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The medieval Hindu society was in the grip of an awful social malaise. It looked like a person on the verge of death, crying and shrieking for survival. It had lost its elan vital, without which no society is able to respond to different challenges which it is bound to face from time to time. The Brahmins or the Hindu nobles whom the social structure had assigned the job of fashioning creative responses to different challenges and to lead the masses along with them had ceased to play their role; rather they had circumscribed their activities to safeguard, sustain and promote their own interests. Naturally all their activities centred around this purpose.

They had created symbols, rites, traditions, religious and social precepts to tame the people's psyche to make them follow blindly and even used coercive methods—force of social boycott and physical violence in order to achieve their aim. Social discipline of which rites and rituals etc is an integral part, is a necessity for a society to forge ahead. But mechanical social drill is no good as it curbs initiatives. This was exactly the malady with the social system evolved by the men at the helm of affairs of the medieval Hindu society. Such men, who in the opinion of Toynbee were to act as a creative minority reduced themselves to a dominant minority alienated from the people whose interests they looked upon with gross indifference. The ultimate result was that the people, whether they belonged to the Hindu society or lived on its fringes, became rudderless and became the victim of the waves of different challenges.

The people reacted to the situations and tried to create a response outside the dominant minority. They threw up different types of reactions but none could come forth not to overcome the crisis and stimulate the society to move further towards progress. Some of the reactions were even retrogressive and repressive, thus socially detrimental. Nathism and Baulism etc. are such examples. These cults gave a speculative philosophy unrelated to the social problems, exhorting the people to become self-centered and withdraw within themselves. Such withdrawal as part of the process of self-discipline is not considered bad in India. But, withdrawal within oneself never to come out to serve the society was more harmful. More dangerous than these responses were those which recommended a life of renunciation. A streak of this type of thinking is clearly visible in Sehjyana Vaisnavism. Abandon in the sense of looking detachedly at the problem would have been positive but abandon in the sense of indulging in it as the end in itself was certainly a devitalizing factor. A few responses were obviously good and useful, as for instance, one fashioned by some of the reformers of Bhakti Movement but even these were sporadic and incomplete attempts. These could vaguely be described as comprehensive and touched only the periphery of different problems.

The Hindu society already suffering from the crisis of faith and of social disintegration, suffered another blow at the hands of Islamic society which established its political hegemony during the 12th and 13th centuries and had chosen to stay in India. The Muslims had a civilization of their own, which laid stress on two points which were sure to attract the Indians. One was social equality and the other was the faith in the oneness of God and brotherhood of mankind. Both these points were complementary to each other on the social plane. Besides, the Muslims had political predominance and were in a position to use ample means of patronage. As a result of that situation coupled with caste based division of Hindu society, many Hindus, particularly from the lower strata, chose to go into the fold of Islam.

In the course of time, the Islamic society also developed many weaknesses. Islamic leaders alienated themselves from the general masses and reduced themselves to a group interested only in their individual welfare. The religion and the social laws were all harnessed to buttress the aforesaid tendency. Thus, the Muslim masses were also thrown in the vortex of confusion. Though, the Sufis amongst the Muslims continued to show the right path yet even they could not stem the rot that was gradually creeping in.

Sikhism was the product of the social dichotomy and political situation that had thus been created. It was an organisation to meet the social and religious challenges thrown up by the situation as also to provide a solution to the varied socio-politico-religious problems likely to emerge in future. It originated with Guru Nanak (b. April 1469, d. 1539). He was followed by a continuous line of nine successors who for nearly two centuries guided the destiny of Sikhism the followers of Guru Nanak ideology. The institution of the Guru ended with the demise of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, who bestowed it on Sri Guru Granth Sahib forever.

The ultimate objective of Guru Nanak was to regenerate the individual and the society. To achieve this object, he evolved a program of action. He advocated strict monotheism which was totally different from that of Hinduism.

The concept of Godhead of Hinduism is expressed through plurality of deities, whereas Guru Nanak believed neither in gods and goddesses nor even in the reincarnations of God. His God was infinite, beyond time and space, and self- existent. He never dies nor is He ever born. Nanak disapproved of the worship of idols because people tended to look upon them as God Himself. Nanak believed that God is Sat (Truth and Reality), Fearless and Beyond animosity. This being so, he not only made God a spiritual concept but also based his principles of social behaviour on his concept of God. Since He is Truth, Beyond Fear and Enmity; to speak untruth, to nurse enmity and to act coward-like is irreligious. A good Sikh, therefore, must not only believe that God is one and the only one, Omnipotent and Omniscient, but also conduct himself towards his fellow-beings in a manner that should not look untruthful, filled with prejudice or animosity towards anyone. He should always be merciful towards his fellow beings, ever ready to forget and forgive.

Nanak believed that the power that is God, cannot be defined because He is Nirankar (formless)[1]. All descriptions of God are consequently admission of man's inability to define Him:

Thou hast a million eyes, yet no eye hast thou.

Thou hast a million feet, yet no feet hast Thou.

Thou hast a million forms, yet no form hast Thou.

Thou art without feet, yet no feet are without Thee.

Thou art without odor, yet millions of odors emanate from Thee.

With such charms, O Lord, hast Thou bewitched me.

Thy light pervades everywhere. (SGGS,  p. 663)

Nanak addressed God by a variety of names, such as Pita (Father), Pritam (Lover), Khasam (Master), Data (The Great Giver). Nanak did this to show human dependence on God rather than invest him with anthropomorphic qualities. Although Nanak used both Hindu and Muslim nomenclatures for God such as Ram, Govind, Hari, Murari, Rab and Karim etc., yet the attribute he usually ascribes to Him was of Sat Kartar (True Creator) or Sat Nam (True Name).

According to Nanak, the Guru's help is essential for the realization of God. But who is the Guru? Nanak uses the term Guru in three senses: (i) The Guru is God; (ii) The Guru is the voice of God; (iii) The Guru is word, the truth of God. How can one reconcile these three senses of the term Guru? Apparently these terms do not reflect any identity. But on probing deep into the matter, one would find the basic identity which these three senses possess. The Guru in the sense of a perfect man who has realized God answers to all these different connotations of the term. He is the voice of God, the word of God, indeed God Himself. Such a perfect man's guidance is indispensable for any progress on the road to realization of the Truth.

The ultimate object of a man is to be God-like, capable of enjoying the Absolute into himself, in the fullness of its self- consciousness. Thus he must imbibe all those qualities which emanate from the Truth, such as love, humility, honesty, compassion, contentment, truthfulness etc.

The greatest enemy of a man towards the realisation of Truth is Haumai[2] (Egocentricity) which involves him in worldly attachments, creating impediments in his path of seeking Truth. All the activities of an unregenerate man are guided by Haumai. Even that which a man calls right or good is done only if it is in accord with his Haumai. And if it is not in keeping with it, it is rejected. Without getting rid of Haumai the path to ultimate realization cannot be recognised.

The mind of the unregenerate man expresses itself in the evil impulses which are: Kam (lust); Karodh (anger); Lobh (greed); Moh (attachment to worldly things); and Hankar (pride).[3]

To him the best course to control the surges of these evil forces was to practice meditation on Nam, ever remembrance of God, realization of His presence everywhere and in all objects, inanimate and animate. Nam is the remedy for the sick or diseased world. Nam is realization, the coming of God's grace within oneself which obliterates the sense of duality and makes one not only himself, but be a part and link of God.

In order to realize Him through Nam, one will have to observe its discipline. He must lead an ethical life, offer prayers, enjoy the company of sadh sangat (holy men) and develop an attitude of seva (selfless service).

The person who realises Nam makes no distinction between the individual and the universal. He becomes Gurmukh who always have good of His creation at heart. He does not abjure the world but lives in it like a lotus in water. He is a Panch, Plato's philosopher King, a Brahm-giani—one who has realised God and has acquired Divine Knowledge. Such a person does not fear anybody. The Panch is an ideal man in the concept of the Guru. His qualities have been described by Guru Nanak in his composition titled Japji. He is a saint in religion, a true statesman in politics-all his actions are guided by Bibek Budh (Sense of Discrimination). He is Jivan mukt (Liberated in Life) enjoying perfect release while living in the world. He attains perfection in virtue and happiness. Although the limitations of the body and the world are there, yet they do not restrict this perfection which is more of the soul than of the body. For him, perfection does not come after death. It is attained while the Punch is alive. He negates the influence of Haumai and feels one with the nature. This type of person always operates within God's Hukam (Divine Order). Guru Nanak believed in the traditional theories of Karma, Rebirth and Transmigration of soul. But he also believed that the bondages of Karma are capable of being conquered or surmounted through self-exertion and divine grace.

Guru Nanak preferred a householder's life to the life of a recluse. The Guru himself led a householder's life and impressed upon the people that this life is not an impediment on the pathway to bliss and self-emancipation, thus bringing out clearly the importance of living a full-fledged and fullsome life in the world.

The poetic compositions of Guru Nanak are replete with vitriolic criticism of meaningless superstitions, Brahmanical rituals, caste prejudices, untouchability and religious expatiations. The society which the Guru envisaged stemmed from his personal experience of the unity of mankind and oneness of God. The three basics of his social philosophy were Kirt karo, Nam Japo and Wand chhako. Kirt karo means that one should earn one's livelihood by honest creative labour. Wand chhako signifies that one must share the fruits of one's labour with one's fellow creatures who could be devoid of basic necessities of life. Such acts instil the spirit of selflessness or sacrifice. Nam Japo means meditate on Nam, i.e., no one should lose sight of the cosmic process and the divine will permeate everything in the world.

Besides this, if the society is to endure and overcome successfully the stress of different challenges, it is imperative for its members to be ethical in their attitude and behaviour at all levels. The Guru roundly condemned the unethical attitude of the people.

No changes can be brought about by creative thoughts alone. Requisite institutions have to be created to give a local habitation and endurance to it. Guru Nanak created institutions such as Sangat, Pangat and Kirtan for further promotion of his cause. Sangat was an assembly of like-minded people engaged in the pursuit of Truth. This organisation was open to all persons irrespective of their social status and cast-affiliations etc. As a matter of fact, the Guru used it as an instrument to shape the Sikh psyche and promote the Sikh ideals of a casteless, classless and egalitarian society. It was also to be an organization to knit the Sikh together to give them a corporate character. Guru Ka hangar (community kitchen) was another important institution created by the Guru. This institution possessed the potentiality of a valuable instrument of social reform in a setting where caste taboos prevented people from sitting and eating together. Therefore, from the very outset, the institution of hangar was integrally associated with the Sangat. This institution was of great significance. It went towards erasing social and economic inequality in a big way. Everyone irrespective of caste and creed, social status, sex and birth was to sit and eat the same food. Therefore it served as a medium of social integration between the high and the low, thereby landing a mighty blow to the caste system and untouchability. The kitchen was run with voluntary contributions made by the Guru's devotees in money or kind.

Kirtan was another institution that held great significance. Kirtan implies singing of the praises of the Lord, which is generally the theme of the compositions of the Guru in the accompaniment of musical instruments and in accordance with musical measures. Kirtan was done in congregations both in the early hours of the morning and in the evening following the conclusion of the day's work. This institution contributed substantially in fine tuning the thinking of the disciples and inducing them to work for the causes as preached by the Guru.

Guru Nanak, undertook extensive tours in the North, South, East and West of the Indian subcontinent and beyond and visited important centres of the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and Jogis meeting people of different races, tribes and cultural patterns in order to spread his teachings amongst them. His travels were spanned over a period of nearly thirty years.

