Kids Corner


The Doughty Defender of Harmandar Sahib
Part II







This is the seventh of a series of works on by the author to mark the 30th anniversary of the Indian Army’s desecration of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.


Continued from yesterday …

It was a time of great turmoil. The peril was grave and imminent. A large, well-armed force was about swoop down upon the Harmandar Sahib.

In its path stood a young man of steely resolve. A man who had decided to resist. Many had fled. Only a few stood shoulder to shoulder with him.

The invading force arrived. It was even larger and more fearsome than had been rumored, but the young man stood his ground. The battle began. The ferocity of the defenders shocked the invading force. Their resistance became the stuff of legend ...

This is the story of Baba Gurbaksh Singh, the 18th Century Akali warrior who dared to defy the might of the Afghan hordes.

His tiny band was outnumbered. Outgunned. And yet he embraced death like a bridegroom joyously bound for his wedding.

The account is translated from its original Punjabi from Episode 156 of Rattan Singh Bhangu’s opus, Sri Guru Panth Prakash.


In battle dress and fully armed

Powerful backs are ramrod straight

Their lips recite the Gurus’ words

In the Guru’s hands it rests, their fate


Chant verses from the Song of Bliss

Seeking blessings from the Guru Granth

A day of joy a wedding feast

Steaming parshad receives the panth

Bodies are sprayed perfume divine

For the wedding are the grooms prepared

The warriors sing songs of praise

Women respond with wedding airs

In sacred pool The Warrior bathes

In the Timeless Tower takes his place

A dazzling sight in splendid robes

That cover him from head to toe

On his head he dons a turban proud

Steel quoits dazzle in its folds

Amidst them does a dagger fix

As jaunty as a bridegroom’s plume

Upon him is pressed a chaplet fair

Sweet smelling blooms of many kinds

The Warrior dons in humble prayer

And is by all present he blessed

Steel on his wrists, blooms on his head

On his mighty shoulders sits a sword

The Timeless Tower he exits

Eager to bow before the Lord


To the Temple then The Warrior wends

With folded hands and bended knees

The joyous songs; the chanted hymns

Oh glorious day! His heart they please

They march behind their standard proud

To the fearsome boom of kettledrums

Swaggering about like bridegrooms bold

Merrily flinging silver and gold

With reverence deep salute their flag

Generously do they give out alms

And when they reach the Temple door

They bow their heads down to the floor

The Warrior enters the hallowed space

And four times he circles The Book

All around him warriors brave

Rain down petals on his head and face

With folded hands The Warrior prays

Humble he stands in the Guru’s midst

May I be worthy, Lord, he says

My body and soul at your feet I lay

Meanwhile the Giljis gird their loins

As they get word of the massing Singhs

They don their armor helmets and mail

Sikh warriors have none of these things

To their teeth are the mighty Giljis armed

Ready to lay the Singhs to waste

Arrows pistols and muskets long

Readied and primed with savage haste

The Singhs are armed with fighting words

Some have daggers, some double edged swords

Many have naught but rustic clubs

And yet they press, eager to fight

Some Singhs are mounted on their steeds

Jockey and twist to lead the charge

To each other solemnly swear

That each will lead the pack by far

And The Warrior dressed in battle gear

In the Timeless Tower in repose

Dashing bridegroom swells with pride

As he contemplates his winsome bride

The war drum beats; standard is raised

With music divine is the Master praised

The minstrels sing sweet songs of bliss

Till the warriors too have had their fill

The Giljis march at break of dawn

And bear down upon the eager Singhs

Some steadfast sit on noble mounts

Foot soldiers too; they hold their ground

And where they stand they give their lives

For how could they stop such a mighty horde

And as they leave for their final abode

The Singhs who live give battle fierce

The Singhs are by the Giljis ringed

Kill them! Kill them! Like wolves they bay

Louder is heard the Warrior’s roar

Dig in! Show them the martyr’s way

Honor there is in pressing forth

Just as in holding back is shame

When hostile swords around you sing

Its time to prove a warrior’s worth

Hearing these words the warriors bound

And lion-like on the Giljis pounce

Where else can such valor be found

They care no more for life or limb

Press on! Press on! The Warrior roars

Drink your fill of the martyr’s brew

Your sylvan dreams of paradise

In martyrdom you will realize

If you wish to be an eternal king

The maiden, Death, you must embrace

Reborn you shall be! As a mighty Singh

Of your enemies there will be no trace

Sallied forth his most valiant men

We are best men! You are the groom

We will follow you to paradise

And with you we will gladly rule

For heaven we care not one whit

Our bonds of brotherhood are enough

A noble death fighting we crave

As we send our foes to a fiery grave

And then The Warrior gravely says

A solemn oath I now do swear

As I set foot in the Guru’s court

To pieces will I the GIljis tear

My fearless brothers, now you take heart

You will be Singhs again reborn

And once again does The Warrior say

Embrace your death! Your enemies flay

The Giljis are back with fearsome force

The Singhs fight back their heels dug in

In their heads no thoughts of retreat

As slowly back Giljis they beat

Like a lion’s roar The Warrior’s cry

Let not today your purpose pale

For your faith you fight this noble fight

Dismount and with your swords prevail

These worlds beyond the Giljis’ ken

Their muskets rain a hail of lead

Steadfast men falling to the ground

Beholds The Warrior all around

The Warrior swings his mighty sword

A fearsome Gilji whistling smites

Pierces his armor; rips his breast

And many more soldiers he fights

Audaciously the Singhs advance

For a moment mighty Giljis yield

With practiced ease they lightly dance

Each man sheltered behind his shield

Contemptuous look on his noble face

His shield, The Warrior tosses away

The Giljis charge with flashing swords

Undaunted Singhs! They join the fray

Eyelids un-batted heads unbowed

No backward glance! Singhs charge ahead

The Giljis take to their heels cowed

So furious is their attack

From a distance Gilji guns let loose

And arrows whistle through the air

Singhs spout blood from countless wounds

To shreds their flesh do Gilji’s tear

The bullets they pierce their flesh and bone

The Singhs fight on heedless of pain

Their bodies spew a rush of blood

Like from an oil press flows a flood

The Warrior too profusely bleeds

Water spurting from a ruptured pouch

As on and on as he marches forth

Like fountains do the gashes spout

As more and more of his life blood seeps

His weary body starts to rebel

Yet The Warrior thinks not of retreat

That shame to him is worse than Hell

To the Lord he prays at this moment dark

Save me O Lord! Save me from shame

Accept my humble sacrifice

He begs as he chants his master’s Name

Continued tomorrow …

July 12, 2014


Conversation about this article

1: Gurpal Singh Bhuller (Chester, Virginia, USA), July 13, 2014, 10:30 AM.

Excellent translation, Sarbpreet Singh ji. You have truly managed to capture the flair and spirit of the original text. Many thanks for doing this and enlightening us with this incident from Sikh History. With reference to Harpreet Singh's earlier comments, do we know the exact date of this encounter?

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Part II"

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