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The word "Sikh" is derived from the Sanskrit 'shishya' meaning disciple. Sikhs are the disciples of their ten Gurus beginning with Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539) and ending with Guru Gobind Singh (1666 -1708) and their perpetual "living" Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib. There are over 23 million Sikhs in the world today, the vast majority live in the north Indian state of Punjab. Sikhism or Sikhi is the fifth largest organised religion in the world and the youngest.

Sikh Gurus

Guru Nanak (1469-1538)

main article Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, was the son of an official with a small holding of land in a village north-west of Lahore (in present-day Pakistan). Guru ji had his elementary education in the local language of the village and as a member of the Khatri caste his father made sure that he was tutored in the village Gurukul in the ancient Sanskrit and knowing well the value to be gained by learning Persian his father enrolled him with a scholar of that language as well. His father intended to train him as an accountant so that he could get a job in the court of the Muslim governor of the district. But Guru Nanak turned out to be indifferent to any attempt to teach him the standard subjects of business. He soon outdistanced his teachers as each found themselves unable to teach him as he had rapidly mastered the languages they had taught him. He roamed the forests around his village engaging in long discourses with holy men both Hindu and Muslim, who frequented the surrounding jangals, traveling through on their various pilgrimages. Mixing with his friends of other castes and religions he was the despair of his parents as he would not attend to family business and spent what ever money they gave him on feeding the poor. When he grew up to be a young man, they arranged a marriage for him. For a time he devoted himself to the care of his wife, and two sons.

Then his search for truth became too over powering, having gone to work for his sister's brother in the stores of a Muslim official he went out one morning to take his usual bath in a local river only to disappear. For three days his friends and his growing cadre of admirers (Sikhs they were called) feared that he had drowned. Some, jealous of his popularity, started the rumor that he had looted his employer's stores and run away. On the third day Nanak reappeared and would only repeat, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman'. By this statement he was stating that there was no difference between what the worshippers of the two differing religions - Hinduism and Islam were worshiping, he had realized that there was only one God who was the root of each religion and that service to ones fellow men was the way of realizing their mutual goal of being reunited with God the Father, creator of them all. After arranging for the care of his wife and sons, settling his affairs and quitting his job he and his Muslim friend, a musician named Mardana set out on his first 'Udasi' (travel) preaching as they walked from village to village. Guru ji composed his sermons in ragas (musical modes) which were sung to the accompaniment of Bhai Mardana's Rabab (a simple lute style instrument) with a curved peg tuning board which could hang over Mardana's shoulder as he walked.


Guru Nanak

Wherever they stopped, Guru Ji's teachings would inspire the people and leave them singing the simple Bani in the fields as they worked. Within a few years these disciples became a homogeneous group whose faith was exclusively the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. In several trips that covered many years the young Guru traveled all over India. With a second companion a Hindu named Bhai Balla they went as far east as Assam, as far south as Sri Lanka and as far to the north as Tibet. Later Guru Ji traveled westward beyond India to Mecca and Medina in Arabia, from where they returned by foot through Al Sham (Greater Syria), Bagdad, Persia and the land we now call Afghanistan. Wherever he went, they sang Guru Nanak's hymns, which told the people that if they wanted to love God they should learn first to love each other and always keep the Name of God on their lips. In a time of brutal oppression, his simple message of one loving God, the equality of men and even women (a radical thought in those days) and a life dedicated to returning to God's Kingdom, not by practising religious austerities, but by living the life of a simple house holder (Gristi Jeevan) building a family and a loving relationship with ones wife and children - to the One God, by ones hard and honest work and even sharing ones blessings with the sick and homeless.

There are countless stories of Guru Nanak Dev Ji's travels. Once Guru Ji came to a river for his morning bath only to find the water full of many Hindus who were, doing the age old Hindu morning ritual of saluting the Sun. Guru Nanak having grown up in a Hindu family knew just what they were up to. They were taking water in their clasped hands and throwing it at the rising Sun. Already well aware of what they were doing and why, the Guru knew that they had never even questioned the age old ritual. He was the sort of teacher that we all have grown up loving and admiring. The ones we all remember from our childhood, the ones that taught by example actually leading us to discover the answers for ourselves, to feel the answer in our soul, rather than using the age old pedantic method of 'do and repeat what I say'. So giving them enough 'rope with which to hang their beliefs' in such rituals (that they had never even dared to question) he asked them what they were doing. They must have thought him mad, or at the least a stranger from some strange land, who had no idea of the important work they were doing.

