The Hill-Chiefs Jealousy : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

The Guru had thus introduced a democracy in which there was noplace even for a self-made or self-elected leader or chief. He had tobe elected or accepted by the followers. There was thus completeequality. The Guru did not reserve for himself any privileges whichwere denied to the Sikhs. Nay, he even declared that he derived all hispower from them and their acceptance of him.

His amalgamation of the existing four castes into one — a newrace of Kashatriyas — was keenly resented by the Brahmins, because itaimed at destroying the privileges which they had enjoyed since thetime of Manu. The Kashatriyas were offended because they could notbear the thought that low-caste people, whom they had scorned andtrodden under foot, should be placed in a position of equality withthem. The previous Gurus had preached the equality of all humanbeings and had worked for eradicating caste prejudices, but Guru GobindSingh had gone a step further. 1 The high-caste people had, by preceptand example, learnt to mingle with persons of the lower-castes in thelangars and diwans; yet they had never been called upon to eat ordrink from a vessel which was, at the same time, being used or hadbeen used, by a person of another caste. But Guru Gobind Singh nowintroduced an initiation ceremony in which persons of all castes hadto drink from a common vessel.

This was more than the high-caste people could bear. The Brahminswent to the Hill-Chiefs and incited them against the Guru. The Rajas,who were already burning with jealousy, visited the Guru. They intendedto remonstrate wi th him against his departure from established usage.

1. ‘The latter (Guru Nanak), though he denounced caste distinctions, had neveractually forbidden their observance by his followers, many of whom laid as muchstress on them as the Hindus themselves. The Brahmin Sikh continued to wear thetriple thread…. Gobind took the bull by the horns. He not only reaffirmed theabsolute equality of every Sikh in the eyes of God, but he altogether prohibited theobservance of caste distinctions within the Khalsa. This action gave offence to thosewho claimed to be of high caste, and not a few Brahmin Sikhs preferred to leavethe community rather than discard the sacred thread.’ C.H. Pane, op cit, p. 34But his presence over-awed them. They bowed and were mute. TheGuru read their thoughts and knew what was passing in their minds.

He treated them with due regard, gave them seats of honour in hisdarbar, and addressed them as follows, ‘Rajas, sons of illustriousancestors, just contrast your unenviable position with that of yourforefathers, who were beloved of their subjects, on the one side, andhad no master above them, on the other. They lived as brothers andfriends, and no foreigner could subdue them. But later on, innumerablesects were introduced, and petty jealousies and mutual hatred werethe result. The curse of caste restrictions fanned the flame of disunion.

What is the position now ? Sons of Islam have taken advantage ofyour divided state, and have enslaved the land. What is the secretof their success? What is it that has made them victorious over thefar greater number of the opposing Hindu- ? Unity and self-reliance,which their opponents lack. What are the consequences? Your castepride forbids you even to dine with a low-caste person of your ownrace and religion, but your fallen condition bids you rejoice in givingyour daughters io tyrants of an alien race and religion. Could therebe anything more pitiable ? Why not embrace as brothers all of theAryan race and all others that would come in, and thereby create aunited force that would drive the oppressors from the sacred land ?Come, then, and partake of the Immortal Draught, the Nectar, whichmakes lions of jackals, and unites all into one race of Warrior-saints,defenders of the faith and the country.

But to the Rajas all that was gall and wormwood. Their lives ofignoble ease were to them too dear to be relinquished in favour of alife of danger and prolonged warfare. Ajmer Chand, who had succeededBhim Chand as the Raja of Bilaspur, 1 and who was the spokesman ofthe Hill-Chiefs, said, ‘O Guru, all this sounds well from the lips of afaqir such as you. But we are Rajas and men of the world. We cannotquit this land and go anywhere else as you can. You are asking toomuch. You ask us ont only to give up lives of peace and pleasure inreturn for war and its accompaniments, but also to renounce our ancientfaith. We can neither give up our gods and practices recommended byour ancient Rishis, nor take up arms against our Muslim masters. Whocan withstand the Pathans and the Mughals ? Every one of them caneat a whole goat. We are nothing before them. Your low-caste soldiersare, at best, as cats contending with lions, or as tiny sparrows, withmighty eagles. There can be no hope of breaking the power of the1. ‘Raja Bhim Chand had abdicated in 1691 A.D., soon after the great reverses atNadaun.

accursed “Turks”. So, why not make a virtue of necessity, and bearwith humility what we cannot get rid of with our efforts ?’

