Govinda, Singh

Govinda, Singh the tenth and last guru (teacher) of the sect of the Sikhs, was born at Patnah, in Behar, in 1661. He. was a son of Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru. He was educated at Madra Des, in the Punjab, where the Sikhs have always been very numerous. His father, whose power was offensive to the Great Mogul Aurungzebe, was put to death by order of the latter in 1675. Govinda himself had to retire to the mountains surrounding Djemnah, where he passed twenty-five years, devoting his time to religious meditation, to the study of the Koran, of the religious books of the Hindoos, and the Persian language. He then undertook a religious reformation of the Sikhs (q.v.). He claimed to be a special envoy of God, though he at the same time always declared that he was only a mortal man. He sanctioned the abolition of caste; all the Sikhs are to be equal. They must only adore the one God. The worship of saints and of images of the Deity are regarded as acts of superstition. The precepts contained in the Koran and the Puranas cannot procure salvation. The faithful, on the contrary, must totally separate from the Mussulmans and the Hindoos. They are permitted to kill animals and to use their flesh. Govinda declared all to be infamous who would kill female children; but to exterminate the Mongols was, on the other hand, declared to be a meritorious act. War was to be the occupation of all his followers, to every one of whom the gave the title singh (lion or soldier), and threatened with excommunication and everlasting damnation all who would abandon the chief in a battle at the moment of danger. For admission into the sect a kind of baptism was prescribed, and it was declared to be a meritorious act to bathe from time to time in the lake of Amritsir. Govinda declared that he would be everywhere where five of his disciples would be assembled; and he introduced a kind of council, at which the prominent chiefs met to discuss public affairs. Govinda gained many converts for the sect of the Sikhs. His, relative, Ram Rae, who disputed with him the title guru, was put to death by his order. Having become involved in a war with the Mongols, he twice defeated them; but finally, as all his allies abandoned him, he had to withdraw into the interior of his states. While he endeavored to defend his strongholds, all his children perished. When the last stronghold, Tchamkor, fell, he made good his escape in the disguise of a dervish, and, safely reached the desert of Bhutinda. Having been joined by many of his adherents, he was able to repulse his enemies. He finally accepted an invitation to the countt of the Great Mogul Aurungzebe; but, before he reached, Delhi, Aurungzebe died; but the successor of the latter, Bahadur Shah, received him with marked honor, and is said to have made him governor of a province in the valley of the Godavery. There he died soon after. The Sikhs regard Govinda as superior to the preceding gurus, and none of his successors ehas been deemed worthy to bear the title. Govinda is the author of a part of Deswen Padshalha Greuth (Book of the Tenth King), one of the sacred books of the Sikhs, which is written in Hindoo verses, with a conclusion in the Peirsian language. Of the sixteen parts of this work, the five first and a portion of the sixth are from Govinda. He also made additions to the other sacred book of the Sikhs, the Greuth (Book), a collection of sentences of several gurus. Besides these works, he wrote Rehet name (Book of Rules) and Tenkcha name (Book of Restrictions). — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 21:506 sq.; McGregor, History of the Sikhs, volume 1. (A.J.S.)

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