosophical problem, in another, it is ever changing and new. Why do we say that? Well, the way we ask the question depends on our understanding of the nature of the world – for example, if we believe in a world that is run at the whim of divine spirits (animism) our understanding of free will allows for, well, some of it; while if we believe in one, all powerful, all knowing God (monotheism), there is little room for…

GS “Sial Mirza” Goraya

Focus : History, Philosophy, Storytelling

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