News & Updates

October 23, 2017

 

Jats and Sikh Militarization - Refutes the assertion that Sikh militarization was due to influx of Jats in the Sikh fold. 

 

August 24, 2017

 

Kurukshetra Sakhi and Meat – Debunks the theory that Guru Sahib advocated meat eating at Kurukshetra through revealed Shabads of ‘Maas Maas Kar’.

 

Check Past Updates

Find Us On...

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

Paonta Period

Having taken the decision to accept the invitation of Medini Parkash, the Guru left Chak Nanki in May, 1685. Along with him were, 500 soldiers, many Sikhs, a large number of poets, scholars and musicians. His baggage consisted of a large number of horses, oxen, camel and elephants. The whole caravan of the Guru passed through Ropar, Kharar, Ramgarh, Rani ka Raipur and Bhurewala. The Guru encamped at Toka situated at foot-hills on the border of Sirmour state.[1]

At Bhurewal the Chauhan Rajput landlords who after embracing Islam were generally known as Rangars and had Zamindari of eighty-five[2] villages entertained the Guru and his cavalcade exactly as their ancestors had done forty years earlier in 1645 when Guru Har Rai went to Nahan by the same route.[3]

At Toka too, these people provided provisions, performed other ancillary services and prayed for Guru's benediction. The Guru's grace did descend and he blessed them with an honorific 'Bhure Shah'. A small gurdwara commemorates Guru's stay at Toka. A fair is held every year on the tenth day of Jeth (May).[4]

A couple of days later, the Raja of Nahan came to escort the Guru to his capital. After a short stay at Nahan, the Raja led the Guru to a spot on the eastern limits of Jamuna which formed the boundary between Garhwal and Sirmour.

The Guru liked the place which soon acquired the name of Paonta-Paon Than-footstool-resting place, On July 22, 1685[5] the Guru laid the foundation of a fortress. Dewan Nand Chand Sangha of Darauli performed the Ardas and Ram Koer, a descendant of Baba Buddha broke the ground. The fortress was completed within a very short span of twelve days.[6] Soon a number of hutments arose around the fortress to accommodate the Sikhs. The place had idyllic surroundings and the Guru loved it because it not only catered to his aesthetical sense but also provided him a requisite place to contemplate and mature his plans.

The Raja of Sirmour was so much impressed by the Guru's bearing, valour and culture, the discipline and dedication of the Sikhs and their unswerving faith in God that he requested the Guru never to leave this place.

Meanwhile, Raja Fateh Chand of Srinagar (Garhwal) heard of the Guru's reputation and paid him a visit. As it has been pointed out, he and the Raja of Nahan were not on good terms. The Guru mediated between the two and brought them close to each other.[7] The Guru hunted big game in the surrounding forest, and once killed a tiger with a sword and a shield. He himself says in Bachittar Natak, "I hunted a lot of tigers, bears and antelopes in the forest of Paonta.”[8] He stayed at Paonta for about three years.[9]

He went through the whole gamut of epic and classical literature available in Sanskrit. In the process he developed liking for the art of poetry, appropriate use of diction Rasa, vocabulary, meters, gunas, dhwani and alankar. The fact is amply borne by his own compositions. He also came across different currents of thoughts; as for instance six schools of philosophy, Asceticism, Buddhism, Jainism et al. He also took note of the theme running through Puranic literature and Gita that a divine saviour appears from time to time to uphold righteousness, and the profiles of Rama, Krishna and goddess Durga fighting and destroying the wicked. The Guru agreed that God, Sustainer and Protector of all, shall save the world and someone or some people would fulfil the Will of God but differed with it in one respect that a saviour cannot be an incarnate of God, because He being formless cannot assume human or any other form. He on his part felt that he was commissioned by God to uphold righteousness but that was his conviction sprung out of his deep meditation on the ways of God, whom he found extirpator of the wicked and upholder of righteousness exactly like his predecessor Guru Nanak who called God as Asur Sanghar and a 'Nourished. He never appropriated to himself any divine power or presented himself as 'God'. Rather he humbly declared that he was a servant of the Supreme Being and anybody calling him God representing or embodying divine power would be consumed in the fire of hell.[10]

Guru Gobind Singh himself was a prolific writer. In 1686, he completed the composition of Shastra Nam Mala in the conventional literary style of the time having its model the embelemetical verses of the great Masters.[11] The true import of the composition lies in personifying the weapons and for the Guru they were the medium of worship. The weapons had been used by gods and demons alike but it was their use by the former that was significant for the Guru because they had been used in defence and for promotion of righteousness. The chaupais and dohas of adoration which Guru Gobind Rai composed were all reserved for the weapons only when they were used by the righteous[12] for the sake of righteousness.

