There is a long tradition of the study of Sikhism in Western academia. However, historiographical accounts still lack a clear vision of the early...

There is a long tradition of the study of Sikhism in Western academia. However, historiographical accounts still lack a clear vision of the early formation of the tradition. Rahuldeep Singh Gill, Associate Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University, addresses this lacuna in Drinking From Love’s Cup: Surrender and Sacrifice in the Vars of Bhai Gurdas Bhalla (Oxford University Press, 2017). Through a detailed analysis and lucid translation of the literary tradition of Bhai Gurdas Bhalla (d. 1636), the tradition’s most important poet, Gill challenges and critiques current modes of Sikh scholarship. Bhai Gurdas’ poetry shaped early Sikh theology and practice, providing an emotive lexicon for communal identity. Gill highlights some of the most important of Gurdas’vars in articulating key themes in his writing, including spiritual death, martyrdom, sacrifice, and divine love. These tropes often emerge in the context of relationships with Sikh leadership, such as the martyr Guru Arjan and his son Guru Hargobind. In our conversation we discussed the state of Sikh Studies, the founding tradition around Guru Nanak and the transformations that shaped Gurdas’ life, the Sikh canon and its broader textual landscape, Islamicate influences, the manuscript tradition, practices of feet veneration, scholarly orientalism, translational practices, and interfaith engagement.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at [email protected].

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