One person raising the tone of his voice with each word, replied almost in disgust, "we are offering water to our ancestors who have gone to live in the stars near the Sun--their throats are parched and dry from the Sun's great heat! Guru Ji replied, "That sounds like a great idea, let me try". With this Guru Nanak Dev Ji turned in the opposite direction and started tossing handfulls of water towards the west, the crowd was dumbstruck. "What are you doing Fakir Ji?" you are wasting your time, why are you throwing water in the wrong direction. "Why, I am sending water to my parched fields in the Punjab", he said, "if your water can reach the Sun surely mine can reach the Punjab which is only a few hundred miles away". With this the people realised their folly, perhaps for the first time they questioned what they had been doing their whole lives.

Another story tells us of the time that Guru Ji met a very rich and successful man. The man invited Guru Sahib to his large and luxurious home. He had accumulated a vast fortune, no doubt by deceit and foul means and he even boasted of his wealth. He asked Guru ji if there was anything he could do for his guest, such an obvious man of God. Guru Nanak saw a needle on the floor, picked it up and handed it to him, "Please give me this needle in the next world", he said. With a puzzled look on his face the man replied, "How can I do that; One comes into this world with nothing and leaves it with nothing". It was so quiet that you could hear that needle drop to the floor as the man realised that he had wasted his whole life and that none of the wealth he had amassed could be taken to the 'next life.' He fell at Guru Sahib's feet. "Forgive me " he cried.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji blessed him and told him the three rules all should live by:

Naam Japo - Recite the name of the Lord at all times.
Kirat Karo - Do an honest day's work.
Wand Shako - Share your food with those around you.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji's crusade was against intolerance which had become, on one hand the practice of their Muslim overlords bent on converting their Hindu subjects, to earn credits (as their 'good angel' which they all believed was sitting on their right shoulder) toted up their good deeds so they could enter the Kingdom of Heaven and on the other the meaningless rituals and gross discriminations of caste (and gender) which had become an integral part of Hindu life, where in order for some men (the Brahmins) who had written the laws in the first place to have someone to be superior to they had doomed others to lives as pariahs whose shadows, they told others, would pollute those of the higher privileged casts. Innocent men and women and children who were denied any chance at an education (would actually be killed if they were caught trying to read) and forced to do the foulest of tasks with death being their only chance to enter a higher caste.

Guru ji spent the last years of his life with his family in the village he and his followers cleared on some land donated by another of his admirers. The village named Kartarpur (the village of the Creator, God's Village) grew as people heard of this new way of living, where all men and women shared in the work and ate their meals in a communal kitchen (called the Guru ka Langar) with no distinction being made to their former caste. People flocked to the village to hear him sing his hymns. Even today Guru ji is regarded as the symbol of harmony between the Muslims and the Hindus . A popular couplet describes him as:

The teacher Nanak is the King of holy men. The mentor of the Hindus, the religious leader of the Mussulmans.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji had a following of people from both Hinduism and Islam, it was left to his nine successor Gurus to mold that following into a distinct community with its own language, literature, its own religious beliefs and institutions and its own traditions and conventions.

Guru Angad Dev (1504-1552)

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Guru Angad Dev

Bhai Lehna Ji was a devout Hindu before he met Guru Nanak Dev Ji. At the very first meeting he fell under his spell and abandoned all other worldly businesses to devote himself to the service of the Sikh community at Kartarpur. Guru Nanak Dev Ji set a number of tasks to test his devotees, in all of them Bhai Lehna came out top. In one test Guru Nanak Dev Ji asked for someone to jump into a pool of thick mud and pick out an old cauldren, all refused saying they could get Guru Ji a better one from the local shop, only Bhai Lehna Ji jumped in without regard for his safety and brought the object back.

