Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the ninth master of the Sikhs and his wife Mata Gujri Ji were blessed with their only child, a son, on 22 December, 1666 after 34 years of marriage. He was named Gobind Rai. The family, at that stage, was located in Patna; the place of birth is now marked as a Gurdwara named Takth Sri Patna Sahib. A Muslim mystic named Pir Bikhan Shah travelled from Kurukshetra to see the infant since he had received a divine revelation of a blessed being having been born. When he went to the presence of young Gobind Rai he carried in one hand a bowl filled with water and in the other a bowl filled with milk signifying the Hindu and the Islam faith. The mystic wanted to see which faith the young infant would choose. To the amazement of all present the child put his hands on both jars simultaneously.
Gobind Rai spent the first few years of his life in Patna till the time that the Guru, his father, decided to move back to Punjab and set base at Chak Nanki (later named Anandpur Sahib).
In 1671, when the Gurus family was passing through a place in Bihar called Danapur, an elderly lady Named Mata Jasni saved her meagre rations to serve Khichri (rice dish) to the family, Gobind Rai particularly relished the meal. Gobind Rai told her that as long as Khichri would be cooked in the Handi (clay pot) and served to the Sangat (congregation) she would feel his presence there. Mata Jasni converted her house into a Dharamshala where Khichri was served in a Handi. Gurdwara Handi Sahib, of Danapur, Bihar, has maintained the Khichri tradition ever since.
Gobind Rai was taught Punjabi, Gurmukhi and Persian and was also given martial training. Young Gobind was a brilliant student and particularly fond of conducting mock battles with his playmates with small sized weapons. From early days he showed the talent of becoming a very accomplished poet. It was in pursuit of his literary efforts that the Guru, in 1684, wrote the Var Sri Bhagauti Ji Ki, popularly called Chandi di Var. It was also the only composition that he wrote in the Punjabi language. The poem depicted the legendary contest between the gods and the demons as described in the Markandeya Purana and is an indication of the martial bent of mind that the Guru always harboured. He also wrote Chandi Charitras, in Braj language with the intention of instilling martial spirit among his followers.
Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur
Gobind Rai was only nine years old when his father Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji took upon himself the mantle of sacrificing his life for the sake of truth and justice to the oppressed Hindu community. Gobind Rai, though a child, had convinced his father that he should personally intervene on behalf of the Hindus. Before leaving for Delhi Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji named his son Gobind Rai as the tenth master of the Sikhs.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji Ordained
Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji embraced martyrdom on 24 November 1675 (some chronicles put down the date as 11 November 1675) at Delhi and Gobind Rai was ordained tenth Guru of the Sikhs on Baishaki day of 1676, he was renamed Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was, at that time, only ten years old.
Special efforts were instituted to ensure the safety of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, his education continued and he was advised in the discharge of his duties by his mother Mata Gujri and her brother Bhai Kirpal Chand along with Daya Ram. Nand Chand performed the function of treasurer as a Masand. Close relatives acted as bodyguards of the Guru. From early days Guru Gobind Singh was determined to create a Panth (community) that would challenge the tyranny of the ruling class.
Marriages and family
As was the custom in those times, the mother of Guru Gobind arranged his marriage at an early age of about 11 years of age. His bride was Bibi Jito, daughter of Bhikia Ji who belonged to Lahore. The marriage ceremony was conducted on 21 June 1677. Later he was pressured by his mother to also accept Bibi Sundari the daughter of a newly converted Sikh as his second wife. The marriage was solemnised on 04 April 1684. From these two marriages the Guru had four progeny, all sons. The eldest son Sahebzada Ajit Singh Ji was born to his second wife Bibi Sundari in 1987. Later his first wife gave birth to three sons, Sahebzada Jujhar Singh Ji in 1691, Sahebzada Zorawar Singh Ji in 1696 and Sahebzada Fateh Singh Ji in 1699.
