The Lowly Lifted Unto Eminence : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

According to the Guru’s own testimony cited in the last chapter, hewas, in Samvat 1755, engaged in poetical compositions and translations.

He had retired to the seclusion of Naina Devi hill, 1 where he dividedhis time between divine meditation and literary work. He gave up gaypastimes. He would speak to none; he remained wrapt in deep andapparently anxious thought, and forbade people’s coming near him.

There was a visible change in his exterior. His mind appeared to havebeen pressed by some strong and invisible burden. He was so unlikewhat he had usually been, that his devotees and friends were deeplyconcerned about his mental equilibrium. Some were sure that he wason the way to some form of mental derangement. But those whosefaith was firm, deep, and unshakeable, would not subscribe to any suchviews. They were certain that the Master was about to enact some newwonderful scene in the drama of his life. They knew what load it wasthat lay heavy on his heart.

This state is said to have lasted for about a year. He had alreadysent orders to his Sikhs that all of them, even those who till then werein the habit of shaving their heads, should let their hair grow its naturallength, and that all Sikhs should wear arms and practise their use. Afterthe conclusion of his deep and sustained reveree, he returned to Anandpur.

He then issued a general invitation to the Sikhs to muster stronger thanusual on the occasion of that year’s Baisakhi festival. He had to deliverto them, he said, some message of his Lord, which was, undoubtedly,the net product of his prolonged meditation.

I. ‘The Peak of Naina Devi is held in sacred estimation by the Sikhs, becauseGuru Gobind Singh ascended to its summits, and there, surrounded by a few faithfulfollowers, concerted measures for the propagation of their faith.’ G.T. Gigne’, Travels,ii p. 55)

It would seem that the act of the Guru’s retirement to the seclusion of the NainaDevi’s summits was interpreted by some as engagement in Durga worship.

We have already seen that the ideal which Guru Nanak and hissuccessors had before them was not only to purify the people’s faithand lead them to the worship of one God, but also to release themfrom all crippling social evils like the caste-system, to reorganizesociety on the basis of common belief and common aspirations, andto create a nation which would have the courage and capacity tooppose and eradicate all forms of social, economic, and politicalinjustice. They attacked the citadel of the caste-system with no meansuccess. But the corruption which had taken centuries to gather couldnot be uprooted easily or at once. We find that even Islam andChristianity, with their far greater and more varied resources, havenot achieved complete success in breaking the steel frame andeffacing caste-distinctions. Still, the Sikh Gurus did make considerable headway in the beginning. Hosts of Muslims and low-casteswere assimilated in the fold of Sikhism. But the progress in thatdirection was later retarded by the religious persecution started andrelentlessy carried on by the Mughals, particulary against the Sikhs.

Guru Gobind Singh resolved to complete the work begun by GuruNanak and carried on by his successors. He decided to create a bodyof men, self-contained and compact, who would be strong enough tofree themselves from the oppression of priests and rulers, and to maintainthe freedom thus achieved. In doing this he was not, in any way,departing from the principles taught by his predecessors. On the contrary,he was simply building on the foundations laid by them. In fact, heconsidered the mission of his predecessors to be one and the same, andregarded his own as the consummation thereof. He says in the VachittarNatak,”The generaity of people take them as different from one another;very few recognize them as one in spirit. But only those realize perfectionwho recognize them all as one.” 1 Hence, as Dr Narang puts it in hisTransformation of Sikhism.”(Gum) Gobind(Singh) himself, in fact, aswell as his work, was the natural product of the process of evolutionthat had been going on ever since the foundation of Sikhism. Theharvest which ripened in the time of Guru Gobind Singh had beensown by (Guru) Nanak and watered by his successors. The sword thatcarved the Khalsa’s way to glory was, undoubtedly, forged by (Guru)Gobind(Singh), but the steel had been provided by (Guru) Nanak.”

