Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

The Holy Gurus and their Commandments

Chapter 4

After accession, the Tenth Master decided that the arrows which he would use personally would be tipped with gold. Wearing a 'Kalgi', a diamond-studded plum, in his turban, arrayed in military order, he rode a fine charger. After some time he acquired a big war-drum. It was given the name 'Ranjit Nagara'. It was decided that 'Ranjit Nagara' (drum of victory) should always lead his forces.

Anandpur was in the vicinity of several hill states ruled by various chieftains.

Raja Bhim Chand of Bilaspur was very greatly disturbed on account of the reverberation caused in the hills whenever Ranjit Nagara was beaten even to attract people to the Guru's community kitchen. The Nagara was also used whenever the Tenth Master set out for hunting. The Raja of Bilaspur asked one of his ministers to establish contact with the Guru. When the envoy came, the Tenth Guru, truthful heart of goodness, suggested that if the Raja made the choice of coming to Anandpur, he would be welcomed. As suggested, the Raja visited Anandpur and both of them had the opportunity to discuss matters. The Raja felt satisfied that there was no desire in the Guru to dominate anyone. The next morning the Guru held a grand durbar, i.e., an assembly arranged in a royal manner. The gathering was held under a highly precious Shamiana, a palatial tent. It had been offered to the Guru by one of his devotees, Duni Chand, who had come from Kabul. Raja Bhim Chand grew very jealous when he carefully examined the rich display under the costly shamiana.

Raja Ratan Rai of Assam had also sent a gift to the tenth Master. It was an elephant. The name given to the elephant was Prasadi. The very sight of the elephant filled Raja Bhim Chand with greed to possess it. While returning to Bilaspur, he continued to contemplate as to what means were to be adopted for gaining the shamiana and the elephant. His son Ajmer Chand was to marry the daughter of the Raja of Srinagar (Garhwal). Raja Bhim Chand sent an emissary requesting that he should be given the shamiana and the elephant on loan. The Guru saw through his game. The representative of the Raja was clearly told that the gifts received from the devotees could not be made over to the Raja. When the Raja was apprised of the refusal, he sent a letter to the Guru asserting that if the things required were not sent, he would obtain them by force. The Tenth Master did not yield ground. Some of the rulers of the adjoining states advised Bhim Chand not to take recourse to war. For the time being, Bhim Chand suppressed his desire.

There were, however, many misconceptions, which incited the rulers of the small hill states against the Guru. They could not accept that people belonging to different castes should sit together in the community kitchen in order to eat together. They thought that not only their religious traditions were under challenge, but that also the devotees of the Guru were being organised as a big force for engulfing them. An aspect which gave great courage to those rulers was that the Mughal state was hostile to the Sikhs. The Tenth Master, however, with God always present with him, was devoted to the cause of preaching the true religion.

Apart from educating his followers in the art of war, he introduced them to the religious literature of lndia.

He was an enigmatic combination of many personages. Guru Gobind Singh was an accomplished poet himself. He had mastery in using metres and rhymes of various kinds. He was a born general. He was a spiritual teacher continuing the tradition of Nanak He was full of personal charm and combined in himself unique temporal and spiritual authority.

One of the great poets who joined his court, Bhai Nand Lal, describing the Master's attractive personality wrote:

"All religious fervour

All worldly authority

Display their resplendence

While shining in the eyebrows

of my fair-faced beloved!

The two worlds,

Are just equal in worth

To the golden shine in his single


It is stated that the Guru had fifty-two poets at his court, attending him.

In several places today there are manuscripts, which are preserved as being in his handwriting. It is depicted that there was artistic swiftness in his handling of the pen.

The contingents of his army were made up of devoted warriors who meditated, recited Gurubani, and fought with such heroism that the best trained Mughal troops envied their skill.

The Tenth Lord was a great lover of natural beauty. The panoramic beauty around Anandpur Sahib was fascinating. In 1684, however, he, accompanied by his devotees and some Army units, went to the Sirmur state. Welcomed by Raja Medani Prakash, he stayed there for a while and then moving along he finally reached a very beautiful spot on the bank of river Jamuna. It was decided that a fort be constructed there in order to make appropriate accommodation available to the army.

At that sacred seat of his activity these days stands the holy shrine of Paonta Sahib (The foot-rest).

The congregations at Paonta Sahib were the exact replica of their fore-runners at Anandpur Sahib. Sayyed Buddhu Shah, a Muslim divine living at Sadhaura, was attracted to the Tenth Master. The attachment became life-long,

It was at Paonta Sahib that the Guru's forces met their first test on the open battle-field. The Raja of Nahan and the Raja of Srinagar (Garhwal) were having strained relations. A time came when Raja Medani Prakash of Nahan was made aware that Raja Fateh Shah of Srinagar wanted to attack him. The Raja of Nahan beseeched the Guru for help. The Guru invited both the Rajas to Paonta Sahib where their differences were settled. That however, was only a passing peace.

