Rare 1798 Welshman’s Account of Sikhs Discovered

WELSHMAN’S ACCOUNT ON SIKHS – 1798 by Inderjeet Singh (Nottingham)

I would like to share with the readers of ‘Daily Sikh Updates’, a very interesting extract on
Sikhs from the book ‘The View of Hindoostan’ written by Thomas Pennant, published in

The Author

Thomas Pennant (1726-98) was a prolific author of natural history and topographical works
from Wales who travelled extensively to catalogue flora, fauna and antiquities of every sort.
He is considered as the greatest Welsh travel writer of his time and one of the best British
topographical authors.1

The Book

‘The view of Hindoostan’ was published posthumously in 1798 by his son David Pennant.
The volume 1 of this book relates to ‘Western Hindustan’ and on page 39 and 40 he gives a
short account on Sikhs. It is very intriguing to know how this British traveller viewed Sikhs in
late 18th century. The author describes Sikhs as ‘pure monotheists, and they ‘worship God
alone, without image or intermediation’. He goes further and says that ‘they may be called
the reformers of India’.

Later he talks about Sikh army which consisted wholly of cavalry and through ‘courage &
enterprize’ extended their kingdom over Lahore, Multan and western parts of Delhi. These
cities, at that time were also the names of provinces and are here referred as such.
Despite some errors, the account is a useful addition to other European accounts of 18th
century on Sikhs. I have producing the actual extract, so that readers can form their own
interpretation, with its original spelling. Some of the common words are spelled differently
but readers will be able to understand them.

Extract from the book

“The city of Lahore is next, about a hundred and fifty miles distant from Moultan. It is the
capital of the Seiks, a people which started up in the fifteenth century, under a Hindoo of
the name of Nanuck, born in 1470. They are a set of religionists, tolerant in matters of faith
like the Hindoos, but, unlike them, admit proselytes. They require conformity in certain
signs and ceremonies, but in other respects are pure monotheists; they worship God alone,
without image or intermediation. They may be called the reformers of India. They retain
also a calvinistical principle, and take an oath ever to oppose a monarchical government.
They eat any kind of meat excepting beef, for like the Hindoos they hold the ox in the
utmost veneration. Their general food is pork, probably because it is forbidden by the
Mahometans, whom they hold in abhorrence. Their army consists wholly of horse; they can
raise a hundred thousand cavalry, and make war in the most savage mode. They kept long
concealed or unnoticed, at length became formidable by their courage and enterprize, and
extended their conquests over Lahore, Moultan, and the western parts of Delhi.”2

1. The National Library of Wales
2. Thomas Pennant (1798): The View of Hindustan Vol 1 & 2. Printed by Henry Hughs,

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