Bahadur Shah and The Guru— II : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

We have seen what little substance there is in the fantastic assertionof some writers that during the last years of his life the Guru sufferedfrom some mental derangement. Now we come to the other statementthat the Guru went to the Deccan in the capacity of a servant of BahadurShah. This statement -is even more injurious to the memory of the Guruthan the one whose hollowness has been exposed in the last chapter.

Before examining it critically, we shall attempt to trace it back to itsorigin and see what credence it deserves on the score of that origin.

(A) Cunningham, who wrote his book in 1848, has cited the

following authorities for his statement that the Guru ‘received a militarycommand in the valley of the Godawari’ : —

(i) ‘Sikh writers,’ who, he says, ‘are unanimous in giving to theirgreat teacher a military command in the Deecan’ ; and

(ii) Non-Sikh writer : — Forster and Khafi Khan.

(B) S.M. Latif, another enthusiastic advocate of the service theory,writes, “The fact of his (Guru Govind Singh’s) having taken employmentunder the Moghal Government is fully confirmed by various writers.

Vide Sir J.Malcolm’s Sketches of the Sikhs ; Forster’s Travels. Thelatter author states that Guru Gobind Singh had a small command inthe Moghal service, which is confirmed by Khafi Khan .'” So hisauthorties for this assertion are Sir John Malcolm, Forster, and KhafiKhan.

1. Foot-note to page 268. His book was written in 1889. Speaking of the executionof Guru Tegh Bahadur and its effect on the mind of Gum Gobind Singh, Latifwrites : — ‘The violent and miserable end of the martyred Guru, and his lastinjunctions, had made such a strong impression on the mind of (Guru) Gobind(Singh) that he longed to wreak vengeance on the murderers of his father and thepersecutors of his race, and became the inveterate and irreconcilable enemy of everyMohammadan.’ Page 261.

It has been seen that the Guru had no enmity with Muhammadans as such. Still,it would be interesting to know how Latif would reconcile the ‘inveterate andWhat are the ‘Sikh writers’ referred to by Cunningham ? A perusalof the references cited by him, here and there, leads one to the conclusionthat he had little or no acquaintance with the original works of anySikh writer. Wherever he refers to the Sikh accounts of the Guru’s life,he quotes non-Sikh writers like the authors of the Dabistan and theSiyar ul Mutakhirn, and Sir John Malcolm. In one place, followingMalcolm and repeating his mistake to some extent, he mentions BhaiGurdas Bhalla. In another place, he refers to the Gurbilas of BhaiSukha Singh as corroborating the account to some wars described inthe Bachittar Natak. But both references are cursory, Besides, SukhaSingh does not say that the Guru took service with Bahadur shah, andBhai Gurdas Bhaila, the second, has to his credit only one ode on GuruGobind Singh. He, too, does not say that the Guru took service withBahadur Shah. No Sikh writer do so.

That is why S.M. Latif complains that ‘the Sikh authors are alwayscautious in concealing the weak points of their religious leaders ingiving prominence to anything which redounds to their glory.’ Thus,he adds, ‘they freely acknowledge that (Guru) Gobind (Singh) renderedmaterial aid to Bahadur Shah in the war which that emperor wagedagainst his rebel brother Kam Baksh, and even own that the Guru tookthe field of action. But they carefully conceal the fact of the Guru’saccepting employment under the emperor.

Dr Trumpp whom in words of Macauliffe, never failed to

avail himself of ‘an opportunity of defaming the Gurus, the sacredbook, and the religion of the Sikhs,’ writing in 1877, said thatthe Sikhs were ‘loath to concede this appointment of (Guru)

Gobind Singh.’

irreconcilable’ enmity of the Guru against ‘every Mohammandan’ with his acceptingservice with ‘the murderers of his father and the persecutors of his race.’

Latif seems to have read neither Sir John Malcolm, Forster, Khafi Khan, norany other of the ‘various writers’ who ‘confirm’ his statement. In his preface hedoes not mention either Forster or Khafi Khan among the authors to whose workhe was ‘obliged for the portion relating to the Sikhs’, or, in fact, for any portionof his history. He has based his note on a foot-note of Elphinstone’s History ofIndia. That foot-note, however, he has either, misconstrue, or perhaps, in his zealto throw mud at the Guru, misconstrued. Elphinstonc refers to Sir John Malcolmand ‘Forster’s Travels page 263’ in support of his statement that Guru Gobind Singhwas ‘murdered by a private enemy at Nander, in the Dekhan’. Then he adds thewords about ‘the Moghal service’ (The latter writer. Khafi Khan’), which havebeen copied verbatim by Latif without acknowledgement, as is usual with him. SeeElphinstone’s History of India, 9th. Edition, page 664, f.n. 7.’

