The nation celeberated the tercentenary of the Khalsa on Baisakhi this year. On this day, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru founded the Khalsa-a brotherhood of saint-soldiers. They were to wield the sword to protect virtue against vice and to put an end to the intolerant religious policy of Mughals represented by Aurangzeb. Guru Govind Singh was of the view that the forces of intolerance and tyranny can be countered only by reinvigorating the faith and inculcating fighting spirit among the people


Ideas of patriotism and martyrdom inculcated by Guru Govind Singh, the prophet of resistance has left a chequered legacy. The Sikhs have been in the forefront of the country's freedom struggle and acted as the sword-arm of India's defence after 1947. When the Britishers came, the Sikhs were the last to lay down the arms. They were also the first to raise the banner of revolt against them.

The two major anti-British movements of 1920s-Ghadarite movement of Komagata Maru fame and the Gurudwara Reform movement were exclusively Sikh movements and shook the foundations of the colonialist empire. In these struggles four hundred Sikhs lost their lives, about two hundred were maimed andanother thirty thousand arrested. Out of 2,175 patriots who gave their lives for India's freedom, 1557 were Sikhs. During the anti-colonialist struggle 2446 Indians were banished to Kala Pani, out of this 2147 were Sikhs. 127 martyrs were hanged and among these 92 were Sikhs.


This historic moment of tercentenary is an occasion for exiled Kashmiri Pandits to rededicate themselves to the ideals of Sikh gurus and express their gratitude for saving their faith. Only those communities who remember their saviours, survive in history.

In 1669, the bigoted Mughal ruler Aurangzeb unleashed a policy of religious persecution against non-Muslims. This caused large-scale demoralisation and fear among the people. Seeing all this Guru Tegh Bahadur, the prophet of reassurance felt the need to rekindle their crest fallen spirits. During 1673 and 1674 Guru Tegh Bahadur undertook intensive work in the Malwa and Bangar areas, inspiring people with confidence and encouraging them to face all odds and difficulties. This was his silent but sure protest against Aurangzeb's aggressive policy of persecution. Thousands of them came to have his holy darshan and to receive his message of courage and hope embodied in the dictum, 'Fear not, nor give fear to others'. The people of Northern India, particularly the Hindus, found their natural saviour in the person of Guru Tegh, Bahadur. He became the symbol of India's civilisational resistance at that time. After reawakening the people's spirits, Guru finally retired to his headquarters, Chak Nanaki, presently called Anandpur Sahib.

On May 25, 1675 a band of sixteen Chief Brahmins of Kashmir, under the leadership of Pandit Kripa Ram Dutt reached Anandpur Sahib to seek his intervention. The Mughal Governor Iftikhar Khan had ordered them to covert or face death. It was in Gurudwara Manji Sahib that Guru heard their tale of woe and went into pensive mood. Deeply moved by their appeal, the Guru pondered a while and then announced his decision that he would even sacrifice his life for the protection of their faith. The Guru had been keenly watching the grave situation enveloping the country in the wake of Aurangzeb's policy of religious persecution. He was convinced that only his martyrdom can stem this tide.

Why Kashmiri Pandits sought the intervention of only Guru Tegh Bahadur has remained a subject of much curiosity. Though the impact of religious persecution was felt all over India but only on the issue of Kashmiri Pandits' persecution Guru decided to undertake the supreme sacrifice. This has also aroused much interest among serious students of Indian civilisation.

Though it must be admitted that Kashmiri Pandits approached Guru Tegh

Bahadur for immediate succuour, but its implications were far reaching. Much before Pandit Kripa Ram's mission to Anandpur Sahib, Pandit spiritual leaders and the Sikh Gurus had been in intimate contact and shared their ideas in the spiritual realm. Pandit Kripa Ram was no stranger to the Durbar of Sikh Gurus. He was a descendent of Pandit Brahm Das, who had met Guru Nanak in Mattan. Kripa Ram had known the Ninth Guru and also taught Sanskrit classics to the young Gobind Rai. During the reign of Jehangir, Guru Hargobind came to Srinagar and met Kashmiri saintess Mata Bagh Bari, who lived at Rainawari. It is interesting that Mata Bagya Bari's spiritual interaction with the sixth Sikh Guru is so well-preserved in the Sikh religious tradition. In Pandit tradition Mata Bagya Bari is a reference model for the highest attainment of spiritual merit. In their daily discourse, Pandits often refer, 'Zan Chhak Bagya Bhad' Translated into English, it means 'As if you are Bagya Bari'. Why Kashmiri Pandits approached Guru Tegh Bahadur can be explained by the fact that they were in desperate search for a centre of resistance, which would recognise the civilisational challenges overtaking the country then.

