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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh

 

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Baba Ala Singh

Dr Kirpal Singh

The 18th century makes the most important period of Sikh history. It is in that century that one of the noblest Sikhs, Bhai Mani Singh was cut to pieces. That century witnessed the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh, the martyrdom of Banda Bahadur and martyrdom of various Sikhs by the tyranny of Zakaria Khan and Mir Manno, the Governor of Lahore. The Sikhs were hunted and driven out from the centres of population. It is in that century that we can find the most gruesome hours when about twenty thousand Sikhs were killed in the famous battle known as ‘Ghallughara’. Blood of the martyrs is never wasted. The second half of the Eighteenth century ushered in an era of Sikh domination. Ahmad Shah Abdali, the conqueror if the Marathas- the destructor of  the Moghul Empire found himself helpless before a few organized bands of the Sikhs. Zain Khan, Abdali’s Faujdar of Sirhind was killed and the fall of Sirhind, the accursed Sirhind, or Guru-Mari Sirhind as nick-named by Sikh leaders, brought the war of liberation of the Sikhs to a successful end. They were men of extra-ordinary ability and sound character. They rightly understood the principles of Sikhism and translated them into action with the result that they were successful to construct Sikh supremacy in the Punjab. One of such pioneer misldars, an important Sikh leader and founder of Sikh supremacy in Cis Sutlej territory (Patiala State) was Baba Ala Singh. His statesmanship, secular outlook and high moral character will ever remain as source of inspiration for the future generations of Sikhs. It will not be out of place here to study in detail some of the important features of his character in order to impress the readers that a true Sikh can spurn the worldly temptation and rise above depravity, and sexual temptations.

The character of Baba Ala Singh stands in great contrast to the character of his contemporaries. In an age when Muslim rulers were sunk in sensuality, Baba Ala Singh’s fidelity to his wife and his strict observance of monogamy were conspicuous in that age of moral laxity. Baba Ala Singh’s character shines like a beacon light as compared to the sexual depravity, rape and plunder so frequently committed by the rulers in those days. Like a true Sikh, he not only stuck to one wife but took upon himself not even to look upon other women with an evil eye. The following account about his character has been profusely quoted in the Patiala State records.

Once Baba Ala Singh went up on the roof of his house at Longowal and there accidentally he saw a young naked girl coming down the stairs. He called her father and having told him the whole account, apologized and defrayed the expenses of her marriage.

Baba Ala Singh had great intrepidity and inborn courage. His release from the Sunam fort was another event which displayed his great courage and pluck. One of his contemporaries, Anand Ram Mukhlis has greatly admired his inborn courage, daring spirit and intrepidity in attacking the foraging parties of Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Battle of Manupur 1748. His daring courage and pluck were mainly responsible for his rapid rise to power.

Baba Ala Singh was one of those early Sikhs who had rightly understood the tenets of Sikhism and who practised them in his life. Just as he had strictly followed the religious principles of abstinence from sexual pleasures, he acted upon the words of Guru Gobind Singh. “May the kettle (Degh) and the sword (Tegh) go hand in hand in the world”. He fully knew that the Tegh, the sword, was the symbol of the warlike Khalsa whereas the Degh, the kettle represented the Sikh services to humanity and both could not be separated. He had, therefore, started a common kitchen for feeding the poor.  Fateh Kaur, the wife of Baba Ala Singh took special interest in this respect and devoted herself to the service of the common kitchen.  The Sikhs from different localities and areas were served there with great devotion.  Baba Ala Singh’s services in the cause of feeding the poor were so much appreciated by the people, he ruled over, that the hearths where the food for the common kitchen was cooked, are still preserved at Barnala and it is considered a sacred place of pilgrimage by the people of the locality.

Like all great men Baba Ala Singh possessed great presence of mind and we do not find even a single example which may indicate that he ever lost his temper.  On the other hand he could resist the greatest provocation.  Once Fateh Kaur was serving in the common Kitchen and one rash Sikh who was being served there stood up and poured ‘hot pulse’ over her head and remarked ‘why pulse has been  prepared with so much water in it’. Fateh Kaur’s head was half burnt and she felt greatly annoyed.  When the matter was brought to Baba Ala Singh, he with his characteristic calmness said to his wife. ‘The Sikh has done well.  He has cut short your troubles. Had he not done so, you would have been caught by the Mughals and they would have poured burning oil on your head.  You should, therefore, be thankful to the Sikh, instead of being annoyed’.

Baba Ala Singh displayed rare courage and presence of mind when he was imprisoned by Ahmad Shah Abdali, who had ordered that his hair should be cut.  It was the severest blow to a Sikh, but he was never dismayed at this order and he sent a word to the avaricious Shah that he was prepared to purchase his hair.  His shrewd reply melted the fury of Ahmed Shah Abdali who agreed to the proposal.

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