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The Handalis were the followers of Handal, a Jat of the Manjha, who was converted to the Sikh religion by Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru. Bidhi Chand, a descendant of Handal, was a Sikh priest at Jandiala, in the Amritsar district. He took unto himself a Muhammadan woman, whom he attached to him rather by ties of love than of law, and upon this he was abandoned by his followers.
Out to Degrade Guru Nanak
He then devised a religion of his own, and compiled a Granth and a Janamsakhi to correspond. In both he sought to exalt to the rank of chief apostle his father Handal, and degrade Guru Nanak, the legitimate Sikh Guru. For this purpose creative fancy was largely employed. To serve the double object of debasing Guru Nanak and justifying himself to men, he stated that Nanak had also taken unto himself a Muhammadan woman bound to him by no bonds save those of lucre and ephemeral affection.
According to Bidhi Chand, Guru Nanak, on his journey to Sach Khand, the true region, or the Land of the Leal (Scottish,the place of the faithful, heaven), met the Hindu saint Dhruv. One day while on earth the young child Dhru sat on his father's lap, and was removed by his step-mother. For this trivial slight he left his home and turned his thoughts to God.
God accepted his worship, and in recognition thereof offered him the highest place in heaven-the pole-star, as not moving, is supposed to have the position of honour, and there Vishnu set him in the centre of the stars that circled round him. Dhru began to converse with Guru Nanak, and told him that only one man, Kabir (Persian for most high), had previously been able to visit that select and happy region.
In this there was a covert depreciation of Guru Nanak. Kabir, a famous religious teacher, by caste a weaver, was his precursor, and the Handali's object was to show that Guru Nanak was a follower of Kabir and not an original thinker. Guru Nanak is then represented to have said that a third man, Handal, was approaching, and would be present in the twinkling of an eye.
Guru Nanak, proceeds the Handali writer, continued his journey to Sach Khand, and there found Kabir fanning God, who is represented as the four-armed Hindu deity Vishnu. A crude drawing in the Handali Janamsakhi represents God and Kabir in truly anthropomorphic fashion as a priest and his attendant disciple.
Nanak informed God that he had not fully carried out the orders he had obtained prior to his departure to earth and his human manifestation. He had only promulgated God's message in three directions. The western portion of the world remained still ignorant and unvisited. He was therefore remanded by God to fully accomplish his mission. On his return to earth he met in one of the lower worlds a Jogi with whom, as was his wont, he entered into a familiar conversation. The Jogi, in reply to Nanak's question, told him that he had been, in a previous state of existence in the Treta age, a servant of Raja Janak, King of Mithila, and father-in-law of the renowned deified hero Ram Chandar.
Nanak is made to confess to him that he, too, had been a servant of Raja Janak, and that they had both served under the same roof in the same menial capacity. The Jogi then questioned Nanak as to his secular position in the Dwapar age. Nanak is represented as saying with the same unsuspecting frankness that he had been the son of a teli or oil-presser, a trade held to be offensive and degrading to Hindus. Thus was the depreciation of Guru Nanak complete.
The Handali Fantasies blended into the Janamsakhis?
Such were the fictitious narratives introduced into the Janamsakhis, and, the reins of fancy having once been let loose, it was difficult for the Handalis to know at what goal to pause. The result was a total transformation of the biographies of Guru Nanak which they had found in existence. This occurred about the year A.D. 1640. Bidhi Chand died in the year A.D. 1654. His successor was Devi Das, whom his Musalman paramour bore him.
The Handali heresy was opportune for its followers. Zakaria Khan Bahadur, the Muhammadan Governor of the Panjab, about a century afterwards, set a price on the head of every Sikh. At first he offered twenty-five, then ten, and finally five rupees. The heads of Sikhs were supplied in abundance by both Musalmans and Hindus, and the price offered was consequently reduced by degrees. The Handalis protested to the officials of Zakaria that they were not Sikhs of Nanak, but a totally different sect who merited not persecution; and in proof of this they pointed to their Granth, and their Janamsakhi, and to the Musalman companion of Bidhi Chand. Notwithstanding these subterfuges, the Handalis were subsequently persecuted and deprived of their land by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but they still exist as a small community, whose head quarters are at Jandiala, where the guardians of their temple enjoy a jagir or fief from the British Government. They are now .known by the name of Niranjanie, or followers of the bright God (Niranjan).
In the present age, accustomed as we are to the use and multiplication of printed books, it is not at once easy to realize how records of every description could have been forged, altered, and destroyed in an age when only manuscripts existed. It must be remembered that books then were few, and that combinations among their possessors, especially if supported by political power or religious fanaticism, could easily be effected. The Handalis apparently had sufficient influence to destroy nearly all the older, original accounts of the life of Guru Nanak.
As well there is no doubt that there was a great destruction of Sikh manuscripts during the persecution of the Sikh faith by the Muhammadan authorities. Sikh works or treatises preserved in shrines became special objects of attack. Their existence was known and could not be denied by the Sikh priests, and systematic raids were organized to take possession of them. It was only copies preserved by private individuals, living at a distance from the scenes of persecution, which had any chance of escape from the fury of the Moslems.
The British Scholars would attempt to do the same thing, in their turn, buying up and rewriting not only hand scribed Gurmuki Sikh documents but ancient Hindu and Jain Holy Scripts as well. Attempting to change history and weaken all the religions of India, rendering their zealous missionaries' task of 'plowing' the people of India and the Panjab like a fertile 'field' in which to sew and grow their own religion. Little did they know that when the Sikh Gurus spoke of crossing the ocean of life that their cristian cross was no more than a symbol representing that same crossing. A simple stick crossing another stick as a bridge crosses a River on the way to Sach Kand.
In 1984 Another Loss of Ancient Manuscripts
This time it was not the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Muslims or the English but the Indian Army itself that would, in the process of clearing Sant Bindranwale and his supporters from the Akal Takat, destroy many priceless, irreplaceable manuscripts and relics of Sikh History and the many Lives lost that darkest of days.
- Macauliffe, M.A (1909). The Sikh Religion: Its Gurus Sacred Writings and Authors. Low Price Publications. ISBN 8175361328.
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