Guru Gobind Singh Embodiment of Highest Virtues
In every age saviours are born to save the fallen and the forlorn. When the tenth and the last Guru of Sikhs was born in 1666, there was political corruption, social degradation and religious exploitation in the country. Aurangzeb has been described as a great puritan, who never took liquor observed fasts and vigils, spent nights in prayers, gave alms freely, earned his own living by doing some manual work and kept strictly away from wine and luxury, yet his name struck terror and dread in the minds of his subjects To fulfill his ambitions, Aurangzeb got his own father arrested and detained him till his death, killed his brothers to eliminate rivals. He got Hindus massacred as he believed that only Islam should live and all other religions must be exterminated. Temples of Hindus were destroyed and turned into mosques. Aurangzeb imposed the most hated tax, Jazia, on Hindus as he thought they would remain submissive only if they were reduced to extreme proverty, such was the character of the Emperor.
In such an age of tyranny, Guru was born. In his very brief life of 42 years, the Guru did wonders not only in the religious field but in all walks of life.
His childhood reflects his inborn greatness. Gobind was only 9 years old, when he did not waver in telling his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur: “Father offer yourself as an oblation and save the People of Kashmir.” It was in that spirit that Guru Teg Bahadur offered his life in Delhi, to be executed and beheaded. And when the news of the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur reached Gobind, he did not weep or mourn but said:
“Say not he is dead,
Listen to what the angels sing,
He comes home,
The victor cometh home,
In our love for the beloved,
In our freedom for ever.”
Carlyle, in his ‘Heores and Hero worship’, gave us examples of the hero as a man, the hero as a prophet and hero as the man of action. But it is rare that history records of a man who had a rounded perfection, whose life was a perfect whole and who had attained a high degree of excellence in practically every walk of life.
The world has hardly heard of man who combined in himself two apparantly contradictory characters, the man of action and the man of thought. Even Plato, one of the greatest thinkers of the world, failed miserably when he was called upon to practically mould an ideal. In the whole range of world history, Guru Gobind Singh is probably the one solitary exception. His was a life blended of so many apparantly contrary qualities and blended harmony.
He was a great poet a distinguished scholar, a fearless solider and a born leader of men and to this he added a passionate desire for the divine. At the same time he was a great social revolutionary and a democrat.” People talk of miracles, Guru Gobind Singh’s life itself was a miracle.
As soon as Gobind Singh was invested with the Guruship in 1675, he was called upon to prepare for titanic struggle against the mighty Mughals, who were bent upon exterminating not only the Sikhs but all the non-Muslims root and branch. In the beginning, he found himself face to face with what seemed to be an impossible task. His own house was not in order. Frustration had overtaken his followers and this demoralisation had led to dissensions within. This rift had been widened by the machination of the Minas, the followers of the disgruntled Prithia, by Ram Rai, the disinherited son of Seventh Guru, and by the Masands who had degenerated into a hereditary class of corrupt oppressors. Since the times of Guru Hargobind, circumstances had so conspired themselves that the community seemed to relapse into a life of quietism. The sword of Sixth Guru lay rusting. The Mughals had forgotten the lessons of the battles of Amritsar, Nathana and Kartarpur.
The boy Guru lost no time in setting his house in order by ex-communicating the corrupt elements (Masand) who were eating into the very vitals of his community.
He repaired behind the hills to Paonta to make preparations for the heavy task of subverting the powerful empire before arousing the wrath of the revengeful Mughals. There he mapped out his campaigns and aroused in his followers the zeal to throw away the yoke of slavery. Here he prepared the erestwhile meek sparrows to combat the imperial hawks. Paonta became a place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs who were now asked to bring presents of arms and horses to the Guru. Arms poured in. Paonta became an arsenal. This opened a new chapter in the life of the Sikhs. They were no patriotism greater than for higher values of life and lay down their lives so that all that they value may live.