In the year 1700, Bhai Rama Ji, a devout follower of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and resident of Rohtas in modern day Haryana came to Anandpur Sahib and offered his 19 year daughter to the Guru as his wife. The Guru refused since he was already twice married and had four sons. Bhai Rama Ji, however, insisted on the plea that a refusal would cause her to be ruined. Thus, on 15, April, 1700, the Guru got married for the third time, he however made it known to his wife that their relationship would forever remain on the spiritual level and he named her Mata Saheb Devan. When the Khalsa was initiated by the Guru he proclaimed Mata Saheb Devan as the Mother of the Khalsa. Mata Saheb Devan stayed with the Guru all through and even went with him to Nanded. She was with him when he breathed his last, after which, she came back and joined Bibi Sundari in Delhi. At the time of his passing away the Guru gave to Mata Saheb Devan five weapons of Guru Hargobind Ji and his insignia with which he issued nine Hukamnamas (edicts) for the Khalsa.
The Guru, around 1685, was offered lands by Medni Prakash, the ruler of Sirmaur, in present day Himachal Pradesh. The offer was made with the intention of garnering support of the Guru against the other rulers of the region. The Guru visited the Raja and 0n his way back went to meet the pious Rishi Kalpi who lived in the dense forests nearby, The Rishi breathed his last after the meeting but Guru Gobind Singh decided to stay in the same place. The place is Paonta Sahib and the Gurdwara stands at the very place where the Guru met Rishi Kalpi.
The Guru stayed at Paonta Sahib for four and a half years, the longest period that he ever stayed at a single place. The eldest son of the Guru, Sahibzada Ajit Singh was also born there. This time is deemed to be the happiest period in the life of the Guru when he was away from all worries and immersed in literary work and his well loved pursuits of military training and hunting. He also took many steps to beautify Paonta and called many well known poets, literary persons and others for interaction and exchange of views.
Most significantly, he completed the Kartarpur Pothi of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Paonta by adding the compositions of his father Guru Tegh Bahadar and excluding some extraneous Hymns that had been added in other versions. He included only one of his own compositions.
While at Paonta the Guru wrote many compositions of his own like Jaap Sahib, Akal Ustat and Sawayas and others. His compositions are in the Dasam Granth (Book of the Tenth Guru) and portions of his most important works appear in the Panj Bani (Five prayers) that the Sikhs are enjoined to recite daily. Even today and Gurdwara Paonta Sahib, the day begins with obeisance is paid to Rishi Kalpi, Medni Parkash, Pir Budhu Shah and others associated with the place.
Battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh Ji
Guru Gobind Singh Ji fought 13 battles against the Mughal Empire and the hill chieftains. of these epic siege of Anandpur Sahib and associated battles are of maximum significance.
The Battle of Bhangani
The Battle of Bhangani was fought between the forces of a few hill chieftains and Guru Gobind Singh in October, 1686, (some accounts put the date as 18 September, 1688). The main perpetrator of the attack was Raja Bhim Chand who held a grudge against the Guru and under the pretext of the wedding of his son with the daughter of Raja Fateh Shah of Srinagar in Garhwal made a demand for use of three possessions of the Guru. The first was a Shamiana (a royal canopy) embroidered in gold, silver and pearls presented to the Guru by a disciple named Duni Chand. The second was an elephant called Prasadi that had been presented to the Guru by Ratan Rai, the son of Raja Ram Rai of Assam. The third was a beautiful Nagara (war drum) named Ranjit Nagara. The Guru knew that the Raja had evil intentions and would not give the items back, he therefore declined stating that these were offerings by his devotees for which reason he would not be in a position to give them to anybody else. There were other reasons too. Basically Raja Bhim Chand wanted to bring down the strength of the Guru.
