The rain-water rivulets or chos dried up in due course. The paths became open to traffic. Thereupon, in the month of Magh 1729 BK/ January 1673 A.D., Guru Gobind Singh’s maternal uncle, Bhai Kirpal, arrived with horses and carriages for the party. The Child-Guru had spent about five months at Lakhnaur. Taking leave of his devotees and playmates of that place, he started towards Anandpur. After a few days’
journey, the party reached Kiratpur. Here the Child-Guru was received most cordially and affectionately by Sri Gulab Rai and Sri Sham Das, grandsons of his uncle, the late Sri Suraj Mai. They escorted him to their home and treated him with utmost respect. At that place, i.e., Kiratpur, he visited the shrines of his ancestors. After two or three days’ stay there, the party left for Anandpur. At their approach, the city poured out its thousands to welcome him. There were great rejoicings on all sides. For days there was a regular mela in the city. People came from every direction as do clouds in Sawan, the rainy month of India.
At Anandpur, Sri Gobind Singh was now passing the happiest
days of his life under the fostering care of his father, mother, grandmother, uncle, and numerous Sikhs, who verily adored him from the bottom of their hearts. Having passed the first five years of his life at Patna, he had picked up the accent and dialect peculiar to that part of the country. The Sikhs who had never been to that place regarded his speech as a charming novelty and were delighted to hear him talk.
He had already leamt Gurmukhi and could repeat from memory
many sacred compositions of the Gurus. His regular education began now. In addition to a thorough study of the Sacred Book, he began to learn Sanskrit and Persian. His Persian tutor was Pir Muhammad of Sloh. Special and suitable arrangements were made for training him in horsemanship and in the use of arms; for the Guru knew that the times would soon need persons who should have swords in their hands, the Name on their lips, and love in their hearts. The time which Sri Gobind Singh could snatch from these more serious occupations, he devoted to games and recreation. His games were the same as at Patna. He would divide his mates into two groups, and with himself at the head of one, engage them in mock battles.
The blissful life at the City of Eternal Bliss was cut short rather abruptly. We have already seen that Aurangzab had vowed to convert or exterminate the non-Muslim population of his empire. His orders had gone round to all his deputies and Viceroys in the different provinces that no pains, means, or efforts were to be spared in furthering the cause of Aurangzebian Islam. A saying goes that if a king orders his men to pluck one fruit from a garden, they would, surely, pluck at least a score. The zeal shown by the agents and servants of the Keeper of the Faith was in keeping with the truth of this saying. By 1675, they had succeeded in converting large numbers, and in banishing peace and happiness from numerous Indian homes. Cries, prayers, and curses against the oppressors rose from countless hearts.
As stated already, on coming to the throne, Aurangzab had started a relentless campaign to convert his Hindu subjects to Islam. His ambition was that all non-Muhammadans should be liquidated from the Mughal Empire, by conversion or execution. We have already referred to the order issued by him in 1669 A.D., calling upon all his Governors to demolish the temples and schools of the non-believers. 1 He had ordered all local officials, Qazis, and Mullas to make it so hot for the Hindus that they should be forced to throw off the sacred thread and embrace Islam. To help them in this religious task, he had appointed moving military columns. These bodies of special troops went about touring the country and enforcing the imperial orders, particularly in the Panjab.
Besides the Panjab, this conversion-campaign was specially severe and unrelenting in Kashmir. The Emperor was particularly anxious to make this ‘Paradise of India’ exclusively a Muslim preserve, with cent per cent Muslim population. Another reason why special attention was directed towards Kashmir was the converters’ belief that if the Kashmiri Pandits were made to embrace Islam, the community of the Faithful 1. ‘In 1669 A.D. he had issued a general order calling upon his governors everywhere to demolish the temples and schools of Hindus.’
Maasir-i-AIamgiri, Urdu, p. 54; Orme’s Fragments, 85.
According to Khafi Khan, the order was enforced against the Sikhs as well.
According to a very widely current tradition, Aurangzeb would not take food each day until he had removed a seer and quarter (about two and a half pounds) of the Hindu sacred thread off the Hindus’ necks, i.e., until so many Hindus had been converted to Islam that the sacred thread removed from their necks weighed that much.
would be enriched greatly by the addition of these intellectual people, and the Prophet’s religion would make rapid progress in the whole realm with their help.
Swayed by such motives, Aurangzeb had issued special orders to the Governor of Kashmir, enjoining upon him the need of strict measures in this behalf. The Governor obeyed the imperial orders with the zeal worthy of a true and ambitious soldier of Islam. People belonging to the common or low castes began to be converted in large numbers.
Then he turned his attention to the Pandits of Kashmir. Reduced to utter extremes because of the rigours of the relentless campaign, the Pandits took a deputation to the Governor and begged him to grant them six months’ respite in which they could ponder over the matter of bidding farewell to their ancient faith. The Governor granted the request and added, “Mind you, after the lapse of that period, you must quietly and voluntarily give up the false faith and embrace the true one; otherwise, all of you shall be beheaded, and your wives, daughters, and all your properties shall be handed over to the faithful. So you must be careful a great deal. The Emperor’s orders must be executed in full.”
The hapless Pandits repaired to their temples and prayed constantly before their gods. But all prayers of these “gods own people” proved of no avail. The allotted period of respite was about to end. They were verily between the devil and the deep sea. In this perplexity, they cried and bewailed and groaned most bitterly. They asked advice from all and sundry. Some enemies of the Guru and the Sikh faith thought of a novel and sure way of getting Guru Tegh Bahadur out of their way and dealing a severe blow to the religion preached by him and his predecessors. They advised the Pandits to approach the Guru for help and guidance, assuring them that he was gifted with divine, miraculous power, and was endowed with a heart which could not refuse anything to people in such distress and woe.
