Guru Gobind Singh – The Last Journey –
Guru Gobind Singh had sent a memorandum of grievances, called Zafarnama, to Emperor Aurangzeb in January 1707. He had asked for an interview either in the Deccan, where the Emperor was, or in the Punjab. The objective was establishment of peace between the State and the Sikhs, and punishment of the guilty including Wazir Khan who had murdered the 6-year and 9-year-old sons of the Guru.
Several months had passed and there was no news from Bhai Daya Singh and Bhai Dharam Singh, through whom the Zafarnamah had been sent. Not knowing the fate of his emissaries, Guru Gobind Singh decided to proceed himself to the Deccan.
He sent his wives, Mata Sundari and Mata Sahib Devan, back to Delhi in the company of Bhai Mani Singh.
On October 30, 1706, after a stay of 9 months and 9 days at Talwandi Sabo, Guru Gobind Singh marched slowly and cautiously towards South India via Rajasthan.
When he was near Baghaur, he came to know that Aurangzeb had died at Ahmednagar, on February 20, 1707. To study the developments and plan his next programme he decided to return to Delhi, where his wives were.
Struggle for Succession to the Empire
Aurangzeb was survived by three sons. All three staked their claims to the Empire. The eldest, Prince Muazzam, also known as Shah Alam was at Jamrud over 1,100 km away from the Capital. The younger two were in the South.
Prince Kambakhsh, the youngest, had captured Bijapore and Golkanda, so he decided to stay put, and issue his own coins.
Prince Azam, the second son, rushed to Agra, where the central treasury was. Whoever took possession of the treasure, would have had more resources to recruit more soldiers, and was more likely to have the upper hand.
On June 18, 1707 a decisive battle was fought at Jajau, southeast of Agra, near Samrugarh, where Aurangzeb had defeated his brother Dara Shikoh. Azam was killed. Muazzam won.
He had already taken the title of Bahadur Shah, on May 3, 1707, when he had announced his accession to the throne near Lahore, while on his way to Delhi. (William Irvine, Later Mughals, p. 20)
Bahadur Shah took possession of the treasury, which yielded coins, silver and gold worth 24 crores of rupees. He celebrated his victory, by giving away more than three crores of rupees, in generous rewards to the Princes, Commanders and the soldiery.
After the Battle of Jajau
The war was over. Bahadur Shah was at the helm of affairs. It was time for Guru Gobind Singh to get his matters straightened out with the new Emperor.
As per tradition in Sikh books, Guru Gobind Singh had sent two to three hundred Sikhs to help Bahadur Shah, in his campaign for succession. It is also said that they played an important role in the battle at Jajau, and thus in his victory. And, it was in gratitude that Bahadur Shah invited Guru Gobind Singh to Agra, and presented him a khillat and a jeweled scarf valued at sixty thousand rupees.
For the time being, keeping this tradition aside, to which writer of these lines, does not subscribe, we shall look at other facts.
Guru Gobind Singh had matters to be resolved with the State. He had been attacked by the hill Rajahs. The Imperial armies from Jammu, Sirhind and Lahore, had joined them without any justification. Then he had been promised, with oaths on the Quran, a safe-conduct if he vacated his forts at Anandpur. They broke the pledge; chased his party and inflicted heavy casualties at Chamkaur and Khidrana. And on top of all that, faujdar Wazir Khan had committed an unforgivable offence of murdering the 6-year and 9-year-old innocent children of Guru Gobind Singh.
All this had happened during the period that Muazzam (Bahadur Shah) was governor of Punjab — since 1695.
To seek redress of these excesses, Guru Gobind Singh had sent his Zafarnamah to Emperor Aurangzeb, who died before the issues were resolved.
With full self-confidence in justification of his cause, he had proposed a face-to-face meeting with Emperor Aurangzeb. Therefore, he would have had no hesitation in meeting the new sovereign, to seek redress of his grievances.
Early in 1707, Munim Khan, then naib subahdar, or deputy governor, of Lahore (Irvine, Later Mughals, p 19) had received a firman from Aurangzeb, to make arrangements for Guru Gobind Singh’s safe travel to the South, to meet him:
He [Aurangzeb] felt persuaded to adopt a conciliatory attitude and ordered a letter to be written to Wazarit-panah Munim Khan, Deputy Governor of Lahore, to be dispatched through Muhammad Beg gurz-bardar [mace bearer] and Shaikh Yar Muhammad Mansab-dar. Therein Munim Khan was desired to conciliate the Guru and invite him to his headquarters and, then, having conveyed to him the royal farman, to send him to the Emperor (at Ahmadnagar) accompanied by a trusted officer of his own and the above mentioned gurz-bardar and mansabdar sent by him. And whenever the Guru arrived in the neighbourhood of Sirhind, wrote the Emperor, the Khan was to provide him with an escort and see him off safe beyond his own territories. Munim Khan was further instructed to soothe if the latter had any secret or open suspicions and to pay him out of his attached property as much as he desired for his traveling expenses. With this letter the Gurz-bardar and the Guru’s messenger Daya Singh moved to the north together. (Inayatullah Khan Ismi, Ahkam-i-Alamgiri, Rampur, Insha-i-Farsi, II, pp 429-30; Sri Gur-Sobha, XIII, 38-40; Ganda Singh, Panjab Past and Present, Oct. 1983, p 5)
Hence, Guru Gobind Singh met Bahadur Shah at Agra, on July 24, 1707. He offered the new Emperor a thousand gold mohars in nazar. In return, he was presented a khillat, with accessories including a jeweled scarf. It was a custom of the Mughal Darbar, that the value of the gifts received or given was announced, on presentation. In this case they were valued at sixty thousand rupees.