As expected, Raja Bhim Chand along with Raja Fateh Shah and about four other Hill Chieftains advanced with a force of 30000 soldiers. The Guru could barely muster a force of 4000 inclusive of his Sikhs, a few of the Udasi sect under Mahant Kirpal Das and 500 Pathans sent by Pir Buddhu Shah, a friend of the Guru. The forces finally came face to face at Bhangani.
Even before the battle was joined, 400 Pathans deserted on promise of loot of Paonta given by Raja Bhim Chand. Only a hundred under one general named Kale Khan remained. Most of the Udasi sect also deserted even though Mahant Kirpal Das stood firm. Pir Buddhu Shah, on hearing about the deceit of the Pathans rushed to the Guru aid with about 700 of his followers and four sons.
The Guru led his men and played havoc upon the enemy with his volleys of arrows. The battle lasted the whole day; at the end, the enemy stood defeated in totality on being unable to withstand the ferocity of the Guru and his soldiers. Soon thereafter the Guru left Paonta Sahib and returned to Anandpur Sahib.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji has given a description of the battle in martial verse in his epic Bachittar Natak. In his rendition the Guru is very generous in his praise for his soldiers and also some of his brave adversaries.
Battle of Nadaun
The Battle of Nadaun was fought on 20 March 1691. The Guru fought to assist the hill chieftains against the Mughals led by Alif Khan. Among those who sought help was also Raja Bhim Chand. The two armies met at Nadaun on the left bank of the River Beas, 32 km southeast of Kangra and 12 km from the temple town of Jawalamukhi. Guru Gobind Singh described this Battle too in the Bachittar Natak “The Almighty God hastened the end of the fight and the opposing host was pushed back into the river… Alif Khan fled in utter disarray leaving his camp to take care of itself…”. Gurdwara Patshahi Dasvi on the west bank of the River Beas commemorates the battle.
Battle of Guler
Hussain Khan, the son of Dilawar Khan along with forces of other Hill chieftains proceeded against the Raja of Guler who had refused to pay tribute. Guru Gobind Singh sent his army in support of the Raja. The two sides engaged in a fierce battle near Pathankot in 1696. The Mughal forces and their supporters were defeated, Hussain Khan and a few other Hill Chieftains were killed. The Guru has mentioned the battle in Bachittar Natak.
The Guru abolishes the Masand system
The Guru had, for long, been receiving complaints from Sikhs about monetary exploitation and misappropriation of community funds by the Masands. It was with great thought and application that the Guru decided to discontinue the Masand system once and for all.
Birth of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib
Birth of the Khalsa
The Guru was well aware that the Sikh community would have to stand for its rights and for the truth. He started building his fighting machinery in Anandpur Sahib with large scale production of war like stores like Lances, Swords, Bows and Arrows etc.
On 30 March 1699, when the Sikhs from all over gathered in Anandpur Sahib for the Vaisakhi festival, the Guru created an open Diwan at Keshgarh Sahib, where thousands of people could congregate. The Guru then gave a call for the sacrifice of one person for the faith and for their Guru. Bhai Daya Ram offered himself. The Guru took Bhai Daya Ram into a tent, the congregation heard a blow and a thud and the Guru came out with a sword dripping with blood in his hands. The ritual was followed by a demand for four more sacrifices. Bhai Dharam Das, a Jat from Delhi; Bhai Himmat Chand from Jagannath Puri; Bhai Mokham Chand from Dwarka and Bhai Sahib Chand from Bidar came forward.
After a while, the Guru came out with all five volunteers dressed in splendid attires. He named them the Panj Pyaras (Five loved ones) and made them the first initiates into the Khalsa faith. He then performed the Khande Ka Pahul (baptisation) ceremony of the Khalsa by administering to the initiates Amrit (holy Nectar) comprising of Patasas (sugar crystals) in water put in a Batta (Iron Bowl) and mixed with a Kanda (Double edged sword) accompanied by recitations from the Adi Granth. Each Pyara knelt before the Guru who gave to each five palm full of Amrit and sprinkled it on their eyes with incantation of “Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh” (The Khalsa belongs to the Almighty, victory be upon the Almighty). After having given Amrit to the Panj Pyaras the Guru called upon them to initiate him also to the fold of the Khalsa by similarly administering Amrit to him.
