After a brief respite, Guru Gobind Singh addressed two letters to Emperor Aurangzeb. These letters are described as Fatehnama and Zafarnama. The basic tenor of these communications is one of defiance and courage, highlighting the glory and ultimate victory of truth and trust in the Almighty.
After a brief respite, Guru Gobind Singh addressed two letters to emperor Aurangzeb. These letters are described as Fatehnama and Zafarnama. The basic tenor of these communications is one of defiance and courage highlighting the glory and ultimate victory of Truth and trust in the Almighty.
There are repeated references in these letters to the battle of Chamkaur, which was unique in the sense that history presents no parallel to the valour and endurance displayed by forty Sikhs under the command of Guru Gobind Singh, who fought a huge and strong Mughal army. Forty tired and half-starved Sikhs, along with Guru Gobind Singh and his two sons were encircled in a Garhi (fortress-like, mud-walled make-shift structure) by hordes of Mughal mercenaries.
In an effort to storm the ‘fortress’ on the strength of sheer numbers, the Mughals entered the battlefield with war cries on their impatient steeds. They realized soon the folly of their move when they were severely mauled by the waves of arrows and rounds of musket-shots from the secured structure.
Time after time, the Mughal forces regrouped to overrun the fortress, but not one of their soldiers dared to get close to it in the face of continued shower of deadly arrows and musket shots. To the horror of the mercenary soldiers, some acclaimed fighters and seasoned Mughal Generals tasted dust, becoming the target of Guru Gobind Singh’s marksmanship. He utilized his distinctive prowess selectively and reserved his arrows for chosen arrogant Mughal fighters.
As the battle progressed, the entire area was littered with dead, maimed and wounded soldiers crying for help. This mortified the Mughal army and severely dampened the moral of the Mughal soldiers. By this time, their euphoria had evaporated.
Eventually, the ammunition in the fortress was depleted. Guru Gobind Singh then fielded batches, each of five Sikhs, to fight the advancing Mughal army. To the satisfaction of their ‘True King’, the spirit-born soldiers pounced upon the well-clad, well-armed, and decorated Mughals, like hungry lions going for prey. Very soon, cries of astonished pain rose from the butchered mercenaries, who had never experienced such an attack from such well-trained and utterly death-defying invincible soldiers on Indian soil.
Invincible they indeed were. Their ‘True King’ was all the time watching over them, giving them spiritual strength. The battle was still at its zenith, when Guru Gobind Singh handed his double-edged sword and shield to his elder son Ajit Singh, aged just 18, and patted him, knowing fully well that this was his last meeting with him. Without such supreme and exemplary sacrifice, the foundation of the rule of tyranny would not be shaken.
When Sahibzada Ajit Singh entered the fray, there was a commotion. Young Ajit Singh was a seasoned fighter, wielding the double-edged sword with such consume rate skill that it caused consternation among the Mughal mercenaries. As the youthful Ajit, the ‘invincible’, advanced, he sent heads rolling and cleared a good part of the battlefield with his sword as a sickle clears standing grass. The dead and dying lay around him.
Seeing despair and dismay among the Mughal army, Nahar Khan, a senior Mughal General, bounded to the front line to match the young Sahibzada and challenge his supremacy. But he was in no time grounded by a single arrow from the bow of Guru Gobind Singh, which pierced through his neck. Fighting amidst a horde of Mughals, the Sahibzada moved swiftly, dazzling the enemy with lightning movements, his double-edged sword attacking savagely left and right as he shifted his position quickly. He used his momentarily lowered shield as bait effectively, drawing his prey close enough to make him a helpless target of the heavy sword.
Afghan Khan, another General of the Mughal army, was able to stop Sahibzada Ajit Singh’s exploits in the battlefield. After the elder son’s glorious martyrdom, Guru Gobind Singh called out: “Come Bhai Jujhar Singh, it is your time and turn. Move out at the head of five Sikhs. God Almighty will watch over you benignly as you fight the perpetrators of tyranny.” Sahibzada Jujhar Singh, though an adolescent of only 14, had learnt the use of the sword in the previous two years. With a single cut, it was said, he could separate the trunk of a tree, thicker than a human neck.
