Kids Corner

Images: details from painting of Guru Arjan, by Canadian artist Kanwar Singh []


In Defence Of The Truth





It was a time of execution.

It was a time of liberation.

One by one the Sikhs embraced death.

When the turn of one young Sikh came, somehow his mother was able to convince the authorities that he was forcibly inducted into Sikhism and hence he should be released. But the boy, as reported by Khafi Khan, an eyewitness and a historian, replied, “My mother tells a falsehood. I with my heart and soul, join my fellow-believers in my devotion to the Guru. Send me quickly after my companions.”

The boy bowed his head and attained martyrdom.

No wonder, the notion of shahidi or martyrdom, and of shahid or martyr, occupies a central place in Sikhism, so much so that sacrifices of the martyrs are daily remembered by the Sikhs while reciting their daily prayer, the Ardaas.

“Death” and “martyrdom” are not similar, as explained by Guru Nanak.

“Man, revile not death. Death is not an evil, should one know how truly to die. The death of heroic men is holy, should they lay down their lives for a righteous cause.“

Martyrdom is sacrificing one’s life voluntarily for a noble cause. It involves sacrifice, truth, courage and, above all, fearlessness.

Nanak says, “Listen,  mind, that person who fears nothing nor gives anyone cause to fear, he has alone obtained true knowledge.”

The martyr’s courage is not only physical, it’s spiritual and moral as well. A martyr is one who by his supreme sacrifice for his faith, bears testimony to its truth and to his own allegiance to it. Hence, the shahid attempts to embody the Guru’s teaching that “suffering” must be meaningful.

Martyrs bear the torments cheerfully as it is the will of the Almighty. Silently, he indicates that tormentors can be defeated. As the Akal Purakh destroys demons and evil, so the gursikhs must have faith in Waheguru’s Hukam  and, given an opportunity, they must oppose any sign of oppression and injustice.

Sikhs must always be defenders, not aggressors. This spiritual path, as enjoined by Guru Nanak, is “a path sharper than the edge of a double-edged sword”. It requires a steadfast commitment from His Sikhs to be willing to accept death so that truth and justice prevail.

As says Guru Nanak, “Shouldst thou be eager to join the game of love, enter my street with thy head placed on thy palm. Stepping on to this path, sacrifice thy head without demur.”

Sikh history is replete with the sacrifices of the martyrs. The Gurus, in fact, set the example for the Sikhs with their own life histories.

Guru Arjan is considered the first martyr among the Sikh Gurus. He not only gave Sikhism its holy Granth and the Harmandar Sahib, in addition to a great number of beautiful compositions like Sukhmani Sahib, but also taught the Sikhs humility and sacrifice. Transcending pain and suffering, Guru Arjan embodied the truth of which Guru Nanak spoke.

Refusing to forsake his faith and protesting against oppression and tyranny, with his shahadat (sacrfice), Guru Arjan led the way to the transformation of the Sikh panth. The Sikhs of this panth had a garland in one hand and a sword in the other (sant-sipahi).

Bhai Gurdas describes the martyrdom of Guru Arjan thus: “Like the bee wrapped inside the lotus, passed he the night of this life as in a casket of joy. Never did he forget to utter the Lord’s word. Even as the Chatrik bird fails never to utter his cry. To a man of God joy is the fruit of devotion. And, meditating in the company of the holy, May I be a sacrifice unto the holy Guru Arjan!”

Kulbir Kaur teaches Sociology at Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Delhi University.

[Courtesy: The Asian Age. Edited for]
May 21, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM.

Kabir ji says (GGS:327): "One who dies a true death becomes deathless". But then, how does one die a true death? One who lives truly -- dedicates his life to noble causes!. Mahatma Gandhi said that he stood for the non-violence of the brave, not of the coward, because true bravery had its roots in love and non-violence. Aimless dying is a suicide and a sin against God. For Sikhs, the human body is a temple of God through which God is realized; it must be well looked after and not thrown away lightly.

2: Bhai Harbans Lal (Dallas, Texas, USA), May 24, 2015, 1:44 AM.

This article needs a necessary addition to clarify the moving history mentioned in the introduction. The young boy mentioned in the start of the article was Bhai Haqiqat Rai, son of Bhai Bhag Mall. Bhai Haqiqat Rai was presented before Zakria Khan, the Governor of Lahore. Contrary to common belief, the Sikh mother of Bhai Hakikat Rai, Goran Devi, told Bhai Haqiqat Rai, "Son! No doubt I shall lose a son by your death but if you give up your faith I shall be called the mother of a deserter and faithless son. I pray to God to bestow on you the will to keep your faith even if you have to sacrifice your life." When Bhai Haqiqat Rai did not agree to embrace Islam even after further torture, he was martyred by the orders of the Governor in January, 1735 A.D.

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