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Guru Sakhis

The Menace of Sulahi Khan

Prithi Chand sought to intimidate and discredit Guru Arjan Dev by forging an alliance with the Government functionaries hoping that the official intervention would force Guru Arjan Dev to make room for his elder brother. Tyranny and oppression was to be let loose. Prithi Chand approached his patron Sulahi Khan, probably a revenue official, who readily agreed to demand a rich tribute from Guru Arjan Dev and also to indulge in an orgy of loot and plunder to strike terror in the Guru’s heart.

It is rather difficult to establish Sulahi Khan’s identity and his official status, though he figures in a couple of hymns composed by Guru Arjan Dev. The issue becomes still more complex when the Sikh historians insist that Amritsar had enjoyed independent status since its inception and that its administration had been vested in the Gurus. Sulahi Khan emerges as a plunderer who robs the people of their possessions and peace. An evil-incarnate, his name is closely linked with the nefarious designs of Prithi Chand. Prof. G.S. Talib treats Sulahi Khan as a Pathan army officer who was instigated on false reports to attack Guru Arjan Dev.

A reading of the holy verses inform us that Guru Arjan Dev shared the impending disaster with his Sikhs who put their heads together to evolve a strategy so as to frustrate the danger. In a hymn composed in Rag Asa (Adi Garnth, p. 371), Guru Arjan Dev recounts various suggestions put forth by the Sikhs. Someone suggested that a letter should be sent to the tyrant requesting him therein to desist from such a course. A proposal underlined the necessity of sending a delegation for advising him to see reason. Still another suggestion called for patience and restraint. Guru Arjan Dev listened to all but relied on God for safety and protection. This was obviously done to inculcate self-confidence among the Sikhs.

Prathme mata ji prati chalavau

Dutiye mata doye manukh pohchavau

Tritye mata kichh karau upaya

Mai sabh kichh chhod Prabh tuhi dhyaya

Maha anand achint sajhaya

Dusman doot mooye sukh paya

(Adi Granth, p. 371)

Guru Arjan Dev prayed to God for help and Sulahi Khan died in fire which is considered as unclean end for a Muhammadan. Sulahi Khan and his horse were burnt alive when the horse along with the rider rushed into a burning brick-kiln. The holy city of Amritsar providentially escaped the painful experience of vandalism contemplated by the deceased. Guru Arjan Dev mentions the incident in one of the shabads and thanks God for providing deliverance and relief from the disaster called Sulahi Khan. The Lord iliminated the evil called Sulahi Khan. Nothing could abide with him – Progeny, friends and wealth. Leaving behind his brothers and relations, he was reduced to dust :

Sulahi te Narayan rakho

Sulahi ka haath kahi na pohchai

Sulahi hoye mua napak

Kadh kutthar khasam sir katya

Khin mah hoye gaya hai khak

Manda chitwat chitwat pachya

Jini rachya tini deena dhak

Putar meet dhan kichh na rahus

Chhod gaya sabh bhai sak

Kah Nank tis Prabh balhari

Jin jan ka keeno puran walk

(Adi Granth, p. 825)


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