The Bubble Pricked : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

We see that there are different and conflicting accounts of an eventwhich is said to have preceded the ‘birth of the Khalsa’. It is necessaryto find out the actual facts. Now, it is an accepted principle of historicalresearch that if more than one conflicting version of an event in thelife of a historical personage is current, the historian ought to weigheach of these versions with that personage’s general views on alliedtopics, and with the tenor of the rest of his life. He should reject thosewhich are in violent conflict with the accepted views of the subjectof study and do not otherwise fit in with the rest of his life, unless,of course, there are irrefutable historical proofs in favour of another,or there are unanswerable arguments to prove that the personage hadspecial compelling reasons to act in contravention of his general views,and to do something inconsistent with the general career of his life.

If the historian is a votary of truth, and has an earnest desire to winnowout what is ture from what has erroneously got mingled others withit, he should weigh all evidence with the impartiality of a judge andthen decide in favour of one. or other of the versions, or even rejectthem all as mere conjectures.

Next, we should give due weight to any autobiographic pieces leftby him, unless it is proved, beyond all doubts, that he was given tomis-statements about himself.

Then we should look into the works of some eye-witnesses, ifavailable, and compare their account with the conclusions deduced fromthe above two sources. Of course, in studying the works of thecontemporaries, due regard should be paid to the opportunities thatthey had or that they lacked of correct and intimate knowledge of thesubject in dispute, and also to their prejudices and pet notions.

Let us consider the alleged incident of Durga worship in themanner indicated above. 1

Testimony of the Guru ‘s Views

All historians, even those who declare him to have been a worshipperof Durga Bhawani, agree that the Guru advocated the worship of OneGod. A few extracts from his compositions given below will speak forthemselves :-

(i) ‘I speak the truth, hear ye all. Only they who 16ve Him do find the Lord.

Some worship stones and put them on their heads, some suspend lingamsfrom their necks;

Some see God in the south, and some bend their heads to the west.

Some fools worship idols and imagaes, some are busy in worshipping thedead;

The whole world is entangled in false ceremonials, and hath not obtained thetrue kmowledge of God.’

(ii) ‘Why performest thou this penance to gods ? It is altogether fuule.

How can they protect thee when they could not save themselves from thestroke of Death ?

They are suspended in the fiery pit of terrible wrath, and will suspend Theealong with themselves in the same place;

Think, O think, even now in thy heart, O fool; without the favour of Godnaught can avial thee’.

(iii) ‘He who night and day meditateth on the Enduring, Unconquerable Light,who harboureth not in his mind any but the one God: He who hath in hisheart a perfect love for God and a thorough trust in Him, and who believethnot even by mistakes in fasts, tombs, places of cremation, or sepulchres;He who doth not recognize any but the one God the putteth not his confidencein pilgrimages, alms on auspicious occasions, non-destruction of life madeinto a fetish, penances, and austerities;

And he in whose heart the light of the Perfect One shineth for aye, andflickerth not, he alone is to be recognized as a pure member of the Khalsa.’

1. The learned reviewer of the Calcutta Review in his very appreciative review ofthe first edition of this book complained that I had brought in ‘evidence of a nagativecharacter fo fortify the contention that the story is a mere invention.’ He wantedsome ‘stronger positive proofs.’

I wonder what he means. To prove that an event being associated with a historicalpersonage did not take place in his life-time, only nagative proofs can be adduced.

All that we can and need do is to show that the alleged event does not find mentionin such and such contemporary of easly account & of the life and doings of thatpersonage. We cannot expect from those early writers a ‘positive’ contradiction ofan assertion which came to be associated with their subject a long time afterwards,then we have to find out what authority is quoted by the writer who is the first tointro duce that event in his account. If we find that he had no adequate authority,we must reject his assertion.

This had been done. Nothing more ‘positive’ is possible or even necessary.


In all his writings, as in those of his predecessor, there is not a lineor verse which could be construed to advocate or even countenance anyhomage to gods. Again and again gods and avtars are declared to beincapable of fully knowing to Lord or rendering any help to human beings.