Sahibzada Jujhar Singh obtained his father’s blessings by bowing before him and touching the Guru’s feet before moving out to the battlefield with a drawn sword to repeat his elder brother’s feats and met the same fate as the elder Sahibzada after showing his prowess against the Mughal army.
By the time darkness descended on the battlefield, Guru Gobind Singh was firmly entrenched in the fortress along with five Sikhs, including two of his Panj Piaras (five beloved ones). The Mughals had stopped sending any more groups of armed men and there was a lull for the night.
Guru Gobind Singh informed his followers about his decision to take on the Mughal army in the field himself in the morning. But the Panj Piaras thought differently. They begged their Guru to escape under cover of darkness because he still had the unfinished task of ordaining the Khalsa. Eventually, they prevailed upon the Guru, who found reason in their request.
Guru Gobind Singh removed his plume, which he sported all his life and gave it to Sangat Singh, who had a striking resemblance to the Guru. He also gave away his falcon which used to be perched on his forearm. Like an ordinary soldier followed by three faithful disciples, including Bhai Daya Singh, he walked out of the fortress to reach the jungles of Machhiwara.
In Machhiwara, Guru Gobind Singh met two Afghans, Nabi Khan and Ghani Khan, who used to visit him in Anandpur to sell horses and had been well rewarded. They had great reverence for the Guru since they had attended some of his congregations in Anandpur. They had been influenced by the Guru’s pious life and the devotion with which the Sikh Sangat worshipped their ‘True king’. The Afghan brothers made arrangements for the stay of the Guru for some time. Some followers of the Guru visited him here. He also had some time to rest and contemplate. It was here, that the Guru wrote the
first letter to Aurangzeb. This letter, comprising 24 Persian couplets is known as Fatehnama (letter of victory).
The letter was also written in response to innumerable complaints of poor peasants, both Muslim and non-Muslim, against the high-handed functionaries of Aurangzeb,
who extracted exorbitant and unreasonable taxes. Moreover, some of his own experience during the battles of Anandpur and Chamkaur (1704) needed to be brought to the notice of Aurangzeb, who might have been wrongly informed by his subordinates of their ‘victory’ over Guru Gobind Singh. That is why this Fatehnama was considered an essential communication to the Mughal Emperor.
When Guru Gobind Singh was based in Anandpur, the Mughal army laid siege without any provocation. This siege lasted more than six months. The Maulvis (priests) and the commander of the Mughal army had passed letters supposed to have been written by Aurangzeb inviting the Guru to meet the Emperor and also ensuring the Guru free passage to wherever he might like to go. There was one letter in which the Emperor had assured the Guru’s safety on an oath on the holy Qur’an. Contrary to these sworn assurances, the Guru was attacked as soon as he came out of the fort at Anandpur.
In the Fatehnama, Guru Gobind Singh reminded Aurangzeb that his rule rested on the unchecked loot, plunder and deceit; that the rosary in his hand was just a fraud; that the blood of his father and brother was smeared on his face; that his dismal failure in Deccan and Mewar was just a warning to him against the maltreatment of his subjects. Guru Gobind Singh cautioned him not to cast his evil eye towards Punjab, where he would not get even a drop of water to drink or a single moment’s rest. He warned him that his end was near and he would be duly punished in the Almighty’s Court for the mistreatment of his people.
The task of delivering the letter was entrusted to Bhai Daya Singh, one of the Panj Piaras of the Guru. The letter had to be taken to Aurangzeb who, at that time, was stationed at Aurangabad where he had gone to supervise personally, the military operations in Southern India.
