Saturday, October 01, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

SAHEBZADA AJIT SINGH JI
Shamsher Singh Ashok

 Sahibzada Ajit Singh (1687 - 1705), the eldest son of Guru Gobind Singh, was born to Mata Sundari at Paonta Sahib on 26 January, 1687.  The following year, Guru Gobind Singh returned with the family to Anandpur where Ajit Singh was brought up in the approved Sikh style. He was taught the religious texts, philosophy and history, and had training in the manly arts such as riding, swordsmanship and archery.  He grew up into a handsome young man, strong, intelligent and a natural leader of men.  Soon after the creation of the Khalsa on 30 March, 1699, he had his first test of skill. A Sikh sangat coming from Pothohar, Northwest Punjab, was attacked and looted on the way by the Ranghars of Nuh, a short distance from Anandpur Sahib across the River Sutlej.    Guru  Gobind  Singh  sent Sahibzada Ajit Singh, barely 12 years of age then, to that village. Ajit Singh at the  head of 100 Sikhs reached there on 23 May, 1699, punished the Ranghars and recovered the looted property.  A harder task was entrusted to him the following year when the hill chiefs, supported by imperial troops, attacked Anandpur.  Sahibzada Ajit Singh was made responsible for the defense of Taragarh Fort which became the first target of attack. This, according to the Bhatt Vahis, happened on 29 August, 1700. Ajit Singh, assisted by Bhai Ude Singh, a seasoned soldier, repulsed the attack.  He also fought valiantly in the battles of Nirmohgarh in October, 1700. On 15 March, 1701, a sangat, column of Sikh devotees, coming from Darap area (present Sialkot district) was waylaid by Gujjars and Ranghars.  Sahibzada Ajit Singh led a successful expedition against them. As instructed by Guru Gobind Singh, he took out (7 March, 1703) 100 horsemen to Bassi, near Hoshiarpur,  and  rescued  a  young Brahman bride forcibly taken away by the local Pathan chieftain. In the prolonged siege of Anandpur in 1705, Sahibzada Ajit Singh again displayed his qualities of courage and steadfastness.  When, at last, Anandpur was vacated on the night of 5-6 December, 1705, he was given command of the rearguard.  As the besiegers, violating their solemn promises for a safe conduct to the evacuees, attacked the column, he stoutly engaged them on a hill-feature called Shahi tibbi until relieved by Bhai Ude Singh.  Ajit Singh crossed the Sarsa, then in spate, along with his father, his younger brother, Jujhar Singh, and some fifty Sikhs. Further reduced in numbers by casualties at the hands of a pursuing troop from Ropar, the column reached Chamkaur Sahib in the evening of 6 December, 1705, and took up position in a garhi, high-walled fortified house.  The host, since swelled by reinforcements from Malerkotla and Sirhind and from among the local Ranghars and Gujjars, soon caught up with them and threw a tight ring around Chamkaur. An unequal but grim battle commenced with the sunrise on 7 December, 1705 - in the words of Guru Gobind Singh's Zafarnamah, a mere forty defying a million.  The besieged, after they had exhausted the meagre stock of ammunition and arrows, made sallies in batches of five each to engage the encircling host with sword and spear. Sahibzada Ajit Singh led one of the sallies and laid down his life fighting in the thick of the battle.  Gurudwara Qatalgarh now marks the spot where he fell, followed by Sahibzada Jujhar Singh.

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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