As time for Guru Nanak Dev Ji to ascend the heavens came, Guru Ji took a journey and said harsh words to any person following him. One by one all left his side. Those remaining were pelted with stones by Guru Ji, all abandoned the Guru except Bhai Lehna Ji. " Why are are you still following me?" Guru Nanak Dev Ji said in harsh tones. "Where else have I got to go?" replied Bhai Lehna Ji "without you O, Lord I have nothing." Guru Nanak Dev Ji took Lehna Ji in his arms, he had found the most worthy person to carry on his work. His devotion convinced Guru Nanak Dev Ji that Bhai Lehna Ji, would be a better leader then his own sons.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji proclaimed “Thou art Angad, a part of my body” and had one of his chief disciples Baba Buddha Ji place the Tilak of authority on (Guru) Angads forehead proclaiming him as the second Guru. Guru Angad Dev Ji was Guru for thirteen years (1539 – 1552). In his quite way Guru Angad Ji expanded the fledgling community, opening more centres and organising a regular system fro collecting offerings. Guru Ji made copies of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s hymns and supplied them to all the centres. The Guru also took the thirty five letters of the alphabet and developed them into the new script now called gurmukhi (from the Guru's Mouth). This had far reaching consequences, for the Gurus compilations became the nucleus of the sacred writings of the Sikhs. It gave the Sikhs a written language distinct from those of the Hindus and Muslims.

Guru Sahib Ji was also very keen on physical fitness and instructed all his followers to take part in drills and games after morning service. Under the auspicies of Guru Angad Dev Ji, the Sikh community was growing. Guru Ji had two sons but chose a seventy three year old disciple, Amar Das Ji as his successor. He, as had his predessor, chose service to the community rather than his own sons.

Guru Amar Das (1479- 1574)

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Guru Amar Das

Guru Amar Das Ji succession was resented by Guru Angad Dev Ji's son Datu, who ejected Guru Amar Das Ji from Khadur. Guru Ji moved to a town called Gowindwal. Guru Amar Das Ji was a very pious and humble person, once when Datu in a rage kicked Guru Ji, with hands together Guru Amar Ji said humbly “ This must have hurt your foot.”

Guru Ji showed great devotion and made the langar an integral part of Sikhism insisting that anyone who wanted to see him had first to accept hospitality by eating with the disciples. Among those who came to see Guru Ji was the Emperor Akbar, who was so impressed with the way of life in Gowindwal that he offered the Guru a jagir to support the Guru ka Langar. When the Guru refused the gift the wise Emperor offered the jagir (the revenues of several villages) to Guru Ji's daughter Bhani Ji as a marriage gift. That gift, under the next Gurus grew to be the city of Amrisar with its House of God the HarMandir now called around the world as The Golden Temple.

Guru Ji increased the number of parishes or manjis to twenty two and appointed masands to organise worship and collect the offerings. Copies were made of the hymns of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Angad Dev Ji and were added to those written by Guru Amar Das Ji. Since this was written in gurmukhi it gained great popularity amongst the masses. Guru Ji also introduced new forms of ceremonies for use at births and deaths.

The Guru rejected the practises of purdha (veiling of women) and of sati (the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands). This aroused the hostility of the Brahmins who seeing the size of their flocks dwindling started persecuting the Sikhs, they also tried to turn the Emperor against the Guru, but when he refused to take action they bribed local officials to harass the Sikhs. This was the start of Sikh oppression which eventually made them take up arms and break with their Gurus' tradition of Seli or ahimsa (non-violence).

Guru Sahib Ji lived to the age of ninety five, he did not choose any of his sons to succeed him, instead he chose his son-in-law, Ram Das, a Khatri of the Sodhi family.

Guru Ram Das (1534-1581)

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Guru Ram Das

Guru Sahib Ji set about looking after the community and commenced the construction of a large tank. This was to be built on land that had been purchased from Emperor Akbar for the sum of 700 Rs. The town that grew up around it was destined to become the capital of the Sikhs and was known as Chak Ram Das. Like his predecessors Guru Ji composed hymns which were later incorporated in the sacred writings. Guru Ji had three sons, of whom he considered the youngest, Arjun Mal the most suited to succeed him. This caused great resentment in the eldest son Prithi Chand. Nevertheless, Guru Ji had Baba Buddha Ji invest Arjun Mal as the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. As Guru Ram Das Ji saw his end on this earth coming near he remarked, “As one lamp is lit from another, so the Guru’s spirit will pass into him and will dispel the darkness from this world.”