Almost at the same time, the Guru composed Var Sri Bhagauti Ji ki, popularly known as Chandi Di Var, the first Var of its kind, complete and exhaustive and in blank verse, used for the first time in Punjabi literature.[13] The Guru succeeded in making his composition a means to impart heroic spirit, an important salient of his ideology. Though the source of the composition as in Chandi Charitra was also the tenth Sakanda of Markandeya Puran, he related in this composition only the battle of Chandi and Durga. Of the fifty-five stanzas in the Var, forty-nine described the battle scenes; the first five and twenty-five being purely narrative and informative, helping to elucidate the situation. Chandi's battles were, in the eyes of Guru Gobind Rai fought on the side of righteousness.

The story of Durga has been so bedded with sentences full of jewel-like choicest words that it simply savoured marvellous, highly artistic, tastefully descriptive. He pictured Durga as the one clad in armour from head to foot, while serpents coiled around her neck hissing dreadfully at the foes. Her hand-drum makes the sound of roaring tigress. She is riding a lion and fights valorously against the Rakhshas- tyrants and slays Mahikhasur among others. Her offspring, Kali, bursting forth from her forehead, gulps down the demons and elephants alike. Durga herself is skilled in the use of a hundred arms and gives an astounding display of her martial prowess. Herself the bulwark of righteousness, she moves back and forth fearlessly. Guru Gobind Singh sees her battle as one against sin:

All sins you annihilate And righteousness You countenance Dangerous poison is destroyed And creative energy maintained.[14]

The gods themselves revere Durga as "Mother" and they look up to her for help in overcoming and destroying their enemy.

She in fact is represented as a moral power to challenge an oppressive system and to establish harmony, morality and justice. Her aggression is, therefore, healthy as her anger is purifying. She is paradigm for both men and women. The Guru hoped that with the literary paradigm of Durga before them, the people would overcome their weaknesses and cowardice, overthrow unjust political authorities, abolish social inequalities and ultimately forge a new structure based on just and equalitarian values. As the future events unfolded, men and women were charged with courage and moral fervour by the personal example of the Guru and by his literary resurrection of this mythological heroine.

The Guru's specific choice of Durga out of millions of gods and goddesses was significant from another point of view. She is one goddess without husband, consort or lover. She is independent. She is her own mistress. She is autonomous, capable of taking her own decision, always acting as a positive force to activise the good to dare the wicked. By attributing such characteristics to Durga, the Guru purposely gave a fresh role model in the form of a woman. This was indeed something revolutionary and breath-taking. In most cultures, the image of woman has been degraded. In Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood Merli Stone cites several instances from a wide variety of cultures which reveal how the patriarchal structures have attempted to suppress, alter and even erase the lustre of the female. The Summerians, for example, replaced the ancient creator goddess Nammu with less effective Inana. Billa Debuda in Drawing from "Mythology in Women's Quest For Selfhood" sums up this entire process while ancient mythology affirmed woman's power. Through patriarchal influence over the years, those stories have come to be 'muted', curtailed and even perverted.[15]

The Guru's treatment of Durga was completely exempt from such detraction. On the other hand her exploits had been fully described, rather magnified. In this recalling, Durga did not lose even an iota of her shine and fire. She was represented as a paradigm of independence, sovereignty and wholeness of a person. The exalted image of Durga which the Guru created or presented went a long way to bring about a change in the psyche of the people, especially of women. Mai Bhago from Amritsar District of Punjab was one such example when she saw how some Sikhs of her area had fled Anandpur, the seat of Guru Gobind Singh, in the face of the privations brought on by prolonged siege. She chided them for pusillanimity. She led them back to fight for the Guru, and she herself took part in the battle that ensued at Khidrana (now Muktsar). She performed extra-ordinary feats of valour and skill and the entire period is replete with heroic deeds and sacrifices of Sikh men and women like her. They all fought valiantly against the mighty forces of the rulers of day. Because of this sustained resistance, the Sikhs became a political force to reckon with within half a century of Guru Gobind Singh's death.

Yet Durga was not invoked as a goddess by Guru. Nowhere in his Var does the Guru profess himself to be a devotee of Durga. There is an utter absence of worship that is central to Markandeya Purana text. Guru Gobind Singh definitely recalled Durga but only as a figure of myth and literature, but more as someone who had dwelt and to an extent still dwelling in the psyche of non-Muslims. The Guru looked upon her and for that matter took on Ram, Krishan or any other incarnation, only as an instrument created for moral purposes. He never looked upon them as incarnation of God. He very explicitly says in Chandi di Var. 'The strength by which Ram killed the ten-headed Ravan with arrows was bestowed on him by God. The strength by which Krishan caught Kans by the hair and dashed him to the ground was bestowed on him by God.'

After the completion of Shastra Nama Mala and the Var, the Guru set himself to complete the unfinished composition Krishan Avtar. He picked up the old threads in July, 1687 and having added 1347 Chhands (340 Chhands forming the part of Ras Mandal and 875 Chhands composing Yudh Prabandh) upto July 1688 BK Samvat 1745 completed Krishan Avtar.[16] According to Dr. S.S. Bal, "both because of theme and effect of his two earlier compositions, the part of the Krishan Avtar written during this period was exclusively devoted to heroic poetry." This argument makes sense.

