News & Updates

January 06, 2017


Bebe Nanki Ji – Biography of Bebe Nanki Ji added under history.


October 05, 2016


Singh Sabha Movement – An analysis of whether the Singh Sabha Movement was a revival or a reform movement.


Check Past Updates

Find Us On...

Find Sikhism: Sikh Religion, Beliefs, Philosophy and Principles on FacebookFind Sikhism: Sikh Religion, Beliefs, Philosophy and Principles on Twitter

Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Bahadur Shah

Prof. Kartar Singh

When  Aurangzeb died  in  the  Deccan   in  the  last  week  of  February, 1707, his eldest son, Bahadur Shah was away in Afghanistan. His younger brother, Muhammad Azim, who was in the Deccan with his father, usurped the throne, took possession of the treasury, and assumed command of the Imperial army. Bahadur Shah hastened to fight for his father's throne. His opposing brother was better equipped. So he had to look out for assistance wherever he could expect to get it He had heard of the victories of Guru Gobind Singh against the Hill Chiefs and the imperial forces. It was true that the Guru's power had been apparently broken and most of his soldiers dispersed, still Bahadur Shah knew that a word from the Guru could bring into the field of hundreds of soldiers who would never desert him or fly from the field.

There was nothing low or unusual in his asking for the Guru's help. S.M. Latif gets unnecessarily irritated over the assertion of the Sikh writers that the Emperor sought and got the Guru's assistance in his struggle against his brother. Any sensible man in the position of Bahadur Shah would have looked for allies in all directions, and it was but natural for him to invite the Master of the Khalsa to his aid.

It has  been  already   stated   that  Bhai  Nand  Lal, a Secretary of Bahadur Shah, had, for  a long  time,  taken  shelter  at the Guru's darbar, and that, on his advice, the Prince had once sought and obtained the Guru's blessings. When the war of succession began, Bahadur Shah sent Bahi Nand Lal to the Guru and requested him to help him in attaining the throne. Bhai Nand Lal met the Guru at Bhagaur in Rajputana, explained to him all that had happened, and conveyed to him Bahadur Shah's request for help in the war of succession. To the Guru there appeared to be nothing objectionable or against his ideals in helping a lawful claimant to the throne who was also a better man than his usurping brother. He was as an ally, and not as an employee, that the Guru was to help the Emperor. So, he sent Bhai Dharm Singh along with a band of his chosen Saint warriors. He also sent through them an order to the Khalsa to render all possible help to Bahadur Shah in the ensuing war of succession.[1]

On June 8, 1707 a battle was fought at Jajau, near Agra, in which Bahadur Shah was victorious. His brother, Azam, was defeated and killed, and he ascended the throne.  He then despatched Bhai Dharm Singh  to inform the Guru of the victory and thank him on his behalf for his  valuable  help. He also expressed  his strong  desire  to see the Guru,  but  pleaded  that  he  himself  was too  busy to go  to Guru,  and hence, requested the latter to meet him at Agra.

The Guru accepted the Emperor's invitation. He retraced his steps to the north and met Bahadur Shah at Agra on Sawan 23, 1763 Bk/ July 24, 1707. He was received with the honour due to an ally and holy man; for it should be remembered that the Guru had many admirers among the Muslims, and that 'Hind Ka Pir' was the title by which he was known to the Muslim in general.  Bahadur Shah gave   the Guru a robe of honour and a jewelled scarf (dhukh dhukhi) worth 60 thousand rupees. That this was given to an ally and man of religion, and not to an employee or prospective employee, is shown by the fact that the Guru did not put it on there and then, as all honoured servants had to do, but had it carried  to his camp  by a Sikh?[2] Muslim writers, ever anxious to detract from the Guru's  name and fame, take the 'bestowal' of this robe of honour as a mark  of the Guru's having entered  the service of the Emperor.

The Guru remained with the Emperor for a pretty long time, i.e. from July to November, 1707. Bahadur Shah was; of a milder disposition and far more tolerant in religious matters than Aurangzeb. He greatly enjoyed the Guru’s company and very often had religious discussions with him. The Guru was hopeful that he might be able to usher in an era of peace and better understanding between the Muslims and the non-Muslims through persuasion and by using his influence with the Emperor.[3] He constantly impressed upon the Emperor's mind the utter senselessness of the bigotry, animosity, and narrow-mindedness, with which the two great sections of the people regarded each other. He described to him the cruel and irreligious acts which this spirit had urged the Muharnmdan rulers to perpetrate. The chief sinner in this respect, as the reader knows, was Wazir Khan, Nawab of Sarhind. His deeds had perturbed even the pious though hard-hearted Aurangzeb. Bahadur Shah was greatly moved and he promised that, after he got firmly established on the throne, he would punish the murderer of the innocent children. In the meantime, he offered the Guru a big Jagir and large estate[4]. The Guru, however, declined the offer. Its acceptance would have meant an abandonment of his cherished ideal of bringing about an era of liberty and equality, a spirit of all brotherliness in the land. Form a creator and liberator of a nation he would have been reduced to the position of a mere chieftain. The establishment of temporal power for himself had never been his ambition. It was to fight out tyranny from the land that he had taken up the sword. If he had accepted the Emperor offer, all his exertion in the past for the uplift of a vanquished race would have begun to savour of personal ambition which his detractors have even now not hesitated to ascribe to him. So, he contended himself with urging the Emperor to restrain his lieutenants and Qazis from irreligious persecution of Hindus and Sikhs and to punish the guilty ones.

Friendly discussions and negotiations were yet going on when, in November, 1707 Bahadur Shah had to march into Rajputana against the Kachhvahas and, there from, to the Deccan to suppress the insurrection of his brother Kam Bakhsh. He invited the Guru to accompany him, if he was so pleased. The Guru had never advocated bloodshed and welfare for their own sake or in aggression. The accession of Bahadur Shah had, at least, suspended the unjust persecution against which the Guru had vowed to fight. It seemed possible now to accomplish by persuasion and discussion what in the past had to be attempted with the sword and the spear. So the Master promised to join him on the march and soon did so. They travelled together through Rajputana. Several Rajput Rajas came to pay homage to the Guru. Passing through such cities as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chittaur, Poona, etc. they reached in the neighbourhood of Nander on the margin of the Godavari, in the present state of Hyderabad.

The Emperor had his own motives in securing the Guru's company. In the first place he feared that, taking advantage of his absence from the capital, the Guru might gather his forces and start a war in order to avenge his great wrongs. In the second place, he knew the Guru's ability as a General and leader. He had designs to use him in curbing the Marathas. But when he requested the Guru to lead the army of attack, the latter refused point blank.[5] He had helped the Emperor against his usurping brother in the capacity of an ally. There was nothing wrong or unpatriotic in that act. But to help him in subjugating a race of sturdy Hindu warriors would have been not only an act of treachery against his people and country, but also an indefensible abnegation of all his lofty ideals. So, he did what he could never have done if he had been a servant of the Emperor. He refused to comply with his wishes, separated from him, and settled at the place which he called Abchalnagar variously stated by different writers.

Some, like Bute Shah and Malcolm, say that he went to the Deccan because, after the terrible reverses and bereavements which had been his lot, the Guru felt dejected and wanted a change. Others declare that he went thither as a servant of Bahadur Shah. Still others believe that the Guru felt that, though the seed of opposition to tyranny had been well sown in the Punjab, yet the Mughal rule was so firmly established there that, for some time to come, it would be difficult to gather afresh an army strong enough to challenge and rout the imperial forces. To sit idle and do nothing towards the furtherance of his ideals was distasteful to him. So he decided to try what could be done in the southern parts of India towards the fulfillment of his mission. He felt that what he had accomplished in the Punjab, eminently yet to a limited extent, could be achieved with greater ease and to a greater extent in the south, because the people there were more accustomed to the use of arms, and the Mughal rule was not so firmly established there. He had hopes of arousing in the Rajputs and Maharattas the will to do and dare for the holy task of liberating their country and uprooting the foreign tyrants rule. It is also said that the successors of Shivaji had made requests to the Guru for help[6]. It was with some such purpose that the Guru went southwards. The Rajputs welcomed him, listened to him, but felt themselves too weak to actively join a movement which was akin to rebellion against the Lord of Delhi. The Guru went still further. All along, he went on delivering his life-giving message to the people[7]. When Bahadur Shah sought to use him as his tool against the Marathas, he refused to oblige him and parted company. Still others, who implicitly believe in the Guru's spiritual powers, maintain that he went to the Deccan to deliver Banda from snares of occultism and austerities, and depute him to the Punjab as the general and temporal leader of the Khalsa. Still others are of the view that the Guru's object in accompanying the Emperor was to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the negotiations begun at Agra, and that, when he found that there was no hope of success in them, he separated from him.

