Gobind Singh on horseback accompanied by attendants Punjab Plains, circa 1820-30. Sold at auction by Bonhams.
Today celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, last in the line of the Gurus of the Sikh religion. The Guru was born as Gobind Rai and after initiating the Khalsa or ‘fraternity of the Pure’ took on the name Gobind Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh was The Tenth Nanak or the last of the Sikh preachers to live. His teachings have inspired the Sikh community and others for generations. The Sikh community celebrates this day offering prayers at gurudwaras and remembering his philosophy and teachings.
On his 349th birth anniversary, we bring you a number of amazing facts about Guru Gobind Singh:
1. A LEADER AMONG US
Gobind Rai, who would later be named as Guru Gobind Singh, was born to the ninth Guru of Sikhism, Guru Teg Bahadur and Mata Gujri at Patna Sahib or Takht Sri Patna Sahib, Bihar.
The Shoes of Guru Gobind Singh kept at Takht Patna Sahib, Bihar, India.
2. SON OF A MARTYR
He was only nine when he became the Tenth Sikh Guru. He ascended after his father Guru Teg Bahadur accepted martyrdom(shaeedi) in the hands of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to protect the Kashmiri Hindus.
3. SCHOLAR AND WARRIOR
As a child, Guru Gobind Singh learned many languages including Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi, Braj, Gurmukhi and Persian. At Anandpur and Paonta he assembled numerous poets. He also learned martial arts or Shastarvidyia to become adept in combat and taught this to his followers.
Guru Granth Sahib manuscript with the signature of Guru Gobind Singh. Kept at Takht Patna Sahib, Bihar.
4. TO THE HILLS
Guru Gobind Singh’s hometown was the city of Anandpur Sahib in the present Rupnagar disrict in Punjab.He started writing his own compostions at Anandpur. He left the town due to a scuffle with Bhim Chand and proceeded to Nahan, a place in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, following an invitation of Mat Prakash, the king of Sirmur.
5. PREACHING IN HILLS
From Nahan, Guru Gobind Singh proceeded to Paonta, a town beside the river Yamuna in South Sirmur, Himachal Pradesh. There, he founded Paonta Sahib Gurudwara and preached about the Sikh principles. Paonta Sahib remains an important pilgrim site for Sikhs. Guru Gobind continued writing his compositions and a substantial number of followers flocked to see him within three years he spent there.
6. A FIGHTER
In September 1688, at the age of 19, Guru Gobind Singh fought the Battle of Bhangani against an allied force of Bhim Chand, Garwal king Fateh Khan and other local kings of the Sivalik Hills. The battle lasted for a day and thousands of lives were lost. The Guru came out victorious. A description of the battle can be found in Bachitra Natak which is part autobiographical of his battles.
Guru Gobind Singh hunting in the Jungle. Woodcut C1875, Amritsar. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
7. RETURN TO HOME
In November 1688, Guru Gobind returned to Anandpur, which became known as Chak Nanaki, agreeing upon an invitation from the dowager queen of Bilaspur.
8. FOUNDER OF KHALSA
On March 30 in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh gathered his followers to his home in Anandpur. He asked for a volunteer to sacrifice his head for his brothers. Daya Ram offered his head and the Guru took him inside a tent and later emerged with a bloody sword. He again asked for a volunteer and repeated the feat. This went on for three more times. At last, Guru emerged from the tent with the five initiates. These five Sikhs were named as Panj Pyare or ‘five beloved ones’ by the Guru.
The five initiates were Daya Ram, also known as Bhai Daya Singh; Dharam Das, also known as Bhai Dharam Singh; Himmat Rai, also known as Bhai Himmat Singh; Mohkam Chand, also known as Bhai Mohkam Singh; and Sahib Chand, also known as Bhai Sahib Singh.
Guru Gobind Singh with the Panj Pyares. Watercolour. 19th Century. Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.
9. KHALSA, THE WAY OF LIFE
At the gathering of 1699, Guru Gobind SIngh founded the Khalsa slogan
“Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh”. He named all his followers with the title Singh, meaning lion. He also founded the principles of Khalsa or the Five ‘K’s.
The five ‘K’s are the five principles of life that are to be followed by a Khalsa. These include Kesh or hair, which means to leave the hair uncut to show acceptance to the form God intended humans to be; Kangha or wooden comb, as a symbol of cleanliness; Kara or iron bracelet, as a mark to remind a Khalsa of self-restraint; Kacchera or knee-length shorts, to be worn by a Khalsa for being always ready to go into battle on horseback; and Kirpan, a sword to defend oneself and the poor, the weak and the oppressed from all religions, castes and creeds.
10. FIGHTING THE MUGHALS
After repeated conflicts with Garwali and Mughal leaders, Guru Gobind Singh wrote a letter to Aurangzeb in Persian, which was later famously named as Zafarnama or the Epistle of Victory, reminding him of the misdeed the Mughals had done to the Sikhs. He fought against the Mughals later in battle of Muktsar in 1705.
11. PASSING THE LEGACY
After Aurangzeb’s death, Guru Gobind Singh no longer remained an adversary to the Mughals. The next Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah was friendly with Guru Gobind at first. Wazir Khan sent two Pathan assassins Jamshed Khan and Wasil Beg to attack the Guru during his sleep at Nanded, the Guru’s resting place. They stabbed Guru Gobind Singh in his sleep. The Guru killed Jamshed, the attacker, with his sword, while other Sikh brothers killed Beg.
Guru Gobind Singh named Guru Granth Sahib, the religious text of the Khalsa as the next living Guru of the community. His own compositions are left in the secondary scripture, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib. He left his bodily form and on October 7 in 1708.
Modern depiction of Guru Gobind Singh anointing Guru Granth Sahib as ‘Guru’. C1900.
12. THE RELICS OF THE GURU
There are many relics of Guru Gobind Singh all across the world. Interestingly after the Anglo Sikh Wars many weapons of the Guru were brought over to the UK. Some of these were returned to the Punjab in 1966, however there are others which can no longer be located in the UK. There has also been speculation that the holy Kalgi of Guru Gobind Singh was also sent to the UK.
The relics of Guru Gobind Singh sent from the UK and received in Delhi by Sri Lal Bhadur Shastri and then passed to Sardar Ujjal Singh. Now kept at Takht Anandpur Sahib, Punjab.
Adapted from an article published by http://indiatoday.intoday.in/