Correcting History: Remembering the Sacrifices of Sikh Gurus for India

    01-Apr-2021
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-Rajan Khanna
 

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The damage was done by the British in respect of history they facilitated to be written by their created historians have been and will remain enormous unless the true facts are researched and established as authentic historical accounts. In order to perpetuate their policy of divide and rule, they created historians who selectively picked up historical accounts and events and tailored them to suit the colonial power's narrative.
 
They did it with Sikh history also, and needless to say, and it was done with a great degree of success. The accounts of the contemporaries of the Sikh Gurus were either selectively chosen or completely ignored. First, it was Cunningham, then Dr Trumpp and finally Macauliffe, who was given the task of writing the Sikh history. It is important to understand the historical events which necessitated the British efforts to get the Sikh history written in the way which suited their narrative.
 
Britishers had won most of the princely states in India since they won the Battle of Plassey in 1757. They did not dare to touch the territory held by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the north-west of India mainly because they had evaluated the strengths of him and his army. However, after his death the Britishers saw an opportunity to usurp his kingdom and, by sleaze and deceit, were able to defeat Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1846. They had witnessed the valour of the Sikh soldiers during the war. They formed a Sikh regiment taking advantage of the fact that Sikh soldiers had gone out of jobs due to the end of the Khalsa Raj.
 
That memory became handy for them when they witnessed the first revolution for independence in the year 1857. They needed indigenous regiments who were loyal to them and who could be used to quell potential rebellions in the army ranks. They had already formed a Sikh regiment, but given the Sikh record of undiluted nationalism and the love for motherland, they were sceptical about Sikhs' willingness to fire on their own countrymen. Therefore it was imperative for the Britishers to create a schism between the Sikhs and the rest of India.
 
The Second Guru, Angad Dev ji had observed that Persian had become the official language of the state and in order to gain jobs, Hindus had increasingly started learning that language: there was fear that people would start forgetting the indigenous languages. He summoned a few Kashmiri bhatts from Sharda Peeth and assigned them the job of creating Gurumukhi script from Sharda
 
The plan started with an attempt to give Sikhs an identity that would distance them from the larger Hindu society. Here it is important to understand the Sikh philosophy propounded by the enlightened Sikh Gurus and other established chroniclers of the Sikh history.
 
When the first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev established the tenets of the Sikh philosophy, it must be noted that Islam had taken very firm roots in India. The political content in Islam was more than in other Abrahamic religions like Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, conversions were rampant and more than two-thirds of northwestern and eastern India had been forcibly converted to Islam. There was a continuous conflict going on between the Dharmic values of India and the religious tenets of Islam. The power of sword had started dominating the spiritual streams flowing in India, and those, on whom society had put the onus of defending it, were increasingly being found wanting.
 
Bhai Gurdas ji who is recognised as Gurbani di kunji ( The key to Gurbani) and the best chronicler of the history of the earlier Sikh Gurus wrote about Shri Guru Nanak Dev, Satguru Nanak pragtaya, miti dhundh jag chanan hoya (When there was a prevalent fog of ignorance, Guru Nanak was born and enlightened this world). Of all the evils which had crept into the contemporary Hindu society, casteism was the most vicious one. Bhai Gurdas ji writes, Charon varan ik varan karaya ( All four castes were amalgamated into one). Shri Guru Nanak Dev simplified the ancient knowledge for all and sundry, induced the virtue of Seva into the society and reformed the society to the extent that it became resurgent to withstand the onslaught of Islam and graph of religious conversions started witnessing a downtrend.
 
In other words, all the ten Sikh Gurus dedicated and sacrificed their lives for the protection and establishment of Dharma and, in many cases, nationalism too. The Second Guru, Angad Dev ji had observed that Persian had become the official language of the state and in order to gain jobs, Hindus had increasingly started learning that language: there was fear that people would start forgetting the indigenous languages. He summoned a few Kashmiri bhatts from Sharda Peeth and assigned them the job of creating Gurumukhi script from Sharda. Thus Persian was confined to the corridors of power only, and Gurumukhi became script for the Punjabi language, which was spoken by millions at that time too.
 