Serious differences among some of them, and the ensuing combinations among common adversaries, brought about a situation which exposed the treacherous attitude of the Raja of Srinagar towards the Sikhs. The occasion was the marriage of Ajmer Chand, son of Raja Bhim Chand, already mentioned. Raja Bhim Chand along with others, including Raja Kesari Chand, Raja Han Chand and the Rajas of Mandi, Kangra and Suket, proceeded towards Srinagar. The Rajas had the contingents of their armies with them. The Guru was given a treacherous message and was told that the wedding party was friendly and deserved to be given protection. When Raja Bhim Chand and others arrived with the marriage party at Srinagar, Raja Fateh Shah indicated to the Guru's representative Dewan Nand Chand that he was prepared to accept the gifts sent to him. While presenting the gifts Dewan Nand Chand disclosed that the gifts sent by the Tenth Master were very valuable. That acted as a clarion call to bring out the wrath in Raja Bhim Chand. He declared that if the gifts were to be accepted, he would go back without allowing the marriage ceremony to be performed. The Raja of Kangra also incited Bhim Chand to persuade Fateh Shah to join them in making war against the Guru. Raja Bhim Chand directed that his army drums be beaten in order to declare that he was going back after canceling the wedding of his son. Facing the dire insult that his daughter was being accorded, Fateh Shah found himself cornered and stated he would join hands with Bhim Chand in any conflict which might take place.

Dewan Nand Chand, on becoming aware of the turn which the event had taken, left for Paonta Sahib along with the gifts. After covering some distance, he heard the sound of the hooves of enemy horses. Five hundred armed soldiers had been sent to seize forcibly the gifts from Dewan Nand Chand and his companions. There ensued a fight, but Dewan Nand Chand succeeded in reaching Paonta Sahib safely. When the episode was narrated to the Tenth Master, he declared to his soldiers that they were going to face the first battle which was to lay down the guidelines for the future. The Sikh forces became anxious to prove their mettle.

Fateh Shah was at the head of the army which came forward to lead the attack. The allied army of the rulers of the various states was destined to be disintegrated.

Before the actual fight took place, Sayyed Buddhu Shah offered five hundred Pathans to be employed in the Guru's army. The Guru accepted the offer and employed them. At a critical juncture, their attitude provided an occasion for discharging them from service.

Information had been received that unless intercepted, the forces under the hill Rajas would soon reach Paonta Sahib. The two armies came face to face near the village of Bhanganr, across a small stream.

After offering prayers, the Tenth Master, wearing armour, slung the quiver of arrows over his shoulder. Bow in hand, he mounted his famous bay-charger. The armies met in death's embrace. The battle of Bhangani was fought in April, 1687. The forces led by the Guru won the day. Raja Fateh Shah and Raja Han Chand were slain in the battle of Bhangani. The Guru had won the first victory in a dangerous war.

Saiyed Buddhu Shah's sons had attained martyrdom while fighting for the Guru in that battle. He came to meet the Tenth Master and received reverence. He was assured that his sons wer immortalised and that prayers will be performed in respect of them on all appropriate occasions by the Sikh Panth. The Master offered to him one-half of his own turban. This gesture made him the focal point of great attraction.

As time passed, it became clear that the shrine established at Paonta Sahib would prosper by itself. Leaving some of his brave devotees there, the Tenth Master proceeded to Anandpur Sahib. It became clear that the performance at Bhangani would have to be repeated many times henceforth. Anandpur started functioning as the capital of Sikhism which had no territory, yet had firm roots in many places. It was decided that the place be fortified. It was thought necessary that on all strategic points, separate forts should be set up. Four forts were built. The first one came to be known as Anandgarh. The three others were Lohgarh, Kesgarh and Fatehgarh. The forts had their own stores of grain and water supply.

When he expected to be invaded by the Mughal forces under the command of Alif Khan, the Raja of Bilaspur requested that the Sikh forces should help him. The Tenth Master agreed to help him with his well-chosen army men. The Mughal forces were at Nandaum. In a swift battle, Alif Khan was compelled to retreat.