Leaving the 'dejection theory' and the 'service theory' for a later consideration, we may say that it seem most likely that the three last mentioned motives exercised a combined effect in inducing the Guru to proceed to the Deccan. If the preaching of his message to the people had been his only object, it could have been accomplished much better by keeping away from the Emperor and his army. If it had been merely to win over and convert Banda, he would have gone straight to him. If it had been merely to conclude the negotiations begun at Agra, so much time and travelling were not necessary. The Guru stayed with the Emperor at Agra from July to November, 1707. Surely, that time would have been sufficient for that purpose, if the Emperor had been really serious and sincere. There were no complicated questions needing long and detailed examination, study, and thrashing out. If some points were really yet undetermined when the Emperor had to proceed to the Deccan, surely they could not have baffled the two, if the Emperor had meant real business. If he simply wanted to keep the matter hanging fire indefinitely, surely the Guru could have looked through his game much earlier. Altogether, the Guru was with the Emperor for over thirteen months. Should we believe that Bahadur Shah was able to dupe the Guru for so long with vague words and" false hopes? That would be an insult to the Guru's keen intelligence. On the other hand, if he had to waste so much time in getting a 'no' from the Emperor, he would have reacted far differently after the final disillusionment and the final breach. He would have himself come back to the Punjab and re-started his campaign against the tyrannical foreign rulers.

The dejection theory does not fit in with Guru's behaviour in the face of his severest losses, trials, and sufferings. Indeed, his whole life is itself a strong, irrefutable contradiction of the assertions of these prejudiced or misinformed critics. Did reverses and bereavements plunge him in gloom and dejection? As a child of less than ten he pointed out to his father the way to martyrdom for the sake of the wretched people. He lost his father and stood face to face with the formidable Mughal Empire at its zenith. Did that break his tender yet might heart? He saw his dearest Sikhs killed before his eyes. He sent his two eldest sons unto certain death at Chamkaur. He had, by then, to all intents and purposes, lost the whole of his family-mother, sons, and wife. Did that plunge him in sorrow or dejection? If he I'\ad so deep an affection for them as could make him take their loss so much to heart, he could surely have saved them all, by a timely fight from Anandpur. 'As for me.' he had declared, 'my body, my soul, my head, my wealth, yes my all, is dedicated to their (his Sikh's) service.' When his wife asked him where her four sons had gone, his reply was characteristic of his attitude towards the attachments of the world. He was bold and cheerful as ever. He had, said he, sacrificed her four sons for the sake of the sons sitting before them. 'What then if thy four are gone? There yet live, and shall ever live, millions of our dear brave sons'. Is there a trace of grief or down heartedness in all this?

The whole tone and trend of his Zafamama or Epistle of Victory addressed to Aurangzeb also show that the Guru was not, at all, plunged in despair. In fact, he distinctly threatened the Emperor in the words, 'What though my four sons have been killed; my young son, the Khalsa remains behind like a coiled snake. What bravery is it to quench a few sparks of life? Thou art merely exciting a raging fire the more.' Wherever the Guru went in his travels, he exerted himself in the propagation of his ideals and in broadcasting his message of liberation. Guru Nanak had preached the Sikh religion as far east as Assam and Bengal, as far west as Arabia and Turkey, and as far south as Ceylone; Guru Hargobind had made a tour of northern India; Guru Teg Bahadur had gone on a preaching tour to the east. A similar impulse urged Guru Gobind Singh to carry his message to the warlike Maharattas and Rajputs and other people of the south. In this undertaking there was nothing inconsistent with his doctrines or irreconcilable with the avowed object of his life -- the propagation of righteousness and the restraining of people from senseless acts[8].

He went about baptizing people and adding to the number of his Khalsa[9]. Nowhere did he act or behave in manner incompatible with his faith, teachings, or his own past. How then can it be maintained, as is done by Malcolm, that 'most accounts agree that Guru Govind, after his flight, was, from a sense of his misfortunes, and the loss of his children, bereft of his reason, and wandered about for a considerable time in the most deplorable condition? It was during these 'wandering' that the whole of the Adi Guru Granth Sahib was dictated and other works were composed by the Guru at Damdama Sahib, which 'became the Benares of the Sikhs[10] that the Epistle of Victory was written for the benefit of Aurangzeb, that Anandpur was reproduced in the Lakhi Jungle, at Damdama Sahib, and at Abchalnagar, that millions were baptized, that Banda was selected and deputed to the Punjab, and that the glorious words of consolation and courage were addressed by him to his wife regarding the death of his sons. All this could not be the doings of a man who, 'bereft of his reason,' went wandering about 'in the most deplorable condition.' It should also be remembered that these 'wanderings' extended over only two years and seven or eight months. This does not seem to be the sense of Malcolm's considerable time.'

