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Sarbans Danee : Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

January 16, 2016 10:38 PM
by Dr Amrit Kaur

            Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) the Tenth Master of the Sikhs, reverently known as 'Sarbans Danee' i.e. a person who sacrificed his 'sarbans' (whole family) for helping the oppressed and protecting a person's right to profess the religion of his own choice. He was born the only son of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and Mata Gujri Ji on Poh Sudi 7 (23 Poh) Saturday, 1723 Bikrimi i.e. 22 December, 1666 at Patna Sahib, Bihar. At this site now stands the sacred shrine Takht Sri Harimandir Sahib which is one of the Five Takhts, the most honoured seats close to the hearts of Sikhs. This year his birth anniversary is being celebrated all over the world on January 16. Every incident of his life reveals his love for humanity, help of the down-trodden and upholding a person's freedom to follow a religion of his own choice.

            Thus, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji sacrificed his whole family - his father, his mother and four sons for preserving human values and thoughout his life even in the face of ordeals continued his struggle against repression.

            In 1675, when he was barely nine years of age his tender heart had to bear the pressure of a helpless group of 500 Kashmiri Pandits who approached his father Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Ninth Master of the Sikhs to save them from forcible conversion to Islam by the then emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb had issued very strong orders to his faujdars to spread Islam in all nooks and corners of his territory even at the cost of severe physical torture to those who resisted it. For this purpose he had established an independet Department under a Director General. A large number of persons who refused to accept Islam were killed everyday. Aurangzed would not eat any meal until janeoos, the sacred thread worn by Brahmins, weighing one and a quarter maund were presented to him, meaning thereby that 2000-2500 Brahmins were being converted to Islam before he ate any meal.

            When this movement of conversion of Hindus to Islam reached its peak in Kashmir, after knocking at many doors, a group of 500 Brahmins under the leadership of Pandit Kirpa Ram Ji reached Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab to seek help from Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib. These Brahmins narrated to him all of their woeful tales and told him that more than half of the Kashmiri Brahmins had already been forcibly converted to Islam. A Kashmiri writer P.N.K. Bamzai in his book History of Kashmir has given details about this incident of the 500 Pandits asking Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib for help. After carefully listening to the cruelties meted out to Brahmins in Kashmir, while Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was sitting in a reflective mood his young barely nine-year old son Gobind Rai Ji asked him as to what was the reason for his pensive mood. His father told him about the whole problem and as reported by Kuir Singh in his book Gurbilas Patshahi 10  told him that 'Grave are the burdens the earth bears. She will be redeemed only if a truly worthy person comes forward to lay down his head. Distress will then be expunged and happiness ushered in'. The young son innocently and promptly remarked that none could be worthier than his father to make such a sacrifice. The Ninth Master felt happy at the brave answer given by his young son because this answer had, in a way, supported the decision that he had already taken in his mind i.e. to sacrifice himself to save the Hindu community from extinction and provide freedom to everyone to profess the religion of one's own choice. Thus, at an age of barely nine years by asking his father to save a community from extinction by sacrificing his life and to uphold human values he (Gobind Rai Ji) evinced the seeds of sacrifice.

            The Ninth Master asked the Kashmiri Brahmins to go back and tell the suba of their area that he should try to convert him i.e. the Ninth Master to Islam and if he is successful all of you will also accept that religion. Thus, at the inspiration of his son Gobind Rai Ji, the Ninth Master decided to sacrifice his life for upholding a person's right to profess the religion of one's own choice. Under the orders of Aurangzeb, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib was arrested at Sikandra, District Agra, U.P. and subjected to tortures. Finally he was beheaded in public view in Chandni Chowk, Delhi on 11 November, 1675. At the sacred site of his sacrifice now stands Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib. After his martyrdom, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who became the Tenth Guru decided to take up cudgels against Aurangzeb who was bent upon killng all those persons who stood in his way of Islamikaran. Thus Aurangzeb considered him as his chief enemy because he was following the foot-steps of his father to save Hindus from conversion to Islam.