As Munim Khan was aware of Aurangzeb’s intent to meet Guru Gobind Singh, to hear his case, and conciliate him, it was not inappropriate for him to arrange Guru Gobind Singh’s interview with Aurangzeb’s son, the new Emperor.
In response to the Emperor’s instructions, Gobind, successor of Guru Nanak, came duly armed and joined his company. The Guru made a nazar of one thousand gold mohars to the Emperor, and received in return, a khillat and a medal studded with precious jewels as a present and got his leave. (Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla —News of the Royal Mughal Court, 1707-1718). Punjab Past and Present, October 1984, p. 24); Danashmand Khan, Bahadur-Shah-nama, report of the 4th Jamadi, 1119 (2nd August 1707).
According to Sikh tradition, Guru Gobind Singh did not salute either before or after receiving the khillat, as was customary. Also, he did not wear the khillat there; it was carried out by one of his disciples. In other words, Guru Gobind Singh maintained his prestige.
It appears that Bahadur Shah gave the Guru, then or some time later, an understanding, that his complaint would be considered sympathetically. On October 2, 1707 Guru Gobind Singh sent hukamnamas to several Sikh congregations, including two to the sangats of Dhaul and Khara, which are extant — number 63 and 64 in Ganda Singh’s anthology. (pp. 186-189. Patiala: Punjabi University)
To the sangat of Dhaul, he wrote from the neighborhood of Agra, confirming his meeting with Bahadur Shah:
To the Sangat of Dhaul: You are my Khalsa. The Guru shall protect you. Repeat Guru-Guru. With all happiness we came to the Patshah. A dress of honour and a jeweled scarf worth sixty thousand rupees were awarded to us. With Guru’s grace, the other matters are also progressing. In a few days we also are coming. My instructions to the entire Khalsa sangat are to remain united. When we arrive in Kahlur, the entire Khalsa should come to our presence fully armed. He who will come shall be happy… Sammat 1764, Kartik 1. [October 2, 1707.]
It indicates that he must have had some negotiations with the Emperor, since his first interview in July, and that he was hopeful of positive results enabling him to return to Anandpur. It is also obvious that he was not going to surrender his freedom; he and his disciples were going to remain armed for self defense.
But, this hope was an illusion. Bahadur Shah had absolutely contrary plans. He had no intentions to punish one who was his ally during the struggle for succession, and had provided 8 lakhs of rupees in his hour of need.
At this time Bahadur Shah was on the move to punish Rajput Rajahs in the Rajasthan, who had sided with Prince Azam and fought against him at Jajau. After that he was to proceed to the Deccan to settle the matters with his younger brother, Kambakhsh, who had declared independence and struck his own coins.
Guru Gobind Singh had waited at Agra, for more than four months, to get his matter resolved, but to no avail. He was eager to return to his beloved Anandpur. But, could not be sure, as to how long Bahadur Shah’s campaign would last.
At Bahadur Shah’s suggestion, or of his own volition, he decided to proceed South, to take chances to talk to the Emperor. He caught up with the royal Camp at Dhaulpur, and moved south along with it.
All those who traveled in the train of imperial camps were not necessarily State employees. Such camps were mobile townships spread over miles. The commanders traveled along with their harems. Qazis solemnized marriages and confirmed divorces. There were bazaars, where needles to elephants were on sale. Jugglers and snake charmers provided entertainment.
According to Tarikh-i-Bahadur Shahi (History of Bahadur Shah’s Reign) Guru Gobind Singh also had come into those districts to travel. It makes it clear, that he accompanied the royal camp, but was not part of it, as assumed by some early Sikh writers.
“At this time the army was marching towards Burhanpur, Guru Gobind, one of the grandsons (sic) of Nanak, had come into those districts to travel and accompanied the royal camp. He was in the habit of constantly addressing assemblies of worldly persons, religious fanatics and all sorts of people.” (History of India as told by its own Historians, III, p 565)
Contrary to the above fact, that he ‘had come to these districts to travel’ some British authors, including Cunningham gave some credence to the imaginative story of some early Sikh writers, who disregarding the prestige and character of a Sikh Guru, — popularly known as sacha patshah — wrote inaccurately that Guru Gobind Singh had accepted a command under Bahadur Shah:
“Gobind perhaps saw in the imperial service a ready way of disarming suspicion and of reorganizing his followers.” (Cunningham, History of the Sikhs, p 72)
Guru Gobind Singh had undertaken this journey to take chances to talk to the Emperor, hoping to get his grievances resolved; Wazir Khan had to be punished for his atrocities, and security of Sikhs’ return to Anandpur was to be guaranteed.
