Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Deg Tegh Fateh
In Krishna Avtar, Guru Gobind Singh Ji says: “May the Kitchen and the Sword prevail in the world”. “Deg Teg Jag Maih Dou Chaleh !” (dyg qyg jg mih doaU clih) are the words uttered by the Guru. It is obvious that he Guru ordained that the kitchen to feed the poor and the sword to teach the tyrant should go hand-in-hand. Deg and Teg are Persian words, meaning the kettle and the sword respectively. Deg literally means a cooking-pot. It symbolically stands for the free kitchen or Langar; whereas Teg or the sword represents dignity and power. Deg to feed the poor and the stranger, regardless of caste and religion; and Teg, the sword, to destroy the oppressor of humanity and protect the oppressed. Hence Deg and Teg are symbols of service and power.
In Pakhiano Charitra Guru Gobind Singh Ji says: “Charity and Kirpan are symbolic of self-respect.” Deg and Teg have so often come together in the Sikh literature and the history, symbolically meaning the sustenance: spiritual and material. The Sikh repeats the following within their prayer everyday:“May victory attend the Deg and the Teg” meaning “May our charity and our arms by victorious.”
Hereunder is the reproduction of the reproduction of the complete passage of that part of the Sikh prayer, which contains this wish:“First, we pray on behalf of all the Khalsa. May the remembrance of God be progressively performed in the hearts of all the Khalsa. And may the Merit of this remembrance be happiness and prosperity. May God shower His blessing upon and grant protection and mercy to each and every member of the holy Khalsa, wherever they be or they are.”
Almost two years after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikhs proclaimed their sovereignty over the strategic province of Sarhind, thus making the imperial rule of the Mughals untenable over the whole of the India. As a symbol of their sovereignty, the coin which they struck bore the following heraldic legend:This coin is struck as evidence of our sovereignty Here and Hereafter. The sword of Nanak is the source of all grace and Victory, the Blessing, is the gift of Guru Gobind Singh, the King of Kings, the true Master.
Baba Banda Singh adopted and introduced an official seal for his state documents and letters, which had the following inscription:"The cauldron and the sword, victory and ready patronage have been obtained by Gobind Singh from Guru Nanak."
In other words "the ever expanding prosperity, the strength of arms, and continous victory and common well-being are all guaranteed by the Guru." An inscription on a sword in the possession of the ex-rulers of Nabha is, "Badhe Deg te ya Teg te." That is, man flourishes either by the use of cauldron or the feeding pot, to entertain the poor and the needy, or by Teg that is taking to arms-to eradicate oppression and establish righteousness. So often, the word is also used for the food which is cooked or served in a common kitchen. It is commonly said that the Deg is ready, which means that the food is ready. This word is also used for Karah Parsaad. The holy food in Langar or Karah Parsaad in Sikh congregations are offered to the Teg or the sword by stirring the sacred food with a Kirpan. In other words Deg is first offered to Teg, before serving it to the congregation. All ceremonies, of the Sikhs, end with the song of thanks-giving and the partaking of the holy sacrament offered to Teg first.
The Deg in action is Guru’s langar or the community kitchen. The institution of the langar, with the Sikhs, is as old as Sikhism, which was started by Guru Nanak and carried on by his successors. The Sikh Gurus declared that every Sikh house should be Sach Dharamsal, ‘Today no Sikh with a grain of faith in him, cam possible think that he owns the bread’. In a way the Deg in every Sikh’s house is Guru-ka-Langar, as he is enjoined to share his food with others. In their daily prayer, at home as well as in congregation at the Gurdwaras, the Sikhs repeat the following words morning and evening:"They who dwelt on His Name; shared their earnings with others, wielded the sword in the holy war, and distributed food in companionship from the pot, remember their glorious deeds and utter: Glory be to God".
"Bread and water belong to the Lord, and the desire to serve the pleasure of the Sikhs," is the common utterance of the Guru’s disciples, when serving in the free kitchen. Guru’s Deg in a free kitchen helps in teaching service, spreading equality, removing untouchability and such other evils and prejudices as spring from social and racial distinctions. The function of Deg bestows upon Sikhs a distinct individuality, dignity and unity. It gives them the discipline of service and a spirit of co-operation, teaches them philanthropy and universal brotherhood. During the time of Guru Gobind Singh, though the Guru’s langar was open to all, yet several Sikhs of Anandpur ran their own Langars by keeping the Deg hot round the clock.
