As this issue of the ‘Abstracts of Sikh Studies’ goes to the press, the Sikh community all over the world will be commemorating the martyrdom of the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the youngest ever martyrs in the history of the world.
Courting death for a righteous and just cause has been intrinsic to the core Sikh values. In Sikhism, such a death is always welcome. ਮਰਣੁ ਨ ਮੰਦਾ ਲੋਕਾ ਅਖੀਐ ਜੇ ਮਰ ਜਾਣੈ ਐਸਾ ਕੋਇ॥ Death will not be bad, O people, only if one knew how to truly die. Willingly embracing death so that the law of justice prevails has been considered a fundamental right of a brave man. ਮਰਣ ਮਣਸਂ ਸਰਿਆ ਹਕੁ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਹੋਇ ਮਰਨਿ ਪਰਵਾਣੋ॥ The death of brave heroes is blessed, as he is accepted in the Court of the True Law.
Realizing the moral and ethical bankruptcy in the socio religious and political life brought in by the life negating attitudes of the people of Hindustan, Guru Nanak Sahib decided to overhaul the whole system by bringing about a fundamental change in the thinking of the people. Life negating doctrine was replaced with a whole life and life affirming doctrine where all aspects of life were given due recognition and a man was exhorted to live a life of purpose and dignity in the service of humanity.
Guru Nanak Sahib was deeply pained to see the death and destruction caused by the invasion of Babur. He put it on record saying:
ਮੁਗਲ ਪਠਾਣਾ ਭਈ ਲੜਾਈ ਰਣ ਮਹਿ ਤੇਗ ਵਗਾਈ॥
ਓਨ@ੀ ਤੁਪਕ ਤਾਣਿ ਚਲਾਈ ਓਨ@@ੀ ਹਸਤਿ ਚਿੜਾਈ॥
ਜਿਨ@ ਕੀ ਚੀਰੀ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਟੀ ਤਿਨ@ਾ ਮਰਣਾ ਭਾਈ॥
The battle raged between the Mughals and Pathans and the swords clashed in the battlefield.
They took aim and fired their guns, and they attacked riding on their elephants.
The men whose papers were torn in the Lords court, were destined to die, O the siblings of destiny.– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 417
No community, not even women were spared:
ਇਕ ਹਿੰਦਵਾਣੀ ਅਵਰ ਤੁਰਕਾਣੀ ਭਟਿਆਣੀ ਠਕੁਰਾਣੀ॥
ਇਕਨ@ਾ ਪੇਰਣ ਸਿਰ ਖੁਰ ਪਾਟੇ ਇਕਨ@ਾ ਵਾਸੁ ਮਸਾਣੀ॥
ਜਿਨ@ ਕੇ ਬੰਕੇ ਘਰੀ ਨ ਆਇਆ ਤਿਨ@ ਕਿਉ ਰੈਣਿ ਵਿਹਾਣੀ॥
The Hindu women, the Muslim women, the Bhat women and the rajput women,
Some had their clothes torn from head to foot, while others came to dwell in cremation grounds.
How those whose husbands did not return home, did they pass their night. – Guru Granth Sahib, p. 417
Guru Nanak Sahib could not put up with this injustice being done to innocent people. He held a banner of protest against the cruel treatment of the natives by calling the invaders a marriage party of sin.
ਪਾਪ ਕੀ ਜੰਞ ਲੈ ਕਾਬਲਹੁ ਧਾਇਆ ਜੋਰੀ ਮੰਗੈ ਦਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ॥
Bringing the marriage party of sin, Babur invaded from Kabul demanding our land as a wedding gift. – Guru Granth Sahib, p. 722
Guru Nanak aimed at changing the whole scenario. He did not want anyone to suffer from deprivation and cruelty at the hands of the tyrants. He wanted his countrymen to lead a life of dignity and self respect and freedom. He wanted his countrymen to prepare themselves to fight for this basic human right even if they had to lay down their lives. He exhorted his followers to come to him with their heads on their palms if they were interested in playing the game of Love.
ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ॥ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ॥
ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ॥ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ॥
If you desire to play the game of Love with me, step onto my lane with your head on your palm.
Once you step on this path, be prepared to give me your head without hesitation.– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1412
Thus right from the start of the Sikh movement, the Gurus stood for Truth and righteousness and exhorted their followers to fight against those who subverted the truth.
