Sikh Historian From New Zealand W.H. Mcleod Passes Away
W.H. Mcleod ,the man from faraway New Zealand who came to Punjab in the 1950s as a Christian missionary but ended up being a globally-reputed historian on Sikhs has passed away. He was dedicated over four decades of his life in researching Sikh history, died in Dunedin on Monday night.
Mcleod, 77, the son of a sheep-farmer in New Zealand had come to Punjab, the north Indian border province that has a Sikh majority population, as a Christian missionary in 1958. Soon after settling down in Batala town, 40 km from Amritsar, Mcleod found his interest in Christianity waning and was drawn to Sikh history.
"Mcleod played a major role in establishing and popularising the academic study of Sikhism outside India. He leaves behind a body of work on Sikhism which will be a source of reference to the coming generations of Sikh scholars," Roopinder Singh, author of "Guru Nanak: his life and teachings" and a senior journalist said.
Described by many as an "unsung success story" who acquired "global repute" with his work as a historian, Mcleod left New Zealand in 1958 to work as a missionary in northern Punjab. He taught Punjab history at Baring College in Batala town before his interest as a missionary started to fade.
Unimpressed with the existing studies at that time on the 10 Sikh Gurus, Mcleod got immersed in Sikh history and religion and even Punjabi, a language he learnt to speak with ease. He lost all interest and contact with the church as he pursued Sikh history.
"It (his death) is a huge loss to the Sikh community. He always added a fresh perspective to the development and history of the Sikhs as opposed to the traditional view of romanticising it overly," said Punjab-based author of the book "Sikhs Unlimited" Khushwant Singh.
Mcleod wrote several books, including "Guru Nanak and Sikh Religion" (translated into Punjabi by Amritsar's Guru Nanak Dev University), "The Evolution of Sikh Community", "The Sikhs - History, Religion and Society", "Sikhs of the Khalsa" and many others. He did his PhD on Sikh history from the University of London.
Some of his books and research came in for criticism from Sikh scholars but there were many who admired his tireless work on Sikhism.
"He became an international authority on the religion, perhaps the best known outside Punjab and India, and the man who has done more to introduce Sikhism to the world outside India than anyone else," said I.J. Singh, an academic.
"It is because of a few writers, and Hew McLeod above all, that the world has any inkling of Sikhism as an independent religion, with a unique, universal and timeless world view. He brought Sikhism to Western academia," Singh wrote Tuesday on an international website on Sikhs.