But the fact is that writers like Malcolm are troubled by the thought that, 'after his flight from Chamkaur.' the Guru 'performed no action worthy of record.' As they are unable to believe that a man of his 'enthusiastic ardour of mind, active habits, and valour: could have remained 'inactive' or could have sunk into a servant of the Emperor.' So they have concluded that 'mental distraction, in consequence of deep distress and disappointment: was the cause of 'the inactivity of Guru Govind's declining years. In this connection it has to be noticed that these writers have failed to grasp the sublimity of the Guru's ideal. They describe him as fired with an 'insatiable thirst of revenge, which he had cherished through life, against the murderers of his father.' But it was not to take revenge or wreak vengeance that the Guru had taken up the sword. If revenge had been the master passion of his life, he would have treated his enemies and their' women and children in the same way as Mir Mannu and Furrukh Siyar treated the Sikhs later on, or as the Pakistanis treated them in 1947 A.D. Ail his wars had been forced on him, He had never sought them. So, if he had no occasion to engage in battle in the last years of his life, and, consequently, devoted himself to peaceful organization, how can that be taken to prove that the Guru was either 'inactive or bereft of his reason?' By the way, Malcolm forgets that the battle of Muktsar, which is certainly worthy of record, took place after the Guru's flight from Chamkaur.'

If the imperial armies had again fallen upon him, he would surely have defended himself with his wonted valour and ability. As he was not attacked, and as he would not fight but in self-defense, the Guru had no occasion to engage in military action during the last few years of his earthly life; but, otherwise, he was the same as ever.

Apart from the Guru's own words, teaching, activities and behaviour, there is grudging, and, on that account, all the more valuable, testimony of writers like S.M. Latif to the effect that the Guru 'Confronted his adversity with firmness,' and that his persevering endurance in the midst of calamities and disasters was equal to his bravery and valour in the field.' Could such a person be plunged in sorrow or despair or sit inactive because of his adversity?

We have seen what little substance there is in the fantastic assertion of some writers that during the last years of his life the Guru suffered from some mental derangement. Now we come to the other statement that the Guru went to the Deccan in the capacity of a servant of Bahadur Shah. This statement is even more injurious to the memory of the Guru than the one whose hollowness has been exposed in the last chapter. Before examining it critically, we shall attempt to trace it back to its origin and see what credence it deserves on the score of that origin.

(A) Cunningham, who wrote his book in 1848, has cited the following authorities for his statement that the Guru 'received a military command in the valley of the Godawari':-

(i)   'Sikh writers,' who, he says, 'are unanimous in giving to their great teacher a military command in the Deecan'; and

(ii)   Non-Sikh writer:- Forster and Khafi Khan.

(B) S.M. Latif, another enthusiastic advocate of the service theory, writes, 'The fact of his (Guru Govind Singh's) having taken employment under the Moghal Government is fully confirmed by various writers. Vide Sir J. Malcolm's Sketches of the Sikhs; Forster's Travels. The latter author states that Guru Gobind Singh had a small command in the Moghal service, which is confirmed by Khafi Khan.[11] So his authorities for this assertion are Sir John Malcolm, Forster, and Khafi Khan.

What are the 'Sikh writers' referred to by Cunningham? A perusal of the references cited by him, here and there, leads one to the conclusion that he had little or no acquaintance with the original works of any Sikh writer. Wherever he refers to the Sikh accounts of the Guru's life, he quotes non-Sikh writers like the authors of the Dabistan and the Siyar ul Mutakhim, and Sir John Malcolm. In one place, following Malcolm and repeating his mistake to some extent, he mentions Bhai Gurdas Bhalla. In another place, he refers to the Gurbilas of Bhai Sukha Singh as corroborating the account to some wars described in the Bachittar Natak. But both references are cursory, Besides, Sukha Singh does not say that the Guru took service with Bahadur shah, and Bhai Gurdas BhalIa, the second, has to his credit only one ode on Guru Gobind Singh. He, too, does not say that the Guru took service with Bahadur Shah. No Sikh writer does so.

That is why S.M. Latif complains that 'the Sikh authors are always cautious in concealing the weak points of their religious leaders in giving prominence to anything which redounds to their glory.' Thus, he adds, 'they freely acknowledge that (Guru) Gobind (Singh) rendered material aid to Bahadur Shah in the war which that emperor waged against his rebel brother Kam Baksh, and even own that the Guru took the field of action. But they carefully conceal the fact of the Guru's accepting employment under the emperor.

Dr Trumpp whom in words of Macauliffe, never failed to avail himself of 'an opportunity of defaming the Gurus, the sacred book, and the religion of the Sikhs,' writing in 1877, said that the Sikhs were 'loath to concede this appointment of (Guru) Gobind Singh.'

So, even on the testimony of these two, by no means friendly writers, it is clear that Sikh writers do not support the theory that the Guru accepted employment under Bahadur Shah. Moreover, Macauliffe, who based his narrative on a discriminate study of the Sikh writers, says that the Guru assisted Bahadur Shah on the mediation of Bhai Nand Lal and accompanied him to the Deccan of his own free will, having been invited to do so by the Emperor.[12]

Thus, we see that there is no truth in Cunningham’s statement that 'the Sikh writers are unanimous in giving to their great teacher a military command in Deccan.' Inall probability, in his statement about the Sikh writers, Cunningham has relied entirely on Forster, who makes a similar assertion about the Guru on the alleged authority of 'the' Sikhs.' To that we shall come later.

Having thus disposed of the alleged corroboration of the service theory by the Sikh writers, we may now turn to the others. Cunningham's authorities are Forster and Khafi Khan, and Latif's, Malcolm, Forster and Khafi Khan.

Of the three writers cited by Latif, Sir John Malcolm is definitely of the opposite opinion. He cannot even 'think' that the Guru could have 'sunk into a servant of that Government against which he had been in constant rebellion.' Here is the whole passage: 'When we consider the enthusiastic ardour of his mind, his active habits, his valour, and the insatiable thirst of revenge which he had cherished through life against the murderers of his father and the oppressors of his sect, we cannot think, when that leading passion of his mind must have been increased by the massacre of his children and the death and mutilation of his most attached followers that he would have remained inactive, much less that he would have sunk into a servant of that Government against which he had been in constant rebellion. Nor is it likely that such a leader as Guru Gobind (Singh) could ever have been trusted by a Muhammadan prince.'[13]

As for Khafi Khan, the contemporary historian we must remember that he cannot, at all, be relied upon as a trustworthy historian for two reasons: First, he had not the independence which a historian must possess, if he is to write true history. He was writing under the eyes of his monarchs and could not examine their actions critically, or even describe them faithfully[14]. Secondly, his very mental outfit unfits him as a historian in matters relating to the 'infidels: against whom he vents his scorn and hatred at every occasion. To him the Emperor was the 'Keeper of the Faith' and opposition offered to him was offered to Islam, to God, and to his deputy on earth. Such minds cannot record history as they lack the necessary outfit. He does not possess even the ordinary human courtesy and decency which make a man refer to his opponents in inoffensive language. With men of his type, abuse and vilification are an argument. When we find Khafi Khan referring to Guru Gobind Singh by extremely undignified and unbecoming appellations.[15] We can at once form an idea of the scant justice which the Guru could have had at his hands.

But what shall we say of Latif's integrity when even such a bigoted and biased writer as Khafi khan does not at all mention the alleged fact of the Guru's having accepted employment under the Mughal Emperor. All that he writes can be translated as under:

'During the days when Bahadur Shah directed his attention towards Hiaderabad or when he started towards that place, one of the leaders of that infamous community, Govind by name, came unto the presence of the emperor, accompanied by two or three hundred sowars carrying spears and some infantry and proceeded in the company of the emperor.[16]

The Guru is thus described by Khafi Khan as a 'companion,' not a servant of Bahadur Shah. It has to be noted that the Persian words 'rajaqat' is the abstract noun from rafiq or companion, and means 'companionship' or 'company.' It does not connote any difference of status between the persons concerned. The service theory seems to have originated from an intentional or accidental mistranslation or mutilation of Khafi Khan's passage. So Khafi Khan also does not corroborate Latif.