We have seen that as a result of what had been done till then bythe Sikh Gurus, a distinct community had been created which stooddistinguished from the mass of the Hindu society not only by its faithand form of worship, but also by the martial spirit and intense patriotisml.See also Bhai Nand Lai’s Jot Bigas and Teja Singh’s Sikhism.

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which filled the breasts of all its members. They had been taught tofear none and to strike fear in none. Still, the Guru saw that unless adistinct form and appearance were given to the nation, which had beenso long in the making, they might gradually merge into the great seafrom which they had been taken out. 1 He felt that the time had cometo complete the structure begun so long ago, and to apply the finishingtouch. This was the subject of his thought at the top of the Naina Devihill. He was not worshipping Durga. He was forging the shape andform of his future Khalsa. He was devising the best ways and meansof carrying out his Father’s orders.

These orders have been mentioned in the last chapter. Furtheron in the Vachitter Natak he again expounds his mission thus :’As bade the Lord, so do I proclaim,

What care I for aught besides ?

No religious garb doth please my heart,

I sow the eternal seed of the Supreme Name;

To the worship of stones I’ll never stoop.

As bade the Lord, just so shall I act and speak.

On the Eternal One will I ever meditate

For this purpose have I come into this world,

To uphold and spread righteousness in every place,

And to seize and destroy the doers of sin and evil.

Understand, ye holy men, full well in your souls,

That 1 took birth in this age, so that

Righteousness may flourish, the good, the saints, be saved,And the villainous tyrants be all uprooted from the land’.

It was the infinite weight of this task which was pressing uponhis bosom, which had greatly affected his mood, and had changedhis behaviour. His tender heart melted in compassion at the sightof the millions of poor and innocent people suffering tcrrihle andunmerited hardships. His blood boiled within him when he saw thehellish deeds of the tyrants. He felt that there was but one way ofrescuing the world around him from the fire of hate, pride, andaggressiveness, on the one side, and the miry pit of abject slavery,suffering, and demoralization, on the other. He had made up hismind to proceed at once with his task in the only way which hethought was efficacious, and, executed his design with the systematicspirit of a Grecian law-givers’ 2 .

1. That the Guru tried to separate the Sikhs from the Hindus is clear from NurMuhammad’s Jangnama (Ganda Singh’s translation, Siyar-ul-Mutakhirim, 400;Malcolm’s Sketch of the Siklts; History of Sikhs (Calcutta, 1846); History of thePunjab (Allen & Co. 1845)

2. Elphinstone. History of India

As the Baisakhi Day approached, Sangats began to arrive from everypart of the country. A few days before that festival the Guru held a greatfeast. But contrary to the practice in vogue at the time, he did not invitethe Brahmins to form the first batch of the feasters. Only a general invitationwas issued for all to come and dine. His Sikhs and the rest were servedas they came. When most of the people had dined, the Guru sent a specialinvitation to the Brahmins; for they had not responded to the generalinvitation. They felt slighted. So they refused to come; but their leader,Kesho, was later prevailed upon to at least see the Guru. The latter triedby soft words to assuage the fire of anger which raged in the Brahmin’sheart. When he complained of not having been invited on time, the Guruassured him that he would not be the loser on that account; for there wasenough of every article of food in the langar, and all Brahmins couldhave their fill. Kesho got very angry at what he thought to be a slight andinsult offered to his inviting them to dine after the Shudras had partakenof the food and thus polluted it He threatened to curse him.

‘You know well, O Pandit’, said the Guru, ‘that the good old dayswhen you successfully duped the ignorant people, are gone for ever.

Why not accept the facts as they are, and be reconciled to the changethat has come about ? Human touch does not pollute ftx,J of anythingelse. It is impurity within that pollutes both the high and the low. Asfor your curses, you know quite well what little harm they can do. So,come, accept what is offered. Wise people do not look a gift-horse inthe mouth.

The Pandit was irreconcilable. What occurred after that isnarrated by the Guru in a poem which can be translated as under:Guru : O Brahmin, you have got what was ordained in your destiny.

Why then this regret ?

It is no fault of mine that I forgot to invite you; so do notthink of anger.

As you are a stranger in this place and live on alms, be surethat I’ll send you clothes and bedding to-day’.

Brahmin : All Kashtryas derive their fame and honour from the Brahmins.’

Guru : Will you please to look at these my Sikhs with a bit of care?

Through their favour have I win victories in battles;

Through their favour have I bestowed gifts and charity;Through their favour have all may troubles been averted;Through their favour have I obtained wealth and prosperity;Through their favour have I acquired the knowledge that 1 dohave;

Through their kindness have all my enemies been slain;

It is through their favour that I am thus exaulted.

Otherwise there are crores of poor mortals like myself;It is in serving them that I find my greatest joy.

The service of mone else is acceptable to my heart;

To bestow gifts on them is most proper;

To make gifts to others doth not appeal to me as of any avail;The bestowal of gifts on them will bear fruit in the next worldAnd bring honour in this; to bestow on others is of no usewhatsoever;

As for me, my body, my soul, my head, my wealth,

Nay, my all, is dedicated to their service’.

The Brahmin got angry, and in the fire of his anger His heartbegan to bum like dry grass.

The thought that his occupation was gone and a comfortable meansof living was going from him, plunged him in sorrow and bitter werethe tears that he shed.

In this way the Guru taught that none were to be held holy orpolluted simply on account of birth in this or that family.’All men’,writes he, ‘have the same eyes, the same ears, the same humannature, and the same body — a compound of four elements — earth,air, fire, and water. They are all alike; for it is the one God whocreated them all.’ 1 It was good actions and virtuous.useful life thatelevated human beings and distinguished them from one another.

Hence, there were to be no castes among the new warrior-race whichhe was founding. There were to be no untouchables among theSikhs. 2 He had raised the lowest to a position of equality with thehighest.

While on this subject, one cannot but ponder in regret and anguishover the curse of ‘untouchability’ which has persisted even among theSrkhs to this day. It has rather developed new and strange forms. Sectshave arisen among even the Sikhs belonging to the so-called high casteswhose adherents do not take drink or food from one who does notbelong to their sect. The writer knows of families where a brother’stouch is held to pollute the sister’s food and vice versa. As for theuntouchables, so designated by the Hindus, very strong aversion tothem or their touch is still felt in most places. The treatment meted outto Sikh sweepers and chamars by the ‘high-caste’ Sikhs is very muchagainst the Guru’s teachings. They have remained among the Sikhs1. Akal Utsat

2. When a person is once admitted into that fraternity, they make no scruples ofassociating with him, of whatever tribe, clan, or race he may have been hitherto;nor do they betray any of those scruples and prejudices so deeply rooted in theHindu mind.’ {Siyar-ul-Mutakhirin, Colonel John Brigg’s Translation, p. 73.)what they were among the Hindus: the out-castes, the polluted, theuntouchables, and the eternally damned. The Sikhs were to be brothersof all. What a misfortune that they do not treat as a brothers even thosewho have come into the circle of the great Brotherhood founded byGuru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh. The teachings of the Gurus andthe liberalizing Western education have equally failed, so far, to uprootcompletely the ages long prejudice against the low-born.

The Singh Sabha movement and the Akali movement achievedsome success in elevating the belief and practice of the Sikhs, whohad fallen back exactly into the same old rut as their Hindu neighbours.

But very much, alas how much, yet remains to be done if the ideal ofGuru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh is to be achieved. Unless timelyefforts are made to admit these good people into the Khalsa Brotherhood,not nominally but actually, and to elevate* them to that position ofequality which the Gurus designed for them, the future of the Guru’sKhalsa would be sorry indeed.

All the same, it is undeniably true that the Sikhs in general arefar more liberal and advanced in this matter than the generality of theirHindu brethern.

But signs of a wholesome, widespread change are manifest allround. There is a great awakening among the wronged as well as amongthe wrong-doers themselves. All this leads one to hope that soon thisevil will disappear not only from amongst the Guru’s Khalsa but alsofrom amongst their Hindu brethren.