The splendour of the Guru’s darbar was ever on the increase. Sikhs camefrom all parts of the country, basked for a time in the sun of the Guru’sdarshan, and then departed for their homes. Every Sikh had an ambitionto see the Guru at least once a year. The occasion which was chosen forthis purpose by most of them was the birthday of the Guru. To many, thewhole year was a period of preparation for the great function at Anandupur.
As the day of rejoicings approached, large groups started towardsAnandpur, and so arranged their marches as to reach there a day ortwo before the auspicious day. They were lovingly served on the wayby their brothers-in-faith, for to serve them was to serve the Guru andGod. Sometimes they were molested by Muhammadan officials, andsometimes waylaid and plundered by rowdy Muhammadan villagers.
But, as the Sikhs took to arms and stood up bravely in self-defenceagainst the aggressors, such occasions became rarer day by day.
The scene at Anandpur was glorious, indeed. Big tents on thegreat open were a splendid sight. To witness the spirit of love, service,and devotion, that was manifest everywhere, was to have a glimpse ofthe heaven itself. Every face was bright with joy, and every heart wasbrimful with exquisite pleasure. The Guru visited every hut and tent,and went about showering and enjoying supreme bliss.
Early on the morning of the auspicious day, Sangats from everycamp came to the place of gathering, singing songs of joy. Poets, bards,and musicians; masands and preachers; Sikhs from different parts; alltook their proper seats. The Guru then came on his noble, blue steed.
His tall, slender and active body, decorated with shining armour; hishaloed head shining under the brilliance of the plume; his angelic facebeaming with love and glory; his white hawk perching proudly on hisuplifted arm; his powerful thighs pressing against the flanks of thenimble animal — it was sight that charmed all beholders. Fort gunsand muskets fired salutes. The military band gave him a royal welcome.
When he reached the place of gathering, the whole congregation stoodup with their heads bowed in deep reverence, and remained thus untilhe took his seat. Hymns were sung for a long time. The poets thenpresented their compositions, the preachers gave an account of theiractivities; and all Sikhs, one by one, presented their love offerings andbirthday presents for the Guru’/ acceptance.
Some had prepared with their own hands cotton, woollen, andsilk garments; some had copied the Gurus’ hymns in small booklets;some had bred and brought horses for the Guru’s cavalry; some presentedguns, muskets, swords, spears, and other weapons; all humbly offereddaswandh: a tenth part of their honest earnings; some offered themselvesor their sons for the Guru’s army; and some brought to him presentswhich were more precious than the rest — souls rescued from sin anddarkness, and made fit suppliants for the Guru’s Amrit.
The afternoon was spent in sundry sports, games, and feats ofpower and skill. The army had its manoeuvres and mock fights. In theevening, all assembled again to listen to music and gurupdesh. At night,countless lamps and fire-works illumined the city. Hymns of joy andthanks-giving were sung throughout the night. Thus was the Master’sbirthday celebrated at Anandpur.
Every country celebrates, in its own way, the end of winter and theadvent of milder days. India has had a way of celebrating this festival,which has suited her climate and her condition in the different periodsof her history. In the days of her glory, the Holi was a period of innocentmirth and grand rejoicings. With her degradation, the festival assumedthe disgusting form which we generally witness in these days. Truly,the manner in which a country celebrates its festivals depends upon,and is indicative of, her lofty or fallen condition. It is a country sunkdeep in all-round degradation where filth and rubbish constitute themeans of such festive celebrations.
The Guru saw this and devised his own method, suited to theheights to which he wanted to lift the people. Big Mzm-gatherings,musical and poetical contests, feats of power and skill, sports andgames, martial display, playful showers of rosewater and sweet-scentedsaffron powders such was the Guru’s programme for the celebrationof Holla, as Holi had been renamed by him.
On the last of these days, the Guru divided his troops into two groups,distinguished by the colour of their dress. One of these was put incharge of an enclosure which represented a fort. The other group, withthe Guru at its head, started from the darbar to defeat the garrison andcapture the fortress. Killing or wounding was forbidden on both sides.
The generals of both sides displayed their knowledge of warfare, andthere were attacks and counter-attacks. At last, the citadel was stormedand taken. The victory was celebrated by the Guru in an equally uniqueway. A large quantity of Karah-parshad was placed on wide, whitesheets in clean, open place. The Sikhs were ordered to rush to the heap,all at once, and eat as much of it as each could get. This furnished agood deal of fun and mirth. This celebration was called the HollaMahalla.
Bibi Dip Kaur
The Guru’s Amrit and his spirited teachings were infusing valour in allhearts. The process was not confined to men alone; for the Guru hadlifted women also to a position of equality with men. They were nolonger regarded as mere shoes to be thrown off when worn out orgrown disagreeable, or to be unfeelingly replaced when lost. The Sikhpair was required to regard itself as one soul in two bodies. Men andwomen partook of the Guru’s Immortalizing Draught together, and aspirit of heroism descended on them and filled every nook and cornerof their hearts, every nerver and muscle of their bodies.
There are numerous examples of Sikh women displaying, what iscommonly called, manly strength and courage. One of them may beset down here.
Once a company of Majha Sikhs was on its way to Anandpur.
On reaching a village called Talabban, the Sikhs, men and women,halted round a well in order to refresh themselves. A young womencontinued to march on. Some way off, four armed Muhammadans,finding her all alone, closed round her. She displayed the true Sikhspirit. She did not lose her presence of mind, nor was she afraid in theleast. She threw one of her gold bangles on the ground. One of theruffians bent down to pick it up. Dip Kaur, for that was her name,drew her sword and severed his fiendish head from his shoulders. Theother three, who were not prepared for such an adventure, werecompletely stunned. Before they could draw their weapons, two ofthem were despatched by the brave daughter of Guru Gobind Singh.
She wounded the third, felled him, and sitting on his chest, piercedhim through the heart.
Just at that time, the rest of the party arrived on the spot. Theymarvelled at the courage and the skill in using the sword displayed byBibi Dip Kaur. The corpses were thrown into a well, and the partyproceeded on their way.
The incident was narrated to the Guru. One of the party said.’OTrue King some friends here have some objections against Bibi DipKaur’s conduct. They say that she has touched one who was not onlynot her husband, but a Turk to boot. They say that she has pollutedherself. They also do not like her having used the sword’.
The Guru smiled and said, ‘It is this unmanly attitude that hasmade the people imbecile, impotent, and cowardly. She has acted rightly.
She saved her honour and life. She has ennobled herself. No pollutioncan approach her. She will raise others. Her example will infuse couragein others. Bravo, my daughter, I may well feel proud of thee.’