Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sakhi Series :- 222 (A Visitor from Rome)

A Visitor from Rome

At the beginning of the 17th century, many Europeans came to India. In those days India was well known for its wealth and variety of faiths. It was called a 'Golden Sparrow.' Many of the visitors came as traders and their purpose was to get rich by trade. Some others came as missionaries to spread their religions.

Rome was the capital of Italy. It was well known as the centre of Christianity. The king of Rome sent a missionary to India. The missionary travelled up and down the country for many years. During his travels he met many Moslem saints and Hindu Pandits. He had heard a lot about Sikhism from a Masand (agent) and wanted very much to see the Guru in person. He wanted to know more about Sikhism through a discussion with the Guru. Therefore he came to Kiratpur (Punjab) and stayed there for two days.

When he met the Guru he asked him a number of questions about Guru Nanak Dev ji and the later Gurus. He said, "There have been so many prophets. Who is the True Saviour?"

"The prophets and the Gurus enlighten us," said the Guru. "They make us aware of God and they show us the right way to lead our lives. It is our good actions, truthful living and love for God and His creation which will save us. None of the prophets can save us if our actions are bad. It is not the prophet who saves anybody, but it is his teachings that, if followed, lead us to salvation. The sad fact, however, is that we attach more importance to prophets themselves and forget the teachings they leave for us during the time they live among us."

"How did God create life on our earth?" asked the missionary.

God and His works are best known only to Him. But we Sikhs believe that

"The True Lord created the air, 
Air gave birth to water;
From water sprang forth life,
And the Lord is within everything he created."
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"Which is the best religion?" enquired the missionary. "The best of all religions," said the Guru, "is to meditate on God's Name and to act rightly."

"Dear "Sir," said the missionary, "I have travelled through almost the whole of India and have seen people observing caste and calling the low caste people inferior. What is your idea about caste?"

"Caste and rank," said the Guru, "depend on actions. The pride of caste is folly and the root of evil. The whole creation is God's work. As a potter makes different vessels from the same clay, so has God made different men to please Himself. Each of us is composed of the same elements. No one is high and no one is low. Being the sons of the same father we are all equal. We are all bound by our actions and without God's grace there is no salvation."

"Whom do the Sikhs call a saint?"

"A saint is he who is aware of the presence of God at all times, 
He regards the will of God as sweet,
His only support is the Name;
He is as humble as the dust under anybody's feet
He finds comfort only in God's praises,
And regards friends and foes alike.
He knows none as well as God."
(Asa 5 Guru Granth Sahib)

 "What importance should man attach to pilgrimage?"

"If you want to gain true knowledge 
Make people's welfare your aim in life.
When you master your five senses,
Life itself will become a pilgrimage."
(Rag Asa Guru Granth Sahib)

"Is it necessary to have a Guru?"

"Dear brother ! the medicine of God's name is within all of us, 
But without the Guru we do not know how to use it.
The perfect Guru administers it with necessary rare,
And the disease is cured once for all."
(Gauri Bawan Akhri)

"Why don't the Sikh Gurus work miracles?"

"Miracle delude fools only, 
Who have no God in their hearts.
Except the true Name, Nanak has no miracle."
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"Is there any merit in alms-giving?"

"Yes, he who earns by honest labour and gives something out of that in charity, has found the true way to the Lord." 
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"Does knowledge lead to salvation?"

"No, knowledge must be supported by actions. Some people repeat the words of knowledge like the cawing of a crow, but their hearts are full of greed, falsehood and pride. Without the true Name and good actions they will not find peace." 
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"Who are the chosen people of God?"

"The Lord's chosen are those who are absorbed in His Name. 
For them there is no fear of birth or of death.
They have attained the Lord.
Great honour is theirs in all regions."
(Guru Granth Sahib)

"What is your idea of life after death?"
"Human life is a stage in a long journey of the soul. Death destroys only the body but the soul leaves the body and finds a new dwelling. It is like a person casting off his old worn-out clothes and putting on new ones. Our soul is a part of God, but soiled by sin it keeps on changing forms until it once again becomes pure enough to merge with God." 
The missionary was very much impressed by the Guru's way of life and his religion. He is said to have praised the Guru very much in his writings.