Guru Arjan (1563-1606)

As soon as his investment was proclaimed his elder brother Prithi Chand turned hostile. Guru Sahib Ji was fortunate in having the support Baba Buddha Ji and Bhai Gurdas Ji in rebutting Prithi Chand's accusations and preventing a split in the community. Guru Sahib Ji's first task was to complete the building of the temple started by his father as Chak Ram Das. Guru Ji invited a Muslim saint, Said Mian Mir Ji of Lahore, to lay the foundation stone of the Harmindar Sahib, the temple of the Almighty. Instead of building the temple on a high plinth as was the Hindu custom, Guru Ji had it built on a lower level than the surrounding land, so that the worshippers would have to go down the steps to enter. Unlike Hindu temples which have only one door, the Harmindar Sahib was open on all four sides. These features were meant to be symbolic of the new faith, which required the lowest to go even lower, and unlike the Muslim mosques, its doors were open to all who wished to enter.

To raise money for the construction all Sikhs were required to donate one tenth of their income (dasvandh) in the name of the Guru, and the masands were required to collect this revenue and bring it to the Guru. The modest town now grew into a commecial city and the tank was filled with water, it was given a new name, Amritsar. What Benaras is for the Hindus, Mecca is for the Muslims and Jerusalem is for the Christians, Amritsar became for the Sikhs—their most important place of pilgrimage.


Guru Arjan

Guru Ji had another tank built about 15km from Amritsar, which he blessed as Taran Taran (the pool of salvation). It soon gained a reputation for having healing properties and also became a place of pilgrimage. From Taran Taran, Guru Ji went to the Jallundhar district and raised another town call Kartarpur. From Kartarpur Guru Ji went to Lahore and from there to the river Beas. In five years of travelling Guru Ji brought thousands of persons into the fold.

When in 1595, Guru Ji returned to Amritsar he found that Prithi Chand had not been idle. Prithi has been writing his own compositions and inserting them in with the writings of the Gurus. Guru Arjun Dev Ji realised the danger of spurious writings gaining acceptance. So Guru Ji abandoned all other pursuits in order to make an authentic compilation of the writings of his predecessors. Guru Ji persuaded Bhai Mohan, son of Guru Amar Das Ji to give the collection of the first three Gurus, these together with his father's compositions and his own; Guru Ji then set about the compilation. Guru Ji welcomed contributions from different sects of Hindus and Muslims as long as they measured up to the strict criteria the "Nanak's" had set. This task took many years to complete as Guru Sahib Ji would dictate and Bhai Gurdas Ji would write. In 1604 the mammoth task was completed and installed at Harmindar Sahib Ji.

Named The Adi Granth, it reflects the faith of Guru Nanak in its entirety. Apart from the writings of the Gurus, it contained compositions of Muslim and Hindu saints of all castes including the so-called “untouchables.”

Guru Arjun Dev Ji writes:

“In this vessal you will find three things - truth, peace and contemplation; in this too the nectar that is the name of the Master which is the uplifter of all mankind.”

Emperor Akbar was much impressed with Guru Sahib Ji's work for it echoed some of his own beliefs. On one occasion he stopped at Gowindwal for the express purpose of meeting Guru Sahib Ji. But, with the death of Akbar there came a reversal of policy of the state towards the Sikhs. The new Emperor Jehangir disapproved of the growing popularity of Guru Sahib Ji.

In his autobiography, the Tuzuk-I-Jehangir the Emperor writes about Guru Sahib Ji:

“So many simple minded Hindus, nay many foolish Muslims too, have been fascinated by his ways and teachings. They called him Guru, and from all directions crowds of fools would come to him. This busy traffic has been carried on for four generations. For years the thought has been presenting itself in my mind that either I should put an end to this false traffic, or he should be brought into the fold of Islam.”

Jehangir found an excuse within a few months of his accession to the throne. The emperors son Khusaru rebelled against his father and sought Guru Ji's assistance and blessing. Guru Ji received the prince and apart from blessing him gave him no material assistance. Nevertheless, after the rebellion the Emperor wreaked terrible vengeance on all the people who he suspected of assisting his son. Guru Sahib Ji was arrested. Chandu, a Hindu banker whose daughters hand Guru Sahib Ji had refused to accept for his son, worked to poison the Emperor's mind against Guru Ji, Guru Arjun Dev Ji was sentenced to death.