During his first Udasi[4] (Odyssey) he traversed (in terms of the modern political geography of India and Pakistan) Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Madras, Kerala, Mysore, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujrat and West Pakistan. The most important places visited by him were Kurukshetra, Panipat, Hardwar, Joshi Math, Gorakh Matta, Golam, Ayudhya, Prayag, Benaras, Gaya, Patna, Dhubri, Dhampur, Gauhati, Shillong, Sillhet, Dacca, Puri, Cuttock, Gantur, Kanchipuram and Tiruchirapalli. From Tiruchirapalli the Guru sailed down the Kaveri river and reached Nagapatnam, a very old port of South India. From there he proceeded to Ceylon where he visited such places as Betticola, Katargam and Sita Waka. The last named place is also called Sita Eliya from the tradition of Sita having spent her period of captivity here. At the time of Guru Nanak's visit, this place was in the Kotte kingdom of Raja Dhrama Prakarma. The inscription discovered by Dr. W.S. Karuna Ratna[5] and Parana Vitama in the famous museum of Anuradh Pura furnished a brief account of the encounter of Janakacharya (Nanak) with the Buddhist Bhikshu Dhrama Kirt-Sthavira. This inscription also informs us that Raja Dhrama Prakrama-bahu had promised to embrace Nanak's creed if he won in the debate. Nanak won. But before he could embrace Nanak's creed, the Brahmins very cleverly got arranged another public debate, this time between Nanak and Dvaja Pandita and manipulated the result in favour of the latter. In this way, they did not allow the ruler to fall under the influence of Nanak. At Manner, the Guru left Ceylon and sailed for Rameshwaram wherefrom he proceeded to Trivandrum. On his way back to Talwandi, the Guru visited important places such as Bidar, Nanded, Baroach, Somnath, Dwarka, Girnar Rocks, Jagannath, Ujjain, Ajmer and Mathura, Sirsa, Pak Pattan and Talwandi.

The second tour took the Guru into the interior of the Himalayan region where he visited the Kangra valley, the Spiti tableland, Western Tibet, Ladakh, Kashmir and Punjab (Pakistan).

Images of Guru Nanak are said to be present in some temples of Tibet and Ladakh. There is a class of people living in this area who have substituted or added[6] the Mantra 'Om Aham, Bhadra Guru Farm Sidhi Hum', to the usual Buddhist Mantra, Om Mani Padmi Hami. It is these men in whose temples the image of Nanak has been given a permanent place. Kargil, Amarnath, Pehalgam, Mattan, Anant Nag, Srinagar, Baramula and Hasan Abdal were visited by the Guru. After that enroute to Talwandi, he sojourned at Bal Godai and Sialkot.

The Guru undertook his third missionary travel to the Muslim countries of West Asia in the garb of a Muslim devotee. Some prominent places connected with this tour of the Guru were Multan, Uch, Hinglaj, Mecca, Medina, Baghdad, Mashad, Herat, Kandhar, Kabul, Para Chinnar, Gorakh Hatri (Peshawar) and Saidpur. From Saidpur, the Guru proceeded to Talwandi and from there to Sultanpur. On the way, he came to the settlement named Kartarpur (City of the Creator) where he lived a normal householder's life for nearly 20 years. Even during this period, he undertook short tour in the Punjab. One of them, according to Bhai Gurdas, was his visit to Achal Vatala and the other to Multan and Pak Pattan. At the latter place, he met Shaikh Ibrahim while at Multan he was accorded a hearty welcome by Makhdom Bahauddin. During his tours, he gave his message to as many people as possible. His message was meant for all, irrespective of region, country, clime, caste or creed. He had a cosmic vision and earnestness to build a global society on the basis of faith in the oneness of God, unity of mankind, dignity of labour and sharing of the fruits of labour with others.

On September 22, 1539 A.D. Guru Nanak passed away. According to Puratan Janam Sakhi, "Before Nanak's death, a quarrel arose between his Hindu and Muslim followers regarding disposal of his mortal remains. The former wished to cremate it whereas the later desired to bury it." Nanak said to them : 'Let the Hindus place flowers on my right and the Musalmans on my left. They whose flowers are found fresh tomorrow may have the disposal of the body.' After the flowers had been set on each side of him, Nanak drew his sheet over the flowers as well as over himself. Next morning, the sheet was found unchanged. When the sheet was removed, both sets of flowers were found equally fresh whereas the body had disappeared.' The version obviously seems to be a myth. But one thing which emerges is that he was loved alike both by the Hindus and the Muslim.

Before Guru Nanak breathed his last, he selected his successor and commissioned him to carry on the work he had started. The nomination of Bhai Lehna to the Guruship who became known as Guru Angad, was, in the words of Indu- bhushan Banerjee, “a fact of the profoundest significance.” Trumpp writes, “The disciples of Nanak would no doubt have been dispersed and gradually disappeared as well, as the disciples of many other Gurus before Nanak, if he had not taken care to appoint a successor before his death.”[7]

The period from Guru Angad Dev (Guruship 1539; d. 1552) the immediate successor of Guru Nanak, to Guru Arjan Dev, fifth in the line of succession constituted the first phase in the development of Sikhism. During this period, (A.D. 1539- 1606) it made rapid strides organisationally as well as in strength and developed into a distinct community. Guru Angad during his ministry did his best to consolidate Sikhism. Guru Nanak had concerned himself more or less with the fundamentals and had left details to be taken care of by his successors. Guru Angad took care to interpret and re­emphasize the message of Guru Nanak in unambiguous terms and in a down-to-earth manner. He successfully met the challenges of Udasis, a sect founded by Baba Sri Chand, eldest son of Guru Nanak. Baba Sri Chand held strong belief in asceticism and renunciation (Udas) of the world as the correct path-way to eternal bliss and quoted Guru Nanak as the progenitor and upholder of this view. This view of Baba Sri Chand was obviously a misstatement of the Guru's gospel. However Baba Sri Chand's impact on the masses was quite significant and wide-spread because of his heredity and the natural tendency of the Indian people to put premium on asceticism. Guru Angad, therefore took prompt steps and made it clear in unequivocal terms to his disciples that Sikhism was essentially a religion of householders. It was also declared that the Udasis, followers of Baba Sri Chand, even if they held faith in most of Guru Nanak's tenets were not true Sikhs. By doing so, Guru Angad, barred the door to asceticism and made the influence of Guru Nanak available not only for religious uplift but also for social regeneration. Thus Udasism could not become a mass movement, much less a part of the Sikh faith. By preaching vigorously the essentials of Sikhism coupled with certain other steps, the Guru tried to create distinct consciousness which went a long way in preserving Sikhism from merging into Hinduism and his disciples from being absorbed back into the Hindu masses. He collected the hymns of Guru Nanak and committed them to writing. He is also believed to have got prepared the Janam Sakhi of Guru Nanak by Bhai Bala. The collection of the hymns of Guru Nanak provided a focal point of piety and doctrine for those Sikhs who did not live at Khadur, the headquarter of Guru Angad Dev. Moreover, it gave definite directions to the faith of the Sikhs, besides providing a living proof of the Sikh doctrine that there was no essential difference between the Guru and his Shabad (Word). In addition, he made Punjabi language in Gurmukhi script as the vehicle of his thought and preaching. Some traditions ascribe the invention of the Gurmukhi script to him but one hymn of Guru Nanak's composed in the form of an acrostic shows that the alphabets already existed. The renaming of the existing Takri script and the instruction that it should be used for recording the Guru's hymns may well have been Guru Angad's decision. The significance of the adoption of the script and of extensive use of Punjabi language lies in the fact that the Guru rejected the foreign Arabic script and emphasised that unless the people adopted a script which was their own and which suited them as a vehicle of communication amongst themselves, their culture could not grow. Moreover, it landed a severe blow to the Brahmins who through their monopoly of the knowledge of Sanskrit had given currency to the belief that their superiority or prestige was ordained by God or gods. According to Gokal Chand Narang, "the name of the script reminded those who employed it, of their duty towards their Guru and constantly kept alive in their minds the consciousness that they were something distinct from the common mass of Hindus."

Moreover Guru Angad continued to impress upon his disciples the utility of Sangat and Pangat. Both these institutions gave a sense of unity and identity to the Sikhs. Another step of building the city of Goindwal, also played a great part in giving consciousness and distinctiveness to the Sikhs.

In the city of Goindwal, no separate ward was marked for low castes or for any particular community. Anybody could build his house anywhere. Attempts were made here in a systematic manner that Sikh values should be imbibed by the people. This is why there still persist memories that in the Sikh cities, no one could die of hunger, because in addition to Guru ka Langar, kitchen in each house was run as if it was Guru's own. The city of Goindwal indeed did a lot to shape the Sikh psyche and to propagate the Sikh ideology.

Guru Angad nominated Amar Das as his successor in 1552. He was then seventy-three years old. He held his ministry for twenty-two years until he expired in 1574. From 1540 to 1552, he had been in the company of Guru Angad Dev and had drunk deep at the fount of inspiration that Guru Angad Dev was. He had also imbibed fully the Sikh ethos and judged for himself how useful Sikhism was to bring about regeneration. Besides this, he must have gauged the extent of dangers threatening its existence and also the urgency of speedy development of the organisation of Sikhism.

The age-old reverence for the places of Hindu pilgrimage in the psyche of the followers of Guru Nanak's religion could only be removed gradually. It demanded something genuine as an alternative to assuage their misconceived notion of washing away their sins and achieving emancipation. Guru had realised that such visits of the Sikhs at Hindu places of pilgrims expose them to the guile of clever Brahmans creating all sorts of doubts in their mind beside swindling them of their hard-earned money for performing of infructuous rituals. The Guru, therefore, built a Baoli at Goindwal. This was a well with eighty-four steps leading down to the surface of the water. The water of this well was considered sacred, and a wash with it was regarded as an act of great spiritual merit. A tradition gradually got woven round it that whoever attentively and reverently recites the Japuji on every step after taking a dip in the Baoli would escape from the wanderings of the eighty-four lacs living creatures. The Guru fixed the first day of the Baisakhi as the day for the annual gathering of the Sikhs.

The Baoli, apart from catering to the need of the people for water, had deep effect on the psychology of the people. The Sikhs started visiting the place in large numbers and this afforded an opportunity to the Guru to come into close contact with them. Out of this close contact sprang the devotion for the Guru which proved to be a strong force to bind them to Sikhism. He also chose the site for a new religious centre where the construction work was started by the Guru himself and progressing rapidly under the supervision of Bhai Jetha. This ultimately became the site for the city of Amritsar.

The institutions of Sangat and Pangat received great fillip at the hands of Guru Amar Das. The Guru had issued a fiat: "Pehle Pangat Peechhe Sangat" (First eat together and then meet together). The fiat was implemented rigidly. When Akbar paid a visit to Guru Amar Das at Goindwal, he could not see the Guru without first taking food in Guru ka Langar. The Guru ka Langar was made a means of emphasising the unity and equality of mankind. Through this common meal the Guru demanded indirectly that all who came to him, Hindu or Muslim, Brahmin or untouchable, emperor or beggar, should lay aside their prejudices. The institution of Langar, in fact was a powerful device for expressing the theoretical notion of equality in a practical way. It also epitomised the cardinal faith that God was the Eternal Giver.

Besides this, the Guru preached vigorously what he stood for. He composed a large number of hymns and exhorted his followers to recite them and told them that whosoever imbibed and practised their essence would acquire divine traits. In quite a few verses, he emphasised that the Guru's Shabad was superior to everything else and the Sikhs were advised to use only the Guru's Shabad in worship.

Guru Amar Das maintained the tradition of Guru Nanak's social reforms. He condemned caste system, untouchability and the customs of Sati and Purdah. All these prevalent Hindu social customs were dehumanising and at best catered to the interests of only a particular class. He advocated equality in terms of sex, creed and caste on the basis of universal brotherhood of man. He encouraged inter-caste marriages as well as widows re-marrying. He condemned idolatry both on spiritual and social grounds. Guru's God being formless and infinite was beyond description within the known vocabulary. Idolatry involving worship and deification of different gods was socially damaging as it engendered wrong consciousness about God and often gave rise to groups, each considering its deity as supreme and itself superior most, thereby obstructing the growth of universal consciousness.