This is how the story is recorded in the chronicles:
One day, Guru Gobind Singh himself goes out in the guise of a pilgrim, to inspect the house of everyone of his disciples. what does he find? That at the house of everyone of them have come some pilgrims of Passers-by to ask for bread but the answer of the disciples is : ‘Wait, we shall get the bread ready!’. Disappointed is the Guru in the visit to his disciples houses. The Guru comes, at last, to Bhai Nand Lal’s place. Bhai Nand Lal has kept his Langar well. Some have come to him, asking for bread. And Bhai Nand Lal says, "Here am I, at your service." And he quickly brings butter, half-kneaded flour, half cooked pulse and some vegetables, and standing in the presence of his guest, says : "Blessed am I. You have come to bless me. Here are few things. At your feet I place them in the name of my Master. More I can bring, if you will wait."
And the next day, the Guru, relating the incident to the Sangat says : "Blessed is Nand Lal. Yet am i deeply disappointed in most of you, for yesterday I found there was only one Langar, the Temple of Food, only one of all the houses I visited." Guru Gobind Singh then gave orders that every wandering sikh who came at the door of any other Sikh should at once receive food, whether raw or cooked, without excuse or delay. The Guru said, "There is nothing equal to the bestowal of food. Blest is the man who giveth to the really hungry. Let no one fix time for the exercise of this virtue…. It is not necessary to co9nsider what the social position of the visitor may be… Charity is of all gifts the greatest for it saveth life." The Guru once said to his Sikhs : "If a hungry person calls at your door and you turn him away, remember that you are turning out not him but me. He who serves the poor and needy serves me. The mouth of the poor is the Guru’s receptacle of gifts."
"Garib ka Mooh guru ki golak," (grIb kw mUMh gurU kI golk) were the words of the Guru. From Anandpur Guru Gobind Singh went to Paunta Sahib for about three years, and his free kitchen also moved with him. Besides the Sikhs who were living there with the Guru, Pathan soldiers, who were introduced to the Guru by Sain Budhu Shah, fifty two poets and scholars engaged by the Guru, were also served from the common kitchen. Even some Udasis (An order of preachers; founded by Guru Nanak’s elder son, Baba Sri Chand) were fed from the Guru’s Langar. This fact is obvious from the following story : On the eve of the battle of Bhangani, when the Guru sent orders to a body of Udasis to put on their turbans, take their arms, and prepare for the defense, they absconded, during the night, one by one. Next morning the Guru was informed that the Udasis had all fled except their Mahant Kirpal. The Guru then ordered the Mahant to be sent for. The Guru addressed him thus : "O Mahant, whither have thy disciples fled? Hearken to me. Thy disciples eat our sacred food, but when they see a green field elsewhere, they go to graze on it like cattle. they have all absconded in the present hour of need."
The Guru came back to Anandpur Sahib. An incident that happened around 1696 may be related here : On the eve of initiating the Khalsa (and introducing the new baptismal ceremony) the Guru invited the Sikhs from far and wide, at a great sacrificial feast. Brahmins expected to be fed first, but when they arrived, to their horror, they saw the ‘low casters’ being given precedence. A leader of the Brahmins remonstrated saying that all Kshatriyas were a creation of the Brahmins and the slight offered to the makers of the Kshatriyas by a Kshatriyas was unbearable. The Guru smiled and in sweet irony replied thus : "One gets, O Pandit ! whatever is ordained by the Ordainer, therefore, one should not worry. I am not to blame. I am sorry I forgot about you. Don’t be angry I’ll send you good clothes and quilts today. Be sure of that. All Kshatriyas have been made by Brahmins, (you say, Let it be. But here some Kshatriyas not of their making). Spare these Kshatriyas your attention, (if you will). You call these ‘low castes’, but you fail to see them with my eyes."
He further said : "Through the favor of these I won all my battles. Through the favor of these I made my gifts. Through their favor the hosts of sin were dispelled. Through the favor of these , my house is filled with plenty. Through the favor of these i got my education. I owe my position to the favor of these; otherwise, there are millions of poor people like me all around. "And henceforth I declare that – The service of these alone delights me; my heart does not like to serve anybody else. It is good to make gifts to them; I don’t approve of making gifts to others. Gifts to these will bear fruit hereafter, gifts to all others in this world are taste-less. My mind, my body, my head, my wealth, and all that is in my house are all theirs."