These activities of the Guru alarmed the hill chiefs and Mughals alike, and while they attacked, the Guru had to fight in defence. The battles of the Guru were not all religious battles but were against ‘zulam’ (tyranny) because some honest and conscious Muslims like Budhu Shah sided with the Guru against the Mughals. The Guru came out successful in all those struggles. The early successes gave confidence both to the Guru and his followers. Now the Guru thought of giving a definite organisational form to his followers.
After the lapse of a few years, on the Baisakhi day of 1699, when thousands of Sikhs had gathered at Anandpur, he laid the foundation of the Khalsa giving his Chosen Five the baptism of steel.
The Chosen Five did not belong to the warrior class of the Hindus. They belonged to all classes and mostly to the so-called lower classes. The Guru had put his followers to a test and these Brave Five came out successful in the ordeal the Guru had ordained for them. They were the “Khalsa”, the pure and that was their sole caste and religion. Thus, the Guru at one stroke, cut at the root of the Hindu caste system with its social inequalities which had eaten deep into the vitals of Hindu body politic.
He alone a master of counsels wise,
Who stands by the indigent and low,
Lends a helping hand to the helpless,
And crusheth to death cursed foe.
And this was not the only revolution the Guru worked for. The Hindu social traditions, had been authoritarian. The Guru wanted to rest all authority in the Khalsa so that they should not be always looking up to a leader and feel crest fallen in his absence. His Khalsa was to be a democratic body and in order to ensure that he called up on his Chosen Five to Administer baptism to him (Guru) after they had been baptised by the Guru. The Guru and his disciples were one. He was the Guru of the Khalsa and at the same time disciple of the Khalsa.
“One is a Sikh, two form the company
In five there is God Himself”
– Bhai Gurdas
Christ had also said; “When two or three gather together, there I am in the midst of them”.
The Guru was a great military commander. Just after the birth of the Khalsa, the Guru was ready to accept challenge from any quarter. He refused to leave Anandpur at the orders of the hill chiefs and repulsed them with heavy losses, when they attacked him at Anandpur and Nirmoh in 1700. Finding the Guru too much for them, the hill Rajas again cried to Aurangzeb for help. In this struggle, the Guru sacrificed many of his followers along with his four sons two of his sons died in fighting before his very eyes and younger two sons were bricked up alive by the notorious Governor of Sirhind. The Hindu and Muslim rulers vied with one another in suppressing the Khalsa, and many battles were fought. Battles were lost and battles were won, but no power on earth could crush the indomitable spirit of Khalsa because his war of righteousness was against evil. Moreover he was not fighting for the sake of fighting. The Guru later wrote in Zafarnama:
When all efforts to store peace,
Prove useless and no words avail,
Lawful is the flash of steel then
And right it is the sword to hail.
The Tenth Guru was also a noted poet. He was well-versed in Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu, Bengali and other languages.
He had kept a team of 52 learned poets and a good number of scholars in his Darbar. Under his guidance, the Sikh scholars translated into chaste Hindi the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Upnishads etc. No doubt the Guru was busy throughout his life in organising his followers and fighting against evil-doers but still he got time to devote to literary activities. Draped in the classical tunes of old, his poetry, rich in metaphor abounding in beauties of sound and brimming with poetic niceties of diction and thought, is still unsurpassed. All his writings are preserved in the ‘Dasam Granth which was compiled by a contemporary scholar Bhai Mani Singh in which there are 17,262 verses.
Guru Gobind Singh’s contribution towards national reconstruction, regeneration and solidarity is unique. He got martydom at the hands of the agents of Wazir Khan the Governor of Sirhind, at the young age of 42. Though the great last Guru of Sikhism is not amongst us in physical form’ his ideal teachings and immortal struggles for the vindication of justice, righteousness and truth will remain for ever an inspiration and guidance to us all. His life and teachings have, in brief, a lesson:
“Success comes to those who dare and act, for the establishment of justice, righteousness and truth”.
The Blood of the martyrs feeds the ground
So that in truth and glory it may abound.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2015, All