The Guru abandoned the prevailing birth and death rites of the Hindus. They were too many and too costly, beside being against the Sikh concept and Sikh spirit. The Guru advised his followers to give up these rites and in their place prescribed a simple ceremony which mostly consisted of singing of holy hymns from Gurbani.

The upshot of all these measures was that Sikhism began to emerge as a distinct entity. In the accomplishment of his task, the Guru received great assistance from the liberal character of Akbar's policy. As was expected, the orthodox sections in the Hindu society did not take kindly to the teachings of Guru Amar Das. They complained to the Emperor more than once against his unorthodox ways. Once they even led a deputation and submitted a lengthy memorandum to the Emperor, levelling a series of charges against him. The orthodox Muslim elements also disliked the Guru's mode of preaching.

The Guru deputed his most trusted follower Bhai Jetha to the Emperor's court to answer the charges. The complaint was ultimately dismissed. A few years later, the Emperor personally waited upon the Guru at Goindwal and even ate in the common kitchen run by the devotees under the directions of the Guru. The tradition goes that the Emperor also made a land grant in the name of the Guru's daughter Bibi Bhani before his departure from there. All this gave a boost to the Sikhs and for the rest of the reign of Akbar all adversaries of the Sikhs were silenced.

The liberalism of Akbar's religious policy helped the Guru in yet another way. Muslim orthodoxy was in low spirits during the period because Akbar had withdrawn his patronage to it. It had retaliated by trying to harm the Emperor once or twice but they had met with utter failure each time. As a result, Sikhism under Guru Amar Das, and in fact for many years thereafter, experienced no difficulty from Muslim orthodoxy. Stray incidents created by a few Shaikh families settled at Goindwal however had no impact on the progress of Sikhism. At their instance, a group of young boys caused some harassment to the Sikhs, engaged in fetching water from the river Beas for the Guru's kitchen. But it was only a localised affair and the conflict seems to have arisen not from any religious cause but was probably the outcome of some local discord of a mundane nature.

The ever increasing population of the Sikhs needed sustained guidance, co-ordination of all efforts and some sort of cohesive administrative system. To this purpose the institution of Manjis was established. The word Manji literally signifies a 'cot' or a Charpoy, a common Indian bedstead. But here it denotes a responsible religious position conferred by the Guru upon one of his prominent devotees, or a seat of delegated authority. The Guru appointed 22[8] missionaries to carry on the work of proselytisation. Mr. Macauliffe, Indubhushan Banerjee, Kirpal Singh Narang and Hari Ram Gupta have taken Manji in the sense of some sort of a territorial unit which does not seem to be correct. Two explanations may be offered against the opinion of these writers considering the Manji in the sense of a territorial unit. The first—that they have uncritically followed Macauliffe who was probably the first person to advocate a Manji as a unit of territory. The second is a backward projection of a later idea. When Masands were appointed in the time of fourth and fifth Gurus, each Masand was assigned a particular area to operate in. The same analogy had been employed by our writers in the case of Manjis as well. Here also a good deal of responsibility for the confusion rests on the shoulders of Macauliffe. He may not have been fully familiar with Indian traditions but was very well acquainted with the traditions of the Christian church in his own country, England.[9]

The demarcation of the Sikh spiritual influence into districts or provinces, or whatever that may be, is irrelevant to the Manji system as conceived by Guru Amar Das. None of the Sikh writers writing before the close of the nineteenth century ever tried to impart the territorial sense to it. Whenever any reference is made by them to the institution of Manji, the import is invariably spiritual rather than territorial or temporal. Take, for example, Giani Gian Singh, the author of Panth Parkash. He refers in some detail to the grant of Manjis by Guru Amar Das to Bhai Manak Chand, Handal and Gangu Shah. In each sense, the grant is shown as a reward for selfless and devoted service rendered by the devotee. It may well be inferred from this that the Manji system was not a territorial demarcation of the Sikh spiritual empire as is commonly believed but a missionary order. The grant of a Manji to a person therefore meant the conferment upon him the membership of this missionary order.

Only men of recognised piety and sterling integrity were awarded the distinction of heading the Manji. It was also an essential qualification that they understood and practised the teachings of the Sikh Gurus correctly. They conducted their missionary work individually as well as through Sangats (congregations). But they did not always confine themselves to their native places. On the contrary, whenever possible and convenient, they moved about in the countryside carrying the torch of the Guru's message. They maintained their connection with the Guru at the centre by means of a periodical visit, more often on the annual Baisakhi fair, a tradition that was started at Goindwal. Besides their preaching work, some of them, taught Gurmukhi script to the people and wrote Pothis containing Guru's hymns for free distribution among the people.

Guru Amar Das, with his clarity of vision and his determined policy to lend a distinctive entity to the Sikhs not only established the Sikh community and saved it from a possible relapse into Brahmanical Hinduism but also paved the way for its rapid strides in future. The danger of the Sikhs yielding to the pressures of Hinduism or of falling under the spell of ascetic parasites was largely warded off. Then there was also a great deal of expansion in their ranks. In short, the Sikhs were now well-set on the road to becoming a cohesive and fast growing community with a definite ideology, and a distinct institutional structure. The benefits of the great work commenced and accomplished by Guru Amar Das were reaped by his successors, particularly Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan Dev.

Guru Amar Das was succeeded by Guru Ram Das. Originally called Jetha, he was born in a Sodhi family of Chuna Mandi, Lahore on September 24, 1534. While serving along with other Sikhs in the construction of the Baoli at Goindwal, he attracted the attention of Guru Amar Das, and received the hand of his daughter Bibi Bhani in marriage. Thereafter he stayed with his father-in-law, and was closely associated with his ministry. He put on record many incidents connected with the struggle that his Master had with his opponents, and as such his writings are a store-house of information about the period. He had made himself so indispensable that his choice for the Gur-gaddi was a forgone conclusion.

In order to avoid any possible unpleasantness with the close relatives of the last Guru, he shifted his residence to Guru ka Chak the present site of Amritsar which had been chosen by Guru Amar Das himself and where construction work had already begun.

During his ministry, Guru Ram Das further consolidated the institutions of Sangat, Pangat and Kirtan. He also saw to the planning and construction of the new city of Amritsar. He caused Amritsar (Lake of Nectar) and Santokhsar (Lake of Contentment) to be excavated. He appointed Masands who performed the dual role of Sikh missionaries and collectors of devotees voluntary offerings. Each Masand was allotted a definite area to preach and to collect the offerings. Masand is a corrupted version of the Persian word Masnad. Though the exact number of Masands and their respective areas are not known, yet it is certain that very many Sikhs known for their piety and integrity were asked to function as Masands. In Guru Ram Das’s time, the Masands were usually named as Ram Dasias. It was only in the time of Guru Arjan Dev that they began to be called Masands almost exclusively. In keeping with the policy of his predecessors, the Guru asked his followers to avoid singing filthy songs on social occasions such as marriage, child birth as was customary and instead, he composed hymns which were akin, to Ghori, Sithnian in their poetical form to be sung on the aforesaid social occasions.

Guru Ram Das had three sons, of whom he considered Arjan Dev, the youngest, most suited to succeed him. This aroused the ire of the eldest, Prithi Chand. Nevertheless, when the Guru saw that his end was near, he nominated Arjan Dev as the fifth Guru. Guru Ram Das expressed "that as one lamp is lighted from another, so the Guru's spirit will pass into him and dispel the darkness in the world." Guru Arjan's path was beset with many pitfalls. Akbar's liberalism instead of being utilized by the Hindus to fashion new responses to the new challenges was used to rehabilitate or perpetuate the orthodox Brahmanical beliefs and caste-ridden society. Naturally, the protagonists of Hindu orthodoxy were unhappy with Sikhism.

Besides, the bulk of the people had come into the fold of Sikhism as a result of the efforts of the earlier Gurus. These people were mostly drawn from the commercial class, dwelling in towns. They possessed intelligence, wealth, organising ability and practical knowledge of the world in ample measures. The gradual entry of the peasant class into the fold of Sikhism, initially during the time of Guru Amar Das, warranted new adjustments in the body-social and the body-spiritual of the Sikh movement. It became imperative for the Guru to frame programs to harness their proverbial energy and enterprising spirit in the interest of the Sikh community and the ideals it stood for. But it was no ordinary task; because to strike harmony between a mercantile class and the peasantry was a tedious problem in view of two factors:

  1. the Jats were a clan of warlike habits;
  2. there was wide divergence between the respective outlooks and interests of the two groups.

However, unbaffled by the complex nature of the problem and notwithstanding the trouble fomented by his brother Prithi Chand, Guru Arjan Dev addressed himself to the task of further consolidation and extension of the Sikh Panth. His approach to the problem was institutional, social and psychological. Like his predecessors, he built up new townships to serve as religious centres providing cohesiveness to the nascent religion. In 1588, he completed the tasks of excavation of two tanks named Santokhsar and Amritsar. The side walls of Amritsar (Tank of Nectar) were made pucca with the voluntary and collective efforts of the Sikhs. Having completed this tank, he decided to build the temple, reverently called 'Darbar Sahib' meaning the Court of the Lord, in its midst. Instead of building the shrine on a high plinth as the Hindu architectural style was, Guru Arjan had it built on a level lower than the surrounding land, to make the worshippers climb down the steps to enter it. And, unlike, Hindu temple, which had only one entrance, the Guru provided four doors on the four sides of the temple. These architectural features were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh faith which aimed at building a brotherhood which does not recognise any distinctions on the bases of caste and creed. Its four doors[10] signified that the temple was open to all the four castes of Hindus and to all the people of the world from North, South, East and West. In due course, flourishing city called Amritsar after the name of one of the tank grew up around this Sikh shrine. The Guru himself played no meagre role for the growth and development of this city.

Another religious centre was established at Tarn Taran. In 1590, Guru Arjan chose the site for building this new township in the heart of Majha, or mid country lying between Rivers Beas and Ravi. Guru Arjan excavated a tank and built a temple which formed the nucleus of the new town. The tank was named Tarn Taran, around which the city developed. The city too began to be called Tarn Taran. In 1594, another township named Kartarpur was founded in the Jalandhar Doab. To begin with, a well was dug there, which was named Gangsar or the Ganges Tank. The Sikhs were advised to regard the water of the well as sacred as the water of the Ganges was to the Hindus. It obviously was an attempt to wean the Sikhs away from visiting Ganges held sacred in their psyche so far. A Baoli at Dabbi Bazar, Lahore was also built by the Guru.

The Guru undertook extensive tour of the Majha and Doaba regions of the Punjab. He visited Sarhali, Bhaini, Khanpur, Khanna, Kartarpur etc. The Guru also preached in the Dakha region. He visited Khem Karan, Chunian and many other places. He paid a visit to the shrine of Guru Nanak at Dehra Baba Nanak. From there he proceeded to Barath to meet Baba Sri Chand, son of Guru Nanak. The Baba received him with great warmth and urged him to continue his mission with vigour. The Guru had started his missionary travels in 1588 and completed the same in 1594.

