Friday, January 05, 2007
Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj
Guru Gobind Singh Ji (December 22, 1666 in Patna, Bihar, India - October 7, 1708) was the tenth and last of the Ten human form Gurus of Sikhism. He became Guru on November 11, 1675 at the age of nine, following in the footsteps of his father Guru Teg Bahadur Ji. Before Guru Ji left his body, he nominated Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (SGGS) as the next perpetual Guru of the Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh moulded the Sikh Religion into its present form today with the formation of the Khalsa.
"If we consider the work which (Guru) Gobind (Singh) accomplished, both in reforming his religion and instituting a new code of law for his followers, his personal bravery under all circumstances; his persevering endurance amidst difficulties, which would have disheartened others and overwhelmed them in inextricable distress, and lastly his final victory over his powerful enemies by the very men who had previously forsaken him, we need not be surprised that the Sikhs venerate his memory. He was undoubtedly a great man." (W, L. McGregor)
The tenth Guru (teacher) of the Sikh faith, was born Gobind Rai. It may not be out of context to say here that throughout the chronicles of human history, there was no other individual who could be of more inspiring personality than Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh Ji infused the spirit of both sainthood and solider in the minds and hearts of his followers to fight oppression in order to restore justice, peace, righteousness (Dharma) and to uplift the down-trodden people in this world. It is said that after the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the tenth Master declared that he would create such a Panth (Sect) which challenge the tyrant rulers in every walk of life to restore justice, equality and peace for all of mankind. As a prophet, the Guru is unique. His teachings are very scientific and most suitable for all times. Unlike many other prophets he never called himself God or 'the only son of God.' Instead he called all people the sons of God sharing His Kingdom equally. For himself he used the word 'Slave' or servant of God.
"Those who call me God, will fall into the deep pit of hell. Regard me as one of his slaves and have no doubt whatever about it. I am a servant of the Supreme Being; and have come to behold the wonderful drama of life."
Extracts from Guru Gobind Singh's writings;
"God has no marks, no colour, no caste, and no ancestors,
No form, no complexion, no outline, no costume and is indescribable.
He is fearless, luminous and measureless in might.
He is the king of kings, the Lord of the prophets.
He is the sovereign of the universe, gods, men and demons.
The woods and dales sing the indescribable.
O Lord, none can tell Thy names. The wise count your blessings to coin your names." (Jaap Sahib)
Birth of a Star
A splendid Divine Light shone in the darkness of the night. Pir Bhikan Shah a Muslim mystic performed his prayers in that Easterly direction (instead of towards West, contrary to his daily practice), and guided by this Divine Light, he travelled with a group of his followers until he reached Patna Sahib in Bihar. It was here that Gobind Rai was born to Mata Gujri in 1666. It is said that Pir Bhikan Shah approached the child and offered two bowls of milk and water, signifying both the great religions of Hinduism and Islam. The child smiled and placed his hands on both bowls. The Pir bowed in utter humility and reverence to the new Prophet of all humanity.
Gobind Rai was born with a holy mission of which he tells us in his autobiography “Bachitar Natak” (Wonderous Drama). In it Guru Ji tells us how and for what purpose he was sent into this world by God. He states that before he came into this world , as a free spirit he was engaged in meditation in the seven peaked Hemkunt mountain. Having merged with God and having become One with the Unmanifest and the Infinite, God commanded him:
“I have cherished thee as my Son, and created thee to establish a religion and restrain the world from senseless acts. I stood up, folded my hands, bowed my head and replied,‘Thy religion will prevail in all the world, when it has Thy support’.”
Guru Ji describes the purpose of his coming to this world and why he emerged from the Supreme Reality in human form to carry out his Creator’s command :
“For this purpose was I born, let all virtuous people understand. I was born to advance righteousness, to emancipate the good, and to destroy all evil-doers root and branch.”
Gobind Rai's father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the Ninth Guru, was then travelling across Bengal and Assam. Returning to Patna in 1670, he directed his family to return to the Punjab. On the site of the house at Patna in which Gobind Rai was born and where he spent his early childhood now stands a sacred shrine, Sri Patna Sahib Gurdwara, Bihar. Gobind Rai was escorted to Anandpur (then known as Chakk Nanaki) on the foothills of the Sivaliks where he reached in March 1672 and where his early education included reading and writing of Punjabi, Braj, Sanskrit and Persian. He was barely nine years of age when a sudden turn came in his life as well as in the life of tile community he was destined to lead. Early in 1675, a group Kashmiri Brahmans, mad in desperation by the religious fanaticism of the Mughals General, Iftikar Khan, visited Anandpur to seek Guru Tegh Bahadur's advice.