When Aurangzeb got this news, in a rage, he directed that the Sikh forces be attacked. An imperial edict was issued in 1693 for the purpose of securing the demolition of the forts at Anandpur Sahib. In consequence of a secret plan, Rustam Khan, leading the enemy forces, managed a swift attack Alam Chand, however, who was keeping vigil, woke up the Tenth Master. Ranjit Nagara, the big drum, was beaten up and its roar caused the entire army

to dress up for war. The war cries raised by the Sikhs pierced the silence of the dark wintry night. Amidst the blowing trumpets, gun shots began to be fired. The soldiers of the enemy had come through the cold waters of the river and the promptitude with which the Sikh forces attacked unnerved them. When the Sikh horsemen cut through the Mughal lines, Rustam Khan's soldiers took flight. The decisive result convinced the enemy that the Sikh forces were so well-trained that only capable generals with highly skilled men would be able to take up another venture.

The Tenth Master had been evolving a pattern of life at Anandpur Sahib which was to set the example for generations to come. The peasants and other small-time workers who were householders devoted themselves to the Guru's cause. The Guru also made his soldiers well-acquainted with the religious lore of lndia. Five scholars were sent to study Indian religion and philosophy at Kashi (Banaras). These were Bhai Karam Singh, Bhai Ganda Singh, Bhai Veer Singh, Bhai Sewa Singh and Bhai Ram Singh. They, in course of time, started the sect, the members whereof came to be known as 'Nirmalas' (the pure).

Poets and other men of letters also entered the court at Anandpur Sahib. Some of them such as Bhai Nand Lal Goya, Sainapati and Bhai Mani Singh, are well-known. Sainapati was the author of his famous composition known as 'Gursobha' (The Guru's Glory). Bhai Mani Singh was the author of 'Bhagat Ratnavali'. It is well-known that hymns composed by the Ninth Master were inserted by him in appropriate places in Guru Granth Sahib at the direction of Guru Gobind Singh.

Bhai Mani Singh combined in himself great scriptural knowledge and divinity. This great saint-scholar was martyred in 1738 in Lahore.

Bhai Nand Lal Goya, who was born in Ghazni in Afghanistan, was a great Persian poet and scholar. His compositions are of a high order, and his impact on Sikh literature shall continue.

The Tenth Master, during the period of peace, is stated to have completed some of his great works, such as, 'Akal Ustat', 'Gian Prabodh' and others. It may be mentioned that four sons were born to him. In the year 1699 his wife Mata Jeetoji gave birth to the youngest prince, Baba Fateh Singh. Thereafter Bhai Ramu came from Rohtas in district Jhelum, now in Pakistan. In a big congregation he made the request that the Guru should accept his daughter's hand in marriage. The Master was not persuaded and the devotee was apprised by The Guru that he had renounced married life. At that the great Sikh Bhai Ramu disclosed that he had been praying over the years that his daughter Sahib Devan would marry the Guru and no one else. The Master closed his eyes and went into deep meditation. After some time he announced that Sahib Devan would have to accept that there would be no marital relationship with her and she will treat the entire Sikh people as her own children. Accepting the divine will the father and daughter agreed and on that the marriage took place.

It has already been narrated that the Tenth Guru had instilled among his followers the passion for arms. He had been cherishing the idea that an effective armoury should be developed. He had been able to build a small but well-trained army. He was thirty-three years old when the occasion for creating the 'Singhs', i.e., Khalsa in its final concept and form, matured. All the Sikh centres were informed through 'Hukam-Namas' (epistles) that the festival of Baisakhi must be attended by all at Anandpur Sahib as it was to be a special occasion. The devotees came from far and near for the day.

The year was 1699. At Anandpur Sahib, a big carpeted enclosure was set up. It was covered by vast interlinked canopies. At a distance of a few paces, another canvas enclosure, much smaller, was set up. The master was jubilant. Determination and vision were visible on his face. He emphasised that to become and remain brave it was essential to bear no ill-will to anyone. Every person was to be cool and composed. Any soldier who lost the grip on his own mind could never fight with that valour which is born out of the divine desire to dedicate life to the sacred cause of destroying the forces of evil.

Before the day dawned, on a raised and decorated platform, the holy Granth Sahib was placed on a sacred cot. After offering prayers it was opened and the holy oracle listened to.

Guru Gobind Singh, splendid in armour, appeared on the scene. His fine, tall figure was the source of magnetic waves spreading out to all. His charismatic personality inspired faith and joy.

After recitation of texts and holy singing was over, the Master suddenly stood up, and holding an unsheathed sword in his hand addressed the gathering: "I want the head of a man. Is there anyone here who can offer his head to me?" The gathering was stunned. Some of the devotees became prayerful. Others became nervous. With quiet determination, Bhai Daya Ram, a Khatri by caste, who had come from Lahore, stood up. With folded hands he bowed before the Guru and said: "My head belongs to you." The Guru asked him to come with him and, with the drawn sword in his hand, walked to small tent pitched nearby. The audience remained chained to the spot. Extreme silence prevailed. After a short while, the Guru came back with dripping sword. Drops of blood were falling from the sword on the carpets. Consternation ruled the atmosphere.