Bhai Daya Singh wore the garb of a Sufi saint in order to get out of the net of the Mughal spies, who were still going around in search of Guru Gobind Singh and his followers. While in the garb of a Sufi saint, Bhai Daya Singh was stopped by a detachment of the Mughal army, which suspected him to be Guru Gobind Singh. Sayyed Pir Mohammed, who claimed to have known Guru Gobind Singh and in his heart had great affection for the Sikh Guru, testified on solemn oath that the Sufi Pir was not Guru Gobind Singh.
It took Bhai Daya Singh a few months to deliver the letter to the Emperor. His entry to the Mughal court was facilitated by some functionaries, who had favourable feelings for the Guru. The letter was read out to the Emperor by Zebunissa, his favourite daughter. Aurangzeb did not take kindly to the letter. He replied in his usual arrogant and imperial manner:
“There is only one empire and you agree with us in religious sentiments. So come to see us. If you do not come, I will meet you with the army and your reputation as a devotee will suffer. You may live in my kingdom as other saints and devotees do.”
In reply to this letter, a malicious letter received at Dina, Guru Gobind Singh penned Zafarnama, the second letter in May 1705. This letter is also composed in Persian and has 111 verses. The tone of this letter was much sharper than in the earlier one. It highlighted the foul and mean behaviour of Aurangzeb’s Subedars, for which the Guru held Aurangzeb personally responsible. Guru Gobind Singh took the Emperor to task for his dispatch of vast armies against him, a religious Guru, who had no plans of establishing an empire. Guru Gobind Singh told Aurangzeb that his continued high-handedness and unreasonable behaviour and political oppression had forced him (the Guru) to take to arms. There was no other way of ending the barbaric rule perpetrated by Aurangzeb’s Subedars, particularly those of Sirhind and Lahore.
This letter also was given to Bhai Daya Singh to be delivered to Aurangzeb, who still was tied down with his armed operations in Southern India.
After writing this letter, the Guru declared to his followers that the attitude of Aurangzeb has been so obnoxious that he did not deserve to live anymore. The longer he lives, the more will he perpetrate lawlessness and plunder of the poor. These letters, the Guru observed, will hasten his end.
After receiving the second letter, the Emperor is said to have been unnerved and lost sleep. Even the best of medicines could not bring him the peace of mind he lost after reading the letter. Soon after this, the Emperor wrote a letter to his son, which spoke of despair and repentance:
“I know not who I am, where I shall go and what will happen to this sinner. All my years have gone waste. God has been in my heart but my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. There is no hope for me in the future. I have greatly sinned and know not what torments await me.”
During his short stay at Dina, the region of the Bears, Guru Gobind Singh received immeasurable affection from the people. They came in groups to pay their respect and also brought presents. The martyrdom of the four Sahibzadas, their grandmother as also the personal sufferings of the Guru aroused profound hatred for the Mughals and their oppressive rule.
The Sangat that came here had a large number of young men, who were in a profusely militant mood and wore swords and black turbans. Even some of the young women wore black turbans. That is how this Sangat was different from the earlier ones.
It is not surprising that several young men became ‘wandering warriors’ breaking away from their homes so as to live and die for their ‘True King’, Guru Gobind Singh. They did not move along with the Sikhs Sangat but preferred to live and
sleep in jungles, sometimes even on tree tops. They were laying the foundations of guerilla warfare in the area. They targeted small groups of the Mughal army to loot their arms and horses. Though the number of such ‘wandering warriors’ was relatively small, their activity was bound to be noticed by the shrewd Faujdar of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, who had come to believe that he had finished the fighting capability of the Guru. Wazir Khan was responsible for the martyrdom of the younger sons of the Guru, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh.
Wazir Khan approached the Brar Chowdharies, Lakhmir and Shamir, for their assistance in order to arrest Guru Gobind Singh. The Brars of the area made it known to his messenger that they meant to stand by their Guru come what may. It was obvious that another battle with the Mughal Faujdar was on the anvil. Guru Gobind Singh asked his followers to prepare themselves for another test of their commitment to Truth. Initially, he selected Kot Kapura as a suitable place to engage the enemy but the Chowdhary of Kot Kapura suggested Khidrana, where enough water was available and which was strategically located.