Guru Sahib Ji was viciously tortured, he was made to sit on a large metal plate (tavi) which had a fire blazing underneath it as burning hot sand was poured over his body. Mian Mir Ji, the Guru's friend, tried to intercede but the Guru forbid him to do so, saying that one should not interfere with the will of the Almighty. Not a word of pain or a moan was uttered by Guru Ji as he bore all the suffering that his tormentors meted out. The Guru sent word to his son, Hargobind, who was eleven years old, to ask Baba Buddha Ji to instal him as the sixth Guru. Unable to break the great man, his jailers allowed his request to bathe in the nearby river. Blessing his devotees, who were said to be in the thousands, he struggled to the river's edge on his severely blistered feet. Disappearing into the water the Guru was never to be seen again. On May 30, 1606 Guru Ji ascended to the heavens.

Guru Arjun Dev Ji was a very gifted and prolific writer. His compositions are filled with bejewelled phrases and are of a haunting melody. Guru Ji's masterpiece was the Sukhmani Sahib, in it Guru Ji says,

“Of all creeds, the sovereign creed is to pray to God and do goodly deeds.”

The death of Guru Arjun Dev Ji was a turning point in the history of the Sikhs. Guru Ji was the embodiment of all the things that Guru Nanak had preached and stood for. He had brought together the Hindu and Mussalman in creating a scripture where both were represented, he was a builder of cities and brought prosperity to the community.

Guru Hargobind (1595-1644)

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Guru Hargobind

The death of Guru Arjun Dev Ji was a profound shock to the people. The Emperor thought that this would keep the Sikhs subdued for a long time, the result was just the opposite. The Sikhs gathered around the eleven year old Hargobind, ready to take on the enemy head on.

The young Guru took his fathers seat wearing two swords : one to symbolise spiritual power and the other temporal. “ My rosary shall be the sword belt and my turban I shall wear as the emblem of royalty.” Guru Ji made it known to the Sikhs that from now on he would welcome offerings of arms and horses. Guru Ji trained his men and spend much time in martial exercise and hunting. Guru Ji built a fortress, Lohgarh in Amritsar. Across from the Harmindar Sahib he built the Akal Takhat, the throne of the Timeless One, where instead of chanting hymns of peace, the congregation heard ballads of feats of heroism and conquests in battle. Guru Ji sat on a throne and was known as Sucha Patshah, the true Emperor, he held court and went out with a royal umbrella over his head and was accompanied by armed guards.

Muhsin Fani, a Muslin scribe writes about Guru Ji “ The Guru has eight hundred horses in his stables, three hundred troops on horse back and sixty men with firearms are always in his service.”

Guru Ji travelled far and wide consolidating the community. Guru Ji travelled through the Punjab to Uttar Pardesh and northwest to Kashmir and even as far as Kabul and Kandhar in Afghanistan. On his way back Guru Ji accepted from Raja of Bilaspur a plot of land near the foothills of the Himalayas and named it Kiratpur.

With the death of Jehangir and the accession of Shah Jahan the troubles began. In 1628 when the Emperor happened to be hunting in the neighbourhood his men clashed with the Sikhs. A a result a contingent of royal soldiers were sent to arrest Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. They found the Gurus household busy preparing for the wedding of his daughter. They could not find the Guru but plundered his property and all the confectionery prepared for the wedding was either eaten or taken by the soldiers. Guru Sahib Ji's men soon fell upon the royal guards before they had gone very far. A battle took place in which the royal soldiers were harassed all they way back to the royal courts, in the fighting the Chief Constable, Mukhlis Khan was killed.

As time went a second clash with the imperial guards took place near Lahira, the Mughals were badly mauled by the Sikhs. Guru Ji suspecting that a large force would be sent against them moved to a place outside Bhatinda. Sometime later the Mughals again tried to capture Guru Sahib Ji, this time with the renegade Painday Khan on their side, the leader of the Pathans in the employment of Guru Ji. The Guru had raised Painday Khan from a child and loved him as a son, but he had turned against Guru Ji, and now in a fit of pride had boasted that he alone would capture Guru Ji. The two sides met outside Kartarpur and a bloody battle took place in which Guru Ji's two sons Gurditta Ji and Tegh Mal Ji took part. In the battle Guru Ji himself confronted Painday Khan. As a father speaks to a son, Guru Ji offered Painday the first three assaults. After the third Guru Ji took the offensive and killed him, even then the magnanimous Guru got off his horse and took Painday in his arms and placed his head on his thigh and wiped his brow, Painday Khan realising his folly asked for forgivness and Guru Ji blessed him.

