Guru Gobind Singh Ji Apostle of Courage and Benevolence
Pritpal Singh Bindra
Aurangzeb instaIIed himself as the Emperor of India in 1657. To achieve his aim he had annihilated almost all his family oppositions; he either killed or disgraced his brothers, and imprisoned and starved to death his own father –Emperor Shah Jehan. Immediately after consolidating his power he embarked on a policy of religious persecutions. He set upon the process of Islamizaton of India. He levied unethical religious taxes against Hindus, and shut their temples and places of earning. The Brahmins were his primary target. He had been convinced by his clergies that once the Brahmins accepted Islam the others would follow. The Brahmins, particularly the inhabitants of Kashmir, looked for some dynamic leadership to fight this subversion.
Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru, was on the throne of Sikh Religion started by Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539). The Brahmins of Kashmir approached Guru Tegh Bahadur for his guidance to combat the atrocities committed by the Mughal Emperor.
At the time of their meeting, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s nine year old son, Gobind Rai, was sitting beside him. As Guru Tegh Bahadur went into a deep state of contemplation, the young son asked the reason of his repose. Guru Tegh Bahadur said that ‘this matter. is of vital importance. The world is grieved by the oppression. No brave man is now to be found .who is willing to sacrifice his life to free the earth from the burden of Aurangzeb’s policy of subjugation of Hindus.
Young Gobind replied: ‘For that purpose who is more worthy than thou who art at once generous and brave. And Guru Tegh Bahadur consented to sacrifice his life for the sake of the freedom of religion. After entrusting Guruship to Gobind Rai, he proceeded towards Delhi, the seat of Mughal Empire, to attain martyrdom.
When Guru Tegh Bahadur was in the interment of Aurangzeb, he foresaw the beginning of his ecclesiastic journey. To test his son’s courage and capability, to carry on the mission, he wrote to him:
"My strength is exhausted, I am in chains and I can make not any efforts.
"Say Nanak, God alone is now
my refuge. He will help me as he did his Saints."
In reply young Guru Gobind Rai wrote:
"I have regained my Power, my
bonds are broken and all options are open unto me.
"Nanak, everything is in thine hands. It is only thou who can assist thyself."
(English.Translation: S. Manmohan Singh)
And that was the courage and the spirit of sacrifice and benevolence through which Guru Gobind Singh initiated the 10th pontification of the Sikh Religion.
Guru Gobind Singh was born on December 29, 1666 A.D. at Patna, in the Province of Bihar in northern India. When Guru Tegh Bahadur had gone on a missionary tour of the East, the family stayed in Patna for about five years and then moved to Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. His maternal uncle, Kirpal, was instrumental in providing him a childhood full of rigorous physical and mental activities that made Guru Gobind Singh the man of great endurance, understanding, innovations, and most of all outstanding in the literary field. The Guru ‘retired for a number of years to a place called Paonta Sahib’, in the State of Nahan, in the lower ranges of the Himalayan hills. There on the ‘beautiful banks of the river Jamuna and in the divine hilly surroundings he set upon his mission of self-illumination, self-realization, self-training, and self-education. As ‘a child he had Behari on his tongue’. He learnt Gurmukhi, and achieved perfection in Persian, Hindi and Sanskrit. His literary debuts, their understanding and interpretations, are conclusive. His own literary compositions depict ‘optimism, freedom from superstitions, and faith in oneness of God and all humanity’. Through his literature he ‘infused a new spirit among his followers, and inspired them to fight against all injustice and tyranny’.
Hundreds of people had gathered around the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur was martyred in Delhi. None of them came forward openly to claim the body to perform religious rites. Even the ardent disciples withdrew unrecognized. Along with the infusion of new spirit of courage Guru Gobind Singh wanted to give the people an indiscreet identity.