It was natural that in this part of Krishan Avtar the author should use Bir Ras and not Vat Sakaya and Shingar Rasas which the Guru used in the earlier portions of the composition.[17] Significantly in the last verse of the composition, the Guru said that he had written Krishan Avtar to wage a holy war.

"The tenth story of the Bhagwat is rendered into the Bhakha with no other purpose than that of war for the sake of righteousness."

We also find the Guru saying in this composition that he was not interested in riches which could come to him from all parts of the country at his bidding but wished to die the death of a martyr. Dr. Harbans Singh very aptly puts, "His poetic intuition was notable for its sublimity of style, mystical ardour and energy. His object was twofold: to sing praise of the Timeless and to infuse new vigour into the limp mass of people. His compositions were most appropriately adapted to these purposes. Rarely has poetry in any tongue recaptured the transcendent vision in such a spirit of courage and heroism. His own literary creations apart, the Guru had gathered around him a comity of literary luminaries."[18]

Sikh tradition fixes the number of such luminaries as fifty-two which is debatable. The arrival at or departure from Guru Darbar depended on each individual's sweet will. Possibly the number fifty-two have come into vogue because in the historical consciousness, it had acquired some sort of respect or sanctity as the much respected Sidhs also numbered fifty-two. According to our discovery, the number of poets, writers and thinkers was one hundred twenty-five; one hundred poets and twenty-five thinkers or prose writers.[19] The number does not include the poets of various compositions which do not suggest the names of their authors. Under­standably, the number of poets and men of parts we have identified formed only the nucleus. In fact there was a much larger number of such people. There is a strong tradition that vigorous drive was made to re-write, restate, translate parts of Puranic literature as well as fresh literature which had the potential of remodelling the psyche of the people to enable them uphold righteousness, resist tyranny and secure the fulfilment of divine justice.

Though the detailed account of literary compositions of different poets and writers is not known, yet some works are available. Sainapat rendered Chanakaya Neeti from Sanskrit to Braj Bhasha.[20] Nand LaP composed Bandgi Nama, Amrit Rai, Hans Ram, Kavresh and Mangal translated Sabha Parb, Karan Parb, Daram Parb and Salya Parb respectively and were honoured with the reward of huge sums,[21] besides costly gifts. Hans Ram felt exulted at the cash of sixty thousand Takas given to him. Mangal, Kavresh and Amrit Rai also were over-joyed when they were given cash and gifts in recognition of their services.[22] Mangal was so excited that he called the Guru Puran Avtar—complete incarnate and Anandpur the abode of bliss. Pandit Jagan Nath[23] who originally embellished the court of Shah Jahan was also attracted to the Guru and came to Anandpur and wrote Adhyatmik Parkash saying forever good­bye to his earlier predilection of producing erotic literature. Even the avaricious and ego-bloated poet Chandan[24] was welcome to the court of the Guru. The Guru’s personality changed him into a humble person and he wrote literature of the type and tenor the Guru had desired. Obviously, the leitmotif of the literature created under the sponsorship and inspiration of the Guru seemed to bring about reawakening through the process of animating and articulating the best in our cultural heritage.

The Guru very wisely and aptly employed the medium of literature to impart a new orientation to the minds of the people given to passivity. For this latter purpose, he did not hesitate even to pick up themes from the ancient epics and mythology of India to produce verses charged with martial fervour.

Side by side his engagement with the creation of appropriate literature, the Guru carried on missionary activities with zeal and zest. He held congregation in the morning as well as in the evening daily at Paonta. He took religious tours to villages such as Kapal Mochan, Kalsia, Siana and Thanesar. He also visited the village Dhankoli on his way to Anandpur from Paonta. The village Lohar was also hallowed by the Guru's visit. All these places have gurdwaras in the memory of Guru's visits.

A renowned Sufi Saint Pir Badruddin (1647-1704) from Sadhaura, popularly known by his nick-name Pir Budhu Shah was fascinated by the Guru's splendid personality and came to him to feel for himself his greatness. He held a long discussion with him and was simply captivated by the Guru's knowledge of the unknown. He became his ardent devotee. The Guru, on his part, showered affection on him—so much so that on his recommendation, he enlisted 500 Pathans in his army who had been dismissed from the Mughal army for petty offences. From historical point of view, this gesture of the Guru had great significance. It signalled that in the struggle for upholding righteousness (Dharam) anyone irrespective of religion, status, birth and caste et al was free to take part. It is more than likely that the relationship between the Guru and the Pir was based on mutual respect, just as the relationship between Sain Mian Mir and Guru Arjan had been.

