Dr Trilochan Singh

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Dr Trilochan Singh’s life was dedicated to the sadhana (spiritual discipline) of scholarship committed to spread the light of the message of the Sikh Gurus as contained in the Sikh scriptures. He established his command over Sikh history, philosophy, theology and scriptures and the fruits of his intense labours and researches have come to us in the form of well researched biographies of Guru Nanak, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Tegh Bahadur, authentic translations of Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Dasm Granth and 20 books in English and over 200 learned research papers on the same subject.

In his mother tongue Punjabi, he had written much on literary criticism and had produced remarkable translations of classical writings of Plato, Confucius, Spinoza, Vivekananda, Tagore and Dr Radhakrishnan. His first-work - The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs, a UNESCO publication of which he was the chief translator and editor (Allen and Uniwin) published in 1960 was the first real presentation in English of the hymns of the Sikh Gurus and medieval Saints and Bhaktas. It stimulated interest of the Western Scholars in Sikhism. Dr Trilochan Singh was the first scholar to present the true lives and times of Guru Nanak, Guru Hari Krishan and Guru Tegh Bahadur.

The creative power, the originality of his method, the courageous confrontation of unsolved historical problems, the acute analysis and exposition of historical evidence and careful marshalling of all available details were collated into stirring narratives of the lives and times of Guru Nanak, Guru Hari Krishan and Guru Tegh Bahadur. These biographies make the readers feel as if they have established a holy communion with the Gurus and their divine compositions.

Dr Trilochan Singh was the first scholar to present to the English speaking world the Hymns of Sikh Gurus with detailed commentary in 1975 with the publication of his book “Hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur : Songs of Nirvana”. Professor K.R Srinivasa Iyenger, Vice-President, Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters) writes” “The commentary is redolent of the panorama of the global landscape of the spirit... One light reinforces another, rivers meet and mingle many colours from a variegated spectrum and so Guru-bani becomes in Dr Trilochan Singh’s hands a series of magic casements opening on the infinitudes of the spiritscape”. Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, President, National

Academy of Letters India, writes: “Dr Trilochan Singh knows not only the language of the scriptures, his own mother tongue Punjabi, but also Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and several other languages and I can testify to my personal knowledge of his very close acquaintance with the Bengali language also. His is a rare accomplishment”. Dr Trilochan Singh had also the distinction of having delivered lectures at nine Indian Universities, six Universities in Britain and various Universities and institutions in U.S.A. viz. Bucknell, Washington, New York, Pittsburgh, Kingston, Boston, .Hanover, Portland, Modesto, Stockton, Yuba City, Los Angeles, Berkeley on Sikh religion, history, philosophy and culture. He also read learned papers at International Conference held in Britain in 1976.

His Calcutta University lectures were published as “Ethical Philosophy of Guru Nanak” and his learned paper read at the Annual Conference of the Standing Conference on Inter-faith Dialogue in the Field of Education in Bedford in 1977 was published in the book “Death” edited by John Prickett.

Dr Trilochan Singh was the only scholar who during his stay in U.K. in 1976-77 successfully pleaded for the rights of the Sikhs to wear a turban (Turban case), first by appearing as defence witness in Aylesbury Crown Court of the Honourable Judge Lawrence Verney then by writing an authoritative book “The Turban and Sword of the Sikhs” and later on in the final stages by pleading the case with the British M.Ps., and when Lord Avebury, the liberal member presented the bill in the House of Lords on 5th October, 1976, Dr Trilochan Singh was present in the House of Lords as a special invitee.

I would like to quote from the report of House of Lords, the speech of Lord Avebury: “My Lords... I have had the benefit of advice from one of the foremost & distinguished scholars of the world, Dr Trilochan Singh... To quote from a book of Dr Trilochan Singh shortly to be published” ‘The Turban of the Sikhs is not merely a head dress. It is inseparably connected with Sikh baptism and the Sikh Code of Conduct. That is as authoritative a statement and interpretation of the scriptures as you will get, as in the Sikh religion there is not hierarchy of derics who can add to or embellish the doctrine as time goes by”. He also witnessed the glowing tributes paid to the integrity, heroism and character of the Sikhs in British Parliament by members of the Parliament namely Mr. Kenneth Marks, Mr. Cyril Smith, Mr. Frank Hatton, Mr. John Ovenden, Sir Geroge Sindair, Mr. Winston S. Churchill (grandson of Wartime P.M. Mr. Churchill), Lord Mowbray, Stourton, Earl Grey.

The ‘Turban Victory’ in U.K. helped the Sikhs to win the same battle in Canada. Dr. Trilochan Singh has rendered a great service to Sikhism by writing his last book titled “Ernest Trumpp and William Hewat McLoed as Scholars of Sikh History Religion and Culture”, exposing threadbare the evil intentions of Christian Missionaries, Ernest Trumpp and W.H. McLeod and Sikh scholars of their ilk-Pashaura Singh and Dr Piar Singh who have intentionally misrepresented Sikhism.

The book is the result of author’s tireless exertions, careful study of historical documents and interpretation of scriptures in an unbiased manner. The learned scholar has demolished the edifice of distortions and misinterpretations of Sikhism faulted by Dr Trumpp, Dr McLeod, Dr Piar Singh and Pashaura Singh with malafide intentions. Dr Noel Q. King has rightly opined in the Foreword: “This is a work to be likened to the genre, a Mirror to Princes. An honest, clean-thinking Sikh somehow still unbrainwashed by western academic method, with his mind saturated with traditional Sikh scholarship and his life permeated with a praxis which goes back in unbroken succession to the Gurus themselves in telling us something.

He may seem innocent of our kind of critical demolition of the tradition as received but he is logical. in his own kind of logic and he is steeped in an understanding of the whole literature in the original which no foreign scholar can hope to equal. He is holding a mirror to certain persons, certain groups and saying, ‘This is how you look to a beholder’. Dr Trilochan Singh’s book is not only ‘A Mirror to Princes’, it is the presentation of a tragedy after the fashion of Kalidas, Aeschylus and Shakespeare...

He comes into the struggle in a manner reminiscent of his chivalrous forebears repelling the invaders in the eighteenth century raining blows on all sides. It is a glorious effort and Dr Singh is seen for who he is, a true scholar gentleman and a noble Knight of the order of the Honourable Khalsa, the lion hearted”.

My acquaitance with Dr Trilochan Singh was short lived, only of four years. He was invited to USA in 1990 to deliver a lecture in a seminar. He expressed his inability to attend that conference, instead he told me of the damage which had been done by Dr McLeod and Christian Missionary group distorting the Sikh philosophy. He wanted to write a book giving a befitting reply to them and to save the honour and dignity of the Sikh Panth.

These words appealed to me and I promised to help him in every way for writing, publishing and printing of a valuable book on this subject. How much Dr Trilochan Singh laboured, made researches in different libraries including the National Library Alipore, Calcutta, spend days and nights to complete this voluminous work and crossed other difficulties is indescribable. But, ‘Alas’, he could not see this book in the hands of Mr. McLeod in his life time, to touch his inner soul for having shamefully distorted the Holy scriptures of the Sikh i.e. Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib deliberately and with malicious intention.

On the evening of the 15th February 1993, Dr Trilochan Singh was discussing the book with the Editor of ‘The Sikh Courier’ London at his resident, when he breathed his last, with pen in his hand and the final manuscript in his lap. Before his death he had gone through the proofs of the entire book, except the Appendixes, which were written, completed and found with original manuscript just three days before his death.

The Foreword was received from Dr Noel Q. King, two days after his death. The whole Sikh community is indebted to the great scholar for his valuable contribution, as a parting gift, which will surely become a source book to deal with hostile critics like Dr. W. H. McLeod.

Editor, Daily Navi Parbhat BACHITTAR SINGH GIANI
Calcutta-Chandigarh Advocate

Taken from Foreword by Dr. Anil Chandra Banerjee

Dr. Trilochan Singh, whose valuable researches have thrown new light on several important aspects of Sikh history and religion has offered in the following pages, the first full-length biography of Guru Hari Krishan. That his choice fell upon the career of the Eighth Guru, is characteristic of his scholarship which seeks to fill up the gaps in Sikh studies on the basis of new sources of information and new assessment of old sources.

The pontificate of Guru Hari Krishan, brief and uneventful, is not generally supposed to be of first rate importance in the history and development of Sikhism. But Dr. Trilochan Singh grasped its significance, as a period of transition which revealed the darker side of masand system as also the spiritual vitality which enabled Sikhism to survive the storms of Mughal policy in Aurangzeb's reign.

The history of the Sikhs is closely integrated with the tenets and ideals of their religion. Again and again we come across episodes which cross the border line between matter and spirit, and human activities appear to be guided by forces which a mere intellectual apprach can never fathom. This is a point which Dr. Trilochan Singh has not ignored in the biography. And this is what makes his interpretation of Guru Hari Krishan's inner and outer life so convincing.

Some Published Works