On Baisakhi day in April 1699, he addressed the congregation and ‘demanded five men for sacrifice’. After ‘some trepidation one person offered’ himself. Guru Gobind Singh took him inside a tent. A little later he reappeared with a sword dripping with blood, and asked for another head. One by one four more earnest devotees offered their heads. Every time the Guru took one person inside the tent, he came out with bloodied sword in his hand. The congregants started to disperse, thinking the Guru had gone berserk. But, at the end, the Guru emerged with all five dressed piously in white. He baptized the five men in a new and unique ceremony called pahul and told the people that they were his own image; Guru would be there wherever Five Baptized Sikhs would together be. He called them Panj Pyare – the Five Beloved Ones. Then the Guru asked those Five Baptized Sikhs to baptize the Guru himself. He proclaimed that the Panj Pyare would be the embodiment of the Guru himself and pronounced:
"Where there are Panj Pyare, there am I, when the Five meet, they are the holiest of the holy."
With this he created the Khalsa, the pure ones and articulated edicts to be observed by them and all the Sikhs. At the same time he prescribed five symbols to make the Sikhs distinct in society. These symbols are popularly known as Five Ks – Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the comb; Karra, the iron bangle; Kirpan, the sword; and, Kachehra, the underwear. These Five Ks would be the emblems of purity and courage, and identifiable among thousands of people; a Sikh could never hide under cowardice.
The political tyranny was not the only circumstance which was degenerating the people’s moral. The discriminatory class distinction, promoted by Brahmins and Mullas, was equally responsible for the degradation. The Guru wanted to eliminate the anomalies caused by the case system. The constitution of the Panj Pyare was the living example of his dream; both the high and low castes were amalgamated into one. Among those Panj Pyare, there was one Khatri, shopkeeper; one Jat, agriculturist; one Chhimba, calico printer; one Kahar, water carrier; a Nai, barber. He designated the surname of Singh, lion to every Sikh, and put all of them on one platform of courage, unanimity, and equality.
Guru Gobind Singh was above malice and devoid of any spirit of revenge. He was an angel of benevolence.
The Guru had realized that without religious perception a Raj – the political rule – became unethical and totalitarian. Following in the ‘footsteps of his grandfather – Guru Har Gobind (1595 -1644). he had envisaged the importance of physical command, and raised an effective defense force. He perceived that a political umbrella was essential for the growth of a faith without hindrance and persecution. Otherwise, he had no territorial aspirations. When the hill chiefs around Paonta, out of sheer jealousy, forced the Guru to fight, the Guru gave them a crushing defeat. The Guru could easily nave established his Raj – political rule over those states. But, after making them concede to their follies, he decided to move back to Anandpur.
To extract annual tribute, the Mughal Army invaded the hill chiefs. Guru Gobind Singh, overlooked their misdeeds of the past and readily ordered his forces to fight on the side of the chiefs.
Forty of his devotees had deserted him at Anandpur after signing a disclaimer. Taunted by their spouses, they had rejoined the attack on the Mughal troops at Khidrana. They were fatally wounded when they were found by the Guru in the battlefield. They begged the Guru’s pardon and the Guru, who still had the disclaimer in his pocket, readily tore it up, and blessed them with an eternal salvation.
Ram Rai, the eldest son of Guru Har Rai (1631 – 1661), had twisted Gurubani to please the Mughal Emperor. He was disowned by his father and debarred from Guruship. When he met Guru Gobind Singh at a ripe old age, he begged to be pardoned. Not only did Guru Gobind Singh bless him with immortal deliverance, he also saved his wife, Punjab Kaur, from the dishonest practices of the masands, after the demise of Ram Rai.
When Aurangzeb’s son Muazzam approached the Guru through the exigencies of Bhai Nand Lal, the Guru readily pardoned him and extended his helping hand to capture the Delhi throne.
By deceitful means, Guru Gobind Singh was forced to abandon the Anandpur fort. In the melee that followed his family was split, the treasurers were lost, and the precious literary collections were mislaid. His two older sons fought
Mughal usurpers courageously at Chamkaur, and attained martyrdom. Betrayed by a domestic of the Guru’s household, his two younger sons, who had refused to accept Islam, were apprehended and put to death by Wazir Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Sirhand. On arriving in Dma, in the south of Punjab, the Guru wrote to Aurangzeb giving the details of the religious mission of Guru Nanak. He pointed out to the Emperor the deceitful atrocities committed by him and his generals. Probably Aurangzeb realized his abominations, and invited the Guru for a meeting The Emperor ‘issued orders to his Prime Minister, Munim Khan, to provide the Guru full security at provincial borders, and pay all his traveling expenses if demanded’. But unfortunately, Aurangzeb died while the Guru was still on his way. Perhaps, in spite of all those offences, Guru Gobind Singh’s compassion would have pardoned him, had the Emperor asked his forgiveness.