The Guru decided to establish a special order of his Sikhs particularly to make comparative study of religions and also to interpret classical Indian tradition in terms of the basic philosophy of Sikhism. The project thus conceived had incidental advantages as well. Since times immemorial, learning and teaching had been the monopoly of Brahmins, Sanyasis or Bairagis (ascetics) but the project of the Guru according no recognition to caste was sure to land a strong blow to the long-held monoply of class learning. Since most of the classical Indian religious literature was available in Sanskrit, the Guru found it imperative to make arrangement for the teaching of Sanskrit to his followers. He asked his court poet Raghu Nath to do the needful. He politely and diplomatically replied that he was prohibited by convention to teach the language of gods (Dev Bhasha) and the holy scriptures to the non-divyas i.e. Shudras and women. The Guru admonished him for his sticking to outworn ideals and concepts. Udasis also showed their reluctance to impart the knowledge of Sanskrit and of scriptures to the non-Brahmins and non-Sanyasis.

So, he selected a dozen1 Sikhs from different classes, castes and creeds, and sent them to Benaras. Their names were

Karam Singh, (2) Rama Singh, (3) Ganda Singh, (4) Vir Singh, (5) Sobha Singh, (6) Dharam Singh, (7) Daya Singh, (8) Kesar Singh, (9) Mohkam Singh, (10) Gian Singh, (11) Gaja Singh, (12) Chanda Singh, (13) Saina Singh. All these chosen Sikhs studied under the guidance of Pandit Sada Manak. In the eleventh year they came back to the Guru who now had shifted to Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh was much pleased to find that they had become really good scholars and allotted to them different duties. Pandit Karam Singh was asked to interpret hymns from Guru Granth Sahib in the Guru's court. Bhai Mani Singh received knowledge of six traditional schools of philosophy from him. Bhai Punjab Singh and his disciple Roucha Singh spread Sikhism in Jammu and Kashmir. In 1699 these scholars known as Nirmalas were administered Pahul and entered the order of the Khalsa. They played a significant role in dissemination of Sikhism as also in Sikh politics in the eighteenth century. Later on as the time rolled on and the number of the contemporary associates of the Guru or of his staunch followers like Bhai Mani Singh thinned, they began to evince more interest in bandying themselves as vedantic scholars than humble interpreters of Sikh philosophy. Therefore they began to super-impose the vedantic point of view on the Sikh theological and philosophical structures. No doubt, they recited Guru Granth Sahib and encouraged others to do the same, yet they did not do all this as an expression of bringing into limelight the distinctiveness of Sikhism; rather as a part of Hindu tradition.[25] The trend is reflected in most of their literary composition which came into being particularly after the mid-eighteenth century. This being so the Nirmalas ceased to be right type of missionaries of Sikhism and thus their services to the cause of Sikhism in the later part of the eighteenth century and onward were not worthy of admiration.

Ram Rai’s Reclamation

Ram Rai was seventeen years old when Guru Harkrishan passed away. He did aspire to occupy the apostalic seat, but he could not achieve any success. The Sikhs could not be duped even by twenty-two impostor claimants to guruship and they accepted Guru Tegh Bahadur as their rightful Guru. Ram Rai had to resign to his fate. Instead of resorting to opposing the mainstream Sikhism by raising and strengthening a parallel antagonistic organisation, he now chose to galvanise his establishment on the model of Udasi Sampardaya of Baba Sri Chand ji which ultimately became one of the most prestigious missionary wings of Sikhism. Sikh tradition suggests that his change of heart came by the sudden death of Guru Harkrishan which brought a sense of remorse and repentence in his mind. He also felt upset at the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur on 11th November, 1675 at Chandni Chowk Delhi.[26]

Guru Gobind Rai went to Paonta in Sirmour state in 1685 and engaged himself in multiple activities, all aimed at throwing up a model man and a model society. Ram Rai who could watch for himself the Guru's activities being only fifteen miles away from Paonta was thrilled instead of feeling dejected. Ram Rai's respectful hidden feelings and affection for the eighteen year old Guru welled up and he longed to see and talk to him. Two hurdles constrained him to become public. The first and the foremost was his Masands, especially Gurbakhsh and Tara, who exploited innocent disciple in his name and did not wish a rapprochement between the Guru and Ram Rai for fear of losing their loot. Secondly, Ram Rai was in the throes of hesitancy which was born out of his own mistakes, and his wilful and wrongful challenge to the Guru's instructions. After brooding and contemplating for quite a long time, Ram Rai ultimately decided to have a personal audience with him to express his remorse for what he had done. He wanted peace of mind and blessings of the Guru.

In the winter of 1686, Ram Rai sent a special messenger to Guru Gobind Rai who sought private audience for some confidential talks with him. The Guru's devotees and his personal staff showed utmost respect to Ram Rai's envoy. He was received by the Guru in a private audience where only his uncle Kirpal Chand, his Dewan Nand Chand and Bhai Daya Ram were present. Ram Rai's envoy respectfully told the Guru that his Master wished to meet him alone but for various reasons the meeting should be held somewhere outside Paonta, where he could hold some confidential talks with him and then go back to Dehra Doon on the same day. Even the day of the meeting was to be kept secret. Kirpal Chand asked, "Why does Ram Rai wish to make the meeting between the two members of the same family such a secret and highly mysterious affair? We all respect Ram Rai for the many wonderful qualities he possesses."[27] The envoy of Ram Rai could not give suitable reply except insisting on his demand.