So, even on the testimony of these two, by no means friendlywriters, it is clear that Sikh writers do not support the theory that theGuru accepted employment under Bahadur Shah. Moreover, Macauliffe,who based his narrative on a discriminate study of the Sikh writers,says that the Guru assisted Bahadur Shah on the mediation of BhaiNand Lai and accompanied him to the Deccan of his own free will,having been invited to do so by the Emperor. 1

Thus, we see that there is no truth in Cunnigham’s statement that’the Sikh writers are unanimous in giving to their great teacher amilitary cammand in Deccan.’ In all probability, in his statement aboutthe Sikh writers, Cunningham has relied entirely on Forster, who makesa similar assertion about the Guru on the alleged authority of ‘theSikhs.’ To that we shall come later.

Having thus disposed of the alleged corroboration of the servicetheory by the Sikh writers, we may now turn to the others. Cunningham’sauthorities are Forster and Khafi Khan, and Latif’s, Malcolm, Forsterand Khaii Khan.

Of the three writers cited by Latif, Sir John Malcolm is definitelyof the opposite opinion. He cannot even ‘think’ that the Guru couldhave ‘sunk into a servant of that Government against which he hadbeen in constant rebellion.’ Here is the whole passage : ‘When weconsider the enthusisastic ardour of his mind, his active habits, hisvalour, and the insatiable thirst of revenge which he had cherishedthrough life against the murderers of his father and the oppressorsof his sect, we cannot think, when that leading passion of his mindmust have been increased by the massacre of his children and thedeath and mutilation of his most attached followers that he wouldhave remained inactive, much less that he would have sunk into aservant of that Govenment against which he had been in constantrebellion. Nor is it likely that such a leader as Guru Gobind (Singh)could ever have been trusted by a Muhammadan prince.’ 2

As for Khafi Khan, the contemporary historianm we must remember that he cannot, at all, be relied upon as a trustworthy historian fortwo reasons : First, he had not the independence which a historian mustpossess, if he is to write true history. He was writing under the eyesof his monarchs and could not examine their actions critically, or even1. See his Sikh Religion, Vol.V, page 232. J.N. Sarkar also writes, ‘In 1707, thenew emperor, Bahadur Shah I, induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompanyhim on the march to Rajputana and the Deccan.’

2. op cil, pp.7 1-72.

describe them faithfully . Secondly, his very mental outfit unfits him as ahistorian in matters relating to the ‘infidels,’ against whom he vents hisscorn and hatred at every occasion. To him the Emperor was the ‘Keeperof the Faith’, and opposition offered to him was offered to Islam, to God,and to his deputy on earth. Such minds cannot record history as they lackthe necessary outfit. He does not possess even the ordinary human courestyand decency which make a man refer to his opponents in inoffensivelanguage. With men of his type, abuse and vilification are an argument.

When we find Khafi Khan referring to Guru Gobind Singh by extremlyundignified and unbecoming apellations,2 we can at once form an idea ofthe scant justice which the Guru could have had at his hands.

But what shall we say of Latif’s integrity when even such a

bigoted and biased writer as Khafi khan does not at all mention thealleged fact of the Guru’s having accepted employment under theMughal Emperor. All that he writes can be translated as under:’During the days when Bahadur Shah directed his attention towardsHiaderabad or when he started towards that place, one of the leadersof that infamous community, Govind by name, came unto the presenceof the emperor, accompanied by two or three hundred sowars carryingspears and some infantry and proceeded in the company of the emperor.

1 . Forster has a very instructive passage about these writers of Eastern record. In thefoot-note to page 253 he writes : ‘Neither the genius of the people, nor the form oftheir government is favourable to the growth of history, which is rarely seen to flourishon despotic ground. The actions of the Asiatic princes are usually recorded by theirown scribes; and we know that a large portion of the annals of India was manufacturedunder imperial inspection. It is, therefore, scarcely within the verge of probability, thata writer attracted by so powerful an influence, would dare to have thrown the piercinglight of history on the reigning monarch, or even to have examined with freedom theactions of his ancestors, who have, for more than two hundred years, maintained anunbroken succession of the Empire of Hindustan.’

2. Vide page. 652.

3. Khafi Khan’s Muntakhab-uI-Lubab has suffered many mutilations in the course oftime. The most authentic text of this work is the one published by the Asiatic Societyof Bengal in 1874. This text is also taken to be authentic by Sir Charles Elliot, thewriter of the ‘History of India as told by its Own Historians.’ According to this textKhafi Khan’s actual words, a translation of which has been given above, are :’Dar ayyame kih Bahadur Shah badshah mutwajjah Haiderabad gardidant Govingnam az sargrohan-i-an-quam-i-bad-nam bahazur rasidah, ba do sad sih sad sawarneza-bardar-o-piyadah dar rakab-rafaqat namnd. ‘

J.N. Sarkar, who has carried out extensive researches about he History of the Mughals,has also placed reliance on the above text; for he writes :- ‘In 1707, the new emperorBahadur Shah I, induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompany him on the march toRajputana and the Deccan. The Guru reached Nander on the Godavari, 1 50 miles north-westof Haiderabad, in Auguest 1707 at the head of some infantry and two or three hundredcavalry, and there, after a stay of more than a year, he was stabbed by an Afghan.’

The Guru is thus described by Khafi Khan as a ‘companion,’ nota servant of Bahadur Shah. It has to be noted that the Persian words’rafaqat’ is the abstract noun from raftq or companion, and means’companionship’ or ‘company.’ It does not connote any difference ofstatus between the persons concerned. The service theory seems to haveoriginated from an intentional or accidental mistranslation or mutilationof Khafi Khan’s passage. So Khafi Khan also does not corroborateLatif.

Forster, who, according to his own admission, had no ‘substantialauthority’ from which he could deduce the history of the Sikhs, writingin 1783, does state on the authority of ‘the Sicques’ 1 whom, significantlyenough, he does not name, that Guru Gobind Singh ‘received marksof favour from Bahadur Shah, who, being apprised of his militaryabilities, gave him a charge in the army which marched into the Deccanto oppose the rebellion of KamBucksh.’ For his account of the Sikhshe states to have relied on ‘some large historical tracts,’ whose authorshe has not named. He is the first writer to give currency to the servicetheory, but, curiously enough, he has not stated his authority for hisstrange assertion. Perhaps, he had no authority worth the name, andrelied on the statesments of some of the mutilators of Khafi Khan oron those of some vilifiers of the Guru. Any how, in the absence ofsuch information, it cannot be maintained that he based his narrativeon authetic recorded as unquestionable. In fact, a perusal of his accountof the Sikhs leads one to the conclusion that either his authorties wereunrelibale, or he himself did not study them with the care that shoulddistinguish a writer who would claim credence as an authority 2All that has been said above will, we hope, convince the readerthat the story of the Guru’s employment under Bahadur Shah is nothingbut a myth, ‘manufactured,’ as Forster would say, by some detractosof the Guru, and accepted by Forster as the gospel truth. His colossalignorance of the Guru’s views and acts precluded him from a criticalexamination of a statement which was utterly inconsistent with theGuru’s ideal, views and acts. Forster’s statement is incredible also from1 . We have already seen thai Sikhs do not at all ‘concede’ that the Guru accepted’service’ in Bahadur Shah’s army. How could they have told Forster what he writeson their authority ?

2. Forster himself, it may be noted, is conscious of this shortcoming; for. on page253 of his Travels, he admits that he has no ‘substantial authority’ from whom hecould deduce the history of the Sikhs from the time of Guru Nanak, ‘their firstinstitutor and law-giver’, to the attainment of their present state of national importance.’ He deplores ‘the irresistible tendency of the Asiatic mind to fiction whichmakes the ‘Eastern record’ unreliable as history, and pleads for ‘an indulgent scope.’

(See Appendix II for some of his astounding errors.)

another point of view. Bahadur Shah could not have been so ignorantof the ‘military abilities’ of the Guru, about whom Aurangzeb, hisfather, had always ‘felt anxious,’ against whom he had to order out thearmies of Delhi, Sarhind and Lahore, and whom he had to ‘summonto his presence,’ as Forster would have us believe. The well knownmilitary abilities of the Guru, who had spent all his life in creating andorganizing a sturdy race of warriors to oppose and destroy the tyrannicalrule of the Mughals, would have been a disqualification for any serviceunder Mughals, even if it had been sought for by that irreconcilablefoe of the unjust rule.

It is thus seen that out of that authorities quoted by Cunninghamand Latif, the Sikh writers, without a single exception, no where saythat the Guru took service with Bahadur Shah ; Malcolm is stronglyopposed to the service-theory; Khafi Khan makes no mention of suchservice; only Forster, relying on mere hearsay, and having, accordingto his own admission, no substantial authority for him account of theSikhs, makes the astounding statement that the Guru accepted service.

His statement cannot be accepted as true. In fact, he makes manyridiculous errors in his account of the Sikhs, errors which totally discredithim as an authority on Sikh history. In short, the service theory is aconcoction of some of the Guru’s detractors. There is no historicalevidence in its favour.

After having thus exposed the absurdity and untruth of the

allegation started by Forster that the Guru accepted service in theexpeditionary force led by Bahadur Shah, we shall produce incontrovertible contemporary evidence to refute that allegation. Tarikhi-Bahadur Shahi says as follows : “At the time the army was marchingsouthwards towards Burhanpur, Guru Gobind (Singh), one of thedescendants of (Guru) Nanak, had come into these districts to travej,and accompanied the royal camp. He was in the habit of constantlyaddressing assemblies of worldly persons, religious fanatics, and allsorts of people.”

It the clear from the above that the Guru had gone to those partsto travel, of his own free will. He was not taken there by the Emperoras military commander. Moreover, no man in government service, muchless a military commander proceeding on an important expedition, couldhave been allowed to indulge in such activities.

Again, J.S. Sarkar, who wrote his valuable historical works afteran extensive study and reserach, says, “In 1707, the new emperor,Bahadur Shah I, induced him (Guru Gobind Singh) to accompany himon the march to Rajputana and the Deccan.”

To sum up, we may say that the Guru proceeded southwards of hisown free will and choice. He joined the company of Bahadur Shah on thelatter’s invitation and did join as a companion and not as a servant.

The authors of the sevice theory have exhibited deplorable lack of aproper grasp of the subject in having ascribed to the Guru motives which arealtogether incompatible with his known views and acts. When we rememberthat he still had in the Punjab, devoted disciples like Dall Singh, Ram Singh,Tilok Singh, Shamira, and hosts of others, who had importuned him, againand again, to stay on with them as their Lord, and that, if he had so wished,he could have passed the rest of his life in the Punjab in perfect peace andsafety, we fail to find what relish the Guru could find in holding a commandin the Muhammadan army. A jagir and principality, which he was offeredbut which he declined, would have been far more tempting and more lastingacquisitions. He had, all through his career, defended the weak against thestrong and had sacrificed his all for the sake of his ideals. He was convincedthat the Muhammadan rule had become a curse for the country. He wasexerting everly nerve to rid the people and the Country of this curse. Howcould he have agreed to become a servant in the same rule ?

We should also remember that fighting for its own sake did not possessany attraction for him. By nature, he was far more inclined towards a lifeof peace and peaceful activity. All his wars were forced on him by thosewho opposed his campaign for the establishment of an era of justice andequality in social, political, and economic spheres.

Bahadur Shah was no doubt favourably disposed towards the

Guru, but still he was a son of his father and a follower of the Prophet.

He could not have altogether reversed the policy of his father whichhad also been the general policy of his past Muhammadan kings. Havingno personal enmity with any man such, the Guru found nothing lowor wrong in meeting and trying to persuade the Emperor to assumemilder ways. But his becoming a pan of the very system which he wasout to destroy, root and branch, is altogether incredible. The memoryof the wrong that had been heaped on him, as well as that of the terriblewoes of the people at large, were too fresh in him to have reconciledhim to joining the army of oppression. Nor, as Dr. G.C. Narangwrites, ‘Can the service theory be reconciled with the Guru’s commisionof Banda Bahadur to the leadership of the Punjab Khalsa and his doingsthere.’ Moreover, the Guru’s ideals and political views were so wellknown, his ability as a general, leader, and teacher of men, had beenso amply demonstrated, that no Muhammadan prince could have trustedhim with a position in his army.