|Guru Gobind Singh Ji|
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Sat Nam Readers!
Today, we finally get to our tenth and final human Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. As always, please forgive any mistakes that I make in this post.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born Gobind Rai, the son of our ninth Guru – Guru Tegh Bahadur and Mata Gujri. He was born while his father was away in Assam, in Patna in Bihar in India on December 22, 1666.
He was only nine years old when his father named Gobind Rai as the successor to the guruship, shortly before he was beheaded in Delhi.
He was a very well educated young man, learning Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and Punjabi as a child. He was also well trained in warfare. As a young child he grew up in Patna but in 1672 he rejoined his father in Anandpur Sahib. Anandpur Sahib is at the foothills of the Sivalik Hills, a geography which would prove prominent in the life of Guruji.
He married Mata Jito and had four sons – Sahibzada Ajit Singh, Zorawar Singh, Jujhar Singh and Fateh Singh. The family lived on at Anandpur Sahib until and invitation came from Raja Mat Prakash of Sirmaur State to move his residence there. He moved to Paonta in Sirmaur State in April 1685. Some say that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was at odds with Bhim Chand and this is why he left Anandpur for Toka. He was then invited to Nahan and finally Paonta.
He had been invited to Sirmaur so that Mat Prakash could strengthen his position against Raja Fateh Shas of Garwhal. While there, over the course of three years, he wrote several texts and built a fort. The hostility between the Nahan King and Fateh Shah, the King of Garhwal increased resulting in the Battle of Bhangani near Paonta while Guruji was still there.
In 1687, the armies of Alif Khan were defeated by the alliance of Bhim Chand, Guru Gobind Singh Ji and other Rajas from the Sivalik Hills. On September 18th, 1688, Fateh Shah attacked, with the result a victory for Guru Gobind Singh Ji. After this battle, Rani Champa, dowager queen of Bilaspur asked Guruji to return to Anandpur Sahib. He arrived in Ananpur Sahib in November, 1688.
In 1695, Dilawar Khan, the chief of Lahore, sent his son to attack Ananpur Sahib. The Mughal army was defeated and the son, Hussain Khan was killed. Dilawar Khan then sent his men Jujhar Hada and Chandel Rai to the Sivalik Hills, where they were defeated by Gaj Singh of Jaswal. These conflicts worried the Mughal Emperor – Aurangzeb who sent forces to the hill area under the command of his son to restore Mughal authority to the region.
Shortly thereafter, in 1699, the Guru sent letters to his followers asking that they congregate an Anandpur on Vaisakhi (then an annual harvest festival) on April 13th, 1699. He spoke to the congregated Sikhs from the door of a tent at Kesgarh Sahib. He asked the Sikhs “Who am I to you?” and they answered that “You are our Guru.” Guru Gobind Singh Ji then asked “Who are you?” and received “We are your Sikhs” in response. He then told the group of Sikhs that today he needed something from them. Everyone responded with “Hukum Karo, Sache Patshah” (Order us, True Lord).
Guru Gobind Singh Ji drew his sword and asked for a volunteer to sacrifice his head for him. No one responded to the first or second request but on the third request, Daya Ram came forward and offered his head to the Guru. Guru Gobind Singh Ji took Daya Ram inside the tent. He emerged shortly afterward without Daya Ram but with blood dripping from his sword. He asked for another volunteer and a second went into the tent with him. Guruji came out again with blood on his sword, alone. This continued until there had been a total of five volunteers. The five volunteers then came out of the tent unharmed and dressed in new clothing. The five men were Daya Ram, Dharam Das, Himmat Rai, Mohkam Chand and Sahib Chand.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji poured clear water into an iron bowl. He added Patashas (sweetener) to the water and stirred it with a double-edged sword while reciting from the Aad Granth. He called the sweetened water Amrit and gave it to each of the five volunteers, giving them together the title of Panj Pyare (“the beloved ones”). These men were the first five Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs of the Khalsa. The five men were given new names – Singh meaning lion and became as follows:
Daya Ram became Bhai Daya Singh
Dharam Das became Bhai Dharam Singh
Himmat Rai became Bhai Himmat Singh
Mohkam Chand became Bhai Mokham Singh and
Sahib Chand became Bhai Sahib Singh
These men became the first five members of the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh Ji then had the Panj Pyare induct him into the Khalsa in the same way. Guruji became the sixth member of the Khalsa and his name then became Guru Gobind Singh Ji (rather than Gobind Rai). He reminded the Sikhs then what they were then – casteless, without ritual and superstition, believers in the one God, equal in rank and brothers to one another. He told them that they were not to go on pilgrimages nor believe in austerities. He reminded them that they are to live in the world as householders but be ready to sacrifice our lives at the call of Dharma. He reminded them that men and women are equal in every way and that women will not be veiled or be burned alive on the pyres of their husbands. He also said that the Khalsa would not deal with any person who kills his daughter.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji the gave us the five K’s – kesh (unshorn hair), kangha (a comb to symbolize cleanliness), kara (iron bracelet), kirpan (sword) and kacchera (an undergarment).