The Guru guessed the truth and said, "I understand why Ram Rai wishes to make this meeting, a highly private affair.

The Masands of Ram Rai have become highly over-bearing and domineering. He is afraid that they might stand in the way of our meeting and foment trouble."[28] The Guru fixed next Sunday for the meeting and told the envoy that it would take place in the middle of the river (Jamuna). He would receive him in his boat.[29]

The meeting took place as scheduled in the middle of the river in a boat[30]. Ram Rai and Guru Gobind Singh embraced each with great affection and warmth. The thirty- nine year old Ram Rai showed utmost reverence to twenty years old Guru Gobind Rai. Ram Rai said in all humility/ "I am fortunate to have obtained a sight of thee When I am gone, protect my family and property. My father Har Rai used to say that someone would be born in our family and the world to restore and refit the vessels for safe conveyance of the souls. Accordingly thou hast come into the world for this special purpose."[31] Ram Rai also broached the issue of his wily and crafty Masands who had gone corrupt and aggressively head­strong and were hell bent to destroy him whom they thought to be a great constraint on their designs of bolstering up Ram Rayyas (followers of Ram Rai) as a cult. The Guru assured him his full help whenever he or his family members would call upon him. Ram Rai left the Guru's boat as a happy and gratified man. Most of his inner conflicts were resolved. He ceased to be a separate entity and for the rest of his life, he lived as a follower of Guru Gobind Rai. He did not leave any injunction in any form that he should be regarded as a Guru of a separate sect. He displayed his faith in the Guru's teachings and ran his establishment on the model of Udasis of Baba Sri Chand as it functioned towards the end of his life and thereafter under the guidance of Baba Gurditta ji.

On September 3, 1686, Ram Rai sat in a prolonged meditation. He asked his wife Punjab Kaur, to bolt the door from outside and not permit anyone to disturb his meditation till the time he himself knocks from within.[32] The Masand Gurbakhsh whose evil genius was largely responsible for Ram Rai's estrangement with his father and confrontation with his brother now saw his opportunity to annihilate Ram Rai and capture the wealth and power of his Ashram. He is described by Sewa Singh in his Shaheed Bilas as the most ignoble dunce, a stupid rascal, a corpulent and haughty rogue and a bull­headed egoist[33].

Early next morning Gurbakhsh propagated that Punjab Kaur had killed Ram Rai and hidden his dead body in a room and had clandestinely conspired with Guru Gobind Rai to hand over the Ashram to the Guru. He took his people along with him and smashed the door of the room and made the crowd believe that Ram Rai was dead, hurling the blame on Punjab Kaur for this heinous crime while in fact Ram Rai was deeply engrossed in meditation and looked motionless which was made out to be a sign of death. Punjab Kaur protested but Gurbakhsh blinded by his nefarious ambition hurriedly consigned Ram Rai's body to fire and occupied the Ashram along with its wealth.[34] Punjab Kaur sent a messenger to Guru Gobind Rai at Paonta for help. The Guru quickly came. But before he reached, the body of Ram Rai had been consumed by the fire.[35] The Guru surrounded the Ashram and rounded up the miscreants. In the skirmish that took place, fifty-two men of Gurbakhsh were killed. Gurbakhsh managed to escape. Guru Gobind Rai consoled Punjab Kaur and praised her courage[36]. The Guru sent a few Udasis of Baba Sri Chand's establishment to manage the affairs of the Ashram.

Exactly a year after the tragic death of Ram Rai, Punjab Kaur decided to hold a get-together of her late husband's admirers including Masands to commemorate his first death anniversary and to offer prayer to the Almighty.

This was a critical period for Guru Gobind Rai, for, he was expecting an invasion on Paonta by the armies of Hill Chief's.

Hoping that Guru Gobind Rai would be too busy in his defensive preparation, Masand Gurbakhsh planned once more to capture the Ashram. He reached Dehra Doon on 23rd August, 1688 and set himself up as the self-styled successor of Ram Rai. Punjab Kaur once again sent a messenger to Guru Gobind Rai who despatched fifty of his choicest warriors under the command of Dewan Nand Chand and Bhai Mani Singh to Dehra Doon. They reached there on August 24. Gurbakhsh used indecent language about the Guru. Bhai Mani Singh was incensed and he turned the throne-like cot of Gurbakhsh upside down with the result that his fat and bulky body rolled on the ground. In an hour's fight, most of his followers were killed while others ran away.[37] Gurbakhsh once again escaped and never again visited Dehra Doon. He rushed to Lahore and with the assistance of some Mughal officials captured Ram Rai's Ashram there. He instigated his followers in the Punjab to work against Guru Gobind Rai. The treacherous role of these Ram Rayyas of Punjab in which they continuously helped the Mughals and Afghans against the Sikhs was the main cause of the decision of the Khalsa Holy Order to socially boycott them who had no affiliations with the Ashram at Dehra Doon the members of which never claimed for themselves status of a cult or a sect. Indeed, it was a wonderful achievement of the Guru's missionary activities at Paonta. The opposition to the Sikh faith around Paonta and Doon valley diminished considerably.[38]