If Bahadur Shah had given any hope, that would have been in his nature of duplicity. William Irvine tells us how Muazzam tried to lull his brother to inactivity, while making his own plans to capture the throne.
During the last years of his father’s lifetime Muhammad Muazzam, in whom there must have been great power of dissimulation, had given out that if Azam Shah claimed the throne he would make no attempt to contend with him but would at once seek a refuge in Persian territory or elsewhere. But the truth was that he had made secret preparations in concert with Munim Khan Diwan of Kabul, to assert his claims without a moment’s delay. (Later Mughals, p.19)
Bahadur Shah, instead of reprimanding Wazir Khan, and making return of the Sikhs to Anandpur secure, openly awarded and rewarded him, and instructed him to acquit his charge firmly:
Wazir Khan, faujdar and amin of chakla of Sirhind, held the [mansabdari] rank of 1,500 zat and 1700 swar. There was an addition, in rank, of 1,000 zat and 300 swar. Then there was another addition of 2,500 zat and 2,000 swar rank to his status. From his full rank, the rank of 2,500 zat and 1,300 swar was exempted from any conditions and obligations to the state. He was also awarded a khillat. The Emperor issued orders that a communication be dispatched to the said Khan telling him that the population of the said chakla and its fortress was in his charge. He should take care that he acquitted himself of his charge with firmness. (Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, 17 Ramzan, Year 1 of Bahadurshahi reign, A. H. 1119 [December 1, 1707] Monday.) (Emphasis added.)
This important fact did not come to the attention of, or was not properly evaluated by, Sikh writers, or other historians, thus leading to inaccurate conclusions about the events that followed.
The state of Bahadur Shah’s mind becomes further clear from another order that he issued six days later, to reinforce Aurangzeb’s edicts restricting liberties of the Hindus:
December 7, 1707: An order of the Emperor was issued that His Majesty’s Kotwal, Sarfraz Khan, should be told that the Hindus should not be allowed to travel in palanquins or to ride horses of Arab and Iraqi breeds. They should not present themselves before him with emeralds worn in their ears. They should also keep their beards trimmed. (Akhbar-i-Darbar-Mualla.)
The latter part of this order, regarding keeping the beards trimmed affected the Sikhs directly. With this attitude, he would not have facilitated Guru Gobind Singh’s return to Punjab.
This was the holy month of Ramzan. Perhaps, he issued that order as his religious duty.
Hoping that he would be able to prevail upon the Emperor, for some favourable action, Guru Gobind Singh kept on traveling alongside the camp, while continuing addressing audiences, and preaching his message.
According to Khafi Khan (Muntakhab-ul-lubab), Guru Gobind Singh had two hundred to three hundred Sikhs with him, all with simple arms, such as kirpans and spears.
During the next few months we do not know how many meetings he had with the Emperor, but none bore any fruit.
Guru Gobind Singh left Bahadur Shah’s Camp immediately after crossing the Banganga, in August 1708, obviously because his negotiations, were going nowhere.
He reached Nanded at the end of August 1708, while Bahadur Shah reached nearby a month later, heading for Bidar on the way to Hyderabad.
Guru Gobind Singh Meets Banda Singh Bahadur
In Nanded Guru Gobind Singh heard of a bairagi or a hermit, Madho Das, who had his monastery on the left bank of the river Godavari. From his previous knowledge about the person, or having heard some stories about his occultist ‘powers’ Guru Gobind Singh chose to see him. He met him in his hermitry on September 3, 1708. It is said that the hermit tried to play some tricks on him, which did not work
Years back, this Madho Das, an expert marksman from Kashmir had become an ascetic, since a pregnant doe wounded by his arrow, saw him eye to eye, when he came to collect his prize. With tears rolling down his eyes he threw away his quiver and his arrows, and left home in search of light. Living in the company of other hermits, who taught him occult sciences, he had traveled down south to the banks of Godavari.
Guru Gobind Singh’s meeting with this hermit was of a great consequence, for the future of Punjab.
According to Ahmad Shah Batalia’s Zikr-i-Guruan wa Ibtida-i-Singhan wa Mazahib-i-Eshan, the following dialogue took place between Madho Das and Guru Gobind Singh:
Madho Das: Who are you?
Guru Gobind Singh: You know.
Madho Das: What do I know?
Guru Gobind Singh: Think it over.
Madho Das (after a pause): Guru Gobind Singh! Yes!
Guru Gobind Singh: Yes.
Madho Das: What brings you here?
Guru Gobind Singh: To make you my disciple.
Madho Das: I am your Banda (slave).
Guru Gobind Singh told him that he was not his banda, but Banda Singh. He escorted him to his own camp and initiated him with pahul of the double-edged sword. During the next few days when Banda Singh heard the harrowing tales of the events of Punjab, and came to understand the real purpose of Guru Gobind Singh’s journey to the Deccan, he requested the Guru to bless him and permit him to go to the Punjab and punish the barbarians who had perpetrated the unspeakable atrocities of torture and decapitation of the young children of Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh had warned Aurangzeb, that when all peaceful means fail, it is righteous to pick up the sword. Bahadur Shah was the last resort, and that had brought no results.
Not to take revenge, but to uproot the evil, Guru Gobind Singh asked for volunteers.