The Tenth Master again repeated his demand. Bhai Dharam Das, by caste a Jat, who had come from Delhi, stood up, proceeded to the Guru and offered his head. He was taken inside the same tent When the Master came back with blood dripping from his sword, the congregation was confronted by a situation which affirmed that Bhai Dharam Das had met the same fate as Bhai Daya Ram.

Things did not stop at that. Guru Gobind Singh, who was full of great poise, with shining determination pronounced: "Those alone are my true Sikhs who dedicate their lives to the cause which the holy Gurus have been propounding. I want a third person to come forward. I need another head". Bhai Himmat Singh of Jagannath, a water-carrier by caste, stood up and submitted: "I should be blessed. My head belongs to you". Pleased with him, the Master took him inside the same enclosure. When he came back, he found that the vast majority of those attending were panic-stricken. With an illuminating smile, his sword still unsheathed, the Master asked for yet another person to come forward to offer his head. Fearless and firm, the fourth devotee, Bhai Mohkam Chand, a washerman from Dwarika respectfully offered himself. He was taken inside and the scene was re-enacted.

Guru Gobind Singh, standing again by the side of the holy Granth Sahib, observed: "Four of my great beloved have already offered themselves. I want a fifth man". Bhai Sahib Chand, who had come from Bidar and who was by caste a barber, stood up, bowed before the audience and said: "All these belong to you. I offer myself to be treated like those brethren who have gone before me."

After taking Sahib Chand with him, Guru Gobind Singh did not come out for quite some time. Red blood was seen flowing out of the tent to which the five devotees had been taken. Many of the weak-hearted had sneaked away. The majority of the gathering, however, held their places. The eyes of all devotees began to shine with joy when they found that their Guru was coming back with an unsheathed sword in his hand, followed by five men clad in saffron clothes with their turbans tied in the same style as the Master's own. They were holding aloft naked swords in their hands. The Guru being at their head, the five marching behind him presented a unique sight. Those who witnessed the scene became inspired, because they were present at a unique happening. Some of them felt that they should have offered themselves. Before the spell-bound congregation, the Tenth Master declared:

"The divine decree has been fulfilled.

These Panj Piaras, i.e., five beloved ones are the Khalsa.

I shall evermore live in the Khalsa.

So long as the devotees will maintain their distinctive character,

all my power shall evermore remain with the Khalsa

The Khalsa is the entity that I venerate.

The Khalsa is my unique friend.

The Khalsa is my caste and creed.

The Khalsa is my very self.

The Khalsa is my intellect and poise.

The Khalsa is the embodiment of true knowledge which I have.

The Khalsa is eternal".

A great task had been accomplished. Those present could perceive the divine hand moving behind all the Guru's actions.

A big bowl of pure steel was brought in. Pure water was poured into it. Fine crystals of sugar were dropped into it by Mata Sahib Devan, who had been specially sent for. Guru Gobind Singh sat in the heroic posture known as "Bir Asen". With a "Khanda" (two- edged sword) of pure steel, he started stirring the crystals of sugar in the water contained in the steel bowl. The congregation, with divine light being shed on it, sat in worshipful silence. While stirring the crystals in the water, the Tenth Master recited five "Banis", i.e., compositions by Gurus which included his own. Then he asked the first of the five beloved ones to come forward. He was told to keep his eyes open. The Amrit, the nectar in the bowl which contained the sanctification of Gurbani in it, was sprinkled into his eyes and then five handfuls of it were offered to the first one who sipped them. The Tenth Master then declared that thereafter, instead of being called Daya Ram, the first beloved will bear the name Daya Singh. In a loud voice the Master exclaimed and Daya Singh repeated, Sri Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Sri Waheguru ji Ki Fateh".

All the five had to undergo initiation in the same manner. Then, the Tenth Master stood up, facing the five beloved ones, i.e., the 'Panj Piaras'. He then pronounced the following special commandments which all those who accept baptism have for all times to obey:















The Panj Piaras bowed their heads before the Master, signifying

that they had accepted the commandments and were going to lead their lives accordingly.