The number of Sikhs had steadily increased and the emphasis of the faith to forthrightly declare the right to defend the faith proved extremely popular. Many more community centers needed to be set up which meant more masands to administer them.

Guru ji was a loving master who responded to the prayers and loving calls of his devoted people - he went to kashmir in response to the prayers of Mai Bhag Bhari. He rode his charger to his devotees Sadha and Rupa asking them for the cool water that they had saved for him, he blessed Mata Sulakhani with seven sons in response to her loving prayers.

Within a few years Guru Sahib Ji lost five members of his family, including three of his sons, this included Baba Gurditta Ji in 1638, add to this Gurdittas eldest son Dhirmal had turned against his grandfather. Guru Ji had two remaining sons : Suraj Mal, who showed little interest in Sikh affairs and Tegh Mal, who spent most of his time in deep contemplation, Guru Ji had named him Tegh Bahadur after his exploits on the battle field at the age of thirteen, Bahadur (brave). When the time came Guru Sahib Ji chose, Baba Gurditta Ji's second son, Har Hai Ji to succeed him as the seventh Guru.

Guru Har Rai (1630-1661)

Guru Har Rai

Within a year of assuming the Guruship, Guru Har Rai Ji had to leave Kiratpur to the relative safety of a small village in Sirmoor state. The absence of the Guru from the main centres of Sikh activity, the hostility of the disappointed claimants to the guruship and a general disintegration of the masands meant that Guru Sahib Ji had to undertake a tour of all the centres and reorganise the missions and brought many into the Sikh fold.

At the end of 1658, Guru Sahib Ji returned to Kiratpur. Guru Ji became friendly with Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Emperor Shah Jahan. Dara Shikoh was a Sufi and preferred the company of holy men. When the war of succession began Guru Ji's sympathies lay with Dara rather than the bigoted Aurangzeb. But Dara was defeated and fled northwards to the Punjab. He called on Guru Har Rai Ji for assistance. This was sufficient to arouse the wrath of the Emperor and he summoned Guru Sahib Ji to Delhi. Guru Ji sent his son Ram Rai to represent him. Ram Rai succeeded in winning the confidence of the Emperor. Aurangzeb decided to keep Ram Rai in Delhi in the belief that, with the future incumbent of the guruship in his power, he would become the arbiter of the destinies of the Sikh community. The all knowing Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji proclaimed his intention of passing the guruship to his younger son, Har Krishan Ji. Aurangzeb encouraged Ram Rai in his pretensions for the guruship but it was not to be, Har Krishan Ji at the age of five years became the eighth Guru of the Sikhs.

Guru Har Krishan 1656-1664

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Guru Har Krishan

The passing of the Guruship to Har Krishan Sahib Ji did not suit Aurangzeb who wanted to play a decisive role in the Sikhs. He summoned Guru Sahib Ji to Delhi with his intentions of arbitrating between Guru Ji and Ram Rai. After sometime Guru Ji arrived at Delhi and rested at the house of Mirza Raja Jai Singh in the suburb of Raisina. Aurangzeb was in no hurry to announce his arbitration (nor would the Sikhs have paid any heed to it) but he has happy to have Guru Har Krishan Ji under surveillance. Guru Ji was however stricken with smallpox. Before Guru Ji ascended the heavens he indicated that the next guru would be found in a village of Bakala.

Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675)


Guru Tegh Bahadur

It was quite clear that by the words “Baba Bakale” Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji had meant his grand-uncle, Tegh Bahadur, nevertheless a whole contingent of claimants set themselves up at Bakala as the next Guru.

A sea merchant, Makhan Shah of Lubana, when set upon by a great storm at sea, had prayed to the Guru for his safe return from the seas and had promised an offering of 500 gold coins. Upon reaching Bakala he was confused at seeing all the would-be Gurus. He placed two coins in-front of each and bowed. Each blessed him. Knowing this was not the right Guru, Makan Shah moved to the next one, when he had gone through all the pretenders he felt very sad and despondent. Upon hearing of a holy person living in a ramshackle hut he decided to pay a visit. Inside Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was in deep meditation. Placing two coins Makhan bowed. Guru Ji spoke, “You had promised 500 gold coins but you offer only two.” With this Makhan Shah had found the Guru and in a fit of happiness he climbed a building and shouted out “Guru ladho ray, Guru ladho ray ” – I have found the Guru, I have found the Guru.