Forster, who, according to his own admission, had no 'substantial authority' from which he could deduce the history of the Sikhs, writing in 1783, does state on the authority of 'the Sicques'[17] whom, significantly enough, he does not name, that Guru Gobind Singh 'received marks of favour from Bahadur Shah, who, being apprised of his military abilities, gave him a charge in the army which marched into the Deccan to oppose the rebellion of KamBucksh.' For his account of the Sikhs he states to have relied on 'some large historical tracts,' whose authors he has not named. He is the first writer to give currency to the service theory, but, curiously enough, he has not stated his authority for his strange assertion. Perhaps, he had no authority worth the name, and relied on the statements of some of the mutilators of Khafi Khan or on those of some vilifies of the Guru. Anyhow, in the absence of such information, it cannot be maintained that he based his narrative on authentic recorded as unquestionable. In fact, a perusal of his account of the Sikhs leads one to the conclusion that either his authorities were unreliable, or he himself did not study them with the care that should distinguish a writer who would claim credence as an authority.[18]

All that has been said above will, we hope, convince the reader that the story of the Guru's employment under Bahadur Shah is nothing but a myth, 'manufactured,' as Forster would say, by some detractors of the Guru and accepted by Forster as the gospel truth. His colossal ignorance of the Guru's views and acts precluded him from a critical examination of a statement which was utterly inconsistent with the Guru's ideal, views and acts. Forster's statement is incredible also from another point of view. Bahadur Shah could not have been so ignorant of the 'military abilities' of the Guru, about whom Aurangzeb, his father, had always 'felt anxious: against whom he had to order out the armies of Delhi, Sarhind and Lahore, and whom he had to 'summon to his presence,' as Forster would have us believe. The well-known military abilities of the Guru, who had spent all his life in creating and organizing a sturdy race of warriors to oppose and destroy the tyrannical rule of the Mughals would have been a disqualification for any service under Mughals even if it had been sought for by that foe of the unjust rule.

It is thus seen that out of that authorities quoted by Cunningham and Latif, the Sikh writers, without a single exception, nowhere say that the Guru took service with Bahadur Shah; Malcolm is strongly opposed to the service-theory; Khafi Khan makes no mention of such service; only Forster, relying on mere hearsay, and having, according to his own admission, no substantial authority for him account of the Sikhs, makes the astounding statement that the Guru accepted service. His statement cannot be accepted as true. In fact, he makes many ridiculous errors in his account of the Sikhs, errors which totally discredit him as an authority on Sikh history. In short, the service theory is a concoction of some of the Guru's detractors. There is no historical evidence in its favour.

After having thus exposed the absurdity and untruth ~f the allegation started by Forster that the Guru accepted service in the expeditionary force led by Bahadur Shah. We shall produce incontrovertible contemporary evidence to refute that allegation. Tarikhi-Bahadur Shahi says as follows: "At the time the army was marching southwards towards Burhanpur. Guru Gobind (Singh), one of the descendants of (Guru) Nanak, had come into 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."

It is clear from the above that the Guru had gone to those parts to travel, of his own free will. He was not taken there by the Emperor as military commander. Moreover, no man in government service, much less a military commander proceeding on an important expedition, could have been allowed to indulge in such activities.

Again, J.S. Sarkar, who wrote his valuable historical works after an extensive study and research, says, "In 1707, the new emperor. Bahadur Shah induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompany him on the march to Rajputana and the Deccan."

To sum up, we may say that the Guru proceeded southwards of his own free will and choice. He joined the company of Bahadur Shah on the latter's invitation and did join as a companion and not as a servant. The authors of the service theory have exhibited deplorable lack of a proper grasp of the subject in having ascribed to the Guru motives which are altogether incompatible with his known views and acts. When we remember that he still had in the Punjab, devoted disciples like Dall Singh, Ram Singh, Tilok Singh, Shamira, and hosts of others, who had importuned him, again and again, to stay on with them as their Lord, and that, if he had so wished, he could have passed the rest of his life in the Punjab in perfect peace and safety, we fail to find what relish the Guru could find in holding a command in the Muhammadan army. A jagir and principality, which he was offered but which he declined, would have been far more tempting and more lasting acquisitions. He had, all through his career, defended the weak against the strong and had sacrificed his all for the sake of his ideals. He was convinced that the Muhammadan rule had become a curse for the country. He was exerting every nerve to rid the people and the Country of this curse. How could he have agreed to become a servant in the same rule?

We should also remember that fighting for its own sake did not possess any attraction for him. By nature, he was far more inclined towards a life of peace and peaceful activity. All his wars were forced on him by those who opposed his campaign for the establishment of an era of justice and equality in social, political, and economic spheres.

