Seminar on Zafarnameh conducted by Naad Pargaas USA

The Guru in Zafarnameh has dismantled that idea of racialized history of religion and reasserted the spirit of religion ...

Feb, 12, 2022
Rochester Hills,  Michigan
Zafarnama Harjot Kaur 2.jpg

A seminar on Zafarnameh was conducted by Naad Pargaas USA at Sikh Gurdwara, Rochester Hills Michigan.  Inaugurating the Seminar with welcome speech, Harjot Kaur, (Convener, Naad Pargaas USA), said that Zafarnameh has remained a central text to religious tradition of Sikhs. However, with passing time only a limited understating and interpretation of the text could be developed in academic discourses. She mentioned that the colonial modes of historiography have overshadowed the discourse on Sikh history and Sikhs must attempt to bring interpretation of history closer to Sabda Philosophy. In that background, Naad Pargaas USA has undertaken this attempt to re-engage with Zafernameh and understand its wider meaning that remains obscured in routine modes of approaching the text.

There were two papers that were presented in the seminar, followed by a question-and-answer session. In the first paper, Amandeep Singh, discussed three modes of approaching Zafarnameh- Literary, Historical, Conceptual. He discussed the underlying themes of oath, breaking of oath,  the idea of religious state and its implied nationalism. He said that interpreting Zafarnameh is not merely an mechanical enlisting of historical events where the Guru is challenging Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, but it is also an art of return to the religious belief system that the Guru presented to both Aurangzeb and hill rajas. Whenever a religious belief system is interpreted primarily in history, it triggers the process of racialization of religion causing comparative understanding of the idea of religions. In due course this comparative understanding turns into an assertion of racial superiority that is often amalgamated with ethnicity to develop the idea of nation thereby producing a hyper sense of nationalism. The Guru in Zafarnameh has dismantled that idea of racialized history of religion and reasserted the spirit of religion back into history. 

Zafarnama Prof Jagdish Singh.jpg

Prof Jagdish Singh presented the second paper in the seminar. He said that many times it becomes ambiguous to locate the spirit of text from its content and therefore, the form of the text becomes equally important. Discussing the transcendence from dark feminine into mother principle of Suhag Neeyam he laid down a map of different stages in which the art forms become expressible. He noted that it requires an empirical investigation to decode the sensuous experience in Sufi texts, like that of Bulleh Shah, which would usher a sense of Masti.  This ticklish sense of Masti becomes dense in mystic experience but the Guru has transcended the Naam Rasa into Sabda philosophy bringing the Dasam Granth closer to the status of revelation. The process of the naming of God is therefore an essential element of Zafarnameh.   He also laid down insights on Nameh tradition. Commenting upon the place of its writing at the abode of Desu Tarkan, he further added that the feudalized tribal psyche among the Sikhs has gained attractions of racial consciousness that has buried the essence of Zafarnameh in Sikh history making it a letter of asserting ego and celebrating historical glory. Its epistemological and philosophical meanings are nonetheless marginalized in the cacophony of its one-track interpretation. 

The seminar was concluded by the word of thanks from president of Gurdwara committee Shubdev Singh.

Naad Pargaas USA is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization that is dedicated to understanding Śabda tradition and Naam inspired universality. The organization undertakes independent research to promote intellectual exercise in the domain of poetry, literature, philosophy, and critical theory with special interest in Sikh Studies. The organization relies on Sangat’s support to encourage independent research and contribute to such pursuit. For more information, please visit www.naadpargaasusa.com.

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