And by appealing to the Sikh Guru, they were subtly conveying to the countrymen that this was the only credible and competent institution, which could overtake this gigantic task. Secondly, Kashmir Pandits had been feeling natural affinity with the Sikh Gurus. They empathised with the egalitarian ideas of Sikh Gurus and maintained regular contact with them right since the times of Guru Nanak. Kashmiri Hindu society had rejected the caste rigidity that characterised the Indian society. Long sway of Buddhism and the non-dualistic Shaivism had totally undermined the caste system and made Kashmir a casteless society Ideas of Sikh Gurus thus looked so natural to them.

Guru Gegh Bahadur recognised the importance of preserving the civilisational centre in Kashmir. Its collapse, he felt would have grave impact on the future of civilisation struggle in rest of India. Kashmiri Hindus had provided intellectual and spiritual leadership to Hindus of India. Benaras Brahmins to whom Aurangzeb had approached first for conversion told him that they could take a decision only if Kashmir Brahmins accepted it. Seeking intervention of Guru Tegh Bahadur by Kashmiri Pandits and Gurus supreme sacrifice-the real impact of these two events in the evolution of Khalsa has yet to be fathomed.

About this, the renowned Sikh scholar, Fauja Singh writes, 'the appeal of the Kashmiri Pandits for help, coming towards the end, played a decesive role in so far as it helped the Guru in making his final resolve on the issue. However, from the manner in which the circumstances shaped themselves and finally led to the crucial point, it may be clear that the issues involved were wider and deeper than the compassion for a few woe-stricken Brahmins of a disant area'. Guru Gobind Singh's statement in his famous composition, Bachitar Natak, on the martyrdom of his father reads as follows--

The Lord (Guru Tegh Bahadur) protected their paste-mark and sacred thread,

And performed a mighty deed in the Kali Age. To protect the holy he spared no pains; Gave his head but uttered not a groan. For the protection of dharma He did this noble deed; Gave up his head but not his ideal. Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom for protecting the faith of Pandits made him a messiah for Pandit Kripa Ram and his other companions. They settled down In Anandpur Sahib for good. Pandit Kripa Ram was later baptised by Guru Govind Singh. He gave his life heroically fighting the treacherous Mughal forces at Chamkaur along with Guru Gobind Singh's two elder sons.Later, in another battle at Muktsar, Keshav Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit was one among those forty Brahmins, who fought alongside Guru Govind Singh and achieved martyrdom.

Guru was so moved by their heroism that he named them MUKTAS and himsel performed their last rites. Much of the information about the events of these times have been chronicled by immigrant Kashmiri Pandits. Their accounts called as Bhatta Vahis (Pandits' accounts) have been carried from generation to generation by Punjab's balladeers until these were recorded in the last century.


Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom had far-reaching political effects. The Mughals had, not long after, to face stiff resistance from the Sikhs. Sikh opposition contributed significantly to the collapse of the Mughal empire. After the martyrdom of his father, Guru Gobind Singh, took several concrete steps to give a new orientation to the Sikh community. As a true soldier of the people and conscious of the role he had to play in the aftermath of ninth Guru's martyrdom, Guru Gobind Singh did not get overwhelmed by his tragic loss. Guru's public execution had outraged the Indians. From near and far they moved to Anandpur Sahib to be with the young Guru. They looked to him as the promised saviour and the man of the hour.

A soldier of destiny, the tenth Guru started consolidating his resources and began building an army of saint-soldiers among his people. He gave a clarion call to all the Sikhs on the Baisakhi fair in 1699. Several thousand Sikhs came to participate in the fair in response to the Guru's call. He created the Khalsa in 1699 after baptising the 'Panj Pyara' (Five beloved ones) and asking them in turn to baptise himself. It was really a psychological feat of transformation of the community as also of democratising the religious authority, which had earlier vested in the personality of the Guru exclusively. Personal Guruship ended with his death and Guruship came to be vested in the scriptures and the Panth. After the creation of Khalsa, out of the fourteen battles they fought against the well-disciplined imperial army, not less than twelve times they defeated the enemy convincingly. In his struggle against intolerance,

Guru Gobind Singh suffered grievious losses personally. His father was martyred and mother died in captivity. Two of his sons met their end fighting single-handedly against heavy odds. His two younger sons were walled-in alive. Nowhere in history has any leader given so much personal sacrifice. Aurangzeb ultimately decided to invite Guru Gobind Singh for reconcilation.

Guru sent him a letter known as Zafar Nama, the Epistle of victory. In it he described Aurangzeb as faithless and irreligious. Guru told him, 'what if my four sons have been killed, I live to take their revenge. It's no herosim to extinguish a few sparks. You have only excited a devastating fire. You have the pride of your empire, while I am proud of the kingdom of God. You must not forget that this world is like a caravan sarai and one must leave it sooner or later..' This disarmed Aurangzeb and he was forced to remove all restrictions on Guru.It is said that Aurangzeb then took to his bed and died soon thereafterr The writer is the chairman of Political Affairs Committee of Panun Kashmir

Uteesh Dhar