Episodes from the Lives of Sikh Gurus
Episode No. 19
Once Mata ji addressed a message to the masands. "You collect lots of offerings from the sangat, which is not deposited into the Guru's treasury. Obviously, you mis-appropriate it. This is objectionable." The masands were infuriated at this. They sent this reply to Mata ii, "You should first teach your son to read and write. When he can do that, he can come, and we shall explain to him the accounts, the income as well as expenditure." Mata ji reported the masands' reply to the Guru who remarked, "Yes, if one wants to get the accounts from the masands, he has to become literate." Then the Guru asked for an inkpot and a writing board. The Sikhs burnt up the board, and said, "O True Emperor, The Lord writes the destiny of beings after consulting you. Who calls you illiterate? O True Emperor, you are the Guru omnipotent, the cause of all causes. Cursed be those who call you illiterate."
"Brother Sikhs, the masands aspire to be my rivals. They call themselves gurus. They expect you to respect them," said the Guru.
"O True Emperor, blackened are the faces of those who claim to be your rivals. Those who claim equality with you, shall have their faces blackened in the Lord's Court also," replied the Sikhs.
"Brothers, the Sikhs are all-powerful," remarked the Guru. The masands who were there, heard this dialogue.
"O Brother masands, I accepted your advice and started learning. But the Sikhs do not let me do it. Now you should do this. I have with me some Sikhs who are educated. You can explain to them the accounts of income and expenditure," added the Guru. The masands resented this and left in protest.
According to earlier practice, the masands used to eat with the Guru. They refused to come for meals. The Guru also stopped eating. The masands had started eating at their own places. Therefore, the Sikhs pleaded that the Guru should also eat.
"Brothers, they are responsible for what they do. I have to carry out my own pledge. When my companions at meal come, only then shall I eat," replied the Guru.
Then the cooks and other prominent Sikhs went to the masands and implored them to come. But the more the Sikhs entreated, the more arrogant and abusive the masands became, using such unbecoming language as cannot be repeated.
"For the Guru's sake, come and eat. Four days have passed. The Guru has been without food. The Guru will eat only when you go there and eat," pleaded the Sikhs. When they came, they would look towards the Guru insolently in a defiant manner. They no more showed any respect or courtesy to him. They would speak such words in his presence, as "We have made you the Guru. If we quit, that would be the end of your guruship. But we have been showing regards to the Seat. Although we do not see in you any characteristics of a Guru, at least the name of the Guru is there. We bow before the name."
The Guru took the taunts of the masands in his stride. In the process, however, the masands were thoroughly exposed. It became clear that the masands were like spoiled milk, which could yield no butter. They had basically degraded themselves and deserved punishment. Having lived on unearned offerings, they had lost their conscience. They had been appropriating the offerings during the tenure of the earlier nine Patshahis, also. For a very long time they had lived on religious offerings. The Guru decided that they should be made to furnish the earlier accounts, and that misappropriation should stop forthwith. Having taken this decision, the Guru prepared to punish the masands.
One day the Guru was sitting at damdama, at the head of the sangat. There was a big gathering. At that time a drama party appeared, and shouted aloud, "O True Emperor, with your permission we want to show a skit." The Guru allowed them, and told them to play a skit of the masands. The Guru added, "The role of the masands should be depicted accurately without fear." The Guru had made up his mind to award suitable punishment to the guilty masands
The actors presented a very revealing scene. This showed a masand moving about with a prostitute on each side, and a man to serve liquor behind. An attendant was leading his horse. Relatives of the prostitutes followed. With this retinue, the masand entered the house of a poor Sikh, and sat on a covered cot. The prostitutes started singing and dancing. The Sikh prepared a simple meal of dal, and took the masand to the kitchen to eat. The meal infuriated the masand. He tossed the chapatis in one direction and the dal in another, and walked out in anger. The Sikh imploringly asked, "O kind Sir, what kind of meal would please your honour? What kind of meal shall we prepare?" The masand replied, "You sinner, the Guru has graced your house. You have prepared a meal that even dogs will not eat. We shall eat only what is worthy of us. Prepare karah with ghee and sugar, and cook meat with proper salt and condiments to match." The Sikh was poor.
He sold his wife's ornaments and prepared the kind of meal demanded by the masand. Only then did the masand and the prostitutes accept the meal. On the second day the masand said, "O Sikh, be quick and bring your offering." The Sikh mortgaged his quilt and offered one rupee bowing in deep reverence before the masand. The masand got up and kicked the Sikh hard four/five times. He threw the rupee towards the prostitutes and said, "Guru's curse on you for offering so little."
After witnessing the skit, the Guru asked, "Is this how the masands go about torturing Sikhs?" The Drama Party said, "O True Emperor, we have in fact underplayed their torture. The real torture is ten times more." The Guru ordered, "Khalsa ji, catch them immediately; do not let them escape." At the Guru's command the Khalsa fell on the masands and captured hundreds of them. With their own clothes tied round their necks, they were produced before the Guru. They were ordered to be locked in rooms. The Sikhs obeyed. For five days and five nights they stayed in confinement. Then thick wooden poles were fixed in the ground and they were tied to these. Each masand was then whipped with fine twigs, until a whole bunch broke in the process. When the flogging of one batch finished, another batch was taken out of the cells and dealt with suitably. The trials continued for several days. Some of them died of starvation. Many succumbed to cane beating. In some cases, boiling oil was poured over their heads, and they were made to recite the verse which means, "As is reckoning called at the Portal, shall evil-doers be crushed, like sesame grains yielding oil." One ladle of hot oil was enough to kill.
"Brothers, masand is a lame tiger. When a lame tiger gets hold of his prey, he does not spare even its bones," said the Guru. Thus, all the masands that had been captured were punished. None was spared.
As soon as the Guru returned to his damdama, the first proclamation made by the beat of drum was: "Let everybody know, the Perfect Master has issued a command to all elders, brother Sikhs, servants, youngsters, supporters, faqirs, brave Sikhs and others that whoever is the Guru's Sikh, shall have no truck with a masand, even on the occasion of marriage or death. Whoever is the Guru's Sikh, shall enter into no matrimonial relationship with a masand through his son or daughter. Whoever is the Guru's Sikh, shall never accompany a masand during travel. If there is a choice between two lanes, one leading to a deadly rogue elephant and the other to a masand, he will take the former, and shall never meet a masand."
Another day, when the Guru adorned his high seat, a man suddenly appeared and cried, "O True, Emperor, I have become guilty of cow-slaughter." The Guru instructed the attendant to conduct him nearer to him. On being asked the man repeated, "O True Emperor, I am guilty of the ultimate sin of cow-slaughter."
“Don’t be stupid. You appear to be under unfluence of a masand. That is why you are upset and are lamenting thus. So what if a cow has died. Go home and relax. It is the Lord alone, and none else, who kills or revives,” said the Guru. (19)
This again is one of the remarkable stories recorded by the author. The Guru gently arouses and consolidates public opinion against the depraved masands.
He gives them a long rope by which they eventually hang themselves. He meticulously exposes the masands to exhibit their true colour. He tackles the situation with great patience and infinite humour. There is a strong undercurrent of irony in the description of Sewa Das. He brings an immense amount of moral pressure upon them, but to no avail.
To show the kind of preaching the masands had been doing, a small tale is tagged to this narration at the end. Killing of a cow was regarded as the ultimate sin by Hindus. The Guru asks a Sikh to take it in his stride. The Guru is reported to have remarked: "You seem to have been misled by a masand. That is why the death of a cow has distrubed you so much."
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2013, All