As a result of all these steps, the rank of the Sikhs swelled fast. To integrate them and also to collect funds for his construction works, the Guru reorganised the Masand system. Some of the Masands already appointed had shown divided loyalty or were unfit to carry on the work expected of them. The Guru gave a new dimension to the system. He issued instructions to the Masands to the effect that they, henceforth, would look after both the secular and spiritual affairs of the Sikhs. They would foster among the Sikhs keen interest in trade, industry and other occupation and at the same time endeavour to keep them together as members of a common brotherhood. They were also required to collect Daswandh one tenth part of their earnings which the Sikhs were enjoined upon to contribute to Golak (Guru's Treasury). Daswandh was levied for the maintenance of the Sikh church and to undertake works of social welfare. It was the duty of the Masand to send the amount thus collected to the Guru regularly and procure a receipt against that. It should, however be remembered that the Masands were not permitted to touch a penny out of these offerings. Masands were required to pay a visit to Amritsar at the annual Baisakhi fair. Thus a regular contact was maintained between the Guru and the Masands. At certain places, where the number of the Sikhs was too large, the Masand was allowed to appoint his agents called Sangtia or Masandia or Meora.

The Masand system as an institution conferred many benefits and played a significant role in the evolution of the Sikh Panth. It trained the Sikhs in secular affairs and introduced a sort of order to which the Sikh masses became habituated. Moreover, it attracted a large number of converts. According to Mohsin Fani, "the number of these secretaries increased everywhere so much that in the time of Guru Arjan, it became very considerable and at last there was no place in the country where Sikhs were not to be found."

On June 14, 1595 his only son, Hargobind, was born at Vadali near Amritsar where the Guru retired for some time to avoid clash with his brother Prithi Chand. The birth of a son, however, increased the hostility of Prithi Chand who now saw no chance for his own son, Miharban to become Guru. Some hymns of Guru Arjan show that a few attempts were made on the life of his son who, however, was providentially saved to grow up a worthy successor of his father.

A work of far reaching significance that would cement the Sikh brotherhood was collection of Gurbani of his predecessor Gurus, as well as Bhagats of Nirgun School and compile it into a volume after editing it and including his own compositions. This volume was prepared by Bhai Gurdas ji, an eminent Sikh scholar of the time under the watchful eyes of Guru Arjan. The volume once ready was respectfully called Adi Granth or Pothi Sahib. It was then installed in the temple that had been constructed in the middle of Amrit Sarovar.

Many factors impressed the Guru for taking up this step. Sikhism is essentially a religion of the Nam. Its most religious trait was singing of Lord's praises, to the exclusion of all other ceremonies or rituals. Seeing the importance of this practice, many clever persons had begun to mix up spurious writings with the true compositions of the Gurus. In 1594, when Guru Arjan Dev returned from the religious tours of the Majha tract of the Punjab, he discovered that Prithi Chand had not been idle during his absence and had begun to compile an anthology of writings in which he was inserting compositions of his own son Sodhi Miharban. The Guru who was responsible for the organisation of Sikhism on sound and firm footings had to ensure unity of belief and practice. To this end he prepared an authentic compilation of the writings of the Gurus including his own. Moreover, Guru Amar Das had left definite instructions in the 23rd and 24th pauries of Anand Sahib that the real utterances of the Guru alone should be accepted and revered by the Sikhs. Besides, if the distinctive identity of the Sikhs was to be established, it was essential that they have their own scripture. The Sikhs had been oriented to own and hold Gurmukhi script and Panjabi language in high esteem. There was now a genuine need that they should have a separate religious book which should hold for them the same position as the Vedas do for the Hindus, the Bible for the Christians and the Quran for the Musalmans.

While the Guru was busy with canonisation of Gurbani including Bhagat bani, a report was sent to Akbar that Guru Arjan's sacred anthology under preparation contained passages vilifying Islam. Passing through Goindwal[11], the Emperor stopped enroute and asked to see the work. Baba Buddha ji and Bhai Gurdas ji brought a copy of the existent manuscript and opening it randomly read some of the hymns to Emperor Akbar. The Emperor, his fears dispelled, made an offering of fifty-one gold Mohars to the sacred text and gave robes of honour to the two disciples and sent one for Guru Arjan.

At the Guru's request, he also remitted the annual revenue of the district to ameliorate the condition of the peasants who had been hard hit by the failure of the monsoon.

In August 1604, the compilation work was completed and the Granth Sahib was formally installed in the temple at Amritsar. Baba Buddha ji was appointed the first reciter or Granthi.

The Granth thus prepared was an enormous volume consisting of over 5,500 hymns. Majority of these hymns were composed by the first five Gurus including Guru Arjan Dev. In 1706 Guru Gobind Singh ji included 59 Shabads and 57 Shalokas of Guru Tegh Bahadur assigning them appropriate place in the Adi Granth. In addition to all this the Granth Sahib includes the hymns of fifteen Bhaktas and Sufis, eleven Bhatts, Var (Ballad) of Satta and Balwand, Baba Sundar ji's elegy more correctly establishing the procedure to be followed at the time of demise. It is popularly known as Ramkali Sadd. The completion of the Sikh scripture was a major step forward. It became the most powerful instrument in spreading the teachings of the Gurus among the masses and forging a feeling of brotherhood. More than anything else, it created community consciousness among the Sikhs. It was also a contributory factor to the emergence of the Sikhs as a separate religion with a distinct ethos of its own.

Under Guru Arjan Dev, Sikhism made significant headway which was not to the liking of the Muslim orthodoxy. So long Akbar was alive, his favourable attitude protected Sikhism from the fury of the Muslim orthodoxy at a time when it had still not taken firm roots in the lives of the people. The strong and efficient administration of the Emperor established a stable peace in the land, which enabled the Sikhs to make rapid progress in their mission. The liberal character of the state allowed them full freedom to formulate and execute their plans of development. The remission of land revenue by Emperor Akbar at the instance of Guru Arjan Dev made the people look up to the Guru and his Sikhs as their friend and benefactor. This opened the flood gates for large-scale new admissions to the ranks of Sikhism.

The electicism of the Emperor led to a sharp reaction among the conservative sections of the Muslim population. They viewed the Emperor's policy towards the non-Muslims as extremely dangerous both to their creed and the state because of the fear that it would encourage and strengthen the Hindus. In their opinion, any step which benefited the Hindus was anti-Islamic. The Rajput policy of the Emperor was resented for the reason that it boosted the enemies of the Muslim establishment. The emergence of the religious activities among the Hindus were regarded with suspicion. Similarly they regarded the rise of the Sikhs as a dangerous heresy which needed to be nipped in the bud.

Gradually, the above-mentioned conservative reaction gave birth to a powerful Muslim revivalist movement with its headquarters at Sirhind. It was started by a Muslim divine, Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Mujaddad-i-Alaf Sani for whom even a slight concession to the Hindus was an act of hostility to Islam. He advocated the view that the glory of Islam emerges in the humiliation of the infidels. About the Jazya taken from the infidels, he held that its real purpose was 'to humiliate them and this humiliation should reach a stage where owing to the fear of Jazya, they should not be able to wear good clothes, enjoy any peace of mind, be in constant dread and fear of losing their assets to the king. His views about the Muslim Shariat (Code of Conduct) were very rigid, and he poured abuse upon everything that he did not understand or which could not fit into his ideology. He was thus the antithesis of Abul Fazal and was akin to Badauni in the desire to imprison the mind in the narrowest ideological vision. Therefore, he was a severe critic of Akbar's policy of tolerance towards the non-Muslims. He writes about the miserable conditions of the Muslims under the Emperor and calls him "an enemy of the faith of Islam."

But the orthodoxy however could not influence the policy of Emperor Akbar. The accession of Prince Jahangir to the throne, however, turned the situation; in the beginning at least in favour of those who had assailed the liberal trends in Akbar’s policy. There were some powerful people at the court of Akbar who were opposed to Prince Jahangir's accession and favoured his son Khusro instead, in preference to him. Even Akbar at one time had shared the same view, feeling sore as he did at the unfilial and rebellious conduct of Jahangir or Prince Salim, as he was then called. At this critical juncture, the orthodox detractors of Akbar's enlightened liberalism came to Jahangir’s rescue and smoothened his way to the throne. Thus when he ascended the throne, he not only inherited his father's prejudices against the Muslim orthodoxy but was also in a frame of mind to oblige them, should an opportunity arise. Although from the twelve edicts issued by him immediately after his accession, it is evident that he never allowed their influence to get the better of him.

The required opportunity appeared in 1606 when Prince Khusro, goaded by his frustrated ambition, rose in open revolt against his father, Emperor Jahangir, and hastened towards the Punjab in a bid to mobilize support for his cause. On the way, he paid a visit to Guru Arjan Dev at Goindwal. The Emperor gave the rebel prince a hot pursuit and reached Lahore post­haste where unfortunate Khusro was produced before him tied in chains by the commander of the pursuing army, Murtaza Khan. The occasion was marked by the award of exemplary punishments to the supporters of the rebel. At this juncture on or about 23rd May 1606, the enemies of the Guru, possibly the followers of Mujaddid-i-Alaf Sani, managed to concoct a fable connecting the Guru with Prince Khusro. They poured into the ears of the Emperor Jahangir that during the short halt of Khusro at Goindwal, Guru Arjan Dev had blessed him with a saffron mark on the forehead. This was considered as a gesture of blessing in favour of the rebel and the Guru was ordered to be arrested. No enquiry was made, and no trial held. Jahangir simply says, "I fully knew his heresies, and I ordered that he be brought into my presence; that his house and children be made over to Murtaza Khan; that his property be confiscated, and that he should be sentenced to a torturous death Yasa-o-Siyast.[12]

While giving an account of this affair in his Memoirs, Jahangir has advanced two reasons in justification of his action. First is the popularity of the Guru as a religious and worldly leader amongst the Hindus and even the Muslims. The second is the alleged visit of the rebel Prince Khusro to Goindwal, whom the Guru is said to have blessed with a saffron mark on his forehead.

Of the two reasons, the second was devoid of any foundation. The accusation was made practically a month after the Guru was alleged to have blessed the Prince and some twenty-seven days after the Emperor himself had crossed River Beas at that very place. This makes the whole thing a puzzle and throws a very serious doubt on the genuineness and authenticity of the report. The fact that for twenty-seven days from April 26, when the Emperor appears to have crossed River Beas at Goindwal and was encamped at Jhabal on May 23, there is no reference whatsoever in Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri in any way involving Guru Arjan in Prince Khusro episode or of any of his accomplices; an important factor to be taken into account. Had Prince Khusro met the Guru at Goindwal and received his blessings, it would certainly have been reported to the Emperor immediately since he was in the neighbourhood where it could have been easily verified and authenticated by eye-witnesses. If found guilty, he would have been arrested and carried a prisoner with him to Lahore. But nothing had come to the ears of Emperor Jahangir for nearly a month. Then the details contained in the report are historically incorrect. The Guru was neither a politician nor in any way interested in the rebellion of Prince Khusro against his father Jahangir.

As far as the Qaska or teeka-mark[13] of saffron by the Guru on the forehead of the Prince is concerned, it is on the face of it, a pure and simple concoction of some conspirator's fertile imagination to exploit the emotions against the Guru. Never in the whole history of the Sikh Gurus has there been any occasion for any Guru to anoint anyone, Sikh or non-Sikh, with a teeka. According to Mehma Prakash of Sarup Das Bhalla, the Guru felt pity upon the sad plight of the prince and provided him with food obviously from the Guru Ka Langar (free kitchen) open to all wayfarers (Sakhi No. 143-1-4). He makes no mention of any teeka or financial help. In view of all this, the allegation against the Guru that he was involved in propping up the cause of Khusro fails to establish itself as historically sound.

From the foregoing, one thing that clearly emerges is that the Guru's so-called participation in the rebellion directly or indirectly was merely a pretext devised for his execution. The reality seems to be that someone amongst the revivalists lodged a complaint with Emperor Jahangir implicating the Guru in Khusro affair with a view to inciting the Emperor to take action against him. Immediately after the accession to the throne, the Emperor was keen to please his orthodox Muslim friends who had stood by him first in his rebellion against his father and then against the group of Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh who were at one stage bent upon putting the crown on his son, Khusro. He readily believed the complaint and issued the order for the execution of the Guru which took place on May 30, 1606.