The devotion and dedication of a large number of Sikhs in battle dress inspired self-confidence among the Brars of the region, who also dedicated themselves to the service of their Guru.
An event of great significance at this juncture was the return of Guru Gobind Singh’s Majhail devotees, who had deserted him during the siege of Anandpur. Mai Bhago and other women of the area had put these deserters to shame and they were looking for an opportunity to atone for their unsavoury past. Now, when they learnt about the possibility of an attack by Wazir Khan, they came back to support their Guru under the leadership of Mai Bhago, a great woman warrior of Dhillon clan. Learning about the movement of Wazir Khan’s force towards Khidrana,
they decided to attack his force of 10,000 soldiers by surprise before it could reach Khidrana.
The element of surprise shocked the Mughal army and the dedication of the attackers unnerved the soldiers. In this terrifying hand-to-hand battle, the Mughal force lost a large number of soldiers. Many were injured and maimed. Though superior in numbers, the Mughals realized that they were no match for the dedicated soldiers of the Guru.
Unnerved, the mercenaries of the Mughal army were in no mood to follow the Guru and engage his force. Wazir Khan realized their debacle and quietly ordered a retreat.
Guru Gobind Singh was moved by the renewed devotion of the forty ‘deserters’. He not only tore off the letter of desertion but also expressed deep affection for each one of them lying injured maimed or dead and blessed them. He called them his Chali Mukte (Forty Blessed Ones). Muktsar shrine today commemorates the blessings received by them from their Guru.
The blessing was symbolic of the Guru’s realization that his Khalsa had passed the test of engaging the enemy independently by selecting their own leader to fight the forces of evil fearlessly, competently and unmindful of consequences against the heavy odds. The brave forty had shattered the arrogance and high self-esteem of the Mughals. Wazir Khan was also completely demoralized and moved away from the region of the Brars.
Now Guru Gobind Singh moved about freely in this region,
accompanied by a large Sangat, preaching the teachings of Guru Nanak. On reaching the area of Dalla, an old devotee, the Guru was requested to stay there for a few days. This resting place of the Guru is now called Damdama Sahib. This place became another centre of the Khalsa Panth since a large number of the devotees sought baptism here in the presence of their Guru.
The wives of the Guru joined him at Talwandi Sabo. When they heard about the fate of the young Sahibzadas, the Guru offered them solace, telling them that their sons had laid down their lives so that those sitting in the congregation may live in an atmosphere free of tyranny. Several youths, who came to Talwandi Sabo, described themselves as Ajit Singh son of Guru Gobind Singh. One such lad named Ajit Singh was assigned the duty of attending to Mata Sundri, wherever she went.
At Talwandi Sabo, came other messengers from Emperor Aurangzeb. After reading Zafarnama, the second letter, Aurangzeb invited Guru Gobind Singh to meet him in south India. As a part of this message, Aurangzeb sent orders to Munim Khan, the Faujdar of Lahore, to make necessary arrangements for Guru Gobind Singh’s travel to the south. He also sent orders to other Faujdars not to block the movements of Sikh followers of the Guru.
Most of the followers of Guru Gobind Singh did not approve of the idea of meeting Aurangzeb who according to them, was a totally unreliable person and was responsible for so much suffering to the family of the Guru and his followers.
However, towards the end of October 1706, Guru Gobind Singh started his journey towards the South, though without the help of the Mughal Faujdars and followed a route through Rajasthan instead of going via Delhi. This circuitous route was less infested by the Mughal army. By the time Guru Gobind Singh reached Bhagaur in Rajasthan, he received the news of the death of Aurangzeb on February 20, 1707. Guru Gobind Singh then decided to move towards Delhi instead, in order to meet Muazzam, who held the Guru in high esteem. Muazzam was later crowned as the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah.