Max Arthur Macauliffe (10 September 1841 – 15 March 1913), an English Translator of the Sikh scriptures and historian of early Sikhism, was born on September 10, 1841, at Newcastle West, Limerick County, Ireland.
He was the first author to bring the Sikh faith to the attention of the “Educated Intelligencia” of western world.
He was educated at the Newcastle School, Springfield College and Queen’s College, Galway. At the examination of 1862 he was chosen for the Indian Civil Service and was assigned to the Punjab where he joined his appointment in February 1864. He reached the grade of a Deputy Commissioner in 1882 and became a divisional judge two years later.
Translator of Sikh scriptures
The focus of Macauliffe’s life was in his work as a Translator and Interpreter of Sikhism to the English-speaking world. His interest in Sikhism was sparked by attending a Diwali celebration in Amritsar shortly after arriving in Punjab. In order to understand ceremonies and the importance of the Golden Temple, he undertook a study of Sikhism and especially of the hymns of the Gurus. He found himself deeply engaged by what he studied because of the “sublimity of their style and the high standard of ethics which they indicated.” On May 3, 1893, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Ferozepur, where Macauliffe was then posted as a divisional judge wrote a letter which was forwarded to him by the chief secretary of the Khalsa Diwan, Lahore, urging him to put in hand a full scale rendering of the Holy Book. As more and more Sikhs were learning the English language, such a translation, the letter said, had become the need of the community.
Place of honour
Macauliffe will always occupy an honoured place in the hall of fame of the Sikhs. He translated portions from their scriptures with rare love and devotion and identified himself completely with their heritage and destiny. He delivered lectures and presented papers on Sikhism at many different places.
For as long as there is anyone wanting to explore the faith through the medium of English language, Max Arthur Macauliffe’s name will live; so will his six precious volumes inscribed to the Sikh religion. Historically too, Macauliffe’s translation is important for it records the interpretation of the sacred texts as orally communicated by Gianni’s from generation to generation. It thus preserves a valuable tradition and has become a key to the understanding of the Sikh thought.
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