Tegh Bahadur was a man of retiring habits who did not wish for comfrontation. But this very reluctance turned the Sikh masses in his favour. Guru Ji left Bakala for Amritsar where the doors of Harmindar Sahib were slammed shut in his face by the corrupt masands. Guru Sahib Ji moved on and bought some land about five miles outside of Kiratpur and built a small village there. He called it Anandpur (the haven of bliss). Here people flocked by the thousands to pledge allegiance to the Guru, and Guru Sahib Ji took extensive tours managing the centres.

Guru Sahib Ji left Anandpur Sahib and toured eastwards in Uttar Pardesh. Guru Ji travelled to Agra and arrived at Patna in the state of Bihar. Wherever he went he blessed the crowds that thronged to him. Here in 1666 Mata Gujri Ji gave birth to a son, Gobind Rai. Guru Sahib Ji could not spend much time with the infant as he had to return to the Punjab due to the religious persecution that Emperor Aurangzeb had embarked upon. As time went by the Hindus were being oppressed and persecuted even more, the hated jizia ("a so called protection tax, levied on non-muslims) was reinstated by the fundamentalist Aurangzeb adding to the heavy taxes they already paid. They suffered much hardship.

In 1675 a delegation of Hindus Pandits from Kashmir had come to meet with the Guru carrying grave news. The Hindus of Kashmir were to face death if they did not soon accept Islam, they needed protection and they had come to the "House of Guru Nanak". Gobind Rai, now aged nine years walked in on his father who was in deep thought. Asking what the matter was Guru Sahib Ji replied that the Hindus were in great threat and it would require a noble act of sacrifice from a very holy person to end their peril. Gobind Rai responded by saying “What greater person is there than you my father for such a task, go and protect their religion.” So, Guru Tegh Bahadur sent word by the Pandits, to tell their Muslim ruler that if Aurangzeb could cause Guru Tegh Bahadur to convert to Islam then they would all convert as well. The Mughal ruler's thought had been that if the respected Pandits of Kashmir could be converted then all the Hindus of his kingdom could be easily converted.

But now this noble man of peace, himself a Sikh, set out for Delhi with his brave companions. Hearing of the challenge the Emperor had the men arrested near Agra and carted into Delhi in chains on public view. Offered a chance to escape certain death and fearsom torture each man stood firm in his resolve.

Guru Sahib Ji told the Emperor that if he converted then the whole of Kashmir would submit before the Emperor, but if he stood fast then the Kashmiri Hindus must be set free.

"Hinduism may not be my faith, and I may not believe in their sacred thread, caste system and idol worship, but i will fight for the right for all Hindus to live with honour and freedom to practice their faith according to their beliefs."

The Sikhs that accompanied Guru Sahib Ji were first tortured and put to death. Bhai Mati Das Ji was sawed in two, Bhai Sati Das Ji was wrapped in wool and set on fire, Bhai Dayala Ji was boiled in a cauldron, such were the sacrifices that the Sikhs made. Then the tormentors turned their attention to Guru Sahib Ji. First they tortured him and then executed the Guru. There in Chandni Chawk they gave their lives not for the defense of their own religion but in defense of "the others" religious rights. This took place on November 11, 1675 at Chandni Chawk, Delhi.

Gobind Rai at the age of nine now became the tenth Guru. Later in life Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his autobiography The Bachittar Natak, writes of this most noble of acts:

To protect their right to wear their caste-marks and sacred threads,
He did, in the age of darkness, perform the supreme sacrifice.
To help the saintly he went to the utmost limit,
He gave his head, but never cried in pain.
He suffered martyrdom for the sake of his faith.
He lost his head but revealed not his secret.
He disdained to perform miracles or tricks.
For such fill men of God with shame.
He burst the bonds of mortal clay.
And went to the abode of God.
No one hath ever performed an act as noble as his.
Tegh Bahadur passed, the world was stricken with sorrow.
A wail of horror rent the earth,
A victor’s welcome given by the hosts of heaven. (Bachittar Natak)

Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708)

File:Guru10 n.jpg

Guru Gobind Singh

Gobind Rai succeeded the guruship at the tender age of nine. He spent his boyhood learning Persian, Sanskrit, Braj and Urdu and learning martial skills. Guru Ji describes his mission in the following words :

'To uphold righteousness in every place and destroy sin and evil; that righteousness may triumph, that good may live and tyranny by uprooted from the land'.