With this he created the Khalsa, the pure ones and articulated edicts to be observed by them and all the Sikhs. At the same time he prescribed five symbols to make the Sikhs distinct in society. These symbols are popularly known as Five Ks – Kesh, unshorn hair; Kangha, the comb; Karra, the iron bangle; Kirpan the sword; and,. Kachehra, the underwear. These Five Ks would be the emblems of purity and courage, and identifiable among thousands of people; a Sikh could never hide under cowardice.
Wazir Khan had committed a crime against humanity by killing two innocent children. No doubt, Guru Gobind Singh wanted him to be disciplined. But the Guru’s main concern was the safety of the Sikhs as a whole. Wazir Khan and other Mughal adversaries were still proceeding with the policy of persecution in the Punjab. The Guru was constantly in negotiation with the Emperor to check this indiscriminate abuse of power. The Emperor was lending a sympathetic ear to the Guru as he was under his obligation; the Guru had helped him acquire the throne. But on the other hand, Wazir Khan’s strong lobby was working positively among the courtiers and advisers of the Emperor. The Guru was not getting any affirmative response. Simultaneously, the Guru started to contemplate a plan for the protection of his people. He nurtured Banda Bahadur for this task. When he envisioned that his negotiations were not going to materialize, he ‘invested Banda with authority to complete his (Guru’s) work of national struggle in Punjab’; for him all the Sikhs were as his own children, and their honorable protection was the main purpose of Banda Bahadur’s mission.
The masands (the representative -priests who received offerings from people and presented them to the Gurus) had become the victims of human failings. The corrupt practices had crept into their dealings. Guru Gobind Singh disbanded them. Similarly, the Guru remembered the ‘family feuds as well as the impostors claiming Guruship’. He wanted to endow the Sikhs with a Guruship that was not amenable to the transgressions, and was showered with unalterable, and unadulteratable eternal message of love and humility. He decided to eliminate the pregnable human element, and abolish the human Guruship
A day before the demise of Gurujee, in the presence of Kavi Senapati, Bhai Nand Lal and Dhadi Nath Mal, the Sikhs inquired as to whom he was entrusting his Khalsa.
In the presence of Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed:
"The Word as enshrined in the Granth Sahib. Whoever searched me here, finds me. You shall hereafter look upon it as the visible embodiment of the Guru. .l entrust you to Him. He will be your Guide, Protector and Refuge, so long as you keep to His Path."
And then he sang his last sermon:
"Agya bhai akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth, Sab Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyao Granth."
(Under the permission of the Immortal Being the Panth – Khalsa religion was started. All the Sikhs are enjoined to recognize the Granth as their Guru.
(English Translation: S. Khazan Singh)
History of the Sikhs by Khushwant Singh
History of the Sikhs by Dr. H.R. Gupta
A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh
History of the Sikh Religion by M.A. Macauliffe
History of the Sikhs by S.Khazan Singh
Tawarikh Guru Khalsa (111) by Giani Gian Singh (Pb.)
Kalgidhar Chamatkar by Bhai Vir Singh (Pb.)
"0 God, grant me this boon;
Never should I turn away from good deeds;
Nor when fighting adversity should I be afraid;
But with a firm resolve, should I achieve victory;
Over my heart should I have complete control.
O Lord, that is what I crave of Thy Name.
When finally time comes for me to rest,
Let me die in the thick of these battles."
(Guru Gobind Singh)
When great difficulties befall you,
And no body is there to help
When the friends have turn foes
And relatives have deserted
When all assistance have been denied
And no help is forthcoming
If you remember God at that time
Then no harm shall be done unto you.
(Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Sri Rag M5)
A Person may live in a desolate hut
His clothes may all be rags
He may have no lineage to claim
Without honor and respect he may
wander in the wilderness
He may have neither friend nor beloved
He may be without wealth and beauty
He may have no relation or kinsman
But if his heart is saturated with God’s Nam
He is the king of the whole world
(Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Jaetsri Rag M.5)