Alongside, the Guru's religious and literary activities, a new paradigm of militarism emerged under his auspices. The common motifs underlying militarism are: political domination, urge for patriotic strife and acquisition of wealth. But the Guru's militarism did not recognise any of these. Nor did Guru's militarism resemble that of Spartans which expected its votaries to do anything, good or bad, for the state. The Guru's militarism in fact was Dharm Yudh—fight for uprooting unrighteousness and upholding the virtuous. Rooting out un-righteousness and wickedness implies the establishment of the hegemony of Truth which in fact is another name of the Supreme Lord. For restoring righteousness, the use of arms as the last resort to destroy the evil-doers and those deviated from the path of Dharma could not be ruled out. Therefore Guru Gobind Rai accepted and adopted sword as the restorer of Dharma. Guru's affinity for this weapon for the purpose is very clearly reflected in the following couplets of Zafar Nama.

"When all other means have failed, it is but righteous to take to sword."[39] Since the target of upholding righteousness was divine in Guru's perception and understanding, the sword to him became a symbol of divine power as well as of dignity and worldly might. It was in this background that the Guru used the term Kirpan as the transcedent Lord, the Saviour and Punisher of the wicked. The Guru expressed:

"I bow with love and devotion to the Holy sword.

Assist me that I may be able to complete this work."[40]

"Thy radiance and splendour dazzle like the Sun Thou bestowth happiness on the good.

Thou terrifiest the evil, Thou scatterest sinners.

I ask thy protection

Hail, hail to the creator of the world,

The saviour of the creation, My cherisher Hail to thee, O Sword!"

Such militarism was at once the need of the time and a potent instrument for the development of the country. It has been seen throughout the ages that no amount of education or religious refinement is enough, unless the refined and emancipated man, one who combines in himself wisdom and power in equal degrees has control of the commercial and industrial machine which is the state today, and control of the organised power which is the state always.

All along refining and defining the new type of militarism, the Guru was sagacious enough to develop a viable military apparatus the beginning of which had been made at Anandpur. As if defining the new form of militarism was not enough, the Guru composed a logistic support body for his army. The commanders responsible for logistic support were the most efficient. In the early career of the Guru, Jit Mai, Gopal Chand, Sango Shah and Mohri Chand held charges of Civil Defence problems of Anandpur, weapons and ammunition, war animals, food and supply portfolios respectively. Such departments and portfolios although in rudimentary form looked analogous to the present-day Army Service Corps. Also, such an administrative body foreshadowed the war council of the modern times. As a management technique, every soldier was made to realise his duties towards himself, other individuals and Panth as a whole. Ample care was taken that an individual soldier was not driven to shoddy substitute to bolster his ego. Ordnance Factories at Paonta and Anandpur also functioned under the military administrative set-up.

The Guru took special care for the training of his soldiers. He held regular competitions in archery, sword fighting, unarmed combat, ambush and patrolling. Large scale hunting expeditions were organised where soldiers got training to use their weapons on live and fast moving targets. Training was imparted to the cavalry to launch attack to shock the enemy to be followed by swift attack of the infantry to invest the gains of the cavalary and demoralise the enemy. The basic concept is accepted even today when armour and infantry are employed in conjunction with each other against well entrenched enemy and organised defence.

The bulk of the Guru's army consisted of the Sikhs from Malwa and Majha regions of the Punjab. They took food from Guru ka Langar while uniforms, arms and horses were provided out of the Guru's Golak (contributory treasury). The soldiers belonged to all castes. A good number of Muslims were also in the Guru's army. The composite character of Guru's army was a positive proof of his altogether non- particularistic and universalistic ideal of attaining freedom of conscience, of belief and of raising a social order on the bases of principles of tolerance, acceptance of diversity of faith and religious practice.

The Guru had no fondness for mercenaries, but at times, when he felt shortage of men and instructors for imparting military training, he did not hesitate to recruit them on salary basis. He enlisted 500 Pathans at Paonta at the instance of Pir Badruddin but his experience was not pleasant. Regarding the scale of pay, not much is known. However, the Guru paid Rs. 5[41] to the officer and Rs. 1/- to the soldier, per day in the case of aforesaid Pathan soldiers. It is likely that some sort of rough registration of them was kept with the Guru. According to the author of Suraj Parkash, when the people gathered around the Guru, he asked them to join his army and their descriptive rolls were prepared.

The maximum strength of the Guru's army at any time has been estimated to be 20,000 and at Paonta it did not exceed five thousand. The Artillery men were very few in number although matchlock men were considerable. The horses were procured on payment as well as through offerings of the followers. The Guru's own blue horse had become a tradition on account of its agility, boldness, steadfastness and intelligence.