The formation of the Khalsa, a casteless army of Sikhs, did not sit well with the Rajs of the Sivalik Hills. Members of the third, fourth and fifth (the lower) castes of Hindus strengthened the numbers of the Sikhs and challenged the positions of those in the highest two castes. The Rajas united to evict Guru Gobind Singh Ji from the region. Some say that the Brahmin caste saw that the Rajas wanted to become disciples of Guruji. To prevent this they told the Rajas that fighting alongside the low-caste members of the Sikhs would pollute their status as members of the Khatri caste. Expeditions to evict Guruji between 1700 and 1704 failed.
Balia Chand and Alim Chand, two of the Rajas made a surprise attack on Guru Gobind Singh Ji while he was on a hunting expedition. During the battle, Alim Chand escaped and Balia Chand was killed by Ude Singh Ji. Several more unsuccessful attempts to control the rising power of the Sikhs followed and failed. The Rajas then turned to the Mughal Empire for help. Emperor Aurangzeb sent his generals Din Beg and Painda Khan with armies of 5000 men each. These were joined by the armies of the Rajas. In what became known as the First Battle of Anandpur, they failed to defeat Guruji’s forces. Painda Khan was killed in this battle.
The Second Battle of Ananpur was not far behind. Worried about the Guru’s power, the Rajas of several of the hill states assembled at Bilaspur to discuss the situation. The son of Bhim Chand, Raja Ajmer Chand suggested that all of the hill states form an alliance to defeat Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s forces and check his power. The alliance formed and marked toward Anandpur Sahib in 1701. They sent ahead a letter to Guruji demanding that he pay arrears of rent for Anandpur and leave the place. However, Anandpur Sahib was purchased by Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji honestly and so the land was Guruji’s property and no rents were due. He denied the demand and a battle ensued. The Rajas were joined by a large group of Gujjars. Reinforcements also arrived to fight for Guruji, including 500 troops from led by Duni Chand of Majha. At the end of the battle in 1704, the Rajas retreated back into the hills.
A peace agreement between the Rajas and Guru Gobind Singh Ji followed. As part of that agreement, Guruji was asked to leave Anandpur. He went to Nirmoh village. Nirmoh was not fortified so Raja Ajmer Chand and the Raja of Kangra attacked but were unable to defeat Guruji and his forces encamped there. While the attack was happening, Raja Ajmer Chand send a request for help to the Mughal viceroys in Sirhind and Delhi. The army of Sirhind’s viceroy, Wazir Khan arrived to assist the Rajas. This forces Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his forces to retreat toward Basoli, where the Raja was on good terms with Guruji.
Guruji stayed in Basoli for a few days before marching back to Anandpur where the local Rajas decided to make peace with him. Peace ensued for two years before hostilities broke open again. Raha Ajmer Chand, whose territory Anandpur was in, allied with the Rajas of Hindur, Chamba and Fatehpur to attack Anandpur in 1703. The Third Battle of Anandpur lasted into the following year before the Rajas acknowledged failure and retreated.
Emperor Aurangzeb then sent an army under Saiyad Khan’s command. Saiyad Khan defected to the side of the Sikhs, leaving Ramzan Khan to take control of the empirical army. The army allied with the Rajas of the Sivalik Hills once more to attack Anandpur Sahib in March 1704. It was harvest time and the majority of Guruji’s forces had gone home to harest their crops. Two Muslim admirers, Maimun Khan and Saiyad Beg assisted Guruji but Guruji’s forces were still outnumbered and so the decision was made to leave Anandpur. The army plundered Anadpur and left for Sirhind. However, the Guru’s forces surprised them along the way, taking back the plundered goods and returning to Anandpur.