He deputed five of his close associates to accompany Banda Singh, as his advisory council, on the campaign. They were: Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, Baz Singh, Daya Singh and Ram Singh.
Binod Singh and his son, Kahan Singh, were direct descendants of Guru Angad. Baz Singh, according to Macauliffe, was a descendant of Guru Amar Das. According to another writer, he was a Ball Jat from Mirpur Patti, near Amritsar.
To plant the temporal authority of the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh gave them a Nishan Sahib (a flag), and a drum to announce the kingdom of the Khalsa. He gave to Banda Singh, along with his blessings, five arrows from his own quiver to reinvigorate his martial spirit.
This small band of pioneers had no arms other than swords and spears, but their courage was boundless. Carrying Guru Gobind Singh’s hukamnamahs, addressed to leading Sikhs in Punjab, they left for Delhi.
To avoid attention of the imperialists, the team moved slowly and steadily, reaching Delhi after several months.
They launched their campaign from Delhi in November 1709. By that time Sikhs had come to know of Guru Gobind Singh’s assassination, and had believed that Wazir Khan was responsible for that inexcusable crime. Furious and anxious to teach him a lesson, Sikhs from all over Punjab rallied round Banda Singh’s standard. Sirhind was captured in May 1710. Wazir Khan and his Hindu Diwan Sucha Nand were killed.
“In seven years (1709-1715) they shook the two hundred year old Mughal empire in the north-west to its very foundations and showed the way to the liberation of the Punjab in 1755.” (Ganda Singh, ‘Guru Gobind Singh, the Last Phase’, in Punjab Past and Present, April 1983).
Attempt on the Life of Guru Gobind Singh
After crossing the Banganga, Guru Gobind Singh had separated himself from Bahadur Shah’s camp, and arrived at Nanded. Probably, his last meeting with the Emperor was disappointing, perhaps even unpleasant.
It is not difficult to comprehend that Bahadur Shah would not have let live an aggrieved and non-conciliated “enemy”, as the Guru’s grievances had not yet been redressed.
As the ‘Government kept an eye on him’ some spy’s report of selection of Banda Singh Bahadur as a Jathedar, and bestowing him with emblems of authority, could have been a factor of what followed. But that possibility may be ruled out, as Banda Singh and his party reached Delhi safely, though after several months.
Two Pathans, Jamshed Khan and Wasil Beg — from Bahadur Shah’s camp joined the camp of Guru Gobind Singh, where religion was no bar. Finding an opportunity one day, when the sangat had dispersed after Rahras (the evening prayers) the Guru was alone, resting. Jamshed Khan suddenly attacked him with a dagger, missing his heart slightly. Before the assassin could deal another blow, Guru Gobind Singh struck him with his sabre. The other Pathan trying to escape, met his end at the hands of Sikhs who rushed in hearing the noise.
The wounds were stitched, but Guru Gobind Singh felt that his time on this earth was coming to an end. It was his duty to designate a Guru, for guidance of the Sikhs.
Gurgaddi Passed on to Granth Sahib for all Times to Come
On October 6, 1708 Guru Gobind Singh called Bhai Daya Singh and instructed him to fetch the holy Granth Sahib. When brought in and installed, the Guru rose from his seat; placed a coconut and five paise before the holy book. He made his obeisance before it, and told the sangat that henceforth the holy Granth would be the Guru of the Sikhs. He instructed that the Granth Sahib should be considered embodiment of living Guru, ultimate successor to the spiritual seat of Guru Nanak.
The personal Guru-ship of the Sikhs was thus ended by Guru Gobind Singh, and through the holy Book, the Word or Sabda became the everlasting source of spiritual guidance for the Sikhs.
The above event was documented by Narbad Singh, a Bhatt, present at Nanded, in the sangat of Guru Gobind Singh.
Bhatts are bards, who, apart from being panegyrists, are also hereditary genealogists. They maintain Bhatt vahis, or scrolls of family records. Bhatts were always present in the Darbars of Sikh Gurus since the time of Guru Arjun. A few swaiye, or eulogistic compositions, by these Bhatts also appear in the Adi Granth.
Narbad Singh Bhatt’s record in the Bhatt Vahi Talauda Parganah Jind states how Guru Gobind Singh bequeathed the gurgaddi to Granth Sahib:
Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Master, son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, grandson of Guru Hargobind, great-grandson of Guru Arjun, of the family of Guru Ram Das, Surajbansi Gosal clan, Sodhi Khatri, resident of Anandpur, parganah Kahlur, now at Nander, on the Godavari bank in the Deccan, asked Bhai Daya Singh, on Wednesday, shukal chauth of the Kartik month 1765 Bk (October 6, 1708), to fetch the Sri Granth Sahib. The Guru placed before it five paise and a coconut and bowed before it. He said to the sangat, “It is my commandment: Own Sri Granthji in my place. He who so acknowledges it will obtain his reward. The Guru will rescue him, Know this as the truth.”
One day after performing his last duty of nominating his successor to the gurgaddi or the spiritual throne from which he had guided the followers of Guru Nanak for 33 years, Guru Gobind Singh left for his heavenly abode, on Katak sudi 5, 1765 Bk — October 7, 1708.