The Guru enjoined the new warrior community to take a universal surname of Singh (Lion) for all males and Kaur (lioness) for all females. He gave them a dress code consisting of five essentials Kesh (unshorn Hair) Kada (iron bracelet) Kanga (Comb) Kachera (loincloth) and Kirpan (small dagger). The Khalsa was enjoined to offer predetermined prayers every morning and evening. These were the Mool Mantar (preamble to Jap Ji Sahib) followed by Japji, Jap Sahib and Swayas in the morning; Rehras in the evening; and Kirtan Sohela at bedtime at night.
By initiating both men and women into the fold of the Khalsa the Guru set in motion one of the earliest examples in India of gender equality. Taking a common surname of Singh and Kaur removed the spectre of caste from the community
Battle of Nirmohgarh and Basoli
When the combined forces of Wazir Khan the Faujdar (Governor) of Sirhind and the hill chieftains laid siege on Anandpur Sahib the Guru, for strategic purposes, chose to move out to a location near Kiratpur. He was accosted enroute and the opposing forces joined the battle at a place called Nirmohgarh. The battle was fiercely fought over a number of days. The Guru and his forces, however, managed to break the cordon and crossed the Sutlej into Basoli. With the Guru out of their reach the imperial forces of Wazir Khan chose to go back to Sirhind. After some time, the forces once again joined hands and attacked the forces of the Guru and Raja Dharampal at Basoli. The Battle of Basoli ended without a decisive result and thus the imperial forces were compelled to go for a truce. The imperial forces left for Sirhind and Guru Gobind Rai went back to Anandpour Sahib.
The siege at Anandpur Sahib
The repeated attempts by Hill Chieftains from 1700 to 1704 to take Anandpur Sahib were unsuccessful since the fortress was too strong and so was the Khalsa Army. Totally dejected, they jointly petitioned Emperor Aurangzeb who ordered the Governor of Lahore and the Faujdar of Sirhind to aid the hill chieftains. Accordingly, the joint forces of the Mughals and the hill chieftains once again laid siege on Anandpur Sahib in May, 1705. The Sikh forces were tactically dispersed in five forts. Guru Gobind Singh with a small force and the women and small children of his family was in the fortress of Anandpur Sahib. All attempts to storm the citadel were unsuccessful.
The situation went on for seven long months and the coalition forces started feeling the pressure of stretched logistics and massive losses. The long siege also created many difficulties for the Sikh/Khalsa forces also. There was acute shortage of food and essential supplies due to the blockade, but the Sikhs withstood all difficulties stoically.
40 Sikhs could not take the hardship and they sought permission to escape. The Guru told them to sign on a paper that they no longer considered him to be their Guru and they were no longer his Sikhs. They did so and left the fortress. When they reached home they were shamed by their wives for having forsaken their Guru. They rejoined the Guru later when he was in Muktsar and were instrumental in changing the fortune of the Battle there by suddenly pouncing upon the enemy. They all attained martyrdom in the battle. The last before dying called upon the Guru to tear the paper of their disassociation which the Guru did. The 40 Sikhs continue to be revered in Sikh faith as the 40 Muktas.
The Mughal commanders felt that they would not be able to withstand the extreme cold and problems in coming months. Negotiation for peace on honourable terms with safe passage was sent on the name of Emperor Aurangzeb himself and sworn on the holy Quran; the other chieftains likewise gave their sacred word. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was not in favour of accepting the offer knowing full well that the besiegers were also in a desperate situation. He sent a message to the enemy commander, Wazir Khan, that he would first move his valuables to a safe place and then move his family and men out. Wazir Khan reaffirmed his promise. Accordingly, a wagon train was sent out purportedly filled with valuables but actually filled with refuse. As the Guru had appreciated the invaders were quick to break their promise and they attacked the wagon train.
