Guru Gobind Singh – the lion of medieval India

Vedahun vidit dharma pracharyun, Gohat kalamka vishva nivaryun.

Sakal jagat mein Khalsa Panth gaajey, Jagey dharm Hindu sakal bhand Bhajey

Guru Gobind Singh

(May I preach the Vedas to the whole mankind / May I remove the blot of cow-slaughter from the whole world / May the Khalsa Panth reign supreme / Long live Hinduism and falsehood perish)

The 17th century was not a pleasant time for India, plagued as it was by foreign aggression and internal dissensions. The aggressors neither spoke the same tongue, nor had the same notions of religion and dharma. Not only were they different from the natives, but also they were extremely intolerant to the native faith. The aggressors had already embarked on the mission of wiping out native culture from India. Furthermore, Indians themselves remained divided. While a section of society believed in the escapist philosophies of illusion, another section completely adhered to extreme forms of ritualism, without a clear grasp of the underlying concepts of dharma. People remained divided not only on the lines of caste, but they also disputed doctrinal differences. This was the time not of philosophical discussion, but of action, because the bigger enemy was the foreign aggressor. At this crucial stage, was it possible for dharma to be re-interpreted, for the Hindus had to rise to a heightened level of consciousness to give up the internal differences for the sake of the honor of their motherland? Guru Gobind Singh was the person who made this possible with a truly secular point of view. His philosophy was very simple – a dharmic Indian shunned differences on basis of religion and protected the honor of his nation.

The birth of Guru Gobind Singh was prophesized by Pir Bhikan Shah, a fakir from Thaksa village (now in the Karnal District of Haryana). This fakir had a question in his mind. If this young boy turned out be a defender of a single faith, would he impute the wrong-doings of the oppressor onto the common men who followed the foreign faith – i.e. will Guru Gobind Singh hate/kill the Muslim common men who lived in India? To resolve his doubt, the fakir visited the young baby boy with two packets of sweets in his hand – one bought from a Muslim shop and another from a Hindu shop. When the two packets of sweets were presented to the baby in a symbolic way of asking a question, the boy touched both the packets at the same time, symbolically answering the question – there is no distinction between men on the basis of faith, as long as they maintain loyalty to their motherland. The fakir’s doubts were cleared by this incident and he blessed the child and moved on. He understood that the larger concept of dharma is paramount. The way one worship the higher force does not matter. Dharma is the Rta – the natural order of life. It is swalakshana – arising out of itself.

So how did Guru Gobind Singh re-establish the tenets of dharma? He initiated people into the Khalsa path. A Khalsa was the defender of Bharat Mata. He protected her sanctity, her divinity and he defended her people against foreign aggression. The Khalsa’s dharma was “aaradhana by blood” and “aaradhana by sacrifice.” Even though it appears to be merely a poetical description, in reality it definitely was not.

The firm belief was that the only way to get moksha was to die on the battleground for the sake of Bharat Mata. Bereft of context, this idea appears to completely contradict the prescription of self-contemplation by Sanakara or the injunction towards non-violence by Buddha. But in the times of need, such a radical interpretation was needed to protect India. Guru Gobind Singh’s Sikhism, preached that caste distinctions were artificial dividers, as everyone is a Sudra when he is born, irrespective of whether he was actually born in a Sudra family or a Brahmin family. Guru Gobind Singh does not patronize either the native forms of worship versus any other foreign form like Islam. His mission was to ameliorate the social ills that plagued India and broke her spirit. The artificial differences on the basis of caste, and ritualism, and doctrines is condemned severely. He re-interpreted dharma in terms of karma yoga in the battlefield. This was the philosophy of the Khalsa that he founded.

At a congregation of his followers, he demanded to know how many people were ready to step up to die immediately for the sake of dharma. He repeated his question 3 times and one timid man came forward saying that he would give up his live driven by  the love for his guru. Guru Gobind took out a huge sword, led the man behind a dark screen into a secret room and returned with the sword dripping with blood. The audience was stunned. Guru Gobind repeated his earlier question and slowly four more men stepped up. Each time Guru Gobind returned with the sword dripping with blood. After doing this five times, he stepped in front of the screen along with the 5 men – who he renamed as “Singh” (meaning lion(s)). The five brave Singhs were revived because of their true intentions behind their sacrifice. These were the first five commanders of the Khalsa. The Khalsa, led by Guru Gobind Singh fought twenty battles against the Mughals and their allies, in an attempt to protect India. The men of the Khalsa attained their Moksha dying to protect their fellow country-men. We indeed owe so much to the Sikhs – the defenders of Bharat Mata. For an interesting and a more detailed account of Guru Gobind Singh’s life, please visit –

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