"He who looks on all men as equal is religious; 
Religion consists not in wandering to tombs,
Nor to places of cremation, nor sitting in silence;
Religion consists not in wandering in foreign countries,
Nor in bathing in the places of pilgrimage.
Remain pure amidst the impurities of the world;
Thus shall you find the way to religion."
(Guru Granth Sahib)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sakhi Series :- 221 (Bhai Nihang Khan)

Bhai Bachitar Singh


Bhai Bachitar Singh was born on 6th May 1664 and took Amrit on the historic day of Vaisakhi on 30th March 1699. Bhai ji is most famously remembered as the Singh who attacked a drunken elephant.

The sakhi goes as Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji and a small number of Sikhs were defending their position in Lohgarh fort of Anandpur Sahib, which was under attack by numerically far suprior forces under the rule of the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb and the Hindu rulers of the Hill States. Despite superior numbers, the besiedging forces were unable to penetrate the heavily-defended fort. They brought forth an armoured, druken elephant to batter in the gates. Bhai Bachittar Singh was tasked with stopping the elephant, armed with a nagni barcha (snake shaped spear), a type of spear. Bahi Bachitar Singh ji rode out of the fort on horseback and attacked the elephant, thrusting his spear into the animal's forehead and cutting its trunk with his sword. The wounded elephant retreated, disrupting the attackers' ranks.

In December 1705, when Guru Gobind Singh Ji decided to evacuate Anandpur Fort, they came to the River Sirsa. Whilst crossing the river, the Chotte Sahibazade along with Mata Gujri ji were separated from Guru ji. Guru Gobind Singh ji along with 40 other Sikhs came to Ghanaula village before reaching Macchiwara jungle. Some of the 40 Singhs included Guru jis two older Sahibzade, the Panj Piare, Bhai Sant Singh Ji, Bhai Jeevan Singh ji and Bhai Bachitar Singh Ji.

After resting at Macchiwara Jungle, Guru ji asked Singhs to do Asa di Vaar Kirtan. Around the same time some Mughal forces had manged to catch up with Guru ji. Guru Ji asked a few Singhs to fight against the oncoming forces whilst some did Asa di Vaar Kirtan.

Sahibzada Ajit Singh ji along with Bhai Jeevan Singh ji and Bhai Bachitar Singh Ji fought agianst the oncoming enemy. The enemy recognised Sahibzade Ajit Singh ji as the Son of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and decided to try and kill them. In this battle, Bhai Bachittar Singh ji was seriously wounded. Bhai Madan Singh and Sahibzade Ajit Singh ji carried the injured Bhai Bachittar Singh ji to Malikpur Rangharan, to the house of Nihung Khan. Guru Gobind Singh asked Nihang Khan to look after Bachittar Singh, after which he proceeded with the remaining forty or so Sikhs towards Chamkaur. Guru Gobind Singh ji before his departure bestowed upon Nihang Khan a sword, a dagger and a shield.

Rumors spread as quickly in those days as they do today, so hearing that Nihang Khan was sheltering some Sikhs, the Mughal troops searched his house while the mortally wounded Bachittar Singh lay in a small room attended by Nihang Khan's daughter. Living up to his name, Nihang Khan maintained his cool and succeeded in keeping the search party from entering the room by telling them that his daughter was nursing her very sick husband. Mughal soldiers believed in what Nihang Khan said, but confirmed from Bibi Mumtaz , '' Who is inside with you''?? Mughals asked.
''Its me and my husband here inside, he is sick'' replied Bibi Mumtaz!

Confirming that Guruji was not in house or village of Kotla, Mughal Army started its pursuit of Guruji.

Thus the danger was averted, but the life of Bhai Bachchittar Singh could not be saved. He succumbed to his injuries and breathed his last on 8 December 1705. Nihang Khan had the cremation performed secretly the following night.

Today that village is known as Kotla Nihung Khan. The sword, dagger and shield presented to Nihung Khan by Guru Gobind Singh ji were preserved and passed through generations in the family, but no shrine was raised to the Guru's visit in that most fateful night of peril - until Gurdwara Bhattha Sahib was constructed by Sant Baba Jivan Singh (1833-1938) of Buddha Bhora on the site. The construction was commenced in 1910 and completed in 1923. When the Pathan family left India, following the partition of 1947, they presented the sword and the dagger at the Gurdwara, but the shield was taken by the family who next occupied their house.