Following is an English version of Guru Gobind Singh’s last brief sermon which is now traditionally sung, after the supplication offered day or night, at the end of all Sikh religious functions :
When ordained by the Immortal Being
The Panth was promulgated
All Sikhs are now enjoined
to regard the Granth as the Guru
Consider Guru Granth as manifest
body of the Gurus
Those who seek to be united with God
May find Him in the Sabda, the Scripture.
The Khalsa shall rule,
And none will remain defiant
After humiliation all shall come and join
And those who do shall be saved
Reports to Bahadur Shah and his Reactions
On October 28, 1708 it was reported to the Emperor that Guru Gobind Rai had killed Jamshed Khan, an Afghan. A dress of mourning was bestowed upon the son of the (killed) Khan. (Akhbar, PPP, October 1984, p 25)
It is obvious that the Court previously knew Jamshed Khan; and that he was from Bahadur Shah’s camp. His son also was in the camp. He had been killed after he had stabbed Guru Gobind Singh. A dress of mourning was bestowed upon his son — obviously in recognition that either he was one of his Commanders or one who was killed during performance of an assignment, or both.
There was no mention of the other Pathan who was killed along with him.
On October 30, Bahadur Shah was informed of the death of Guru Gobind Singh. He had previously known about the attack on him by Jamshed Khan.
October 30, 1708: On the death of Guru Gobind Singh the Emperor ordered that a dress of mourning be sent to the son of Guru – the Nanak-Panthi. (Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla.) (By son, he meant Ajit Singh Palit, adopted by Mata Sundari.)
On November 11, 1708 Bahadur Shah was consulted regarding confiscation of Guru Gobind Singh’s moveable property. He said he was not interested in goods of a Darvesh.
The Emperor was consulted “regarding disposal of moveable property of Guru Gobind Singh. It was of considerable value and according to rule ought to be confiscated. The Emperor, saying that he was not in want of the goods of a Darvesh, ordered the whole to be relinquished to the heirs.” (Bahadur Shah Nama; Irvine, Later Mughals, I, p 90)
Whatever the motive, it establishes that Guru Gobind Singh’s status was that of a darvesh/a holy person, not that of one of his commanders.
[Property of Chakk (Amritsar) confiscated earlier, was later, bestowed upon Ajit Singh Palit, adopted son of Mata Sundari, on December 30, 1711]
Some Subsidiary Questions
– Did Guru Gobind Singh and Bahadur Shah meet before Agra, as written by some Sikh writers?
– Did Sikhs fight in the battle of Jajau; if they did, who were they?
– Did Guru Gobind Singh accept a command under Bahadur Shah, as stated by some historians?
– Who was responsible for assassination of Guru Gobind Singh: Wazir Khan or Bahadur Shah?
Since all these matters are inter-related, the reader is requested to bear with some unavoidable duplication.
Did Guru Gobind Singh and Bahadur Shah meet before Agra?
Aurangzeb died at Ahmadnagar on February 20, 1707. His eldest son, Prince Muazzam also known as Shah Alam, was over 2,000 km away, at the frontier fort of Jamrud, in the Hindu Kush. The younger brothers, Muhammad Azam and Kambakhsh, were in the South. Kambakhsh had captured Bijapore and Golkanda, so he decided to stay put. Prince Azam was leading his armies heading for Agra.
The central treasury was at Agra. Whosoever reached Agra first could capture its vaults full of cash, gold, silver and jewels. One who had more money would be able to muster larger armies, and thus have upper hand.
As soon as Muazzam heard the news of his father’s death he rushed to the capital. Out of his four sons, the youngest two joined him at Peshawar on March 31. He crossed the Indus on April 1, heading for Lahore.
Muazzam reached near Lahore on 3 May 1707, where he declared his succession to the throne and took the title of Bahadur Shah. (William Irvine, Later Mughals, I, p 20)
His eldest son also joined him at Lahore with his contingent from Multan. His second son, Prince Azim, Governor of Bengal and Behar, was expected to join from Patna.
Munim Khan, who had been earlier appointed deputy governor of Lahore, by Muazzam, handed over to him, the Lahore treasury, and was promised the position of Wazir, or the Prime Minister, in the new set-up.
With twenty eight lakhs of rupees Bahadur Shah left Lahore on May 5, 1707.
At Sirhind faujdar Wazir Khan, contributed eight lakhs of rupees. (Irvine, Later Mughals, p 20)
Bahadur Shah reached Delhi on June 1, 1707.
With eye on the Prime Ministership, Munim Khan, had marched ahead of Bahadur Shah, and had already won submission of Muhammad Yar Khan, Subahdar of Delhi, and received keys to the Red fort, and its treasury.
Bahadur Shah remained at Delhi for only two days, which he spent on collecting thirty lakhs of rupees from the treasury; and visiting various shrines and distributing alms. He resumed his march on 3rd June.
Dr Gopal Singh writes:
‘He [Bahadur Shah] had often heard of the heroic exploits of Guru Gobind Singh, and, also that being a man of spiritual disposition, he harbored grudge against systems, not men. He, therefore, took a chance and appealed to Guru Gobind Singh, through an intermediary, to forget the past and bless and help him gain possession of the imperial throne. He promised to look into, and redress, any grievance the Guru might have against his house.
‘Though the Guru wasn’t sure of Bahadur Shah keeping his word once victory was his, he had heard of the catholicity of his outlook as against the bigotry of his father. So he decided to give offer a trial and sent a detachment of two to three hundred horse, under one of his trusted disciples, Dharam Singh, to render whatever assistance they could to Bahadur Shah in his hour of crisis. (History of Sikh People, p 315)
We have no answers to questions such as: who was the intermediary, and where did he meet Guru Gobind Singh? Bahadur Shah had the support of armies of his four sons (He deployed 152,000 horsemen and 178,000 foot soldiers for the battle at Jajau. — Irvine, Later Mughals, fn, p 25) What difference would 200 or 300 soldiers have made in the army of hundreds of thousands, for which Bahadur Shah would have sent a special emissary and made promises in return? After having been let down so badly by pledges on Quran that made him almost homeless, why would Guru Gobind Singh have taken the word of that emissary?
Above all, after allowing, under his governorship, armies from Lahore and Jammu join forces of Sirhind to help the Rajahs of hill states for months, compelling the Guru to evacuate Anandpur, what face would he have had to ask for help?
According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, Guru Gobind Singh offered only moral support. He writes:
When Guru Gobind Singh ‘heard about Prince Muazzam’s march towards Delhi and Agra, he at once decided to give him his blessings. First he sent Dharam Singh and a few other devoted Sikhs to see the prince and assure him on his behalf of his moral support; and a little afterwards, he himself set out by easy stages for Delhi. By the time he reached Delhi, Muazzam had advanced to Agra.’ (History of Sikh Gurus, p 455)
When Guru Gobind Singh came to know of Aurangzeb’s death he was traveling through Rajasthan, he might have learnt that Rajput Rajas were not on the side of Bahadur Shah, but on that of his younger brother Azam.
Sangat Singh follows another variation:
Guru Gobind Singh ‘according to one account had chance meeting with the Guru on the banks of Sutlej when he informed him of the death of his father. He also requested him for help in his fight with his younger brother, Tara Azam. Guru Gobind Singh dispatched a detachment of 200 to 300 horses under Kuldipak Singh who participated in the battle of Jajau in June 1707 leading to Bahadur Shah’s victory. (He cites for this story Mohan Singh’s article ‘New Light on Guru Gobind Singh’, in Spokesman Weekly, January 11, 1966.)
Guru Gobind Singh had crossed Sutlej months back, and was traveling through Rajasthan, when he heard the news of Aurangzeb’s death.
Irvine writes: “The Sikhs make the battle fought at Jajau between Agra and Dholpur, on the 18th June, 1707 to be won solely by the marvelous feat of Govind Singh and his Sikhs.” This is absurd, and may be summarily rejected. (Later Mughals, pp 89-90)
Following the same tradition in Sikh books, Khushwant Singh also wrote:
‘The battle for succession started between Aurangzeb’s sons. Bahadur Shah had shown consideration to Gobind in his troubles with the hill chiefs. The Guru felt it was his turn to help the prince and he sent a detachment of Sikh horsemen who fought in the battle of Jajau on June 8, 1707. (A History of the Sikhs, 1963, p 94)
According to Bachitar Natak (chapter 13), Muazzam, during the early period of his governorship of Punjab, did show ‘some consideration to Gobind’, though not much, as most of the town of Anandpur was razed to the ground, But, after that it was under his governorship, that the Hindu Rajahs’ hostility continued till 1705, when imperial forces from Lahore and Jammu together with forces from Sarhind supporting them compelled Guru Gobind Singh to leave Anandpur, and suffer innumerable casualties. These imperial forces from all three places could not have joined without the knowledge of the Governor, and Guru Gobind Singh would not have thought otherwise.
Patwant Singh follows the same argument for helping Bahadur Shah. However, he adds that the detachment of Sikhs was sent under Dharam Singh.(The Sikhs, p 63)
Ganda Singh also wrote:
‘That was the time when the sons of the deceased were preparing to contest succession. Guru Gobind Singh dispatched for the help of the eldest claimant, the liberal Prince Mu’azzam, a token contingent of Sikhs which took part in the battle of Jajau (8 June 1707), decisively won by the Prince who ascended the throne with the title of Bahadur Shah. The new Emperor invited Guru Gobind Singh for a meeting which took place at Agra on 23 July 1707.(Encylopaedia of Sikhism, II, p 91)
It may be remembered that in 1605, Guru Arjun was accused of blessing Khusrau, and using that as an excuse Jahangir ordered his torture and execution. Guru Har Rai was accused of blessing Dara Shukoh for which Aurangzeb put the Sikh Guru through a lot of trouble. Guru Gobind Singh could, of course, make any decision, but to side with Bahadur Shah, past history could be ignored, only at a great risk.
According to Gurmukh Singh :
‘Gurdwara Damdamma Sahib near Humayun’s tomb [in New Delhi] marks the spot where Guru Gobind Singh first met Prince Muazzam, later Emperor Bahadur Shah. The Prince asked the Guru for help in his struggle for the throne, and the Guru agreed to his request.’ (Sikh Shrines, p 281, Amritsar: Singh Brothers)
Since Bahadur Shah was at Delhi only from June 1 to June 3, if the meeting took place, it would have taken place during those two days only.