Bahadur Shah was no doubt favourably disposed towards the Guru, but still he was a son of his father and a follower of the Prophet. He could not have altogether reversed the policy of his father which had also been the general policy of his past Muhammadan kings. Having no personal enmity with any man such, the Guru found nothing low or wrong in meeting and trying to persuade the Emperor to assume milder ways. But his becoming a pan of the very system which he was out to destroy, root and branch, is altogether incredible. The memory of the wrong that had been heaped on him, as well as that of the terrible woes of the people at large, were too fresh in him to have reconciled him to joining the army of oppression. Nor, as Dr. G.C. Narang writes, 'Can the service theory be reconciled with the Guru's commission of Banda Bahadur to the leadership of the Punjab Khalsa and his doings there.' Moreover, the Guru's ideals and political views were so well known, his ability as a general, leader, and teacher of men, had been so amply demonstrated, that no Muhammadan prince could have trusted him with a position in his army.


[1]. The act shows the wonderful magnanimity of the Guru's heart. Just think of what he, his ancestors, and his Sikhs had suffered at the hands of the Mughals. Jahangir had, out of religious bigotry, ordered the torture and execution of Guru Aljan Dev, and had put Guru Har Gobind in prison in the fort of Gawalior. Shah Jahan had four times sent the Imperial armies against Guru Har Gobind. Guru Hari Rai and Guru Hari Krishan had been molested under the order of Aurangzeb. This last had also ordered the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur at Delhi. Guru Gobind Singh's four sons and his aged mother had also been taken away from him as a result of Aurangzeb's hostility. His Sikhs had fallen in thousands. His wife and the mother of the Khalsa had been separated from him. He himself had been pursued and hunted.  Think of all his sufferings.  Yet when a son of that Aurangzeb and descendant of Jahangir and Shah Jahan, sought his help to enforce his right to the throne, the Guru readily agreed to help him.

[2]. Gur Sobha, xvi.35; Bahadur-Shah-Nama, entry dated 4th Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 1119 A.H. (July 23, 1707); Guru Gobind Singh’s letter to the Sangar of Dhaul dated 1st Katik, 1764/ October 2, 1707.

[3]. That the Guru was hopeful of ending the age-old differences with the Mughals is borne out by his letter dated October 2, 1707, addressed to the Sangat of DhauI. In that letter he refers to 'other things which were progressing satisfactorily·. These other things were surely his negotiations for peace and goodwill.

[4]. Daulat Rai, Life of Guru Gobind Singh (Urdu); Twarikh Guru Khalsa, Gian Singh.

[5]. Lala Daulat Rai, Life of Guru Gobind Singh, (Urdu).

[6]. Tawarikh Guru Khalsa

[7]. Contemporary evidence exists "to show that the Guru, while travelling with Bahadur Shah, used to deliver to the people of the south his great message, and thereby arouse in them a sense of their duty towards their community and country. The writer of Tarikh·i-Bahadur Shahiwas at Delhi at the time of Aurangzeb's death. He writes, "At the time the army (of Bahadur Shah) was marching southwards towards Burhanpur, Guru Gobind Singh one of the descendants of (Guru) Nanak, had come into 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."-Vide History of India by its Own Historians, Vol 7, page 566.

[8]. Bachittar Natak

[9]. According to Trumpp, at Damdama alone the Guru gained 1, 20,000 disciples. (xcii)

[10]. All are agreed that the Guru's life at Damdama Sahib was full of activity and achievement. Reproduced below are excerpts from books of three writers to show what he achieved there :

(a)     'He settled in a village of Malwa and remained peaceful, only bent on making disciples in which he is said to have been very successful. He built there a large residence for himself, and called it Damdama. This place became the Senares of Sikhs'. (Trumpp, xcii)

(b)     'The Guru went to Malwa and lived there in peace for some time, occupying himself in making proselytes to his religion, not a difficult ·~ask, considering that the people about that part of the country were in a state of lamentable ignorance. He built here a spacious house for his residence, which he called the Damdama.' (Latif, page 266)

[So, even this bigoted writer admits that the Guru achieved remarkable success in spreading his Faith while at Damdama. His remark about the ignorance of the people is simply an indication of the brain fever which came on him when he was confronted with Guru's splendour and success.]