The call of laying down one’s head for a righteous cause, given by Guru Nanak was carried on by his nine successors with the fifth and the ninth Guru laying down their lives on the altar of righteousness and human rights and the sixth Guru and the tenth Guru picking up arms in their hands as per the need of the hour, for the same very mission. The seventh Guru, in spite of maintaining an army decided to avoid the war and instead used his army to prevent the impending battle. It was not a question of peacefully sacrificing oneself or of fighting a battle in the battlefield. The question was to let the justice prevail in whatever way it was possible under the circumstances.
The fight for the Truth and Justice reached its peak with the young sons of the tenth Guru laying down their lives for the sake of these principles. Every year, the month of December brings alive the memory of four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh and his countless followers who laid down their lives fighting for the basic human liberties. The saga of Chamkaur Sahib when only forty Sikhs including two teenaged sons of the Guru fought ten lakh strong army of the Mughal king, while taking shelter in the improvised mud fortress (ਕਚੀ ਗੜ੍ਹੀ); is one of the brightest examples of the strength of spirit and commitment against heavy odds. In the face of sure death, the thought of surrendering before the enemy did not cross their mind even once.
The mere thought of the subsequent journey of Guru Gobind Singh through the jungles of Macchiwara, when he was without any human company, bare foot, without any bedding or warm clothing during the extreme winter season, would bring tears to the eyes of any right thinking and genuine person. The news of the passing away of his mother and the bricking alive of his younger sons at the tender age of six and eight at Sirhind, could not shake the steely resolve of the Guru to fight against the injustice and tyranny of the mighty rulers. Instead, he wrote a strong letter to the Emperor reminding him of all his misdeeds and suggesting him to mend his ways. He decided to name this letter Zafarnama - a letter of victory. Sure enough, it was the greatest moral victory, the victory of the spirit. That Aurangzeb, the Emperor of Hindustan, accepted his moral defeat after reading Zafarnama, is clear from the fact that shortly afterwards, he wrote Shikastnama - a letter of defeat- to his son Azam, wherein he admitted that he had committed many sins and that he feared that he will be punished in the court of the Almighty. Apprehending his death, he wrote a will in which he wrote that no tree should be planted near his grave as a sinner like him did not deserve that even his dead body should lie under the soothing shade of a tree. He could not live long after that and died a despondent man. Strangely, one who seemingly had everything and always had his will prevailed on others, was writing a letter of defeat. And the One, who appeared to have lost all his worldly possessions, including his family and friends in the battlefield, was writing a letter of victory. Such are the wonderful Truths of the spiritual realm. The world is yet to see a parallel of the indefatigable spirit immersed in the Love of the Lord.
The graph of the martyrdoms of the followers of the Guru has been rising since that time. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was mercilessly martyred along with his seven hundred companions after glorious victories and a short spell of rule. None of them has been reported to have renounce his faith. The history of eighteen century abounds in martyrdoms, the most prominent being the martyrdoms of Bhai Mani Singh ji, Bhai Taru Singh ji, Bhai Subeg Singh Shabaz Singh ji and many more some known and countless unknown.
And the tradition continues till today. A large number of the followers of the faith laid down their lives in battles with the British, Gurudwara reform movement, and National freedom movement. Even after independence, they have been willingly sacrificing themselves, whenever a call was given by the leaders of the community, to fight for their just rights. Many are still illegally and unjustly languishing in the jails even when they have completed their terms in the jails for the alleged wrongs most of them did not even commit. To fight for their just right to lead a free life after the completion of their terms, as per the verdicts given by the courts, Bhai Gurbax Singh Khalsa, from Haryana, is on fast unto death to protest against their illegal confinement in the prisons in the different states of the country. He is demanding their immediate release. Most of them are long past their prime of youth. More than one month has passed since he started his fast, without anyone lending him an ear.
We pray for the health and Chardi Kala of Bhai Gurbax Singh Khalsa, who, following the path of the Guru, has willingly decided to embrace death for the just right of the illegally detained prisoners to lead a free life of dignity. It is fervently hoped that the state powers meet this just demand. It is equally imperative that the leaders of the Panth, of whom Jathedar Akal Takhat is supreme, take up the matter in hands to see that justice is done and all those who are illegally languishing in jails are released without any further delay.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All