Guru Arjan Dev before departing for Lahore in response to the summons of Murtaza Khan nominated his young son Hargobind as his successor. At that time, Hargobind was only eleven years old. He had been carefully trained for the high office, which under the changed circumstances, was not only a place of honour but infested with great danger as well. No ordinary man was expected to acquit himself well in it. Seeing the needs of the time, his father had placed him under the care of Baba Buddha ji, a veteran Sikh, who was asked to make a 'soldier saint' out of him. He instructed him in the sacred lore and also taught him the use of offensive and defensive weapons, besides horse riding, hunting, wrestling and other martial sports. So he grew up to be an all-round personality, healthy and strong, as well as saintly and enlightened.

Guru Hargobind had to work under great strain. The martyrdom of Guru Arjan was a big shock to the people who started pondering over the issue and asking themselves the question: 'Was it right to buckle under the evil instead of combating it?' Psychologically many people were simply stunned at the sudden change of circumstances and were in utter confusion. Mother Ganga, a tough, bold and sensible lady, felt totally confused. Baba Buddha ji and other prominent Sikhs of the time were clear in their mind that the Sikh brotherhood was now on the verge of turning over a new leaf for discharging a more significant role in the country.

Therefore, the right type of leadership was the need of the hour because any laxity or mistake could inflict incalculable harm. Psychologically the moment was crucial. There were apprehensions that the Sikhs might feel exasperated and revert to escapism and asceticism thus abjuring faith in Guru's philosophy of an active and purposeful life committed to truth and righteousness.

Two courses were now open to the Sikhs. Either to adopt a submissive stance or take a bold stand and face all the dangers with courage and conviction. The young Guru and his close counsellors decided in favour of the latter course and adopted a full-fledged program of militarization. It is believed that before his martyrdom, Guru Arjan had also sent a message urging him to sit on the Gaddi (Guru's seat) fully armed.

With a view to symbolising his new policy, the Guru girded around his waist two swords at the investiture ceremony—one to symbolise spiritual and the other temporal power. According to the usual custom Baba Buddha ji had brought a Seli (a woollen cord worn as a necklace by the former Gurus) and a turban and offered them to the new Guru to wear them. But Guru Hargobind declined to put them on and said, 'the Seli should be placed in the treasury to impress upon the Sikhs that it was not suited to the altered political conditions imposed upon the Sikhs'. He then addressed Baba Buddha: ’My Seli[14] shall be my sword-belt and I shall wear my turban with a royal aigrette.' He further told his disciples that in future in Guru's house religion and worldly concern shall be combined, the cauldron to supply the poor and the needy, and scimitar to smite the oppressors.[15]

To implement his programme, he sent a letter[16] to his Masands to ask his Sikhs to bring arms and horses as part of their offerings in future. He strengthened the city of Amritsar by constructing a small fortress called Lohgarh. He built the Akal Takhat (the Throne of the Timeless God) in front of Sri Darbar Sahib, where the congregation listened to the spiritual discourses besides the ballads extolling feats of heroism and matters relating to training in arms and other martial sports like wrestling et al.

He enrolled a body of 52 stout Sikhs, who formed the nucleus of his future army. Five hundred youths came from Majha, Malwa and the Doaba to offer their services in defence of their religion. They did not demand pay. The Guru gave them a horse each and weapons and formed a little army out of them. He kept up their spirits by taking them out on hunting expeditions, by arranging games and wrestling matches, and by holding symposia of material music. The morning service was held, as usual, in Sri Darbar Sahib, where, Gurbani composed by the Gurus and contained in the Adi Granth was sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Singing of Vars narrating the brave deeds of the folk heroes was a regular routine in the Akal Takhat courtyard. The Guru also gave sermons and led the congregation in prayer. In the afternoon, feats of physical valour were performed in the courtyard before the Akal Takhat. The Guru also granted audience to the visitors and their complaints were heard and actions taken. The Sikhs were thus encouraged to have their discords settled among themselves. Under Guru Hargobind was also begun the custom (which still continues) of choirs moving at night round the peripheri of Sri Darbar Sahib Complex, with the blare of trumpets and flare of torches, singing hymns in stirring tones. All these programmes put a new life into the drooping spirits of the Sikhs who, as the Sikh chronicle records, began to undergo rejuvenation.

The new programme as stated in the foregoing paragraph did not mark any abrupt change. It was in full conformity with the teachings and spirit of Sikhism. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, had condemned cowardice and applauded the qualities of self-respect, self-confidence and manliness. He had held justice to be the primary duty of the rulers, and had stressed their answerability to God and the people for their conduct and administration. He had expressed himself against the attitude of submission to injustice dubbing it a shameful act. In the time of succeeding Gurus, certain stray incidents had happened which awakened the Sikhs to the lurking danger. During the time of Guru Arjan Dev, one Sulhi Khan had become party to an intrigue and actually set out on an expedition against the Guru, but died condemned to flames of a brick kiln.

The need of Guru Nanak's ideology of self-respect and manliness had been realized. Guru Angad Dev ji encouraged Sikhs to develop sturdy physique. Guru Ram Das encouraged trading in horses in the belief that this would promote the qualities of good horsemanship among his followers. Guru Arjan Dev had proceeded further and was perhaps the first leader who envisaged the necessity of training in the use of arms. The Sikh tradition has it that his son and successor, Guru Hargobind, received his military instructions from Baba Buddha ji in accordance with the wishes of Guru Arjan Dev. This could be possible only if Baba Buddha ji had himself learnt the military arts in the earlier period. The tradition that Guru Arjan Dev on the eve of his martyrdom had sent instructions to his son and successor that he should sit fully armed on the Gurgaddi also points to the same conclusion.

Although there was nothing against the tenets of Sikhism about the new line of policy adopted by Guru Hargobind, yet in the beginning many Sikhs could not appreciate it. But all such misunderstandings disappeared with the passage of time.

As was to be expected, the militarisation of the Sikhs by the Guru created a stir in the official quarters. The Emperor felt alarmed. He summoned the Guru to his presence. When Guru met him, he was arrested and sent as a state prisoner to the fort of Gwalior, where some other ruling chiefs were also serving their terms of imprisonment. The Guru's life in the fort was arduous. He had to live on inappropriate ration. More often than not, he even distributed that among the needy prisoners. The Guru had to safeguard himself from poison which was often administered in food to the enemies whom the Emperor considered dangerous.

The Guru's ordeal enhanced his respect in the hearts of his followers. They came in batches all the way to Gwalior and circumambulated the fort from outside, bowed their heads at the gate and returned to their homes.

The Guru's total stay in the fort of Gwalior was possibly three years from 1608 to 1611. There were two causes which prompted Emperor Jahangir to release him. First, after some time political sagacity dawned on him and he realised that without recourse to liberal religious policy it was not possible for him to maintain stability and tranquility in his vast empire. Secondly, it appears that the Emperor was greatly moved by the devotion of batches of Sikhs who made regular trips to the fort to pay homage to their respected Guru without even able to see him. They were constantly chanting holy hymns during their circumambulation.

The tradition goes that the Guru refused to be released until the 52 princes incarcerated with him were allowed to come out, each holding a part of his robe. For accomplishing this feat he is remembered as Bandi Chhor or 'The Deliverer'.

It is believed that the efforts of Mian Mir and Wazir Khan brought about a change in Jahangir's heart and hence-forward, more cordial relations were established between the Emperor and the Guru.

For the rest of his life, Jahangir never gave any trouble to Guru Hargobind. On the contrary he tried to befriend him. Having been left in peace, the Guru addressed himself whole-heartedly to further the progress of Sikh religion. During the period he was in prison, the strings of discipline had loosened and several selfish Masands had arrogated to themselves powers that were never vested in them. They had become corrupt and strayed from their charter of duties and proper functions. Some of them had begun to pose as gurus in their own right and raised a body of followers or devotees called Sehlang. Guru Hargobind thought it high time to penalise them and make a lesson of them to impress a sense of responsibility upon other functionaries. But this was not enough. The Guru travelled over a large part of the country and along the route of his travels, he appointed missionaries for the dissemination of the Sikh teachings. Among the most renowned missionaries were Baba Buddha, Baba Gurditta and Bhai Gurdas.

After Guru Nanak, he was the first Guru who went outside the Punjab to spread his religion. He travelled from place to place like Guru Nanak, and went as far as Kashmir in the North and Nanakmata near Pilibhit in the East. He made many converts to Sikhism. At Gujrat (in Pakistan), a very interesting incident occurred when the Guru was passing through that city. Shah Daula whose shrine is still revered by thousands remonstrated with the Guru, saying, "How can a Hindu be a Faquir ? How can you be a religious man, when you have a wife and children, and possess worldly wealth ?" The Guru replied, "a wife is man's conscience, his children continue his memory, and wealth gives him his sustenance. As for a Faquir, he is neither a Hindu nor a Musalman." He visited the places connected with the previous Gurus, and put up memorials there. He made arrangements for holding regular services in Sikh shrines.

Jahangir died in 1627, and Shah Jahan succeeded him. The accession of Shah Jahan to the throne was an event of great significance in the history of the development of Sikhism. Shah Jahan's religious outlook was narrow as compared to that of his father who after 1611 had more or less adopted liberal attitude like Akbar. It is evident from the fact that he even imprisoned Shaikh Ahmed Sarhindi, head of the Naqshbandis.

Shah Jahan prohibited the conversion of Muslims and ordered demolition of many temples. This brought him into conflict with the Sikhs who were determined to carry on their missionary work. The Sikhs were particularly annoyed at the desecration of their famous Baoli at Lahore, which was filled up and a mosque erected on the site of the free kitchen attached to it.

In order to avoid an open clash with the Mughal Government in the future as also to continue his missionary activities peacefully, the Guru established a new settlement at Kiratpur on May 1, 1626. The land was donated by Tara Chand the ruler of Kahlur. The Guru sent Baba Gurditta, his eldest son, for commencing the construction of a township there. Baba Gurditta ji took Baba Sri Chand there and had the ceremony performed by him.[17] This new headquarters suited the Guru very much, firstly, because it was not far from the plains of the Punjab; and secondly, it was outside the administrative jurisdiction of the Mughal officials. Kahlur was an independent state at that time.

Still, an open clash with Shah Jahan came in 1634. In that year, Shah Jahan was hunting in the neighourhood of Amritsar. At Gumtala, one of his favourite hawks strayed away and fell into the hands of the hunting party of the Sikhs, who refused to part with it, as they did not recognise those who came to claim it. Altercation led to blows, and the royal party returned to report to the Emperor as to what had happened. A detachment of troops under Mukhlis Khan was sent to arrest the Guru and bring him to Lahore. This was the beginning of the era of discord between the two.

That the attack was sudden and unexpected may be seen from the fact that the Guru was then busy with the preparations of the marriage ceremony of his daughter Bibi Viro ji. He had no munitions of war with him. Even a gun had to be improvised from the hollow trunk of a fallen tree. The battle occurred at the site where now stands Khalsa College at Amritsar. The baggage and property of the Guru was plundered. But when Mukhlis

Khan was killed in the battle, the Mughal troops returned. The Guru returned to Jhabal, about eight miles to the south-west, where he was able to perform the marriage of his daughter.

The Guru had to fight another battle at Laihra[18] (Mahraj). This time, the tussle began over the possession of two horses. A Masand from Kabul had brought two beautiful horses for the Guru. They were seized on the way by a Mughal official and sent to the Royal stable. They were recovered from there by an adventurous Sikh, Bhai Bidhi Chand, whose 'larking' campaigns were so humorously conceived and romantically executed that for him even the prosaic Macauliffe is constrained to pause for diversion.