In the spiritual history of the world, this day of Baisakhi unfurls a unique chapter by itself. Under the same canopy in which the initiation had taken place earlier, a vast congregation assembled. The Panj Piaras, clad in unique splendour, were present there. The bowl used earlier was again brought there. After some time, Guru Gobind Singh came and bowed before the Panj Piaras. He supplicated them, "I also seek to be administered Amrit by you". Never before had any Guru or Prophet bowed before his disciples and asked for anything in this manner. The Panj Piaras then prepared Amrit in the same manner in which it had been prepared for being administered to them. The ceremony which was gone through earlier was again performed. After being administered Amrit by the Panj Piaras, Gobind Rai became Gobind Singh. He was subjected to the same commandments which he had prescribed for the five Beloved ones.

The Panj Piaras addressed the gathering and invited all those who desired to come forward to take Amrit. Countless devotees cheerfully joined the brotherhood of the Khalsa.

A great religion had finally taken its conclusive shape and set out on the path to bring about revolution.

The event, however, renewed the animosity in the hill chieftains. They decided that the Mughal power be contacted and incited to join hands with them in the task of curbing the Khalsa.

Their efforts received attention and two divisions of the Mughal Army, consisting of 5,000 men each commanded by Adina Beg and Painda Khan, were dispatched. The forces contributed by the hill chieftains joined them at Ropar. Anandpur was attacked by the combined armies in 1701. As they approached, arrows began to fly out at them from the Fort in Anandpur. The adversaries began to lose heart. The Mughal general Painda Khan challenged the Guru and invited him to a single combat. The challenge was accepted. The Tenth Master told the Mughal to strike the first blow. Just then, an arrow from Painda Khan hissed along an ear of the Guru. The master smiled and told the Mughal general to take another chance. The second arrow shot by the Mughal proved equally futile. The Master then shook the enemy forces into disarray by shooting down Painda Khan with his very first arrow. After some fight, the enemy forces took to their heels, leaving behind a lot of ammunition and weapons of war.

Thereafter, short battles and skirmishes continued to take place. The opponents every time had to face the Guru's saint-soldiers with steel-like resolve and were repulsed.

The hill chieftains and the Mughals kept up the attacks. The successful opposition by the Guru's forces further infuriated the enemy. The Emperor directed Wazir Khan, Zabardast Khan and Dilawar Khan to launch a decisive campaign to eliminate the Sikhs.

To meet this situation, Sikhs from all directions rushed to the Guru's aid. They collected in thousands to face the enemy.

The fifth battle for Anandpur began on 20th May, 1704. It extended over a long period. The enemy forces continued the siege for several months. The granary inside Anandpur began to be depleted day by day. The Sikh Army had been divided into distinct commands. Prince Ajit Singh was in charge of the units guarding the fort at Kesgarh. Veterans Sher Singh and Mahar Singh with five hundred soldiers were defending Lohgarh while Mohkam Singh, one of the five beloved ones, was in charge of the fort at Lohgarh. The Tenth Master himself was at the head of the contingent in Anandgarh.

A day came when provisions were almost exhausted. By that time, in the uneven fight, a large number of Sikhs had suffered martyrdom. Pressed by the circumstances and his advisors, the Tenth Guru evacuated Anandpur.

After crossing the stream of Sirsa, the Master came to the village Chamkaur. His mother and his younger sons had earlier got separated from him.

It was at Chamkaur that, along with a number of his trusted and loved Sikhs, his sons Sahibzadas Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh became martyrs. The Tenth Master, under "orders" of a few of his companions who continued to hold the fort, had to effect an escape to guide the destiny of the Khalsa. It is estimated that the Tenth Guru was left only with forty Sikhs.

There is some controversy, but it is believed that forty of his baptised Sikhs had, after giving in writing that they were no longer his Sikhs, left him when Anandpur was under siege. Their leader was one Mahan Singh. The document executed by them is known as "Bedawa".

After leaving Chamkaur, the Tenth Master, on foot and almost alone, moved through thorny tracks. Hunger and thirst were his constant companions. Time was relentless in adding to the tragic events. Already two of his sons had fallen on the battlefield.

At Sirhind, his other two sons, young children of nine and seven, after refusing to accept Islam were made to stand next to each other and bricked up alive. Their aged grandmother, Mata Gujari, too passed away in the tower. These events happened in the last week of December, 1704.

For Dharma - righteousness - Guru Gobind Singh sacrificed his entire family and underwent untold hardships.

Gurdwara Jyoti Sarup in Fategarh Sahib (the name given by the Khalsa to Sirhind) stands as a perpetual reminder that the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh and their revered grandmother had attained martyrdom at that place.

As the messenger who had been sent to find out what befell the Sahibzadas, narrated their story in sobs and tears, Guru Gobind Singh was holding a spear in his hands. He was scratching a shrub

with its pointe
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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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