As the Guru sat reflecting what to do, young Gobind Rai, arriving there in company with his playmates, asked why he looked so preoccupied. The father, as records Kuir Singh in his Gurbilas Patshahi 10, replied, "Grave are the burdens the earth bears. She will be redeemed only if a truly worthy person comes forward to lay down his head. Distress will then be expunged and happiness ushered in." "None could be worthier than you to make such a sacrifice," remarked Gobind Rai in his innocent manner. Guru Tegh Bahadur soon afterwards proceeded to the imperial capital, Delhi, and courted death in November 1675. Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed as the Guru on the Baisakhi day of March 1676. In the midst of his engagement with the concerns of the community, he gave attention to the mastery of physical skills and literary accomplishment. He had grown into a comely youth spare, lithe of limb and energetic.
He had a natural genius for poetic composition and his early years were assiduously given to this pursuit. The Var Sri Bhagauti Ji Ki, popularly called Chandi di Var. written in 1684, was his first composition and his only major work in the Punjabi language. The poem depicted the legendary contest between the gods and the demons as described in the Markandeya Purana. The choice of a warlike theme for this and a number of his later compositions such as the two Chandi Charitras, mostly in Braj, was made to infuse martial spirit among his followers to prepare them to stand up against injustice and tyranny.
For the first 20 years or so of his life, Guru Gobind Singh lived peacefully at Anandpur practicing arms and exercises to complete his training as a soldier. He also studied Persian and Sanskrit and engaged 52 poets to translate the Hindu epics. Stories of ancient heroes were translated into Punjabi in order to create the martial spirit among the Sikhs. The Guru also wrote several compositions including Jaap Sahib, Akal Ustat and Sawayas during this period. He also established a Gurdwara at Paonta Sahib on the banks of the river Jamna.
Much of Guru Gobind Singh's creative literary work was done at Paonta he had founded on the banks of the River Yamuna and to which site he had temporarily shifted in April 1685. Poetry as such was, however, not his aim. For him it was a means of revealing the divine principle and concretizing a personal vision of the Supreme Being that had been vouchsafed to him. His Jap Sahib, Swayas and the composition known as Akal Ustat are in this tenor. Through his poetry he preached love and equality and a strictly ethical and moral code of conduct. He preached the worship of the One Supreme Being, deprecating idolatry and superstitious beliefs and observances. The glorification of the sword itself which he eulogized as Bhagauti was to secure fulfilment of God's justice. The sword was never meant as a symbol of aggression, and it was never to be used for self-aggrandizement. It was the emblem of manliness and self-respect and was to be used only in self-defence, as a last resort. For Guru Gobind Singh said in a Persian couplet in his Zafarnamah:
"When all other means have failed, It is but lawful to take to the sword."
During his stay at Paonta, Guru Gobind Singh availed himself of his spare time to practice different forms of manly exercises, such as riding, swimming and archery. His increasing influence among the people and the martial exercises of his men excited the jealousy of the neighbouring Rajput hill rulers who led by Raja Fateh Chand of Garhwal collected a host to attack him. But they were worsted in an action at Bhangam, about 10 km northeast of Paonta, in September 1688. Soon thereafter Guru Gobind Singh left Paonta Sahib and returned to Anandpur. The Guru and his Sikhs were involved in a battle with a Mughal commander, Alif Khan, at Nadaur on the left bank of the Beas, about 30 km southeast of Kangra, in March 1691.
Describing the battle in stirring verse in Bachitra Natak, he said that Alif Khan fled in utter disarray "without being able to give any attention to his camp." Among several other battles that occurred was the Husain battle (20 February 1696) fought against Husain K an, an imperial general, which resulted in a decisive victory for the Sikhs. Following the appointment in 1694 of the liberal Prince Muazzam (later Emperor Bahadur Shah) as viceroy of northwestern region including Punjab, there was however a brief respite from pressure from the ruling authority. In Sambat 1756 (1699 A.D), Guru Gobind Singh issued directions to Sikh sangats or communities in different parts not to acknowledge masands, the local ministers, against whom he had heard complaints.