Disguising himself, first as a grass-cutter and then as an astrologer-tracker, Bidhi Chand carried away the horses, one after the other, from the fort, and brought them to their rightful owner. War followed. The Guru was then moving about in Malwa, when he was attacked by a powerful army led by Lalla Beg and Qamar Beg.

The battle was fought near Mahraj on 17th Poh BK 1699 (1634). More than 1200 Sikhs were killed or wounded. Casualties on the other side including those of the commanders, were even more numerous. To commemorate his victory the Guru built a tank, called Gurusar, on the spot.

In 1635, the Guru went to Kartarpur where he stayed for some time. Soon after, war broke out between the Sikhs and the Mughals. This time, the cause was Painde Khan, an Afghan who was erstwhile-commander of the Sikh troops and had been dismissed on account of his haughty demeanour. He went over to the Mughal higher authorities and induced them to despatch a strong force against the Guru. So another expedition was sent against the Guru, under the command of Kale Khan, the brother of Mukhlis Khan who had been killed in the battle at Amritsar. He was assisted by Painde Khan, and Qutab Khan, the Faujdar of Jullundur. The Guru was besieged in Kartarpur in 1635. The Sikhs bore the brunt of the attack under the able command of Bhai Bidhi Chand, and Baba Gurditta, the eldest son of the Guru. Even Guru Tegh Bahadur who was about 14 years old then and known by the name of Tyag Mai, is said to have shown feats of valour in the battlefield. As the battle was in progress, a man with his sword drawn rushed upon the Guru. The Guru evaded the assault and by a sturdy stroke severed his head saying, 'Not so, but this is how the sword is used.' In a hand-to-hand fight, Painde Khan fell at the latter's feet. The Guru said, "You are a Musalman. Now is the time for you to say your kalima." Painde Khan repentingly replied, "O Guru, thy sword is my creed and my source of salvation." Seeing his former favourite on the throes of death, the Guru was moved to pity. It is said that he shaded his face with his shield from the scorching rays of the Sun and bade him final farewell.

Painde Khan's death was followed by that of Kale Khan and consequent upon it, the Imperial army was disheartened causing a great stampede in the rank and files of the Mughal forces.

The last battle was fought between the Sikhs and the Imperial forces near Phagwara in the village of Palahi. A contingent of Royal force under the command of Ahmed Khan, son of late Ahdallat Khan made a sudden and unexpected attack on the Guru and inflicted considerable damage on his followers. In the battle, Bhai Dasa and Sohela, sons of Balu Bhatt, grandson of Mula Bhatt fell martyrs.[19] This battle was fought on 1st of Jeth 1692 BK. (1635).

Guru Hargobind fared well during all the four battles, but his aim had always been defensive. He did not acquire even an inch of territory. There was something far greater involved in these skirmishes than a mere dispute over a hawk or a horse. A new heroism was rising in the land, the object of which, then dimly seen, was to create the will to resist the might of the 'Turks'.

To avoid further clashes with the government and to carry out his plans of consolidating and spreading Sikhism, he shifted to Kiratpur, and continued to stay there till his death. During his stay, he in 1636 asked Baba Gurditta to appoint Almast, Phul, Gonda, and Baba Hasna as head preachers. Baba Gurditta invested them with Udasi robes. Almast and Baba Hasna were allotted the areas of East India and Pothohar respectively. Phul and Gonda were assigned the area of the Doaba to carry on the missionary work. All these four persons founded preaching centres in their allotted area. These were named as Dhuans or 'hearths', symbolising the flame of Sikhism. Besides this, the Guru sent Bidhi Chand to Bengal. Earlier Bhai Gurdas had been sent to Kabul and then to Benaras to acquaint the people with the Gospel of the Gurus.

The Guru's arrangement worked nicely and produced good results. He acquired great influence over the hill people and Rajas alike. The population of the Sikhs increased. The Guru achieved all this notwithstanding the domestic tragedies. Within a few years, five members of his family, including three of his sons, died one after another. The most grievous of these deaths was that of Baba Gurditta in 1638. To add to his sorrow, Baba Gurditta’s son, Dhirmal, turned against his grandfather. For a long time, Guru Hargobind could not make up his mind about his successor. He had two sons living: Suraj Mal, who showed little interest in Sikh affairs, and Tegh Bahadur, who was too much withdrawn to be entrusted with the leadership of the fast growing community. When the time came, Guru Hargobind chose Baba Gurditta's second son Har Rai to succeed him as the seventh Guru.

From 1635 to the dethronement of Shah Jahan, nothing significant happened which showed hostility of the government towards Sikhism. This was because

  1. the Mughals had come to the conclusion that the primary interest of the Sikh Gurus was to conduct peaceful propagation of the teachings and not to seek any confrontation with the government unnecessarily;
  2. the increased influence of liberal Dara Shikoh at the court of Shah Jahan mitigated to a large extent the influence of Muslim orthodoxy in policy making of the state; and
  3. Dara happened to develop happy personal relations with Guru Har Rai. Thus this period of uninterrupted peace was faithfully utilized by Guru Har Rai.

Like his predecessors, the new Guru had many noble qualities. He was tender-hearted, extremely humane in his approach, firm in his resolution, clear in his perception and wise in the execution of his plans. Compassion was the keynote of his personality. Some scholars have, inadvertently or otherwise presented him as 'passive' because he was of peaceful desposition and extremely tender in his thinking and action. They brand him as a man of retiring nature. Even the sight of accidental breaking of flowers moved him to the extent of shedding tears. But they are sadly mistaken because this trait of the Guru's personality was indeed a great factor enabling rapid progress of Sikhism towards the goals set before it.

The Guru shared his grandfather's views regarding the need of military preparedness and maintained a body of people well-trained in the military craft. He also continued his predecessor's practice of hunting expeditions as a means of military training and morale boosting.

Simultaneously, he attended to the demands of consolidation in the ranks of the community. Having been convinced of the deterioration of the Masand system, he set up Bakshishs, new missionary centres, and for their control and management appointed[20]

  1. Suthrashah,
  2. Sahiba,
  3. Sangata,
  4. Mihan Sahib,
  5. Bhagat Bhagwan, and
  6. Bhagat Mai.

Of these, Bhagat Gir, originally a Bairagi, was converted to Sikhism along with his followers. He was renamed Bhagat Bhagwan and appointed to carry on with preaching work in the East, where he with the help of his followers established 360 seats for the propagation of Sikhism.

The Bhai families of Kaithal and Bagrian who were devout Sikhs since the time of Guru Hargobind were made responsible for the spread of Sikhism in the land between Rivers Jamuna and Sutlej. Bhai Pheru acted as the Guru’s Masand in the Lamma region between Rivers Beas and Ravi. As the Masands or missionaries appointed by the earlier Gurus became more and more corrupt, this new order of preachers attained more prominence and were found effective in preaching Sikhism in distinct and difficult places.

Guru Har Rai undertook extensive tours of the Malwa and Doaba regions of the Punjab, and due to his efforts a large number of people of these areas embraced Sikhism. During his tenure of guruship, some notable conversions were made among the land owning families of the Malwa. The ancestors of the ruling house of Patiala, Nabha and Jind were first converted to Sikhism during this period. "Once the chaudharies of some leading families of the Malwa were converted, the ground was well set for the rapid spread of Sikh faith in the region. The pace of progress in this direction was greatly accelerated during the periods of the ninth and tenth Gurus."[21]

The closing years of Guru Har Rai's pontificate were marked by the revival of Mughal interference in the affairs of Sikh community. There are two possible explanations of this development. First, Aurangzeb won the war of succession and ascended the Mughal throne in 1658. He was a staunch Sunni Muslim who thought that the resurgence of any non-Islamic movement in the country was dangerous to Islamic cause and needed to be curbed ruthelessly. Secondly, the new Emperor was angry with Guru Har Rai for the latter's open support to his elder brother and rival, Dara Shikoh.

Dara, being of Sufi persuasion, sought the company of saintly men of all denominations, that gradually resulted in his intimacy with the Sikh Guru. Sujan Rai Bhandari says that when Dara Shikoh fled across the Punjab after his defeat at the hands of Aurangzeb, Guru Har Rai, responding to his appeal for help, gathered the Sikh force estimated to be 2200 strong and tried to cover up his escape against Aurangzeb's pursuing troops. This aroused the ire of the Emperor who, on the conclusion of hostilities, summoned Guru Har Rai to Delhi to explain his conduct as well as brief him about Sikh faith. The Guru instead of proceeding personally to the capital sent his eldest son, Ram Rai, to answer the queries of the Emperor. The old charge which had been levelled in the time of Guru Arjan and dismissed by Emperor Akbar as totally unfounded was raked up again, alleging that the Adi Granth contained derogatory references to Islam and its founder prophet Muhammad. Baba Ram Rai failed to show firmness of character and distorted facts with a view to gain favours and avoid causing any offence to the Emperor.

Aurangzeb, on his part, used the opportunity to win over Baba Ram Rai. He was the elder son of Guru Har Rai and was likely to succeed his father. In winning him over, therefore, the Mughal ruler cherished the hope of bringing the prospective Guru under his thumb. Guru Har Rai disapproved of Ram Rai's conduct and disowning him, appointed his younger son, Baba Har Krishan, to guruship after him.

The appointment of Baba Har Krishan by his father as his successor was fully in conformity with the succession practice observed since the time of Guru Ram Das. Prior to Guru Ram Das, succession was open to the entire Sangat and a successor was chosen irrespective of his lineage. From Guru Ram Das onwards, the guruship assumed a hereditary character, as all such institutions in those days would tend to do. But though the choice henceforth was limited to the male member of the family of the Guru, there was no rule as to who of them was more eligible for the office of the Guru. Guru Ram Das selected his youngest son, Arjan Dev. Guru Arjan Dev had no difficulty as he had only one son. Guru Hargobind had five sons out of whom three predeceased him. The remaining two were passed over in favour of a grandson (younger son of the deceased Baba Gurditta). Guru Har Rai, as we have seen, selected his younger son, Har Krishan, in preference to Ram Rai, his elder son. Guru Har Krishan later on selected his grandfather's brother, (Guru) Tegh Bahadur, as his successor.

The question of succession, however, had led to the growth of some splinter groups within the ranks of the community, such as the Minas and the Dhirmalias. The Minas were descendants of Prithi Chand, the eldest son of the fourth Guru, whereas Dhirmalias were the descendants of Dhirmal, a grandson of Guru Hargobind. Both Prithi Chand and Dhirmal were disappointed claimants to guruship and had endeavoured to set up rival gurudoms of their own. Now a third splinter group was in the process of formation. This was to be known as Ram Rayyas after the name of Ram Rai. Baba Ram Rai was very sore over his supersession in the matter of succession. Being at the Imperial court and having developed good relations with the Emperor at that time, he thought that he could turn the tables upon his younger brother through the influence of Aurangzeb, and thus made an appeal to the Emperor for his intervention. The Emperor was willing to help Ram Rai because, he, for his own reasons, preferred a man of his own choice and thought that a puppet Guru would most suit his interests.

Guru Har Krishan was then summoned to Delhi. The Guru went there in 1664. He was accompanied by twenty Sikhs and his mother. On reaching Delhi, the Guru put up at the house of Mirza Raja Jai Singh (situated at the present site of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib). The Emperor was in no hurry to announce his arbitration. Possibly he was content to have both the claimants under his surveillance. According to Dr. Ganda Singh and Teja Singh, "The Emperor was convinced that the choice of the last Guru was not wrong, and he dismissed the claim of Ram Rai." It is also possible that this hesitation on the part of Aurangzeb was due to his realization of the futility of imposing an unwanted Guru on the Sikhs.

