As said already, on the morning of Poh, 7, 1761 Bk. December 21, 1704A.D. the Guru crossed the Sirsa stream and proceeded towards Ropar. Theenemy forces did not dare to attempt crossing the stream which was thenin spate. It was no easy task to wade through the cold water of the floodedstream early in the morning of that winter day, when a cold wind wasblowing hard and rain was falling. The enemy forces chafed and bit theirlips in impotent rage near the Sirsa, while the Guru proceeded onwards.
It was only in the afternoon, when the flood in that hill-stream had spentitself, that the enemy forces crossed the stream and began to hunt for theGuru.
As the Guru was moving on, someone brought the news that afew miles off in front lay a large Imperial army which was coming tohelp the allied forces against him. The situation in which the Gurufound himself would have broken the heart of many a General of greatername and fame, and reconciled him to making a surrender to the enemy.
Two equally formidable armies, several hundred times the number ofhis soldiers, were marching against him from front and behind. He hadonly forty Sikhs with him. What was to be done. Surrender was noteven to be thought of. A meeting on the plain would mean a sure andquick defeat. To flee for life without striking a blow would be an actof weakness. Besides, just then it was almost impossible to escape fromthe huge armies which were closing around him from both sides. So,he changed his course and hurried towards Chamkaur, where he reachednear about sunset.
On reaching there, he occupied the mud-built house or haveli ofa Jat. It was located on an eminence and was in the shape of a miniaturefort. 1 The Guru posted eight of his soldiers to gaurd each wall of the1. Some writers hold that, some time back, the Guru had himself built a fortressat Chamkaur. Others, like Sir John Malcolm, have stated that at Chamkaur the Guru’was received in a kind and friendly manner’ by the Raja of that place. Neither ofthese statements is correct. The Guru might have known that at Chamkaur thereextemporized fortress, two at the gate, and two to keep watch and goround giving directions. He himself, with two more Sikhs and his twosons, held the top storey. Ammunition was served out and all wereready to hold and defend the place with their lives. This was on the22nd of December, 1704
At nightfall the Imperial armies came up and surrounded thevillage. Early next day, a section advanced to storm and capture thefortress. They believed that there were only a dozen Sikhs inside. They,therefore, felt certain that in a few hours the Guru would be killed orcaptured. As the haughty soldiers of the Emperor approached nearenough, they were greeted with a valley of bullets and arrows. Manyfell to rise no more. The rest advanced further; another volley laid agood many of them on the ground. This unexpected destruction setthem thinking. They concluded that the number of the Sikhs must befar greater than they had imagined, some hundred at least. So theyretired to take counsel.
Another group of selected soldiers was now ordered to rush onthe fortress. But even it fared no better. The Guru’s gold-tipped arrowspierced through many a haughty breast at a time. The bullets and arrowsshot by the Sikhs never missed their marks. In short, this section wasalso repulsed. Annoyed at these unexpected reverses, some officers thatwere held in great repute or their heroism resolved to take the offensivein person. Nahar Khan and then Ghairat Khan tried to scale the wallbut were shot down by the Guru. Khwaja Mohammad 1 saved himselfwas a mud-house or haveli in the form of a fortress, or might have gone thithersimple because that was the nearest place where he could find some sort of shelterand means of defence. Whatever the case might have been, there appears to be nomanner of doubt that the haveli where he entrenched at Chamkaur was no regularfort, and that he did not get there any friendly treatment or assistence from anyone. There was no ‘Raja’ there; for Chamkaur was not a state.
His defence was formed by the mud walls of haveli, his army was composedof his forty Sikhs, his weapons of offence and defence were those which he andhis men had managed to bring with them in their flight, and his provisions consistedof the little that he could procure in the interval between his arrival and the arrivalof the Imperial armies. It was under such conditions that the siege of Chamkaurbegan. Let the reader pause and think if he can find, in the history of the world,any instance where such unbending resolve, such undaunted courage, and suchheroic and persistent endurance were exhibited under circumstances as dark andgloomy as faced by the Guru and his forty Sikhs. The Spartan heroes of the Dassof Thermo pylae would gladly yield the place of honour to the heroes of Chamkaur.
1 Or Khwaja Mardud (Dishonoured Chief), as Guru Gobind Singh calls him inhis letter called Zafamama addressed to Aurangzeb.
by hiding himself behind a wall. Others who advanced were killed orwounded.
The bullets and arrows of the besiegers had little effect on theSikhs, who were entrenched behind the mud walls. But the Guru andhis Sikhs singled out the most daring of the advancing army anddespatched them to the other world. No shot of arrow was ever directedagainst those who were resting, waiting, or watching at a distance; forthe Guru would not kill any human being except when attacked andin self-defence.
At last, the Imperial armies decided to concentrate their effortson forcing the gate. As they rushed forth in that direction, some Sikhscame out to contend with them and to arrest their progress. They foughtvery valiantly, killed many, and were, at last, overpowered and slain.
Another batch came out and engaged the attackers. In this way, thegate was defended for a pretty long time. The arrows and bullets ofthe Gum and his Sikhs were falling thick and quick. The enemy hadagain to retire in dismay and despair.
There was now a slight pause. The Sikhs took conusel and decidedto urge the Guru to effect his escape, ‘If he goes out safe, he canproduce many like us, but thousands of us cannot make one like him’.
When they went to him with this object, they found that Prince AjitSingh was standing with folded hands before the Guru, and beseechinghim for permission to go out and check the advance of the enemy inthe next attack. ‘Dear father’, said he, ‘thou hast named me Ajit orUnconquerable. So, I shall not conquered, but, if overpowered, shalldie fighting like my brother Sikhs. Refuse me not in this, dear father,for my soul is yearning to kick this body in defence of thee and thynoble cause, and to join my brothers that have gone before me.’
The Guru knew what the end of his son would be. But were notthey his sons, in flesh and spirit, who had already fallen in the field ?So, he embraced and kissed Ajit Singh for the last time, and bade himgo unto certain death. The Sikhs now fell on their knees before himand entreated him to save himself and his two sons. ‘If you live, Master,you will raise a fresh army of the Khalsa and uproot this tyrannousrule of the treacherous Turks. Your sons, with your grace, will carryon the struggle for liberty after you decide, in due time, to return towhence you came. So, effect your escape, somehow.’ But the Guruwould not listen to the advice. ‘You are all my sons,’ said he, ‘haveno fears about me. The Eternal Lord is my Protector. There is no timefor discussion now. See yonder ! The Turks are preparing for a freshattack on the gate. We must resist them as long as we can. So, quickto your posts.
Prince Ajit Singh, who was then hardly eighteen, bade farewellto his father, brother, and the Sikhs, and went out. Five Sikhs accompanied him. Their unfailing arrows killed a large number of the attackers.
Ajit Singh fought like a hero. Soon, his quiver was empty. By now theenemy had come every near. Ajit Singh took his lance and sprang uponthe enemies as an eagle falls on doves and sparrows. He and hiscompanions were wounded. But all of them fought with unrelaxedvigour and boldness. Suddenly, Ajit Singh thrust his lance into the heartof a Muhammadan soldier, who was wearing steel armour. The lancegot stuck and, when he tried to pull it out, it broke in twain. He nowdrew his sword and fell upon the enemy. But how long could six ofthem withstand hundreds and thousands ? They fell, one by one, andjoined the galaxy of the Master’s davotees in His Celestial DarbarThe Guru had been watching his son from the top storey, admiring andrejoicing at his son’s marvellous daring and bravery. He had seen himget wounded and exhausted from exertion and loss of blood. No regretor sorrow entered his heart. On the other hand, when he saw him fall,he thanked God that his son had proved worthy of His cause.
Jujhar Singh, the Guru’s second son, now stood before him withfolded hands and made the same entreaty as his brother had done.
‘Dear Father’, said he, ‘permit me to go where my brother has gone.
Don’t say that I am yet too young. I am thy son, father, and have drunkthe Immortalizing Nectar. I shall prove a worthy son and true Sikh. Sobid me go, father. I shall not dishonour thy blood, thy name, or thycause. I shall die fighting with my face towards the enemy and withGod and Guru on my lips and in my heart.’ The Guru took him in hislap, kissed and patted him, and gave him a sword and shield. On hishead he placed a small crest such as bridegrooms wear. ‘Go, my son,and wed life-giving death. We were here for a while and shall returnto our Eternal Home Go, and wait for me there.’
This lad of fourteen, thus armed, went out with five Sikhs. Nonefeared death or thought of personal sefety. All their efforts and energieswere directed towards checking the advance of the enemy, holding thefortress as long as it was humanly possible, and winning their Master’spleasure. They had resolved to die fighting, but before falling, to killthe maximum number of the foes that they could. Jujhar Singh foughtas valiantly as his brother had done. Many fell before the sword ofthis child-warrior. But the odds were too heavy against him. He wasover-powered. He died fighting to the last.
The Guru was watching all this. Imagine the thoughts that wouldpass through a father’s mind at such a time. But Guru Gobind Singhas a father proved as unique and wonderful as he had proved as a son.
At the age of less then ten he had sent his father to quench the fire ofMuslim bigotry with his blood; and now he had sent ‘unto the valleyof death’ his two eldest sons. When he saw them fall, no sorrow crossedhis heart, no pang clouded his brows. Nay, on their fall he rejoicedthat they had proved worthy of his love. A strange sort of love, forsooth! Yet, he had a human heart, a tender, loving heart. No doubt, he boreeverything as became his position. Yet, as the saying goes, even theplants shed a ‘tear’ when a leaf is plucked off their branch. He gladlysacrificed his sons and his all for his lofty principles and ideals, anddid it with a heroic firmness. Yet, as a loving father, he could not buthave felt the void thus created in the deep recesses of his mighty heart.
It was evening by now. The Sikhs again pressed the Guru to makegood his escape. They felt that this unequal conflict could not becontinued for long. But the Guru drew their attention to a section ofthe Imperial army which was rushing forward to storm the fortress.
“There is no time to lose. We must be up and doing. Bring me the bigquivers of the specially sharp arrows which have been preserved sofar. Shoot in the direction in which my arrows fly. Let those at thegate shoot through the holes. God will do the rest.’
Arrows fell like rain. The enemies had seen the princes fightingand dying before the gate. They had concluded that the Guru must beall alone by then. It would be an easy matter to overpower him. Butthe arrows from that Master Archer and his disciples came so thickand quick, and had such fatal effect, that the Muhammadan officersfelt convinced that the Guru had at least a hundred men with him. So,they retired once more and took counsel. It was felt that more fightingwould do more harm to them, who were exposed to the Guru’s arrows,than to the Guru, who lay entrenched on an eminence. So the bestcourse, they thought, was to lay siege and await the results. In two orthree days, they argued the Guru would be starved to submission.
Accordingly, a large force was stationed to watch the gate from a safedistance, and the rest of the army was posted, here and there, all roundthe village.
At nightfall the Imperial army lay down to take rest. By then,besides the Guru’s two sons, three out of his five Piaras, namely, BhaiMuhkam Singh, Bhai Sahib Singh, and Bhai Himmat Singh, and aboutthirty other Sikhs had fallen as martyrs. He had only five Sikhs leftwith him. They took counsel together and said to the Guru, ‘Lord, wehave thought long and deep, with God as our guide and witness, andhave come to the conclusion that we should entreat you, with all ourforce, to effect your escape. We say this in all humility, in all sincerity,but with as much force as lies at our command. If you love us as yoursons, if you have any regard for our opinion, if you have any compassionfor our sentiments, do not disappoint us. Go Master, you will createmany like us; the Khalsa will grow and destroy the accursed rule ofthe faithless, Godless oppressors. This is our Gurmala. We make thisentreaty in the name of the Great Cause for which you came downamong us mortals, which you hold dearer than life and all other dearthings, and for which you have already made huge sacrifices. Let thisbe another sacrifice, to yield to the entreaties of your slaves even againstyour intentions and resolve.’
The Guru had not the heart to refuse this appeal so lovingly made.
At the time of creating the Khalsa, he had declared that the Khalsawas the Guru. The Gurmata of the Sikhs was, to him, the order of theGuru Khalsa. He could not but dbey. Moreover, there was some weightin their arguments. He was not in despair. He might still be able torally his men and hurl them against the Muslim tyranny. It was notsave his life for its own sake, but to preserve it for the service of hisrighteous cause, that the Guru agreed to make good his escape. So, heput off his plume, placed it before the five Sikhs, went round themthrice, and bowed before them. “The Khalsa Panth’, said the Guru, ‘hasstood well the ordeals and deserves to be crowned. From today theKhalsa is the Guru and the Guru is the Khalsa. Whenever five of youassemble with God in the hearts, there will God and the Guru be withyou. The Word is the Guru, and under its guidance, the Khalsa Panthis the Guru.’
The Guru-Khalsa further decided that three Sikhs, Bhai DayaSingh, Dharm Singh, and Man Singh, should accompany the Guru, andthe rest should hold the fortress as long as there was life in them. Allthis happened on Poh 8, 1761 Bk/Dec. 22, 1704 A.D.
When all was ready, the Guru and his three companions went outthrough a secret exit at the back. The night was pitch dark. Here andthere, watchman with torches were standing, half asleep. At somedistance from the enemy, the Guru and his Sikhs clapped their handsand said aloud and in one voice, ‘The Guru of the Sikhs is going, theGuru is going.’ Two torch-bearers rushed in their direction, but twoarrows from the Guru’s bow extinguished their torches and drove theirunclean spirits from their bodies. A great confusion ensued. Somethought that a fresh Khalsa army had arrived to help the Guru. TheMuhammadan soldiers got up hurriedly from their sleep, took whateverweapons came to their hands, and rushed out towards the supposedreinforcements come against them. Many fell by mutual slaughter.
When the Guru and his three companious came out of the haveli,at the dead of night, the sky was, here and there, covered with thickclouds, the night was pitch dark, and there were frequent flashes oflightning. He pointed to a star, which was visible and specially bright,and said, ‘We shall proceed in the direction of that star.’ At this timehis foot struck against a dead body. Bhai Daya Singh said, ‘True Lord,here lie the dead bodies of the martyrs. We have to walk with care.’
Just then, there was a flash of lightning. Bhai Daya Singh said,’Guru ji, here is the body of Sahibzada Baba Ajit Singh’ The Guru hada look at the body, blessed his martyred son, and went on. His companionthen said, “Here lies Baba Jujhar Singh.’ The Guru looked in thatderection, blessed his martyred son, thanked God, and proceeded on.
Bhai Daya Singh then said, ‘Sire, I have a sheet over me. I wish totear it into two pieces, and cover with them the bodies of these twomartyrs. Kindly permit me to do so.’
The Guru said, ‘The idea is good and noble. You have my
permission, but on one condition. You should first cover the bodies ofmy martyred Sikhs, who are my sons in spirit and are dearer to me;and then cover the bodies of these two martyrs, my sons in flesh.’ Healso said, ‘The martyrs of Chamkaur have attained salvation, they havebecome muktas, the saved ones, and have been delivered from theround of births and deaths.’
Two Sikhs, Bhai Sant Singh and Bhai Sangat Singh, were nowleft in the fortress. After mutual consultation, the Guru’s plume wasput on the head of Bhai Sant Singh, whose face greatly resembled theMaster’s. A quiver of gold-tipped arrows had been given to him by theGuru. The two stationed themselves in the top storey. When they heardthe uproar outside, they beat the drum and let fly a few arrows. Thusthey added to the imperial army’s confusion.
When it was day, a section of the besieging army advanced onthe fortress. The arrows of the Sikhs killed many. But two could nothold on for long against thousands. Their store of arrows was soonexhausted. They waited for the enemy on the walls, ready to pierceanyone who might attempt to scale them. For a time, they kept up theunequal fight of two against thousands. But many ladders had been putup and the enemy poured in at many points. The two Sikhs died fightingto the last.
Bhai Sant Singh, with the plume and the gold-tipped arrows, wastaken for the Guru. The officers of the Imperial army were glad thatthey had killed the Guru at last. His head was cut off for being sentto Delhi to regale the eyes of the Emperor. It was after several hoursthat they discovered that the Guru had made good his escape. Greatwas their disappointment at the discovery.
The armies dispersed. The Hill-Chiefs and the Viceroys, tired andwounded, returned to their capitals. But the Viceroy of Sirhind soondespatched small bands of soldiers in all directions with orders to pursueand capture the Guru. All people were warned of the dire consequencesof housing or helping the ‘royal rebel’.