Forts formed a salient feature of Guru's military organisation. He built the Fort of Paonta and raised walls around the city. He regarded forts as a very potent bulwark against aggression. He took special care that the fort should be built on a hilltop or at such places wherefrom the garrison could observe the movement of the enemy forces while the enemy should not be able to move easily towards the fort. In addition, fort should be spacious to accommodate enough soldiers, war animals and foundaries. It should have port holes on the parapets for the cannon to fire.

The battle array of the Guru consisted of a vanguard, centre or main body, right flank, left flank and reserve. During advance the Guru always took into consideration the terrain, the enemy's strength and quality of his fighting equipment. Ambuscade was a popular tactic employed by the Guru. Elephants were also valued much as a vehicle for the advance of the army. The Prasadi elephant was donated by Raja Rattan Chand, a Chieftain of Assam and another was sent by Sangat of Dacca[42].

The Guru also had a network of spies to collect information regarding enemy's forces, their deployment, their weapons and their nature of organisation. How did he train the spies is not known but it is certain that they were very efficient. On the eve of the Battle of Bhangani, it was their information which led the Guru to select the elevated place a few miles away from Paonta wherefrom the battle could be controlled and fought more effectively.

In the organisational vision of the Guru, weapons of the soldiers were also given requisite attention. In addition to the weapons he procured from his disciples, he got them manufactured in his own foundries at Paonta and Anandpur. The weapons used by the Guru were of four kinds. (1) Mukat, (2) Amukat, (3) Mukta Mukat, (4) Yantar Mukat. Mukat weapons were those which parted company of the users, as for instance arrows. Amukat were those weapons which remained with the users such as sword or Katar. Mukta Mukat weapons could be used both ways: in the hands and throwing them on the enemy. The weapons such as spears and lances fall in this category. Weapons of the fourth kind were used with the help of mechanical devices like catapult. The Guru's varied activities entailed a lot of expenditure and needed strong support at least from his own disciples. In this context, the Masand/Manji system could play a very important role. But the Guru was dismayed at the reticence and disinclination of the majority of Masands/Manjidars who preferred to watch their own interests to that of the Sikh Panth. They not only kept for themselves the whole or a large part of Daswandh,’ but also made the Sikhs skeptical about the designs of the Guru. This being the perspective the Guru got convinced that some alternative would have to be found to make the people informed of his latest activities and what Sikhism really aimed at.

The Guru's period at Paonta marked a watershed in his life. He matured his ideas and fashioned his concepts. He evolved suitable strategies to implement them. He produced requisite literature and rallied around himself the most capable persons from different corners of India to harness their wisdom in the service of his mission which he refined and defined with absolute clarity and lucidity. He gave new metaphors, new symbols and new slogans to energise, vitalise and rejuvenate the people given to mental and physical inertia. He reclaimed Ram Rai and worked in such a way that his establishment ceased to be a separate entity and functioned as if it was the Udasi establishment of late Baba Sri Chand. He organised his internal affairs diligently, made proper arrangements for carrying on correspondence with Sangats and eminent Sikhs. It is likely that the letters from Sangats/disciples were received and registered[43]. Similarly the Hukamnamas or letters from the Guru were registered before they were sent to different places. There is every possibility that the copies of the Hukamnamas were kept by the Guru's establishment and proper arrangements made to keep record of the amount of Daswandh and other offerings. He organised appropriate war machine. Lest his militaristic organisation reduces itself to an organ of tyranny, the Guru reconstructed the concept of militarism. He viewed and reviewed the policies of the contemporary government both of the Hill Chieftains and the Mughals. He also observed the objectives, the policies and the extent of the influence of Naqshbandis who had their centres at important places such as Sirhind, Lahore, Delhi, Agra and Jaunpur et. al. He carefully studied their theology, their social ideas and their attitude towards Sikhs and non- Muslims and liberal Muslims. He also took note of different faiths and their impact on society and made bold statements to denounce what he considered contrary to his vision. He finetuned the Sikh ideology left in legacy by his predecessor. He forged a theory of Dharm Yndh—struggle for righteousness which was different from Muhammedan concept of Jehad and Christian concept of Crusade in as much as its causative factor was injustice, tyranny and unrighteousness and its goal was the establishment of a social order based on rightheousness, which was defined not in terms of any specific group, race or religion but in terms at once universalistic and humanistic.

Notes and References


[1]   Hari Ram Gupta. History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, p. 230.

[2]    Trilochan Singh, Guru Tegh Bahadur, p. 114.

[3]   Sirmour (later known as Nahan) was a mountainous tract with a steep rise from the Northwest to the Northeast with elevation of more than 11000 feet at its highest level. It is divided into two by Giri, a tributary of Jamuna.

[4]    Sirmour State Gazetteer, Lahore, 1907, p. 15.

"The Sikhs have four Gurdwaras in the state. Paonta, Bhangani, Nahan and the fourth one is at 'Toka', but it only consists of a small platform near a well, built by Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, when he held the Naraingarh territory in the later part of the 19th century (Bikrami). About 100 Bighas in the state are attached to the Gurdwaras. It also enjoys a muafi in Naraingarh Tehsil and an annual grant of 100 maunds of grain from Patiala. The income is appropriated by the descendants of the late Pujari.