The hill Rajas had alleged to Aurangzeb that Guru Gobind Singh Ji had wanted them to ally with him against the Emperor. They further alleged that Guruji was gathering forces for a fight against the empire and a march on Delhi itself.
In 1705 the Emperor’s army attacked Anandpur again, laying seige around the city. A few days into the siege Raja Ajmer Chand offered to withdraw in return for the Sikhs leaving Anandpur. Guruji refused. However many of the Sikhs with him suffered from a lack of food and supplies and asked Guru Gobind Singh Ji to accept the terms which would end the siege. As more followers pressured Guruji to accept the offer, he offered to evacuate Anandpur if his treasury and property could be removed from the city. The allied forces accepted that offer. To test the acceptance, Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent a caravan of loaded oxen outside of the fort. The caravan was attacked and looted by the allied forces who were disappointed to discover that the caravan had no treasures. Guru Gobind Singh Ji decided not to vacate the city and refused all further offers from the allied forces.
In time, Aurangzeb sent a litter to Guruji, swearing on the Qu’ran that Guruji and his forces would be allowed safe passage if he would evacuate. On December 20th and 21st, 1705 the Sikhs left Anandpur. They were attacked on the first night by the Emperor’s forces. After a few skirmishes, they reached the banks of the Sirsa River. They had to break into groups to cross the flooding river. Guruji’s mother and two younger sons, Fateh Singh and Zorawar Singh moved away from the main group. Guruji’s servant Gangu took them to his village in Kheri. Guruji’s wife Mata Jito was in a group with Mata Sahib Kaur who were escorted to Delhi by Jawahar Singh. The flooding took the lives of several Sikhs but Guru Gobind Singh Ji, his two eldest sons and others managed to reach Ghanaula village on the other side of the river.
He instructed a group of Sikhs to march toward Rupar under the leadership of Bachitar Singh. The remaining Sikhs, under Guru Gobind Singh Ji marched toward Kotla Nihang near Rupar to stay with Pathan Nihang Khan. From there they went on to Machhiwara and Raikot, stopping at Bur Majra, where he was told that a large number of troops from Sirhind were following him. He decided to stop and face the enemy troops at Chamkaur.
In December 1705, the Emperor’s forces besieged the fortress at Chamkaur, leading to the Battle of Chamkaur, where the two eldest sons of Guruji died. Guru Gobind Singh Ji prepared the remaining Sikhs for a final charge and told them to be ready to die fighting. However, his followers believed that his survival was vital for the survival of the Khalsa and planned his escape from the fortress. Sant Singh and Sangat Singh would stay in the fortress and Daya Singh, Dharam Singh and Man Singh would leave the fortress with Guruji. His armor and lakghi were given to Bhai Sangat Singh, who looked like Guruji. Sangat Singh Ji was then seated in a room were the Guru was stationed. Guru Gobind Singh Ji left at night with some of his followers. The next day, the Mughal army believed the Guru was still inside, attacked the fortress, killing all of the Sikhs inside, including Bhai Sangat Singh Ji.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his companions reached Machhiwara after separating along the journey. They were sheltered there by Gulaba, a masand, for a short time. But given the issues of safety, two Pathan horse merchants, Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan disguised Guru Gobind Singh Ji as a Sufi saint and carried him away to safety in a palanquin. He reached Raikot where he was greated by the Muslim chief and where he stayed for some time.
While Guru Gobind Singh Ji made his way to Raikot, Mata Gujri and his two younger sons were captured by Wazir Khan, the viceroy of Sirhind. The boys were given an opportunity to convert to Islam but were executed when they refused. Mata Gujri died soon after. The news of the death of his last sons reached Guruji through Rai Kalha’s servant Noora Mahi. Both Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Kaur escaped toward Delhi.