However, on insistence from his followers and especially from his mother, Mata Gujri, the Guru agreed to leave the fortress. All valuables were burnt and destroyed and the contingent left the fortress on the night of 20 December 1704.
Battle of Sarsa
The enemy forces were unable to stop the two contingents from breaking free of the fortress. The Sikhs fought a successful rear guard action which allowed the administrative column to move ahead. Finally the forces joined the battle on the banks of the River Sarsa about 25 kms from Anandpur Sahib. The River was in spate which caused problems of crossing. The Sikhs fought an epic battle to save the family of the Guru who, with forty Sikhs including the Panj Pyaras and his two elder sons, managed to cross over. A major portion of the Khalsa forces was, however, killed in the action in which many thousands of the enemy also lay dead. All belongings of the Guru, including some very precious holy manuscripts were also lost. The mother of the Guru, Mata Gujri and two younger sons, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh got separated. They were later captured by the Governor of Sirhind and the young Sahibzadas (Princes) were interned alive in a brick wall for refusing to accept Islam. The Sikhs forming the rear guard perished in the battle.
The Guru with his Sikhs at Chamkaur
Battle of Chamkaur
Two brothers, Chaudhari Roop Chand and Jagat Singh, oblivious of the repercussions from Mughal forces, offered their house in Chamkaur to the Guru and his troops. The house was a mud fortress located on high ground and with high perimeter walls. It had good defence potential. The Guru with his forty Sikhs moved into the small fortress and prepared to give a final stand to the enemy forces.
The battle was fought over three days from December 21 to 23, 1704. Two elder sons of the Guru, Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jhujhar Singh fell in the battle as did three of the Panj Pyaras, Bhai Mokham Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh.
By then the Khalsa force had been depleted to only 11 Singhs but the enemy was in total disarray. The Singhs decided to take advantage of the confusion in enemy ranks and extricate the Guru. The Guru was not ready to leave his men. It was then that the Singhs invoked the oath of the Khalsa which makes it incumbent for the Guru to heed the advice of five of his disciples. They directed him to leave the fortress.
One among the remainder Khalsa dressed up as the Guru to deceive the enemy and they sallied forth for the last battle. In the prevailing confusion the Guru left the fortress.
The Guru at Machiwara
The Guru, exhausted and wounded from his battles, arrived at Machiwara and rested in a garden after drinking some water. It is here that the Guru composed the Shabad ‘Mitar Pyare Nu,’ telling his master (God) his plight as a loyal follower. Later, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh joined him there. This place is marked by Gurdwara Sri Charan Kanwal Sahib.
The enemy was in pursuit so the party took refuge in the house of one Gulaba who had served as a Masand earlier, the place is now marked as Gurdwara Chaubara Sahib.
Two Muslims Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan offered their services. Thinking that the Guru would be safe in their house they shifted him there. He was dressed in blue robes and it was said that a Ucch da Pir (Great ascetic) was visiting the brothers. The Guru stayed there for about two days. The place is marked as Gurdwara Sri Ghani Khan Nabi Khan. Gurdwara Uchch da Pir was established after 1947 in the private house formerly belonging to the descendants of Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan. To extricate the Guru, the brothers along with the Sikh followers prepared a palanquin and carried him in it out of Macchiwara disguised as Ucch Da Pir.
Martyrdom of Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibsada Fateh Singh
Some acts and deeds are so profound that they change the course of history! One such is the martyrdom of the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji! The young and innocent boys, Sahibzada (Prince) Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh attained martyrdom on 26, December, 1705, when they were brutally murdered by Wazir Khan the Mughal Governor of Sirhind.