Shortly afterwards, Guru Har Krishan was stricken with small-pox. But before he died, he declared that his successor would be his 'Baba' then residing at village Bakala in the Punjab. In token thereof, he entrusted the spiritual regalia (five paise and a piece of coconut) to Diwan Durgah Mai. According to Bhat Vahi Talaunda Pargana Jind and Guru Kian Sakhian by Swarup Singh Kaushish, the Guru did not leave any vagueness in his statement and actually mentioned the name of Tegh Bahadur as his successor and commissioned Diwan Durgah Mai to take the articles of spiritual regalia to Bakala and personally offer them to the new Guru.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was the fifth and the youngest son of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. He was born on April 1, 1621. As a child, he was brought up with utmost care and attention. Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas gave him lessons in Sikh religion and philosophy respectively. He also studied History, Arithmetic, Metaphysics, Logic, Theology, Six Philosophical systems, classics like Bhagvat Gita, Mahabharta, Ramayana and the basic principles of Islamic philosophy.[22] He also became well-versed in music in which his interest lay deep—the fact which is amply proved by his poetic compositions set to different musical measures.

As a young child, Tegh Bahadur owed not a little to the general environment and to his parents and teachers. He did a lot of travelling in company of his father and other members of the family. In course of these travels, he paid visits to Tarn Taran, Khadur Sahib, Goindwal and Kartarpur, and thus imbibed Sikh values. Moreover, he was an eye-witness to the battles, though not all of them which his father had to fight against the Mughals. In the Battle of Kartarpur (26th April 1635) when the Mughal forces under the over-all command of Kale Khan and Painde Khan attacked Guru Hargobind, Tegh Bahadur fought valiantly in the rear guard of the Guru's Army. His father Guru Hargobind was so much pleased that he changed his name from Tyag Mai (his original name) to Tegh Bahadur, meaning 'Hero of the Sword'.

After the Battle of Kartarpur when Guru Hargobind lived at Kiratpur, Tegh Bahadur took deep interest in the missionary activities of his father. He would often accompany his father on his hunting expeditions and missionary tours.

Immediately after the passing away of Guru Hargobind, Tegh Bahadur along with his wife Gujri and mother, Nanki had shifted to Bakala, his maternal grandparents’ house where he stayed up to 1664. Between 1656 to 1664, he undertook a tour of different religious places with a view to disseminate Sikhism. The most important places he visited were Kurukshetra, Hardwar, Mukteshwar, Kashi, Sasram, Gaya and Allahabad, etc. In March 1664, he waited upon Guru Har Krishan and his mother Sulakhani at the residence of Mirza Raja Jai Singh and expressed profound sense of sorrow and sympathy in their bereavement. Guru Har Krishan did not live long after that and died of smallpox at Delhi.

In the meantime, Tegh Bahadur had returned to Bakala in the Punjab. It was here that in accordance with the late Guru's instructions he was invested with Guruship. Twenty- two pretenders asserted their claims to Guruship[23] and posed as the legitimate successors. They set up tents and employed agents to do propaganda for them and won supporters even on payment. The most vociferous and conspicuous claimant, however, was Dhirmal who was the first to pitch the camp at Bakala. All these claimants spread utter confusion among the devotees regarding the true successor. This state continued till the impostors were completely exposed by Makhan Shah Lubana and his men. Even then, Dhir Mai did not change his ways. He hired a person named Shihan to assassinate the new Guru but the attempt failed.

On November 22, 1664, the Guru left Bakala for Amritsar to pay homage at the most revered place. He wanted to bathe in the sacred tank but the ministers of the shrine shut the doors upon him. He was not allowed to enter the holy precincts. Then, the whole of Amritsar was under the control of Harji generally known as Mina. The priests of Darbar Sahib owed allegiance to him who feared that once Guru Tegh Bahadur and his adherents entered the holy precincts, they would never leave it and drive his Masands out of it.

Under the circumstances the Guru thought it advisable to return to Kiratpur. Leaving Amritsar, he decided to spend some time touring the Majha and Maliva regions of the Punjab before proceeding to Kiratpur. Accordingly, he visited Khadur, Goindwal and Tarn Taran. After this, he reached Khem Karan where Chaudhari Raghupat Rai presented a mare to the Guru. In Malwa, the most important places he visited were Talwandi Sabo Ki, Maur and Maisarkhana. The Guru also visited a large number of places in Bangar, the most important being Dhamdhan, where Bhai Daggo, the local Masand, was asked to raise a building with a well for water supply. The Guru reached Kiratpur in May 1665. On May 13, 1665, he attended the Satarvin (a ceremony performed on the 17th day from death) of Raja Dip Chand of Bilaspur. The Guru stayed at Bilaspur for three days during which he expressed that he would like to build a new settlement somewhere near Kiratpur and offered to buy a suitable piece of land for the purpose. Dip Chand's wife, Rani Champa, offered to donate the site of Makhowal, Mianpur and Sahote[24], but the Guru succeeded in prevailing upon her to accept a token amount of Rs. 500.00. On June 19, 1665,[25] the new settlement was founded at the site of Makhowal. It was named as Chak Nanki after the revered name of the Guru's mother. In course of time, the beautiful town of Anandpur grew up around it.

He did not stay at Makhowal for long. He set out (August 1665) on his travels eastwards through the Malwa and Bangar territory. The purpose of his itinerary was to meet the Sikh Sangats now spread all over the area as also to make arrangement to bring them in direct contact with him.

The Guru's mother and wife travelled with him. A considerable following of devotees also accompanied him which gave his camp the appearance of the moving court of a chief. The Guru, enroute, visited Saifabad where he was accorded a hearty welcome by Nawab Saif Khan. From here the Guru reached Dhamdhan where he was arrested by Alam Khan Rohilla as per Imperial order from Delhi. According to Badshah Burunji the Emperor had issued the order of arrest on the complaint of some orthodox Ulemas[26] and Brahmins who were feeling much upset over the new awakening which had dawned upon the people under the impact of the Guru's teachings.[27] The Guru, therefore, was arrested by Alam Khan Rohilla but through the intercession of Raja Ram Singh, son of Mirza Jai Singh of Amber, he was released and allowed to proceed on his way.

During his eastward journey, Guru Tegh Bahadur passed through some major religious centres of Hindus such as Mathura, Allahabad, Benaras, Patna etc. At Patna, he left his family and proceeded further to Bengal and Assam.

The Guru reached Dacca at the end of October 1665 passing through Godagri and Gopalpur. According to Teja Singh and Dr. Ganda Singh, 'there flourished quite a network of prosperous Sikh Sangat all over. The Dacca Sangat was the Hazuri Sangat or the head Sangat of these parts with a number of others under it and in turn was controlled by the Guru from Anandpur. The Guru was accorded great respect by the people of Dacca, whose association with the Sikh faith was as old as Guru Nanak. Bhai Bulaki, the local Masand and Bhai Natha, the disciple of Almast, did all that they could, to make the stay of the Guru comfortable. It was here that the Guru received the welcome news of the birth of his son Gobind Rai at Patna on December 22, 1666. He wrote a letter of thanks to the Sangat of that place for looking after his child.

From Dacca the Guru left for Jainti hills and Sylhet (early in the year 1667) where he established a missionary centre known as the Sylhet Sangat. After spending the rainy season at Sylhet, Guru Tegh Bahadur moved towards Chittagong and Sondip. He passed through Sharataganj and stopped at Agartala, the capital of the present day Tripura state. From there he went to Chittagong where he stayed till the end of 1667. During his stay at Chittagong, he established a large religious centre of his faith. Guru Tegh Bahadur reached Dacca in 1668. Raja Ram Singh who had been sent by Aurangzeb to oust the Assamese Ahom King Charadwaj from Gauhati[28] which he had recently captured, met Guru Tegh Bahadur and asked him to accompany him. The Guru who had already decided upon a tour of Assam accepted the offer. Another factor that compelled the Guru to accede to the Raja's request was that the Raja held the house of Nanak in deep reverence. In 1669 the Guru stayed at Dhubri while Raja Ram Singh went ahead and camped at Rang Matti, the Mughal out-post near the frontier of Assam.

Soon after, the war between the Mughals and the Ahoms started. According to a popular tradition it was because of the Guru's spiritual power that the sorcery of the Assamese failed to have any adverse effect on the Mughal forces. After some hard fighting the Guru prevailed upon the contending parties to arrive at a negotiated settlement. According to the accord[29] the old boundaries were to be maintained. Tradition has it that as token of complete harmony, the Guru invited the soldiers of both armies to help raise a mound at Dhubri in memory of Guru Nanak's visit to the place.

The Guru left Assam in the year 1670 and hastened back to the Punjab. On his return journey, he paid a flying visit to Patna to see his son. The reason for the haste was Emperor Aurangzeb's adoption of a much rigid attitude towards the Hindus and other non-Muslim communities. On April 8, 1669, he had (according to Maasar-e-Alamgiri) issued orders to the governors of all provinces to destroy without mercy the schools and temples of the infidels. They were strictly enjoined to put a total end to the teaching and practising of idolatrous form of worship.

Under the circumstances, the Guru thought it prudent to be with his people in their hour of agony and sufferings. On the way back, he was arrested by the Kotwal of Agra but was soon released when it was made clear that the earlier order for the arrest was no longer valid because of the intercession of Raja Ram Singh. Having visited Delhi, Lakhnaur, village Malla, the Guru reached Bakala where he was joined by his family. After sometime, he proceeded to Chak Nanki.

With the return of the Guru to the Punjab, began the period of his crowning glory. Refusing to sit idle at his headquarters, he resolved to move among his people. About the middle of 1673 the Guru left for extensive tour of the Malwa and Bangar Des. According to Bhai Santokh Singh of Suraj Parkash, Giani Gian Singh of Tzvarikh Guru Khalsa and Sakhi Pothi, the Guru visited twenty places. But a recent survey conducted under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Fauja Singh reveal that, the number of places visited by the Guru are much more. The Guru's important halts were Saifabad, Mulowal, Dhilwan, Khiva, Samana, Bhikhi, Khayale, Maur, Talwandi, Bhalenda, Backhona, Gobindpura, Bagar, Dhamdhan. The tour lasted till the end of 1674 when along with his large train of followers, he returned home to Chak Nanki (Makhowal).

During his travels, the Guru preached what may be called the ideology of Dharma which in the context of social and political reconstruction meant social responsibility, validity of moral values, social equality, transcending narrow considerations of creed, caste, clime, sex and colour and rejection of hereditary principles as the basis of social order or ethics. The principle of Justice formed an important feature of this ideology. The concept of justice figured prominently in the thinking of the Gurus. The scientific solution as it developed in the West in the 19th century and as we understand it today was not known then. But justice as a principle of human relationship was well known and was strongly advocated by Guru Nanak and his successors. As a matter of fact, their close identification with the lower and down-trodden classes and their constant endeavours for their welfare emanated from their commitment to social justice. The exploitation of the poor by the rich was held inhuman and unjust. But if it was bad for the strong and the rich to exploit the poor; it was equally bad for the poor and the weak to compromise with injustice and tyranny.

These ideas presented good opportunities to the lower classes like Jats etc. to improve their social status. The result was rapid growth of Sikhism both in numbers and resources.