(c)     'Secure in his new retreat (at Damdama) [Guru] Govind (Singh) re-established his court, and surrounded himself with all the pomp and circumstance of royalty, Damdarna became the center of Sikhism, 'and a place of resort for learned men from all parts of the country. Numberless new recruits joined the ranks of the Khalsa and the position of (Guru) Govind Singh became stronger than ever before.' (C.H. Payne, pages, 41-42)

[11]. Footnote to page 268. His book was written in 1889. Speaking of the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur and its effect on the mind of Guru Gobind Singh, Latif writes:- 'The violent and miserable end of the martyred Guru, and his last injunctions, had made such a strong impression on the mind of (Guru) Gobind (Singh) that he longed to wreak vengeance on the murderers of his father and the persecutors of his race, and became the inveterate and irreconcilable enemy of every Mohamrnadan.' Page 261.

It has been seen that the Guru had no enmity with Muhammadans as such. Still, it would be interesting to know how Latif would reconcile the 'inveterate and irreconcilable' enmity of the Guru against 'every Mohammandan' with his accepting service with 'the murderers of his father and the persecutors of his race.' Latif seems to have read neither Sir John Malcolm, Forster, Khafi Khan, nor any other of the 'various writers' who 'confirm' his statement. In his preface he does not mention either Forster or Khafi Khan among the authors to whose work he was 'obliged for the portion relating to the Sikhs', or, in fact, for any portion of his history. He has based his note on a foot-note of Elphinstone's History of India. That foot-note, however, he has either, misconstrued, or perhaps, in his zeal to throw mud at the Guru, misconstrued. Elphinstone refers to Sir John Malcolm and 'Forster's Travels page 263' in support of his statement that Guru Gobind Singh was 'murdered by a private enemy at Nander, in the Dekhan'. Then he adds the words about 'the Moghal service' ('The latter writer......Khafi Khan'), which have been copied verbatim by Latif without acknowledgement, as is usual with him. See Elphinstone's History of India. 9th Edition, page 664, f.n. 7.'

[12]. See his Sikh Religion, VoI.V, page 232. J.N. Sarkar also writes, 'In 1707, the new emperor, Bahadur Shah I, induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompany him on the march to Rajputana and the Deccan.'

[13]. op cit, pp.71-72.

[14]. Forster has a very instructive passage about these writers of Eastern record. In the foot-note to page 253 he writes : 'Neither the genius of the people, nor the form of their government is favourable to the growth of history, which is rarely seen to flourish on despotic ground. The actions of the Asiatic princes are usually recorded by their own scribes; and we know that a large portion of the annals of India was manufactured under imperial inspection. It is, therefore, scarcely within the verge of probability, that a writer attracted by so powerful an influence, would dare to have thrown the piercing light of history on the reigning monarch, or even to have examined with freedom the actions of his ancestors, who have, for more than two hundred years, maintained an unbroken succession of the Empire of Hindustan.'

[15]. Vide page. 652.

[16]. Khafi Khan's Munrakhab-ul-Lubab has suffered many mutilations in the course of time. The most authentic text of this work is the one published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1874. This text is also taken to be authentic by Sir Charles Elliot, the writer of the 'History of India as told by its Own Historians.' According to this text Khafi Khan's actual words, a translation of which has been given above, are :-

'Dar ayyame kih Bahadur Shah badshah mutwajjah Haiderabad gardidant Goving nam az sargrohan-i-an-quam-i-bad-nam bahazur rasidoh. ba do sad sih sad sawar neza-bardor-o-piyadoh dar rakab-rafaqat namnd.

J.N. Sarkar, who has carried out extensive researches about the History of the Mughals, has also placed reliance on the above text; for he writes :- 'In 17m, the new emperor Bahadur Shah I, induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompany him on the march to Rajputana and the Deccan. The Guru reached Nander on the Godavari, I50 miles north-west of Haiderabad, in Auguest 1707 at the head of some infantry and two or three hundred cavalry, and there, after a stay of more than a year, he was stabbed by an Afghan.'

[17]. We have already seen that Sikhs do not at all 'concede' that the Guru accepted 'service' in Bahadur Shah's army. How could they have told Forster what he writes on their authority?

[18]. Forster himself, it may be noted, is conscious of this shortcoming; for. on page 253 of his Travels, he admits that he has no 'substantial authority' from whom he could deduce the history of the Sikhs from the time of Guru Nanak, 'their first institutor and Jaw-giver', to the attainment of their present state of national importance.' He deplores 'the irresistible tendency of the Asiatic mind to fiction which makes the 'Eastern record' unreliable as history, and pleads for 'an indulgent scope.'

Source - Life of Guru Gobind Singh by Prof. Kartar Singh. Chapters 41 and 42, pp 214-228