Prayers are sent up direct to the feet of the Almighty Father, without theintermediation or recommendation of any god or goddess. The Guru clearlyand strongly denounced all worship of and offerings to gods and goddesses,and forbade any homage being paid to any such deities. How could he,then, have acted against the declared tenets of his Faith and have, all thesame, continued to command the respect and unquestioning obedience ofall people, both learned and the simple? We should remember that amonghis followers he had persons imbued with a daring independence of spirit.

As we shall see, once in his later life, he saluted the shrine of a saint withhis arrow. He was at once interrupted by his Sikhs and asked to explainwhy he had violated his own and his predecessors’ teachings.

Evidence of His Writings

Our task is further facilitated by the existence of a lot of the Guru’sown writings. As stated already, he translated several epics and classicsinto magnificent Hindi poetry. His object in doing this, as stated byhim again and again, was to hold up before the people the magnificent,heroic deeds of their glorious ancestors, and to produce in them apassion to emulate them. 1 Alt these are, however, to be treated astranslations of other’s works, and not as his own productions embodyinghis own views and convictions.

These stories of ‘the doings of the mythical heroes of the Puranas’

are apt to cause some misconception in the minds of the simple andthe ignorant, and to lend themselves to be abused by jealous opponentsand detractors for creating misunderstandings. In stories like Bhagautiki Var {Ode to Bhagauti), words like Bhagauti and Bhawani are usedin more than one sense. While Bhagauti is the name of goddess Durga,it is often used by the Guru for God Himself. In the very beginningof the above-said Ode to Bhagauti, there is an invocation to Godaddressed as Bhagauti — ‘May Bhagauti be my helper’, and then, ‘Havingfirst remembered Bhagauti, meditate on Nanak.’

1. “The main theme, however, of the whole collection is either the glorification ofGod to the exclusion of all other objects of worship, or the glorification of armswith the object of encouraging the Sikhs to fight bravely. The accounts of the doingsof the mythical heroes of the Puranas have all one and the same purpose, theincitement to war and the eulogy of strength and courage.’ Dr. G.C. Narang,Trans/ormarion of Sikhsm.

This use of Bhagauti by the Guru is cited by some in support oftheir contention that he was a votary of Durga; for Bhagauti is one ofthe names of that goddess. But it should be remembered that the word’Bhagauti ‘ occurs a number of times in Guru Granth Sahib also, whereit always stands for God. Even in this Ode to Bhagauti, Bhagauti isdescribed as the Creator of Durga, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Rama,Krishna, etc. Therefore this word cannot stand for Durga. In the storyto goddess Chandi, the goddess is not even once named ‘Bhagauti’. Inthe Guru’s original writings the word ‘Bhagauti’ stands either for’sword’ or ‘God’; and God is often addressed as the ‘Sword’. In theOde to Bhagauti, also, the word is nowhere used for Durga, but it isused somewhere for the sword and in some places for God. The contextalways shows clearly in which of the two senses the word is beingused.

Moreover, the stories are to be treated as means of infusing martialspirit in the readers. The Guru himself has left no room for any doubton that score. At the beginning or the end of every one of these pieces,he gives his own views regarding the hero or the heroine of each story,and states his object in having undertaken the translation. For example,at the end of Chandi Chritra he says that his object in translation thepiece is that ‘hearing it the cowards and the weak maj( fight withfirmness in the field of battle.’ At the end of the Krishna’Aytar he saysthat in undertaking the translation, he had no desire but to promote the’joy and elation of war.’ In the same piece he writes :’I do not, at the outset, propitiate Ganesh,

Never do I meditate on Krishna or Vishnu;

I’ve heard of them but I recognize them not;

It is only God’s feet that I love.’

Again, in the Parasnath Avtar he writes :

‘O thoughtless fool, why dost thou forget thy Maker ?

O man, why dost thou not remember God ?

O thoughtless brutle, engulfed in delusion and worldly love, they in whomthou puttest trust,

Rama, Krishna, and the prophet, whose name thou utterest ever on rising.

Where are they now in the world ? Why then dost thou sing their praises ?Why acknowledges! thou not Him who exists and ever shall exist?

Why shouldst thou worship stones ?

