The Zafarnama and Aurangzeb : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

As stated already, the Guru had deputed Bhai Daya Singh and DharmSingh to proceed to the Deccan and deliver the Epistle of Victory toEmperor Aurangzeb. Now where and in what state was the Emperorat that time ? From 1681 to his death in 1707 A.D. Aurangzeb was inthe Deccan, engaged in a long and unprofitable struggle with the Muslimpowers of Bijapur and Golkanda and with the Marathas. From 1700onwards he was personally directing operations against the Marathas,who were offering unexpectedly stubborn resistance. “The Imperialarmy at first succeeded in capturing about half a dozen forts of theouter line of the Maratha defences, but behind them lay many othersequally strong and more inaccessible. Moreover, what the Mughals wonone day was regained the next by the Marathas, so that war wasprotacted interminably. Famine, pestilence, and flood caused havoc inthe Mughal army, and the “very elements seemed to combine againstthe Mughals.” Speaking of one flood in the Bhima river where theroyal camp was pitched, Khafi Khan say, “The water began to overflowat midnight when all the world was asleep… The flood carried offabout ten to twelve thousand men, with establishments of the king afcdthe princes and the Amirs, horses, bullocks, and cattle in countlessnumbers, tents and furniture beyond all count. The king wrote outprayers with his own hand, and ordered them to be thrown into thewater, for the purpose of causing it to subside,” ‘But these suppliantcharms were ineffectual to arrest the course of nature as his arms tostem the human tide of war which he had provoked and which,providence had decreed, was to submerge the empire.”

It was during the days of such reverses and calamities that theEmperor had written his third (autograph) letter to the Guru. Later, inthe midst of these reverses and calamities he was attacked by a severeillness in October, 1705. ‘He was consequently persuaded by hisministers to retire to Ahmadnagar. Pursued by skirmishing bodies ofexultant Marathas, “slowly and with difficulty.” The Emperor raechedAhmadnagar on the 20th January 1706,”where he had encamped twentyyears earlier, filled with hopes of conquest and glory.” Here he lingeredon for a year — an old man of ninety, with little strength of body, andmind and, at length, gave in on the moming of Friday, 20th February,1707 and his weary spirit found peace.’ 1

It was at Ahmadnagar, where he lay ill, waiting for Death, theDeliverer, that the Guru’s letter was delivered to Aurangzeb. What wasthe state of his mind and heart at that time ? That state was to determinethe effect which the Zafamama was to have on him. In the first place,he had ‘realized towards the end of his career that his long reign offifty years had been a colossal failure. ‘ ^This realization could not buthave plunged him in grief and dejection. Memories of what he hasdone to his father, brothers, their families, to Sufis and Shias; to Hindusand Sikhs, must all have crowded into his fevered brain and added toits torments. He must have remembered what he had sown and shudderedat the thought of what he was to reap, now that the reaping time wasso near. Latif says, ‘Before his death, he seems to have felt stronglythat his dissolution was near, and the letters he dictated to his sons inthe last days are sufficiently indicative of the intense remorse he feltfor the past.’ 3 In his letter to Prince Azam he wrote : “The instant whichpassed in power, hath left only sorrow behind it. I have not been theguardian and protector of the empire. My valuable time has been passedvainly. I bought nothing into this world and carry nothing out exceptthe infirmities of man. I fear for my salvation and dread the tormentswith which I may be punished. Though I have strong reliance on themercies and bounties of God, yet, regarding my actions, fear will notquit me.’; 4 To Prince Kam Bakhsh he wrote.’I carry with me the fruitsof my sins and imperfections — I have committed numerous crimesand know not with what punishment I may be seized. 5

The Guru’s letter reached Aurangzeb at a time when he was feelingthat his end was near, he was full of intense remorse for his Sins andcrimes, and dreaded the punishment that he might be seized with onaccount of them. The Guru’s letter must have conjured up before hisfevered, agitated mind vivid pictures of his sins and crimes against the1. Edwardes and Garret, o/>.cir.p.l53.

2. Ibid, p. 155.

3. Latif, op. cit., p. 176.

4. Edwards and Garret, op. cit. p.155.

5. Ibid., p. 156.

Guru, committed in violation of his oaths on the Quran. It told himwhat to expect from God and prophet.

The Guru’s letter, backed by further details given by the bearerthereof, had a strong effect on the dying Emperor. It softened his heart.

It filled him with repentance. It deepened his remorse for the past andhis anxiety about the future.

The Emperor treated Bhai Daya Singh and Dharm Singh withkindness and courtesy. He asked them to appeal to the Guru on hisbehalf and prevail upon him to come, visit him, and speak to him the’kind words’ which he had promised to do in his. letter. Having learntfrom them how difficult and risky it had been for them to travel allthe way from the Panjab, he furnished them with a parvana of safeconduct for their return journey.

It is believed that he wrote to the Governor of Sarhind tellinghim that the Guru should not be molested any more. From Ahkam-iAlamgiri we learn that he issued orders that Guru should be providedsafe conduct throughout the empire on his way to Ahmadnagar, and,if he so required, given cash to defray his travelling expenses.

Bhai Daya Singh and Dharm Singh returned to the Guru in duecourse. Because of the Parwana of safe conduct which had beenfurnished to them, their return journey had been quite safe and muchquicker. They informed the Guru of all that they had seen and heard.

They conveyed to him Aurangzeb’s last request. The Guru was deeplymoved when he heard of the Emperor’s condition. He decided to acceptthe Emperor’s invitation to go to him, to utter kind words to him, andto prepare him for the last journey to meet his Maker.

So he started towards the Deccan. When he reached the neighbourhood of Baghur, he hears the news that Aurangzeb had died in hiscamp at Alimadnagar on February 20, 1707. On hearing the news, theGuru retraced his steps to the north. As we shall see, he had to playan important role in the impending war of succession for the throne ofDelhi.