Spirit of Bhangani
Dr. Kuldip Singh
Sikhism is not only a revealed religion, but also a well planned system with definite objectives conceived by Guru Nanak. Mul Mantra, as expounded by the Guru, lists some major attributes of the Formless Lord. By meditation on the Mul Mantra, a Sikh is expected to imbibe the qualities enshrined in it
1. Satnam : Truthfulness, and standing by and for Truths
2. Nirbhau : Fearlessness.
3. Nirvair : Without rancour or enmity towards any one
4. Akal Murat: Timeless form or one who does not fear death and believes in the eternal soul.
Guru Nanak gave a call "Jao tao prem khelan ka chao, sirr dhar tali gali meri aao" (If the game of love excites you, step into my street with your head placed on your palm). Guru Nanak’s mission was not only to expound a new philosophy for meditation and spiritual concourse, but it was meant for organising a living and vibrant religion. This was not possible in one lifetime So, the genius of Nanak planned 200 years of guidance for the up-coming nation. When the time was ripe, Guru Nanak courted martyrdom in his fifth and ninth form m 1606 and 1675, respectively. There was no better way to remove the fear of death. Dying with passive resistance was not the only way of courting martyrdom. Soon after 1606, training of Sikhs to face tyranny, by use of arms was intensified and reached its pinnacle after 1675 at the time of Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Nanak, knew that he had to complete the task set forth by the founder Nanak. The bani enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib contains hundreds of references to Indian mythology leaving no onc in doubt that the Gurus were fully conversant with the ancient texts Guru Gobind Singh collected 52 poets at Anandpur and Paonta Sahib. Some of thcm had studied the Sanskrit Texts at Benares. The objective was to record the acts of heroism depicted in these texts The poets narrated the battles of Devis, and Devtas with Rakhshasas, stories from Ramayana and Mahabharta etc. This explains the compositions, ‘Chandi Charitra’ Part I and II and ‘Chandi Di Var’. The first version is from Markandaya Purana, second from Bhagwat Purana, and the third is also from Markandaya Purana written by a different author. These describe in beautiful poetry the battle between Durga and crores and crores of Demons or Rakhshasas. In the battle with Rakat Bij, each drop of blood falling on the ground produced another fully armed Rakat Bij ready to continue the fight. This induced Durga to send Kali from her forehead who helped by drinking the falling blood drops. The storics of heroism from the epics involved the use of supernatural or divine powers by the avtats or incarnations of gods and goddesses.
The followers of Guru Nanak, however, were to display a human form of heroism. The Tenth Nanak demonstrated this in the wondrous but real life drama in the battle of Bhangani
Guru Gobind Singh had employed 500 Pathan mercenaries on the recommendation of Pir Budhu Shah. When the large combined armies of Hill Rajas were planning an attack on the Guru at Paonta, the Pathans decided to betray- Bhikan Khan, their leader, said, "The Guru’s main dependence is on us. The rest of his army is a miscellaneous rabble who have never seen war, and will run away when they hear the first shot fired. The brunt of the battle will fall on us and we shall be responsible for defeat. Why waste our lives in vain? Let us go to the Guru and ask permission to return to our homes." (M.A. Macauliffe: The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, pp. 30-45). When the Pathans led by their leaders Nijabat Khan, Haiyat Khan and Bhikan Khan went to the Guru requesting for their release on one pretext or the other, Guru Sahib offered double pay, then triple pay and even quadruple pay, but the Guru’s overtures were rejected. Bhikan Khan discussed with his troops, "The Guru is evidently afraid of the enemy. If we want money, let us go and fight on the side of the Hill Rajas and obtain their permission to plunder the Guru." The Pathans negotiated with Raja Fateh Shah. They agreed to sense without pay if they were allowed to plunder the Guru. Fateh Shah was highly pleased and gave the Pathans written permission to appropriate the Guru’s property. Bhikan Khan informed Fateh Shah, "Great King, the Guru is greatly afraid of thee. He only declared war on thee relying on us. He offered us shields full of rupees but we refused. He hath only eight men who know how to fight. These are his five cousins, his uncle Kirpal, Diwan Nand Chand and Bhai Daya Ram. The others who are with him are the dregs of the populace, and know not even how to handle a sword."
This did not upset the Guru. He availed of this situation to impart Some vital lessons to his Sikhs. The first was not to rely on mercenaries. The second was that will and confidence to fight for truth under the grace of Akal Purakh could make up for the lack of military training and armaments. This was going to be the test of Guru Nanak’s teachings.
Everyone in the Guru’s camp came forward to fight. Kirpal, the mahant of Udasis (Most Udasis had run away anticipating the battle) asked Guru’s permission to engage Haiyat Khan. He mounted a horse with a huge wooden club in his hand to engage the enemy, and succeeded in killing the Pathan leader with a single blow of his club. The battle of Bhangani is given in detail in "Bachitar Natak." People of humble origin and a few trained soldiers had vanquished an army several times greater in numerical strength. The valour shown by the Sikhs came from Gurbani, and the Guru’s presence. This spirit of Bhangani had to be made an essential feature of a Sikh: This battle was won without invoking any supernatural powers or niracles. The Guru knew that in his physical form, he could not always be with the Sikhs So, he had to infuse the spirit of the Guru in his Sikhs. This explains his partaking of amrit from the Panj Piyaras at Anandpur Sahib on the Vaisakh of 1699. Khalsa had become Guru. The Khalsa with Gurbani in their hearts was always going to be victorious "Sawa laakh se ek larayoon" spirit was demonstrated. He transformed overnight the down-trodden lowly persons into inconquerable Saint-Soldiers by his amrit. It was the spirit of Bhangani which pervaded in all the battles that the Khalsa fought between 1699-1705. Most of the young Sikhs including the Guru’s sons died fighting. It was this sport which explains why, even after losing everything in battles, the Guru writes ‘Zafarnama’ or epistle of victory in a mood of great ecstacy. The task set by Guru Nanak had been accomplished.
This spirit of Bhangani has sustained the Sikhs ever since. The British Government realised that this spirit can exist only in the amritdhari Khalsa, and that is why the Sikh Regiments comprised amritdhari Sikhs only. Even their British officers sported beards and stopped smoking. They were rewarded by the "Saga of Saragarhi."
The latest demonstration of the spirit of Bhangani was provided in June 1984 during the attack on the Golden Temple, when a handful of 40-50 committed Singhs faced and engaged in battle for days an army a thousands strong and equipped with latest war equipment including tanks, mountain guns, bombs, etc. None of them surrendered. All fought to the very end, inflicting heavy casualties on the attackers, and laid their lives for the cause which was so dear to them. The spirit was developed and sustained through recitation of Gurbani and the discipline prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh. This is the spirit of Bhangani. Any nation can be proud of this great heritage, the real wealth of a country.