The discrepancies in above stories need to be resolved.
The writer of these lines believes that no meeting took place before the battle of Jajau; that Bahadur Shah neither asked for help nor was he promised any. Their meeting took place after the battle of Jajau. There might, rather must, have been Sikh soldiers, who fought in the battle, but they must have been from a Sikh unit with Prince Azim (second son of Bahadur Shah) Governor of Bengal and Bihar, who had brought his army from Patna, and was in the forefront in the battle.
Sikhs and the Battle of Jajau
Muazzam’s second son, Prince Muhammad Azim was Governor of Bengal and Bihar. He had been called to Ahmadnagar, from Azimabad (Patna) by his grandfather, Emperor Aurangzeb, shortly before his death.
With cash received from Bengal treasury and with a select detachment from Patna, he proceeded to the Deccan. He chose to go via Agra, which was comparatively a safer route. When he was at Shahzadpur, in the Ganga-Jamuna Doab, he heard the news of the death of his grandfather. (Irvine, Later Mughals, I, p 16)
He quickly enlisted more troops, from Patna, and rushed at the head of 20,000 horsemen, from there to help his father, Prince Muazzam with men and money.
He was the first Prince to arrive at Agra. He easily won entry into Agra city, but was strongly resisted by Baqi Khan Qul, for entry into the fort, or take possession of the treasury. Baqi Khan was a relative of Prince Azam. He wanted all claimants to be present, before he gave up his charge. A twenty-day-truce was agreed, by which time Bahadur Shah also was expected to arrive.
When Bahadur Shah arrived at Agra, along with his other three sons, he heard that forces of his contestant, his younger brother, Azam, had reached Gwalior. He deputed Azim to lead his vanguard of 80,000 troops to face the enemy on arrival.
In Bahadur Shah’s armies, mustered for the battle, there were 152,000 horsemen and 178,000 foot soldiers. (Irvine, Later Mughals, fn, p 25)
While Bahadur Shah was waiting for the auspicious day, 20th June, Azim’s forces clashed two days earlier.
The battle was fought on June 18, at Jajau, between Agra and Dholpur. At least 10,000 soldiers were killed in this battle. (Irvine, Later Mughals, p 34)
Azam and his sons were killed. Muazzam won.
Azam had died of a musket ball, believed to have been shot* by ‘Isa Khan Main, a Zamindar from the Lakhi jangal of subah Lahor.’ (Irvine, Later Mughals, p 33)
Bahadur Shah won. He celebrated his victory generously awarding the commanders and their soldiers. Azim was given the title ‘Azim-ush-shan Bahadur, and confirmed in his position as Governor of Bengal and Azimabad (Patna). He and his brothers received large sums from the accumulated treasure in the Agra fort.
Sikh Soldiers in the Victorious Army of Prince Azim
Azim had been carrying a large number of Sikhs in his army, for the last several years.
Guru Gobind Singh had sent to his followers in “the army of Shahzada Azim” a hukamnama in 1698, asking for a contribution of a hundred tolahs of gold.
Most probably, Sikh soldiers who fought at Jajau were a part of Azim’s contingent, which he had brought with him, from Patna — home of several large Sikh sangats. (As per extant hukamnamahs, after the demise of Guru Gobind Singh, Mata Sundari was in touch with at least three different sangats of Patna.)
The Sikhs, who fought on the side of Bahadur Shah, must have been from Azim’s vanguard. It was Azim’s army, which had played major role in this battle on 18th June, 1707. In return, they too must have received liberal rewards, just as the others did.
One thousand gold mohars is a lot of money, which Guru Gobind Singh presented to Bahadur Shah on July 24, 1707. A good part of it might have come from those Sikh soldiers. This is a presumption, but a probable scenario.
If any extant records of Mughal administrations of the eastern provinces are studied, there is a good chance of obtaining plenty of information relevant to Sikh soldiers in armies of the east, as there were Sikh sangats throughout Bihar, Bengal and Assam, especially since extensive travels by Guru Tegh Bahadur in the 1660s.
Did Guru Gobind Singh accept a Command under Bahadur Shah ?
No! It is a matter of great regret, rather a great shame, that ignoring the personality and character of Guru Gobind Singh, and prestige of Sikh Gurus popularly known as sacha patshah/true king ‘The Sikh writers seem unanimous in giving to their great teacher a military command in the Deccan’.(Cunningham, History of the Sikhs, p 72)
In 1783, George Forster also had written: ‘The Sicques say, he [Guru Gobind Singh] received marks of favour from Bhahauder Shah, who, being apprised of his military abilities, gave him a charge in the army which marched into the Decan.’ (Journey from Bengal to England, I, p 302)
William Irvine says: ‘A mansab of 5,000, as stated by the Sikhs is preposterous, the greatest leaders, at the head of thousands of soldiers as having no higher rank, whereas Govind Singh is reported as having no more than two or three hundred men. In the same way the Sikhs make the battle, fought at Jajau between Agra and Dholpur, on the 18th June 1707, to be won solely by the marvelous feat of Govind Singh and his Sikhs. This is absurd, and may be summarily rejected. (Later Mughals, pp 89-90)
Khushwant Singh rightly says, ‘Gobind stayed in Agra for four months, but the Emperor did not take any action on behalf of the Guru against Wazir Khan, and left for Rajasthan. Gobind and his retinue of horsemen accompanied the imperial troops without participating in any of their battles.’