What good will they do thee ?

1. ‘Chandi Chritra or the “Exploits of Chandi” ‘the goddess, (was) translated fromihe Sanskrit, according to some, by Guru Gobind Singh himself. The wars of thegoddess with demons are described in epic verse of a kind which had no parallelin the Hindi literature.’

Dr G.C. Narang, op cit, p. vii.

Worship Him by Whose worship thy work shall be accomplished.

And by uttering Whose name all thy desires shall be fulfilled.’ 1Such quotations could be given in any number. But those citedabove should be enough to show that the Guru advocated the worshipof One God. This worship meant a filling of body, heart, and soul withthe love of Him and His creatures; it meant the cultivation of an attitudeand the development of a personality, rather than the preformance ofany mechanical acts. At the end of the Rama Avtar he writes :’Since I have taken shelter at Thy feet I have paid no head to any other,Ram, Rahim, the Purans, and the Quran speak of various systems, but noneof them do I accept;

The Simrities, the Shastras, and the Vedas, all expound different doctrines,but I accept none of them;

O holy God, all that I have said hath not been spoken by me; but byThy favour, it hath been said by Thee.’

In a translation which was completed in Samvat 1753, when thehavan is said by some to have been in progress, the Guru exposesand ridicules the clever tactics employed by Pandits who used to claimthat they could help laymen to make a particular god or goddessbecome manifest and grant all their wishes. The Pandits’, says theGuru, ‘would go to a simple-minded rich men and tell him, “If youwant a ready fulfilment of all your wishes, we can help you. We shallgive you a mantra. If you repeat it in the proper way, such and suchgod will appear to you and grant all your wishes.” They told a mantra,of course, after having filled their pockets. When no god appearedeven after their dupe had followed their instructions for a pretty longtime, the Pandits would come and say, “Surely, you must have madesome error displeasing to the god. Otherwise, our mantra could havenever failed. Now you must propitiate the god by due ceremonies andcharities. When that is done, we shall give you a mantra to makemanifest even a more powerful god.” In this way the ruse was continueduntil the dupe was rendered penniless. Thereupon, the Pandits wentaway in search of other victims.’

At the end of the composition the Guru expresses his own viewson this matter in a couplet which may be translated as follows, “If1. In the Akal Usiat, after enumerating various gods and goddess, the different ritesand penances performed by their worshippers to win their pleasure, and the diversother mechanical acts like the reading of texts, the performance of horn and sacrifice,etc.. the Guru says : —

‘Know that all these performances are futile,

All these “religious” practice are of no avail;

Without the love of, and a relianace on, God and His name, consider all suchpractices to be mere superstition.’

there were any such power in mantras and jantras, those who knewthem would sit like kings in their own palaces, Why should they bebegging from door to door ?’

We should remember that all this was written when the alleged havanwas either going on or was to begin shortly. Could the Guru, in spite ofsuch clear and strong views, have let himself become a dupe of thosewhom he was all time ridiculing and exposing as cheats? If, on the otherhand, he had been roped in by the cheats, could he have ridiculed himselfand them as he actually did ?

His Autobiography

Secondly, the Vachittar Natak describes in spirited verse the chief eventsof the Guru’s life. The accounts given by him do not contain errors offacts. If he had worshipped the goddess Durga in the alleged mannerand derived power form her, or had exposed the people’s belief in herpowers, at a considerable expense, it is not conceiveable that he couldhave -omitted to mention in his autobiography such an epoch-makingevent of his life.

The Guru’s motive in making her manifest is stated to have beento seek her aid in infusing a warlike spirit in his Sikhs. A littleexamination will show that this hypothesis is altogether untenable. Thewarlike spirit had been infused in the Sikhs by Guru Hargobind, whohad, on four occasions, led them successfully against the attackingimperial armies. Even Guru Gobind Singh himself had fought the battlesof Bhangani, Nadaun, and Guler, in- which confectioners, cobblers,ploughmen, and an Udasi Mahant, had been enabled to vanquishwarriors of name and fame — Rajputs, Pathans, and Mughals. Whatneed, then, had he to call in the aid of Durga or any other of that classwhom he had always denounced as impotent and insignificant?