Third Sikh Guru Amar Das ji emphasised on more social reforms and perpetuated the Langar a tradition which was started by Shri Guru Nanak Dev; besides, he vehemently tried to abolish Sati tradition which was increasing due to indiscriminate killings of Hindus by the invading Turks, Mughals and Afghans and the widows of the vanquished were self-immolating in order to save themselves from getting forcible induction into the Harems of the perpetrators.
 
Fourth, Guru Shri Ram Das ji laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple and settled in the city of Amritsar. Hindu traders, who were facing persecution at the hands of Muslim rulers in the cities like Multan, Peshawar and Lahore, were called to Amritsar and the city emerged as a big trading hub in North India. Priests, many times, were not ready to solemnise marriage rituals of the so-called lower castes; Guru Ram Das ji created Laavan Sahib (Shabad for marriage ceremonies ), which is so easy to recite and freed the downtrodden from the shackles of religious clergy.
 
The Panj Piyaras (First Five Khalsas) had come from all the directions of India and belonged to various castes. Guru ji administered Amrit to them and added the suffix Singh to their names, and the tradition of protection of Dharma was consecrated on the Baisakhi day in 1699 in Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh ji compiled the final edition of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji and said,"Aagya bhayee Akal ki tabhai chalayo panth, sab sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth”. That means, Almighty God directed me to start the Panth and now all the Sikhs will consider Shri Guru Granth Sahib as the last Guru. 
 
Fifth Guru Arjan Dev ji compiled the first edition of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji in 1604. If the events which happened during his lifetime are properly studied, many wrongs which were written by the British sponsored historians will be corrected. Guru ji had incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib ji sermons of Bhagats who were worshippers of the Nirakar Parmatma ( The formless God) from the length and breadth of India. Emperor Jehangir cajoled him to incorporate some Islamic verses also which he firmly declined. Therefore, it will not be wrong to term Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji as a true national Granth. Jehangir could not tolerate the rebuff and had written in his autobiography," There lives a Hindu named Arjan in Goindwal on the banks of Beas river and pretends to be a spiritual Guru…….". Guru Arjan Dev ji was martyred on the banks of the Ravi river near Lahore for defying the emperor.
 
The Sixth Guru, Shri Hargobind ji, openly challenged the tyrannical rule of the Mughals and their satraps. He exhorted his followers to wear two swords: Miri and Piri. One sword signified Royalty and the other spirituality. He had already started engaging Muslim Nawabs in various battles much before the tenth Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji had bestowed upon his followers the Kirpan (Sword) as a symbol of protection of Dharma.
 
The martyrdom of the ninth Guru Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur ji in 1675 proved to be a watershed event in respect of near cessation of religious conversions. Guru ji alongside his three disciples, Bhai Matidas, Bhai Satidas and Bhai Dayala, gave their lives and challenged the bigotry of Aurangzeb knowing fully well that the Hindu society will come out of hibernation and stand up against Jihad unleashed by the Mughals after he sacrifices his life to save Dharma. It is noteworthy that the Jihad of converting Kafirs to Momin's, which was started with Turko-Afghan invasions on India continued unabated for centuries before Sikh Gurus resisted it spiritually, socially and later militarily in the north and Shivaji did the same in western and southern India.
 
Tenth Guru Shri Guru Gobind Singh ji established Khalsa Panth, which truly demolished casteist barriers and exhorted India to start thinking as one nation. The Panj Piyaras (First Five Khalsas) had come from all the directions of India and belonged to various castes. Guru ji administered Amrit to them and added the suffix Singh to their names, and the tradition of protection of Dharma was consecrated on the Baisakhi day in 1699 in Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh ji compiled the final edition of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji and said,"Aagya bhayee Akal ki tabhai chalayo panth, sab sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth”. That means, Almighty God directed me to start the Panth and now all the Sikhs will consider Shri Guru Granth Sahib as the last Guru. He did not incorporate his own teachings in the Granth and wrote the Dasam Granth in which his own teachings and hymns are included.
 