This controversy should end with acceptance of the following statement from the Tarikh-i-Bahadurshahi:
“At the time the army was marching towards Burhanpur, Guru Gobind, one of the descendants of Nanak, had come to these districts to travel, and accompanied the royal camp. He was in the habit of constantly addressing assemblies of worldly persons, religious fanatics and all sorts of people.” (Tarikh-i-Bahadurshahi, as quoted in History of India as Told by its Own Historians, Vol VII, p 566) [Emphasis added]
Was Wazir Khan or Bahadur Shah Responsible for Assassination of Guru Gobind Singh?
Sikh writers have erred in answering the question: what was the motivation of the Pathan who made a murderous attack on Guru Gobind Singh; and was faujdar Wazir Khan or Emperor Bahadur Shah, behind the plot to assassinate the beloved Guru of the Sikhs? This keeps the western scholars confused even in the twenty-first century.
Khushwant Singh wrote, ‘There is little doubt that the assassins were hirelings of Wazir Khan, who wanted to prevent the Guru from turning the Emperor against him.’ (A History of the Sikhs, fn. p 95)
Gopal Singh (History of Sikh People, p 323) and Patwant Singh (The Sikhs, p 64) and Ganda Singh (Encylopaedia of Sikhism, II, p 92) also followed the same theory that the assassin was sent by Wazir Khan.
These modern Sikh historians have erred by following the line of earlier Sikh writers, who probably did not have access, or did not pay attention to the report from Bahadur Shah’s Court, dated December 1, 1707 (reproduced earlier) which tells that Wazir Khan had nothing to worry from the Emperor. Instead of being reprimanded he was highly rewarded. His rank had been increased considerably, and remuneration also.
If this fact had been properly evaluated, the conclusion would have been different.
Logic does not accept that Wazir Khan – who had been rewarded and awarded by the Emperor, would have sent the assassins, on his own, if he did. Knowing that Bahadur Shah appreciated his role, whatever that was, he would not have risked his position by interfering in direct dealings of the Emperor.
If it were he who sent them, they would not have waited for months; and given time to Bahadur Shah and Guru Gobind Singh, to come to some agreement against Wazir Khan.
Wazir Khan was the root cause, but not the medium.
The assassin was from Bahadur Shah’s Camp. His son also was in the Camp.
The regard that Bahadur Shah had for Wazir Khan may also be judged by the fact, that out of all the mansabdars and commanders who died fighting Banda Singh and his associates, Wazir Khan was, perhaps, the only one who was declared a shahid/martyr by the Emperor.
August 15, 1711: A daily allowance of five rupees was granted to Khair-ul-Nissa the widow of Wazir Khan, by the Emperor and he ordered that the same be paid from the treasury of Batala. He commanded the late Khan to be addressed as Shahid [a martyr]. (Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla. Dr Bhagat Singh, Tr. Punjab Past and Present, October 1984, p 60)
Without trying to duplicate the arguments, the writer of these lines agrees with Surjit Singh Gandhi, who had, in his History of Sikh Gurus, published in 1978, thoroughly analyzed and rejected various theories regarding the identity and motivation of the assassin, such as a grandson avenging the death of his grandfather Painda Khan, over seven decades back, at the hands of Guru Hargobind; or the person being a horse trader who had to collect a large sum of money from the Guru (Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, V, pp 240-1). These assumptions had come from Sarup Singh’s Guru kian Sakhian, and Senapati’s Sri Guru Sobha.
Surjit Singh rightly agrees with Bhai Vir Singh who wrote in Kalgidhar Chamatkar that Bahadur Shah was personally involved in the demise of the Guru (p 464).
Macauliffe also had noted in 1909, ‘Several Sikhs suppose that Gul Khan (sic) was specially deputed by the Emperor Bahadur Shah to assassinate the Guru.’
However, giving credence to responsibility of Wazir Khan, instead of Bahadur Shah, has continued among some modern Sikh writers.
Sangat Singh in his The Sikhs in History published in 2001 follows the old line that the assassin was commissioned by Wazir Khan, faujdar of Sirhind. (p 82) Patwant Singh also is of the same opinion that the assassin was sent by Wazir Khan. (The Sikhs, US edition published in 2001, p 64) Ganda Singh also had in 1975, in his article on Banda Bahadur followed the same view (Punjab Past and Present, October 1975, p 444) and again in his article on Guru Gobind Singh in The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, II, p 92)
John Keay, in his India: A History published in 2000 probably because of these modern Sikh writers, feels compelled to write that ‘The same man, who had also murdered the Guru’s two sons, was now widely regarded as having instigated the death of Guru himself.(p 360) However, on page 345 in a chronological table his notation says, Guru Gobind Singh was ‘murdered, probably by a Mughal Commander.’
It is high time, in view of the documents available; the blame is put where it actually lies — on the Emperor, Bahadur Shah