Battle of Muktsar
After murdering the two Sahibzadas Wazir Khan once again set out to chase the Guru and capture him. The vast Mughal forces came in contact with the Guru and his few followers at a place called Khidrana-ki-Dhab. As the battle raged the tide was turned by the return of the 40 Muktas under the dynamic leadership of a lady soldier – Mai Bhago. The place of battle called Khidrana was renamed about by Maharaja Ranjit Singh as Muktsar (lake of salvation).
Composition of the Zafarnama
Guru Gobind Singh finally reached Dina in the heart of the Malwa and was rid of his pursuers who found it difficult to meet the logistic requirements in the desolate desert areas and were forced to turn back. In Dina he was protected by followers of the Brar clan who took the vows of the Khalsa. It was here that he composed a letter to Emperor Aurangzeb which is called the “Zafarnama”(The Epistle of Victory).
The letter written in exquisite Persian prose had a spiritual character. It was stern and conciliatory in equal measure. It laid down the manner in which the local Mughal commanders had, in the name of the Emperor, committed unpardonable falsities and broken oaths taken on the holy Koran. it spoke of the lack of morality that had beset the Mughal regime with complete lack of principles in governance as well as conduct of war. The Guru, in the letter, predicted the end of the Mughal Empire.
During his stay in the Malwa region, mainly at Talvandi Sabo (now called Damdama Sahib) that lasted for about nine months, the Guru prepared a fresh text of Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, with the celebrated scholar, Bhai Mani Singh performing the duty of a scribe.
On reading the Zafarnama, emperor Aurangzeb immediately realised that his official had perpetrated great wrong and atrocity upon the Guru and the Sikhs. He invited the Guru for a meeting in the Deccan and instructed the Governor of Lahore, Munim Khan, to reconcile with the Guru and provide security for his journey. The Guru was in the Baghor region of Rajasthan, when news of the death of Emperor Aurangzeb at Ahmadnagar on 20 February 1707 was received.
Baptising of Banda Bahadur
The Guru went to Nanded Sahib with the new Emperor Bahadur Shah and there he came across an ascetic called Madho Das who became his disciple. The Guru renamed him Banda Singh Bahadur, gave him five arrows from his own quiver and directed him to take revenge from Wazir Khan and destroy the evil Mughal administration. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur became the architect of the Sikh Empire while breaking the stranglehold of the Mughal rule in Punjab.
The Guru leaves his Earthly Body
Wazir Khan was scared that the Guru would be able to convince the Emperor to punish him. He therefore sent two Afghans, Jamshed Khan and Wasil Beg, to assassinate the Guru. They managed to infiltrate into the tent of the Guru and Jamshed Khan stabbed the Guru. The Guru immediately struck him down while Wasli Beg was killed by the body guards. Emperor Bahadur Shah immediately sent his surgeons to attend to the Guru. They stitched his wound and the Guru started recovering well. Sadly, when the wound appeared to be healed the Guru went out for Archery practice and as he tugged at the bowstring the wound opened up again. It was again treated but it was now clear to the Guru that the call of the father from Heaven had come.
He prepared the Sikh Sangat for his departure by sitting down to perform Path of the holy Granth. He placed five Paise and solemnly bowed to the holy book declaring it as his successor as “Guru Granth Sahib.” He instructed his Sikhs saying, “Agya Bhai Akal Ki Tabhi Chalayo Panth, Sabh Sikhan Ko Hukam Hai Guru Manyo Granth, Guru Granth Ji Manyo Pargat Guran Ki Deh, Jo Prabhu Ko Milbo Chahe Khoj Shabad Mein Le. Raj Karega Khalsa Aqi Rahei Na Koe Khwar Koe Sabh Milenge Bache Sharan Jo Hoe.” (Under orders of the Immortal Being, the Panth was created. All the Sikhs are enjoined to accept the Granth as their Guru. Consider the Guru Granth as embodiment of the Gurus. Those who want to meet God, can find Him in its hymns. The Khalsa shall rule, and its opponents will be no more, Those separated will unite and all the devotees shall be saved). The Guru left his body a few days later on 7 October 1708.