Eventually Guru Gobind Singh Ji traveled to Dina, where news of his survival began to spread. There he received a letter from Emperor Aurangzeb which was conciliatory in tone and asked that Guruji come to Deccan to discuss the situation. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was wary of the Emperor, who had beheaded his father and was ultimately responsible for the death of all four of his sons. The Guru rejected Aurangzeb’s offer with a famous letter, written in Persian, titled the “Epistle of Victory”. The letter reminded Aurangzeb of his misdeeds against the Sikhs and their Guru and condemned the behaviour of the Mughals. He sent the letter with Dara Singh and Dharam Singh and some guard to Aurangzeb who was camped in Ahmednagar.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji continued to move and was in Rohi when a group of forty Sikhs from the Majha area of the Punjab accompanied by Mata Bhag Kaur visited him. They had come to offer condolences over the deaths of his sons and his mother. They also offered to negotiate a compromise between Guruji and the Mughal empire. The Guru responded by reminding the group of all of the misdeeds of the Mughals from the time of the shaheed of Guru Arjan Ji to the siege of Anandpur. He shamed the group for talking of compromise. One of the leaders of the group, Bhag Singh Jabhalia said that it was not in their means to have more faith in Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He said he had not called for them and had five of them sign a disclaimer. He then heard that a group of Mughal forces, led by Wazir Khan were advancing and would reach him soon. He and his forces took up positions on the side of mound which was also the only source of water in the area.
Mata Bhag Kaur criticized the forty Sikhs for deserting Guruji at a critical time. The forty faced the Mughal forces on December 29th, 1705 along with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and his forces. By sunset most of the warriors were seriously hurt or killed. Of the forty Sikhs only three lay dying – Rai Singh, Sunder SIngh and Mahan Singh, while Mata Bhag Kaur was badly injured. At their request, Guru Gobind Singh Ji tore up the disclaimer and blessed them as Mukta, changing the name of the place to Muktsar in their honour.
After this battle, Guru Gobind Singh Ji continued to travel, initiating large groups of people into the Khalsa. Eventually, Emperor Aurangzeb ordered Wazir Khan to lift all restrictions imposed on Guruji and to stop harassing him.
When Guru Gobind Singh Ji was crossing the river after leaving Anandpur, all of his literature had been destroyed. He dictated the whole of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib to Bhai Mani Singh. A number of poets, scholars and other Sikhs gathered around Guruji at Talwandi Sabo which became known as Guru’s Varanasi. Guruji’s wife was also reunited with him there.
After having received the letter from Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Emperor Aurangzeb wanted to meet with him personally. Guruji left for Deccan in October of 1706 to meet Aurangzeb. However on his way he received news of the death of the Emperor and decided to return instead to the Punjab.
After Aurangzeb died, a war of succession broke out between his sons, Mohammad Azim and Muazzam. Muazzam had asked for Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s help in securing the throne. Guruji ksent a band of followers to help and Muazzam’s forces defeated Azam Sha’s forces in the Battle of Jajau on June 12th, 1707. Muazzam gave Guru Gobind Singh Ji the title of Hind Ka Pir or the Saint of India. Guruji stayed on with the new Emperor until November 1707. He then traveled with the Emperor as the Emperor dealt with rebels in Rajputana and Deccan. He parted ways with the Emperor and moved on eventually to Nanded where he received a letter from Saiyad Khan’s sister Nasiran informing him that the Emperor’s army had ransacked Sadhaura and hanged Pir Budhu Shas as a rebel for believing in Guru Gobind Singh Ji, who they called Kaffir (infidel).
Guru Gobind Singh Ji wrote to the Emperor demanding an explanation. No reply came so he appointed Banda Singh as the commander of the Khalsa and asked them to march toward Punjab.
Meanwhile Wazir Khan was anxious about any conciliation between Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Emperor Bahadur Shah I. He hired two Pathans to assassinate Guruji. The two men followed the Guru Gobind Singh Ji until they had an opportunity to attack him at Nanded.
Jamshed Khan, on of the Pathans hired by Wazir Khan, stabbed Guruji in the left side below his heart while he rested after Rehras prayer. Guru Gobind Singh Ji killed this attacker with his talwar. The other Pathan was killed by Sikhs who had rushed in to Guruji’s chamber on hearing the noise.
A European surgeon was sent by Bahadur Shah to tend to Guruji. He stitched Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s wound but a few days later Guruji tugged at a hard strong bow and the wound re-opened. He was bleeding profusely and knowing that he was to die, he declared that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was to be the final and everlasting Guru of the Sikhs. Our tenth and last Guru died on October 7th, 1708 at Nanded.
Bahadur Shah I respected Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He often attended his talks and ordered an investigation into the actions of Wazir Khan, according to Mughal accounts.
Before leaving this world, Guru Gobind Singh Ji left us many gifts, including the Khalsa, our 5 Ks, his example in battle and our final Guru – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
Sat Nam Readers!
In a future post, we’ll look at our eternal Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Until then, I wish for all of you every blessing.