Guru Gobind Singh

(1666 – 1708)
The tenth and the last human Guru of Sikhism, founder and the first Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Khalsa Army, Guru Gobind Singh was the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs. He was born in Patna, Bihar; and was a poet, philosopher and a warrior. These Gurus or prophets were followers of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. It was the time when North India was under the rule of Aurangazeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur entered into a tour of the important Sikh centers with his family members in order to propagate the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak. As they neared Delhi, they were arrested and imprisoned, but released on a request from the king of Jaipur. They continued their journey. When the group reached Patna, Bihar, Tegh Bahadur’s wife who was pregnant, found it physically difficult to proceed any further. And so Tegh Bahadur went on alone with his travel plan towards Assam leaving her in Patna under the charge of her mother and a brother. The wife delivered a child there. It was this child that grew up to become Guru Gobind Singh.

Gobind had to live in Patna for his first five years, as his father was traveling, and also because of the enmity his father had earned from Aurangazeb, the emperor. The mother looked after little Gobind in all her earnestness. There were predictions even before the birth of the child, according the local lore, that the child would become a divinely chosen one. Therefore the mother taught little Gobind Gurmukhi, the script for the language Punjabi. Little Gobind was fond of playing war games. His ways charmed the neighbors and even the queen wished to have a son like him. The family returned to Punjab when he was six, and they settled down in the town of Anandpur, founded by Tegh Bahadur. Gobind learned Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic and Persian, and proved his brilliance as a student.

Ordained as Guru
Auranagzeb was at his terrific worst and ruthless in converting people to Islam and he did not forget the stiff resistance put up by Tegh Bahadur, the leader of the Sikhs. The emperor sent his soldiers to catch Tegh Bahadur. And he was caught from Agra and asked to convert into Islam. When he refused to oblige, he was beheaded (1675) at Chandni Chowk, Delhi. This was as a lesson to the people who refused to convert. Tegh Bahadur had anticipated his death at the hands of the emperor, and so had ordained Gobind, his son, as the next guru.

Guru Gobind saw that this first task is preparing his followers to face any eventuality like a war or attack. He gave them martial training and equipped them with sufficient weapons. He also got Sanskrit epics of heroic chivalry into Punjabi languages and dialects by employing dozens of poets for the task. Guru himself wrote profusely on warlike themes to instill heroism and valor among his followers. He took special care in preaching equality, love, compassion and the worship of one God. He stood stubbornly against idol worship and all sorts of superstitions. And his influence and power over the Sikhs went up day by day.

Aurangazeb and his enmity
King Bhim Chand of Bilaspur grew jealous of the influence the Guru wields over the Sikhs and so he created several obstacles to the road of the Guru’s march towards more power. This king and the likes of him were stooges of Aurangazeb. It all ended in a war; but victory favored the Guru. After this he marched towards his city of Anandpur and employing his diplomatic best, made peace with the king. The Guru fortified Anandpur around all its tactical points. When the Mughal forces tried to attack the forts, the Sikh army of the Guru took on and defeated the attackers. Aurangazeb would not tolerate this and he ordered to demolish the Guru’s citadel of Anandpur and to excommunicate him from there. But what happened was otherwise. The Sikhs held a great convention. Even the son of Aurangazeb, who became emperor later, made peace with the Guru. Several rounds of attack on the Guru’s seat were mounted by the Mughal chieftains, but all these were repelled by the Sikh forces.

In 1699 he called a meeting of his followers on the day of the annual harvest festival. It was at this historic congregation that he established the Khalsa. He poured clear water into an iron bowl, added the Punjabi sweeteners into it, and stirred it with the double-edged sword while the recitations from the Adi Granth reverberated all over there. For the Guru, as he said, it was amrut, the nectar. The he gave it to five men. These were the first to be baptized into Sikhism, to become the first members of the Sikh brotherhood. Then onwards all the Sikhs consider the Guru as their father, the one who began it all. The Guru told his audience: “From now on you are casteless. No ritual will you perform. You will not believe in any superstition, and you have only one god, the master and protector of all, the only creator and destroyer… No pilgrimage for you any more, nor austerities but the pure life of the household.  Women shall be equal of men in every way. No veil for them any more.. ..”

But Anandpur, his seat and citadel became a butt of anger for the Mughal rulers and they launched continuous attack over it. The Guru lost his sons and his mother in the attacks and they were all in untold helplessness. The Guru left the city with his followers, unable to face the siege of the city imposed by the Mughal army. The guru’s library and his stack of literature were all destroyed by the Mughals.  Aurangazeb sent to him several messages for a compromise, and wanted to meet the Guru personally. But before the meeting for which the Guru traveled to the meeting place, the news reached him that the emperor died. And the Guru returned to Punjab with his followers.

After the death of Aurangazeb, his sons quarreled for the throne. The Guru supported the cause of Mussam Bahadurshah, one of the sons. This was not relished by Wazirkhan, the nabab of Sirhid. He plotted to kill the Guru and sent a soldier to accomplish it. The soldier came in the darkness of the night and stabbed the Guru to death. He breathed his last on October 7, 1708.

Guru Gobind Singh was behind the publishing of the authoritative edition of Guru Grandtha Saheb in 1705. He was a poet of distinction, and his poems are collected in the volume styled Dashama Grandth. Bachita Natak was the autobiography of the Guru done in verse.