Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sanyasi (monk)-Fakir rebellion of 1770 against the British India company - British India.

The Fakir-Sanyasi re bellion, 1770www.printsasia.com

Sanyasi rebellion was an early war for India's independence from foreign rule and the affected areas included Murshidabad and Baikunthupur forests of Jalpaiguri, in West Bengal. This rebellion, neither a saintly nor a patriotic movement, was more focused on the interference of religious freedom of the monks and fakirs. The holy men both Hindus and Muslim wanted to pursue their way of survival which they had been practising for centuries  and be left alone.
 

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The Hindu sanyasis or monks and the Muslim fakirs protested against the tax collection by the British company soon after Bengal famine of 1770. Both Hindu and Muslim holy men in those days used to go on a pilgrimage to various places of worship in Bengal and en route they would accept sizable money from rich landlords and Zamindars and this tradition had continued for many centuries. The British East India company  after the battle of Buxar in 1765, through cheating, conceit and coercion got the Diwani rights - full rights to collect land  trade revenues, etc from the last mogul ruler.
 

Under the new administration, the colonial rulers hiked the taxes and forced the landlords/Zamindars to pay revised taxes. Landlords had to cough up a major part of their income to pay taxes etc., failing of which may result in penalty or loss of lands. Besides, after paying a big chunk of money toward taxes,  they were left with meagre income to take  care of their personal need. Situation was so bad, they could not stretch their income and found it tough to make both ends meet.  Literally, affluent landlords now began to fall on  on hard time. With their poor income, they were unable to pay money to the Sanyasis and fakirs who were on pilgrimage. Landlords financial constraints impacted the holy men because  they could not undertake trips to holy places due to lack of funds. The colonial rulers forced them to pay taxes which they refused to pay  and registered their protest.

The holy men received money from the landlords, et al for several reasons. The money collected at various places was not meant for their personal gains. They sincerely  used part of the money to finance  trips to various holy places only. Part of the money was used by them to conduct daily prayers and  to meet other incidental expenses such as food, etc., on the temple premises. Rest of the money would be given to various shrines, etc., for their religious activities, prayers and temple rituals. Part of the money went for  free meals given to the  hungry pilgrims who had  arrived at the shrine after a day long walk.. So, there was no cheating and personal gain from the collection of public money.


Indian Politics .Dart board? rootsredindia.blogspot.com
Once British started collecting higher revenues, the Sanyasis  were not given any alms / money and numerous restrictions were placed on their movements. Further, the British considered  them as looters. The result was that these Sanyasis started raiding the government treasuries and Company’s factories. Warren Hastings contained the raids by the Sanyasis  and his direct action resulted in the  massacre of 150 unarmed sanyasi in 1771. After this incident, half a century long strife - the Sanyasi Uprising finally came to an end in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. 

A note on Sanyasis:

A genuine Hindu Sanyasi or Ascetic or monk is the one who renounces the world of materialism and seeks meditative and spiritual life to get salvation. Commonly elderly people, after completing all their duties as a father, take  to this world of self-questioning and wisdom. Some Acharyas or gurus become Sanyasi at a young age, learn Sastras, religious scriptures, etc to give spiritual guidance to the people at later age. In variably, all these monks strictly practice celibacy, shun alcohol, tobacco and non-vegetarian food.

 A true Sanyasi gets up in the early morning and does his religious duties with care  and reverence without fail.
 

Some of the zombie-like Sanyasis that you would have seen in Kumbha Mela are not sanyasis or monks in the true sense. A true sanyasi does not go around naked, smear ashes all over his body and smoke hashish or grass and be a nuisance to the people and the public. Such people as we see at the Kumbha Mela are just hobos and the police are unable to come down heavily on them.