It was an anathema to a staunch and orthodox ruler such as Aurangzeb. By nature he was a puritan in his religious views; but these bore the stamp of the Naqshbandi Sect of Sirhind. At that time Masum, son of Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi was conducting a vigorous propaganda against the enemies of Islam. He was successful in his mission and through his vigorous propaganda reaped a rich harvest of converts. Aurangzeb had attended his lectures while he was the governor of Multan. Masum grew fond of the prince and on the eve of his pilgrimage to Mecca predicted that in the struggle for the throne, Aurangzeb would be victorious. After Muhammad Masum's death, his son Shaikh Saif-ud-din (b. 1639-40) was adopted by Aurangzeb as his preceptor and guide. In this way, the orthodox thought process had its full assertion during Aurangzeb's reign who under its influence tried hard to translate Shaikh Sirhindi's ideas into action. Incidentally, these actions seemed to serve the political purpose as well. Aurangzeb could justify the murders of his brothers and the imprisonment of his father on the ground of his devotion to the cause of Islam.

In 1666, the stone railing of the famous Keshav Rai temple of Mathura was razed to the ground under Imperial orders. In April 1669, a general order was issued for the destruction of all schools and temples of the Hindus. Special officers were appointed in all parts of the Empire to enforce these regulations strictly. In the field of taxation, Jazya and pilgrimage taxes were reimposed on the non-Muslims. In matters of conversion, a vigorous campaign was launched to convert non-Muslims to Islam. The fact that a deputation of Pandits appeared in the Darbar of Guru Tegh Bahadur in May 1675, and complained of the Government conducting a wholesale campaign of conversion is a historical testimony too strong to be ignored.

Like other non-Muslims, the Sikhs too suffered under the impact of the orthodox policy of Aurangzeb. Mirza Inayat- Ullah-Ismi tells us in the Ahkam-i-Alamgiri that in compliance with the orders of the Emperor and with the consent of the local Qazi, the Sikh temples in the town of Buriya in the parganah of Khizrabad of the Sarkar of Sirhind were demolished and a mosque raised on its site. Sayyed Zafar Darvish[30] was appointed in charge of that mosque to guide prayers and benedictions. Some Sikhs attacked the mosque and killed the Darvish. The Emperor rebuked the Qazi and his father who was the head of the police. Such incidents had become a common occurrence.

The Emperor with this frame of mind could ill-brook the growing influence of the Sikh religion under the inspiring leadership of Guru Tegh Bahadur.

But how did the clash come to surface? Knowing the mind and the official orders of Emperor Aurangzeb, the Imperial Intelligence Agencies seem to have been closely watching the movements and proceedings of Guru Tegh Bahadur since his return to the Punjab. These news reporters sent exaggerated and sometime distorted reports about the large gatherings and money offerings at the congregations of the Guru. The Emperor, busy as he was in quelling the Pathan rebellion in North-Western frontier, had neither the time nor the inclination to make enquiries about the proceedings of the Guru. He was already circumspect of the Sikh movement. He, therefore, readily believed all the reports of his intelligence staff and wrote to the Governor of Lahore to arrest Guru Tegh Bahadur and ordered his detention in prison.

Some historians have opined that the cause of the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur was the response which the Guru made to the request of the Kashmiri Brahmins on May 25, 1675. A deputation of sixteen Kashmiri Brahmins headed by Pandit Kirpa Ram, son of Arhu Ram of Mattan waited upon the Guru at Chak Nanki. They told him how they were being pressed hard to embrace Islam. The Guru was much moved by their tales of woe. He told the Brahmins to go back and tell the authorities that they would accept their conversion to Islam if Guru Tegh Bahadur was first prevailed upon to embrace Islam. Consequently the Guru left for Delhi to resolve the issue with the Mughal Emperor once for all.

From this the conclusion has been drawn by many scholars that the Guru had made up his mind to suffer martyrdom for them or for the Hindu religion alone. The advocates of this view quote Guru Gobind Singh in their support: 'Guru Tegh Bahadur did a miracle in the Kali Age by protecting the frontal mark and sacred thread of the Hindus.' But this view is not correct. To regard the appeal of the Kashmiri Brahmins as the sole cause of the Guru's execution is to lose sight of the whole historical background which preceded this event. The truth seems to be that the case of the Kashmiri Brahmins only precipitated the matter.

The Governor of Lahore passed on the Imperial order for compliance to Dilawar Khan, the Faujdar of Sirhind, who, in turn, asked the circle Kotwal of Ropar, Nur Muhammad Khan Mirza, in whose police jurisdiction lay Anandpur, to arrest the Guru. The order, however, was kept a secret.[31]

The Guru apprehending trouble proceeded towards Delhi on 8th July 1675, probably to meet the Emperor and plead the case of non-Muslims with him; and in the event of the Emperor's unfavourable response[32], suffer the consequences. The Guru along with a few of his most devoted followers who were accompanying him was arrested on July 12,1675 (Sawan 12,1732 BK.) at Malikpur Ranghran near Ropar by Mirza Nur Muhammad, the Kotwal of Ropar and sent to the Faujdar's headquarters at Sirhind where they were kept in prison for about four months. He then received a fresh order from Aurangzeb from Hasan Abdal saying that they should be despatched to Delhi. They reached Delhi and were kept in the Kotwali of Chandni Chowk. They were offered a choice between Islam and death. On their spurning conversion, Bhai Dayala and Bhai Mati Das were boiled and sawn alive respectively on 10th November 1675. Then came Guru's turn. According to Muhammad Ahsan Ijad, he was asked to embrace Islam, and when he refused to do so, was executed on November 11, 1675.

Guru Gobind Rai (called Guru Gobind Singh after the birth of the Khalsa) was only nine year old when his father was martyred at Delhi. The situation which he was called upon to face was very grave for the Sikh Panth. The immediate effect of the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur was gravely stunning. The intensity of the shock of Delhi executions was greatly enhanced by the absence of unity and cohesion in the ranks of the Sikhs at that time. Minas, Dhirmalias and Ram Rayyas intensified their activities and were engaged in an all-out campaign of vilification against the main-stream Sikhism. The circumstances of the last decade and a half had been particularly helpful. In consequence, fissiparous and centrifugal forces had become stronger. Islamic imperial state was determined to galvanise Dar-Ul-Harb into Dar-Ul-Islam. The core of Hindu orthodoxy also did not like the mission of the Guru to strike root.

Masand system considered to be the bedrock of Sikh internal governance developed serious cracks. Masands started showing callousness towards the main-stream Sikhism and were often hesitant to transmit their collections from the devotees to the headquarter. In a number of cases, they exhibited the temerity to project themselves equal to the Guru claiming as much episcopal as well as organisational power as their Guru had. Many of them found it safe and profitable to line up with cultish leaders such as Dhirmal, Harji and Ram Rai.

Despite all this, there was much in the heritage of the Guru which was helpful to him. His predecessors had defined parameters of their mission. They had established institutions of Sangat and Pangat to promote Sikhism and knit the Sikhs into a strong team. Guru Arjan Dev had compiled the Holy Scripture, Adi Granth, to serve as a beacon for the Sikhs. They had initiated and evolved distinct traditions such as Sikh heroism and Sikh martyrdom, understandably to orientate the Sikhs to resolve to uphold the values. Yet the situation was complex, arduous and challenging and required the one endowed with sterling qualities, extraordinary creativeness, total commitment, boundless faith in the legitimacy of the cause and firmness of a Carlylian hero. Guru Gobind Singh was undoubtedly equal to the task.

I came into the world assigned with the duty of upholding the righteous every place and to destroy the wicked and the evil- minded. O Ye holy men, know it well in your hearts that the only reason I took birth was to see that the righteousness flourishes that good may live and the tyrants uprooted.[33]

Notes and References


[1] Na tis(u) rup(u) na rekhia kal.

[2] Hau vich(i) aia hau vich(i) gaia.

Hau vich(i) jamia hau vich(i) mud.

Hau vich(i) dita hau vich(i) laid.

Hau vich(i) khatid hau vich(i) gaia. (SGGS, p. 466)

[3] Is dehl ahdar(i) panch chor vaseh kdm(u) krodh(u) lob(u) moh(u) ahahkara.

Amrit(u) looteh(h) manmukh nahl bujheh koe na sune pukdrd. (SGGS, p. 600)

[4] According to Miharban zvali Janam Sakhi, three Udasis were undertaken by the Guru. In the first Udasi the Guru travels the places in the East and in South India. In his second Udasi Northward and Westward journeys have been combined while in the third Udasi, the Guru visited the places in the Punjab. Puratan Janam Sakhi makes mention of five journeys or Udasis. According to it, the Eastward and Southward Journeys were covered by two separate Udasis and the Guru's visit to different places within the Punjab by the fifth Udasi.

[5] Museum Register M. 111. According to the learned W.S. Karuna Ratna, Janakcharya was the same as Nanakacharya or Guru Nanak (Surjit Singh Gandhi, History of the Sikh Gurus, pp. 98-99).

[6] Sewa Ram Singh, The Divine Master.

[7] Trumpp, Adi Granth, IXX, VII.

[8] The fact is corroborated by Baba Sundar ji's composition in Rag Ramkali under the name of Sadd on page 923 of SGGS.

[9] For details refer to Surjit Singh Gandhi's Book, History of the Sikh Gurus.

[10] Khatri Brahman sud vais updes(u) chau varna kao sajha.

[11] Akbar Hama (Persian), Vol. Ill, p. 809.

[12] Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri, p. 35.

[13] Syed Ahmed, Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri, pp. 25 and 34.

[14] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. IV, p. 2.

[15] Ibid., p. 4.

[16] Ibid., p. 3.

[17] According to Bhat Vahis, the foundation was laid by Sri Chand on Baisakhi Puranmashi 1683 BK/lst May, 1626 on the tract of land donated by Tara Chand of Kahlur, a small hill state.

[18] Refer to Bhat Vahi Multani Sindhi preserved in the Department of Historical Studies, Punjabi University Patiala. Macauliffe assigns 1628 for the battle of Amritsar, 1631 for the battle of Laihra and 1634 for the battle of Kartarpur. These were accepted to be correct by later writers. We, however, have based our narrative on Bhat Vahis.

[19] Fauja Singh, "Chronology of the Battles of Guru Hargobind," Punjab History Conference Proceedings, 1971.

[20] Surjit Singh Gandhi, History of the Sikh Gurus, p. 334.

[21] Fauja Singh, Sikhism.

[22] Surjit Singh Gandhi, History of the Sikh Gurus, p. 342. Trilochan Singh, Guru Tegh Bahadur, p. 7.

[23]           Koer Singh, Gurbilas Patshahi 10, p. 22. According to the author, many claims to the Guruship were set up.

[24] According to Kesar Singh Chhibber, Guru Tegh Bahadur bought three villages; Makhowal, Mathur and Lodhipur, originally founded as per local tradition by two Pathan brothers Makhe Khan and Kale Khan.

[25] Swarup Singh Kaushish, Guru Kian Sakhian, Sakhi 24.

[26] S.K. Bhuyan, Badshah Burunji, Sakhi 116.

[27] Bhat Vahi Jado Bansian, 'Khata Bartian' as quoted by Dr. Fauja Singh in his book Guru Tegh Bahadur: Martyr and Teacher.

[28] Sir E.A. Gait, History of Assam, p. 155.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Kalimat-i-Taiyyabat, p. 115.

[31] William Irvine, Later Mughals, p. 79. Muhammad Ahsan Ijad's Ferukh- Siyar-Natna. p. 31.

[32] The Emperor at that time was in the North-West frontier area. Considering the difficulties of communication in that age, it is not surprising that the Guru had no idea about the exact whereabouts of the Emperor. The normal expectation was that he would be in his capital at Delhi.

[33] Hum eh kaj jagat mein ae.

Dharam het gurdev pathde.

Jahd taha turn dharam bitharo.

Dust dokhiyan(i) pakar(i) pachharo.42.

Yahi kaj dhara hum janamah.

Samajh lehu sadhu sab manmah.

Dharam chalavan saht ubaran.

Dust saban ko mill uparan.43. (Bachittar Natak)