Founder of the Khalsa – The Life and Times of Guru Gobind Singh
A Review by Dr Upvinder Kaur
Author: Amardeep S. Dahiya
Publisher: 2014 Hay House Publishers (India )Pvt. Ltd
Pages 364; Price: Rs 599.00/-
Founder of Khalsa, the fourth book by Amardeep S. Dahiya, traces the journey of the little nine year old Gobind Rai, from the day he received his father Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyred head from Bhai Jaita in 1675, to the early hours of 7th October 1708, when the same little boy; now the revered Guru Gobind Singh breathed his last at the age of 41 at Nanded.
With the print of Guru Gobind Singh’s painting by Sobha Singh on the jacket, the book invites the reader on Guru’s life journey that spans over a few years, yet holds immeasurable segnificance. Strengthening of Sikh military, deepening of faith in Sikh Sovereignty, birth of the KHALSA and establishment of the scriptural guru Guru Granth Sahib are the landmarks of the life of Guru Gobind Singh. The battles, first with the Rajas of the hilly terrain and then with the Mughals, the heart rending sacrifice of Guru’s family, soldiers and material losses, all have been penned effectively.
The Legacy gives a gripping account of Guru Tegh Bhadur’s (Gobind Rai’s father and the ninth guru of the Sikhs) spiritual strength which made him a man of extraordinary grit. The author brings the ‘sword swishing down on Guru’s head’ to life with awe and pride through Jaita’s eyes. The chapter closes with a promise of more to come with reference to Gobind Rai receiving the martyred head from Jaita, listening to the details with equanimity and Mata Gujri’s concern over how her son’s grief would manifest itself and how his grief was transformed into the philosophy of ‘miri’ and ‘piri’ (the spiritual and the temporal). Simplicity and discipline became the hall mark of the young Guru’s life. He displayed clarity of thought, vision and determination to act independently. The courage to protect the innocent from the atrocities of the oppressor became a mission for him. Guru is introduced as a true leader conducting himself ‘with the principles that any modern democracy would be proud of’. He broadened his intellectual and physical horizons by mastering various languages, studying diverse subjects and learning the prevalent art forms. The role of literature and art in transforming a society is evident from the fact that his court welcomed poets, linguists and artists. With the wisdom to make right choices keeping common welfare above all, he encouraged and empowered those around him. He knew how to set boundaries and yet be sociable and helpful. The hawk like eye made him see through the connivery and cunningness of the selfish and the over-ambitious. He mades rightful use of arms when it came to not accepting the unacceptable vis-à-vis the behavior and the attitude of the perpetrator.
Battles of Bhangani and Nadaun are an account of the guru’s military acumen. By humanizing the Guru, the author inspires the reader to emulate him and not just worship from an awe inspiring distance. The reader is motivated to be God-loving and God-friendly instead of being only God-fearing. The account of the battles shows him as a master planner and a brilliant motivator.
The birth of the KHALSA narrates the story of the birth of a whole ‘new people’. Guru Gobind Singh is shown to snap ties with greedy masands (the local community leaders) with a thought that the dishonest were incorrigible and could not, or would not, mend their ways. The motive behind creating the Khalsa was to raise the self esteem of his followers so that they would stand against tyranny and despotism. “I took birth to see that righteousness may flourish!” - the Guru is quoted declaring his purpose. The prophet and the warrior that he was, he created a force that was to have faith in singularity of God. The five volunteers (panj piyaaras) experienced the grace of freedom from fear, the ‘weakest of all emotions’. There came a shift from ‘Charan pahul’ (to partake amrit poured over guru’s foot) to ‘Khanda pahul’ (amrit touched by the sword of the guru). Then followed the baptism of the Singhs (lions) and Kaurs (princesses) whose motto was complete intolerance of slavery of any kind. With the birth of the Khalsa, the guru - shishya (the teacher and the taught) relationship evolved. The initiation marked a new way of life ‘unencumbered by the baggage of the past’ and answerable only to the Waheguru (Almighty). The reader is brought face to face with the love and devotion on the part of the Guru for the sword. The Sword is elevated to the power of the Divine and sometimes the Divine itself.
When sparrows met the Hawks continues to describe Guru the Soldier and Guru the Saint. ‘Sikh never strikes the first blow’, said the Guru. He explained that what leads to victory is ‘what is in your hearts’. With his ‘dare devilry’ properly placed, he confronted the die-hard enemy. Sayyad Khan (the worthy enemy), Princess Padma and Majman Khan have a change of heart like many others who joined the sikh military while Ajmer Chand is shown to have kept his motives hidden... proving that manipulation and deviousness are age old. Sahibzada Ajit Singh was 12 years of age when he led the contingent to defend Taragarh. Guru believed in ‘live and let live’ and also understood the power of sharing as he told Mata Sahib Kaur that the grief will pass with time as does all grief, but it will pass quicker if you share with the guru.
Vichora - Separation attempts to describe the painful feelings of loss of a myriad kinds and Guru’s dignified response to it. The grief was excruciating in the form of more battles, treachery, loss of loved ones and yet wisdom, courage, good sense, compassion, kindness and above all, Faith prevailed. A change of heart of even the then emperor Aurangzeb is beautifully described.
The Final Years gives an account of how the guru himself went preaching the Sikh way of life. He had earned a large following. A cultural revolution was brought about as he sent missionaries and baptized many more. The purpose was to free the minds of his followers of the belief system which was not working any more. He stressed on literacy. The order of Giani was established to explain the composition of Granth Sahib to common man. A definitive edition of Guru Granth Sahib was rendered. He had an eye for handpicking leaders who would bear the torch and handed over charge well in time. He gave clear instructions that Guru Granth Sahib be considered the Guru and no living guru be conferred that status. He was ready to meet his end happily and also instructed that no grief be displayed in long mourning sessions after his death.
The Conclusion is laden with poetry to elucidate the Sikh philosophy. Amardeep Singh Dahiya draws a comparison between the first guru Guru Nanak and the tenth guru Guru Gobind Singh. Quotes from Gurbani and Guru Gobind Singh’s poetry have been picked up from translations of good repute. The introduction by Dr Harish Dhillon is a feather in the writer’s cap.
Though the subject has been widely researched and heavily quoted, the name of Bhai Lakhi Shah’s wife who handed over Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyred head (sees) to Jaita has not mentioned. The name of the middle aged woman who wove the blue robe for the Guru is also no where to be found.
The book does not offer any new account of history but handling of the subject is certainly fresh and crisp. Sure enough, the newer generations need to be offered an insight into the rich legacy of Sikh way of life and that too in the language they understand. Maybe that tiny spark of the Guru’s philosophy present in all of us, when humbly practiced, can change the ugly dance of democracy that we are witnessing today. A change in the thought process of the reader is a mark of an effective wielding of the pen. Founder of the Khalsa, thus proves to be a pleasant read.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All