That the Sikhs considered it their religious duty to feed and serve all who called at their doors is confirmed by the testimony of Munshi Sujan Rai of Batala (who was a contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh) in his book "Khulasat -ul- Twarikh." "The faith," writes he, "which the Sikhs have in their Guru is seldom met within other religions. They consider it an act of devotion to serve the passer-by in the name of their Guru whose word they repeat every moment of their life. If a person turns up at their door at mid-night, and calls in the name of Baba Nanak, though he may be a stranger, or even a thief, robber or a scoundrel, they serve him according to his needs, as they would serve a brother and friend."
By the time of the tenth Guru, the use of the word deg for the Langar was very common among Sikhs. It had become an integral part of the Sikh temples, unique feature of the living faith. Besides the Langars at the Sikh Temples, at big gatherings or festivals the Guru’s deg would supply free food to everyone who joined or attended the congregations. "Keep my langar ever open and receive offerings for its maintenance." These were the words which Guru Gobind Singh Ji spoke to Bhai Santokh Singh, his last attendant at Nander. Bhai Santokh Singh represented that Sikhs were very few at Nander, and how were offerings therefore to be obtained. The Guru replied, "O, Bhai Santokh Singh, have patience! My Sikhs of very great eminence shall come here and make copious offerings. Everything shall be obtained by the favor of Guru Nanak."
At Nander, very close to the main Gurdwara in the memory of Guru Gobind Singh, that is Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib, there stands another Gurdwara, namely Gurdwara Guru-ka-Langar. There are Langars with all the Sikh Gurdwaras, at different places but here stands a Sikh Gurdwara in the name of Guru-ka-Langar. Since the time of Guru Nanak Sikhs never lost the sight of the virtue of charity or the Deg in action, though during the time of later Gurus sword or Teg was introduced to punish the wrong doers and battles were fought by the sixth and the tenth Gurus. However the kettle and the sword always went together.
Teg like Deg is a Persian word which means a sword or a scimitar. This word is usually used for a short, single-edged curved sword, broadest at the point end. This weapon was commonly used by the Persians and Turks. In Persian they also call it Shamsher or Shamshir which means ‘Lion’s claw’. Guru Gobind Singh himself possessed a Teg along with many other arms and weapons is evident from the fact that there is a Teg among the six sacred relics of the Guru, which arrived in Punjab from England, on January 1, 1966. But the common name of the sword with the Sikhs is Kirpan, which is Sanskrit word. Kirpan is one of the five outward symbols of Sikhism, which are to be kept by all the devout or baptized Sikhs. Whether it is called a Teg or Kirpan, it is a symbol of power and dignity, both of which India had lost, and which Guru Gobind Singh restored. Long before Kirpan became a religious symbol with the Sikhs its name had been applied to different kinds of sword. In the old Sanskrit dictionaries, like the Amarkosh, Shabd Kalpadrum-Kosh, it is used as a synonym for Kharag, Karwar, asi, rishti and chandarbas.
Whether it is a Teg or a Kirpan or a Kharag or a Shamshir, it is one of the compulsory symbols of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh didn’t fix the exact size of the Kirpan or Teg. It depends on the wielding power of individual Sikhs. But from the samples preserved at the Akal Takhat and other Takhats or historic Gurdwaras, we can get an idea of what a Kirpan or Teg was. At all the Takhats one can see the Kirpans and other weapons possessed by the Gurus. For example, once can see two Kirpans at Akal Takhat wielded by Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs. Similarly a Kirpan and two arrows of Guru Gobind Singh are also at Akal Takhat. There are some Kirpans, Khandas and a Teg belong to Bhai Bachittar Singh who was contemporary of the tenth Guru and at whose command he once faced mad elephant of the Hindu hill rajas.
It is an established fact that Guru Gobind Singh always carried a Kirpan on Him, whether a big one or a small one. The Kirpan in one form or the other is an essential symbol with the Khalsa Brotherhood and every member of the Khalsa must always keep one on his body. A symbol must have some meaning. It maybe a thing of utility too, but primarily it must have a meaning. Symbolically Deg means a langar and Teg means a weapon which cuts at the very roots of Agiyan or Avidya. The steel therefore is symbolic of th transcendental knowledge, the Brahmagian which destroys the illusion of the temporalia, the world of Time and Space, and lends to the life everlasting. It is symbolic of the Guru Himself who is the destroyer of ignorance, it is nothing less than an attribute of God. In Sikhism a primary attribute of God is the Light, the destroyer of darkness. And the double-edged sword is a symbol of this; which was created in the beginning, before the world of appearance was created.
The Kirpan is called a symbol from the view-point of religious are. In order that the symbols might serve their real purpose, as a help in the performance of religion and might not become a dead weight on religion, the Guru also emphasized the view-point of utility. The Kirpan is, therefore, an active symbol, instrument of offence and defense and not a charm to be tied along the turban ends or stowed away in the back of the comb. It is to be kept in a sheath and worn in a belt. It can cut through armor, through men, horses, even elephants. It is superior to all instruments. Kirpan a classical and poetic name can be applied to all kind of swords. Why did Guru call the sword Kirpan? Because it alliterates with the names of other four symbols, namely, Kes, Kangha, Kara, Kachhera. these five symbols were made a must for those, who were tested by the steel and baptized and those who are commonly known as Panj Pyare or ‘Five Beloved Ones’.
As the Guru tested his Sikhs by steel when he demanded human head heads in the cause of Dharma it is in this background that Guru Gobind Singh identifies God with Death and gives Him the epithet of All Steel. "Pure Steel" is an epithet which Guru Gobind Singh frequently applies to God almighty, owning, no doubt, the invincibility of Steel by other, lesser metals. Arms and the unrestricted right to wear them, is a guarantee of freedom and sovereignty. The Sikhs used their right and still have this right. By using this right when the armed Sikhs or the order of the Khalsa appeared on the scene with a deafening roar, the Turks trembled out of fear, says Bhai Gurdas Singh contemporary of Guru Gobind Singh.
The utility of the Teg is to be understood in the light of the fact that the interest of a Sikh in society and politics is direct and vital. The world need constant change to develop it in different spheres of life. A Sikh has to improve the prevailing conditions by his organizational efforts. The organization is the Khalsa, an institution of the baptized heroic men, who do not accept the world as it is but fight or struggle against it to make it better than before. Every member of Khalsa must carry on this struggle is the common formula. He is supposed to repeat the Holy Name constantly and be prepared for was every moment; that is why he carries Kirpan on him all the time, as a symbol of strength and power. Out of this basic attitude springs his desire for political power, but he is free from lust and pride. deg and Teg being combined together and as such service and humility are his watchwords. His incessant prayer to God becomes:"O Lord, grant me this very boon, That I may never evade doing righteous deeds; That when I go to fight my enemy, Let not fear enter my heart; So that I may make my victory certain, And I instruct my own mind on this, That I may ever desire to sing They praise; And when the span of life reacheth its end, I may die valiantly in the thick of the holy war."
It is because of such prayers that the exhortation to valor was marked with example in the history of the Sikhs- the highest example being set by the Guru himself, by sacrificing his four sons, his father and mother and everything in the cause of Dharma. To quote Kapur Singh: "Guru Gobind Singh recognized the validity and force of the Marxists stand about two centuries earlier than the Marxists formulated it: namely that no amount of education or religious refinement is enough, as had been tacitly presumed throughout the ages of Indian history, unless the refined and emancipated man, the man who combines in himself, wisdom and power, both the Jnan and Sakti, in equal degree has control of the commercial and industrial machine which is the state today, and control of the organized military power, which was the state always. The Guru’s statements on this point are startlingly clear and uncompromising."
While blending the religious authority and the state responsibility the Guru ordered his Sikhs to keep and use arms if and when necessary. He asked them to be prepared for any such eventuality which demands the use of arms. This is obvious from the following:
For this purpose did I create the Panth:Ordaining for holy war and fostering war like character. Keeping arms and meditating on the True Name, Those who fall fighting in the holy war, attain the Eternal Truth.
The Guru aimed at creating a compact brotherhood in faith which was also military powers in all possible ways and his main reliance was on "All Steel", a name given to God by the Guru. The Guru transformed his Sikhs into Singhs or Lions – the great warriors, and "he withdrew his followers from that undivided attention which their fathers had given to the plough, the loom and the pen, and he urged them to regard the sword as their principal stay in this world."
The sentiment of reverence for that which gives us courage and power, our safety, or our daily bread is common in the history of mankind, as such the sword became venerable with the Sikhs. "Those who were devout in the worship of the religious rites and ceremonies." He was regarded as of the Khalsa brotherhood, "who combats in the van, who gives in charity, who protects the poor, who remembers God, who mounts the war horse, who is ever waging battle and who is continually armed." And however desired to abide in the Khalsa should not fear the clash of arms, and be ever ready for the combat and the defense of his faith. The name of God was still to remain the chief object of adoration but "blest is his life in this world who repeateth God’s name with his lips and thinketh war in his mind." Thus in the Khalsa that the Guru established soldierly qualities were given the foremost place. Though the members of the Khalsa Brotherhood were asked to depend mainly on God, it practically amounted to a dependence on the steel, because, they were taught to regard steel as God and God as Steel. While addressing the almighty Lord the Guru says:"All Steel, I am Thy slave, Deeming me Thine own, preserve me; Think of mine honor, whose arm thou hast held. Deeming me Thine own, cherish me, Single out and destroy mine enemies. May both my kitchen and my sword prevail in the world."
Guru Gobind Singh’s primary concern was thus with his Deg and Teg or with his kitchen and his sword, the one – the emblem of power and dignity to extirpate the tyrant; and the Khalsa brotherhood was the instrument that the Guru created to achieve this two-fold purpose. The Guru’s mission was to spread the true faith and to root out the oppressor and the wicked. For these purposes, the old method of service and humility were not very effective. It is for this reason, that the Guru makes his position clear in the very opening verses of the Bachittar Natak. His reliance was on God and the Holy Sword. The past that he had inherited and the circumstances in which he was placed naturally led him to think of God as the punisher of wicked, and as the sword is a great weapon for that purpose, in the Guru’s mind two became identical. "God subdues enemies, so does the sword; therefore the Steel is God and God is Steel." The Guru in the praise of the sword writes as under:"I bow with love and devotion to the Holy sword. Assist me that I may complete this work. Thou art the Subduer of countries, the destroyer of the armies of the wicked, in the battle field, Thou greatly adormest the brave.
———————————————————————————-"I bow to the Arrow and the Musket, I bow to the sword, spotless, fearless, and unbreakable: I bow to the powerful Mace and Lance to which nothing is equal, I bow to the Arrow and the Cannon which destroy the enemy. I bow to the Sword and the Rapier which destroy the evil. I bow to all weapons called Shahtar, I bow to all weapons called Astar."
The various weapons of war were defined and venerated. This is obvious and leaves us in no doubt, when we see arms and weapons preserved with all the respect and decorum at all the Takhats of the Sikhs. In Chandi-di-Var Guru Gobind Singh prays, "May the Holy Sword assist me." Having first remembered Sword, the symbol of power and signifying the All powerful, he meditates on Guru Nanak and other Gurus who succeeded him. Such stirring thoughts of Guru Gobind Singh infused a martial spirit in his followers and united them as a fearless group of men devoted to the cause of righteousness and truth. The Guru ‘effectually roused the dormant energies of a vanquished people, and filled them with a lofty, although fitful longing for a social freedom and national ascendancy, the proper adjuncts of that purity of worship which had been preached by Guru Nanak’. While continuing to spread the message of the first Guru, the last Guru also took up the task of upholding the freedom of faith and freeing the country from the oppressors and to do this he trained the oppressed in art and techniques of warfare.
In the word of Mohd. Latif, Guru Gobind Singh was a ‘King on his masnad yet poorest among the poor. He was a born-statesman and yet a saint, for he knew no guile. He was a law-giver in the pulpit and a champion in the battlefield’. Guru Gobind Singh was a law-giver both for church and state affairs and used the following seal for this Hukam Namahs, which is still in possession of the Pujaris at Abchal Nagar Nander:"There is only one God. By the favor of the glorious God. Guru Gobind Singh received from Guru Nanak hospitality (Deg) and valor (Teg), victory and success undoubted. May the exalted Immortal Being stretch a helping hand."
This seal in Persian language shows that the Tenth Guru gratefully acknowledged the spiritual benefactions of Guru Nanak, and this gives us a message of the Great Guru, namely: to meditate on His Name, to do service through the Deg or the Community Kitchen and use the Teg or the Sword to defend the oppressed and achieve victory positively. But all this is to be done in the name of God. Guru Ji said, "The Khalsa belong to God, and so victory also is of God." Since the time of Guru Gobind Singh, Deg and Teg, the community kitchen and the Kirpan have become the sine-qua-non of the Sikh fraternity and these go hand-in-hand.
The Sikhs repeat the following wish in their Prayer everyday:"May victory attend the Pot and the Sword." Meaning: ‘May our charity and our Arms be victorious.’
"Deg Teg Fateh"