The wheel of time had taken a woeful tum. The Master, whose courthad surpassed that of the Emperor in splendour and magnificence,whose free kitchen had once fed all and sundry, who once had an armyof devoted servants ready to lay down their lives rather than let himsuffer the slightest pain, that Master, all alone and barefooted, was nowa fugitive. The Imperial armies were in hot pursuit. For days he hadtaken no food. For days he had been without a minute’s rest or sleep.
The thorns and pebbles on the way lacerated and hurt his bare feet andlimbs. The night was pitch dark and cold. The bitter cold wind ofmid-winter was blowing. Under these conditions he could not makemuch progress. A few hours before day-break he reached near thevillage Kheri. Two Gujjars recognized him and raised an alarm. TheGuru gave them gold. But they persisted. He was forced to seal theirlips with his arrows. Soon, the sun rose. Thirst, hunger, and fatiguehad completely exhausted the Guru’s frame. To assuage these physicalpangs and to stimulate the blood and nerves, he took a little milkyjuice and some tender leaves of the Akk plant. Nothing else was availablein that desolate place. As his faculties began to droop, he lay down ina cluster of trees with a clod of hard, cold earth as his pillow. Hishands yet clasped his naked sword, which lay by his side. A swoon-likesleep overtook him. At night-fall he awoke and started again, but hislimbs were too weary to move. He lay down again. Amid all thisagonizing experience his high and patriotic resolve did not flicker; noregret for the past visited his heart; his mind was strong as ever; andhis soul was in turn with the infinite as before. Lying under the canopyof heaven in the cold winter night, the Guru sang. His praises as hehad done in his days of prosperity. In weal and woe he was His. Itwas here that he composed “his famous hymn, ‘The Disciples Messageto the Dear Friend’, which may be translated as under :
‘Convey to our Dear Friend the news of us, His disciples;
Without Thee the luxury of soft beds and sweet rest are depressingand painful like a disease;
Life in a palace is like living among snakes, If Thou art away;The pitcher hurts us as the cross,
And the cup cuts us like a sharp dagger, if Thou art away;Yes, without Thee all these articles of joy and comfort kill us as witha butcher’s knife;
A pallet made of turf and straw is dearer to us, if the Beloved the re be;And palaces bum us like the infernal fire, if Thou be away;After a few hours rest he started again in the direction of thtMalwa. But he was too exhausted to proceed very far. With a water-potas his pillow, he lay down in a garden near Machhiwara. This gardenbelonged to a Masand named Gulaba. By a lucky chance Bhai DharmSingh, Man Singh and Daya Singh, having travelled in the directionof the star which, at the time of parting, he had pointed out to them,reached the same garden and found the Guru fast asleep. They awokehim. The Muhammadan army, they said, was in hot pursuit and mightbe on them at any time. He could not move because of the blisters onhis feet. Bhai Man Singh took him on his back and carried him to awell close by. There the Guru bathed for the first time after many daysand felt much refreshed.
Gulaba Masand heard of the Guru’s presence in his garden andcame running to serve him. His brother brought milk for the Guru andhis Sikhs. They took it and lay down to sleep. The two brothers guardedtheir repose. At night, Gulaba took them to his house and locked themin the upper storey. He was anxious to serve the Guru, but, at the sametime, he was afraid of being discovered doing so. So, he tried all hecould to conceal the Guru’s presence in his house. His immediateneighbours, a Brahmin and a Sayyid, however, soon got the scent andmade no secret of having done so. Next morning Gulaba, afraid forhis safety, besought the Guru to take his departure. What a turn of days! The Guru, who had sacrificed his father, his sons, his dear Sikhs, hiswealth, his home, and his all. who had undergone untold hardships andsufferings, and who had exposed his family to severe trials and graverisks, all for the sake of improving the lot of his down-troddencountrymen, now refused shelter even by one who professed andpossessed great love for him. But that great redeemer of humanity wascontent and cheerful as ever. He felt neither resentment nor sorrow atGulaba’s lack of heart. He gladly prepared to go. But, before departing,he desired to see Gurdevi, an old Sikh lady who had been spinningand weaving cloth for him, and praying that he might visit her villageto accept it. She was all joy at the news that her prayers had beengranted, and brought a big piece of khaddar for the Guru.
Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan, Rohila Pathans, had been for sometime in the Master’s service at Anandpur and had thereafter taken to horsetrade. They had sold several good horses to the Guru, who had beenalways good and considerate to them. When they heard of the sorry plightin which the Guru then was, they were moved to tears and vowed to helphim, come what might. The Guru knew of their sympathy with him; sohe sent for them. At their suggestion, the cloth presented by Gurdevi wasdyed blue and made into robes and sheets in imitation of the dress wornby a sect of Muslim faqirs. He and his three Sikhs dressed themselves inthese indigo dyed garments, and let their long tresses fall down theirshoulders. Thus disguised, the Guru was borne in a litter was lifted byGhani Khan, .Nabi Khan, Man Singh, and Dharm Sjngh. Daya Singhwaved a Chauri over him. Whoever questioned them was told that theywere escorting the Uch ka Piran Pir or the Spiritual Chief of the Saintsof Uch. And the answer was literally true. The Uch ka Pir had met GuruNanak at Mecca and had bowed before him. He had visited him again inIndia. He held the Guru in great esteem and looked upon him as hisSpiritual Chief. His successors had been, likewise, duly visiting GuruNanak’s successors from time to time, with faith and reverence. Since theabove said meeting with Guru Nanak, the Pirs of Uch had let their hairgrow its natural length as a mark of their homage to (he Gurus. Hence,Guru Gobind Singh was, in truth, the Spiritual Chief of the Saints of Uch.
And as it was known far and wide that these Pirs wore long hair, therewas little room for the enemies to feel suspicious. The plan succeededadmirably. They travelled on in safety.
One day, however, the party was overtaken by a detachment ofthe pursuing army. Its commander chose to question the bona- fides ofthe party. He had his suspicions. He interrogated the bearers of thelitter very closely and long. They stood their ground calmly and firmly.
However, not satishfied with the answers which he received, thecommander sent for Qazi Pir Muhammad, who had once been thePersian tutor of the Guru, and asked him to identify the occupant ofthe litter. He also told the Qazi his suspicions. The Qazi gave a helpfulreply and saved the situation. 1 The commander, being thus fully satisfied,made due apologies to the Uch ka Pir for having suspected andinconvenienced him, and begged him to go whither he pleased.
1. As a mark of his appreciation of the Qazi’s valuable service at such a criticaljuncture, the Guru granted him a hukamnama (autograph letter) which his familystill retains and shows with great respect to those who visit his house.
The party then proceeded on its way. On reaching Hehar in
Ludhiana District, they met Kirpal, a successor of the Udasi Mahantof that name who had proved his valour in the battle of Bhangani. Hewelcomed the Guru. Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan, though anxious tostay on and serve the Master, were now permitted to go back home.
A pair of gold bracelets and a Hukmnama (an autograph letter ofrecommendation addressed to the Sikhs in general) were given to themin commemoration of their opportune service. In the Hukmnama it waswritten that Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan were dearer to the Guru thanhis own sons. It is still preserved by their families and shown withgreat respect to those who visit them.
Mahant Kirpal Das served the Guru with great love and hospitality.
But he had heard the imperial orders against helping or harbouring theGuru. He feared lest some officials should come to know of the Guru’sstay with him. The Guru divined his thoughts and decided to move on.
Mahant Kirpal Das acted as one of the four bearers of the Guru’s litterfor some miles and was then allowed to go back home.
From Hehar the Guru moved on to Jatpura and thence to Raikot.
About a mile from Raikot there was a pond of clean water with a bigShisham tree on its bank. The Guru halted under that tree. Rai Kalhaor Kalha Rai; a rich and influential Muslim Jat of Raikot, come to payhomage to the Guru. He was a devout admirer of the Guru. He tookthe latter to his house and treated him with loving hospitality. He knewof the imperial orders respecting the Guru, but he was not at all afraid.
On the contrary, when he heard all that the Master had borne for thesake of the down-trodden people of his land, Kalha wept bitterly andcursed the tyrants. He begged the Guru to let him know if he couldbe of any service then. At the Guru’s instance, a messenger wasdespatched to Sarhind to find out what had happened to his aged motherand his two little sons. Mahi, the messenger, is said to have travelledto and for in an incredibly short time.
The story which Mahi narrated on his return is given in the nextchapter.