The Pandits had heard of the Guru’s name and fame. Some had even seen and heard him. They met at the temple of Amarnath to consider the matter in the light of the above-said advice. After prolonged deliberations, they decided to take refuge at the Guru’s feet. Having arrived at this decision, they soon reached Anandpur. They narrated to him their tale of woe and suffering, and prayed for guidance and help.
They also told him that the respite which they had been granted was coming to an end. They, therefore, implored him to devise some effective steps or remedy before that date. The tale of woe and suffering narrated by them plunged the Guru in deep thought. There was before him the same problem that had faced Guru Arjan. It was clear that the Muslim rulers had almost lost their souls. They were fast on their way to complete brutalization. Was there any method of shaking up the slumbering humanity of their souls ? The prospects were not at all very bright, but a last effort had to be made. The deaths and sufferings of countless ordinary persons had failed to produce any effect on the hardened conscience of the wielders of power. But if a person, the purest and holiest in the land and most revered by the people, were to lay down life in an attempt to rouse the sleeping soul of the Emperor, it might yet be possible to avert a resort to arms. Such a sacrifice would also have a very ennobling and uplitfing effect on the oppressed; for, when they would find a holy man suffering so much for their sake, they would be shamed into courage and action.
The problem, however, was where to find that holiest and purest person. If he had disclosed his thoughts to the Brahmins before him, they would, no doubt, have proclaimed him to be the right man. But their testimony would have been of no weight. He could not himself say that he was the needed person; for there might be living purer men than he. The Guru was absorbed in these thoughts, when a personality, as great as he himself, set all his doubts at rest. Returning from his sport and games, Sri Gobind Singh sat in his father’s lap to invite the usual caresses. But he soon discovered that his father was absorbed in some anxious thought and care. The sight of the Brahmins, with their long faces and down-cast eyes, convinced him that the Guru’s concern was about these men.
‘What is it, papa ?’ asked he at last in his fascinating Patna accent.
‘Why is this ever bright face enshrouded in care and gloom? What are you pondering over so deeply and anxiously, dear father? What say these good people ? They seem to be in great woe.’
The Guru replied, “A campaign of ruthless tyranny and oppression has been started, rather, has been going on for some time in this land in the name of religion and in hopes of pleasing the Great and Benevolent Father of all. The Muslim rulers have lost all vestige of human nature, and have become totally brutalized, all this is their zeal for Islam. Their hearts have become hard like stone; they have become foreigners to human compassion and sympathy; their souls are fast asleep, or perhaps dead. The Hindus, on the other hand, are completely demoralized. They seem to have become lifeless. They are suffering all this tyranny and humiliation with meek submission. The hearts of the Mughals have to be leavened with fear of God and sympathy for man. The spiritually dead Hindu have to be re-inspired with life and manliness, are to be prepared to fight against tyranny, manfully and dauntlessly. This twosided task has to be performed. It is a hard task, indeed, fit to be undertaken and accomplished by a Great Soul. What is needed is that some eminently lofty and pure personality should offer to sacrifice itself; should throw himself before the heartless tyrants, and tell them to please themselves to the utmost by exhausting all their armoury of torture and tyranny. The only possible method of rousing their slumbering nature and releasing it from the jaws of brutality is that the purest and holiest person alive in India should throw himself before these misguided people. Perhaps a sight of their own brutalities practised on the holiest man of God might change their hearts and awaken their souls. But I do not know where to find such a one.’
‘That is easy, papa/ replied Sri Gobind Singh. ‘Who can be holier than you, and who more pure ?’
Here was the testimony of one who was not only his equal in the depth and height of his soul, but who had also to be the greatest loser as a consequence of what he said. This was the most disinterested and reliable testimony that could be had. So Guru Tegh Bahadur resolved to go to Delhi and do what he could towards reforming the Great Bigot.
It is often said that the reason why the Guru sacrificed himself for the sake of the Hindu religion was that it, in itself, was dear to him, or, in other words, because he himself was a devout Hindu. But this is not the case. The Guru saw that his neighbours were being forcibly deprived of something which they held very dear and which was an elementary right of every man. They were being denied freedom of worship and conscience. These people were too weak to do anything for their own safety, and had approached the Guru for help. To help the weak had ever been the principle of the House of Guru Nanak. So if the Guru decided to help them even at the cost of his life, it was not because he was a Hindu or because Hinduism, in itself, was dear to him, but because his oppressed neighbours were dear to him. If Muslims had been in a like predicament and had approached him for help, he would, surely, have done for them what he did for the Hindus. He would not adopt the religion of the Hindus or the Muslims, because he found both of them defective and in many ways opposed to his ideas and ideals, but he would certainly die rather than let the devotees of any religion be deprived of their right of free worship. The Guru’s was thus an altogether new example in the civic life of India, namely, to die in defence of what is dear to one’s neighbours and the fundamental right of every man as man.’
Hence, addressing the Brahmins, the Guru said, “Go and tell your Governor and your Emperor as follows : — “Guru Tegh Bahadur is our religious head. If you convert him, if he should embrace Islam, all of us will follow suit.” Say this to them, and let God do the rest.”
The Pandits went away and informed the Governor accordingly.