            In April, 1685 Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji went to Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh, a city which he had established on the bank of river Yamuna. At this place he did creative writings in which he preached goodwill and equality. He preached to worship 'One Supreme God', discard idolatary and superstitions. The caste ridden Rajput chiefs of Shivalik hills felt threatened by his increasing power and decided to join hands and help the Muslim ruler in combating his activities. It was here that on September 18, 1688 under the leadership of Raja Fateh Chand of Garhval, U.P. the hilly monarchs attacked him at Bhangani 10 kms north-east of Paonta Sahib but were badly worsted. After this, in view of the repressive policies of Mughals and antagonism of the hilly Rajas he returnted to Anandpur Sahib and fortified it. During this period he had to get involved in many battles which include the battles at Nadaun which took place on March 20, 1691 and at Hussainiwala which took place on February 20, 1696.

            In the meantime, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji instituted 'Khalsa' to which he gave a concrete form on the Baisakhi day of 1699 through initiation of Panj Piaras (five beloved ones) at Anandpur Sahib, District Ropar, Punjab. In addition to maintaining five kakaars, the Sikhs were instructed to (i) avoid adultery (ii) not to eat halaal (the meat of the animal killed in the muslim way) (iii) avoid tobacco and (iv) not to have any relationship with those who consume tobacco or indulge in female foeticide. The institution of Khalsa by Guru Sahib further infuriated the hilly chiefs who under the leadership of Raja of Bilaspur in whose territory fell Anandpur Sahib became very active to forcibly evict Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji from his hilly citadel. During 1700-1704 they raided Anandpur Sahib many times but yielded no fruit. Having been frustrated by their failures they requested Aurangzeb for help to which he readily agreed. In May 1705, in collaboration with the contingents sent under imperial orders by the governor of Lahore and those of the faujdar of Sirhind they invaded Anandpur Sahib and laid a siege to the fort. Inspite of scarcity of ammunition and food caused by a prolonged battle Guru Sahib and his Sikhs gave a firm fight to these successive assaults. The attackers feeling helpless cunningly gave an offer on solemn oath to Guru Sahib to provide safe exit to him if he agreed to quit Anandpur Sahib. Guru Sahib accepted the offer. But during the night of 5-6 December, 1705 as soon as Guru Sahib along with his four sons - Sahibzada Ajit Singh Ji, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh Ji, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji aged 18 years, 14 years, 9 years and 7 years respectively, his mother Mata Gujri Ji and the Sikhs started coming out of the town the hilly chiefs and their Mughal allies started attacking them furiously. While crossing the rivulet Sirsa, a tributary of river Sutlej on horseback, the two younger sons of Guru Sahib Sahibzadas - Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji alongwith Mata Gujri Ji got separated from the rest of the family. At the place where they all got separated from each other, which is 12 kms south of Ropar now stands Gurdwara Parivar Vichhora Sahib. Gangu, an old cook of the family promised to take them safely to his village Kheri, now known as Saheri near Morinda in Ropar District of Punjab. But in the hope of a huge reward from the Mughals he betrayed them and on the morning of December 7, 1705 handed them over to Jani Khan and Mani Khan Ranghar, the officials of Morinda.

            In the meantime, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji alongwith about forty Sikhs and his two elder sons Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji had reached Chamkaur Sahib which is 40 kms south-west of Anandpur Sahib. The imperial army and the army of hilly monarchs had followed him closely. In Chamkaur Sahib, Guru Sahib established his head-quarters in a garhi (a protected place) now known as Chamkaur Di Garhi where now stands Gurdwara Garhi Sahib. From this place Guru Sahib sent the forces under the command of his elder sons Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji to fight with the imperial army and the army of hilly monarchs. In the furious battle which ensued on 7 December, 1705 at a nearby place both the elder sons of Guru Sahib Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji attained martyrdom. To commemorte their martyrdom Gurdwara Qatalgarh Sahib has been constructed at this sacred site.