The Guru flared up and said/O Rajas ! you have lost the trueKashatriya spirit. Long subjection has made cowards of you all. It iscowardice, which has grappled your hearts, that makes your so pessimistic. Where are your much vaunted Aryan blood and valour? Whyshame your ancient name and fame ? Come, be champions of yourcountry’s freedom ? What can the bits ot stone which you call yourgods do for you ? I attach you direct to the feet of Him who is theLord of all men as well as of all gods. Come, have a draught of theNectar. From jackals you shall become lions. Come, Xajas, be leadersin the Khalsa Panth, and, getting rid of the foreign yoke, set your ruleon a firm footing. I have no desire to found a kingdom. I shall winyou independence and then retire to the sweet Presence from where Icame with a heavy, unwilling heart. Cast off all fear The Nectar willinfuse a new life in you, as it has done in my Sikhs. They are nocowards. These sparrows of mine shall pluck the imperial eagles; catsshall vanquish lions. Come, shake off all weakness, become membersof this Brotherhood of the King’s Own (the Khalsa), champion thecause of human equality and freedom of worship, safeguard the honourof your women, and liberate your down-trodden countrymen.

But his words fell on deaf ears and on dead and dull hearts. TheRajas went away determined to oppose the Guru’s defiling their ancientDharma, and, for this purpose, to call in, if necessary, the aid of hisinveterate enemy, the Emperor of Delhi. They forgot that Aurangzebwas as much their own enemy as his, and that their real safety lay inoffering a united front to the common enemy of the non-Muslims. Theywere thus playing into the hands of one who was, at heart, as opposedto their existence as they were to the spread of the Guru’s teachings.

The Guru sent Sikhs in all directions with orders to baptize asmany as possible. It should be noted here that the Guru’s methodof spreading his religion was that of loving persuasion. People sawthe beauty of his life, the grandeur of his personality, the sweetreasonableness of his teachings, and the supreme heights of virtueand nobility to which he lifted all who called him their own. Theywere drawn to him as steel is attracted to a magnet. They were bewitchedby the atmosphere of love and piety, devotion and service, manlinesscombined with saintliness, valour and sweetness, courage and campassion, that pervaded the Guru’s darbar. An exquisite joy filledtheir souls, their hearts, and every pore of their bodies. They bowedand yielded, and became the Guru’s disciples. No force of aggressionwhatsoever was ever employed. The sword was ever there, but it wasnever unsheathed or rattled in order to force the Sikh faith down thethroats of unwilling or helpless people. Even in later times, when theKhalsa was supreme in the Panjab, no coercion was employed to spreadreligion, though its use that way by the Sikhs would have been butfollowing the precedent created and well established by their predecessors in power.

Every Sikh, in his own place, was a spring from which

continuously flowed the life-giving waters of gur-updesh or theGuru’s teachings; a bright lamp shedding the light of knowledgeand bliss all round. He lived as a Sikh should live, with Godenthroned in the heart, sweet words or love and charity on thelips, and with hands busy in easing some suffering brother’scondition. There was no distinction of caste or creed. Muhammadans as well as Hindus were served with the same zeal. EverySikh was inspired with a wish to dissuade as many as possiblefrom the wrong path, and bring them on to the noble way of lifeshown by the Guru. Enemies, who came to strike, plunder, andkill, bathed in the waters of love, charity, and forgiveness, whichfreely flowed from the hearts of their victims of intended victims;their eyes were opened; they saw their true selves in the light ofthe “Guru’s lamp’ before them; they shuddered at the sight; andbegged that a spark of the light might be bestowed on them, too.

They got it. Thus, one live spirit infused life and light in another,and the whole land was gradually getting free of the darkness ofbrute passions and enslaving superstitions which had smotheredall light from this land of Rishis.

As stated before, the Guru’s mission was to spread the law ofdharma and toleration in the land. The government of the time wasbitterly hostile to all religions except the state-religion. 1 The nonbelievers, or kafirs as they were derisvely callled, had everywhere fallenin thousands in the past, and more were being daily despatched afterthem. Do what the Guru might, he could not avoid an open conflictwith the rulers, unless, of course, he renounced his mission and agreedto be an indifferent spectator of atrocities which blackened the face of1. Aurangzeb had resolved, says Latif, ‘that the belief in one God and the Prophetshould be, not the prevailing, but the only religion of the empire of Hindostan.’

the country. He knew that the Hill-Chiefs were acting as tools ofAurangzeb, and would allow him no peace. So, he set up foundries toprepare weapons for his soldiers. The regular army was increased.

Orders went round for all his Sikhs to keep ready with horses andarms.