He taught his Sikhs the morality of the use of force when it was for the cause of truth.

'When all modes of righting a wrong having failed, it is righteous to draw the sword'.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji made Sikhism into an active movement to fight the tyranny and injustice of emperor Aurangzeb. His goal was to create a nation that would be pure and strong enough to free itself from the oppression of priests and rulers alike. He had 52 poets in his court who would translate the Hindu texts. Guru ji himself wrote extensively, the main theme being the gloryfication of the Almighty. When the battle of Bhangani was forced upon him by the surrounding hill chiefs, he fought them boldly and inflicted a crushing defeat upon them. But all the while Guru Ji thought of how he should shape his Sikhs in to such a force that none could withstand it.

On the day of Baisakhi 13 April 1699 a momentus event took place, the young Guru assembled his Sikhs, numbering 200,000 - 250,000, at Anandpur Sahib. Guru Ji demanded a head of a Sikh, finally a Sikh stepped forward. Guru Ji took him into a small tent and the sound of sword against flesh was heard. The blood seeped out from under the tent, the crowd looked on in stunned silence, four more times Guru Ji with fiery eyes demanded the head of a Sikh, each time a Sikh submitted his life to the will of his Guru. After a small interval Guru Ji brought out all five Sikhs, alive and well, dressed in saffron clothing.

The Panj Piyarai or five beloved ones were :

Guru Ji baptised the five with Amrit. Amrit was prepared by stirring together water, from the nearby river, and sugar, supplied by the Guru's wife, in a Sarbloh (an iron cauldron) with a Khanda (double edged sword), while reciting the five proscribed bani's or prayers. The five prayers being:

The Five Beloved became the first members of the brotherhood of the Khalsa (the pure). The word Khalsa coming from the Sanskrit word khaals meaning pure.

Guru Ji prepares the Amrit. Mata Sahib Devan added the patasey (suger candy).

All five men, each from different castes, drank the Amrit out of the same bowl and 'Singh' (lion), was added to their names. The Guru then in turn asked the men, now his equal brothers, to Baptist him. Thousands were so initiated that day with the name Singh for males and Kaur (Princess) for women, thus removing all caste barriers.

The significance of this cannot be underestimated. For members of different castes to drink from the same bowl would have been unheard of, yet Guru Ji in his great wisdom and forethought brought together castes and communities into the one Khalsa.

They were enjoined to observe the five K's. These five emblems of Sikhism being:

  • Kesh, uncut hair, a natural gift from God that gave them a distinct identity,
  • Kangha , a comb to keep the hair tidy,
  • Kasha, undergarment shorts,worn by soldiers of the time but also to depict chastity and personal hygiene,
  • Kara, steel bracelet, symbolic connection with God, and they were always to carry a
  • Kirpan or a sabre ready to uphold righteousness and defend the weak.

Guru Ji asks for a sacrifice.

Guru Ji prepares the Amrit by reciting the panj banies (five morning prayers)

Many explanations have been given for the ceremony of baptism. Apart from the profoundly spiritual nature of the communion, making people of different castes drink Amrit from the same bowl broke down some orthodox Hindu practices. Guru Ji gave the final form to the Sikh faith. He declared the institution of the Guruship at an end and ordered all Sikhs to bow down in front of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji's life was a long series of battles fought against heavy odds. Guru Ji laid the foundations of the Sikh military might by setting up a tradition of fearless valour which became a distinguished feature of Sikh soldiery. They came to believe in the triumph of their own cause as an article of faith, and like their Guru asked for no nobler end then on the battlefield. What Guru Ji succeeded in doing was to 'teach the sparrow to hunt the hawk and one man to fight a legion'.

Guru Ji was a prolific writer and a poet of rare quality, in everything he wrote or spoke there was a note of buoyant hope and the conviction then even if he lost his life, his mission would succeed.

O Lord, these boons of Thee I ask, Let me never shun a righteous task.

Let me be fearless when I go into battle, Give me faith that victory will be mine.
Give me power to sing Thy praise, And when comes the time to end my life. Let me fall in mighty strife.

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This page uses content from the English Sikhi Wiki. The original article was at History of Sikhism. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion-wiki, the text of Sikhi Wiki is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.