            On December 8, 1705 Jani Khan and Mani Khan Ranghar took the two younger Sahibzadas - Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji aged 9 and 7 years respectively and their paternal grandmother Mata Gujri Ji to Sirhind and handed them over to Wazir Khan the faujdar of Sirhind who had just returned from the battle of Chamkaur Sahib full of vengeance. Wazir Khan ordered that these two young sons of Guru Sahib be sealed alive in a wall if they refused to accept Islam. As per Wazir Khan's orders on December 9, 1705 Sahibzadas were produced before him. He lured them with promises of wealth and honour if they adopted Islam. But both of them rejected the offer bravely and remained firm in their faith. Remaining staunch in his decision, Wazir Khan ordered that they be sealed alive in a wall. As per his orders, on December 11, 1705 they were to be paved with bricks standing on the ground at a place 5 kms north of Sirhind, which is now named as Fatehgarh Sahib after the name of the youngest Sahibzada. However, in constructing the wall around them when the masons reached above chest height of the younger Sahibzada i.e. Fateh Singh Ji, it crumbled and they found it impossible to complete it. The next day i.e. on December 12 the two Sahibzadas were again given the choice to get converted to Islam or embrace death. They firmly chose death and courageously faced the executioner's sword. On hearing the death of her grandsons, Guru Sahib's mother Mata Gujri Ji died of shock.

            At the sacred site of the martyrdom of the two Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh Ji and Fateh Singh Ji, Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib has been established. In the basement of this Gurdwara the wall which was constructed on December 11, 1705 is still in existance though with certain changes.The pilgrims who had visited this sacred place 60 years ago tell that at that time the original wall which was made of small Sirhindi bricks joined with lime mortar was in existance and the crack which had occured on one side of wall while the masons were constructing it, was also visible. But now this wall has been painted with a shining paint which has concealed its original form. Thousands of devotees visit this holy place every day and have 'darshan' (holy glimpse) of this wall. During 2004, being the tercentenary year, over one million pilgrims visited this holy place during December 24-26 who also visited Chamkaur Sahib during December 21-23 to pay homage to the two elder sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Sahibzadas - Ajit Singh Ji and Jujhar Singh Ji, who sacrificed their lives in a battle at this place.

            Thus, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji sacrificed his whole family - his father, his mother and four sons for preserving human values and thoughout his life even in the face of ordeals continued his struggle against repression.

            After Chamkaur Sahib going westward towards Dina and Kangar he stayed at village Lamman-Jatpura in District Ludhiana. It was at this place that he learnt about the sad demises of his two younger Sahibzadas and Mata Gujri Ji. On hearing about these deaths, he uprooted a dab plant and said that now the roots of Mughals have been uprooted. Travelling further westward, on 20 January, 1706 Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji reached Talwandi Sabo, now called Damdama Sahib where he stayed for about nine months and prepared a fresh recension of the Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib with Bhai Mani Singh Ji as his amanuensis. After this he decided to travel toward the south to spread the message of Sikhism. Wazir Khan of Sirhind still full of fury had already despatched two pathans Jamshed Khan and Wasil Beg to kill him. These two pathans followed Guru Sahib secretly and overtook him at Nanded in Maharashtra. One of them stabbed Guru Sahib on the left side below the heart as he lay resting in his chamber in the evening. Guru Sahib immediately struck him down with his sabre and killed him. The second pathan was killed by his devotees. The wound of Guru Sahib was stitched and seemed to have been healed. But one day as he tried to pull a stiff bow, the wound broke out which ended up being fatal and on 7 October, 1708 after bestowing Guruship on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, he left for his heavenly abode. Before he left for his heavenly abode he instructed the Sikhs (i) to avoid halaal (ii) maintain no relationships with those who eat halaal or indulge in female foeticide and (iii) keep the langars (community kitchens) ever open. In addition to his sacrifices, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji will always be respected for his religious writings including Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, a holy book written by him consisting of 1428 pages.

            Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's 350th Birth Anniversary will fall next year. The preparations are already under way for this mega event. The Govetment of Bihar has already identified 75 acres of land in Patna Sahib for setting up a 'tented city' to accommodate millions of pilgrims who are expected to participate in the jubilation  activities of the 350th birth anniversary. A large number of programmes are being planned to propagate Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji's phillosophy.

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