Kids Corner


Guru Gobind Singh and The Sword of Righteousness:
Part I





The year was 1686.

The 20-year old Sikh Guru, then known as Gobind Rai, was no stranger to strife.

Eleven years earlier, his father, Guru Tegh Bahadar, had been brutally beheaded for daring to stand up to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s oppression of his non-Islamic subjects. The young Guru’s personality had been shaped by these traumatic events and he was acutely aware that the onus was on him to carry on the battle against tyranny.

His grandfather, Guru Hargobind, had already donned the twin swords of Miri and Piri (temporal and religious authority) and his precursor, Guru Nanak had
unequivocally laid down the doctrine of boldly confronting tyranny, no matter what the odds or the cost.

The stage was set for a new phase in the fight for justice and change. The Guru’s grand and brilliant design, which would culminate in his arming the Sikh Panth (nation) with the Sword of Righteousness and Justice, was starting to crystallize.

The steel that thirteen years later would form the essence of the Khalsa, was to be tempered in this year, on the banks of the Yamuna in a small village known as Bhangani.

Guru Gobind Singh’s stirring composition, ‘The Bichhitar Natak‘ ('The Wonderful Drama'), an autobiographical work which appears in the Dasam Granth, has a vivid account of the Battle of Bhangani, which I have taken the liberty to present here in a versified translation:

The mantle on my shoulders sits
I take the righteous path; it fits
Seeking sport in forests near
Stalking elk, antelope, bear
Leaving fair Anandpur I roam
Until in Paonta I make my home
Kalindri’s bank a wondrous stage
Spectacle of jester and mage
Mighty lions, so many I slay
Elks and bears I turn to clay
Fateh Shah the mighty King
Unprovoked does gauntlet fling

Sri Shah, enraged, is ready to strike
Warriors five form a steadfast dike
Jeet Mal the tenacious; Gulab the fierce
Faces flushed, seek foes to pierce

Mahari and Ganga, warriors bold
Bask in triumph, their enemies cold
Lal Chand; great hero; choleric face
To valiant foes he shows their place

Mahru, incensed; anger burning bright
Dispatches Khans in fearsome fight
Daya Ram, that gentle, holy sage
Fiercer than Drona’s his towering rage

Kirpal in anger does wield his mace
Crushing the doughty Hayat Khan’s face
Spatter of brains, the warrior wrought
Butter exploding from a shattered pot
Spear in hand, Nand Chand joins the fight
Mightily the hero’s sword does smite
Sword is shatter’d, but he has a plan
Drawn dagger honors the Sodhi clan

My Uncle, Kirpal then enters the fray
Valorous deeds, the warrior’s way
Unmindful of sharp arrow’s sting
Brave Khan from saddle does the hero fling

Sahib Chand with a true Khatri’s might
Snuffs out bloody Afghan’s light
Felling warriors with fearful glee
Hither and thither survivors flee

The mighty Shah comes into his own
Bloody Khans trampled and mown
Gopal the King, spreads doom and fear
A lion loose in a herd of deer

Brave Hari Chand, angry and bold
His feet in battleground do take hold
With arrows swift the sky is filled
Countless warriors struck and killed

Hari Chand furious, warriors’ bane
Storm of arrows, mayhem insane
Ferarful knell, his weapons sing
Laying waste, commoner and king
Jeet Mal’s lance strikes a heavy blow
Hari Chand falls, his blood does flow
Stricken warriors, bloody and red
Horseless, have heavenwards fled

Bloodthirsty Khans bearing swords of ire
Afghan steel sharp edges afire
Arrows do swarm and bows do twang
Many a steed falls with a bang

Trumpets clash and kettledrums roar
Thunderous growls of warriors soar
Dreadful cries of witches shrill
From gushing wounds they drink their fill

How shall I recount this great battle I did see
Many fell fighting bravely and many yet did flee

The hill-chief spurs his steed and flees
His warriors’ quivers are full he sees
Chief of Jaswal, Dadhwal too
Their soldiers taste the cowards’ brew

King of Chandel, he seems confused
Spear in hand, is Hari Chand enthused
Leader of men, furious. and brave
Sends many a warrior to his grave
In the battle’s deadly ebb and flow
Shah Sago receives a mighty blow
Pride of Khans, their weapons bared
Web of death, the hero ensnared

Sago Shah is dead; as does Najabat sleep
The heavens rejoice as the world does weep.

When I see Shah Sago laid down low
I hold aloft my mighty bow
Seek out a Khan, let my arrow fly
It stings like a snake; I watch him die

Notch a second arrow in its place
And let it fly at Bhikhan’s face
The bloody Khan retreats in fear
An arrow third; his end is near

Hari Chand, does from a swoon arise
Rain of deadly arrows reprise
His arrows with their unerring aim
Many fearless warriors claim

Hark! He now shoots arrows two
Where his arrows strike he has no clue
His rapid arrows fueled by ire
Send many to the funeral pyre.

Gallant warriors, the battle’s thrill
Ghouls cackle shriek and drink their fill
Rejoicing at the macabre sight
Under watchful eye of circling kite

Hari Chand draws and let fly with force
His arrow first, it strikes my horse
Another flies, it seems so near
The Lord protects; it nicks my ear

Third arrow strikes, its blow is felt
It lodges deep in my waist belt
The tip does not my body find
His servant is safe; the Lord is kind

The blow is felt, it rouses my ire
I raise my bow, return the fire
A shower of arrows, the soldiers flee
A warrior’s end with my eyes I see
Hari Chand dies; his solders fall
Karod Rai lays in Death’s thrall
They leave the field; eyes filled with fear
The battle’s mine; The Lord is near
We return victorious; sing songs of glee
Warriors rejoice; great wealth they see

Victory is ours but we do not stay.
We set up a home by Anandpur way
Turn away those who chose not to fight
The warriors prosper in my sight

Thus do we spend many a day
Protect the good, evildoers flay
The wicked to their death we send
Akin to dogs’, their miserable end

*   *   *   *   *

In a previous article, we have already examined the tensions that were already bubbling in the young Gobind Rai’s relationship with Raja Bhim Chand of Bilaspur, or Kehlor, in whose territory he lived at a settlement that had been established by Guru Tegh Bahadar.

After Bhim Chand’s unsuccessful attempts at seizing the gifts that the Guru had received from Raja Ratan Rai of Assam, the Guru decided to leave Bhim Chand’s territory and settle to Paonta, a town on the banks of the Yamuna river in the kingdom of Sirmaur.

The circumstances that led up to the Battle of Bhangani were complicated and very interesting. They involved the prickly pride of the rajas (rulers) of the Hill States, who had been ruling for a thousand years and looked upon the young Guru as an interloper and upstart. They also involved a complicated web of relationships between the Hill Rajas.

Matters came to a head when a wedding was arranged between the son of Raja Bhim Chand, a sworn enemy of the Guru and Raja Fateh Chand of Garhwal, who was on friendly terms with Gobind Rai and his followers.

Continued tomorrow …
January 13, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA), January 13, 2014, 11:52 AM.

As you state, "The stage was set for a new phase in the fight for justice and change." But unfortunately some in the community are taking the wrong meaning of this, as seen at the celebration of Guru Sahib's Birthday Gurpurab at Takht Sahib in Patna (Bihar) recently. My friend who saw it live is asking me what is going on, since I had lived 8 years in Bihar. It is very hard to explain.

2: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, USA), January 13, 2014, 1:01 PM.

Looking forward to part II tomorrow.

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Part I"

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