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Images: details from a painting by Kanwar Singh (ArtofPunjab.com).

History

Birth Of A Nation:
Part I

Bhai VIR SINGH, translated from original Punjabi by BIMAL KAUR

 

 

 





From ‘Dilgir, Dilzor, Dilshaad’, Sri Guru Kalgidhar Chamatkar (1925), by Bhai Vir Singh




CHAPTER I


A scene of celestial beauty!

Seven of the tallest snow-clad Himalayan peaks surround a spot where an ascetic sits in deep meditation. All around is an aura of peace and serenity.

Suddenly a voice from the beyond speaks:

“You must go into the world and produce an Ideal Man of Chardi Kala. I had designated Man to be supreme in the world; he has fallen short. Now you must go and be the Guru who teaches and is the father, who loves and guides his offspring.”

The ascetic opened his eyes and looked around. He was disturbed. After a long, long time of meditation and tapasya, he had felt that he was in the presence of the Almighty, and now these words telling him to go into the world and create the Ideal Man!

“How am I to carry out this task? And yet, it is His order. To disobey is to deny my love and faith. But I need guidance - His guidance! O Eternal Father, I am not fit to do your bidding. But if you are with me, always and forever with me and this union that has occurred today does not break, then your servant would be capable of carrying out your orders.”

The Voice spoke again:

“I am in you and you are in me. This union, this oneness is for all times. I shall be with you as a father, who is always there to help his son - ‘main apna sut tohe niwajaa.’ (I have designated you as my son)

*   *   *   *   *

Guru Gobind Singh sat in a deeply contemplative mood at Anandpur. The people of the country were suffering under the Mughal invaders who had looted and plundered the nation’s wealth and had stayed on to rule the populace with an iron hand. To the other woes of the people had been added the terrible hardship of religious bigotry and intolerance. No one was free to worship in his own way, but was instead under constant threat to either accept the religion of the rulers or die.

People had lost their physical and moral strength and were unable to put up a unified resistance against this tyranny. Something needed to be done to ignite the spark of honour and self-worth in their hearts.

Guru Sahib left Anandpur and went to the remote mountains to find an answer. In the stillness, he heard again the words:

“I have given you the title of my Son with the purpose of establishing the Khalsa Panth. Go into the world and create a kingdom of righteous living by teaching the people to give up their wrongful thinking.

“Yes, the Almighty had blessed me with these words before I left Sachkhand. But I still do not know how to carry out His wishes. O Father, my beloved Father, help me so that I can carry out your bidding wisely,” he prayed.

Guru Sahib spent eleven months, eleven days and eleven hours in this remote place searching for an answer. Then one day, a sound burst forth and formed the word:

K-H-A-L-S-A

This was repeated thrice. Suddenly there was a movement in the air. It was as if the invisible sound waves were vibrating and converging to form a living figure. It could be described in these words:

saabat soorat dastaar sira
'A person in complete form, with a turban crowning his head.'

He had a luminous face with classic, handsome features, strong physique, a beautiful soft beard, lustrous hair covered with an impressive turban, shining forehead, red cheeks, eyes glowing with a deep love, a heart full of courage but no aggression, buoyancy of spirit but no anger. Here stood a figure of immense authority with a sword in one hand held up more as a shield, a pen in the other hand to spell out fairness and justice.

He wore a short robe and loose shorts, a ‘kummerkassa’ (cummerbund), tied tightly around his waist. His arms were long and biceps well-muscled, the legs were well-toned and looked like they could move with agility. The overall look conveyed physical strength. There was an aura of a heart filled with naam, a gentleness and beauty, with a mind ruled by logic and self-reliance.

There were lines on the wide forehead bearing a celestial message:

Chardi kalaa!

Guru Sahib asked: “Who are you?”

Figure: “I am Khalsa.”

Guru Sahib gave him a penetrating look and asked: “Where do you live? Who has created you?”