Guru Gobind Singh has written Ram Avtar, Krishna Avtar, and Chandi charitar in Dasam Granth and in the chapter Ugradanti savayye, Guru ji writes, "Sakal Jagat mohi Khalsa panth gaaje, jage dharam hindu, turk dhundh bhaaje". He had summed up in one line the centuries old struggle of the Hindu society against the tyrannical jihadist forces.
 
The tradition of protection of Dharma was taken forward by Banda Singh Bahadur, who avenged one of the most inhuman killings of innocent sons of Guru Gobind Singh by Nawab of Sirhind, Wazir Khan. All sections of the society, including the so-called lower ones were brought together by him and inspired to defeat jihadist army of Wazir Khan in the battle of Chhapar Chiri in 1710.
 
Later, Maharaja Ranjit Singh established the empire in Punjab and adjoining areas, which goes down in history as one of the most just and fair rule in which all the religions were treated at par. He had banned cow slaughter in his regime, and when persecuted Hindus and Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir approached him; he defeated Sikander Khan, Nawab of Kashmir, in the battle of Shopian and got the suffering population rid of tyrannical Afghan rule. He got Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar gold plated and at the same time donated gold to Kashi Vishwanath temple also. He had bequeathed Kohinoor diamond, which he had won from Shah Shuja, to Jagan Nath puri temple: however, after his demise, the British wrested it from his descendants, and it became pride of queen's crown.
 
The Chroniclers like Bhai Santokh Singh and Bhai Gurdas ji had described the events in the Sikh history with utmost accuracy. Britishers not only distorted the true history, but they also tried to drive a wedge between the Sikhs and the rest of the Hindu society. Even they knew that there were numerous streams flowing in Sanatan tradition, and Sikh Gurus gave a new dimension to the Bhakti movement besides giving a clarion call to eliminate social evils like casteism. However, the true representation of facts did not suit the British interests hence attempts by them to distance Sikhs from the larger Hindu society.
 
Constitutionally Sikh is recognised as a separate religion, but spiritually, it is a part of the Sanatan stream. Unlike Abrahamic religions, it is inclusive, and its tenets define that salvation can be attained by the recitation of any of the almighty's names like Ram or Hari, which have been mentioned in Shri Guru Granth Sahib thousands of times. All the Sikh tenets and principles are regarded as their own by the spiritual leaders of the Sanatan tradition.
 
In the eighteenth century, Hindus of the north and north-west India had decided that a marshal dimension had become imperative for protection of ancient cultural and spiritual values. An unprecedented measure was taken for the same. Without disturbing the social and economic system, the society was provided with a strong armour and sword arm. Most of the Hindu homes started giving one child for the protection of Dharma and the nation. They were emulating the example of Shri Guru Gobind Singh, who had sacrificed all four sons for the protection of Dharma. Khalsa had become the symbol of Dharma and an impregnable wall against the onslaughts of the Jihadist forces. Instead of creating an army, the entire society had galvanised itself for the protection of righteousness.
 
The whole credit goes to the mothers who had willingly sacrificed their sons and even daughters for the protection of Dharma. Nowadays, due to political reasons, some sections keep on saying that Sikhs sacrificed their lives for the protection of Hindus. Nothing can be more erroneous than this; it was Hindu mothers who made their progeny Sikhs and stopped the onslaught of the Jihadist forces.
 
The time has arrived when history must be corrected, and truth which already has been written by chroniclers like Bhai Mani Singh ji, Bhai Gurdas ji and Bhai Santokh Singh ji should be brought to light. The current and future generations should be made aware of the sacrifice which Hindu mothers have been making for the protection of Dharma and the nation. This is the 400th birth year of Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur ji. The whole nation should celebrate it to reinforce the spirit of sacrifice for protection of Dharma. Secondly, a campaign named "Ma ko Pranam" should be started to pay tribute to those innumerable mothers who have been sacrificing their sons for the protection of Dharma and the nation.