[5] Sainapat, Sri Gursobha, p. 15, "Ketak Bars Bhat eh Bhae, Des Paivta Sat Guru Gae, Jamma Mahal Banwai, Karat Anand Prabhu Man Bhai"-, M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, pp. 16-17.

[6] M.A. Macauliffe, op. cit.

[7] J.S. Grewal and S.S. Bal, Guru Gobind Singh, p. 71.

[8] Teh ke singh ghane chun(i) mare.

Rojh richh bahu bhaht(i) bidare.

Fateh shah kopa tab(i) raja.

Loh para humso bin(u) kaja. (Bachittar Natak, Chapter 8, Chaupai 3)

[9] Sirmour State Gazetteer, 112 as cited by Indubhushan Banerjee, Evolution of the Khalsa, II, p. 69.

[10] Bachittar Natak VI, Chaupais 32 and 33.

Jo Humko Parmeshar Uchar Haih, te Sabh Narak Kuhd Mein Parhaih.

Mai ho Param Purakh Ko Dassa, Dekhan Aio Jagat Tamasa.

[11] D.P. Ashta, The Poetry of Dasani Granth, 147.

[12] S.S. Bal and J.S. Grewal, Guru Gobind Singh, p. 75.

[13] D.P. Ashta, The Poetry of Dasam Granth, p. 147.

14 Dust Nivaran Dokh Hare Bisv bidhunsan Sristi kare. (Dasam Granth, p. 32)

[15] Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent, p. 132.

[16] Bhai Randhir Singh, Shabad Murat. Itihasic Pattar, Vol. 5.

[17] D.R Ashta, The Poetry of Dasam Granth, p. 79.

[18] Hukam Name Sikhah wale Likhe jo Likhari Sikh Hove so Hazur Ave. (Rehat Nama Bhai Chaupa Singh) Jo Brahmin Vidwan Hai Chahga So Bhijwavana Jo Khareb Lage so Guru Ke Gharoh Lana. (Bansavalinama, Daswan Charan) Sarup Dass Bhalla, Mehma Parkash.

[19] Piara Singh Padam, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji de Durbari Ratan, pp. 4-6.

[20] Ibid., pp. 25-32.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Surjit Singh Gandhi, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty, p. 571.

The veracity of the statement can be coroborated by examining the content of most of the books produced in this period.

Gulab Singh Nirmala who was initiated into the classical learning by Sant Man Singh, wrote Bhasha Vrit, 1777, Mokhsh Panth, 1778, Adhyatam Ramayan, 1782, Parbodh Chander Natak, 1792. The general tenor of these books is Vedantic.

[26] Trilochan Singh, Life of Guru Harkrishan, p. 173.

[27] Suraj Parkash, Ritu 2, Ansu 2.

[28] Suraj Parkash, Ritu 2, Ansu 2.

[29] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. 5, p. 21.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., pp. 20-24.

[32] Trilochan Singh, Life of Guru Harkrishan, pp. 175-76.

[33] Maha Agyani, Abhimani, Tamaltang Deha, Mughad, Kukarmi, Hankari.

[34] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion V, p. 22.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Vir Singh Bal, Singh Sugar, Chapter 6.

"You are the wife of a great scion of Guru Ram Das's Sodhi family; on your honour rests the honour of the whole of our Sodhi family."

[37] Trilochan Singh, Life of Guru Harkrishan, p. 178.

[38] The relationship of Punjab Kaur with Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Kaur were most amicable after the death of Guru Gobind Singh. It is through the help of Mata Punjab Kaur's followers that Mata Sundri was able to take Baba Kahan Singh a direct descendant of Guru Angad, out of the Mughal prison, just a day before he was to be beheaded along with other companions of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in March 1716 in Delhi. Punjab Kaur proved to be well versed in administration and organisation of her followers. She set up a remarkable code of conduct for all future incumbents of Ram Rai's Ashram, who were to remain celibates and study Guru Granth and the ideals of Guru Nanak. Punjab Kaur died in 1740 (Trilochan Singh, op.cit., p. 179).

[39] Chun kar az hama hilte dar guzasht.

Halal ast burdan ba shamshir dast.

[40] Namaskar Sri kharag ko karoh so hit(u) chit(u) lae.

Puran karo girahth eh(u) turn muhe karauh sahae.l. (Bachittar Natak)

[41] M.A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, Vol. V, p. 20.

[42] Ganda Singh (ed.), Hukamname, p. 131.

[43] Ganda Singh, Hukamname, p. 17. A large number of Hukamnamas were numbered. Besides they were written in specific form. For instance on each Hukamnama there is Guru's sign or instruction in Guru's hand to be followed in the context of the Hukamnama to be scribed by a scriber who would start his writing with Ikonkar Guru Sat, Ikonkar Satguru or Ikonkar Satguru Jio.