Figure: “I come from your inner spiritual core and thus I am your creation.”

Guru Sahib: “Why have you come?”

Figure: “To ask you to grant me the boon to enter every man’s heart and to bring alive the ideal of the Khalsa who will lift the oppressive burden of pain and suffering from mankind.”

Guru Sahib was no longer ‘dilgir’ (pensive and grave). His eyes shone with a blinding light and as he looked around, he could see the reflection of the Khalsa on every tree, every branch and every leaf. From all around the sound echoed and re-echoed –

Khalsa! Khalsa! Khalsa!

Guru Sahib’s efforts had produced a priceless gem. In joyous and buoyant spirits, He returned to Anandpur.

*   *   *   *   *  


CHAPTER II

Guru Sahib believed that a strong character was essential for a community, a nation, to progress. It was the very foundation of spiritual faith. He wanted to combine the qualities of character, faith and courage in his Ideal Man. He had tested various categories of people and found them wanting.

Now, he decided to put his Sikhs to the test. He knew that the teachings and example of the Nine Masters preceding him had firmly embedded in his Sikhs the love of naam, gurbani, and complete faith in Waheguru. Sikhi was based on Truth and Truthful Living, love for one another with the ability to sacrifice oneself for others, whenever the need arose.

But Guru Sahib wanted something more. The Sixth Master, Guru Hargobind Sahib had inculcated in his army how to be prepared to die for righteousness. Guru Gobind Singh wanted that lesson to become part of the mindset of each and every Sikh. Bur first he needed to test the Sikhs to see if they were ready for this.

Missives were sent everywhere asking all Sikhs to come to Anandpur for the Vaisakhi festival.

When the day came, the huge pandal or enclosure was completely filled. After the kirtan was over, the vast congregation waited in silence for Guru Sahib to speak.

Suddenly, he leapt from his seat, his countenance radiant and glowing. Holding aloft his flashing sword, he called out loudly, “My beloved Sikhs! Come, offer me your heads! My sword needs you. Is there a Sikh who loves me so much that he can give up his head for me?”

There was a stunned silence. No one moved and then, a wave of commotion started. The Sikhs looked at each other, felt a surge of emotion to obey Guru Sahib’s call, then subsided in confusion. None dared to look at Guru Sahib, his  aura was so powerful that human eyes could not absorb the sight.

The call came again, “Is there no one ready to renounce his love of life and offer me his head?”

No one in that vast crowd seemed capable of movement. To say ‘no’ was to go against the principles of Sikhi, while love of life was so strong that it was most difficult to say ‘yes’.

In this numb silence, Guru Sahib’s strong voice rang out again, ‘Is there anyone?”

From the gathering, a simply dressed person, Daya Ram, hailing from the ‘khatri’ community from Lahore stood up, thinking, ‘This body will not last forever like the soul. Sooner or later it is going to die. Guru Sahib is asking only for that which is destructible. Now is the time to redeem my life by breaking this earthen vessel at Guru Sahib’s feet.’

With folded hands, he said, “O my Lord, you are the giver of life eternal. If it pleases you, this head is yours.”

‘Dil Zor’ Guru Sahib caught him by the hand and took him into a tent erected nearby.

In a short while, he came out, his sword dripping blood and called, “My Sikhs, one more head!”

Seeing the bloodied sword, fear began to fill everyone’s heart. Confused murmurs arose all around. Many people had already left and now, more slipped away, saying, “Guru Sahib is not in his right senses.”

Some rushed to Mata Gujri (Guru Sahib’s mother) to seek her intervention.

But wait! One more Sikh, Dharam Das, got up and walking up to Guru Sahib, said, “The day I bowed my head to you, it became yours.”

He too, was taken into the tent.

Guru emerged shortly thereafter and stood before the crowd once again, for the third time, with his sword scarlet with blood, and called out even more loudly, “One more! Let any Sikh offer his head!”

At the third call, Mohkam, belonging to Dwarka, came up and bowing before Guru Sahib, said, “Forgive me for taking so long to offer you what is yours.”

He too was taken into the tent.

When Guru Sahib came back, his eyes were bright and flashing, “Will one more Sikh come forward?”

And once again, a Sikh, Sahib Ram, a barber from Bidar came up with a smile on his face and the humble request to take his head too! He was taken away by Guru Sahib.

The Sikhs were terrified, yet some semblance of faith and love for him held them rooted to the spot. They watched in awe as yet again Guru Sahib came out and called for one more head. This time too, a man got up and humbly offered his head. His name was Himmat from Jagannath; he was a water-carrier. He was also taken into the tent.

The congregation waited breathlessly to see what would happen next. In a while, the flap of the tent was lifted and Guru Sahib came out, exuding a spiritual vigour and radiance which stunned the sangat. Behind him came the five Sikhs who had so willingly offered their heads.

Everyone was filled with wonder at this marvel. They could not believe their eyes.

Now, many moved forward. One of them said, “Guru Sahib, forgive me. My family have been Sikhs for three generations and received untold blessings from you. Yet, when the time came to prove my faith, I hesitated. Please, take this useless head,” and he prostrated himself at Guru Sahib’s feet, teary-eyed.

Another Sikh came forward, with tears pouring down his face, and pleaded, “I tried to come forward a number of times, but stopped. I am weak, but your love is firm inside my heart. If you cast me aside, I will die crying because I have no one to believe in except you.”

A third Sikh now moved forward hesitatingly, “Patshah, five offered their heads joyously. Take mine now as punishment for not obeying your call immediately, for loving my body more than your commandment.”

Guru Sahib saw that many more were crying out of regret at their lack of faith and courage. In a loving voice he said, “You are all mine and I am yours. These Beloved Five are gurmukhs, those who ran away were be-mukhs (deserters), but you all are sanmukhs (having belief in their Guru), and those who are still undecided are manmukhs (slaves of their egos).

“Sikhi is truly wonderful for out of it have emerged five selfless ones. A community, a nation is alive and vibrant because these Five Beloved (Punj Pyaarey) form its back-bone. I am elated that today these five gurmukhs and innumerable sanmukhs are in front of my eyes, while thousands more wait eagerly beyond. My dear ones, I have no wish to take your lives. I only want to kill the self-love and worldly attachment in each of you and replace it with a divine force to make you alive to a higher and fuller life.

“Guru Nanak put Bhai Lehna through a number of tests and when Guru Sahib was satisfied that he was the right person to uphold the honour and glory of Sikhi, he anointed him as Guru Angad, our second Guru.

“In today’s test, five Sikhs have passed, giving the assurance that they are capable of upholding the esteem and integrity of Sikhi. You must accept them as my equal. There is no difference between them and me.”

The Sikh sangat realized now, ‘Guru Sahib was putting us all to a test. Why did we show such weakness and not move forward promptly? But we are grateful for Waheguru’s grace that at least five out of us rose to the occasion. Fair reputation of Sikhi has been saved. They are truly great and blessed by the Almighty.”

One by one, they all bowed with reverence to the Five.

Guru Sahib mingled with the sangat for some time and then left the diwan, accompanied by the Five Beloved ones.


*   *   *   *   *

Continued tomorrow …


[Sardarni Bimal Kaur, the translator, has embarked on a project to make available more of Bhai Vir Singh ji's works in English.] 
April 5, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), April 05, 2017, 3:54 PM.

Thanks, Bimal ji, for undertaking such a delightful but an onerous task soaked in love. This is more than a bedside story. It is also an autobiographical script of this ‘Bacchitar Natak’ - the wondrous play of being in deep, timeless meditation, unwilling to come out, but ordained to go forth into the world under His Command. There was no choice to refuse. Bimal ji, thanks for holding our hand and taking us along on this wondrous journey.

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Part I"









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