Again, in all his writings he never invokes the aid of Durga, nordoes he thank her after achieving victories. On the contrary, at everystep he prays for help to the Almighty, the Deathless, the Ail-Steel, theCreator, and the Peerless Lord of the Universe. At the conclusion ofhis description of each of his battles, he raises a voice of thanks-givingto the Lord- Creator of the Universe.

It has been alleged that it was the goddess who directed the Guruto found the Khalsa nation. But the Guru himself tells a different tale.

He says that his own iinembodies soul reposed in bliss in the Father’sMansion, wrapt in meditation and His life-giving Darshan. But Godcalled him forth, and much against his will, for he did not wish toleave the Divine presence, sent him into this world, charged with thefollowing mission :

God : ‘I install and cherish thee as my own son;

And create thee to form and spread the Panth,

Go and spread the law of Dharma in every place,

And restrain people from senseless acts.’

The Guru : ‘I stood, clasped my hand, bowed my head, and prayed, “Ifthou vouchsafes* Thy assistance to me, then will Thy religionprevail in the world.’

If he had been a devotee of Durga and had reveived orders fromher to found the Khalsa, he would certainly have mentioned the factsomewhere in his writings, particularly in some of those which werebeing composed in those very days when the worship of Durga is allegeto have been going on.

Further Evidence from the Ram Avtar

Thirdly, there is another fact considering. The Guru himself gives thedate of the completion of the translation of the Ram Avtar in thefollowing words :

‘On the first day of the dark half of Har, a day of pleasure to me,In the Samavat year seventeen hundred and fifty-five.

At the base of the lofty Naina Devi, on the margin of the Sutlej waters,Through God’s lielp I finished the history of Ram.’

Now, all the writers who have described the horn and Durgaworship agree that the horn was in progress in the Samvant year 1755.

The words which the Guru wrote at the conclusion of the Ram Avtarhave been given on an earlier page (112). Just imagine a person spendinglakhs of rupees and years of his precious time, and undergoing hardand irksome ritual to worship a goddess, and, just at the same time,declaring that he did not put any faith in any such deity. His graveinconsistency, the huge distance between his words and deeds, wouldhave startled the people, and totally shaken their faith in his sincerity.

If, for some special reasons, however, he had thought if fit to worshipthe goddess, he was not the man to hesitate from putting it down inhis autobiography. On the contrary, he should have taken special painsto justify this violent departure from the practice and precept of himselfand his predecessors.

The Zafarnama

Lastly, on a later date, he wrote a letter, Zafarnama, to Aurangzeb inwhich he accused him of having one thing on the lips and quite anotherin the heart. Could Guru Gobind Singh have exhibited the same weaknessof character, and yet have written such words to the Emperor? In thesame letter he gives the cause of his quarrel with the Hijl-Chiefs,viz. ‘they were idol-worshippers and I an idol-breaker.’ Could a devoteeof Durga, Kalka’, or Naina Devi have written thus?

Thus all his writings make it absolutely clear that he was opposedto the worship of gods and goddess. Hence it is incredible that heshould have acted against his cardinal principles and worshipped Durga.

1. There is in the Vachittar Natiak a passage a wrong interpretation of which mighthave given rise to the idea of the worship of Durga or Kalka by the Guru. Speakingof his pre-natal existence, he refers to God as Maha Kal Kalika, Whom he worshippedfor long until he attained union with Him, and the two, i.e., the worshipper and theworkshipped, became one. The word Kalka occurring there seems to have beentaken by some writer to refer to the goddess Kalka or Durga, and the worship tohave taken place in the Guru’s postnatal life on this earth as Guru Gobind Singh.

That writer seems to have thought that the expression Maha Kal Kalka stands fortwo personalities, Maha Kal, for God, and Kalka, for the goddess. But he forgotto consider that in that case there would have been three personalities in thepicture — the worshipper, the goddess, and God. When speaking of the union, theGuru should then have said that the three became one. His saying, however, thatthe two became one, shows clearly that Maha Kal Kalka stands for personality. Thecontext leaves no room for doubt that such personality is no other than God.