Hindol Sengupta is a prolific writer. He is churning out books at the rate many people can not even read. His latest book – The Sacred Sword, is a fictionalized biography of last Sikh Guru – Guru Gobind Singh.
I loved the way Hindol opens The Sacred Sword. The beheading of Guru Tegh Bahadur – the 9th Sikh Guru and the father of Guru Gobind Singh in Chandni Chowk. It is a well-narrated story that gives you goosebumps. You can feel what a bystander would have felt that day. You feel the brutality that was prevalent 400 years ago, you almost thank your stars that you are 400 years away from it. The way Guru Tegh Bahadur’s head goes from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib to his family is intriguing. You get a glimpse of how the court of Aurangzeb worked and the role his sister Jahanara played in it.
There is a nice description of a young Gobind, who becomes the Guru at a tender age. After that, the story becomes that of a warrior. How he learns to fight and more than fight how he learns to inspire the men around him.
In any hero’s story, most other people become the villain. In this story, while the main villain is the very expected Aurangzeb. However, there are other minor villains as well and these are the kings of small kingdoms in Punjab. Remember, Punjab of those days included the Himachal and Haryana of today. These kings play games to sustain their kingdom – nothing much seems to matter more to them. There is a struggle between the Kings, Mughals and the Guru. The strength of Guru is his fighting ability, his fighter spirit and his resolve to not bow down to Mughals – who gave a brutal death to his father.
In The Sacred Sword, Hindol Sengupta focusses a lot on the Guru Gobind Singh – the Warrior. I think one of the key features of his life was that he put an end to the Guru Parampara – you can interpret it the way you want. He sent scholars all around and if I am wrong primarily to Varanasi, to compile the Guru Granth Sahib. I would have liked an exploration of how he compiled the Granth Sahib that would serve as the Guru for the rest of the time to come. It would have been a great exploration of his contribution to the Granth.
Is it not an irony that he adopts the ‘One Book Following’ concept from the religion that he and his predecessors fought all their lives?
I would have liked some insight into his personal life. His wives are mentioned in passing by. Who were these women, what kind of a relationship did he share with them? Did they have a role to play in his life besides bearing him sons? In fact, did he share a close relationship with any of his followers? He comes across as a lone ranger fighting all by himself.
Language is simple, pace hurried and chaotic. In the story of Guru Gobind Singh, I expected a lot of Veer Ras and religious fervor. What I got was a documentation of his life as it exists in the available literature.
I am increasingly reading books that start on a very high note but then fizzle out. My interpretation is that authors begin with good intentions but somewhere down the line either lose steam or come under deadline pressures. Or it is the training in journalism that tells you to have a strong start?
There are small errors like he refers to Apples from the Hills – Apple came to Punjab hills much later. Sikh word is used way before it got institutionalized for the community. A 57-course meal – to my knowledge, I am aware of the 56-course meal which is also a way of saying, and the no refers to the type of food items and not courses.
The Sacred Sword is an easy read, a good book to gift to children around you. I do not think Indians beyond the boundaries of Punjab know much about the story of Guru Gobind Singh. This book will serve the purpose of introducing Guru Gobind Singh to readers and after that if it up to them to explore it further.
Buy this book – The Sacred Sword: The Legend of Guru Gobind Singh by Hindol Sengupta at Amazon.
Related Books to read
- Karmayogini – Biography of Ahilya Bai Holkar
- Raja Ravi Varma by Ranjit Desai
- Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar