Soon, the effects of the siege began to be felt inside the fort. Thedisciples began to starve and, with them, starved the Master, hisfour sons, his wife, mother of the Khalsa, and his own aged mother.
The Parshadi elephant, which Bhim Chand had coveted, the bluesteed, and may other noble and precious animals, died lingeringdeaths for want of food. Sometimes, the Sikhs would make nightsorties and take supplies from the enemies’ camp, but such suppliescould not last long. Anandpur presented a deserted appearance; formost of the inhabitants had left. Provisions became excessively scarceand dear. The disciples bore hunger and hardships for a long time.
At last they besought the Guru to save himself, his four little ones,their mothers, and grand-mother. But the Guru was adamant. Overcome by hunger and fatigue, some of the Sikhs threatened to deserthim, if he would not listen to their ‘counsel of discretion’.
The besiegers heard of the discontent in the Guru’s ranks. Theydecided to take timely advantage of it and thus end the war. At thesuggestion of the Rajas, who, as we have already seen, were well-versedin such treacherous tricks, two envoys — a Brahmin and a Sayyid — weresent to the Guru, charged with the message that if he evacated Anandpur,they would not molest him in any way. He might even return to thecity after some time. They swore on the cow and the Quran that thepromises were made in genuine sincerity and would be kept in truefaith. But the Guru knew the thoughts that had dictated this plan. Hetold the envoys that their masters were too vile to be trusted. Theiroaths were meaningless; for they had no character and no conscience.
The oaths of the hillmen have been tested and proved false and unreliablealready. The servants of Aurangzeb, who had practised deceit and crueltyagainst his father and brothers, cannot be trusted to keep their word ofoaths. I cannot be taken in by these tricks.”
A number of Sikhs, whom hunger and hardship had made desperate,went to the Guru’s mother and begged her to induce him to accept theoffer. She pressed him with all the force at her command to accept theenemies’ offer made on such solemn oaths, and to save himself, hisfamily, and his Sikhs. But he told her that no reliance could be placedon the words and oaths of the idolatrous hill-men and the evil-mindedTurks. He, however, could not convince his mother or his Sikhs. Theyrenewed their requests and protests. At last, the Guru agreed todemonstrate to them the correctness of his opinion about the hill-peopleand the Turks.
Accordingly, he told the envoys that he would evacuate, if theallied armies would first allow the removal of his property. They agreedand re-assured the Guru of their sincerity. When the envoys had gone,old shoes, torn clothes, bones, horse-dung, sweepings of the streets,and such rubbish, were collected and filled in sacks.This was to be theGuru’s ‘property’ intended for removal. The sacks, all covered withbrocade, were placed on the backs of bullocks which were led out ofthe fort at the dead of night. Torches were attached to their horns sothat their departure might be easily observed. As the animals approached,the allied armies fell on them to plunder the supposed property. 1 Theirthoughts and feellings on discovering what they had obtained for theirtreachery can well be imagined.
‘At last, came an autograph letter from Aurangzeb — “I have swornon the Quran not to harm thee. If I do, may I not find a place in God’scourt hereafter ! Cease warfare and come to me. If thou desire not tocome hither, then go whithersoever thou pleasest.” To the above theEmperor’s envoys added, “O Guru, all who go to the Emperor’s courtpraise thee. On the account the Emperor feeleth certain that an interviewwith thee will add to his happiness. He hath sworn by Mohammad andcalled God to witness that he will not harm thee. The hill Rajas havealso sworn by the cow and called their idols to witness that they willallow thee safe conduct. Bear not in mind any thing that had occurred.
The attack on thine oxen was not prompted by any Raja. The attackershave been generally punished and the ring leaders are in prison. Noone now, O True Guru, dareth so thee harm. Wherefore evacuate thefort, at any rate for the present, and come with me to the Emperor.
Thou mayest afterwards do what thou pleasest.” 2
To the Qazi who had brought Aurangzeb’s letter the Guru said,”Friend, no reliance whatsoever can be placed on the oaths and pledgesof the hillmen and the Turks. They took oaths in the past and brokethem without the least compunction. As for your Emperor, his past1. The Guru refers to this plunder in his Zafarnama.
2, -Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion Vol., p.179.
doings inspire no confidence. To place reliance on his oaths would bea silly blunder. We have faith and confidence in the Almighty Father.
All will happen as it pleases Him. We shall accept His will as beingfor our ultimate good.”
The Guru was determined to bear everything with unswervingfortitude. A good many Sikhs were also firm in their resolve to bearevery sort of hardship and remain with the Guru to the last. But thestate of things had actually become desperate and almost beyond humanendurance. Hunger and hardships of the war and the siege had exasperated many Sikhs. They urged the Guru to accept the Emperor’soffer. He again told them that the oaths of those people were not worthyof reliance. But the Sikhs were in despair. They insisted on the GuruV;acceptance of Aurangzeb’s offer. On the Guru’s refusal, they soughihis permission to go. The Guru said to them, ‘My sons’ don’t loseheart. Those who go out will be killed by the crafty enemy. Stay herefor but a month more, and all your woes an hardships will venish forever. 1
But the famished Sikhs who had suffered so terrible hardships fora long time refused to wait so long. The Guru then said, ‘Well, waitfor five days more and God will send us succour.’ The Sikhs shooktheir heads. Thereupon, the Guru said, ‘All right, I would not beresponsible for the fate of those who leave against my wishes. Therefore,such of you as wish to go away should write down that they disown,me as their Guru.’
The Sikhs, though anxious to escape, were not at all prepared tosave their lives at such a heavy cost. They were filled with dismay andagony. The allied armies now directed their envoys to use their smoothtongues in persuading the Guru’s mother. They urged her to save herselfand her two grandsons. If she departed, the Guru was sure to follow.
All the former oaths were repeated and confirmed. She began to persuadethe Guru to accept the offer of safe conduct solemnly held out andrepeated by the enemies. But the Guru shook his head and besoughthis mother, to have patience. In a few days, he said everything wouldbe all right. She, however, saw no earthly chance of the advent ofbetter days in the fort. So she wanted to depart with her two youngestgrandsons. When the Sikhs heard this, their resolve began to fail. Thecity had long since been vacated by most of the non-combatants. Inthe fort food had long been scarce, but, of late, the water-supply had1. The Guru had received information that Sikhs of Majha and Malwa were gettingready to march towards Anandpur in order to participate in the religious war. Withtheir arrival, the conditions were bound to change for the better.
also been cut off. Their sufferings had almost reached the limit ofhuman endurance. It was true that the Guru held out to them promisesof a bright future, but the physical pangs which they had suffered forperiod, and which had been increasing day by day, overcame theirresolve and courage. A large number wrote the disclaimer of disowningdocument and went away. The Guru was left with only a few hundredsoldiers.
It is not possible to say what the exact number of those was whochose to serve him with their lives. In some places it is stated that, atAnandpur, the Guru was deserted by all but forty Sikhs. That cannotbe the truth; for, as we shall see, when the Guru was later attackednear the Sirsa, the Sikhs stoutly opposed the advance of the Imperialarmy until the Guru, his family, and the luggage had been carried acrossthe stream. According to the Guru’s own testimony in the Zqfamama,forty was the number of those Sikhs who were with him at Chamkaur.
It is altogether incredible that forty Sikhs could have so successfullyobstructed the enemy’s advance for so long, and still have escapedunhurt and alive, all of them. Their number must have been muchlarger, at least, five hundred.
On the other hand, some say that the number of the deserters wasonly forty and all of them belonged to the Majha. This, too, cannot beright; for, at the outset, the Guru’s army is stated to have been fivethousand strong. Some, of course, must have been killed, but even aftermaking a fair allowance for the diminution thus caused in the strengthof the Guru’s army, it is altogether incredible that the desertion of sucha small number as forty could have so seriously affected the strengthof that army as it actually did. Evidently, the number of the desertersmust have been greater than that of the Sikhs who remained with theGuru. We have seen that the number of the latter was far larger thanforty.
To say that all the deserters belonged to the Majha is, at best, ascorrect as the statement that their total number was forty. As statedabove, after the deserters had gone, the Guru was left with but a fewhundred soldiers. This means that, out of the original five thousand,the rest had either perished or deserted. The number of martyrs atAnandpur could not have been much over two thousand. A number ofthem must have been from the Majha. So the number of the desertersmust have been about three thousand. To say that out of an army offive thousand three-four thousand belonged to the Majha and only afew hundred to the rest of the country, is not very complimentary tothe brave people of the Malwa. The truth seems to be that, when oncea few Sikhs decided to renounce the Guru and wrote the disclaimer,others followed suit indiscriminately. In short, the deserters belongedto no particular tract as the Majha or the Malwa, nor was their numberso small as forty
Some time after the deserters’ departure, the Guru’s mother, too,became in favour of going away. She expressed her wish to leave alongwith her daughters-in-laws and grandsons. The Sikhs in the fort alsoexpressed themselves in favour of evacuating the fort. In view of thecompelling circumstances, the Guru decided to go. Placing Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh Udasi in charge of the Gurdwaras in the city, he madepreparations for departure. Such of the articles as he could not takeaway but as he did not wish to let fall into the enemy’s hands, wereburnt or thrown into the river. The manuscripts, which were the resultof years of literary labour, were among the property that was intendedto be taken away. When all was ready, the party set out from the fortat the dead of night on the sixth of Poh, 1761 Bk/ 20th December, 1 704A.D., and proceeded towards Ropar. The Guru had with him about fivehundred Sikhs and his five Piaras (Beloved Ones).
As they proceeded, the Guru’s sons were seen looking back, fromtime to time: When the Sikhs asked what it was that they were lookingfor, they replied, ‘We are leaving our place of birth, our play-grounds,and our dear home for ever. We are bidding farewell to all that wasdear and precious in Anandpur.’ The pathetic words uttered in thefervour of child-like sincerity brought tears to the eyes of the Sikhs.
All felt that what the princes had said was true.
The mid-winter night was dark and bitterly cold. It began to rain.
A cold wind also began to blow. When the besiegers learnt that theGuru and his Sikhs had gone during the night, they lost no time ingetting ready to chase them. They forgot all their oaths on the holyQuran and the sacred cow, and started after the Guru. It seemed thatthe evil forces of man and nature had entered into a conspiracy againstthe Guru. The night was dark and bitterly cold. A biting cold wind wasblowing, and rain was falling. The path was muddy and slippery. Theenemy forces were rushing from behind. But the Guru did not swerveor lose faith in the Almighty Father. He was calm and cheerful. Heexhorted all his companions to accept His Will with cheer.
After going by Kiratpur and Nirmohgarh, the Guru proceededtowards Ropar. The party reached the bank of the Sirsa. On accountof the rain, the stream was in flood. Here was another obstacle placedin their way by Nature. Plans were afoot how to cross the floodedstream, when the enemy forces came up. Severe fighting ensued. Manybrave Sikhs were killed.
It was early morning by now. It was the hour when morning
religious gatherings used to be held at Anandpur. While bullets andarrows were flying about, the rain was falling, a biting cold wind wasblowing, and the flooded Sirsa blocked the way, the Guru held hismorning Atom-gathering, sang His praises, paid Him thanks, and liftedthe souls of his companious to the feet of the Father above. After theconclusion the diwan, prayers were offered and preparations were madefor crossing the stream. Baba Ajit Singh, with a number of Sikhs,stoutly arrested the progress of the enemy, while the rest began to wadethrough the Sirsa. When they had crossed it as well as they could,Baba Ajit Singh and his companions plunged into the stream, and weresoon with the Guru on the other side.
In this confusion, the Guru’s mother and his two younger sons —Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh — got separated from themain party. What happened to them will be narrated hereafter. TheGuru, along with the surviving Sikhs, proceeded towards Ropar. Histwo wives, Mata Sundri and Mata Sahib Kaur, stayed at the house ofa trusted Sikh at Ropar. Thence they proceeded towards Delhi on thefollowing day in the company of that Sikh. From Ropar the Gu7rustarted towards Chamkaur. At that time he had with him his two eldersons, Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Jujhar Singh and forty Sikhs, includinghis five Piaras. All this happened on Poh, 7, 1761 Bk December 21,1704 A D.