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Busting the Hindu Vs Sikh narrative: How Hindus saved and helped Sikh Gurus, provided weapons training and donated for Gurudwaras

While Hindus always supported the Sikh Gurus, obeyed their orders and helped them, there were some Sikhs who had sided with the Mughals against their own people. One such was Ram Rai, the seventh Guru Har Rai's eldest son, who had joined the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb.

Many Sikhs today continuously try to draw differences between Hinduism and Sikhism. They describe Sikhism as a huge advance over Hinduism. Due to this increasing Hinduphobia among this particular section of the Sikh community, a false narrative is peddled that the Hindus in India were only saved from Islamic invader Aurangzeb’s atrocities and barbarism because the Sikh Guru paid the highest sacrifice for members of ‘other’ religious community and did us Hindus a favour.

On February 9th, 2021, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, an Akali Dal leader stated angrily in the Lok Sabha: “It was our Guru Tegh Bahadur who got beheaded to save your Tilak and Juneau.” When a BJP MP asserted that the Gurus belonged to Hindus as well, Harsimrat Kaur vehemently denied the notion, emphasising that the Gurus only belonged to Sikhs.

A similar narrative was spread during the ‘farmers’ protest, which eventually led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce the withdrawal of all three agricultural laws that were passed for the benefit of the farmers.

Yograj Singh, the father of ex-cricketer Yuvraj Singh, had while addressing the farmers last year, proudly reiterated the sentiments with similar rue. “Inki aurate take-take ke bhaw bikti thi” (their women were sold for two cents). When their women and daughters were abducted by people like Ahmed Shah Durrani and sold off for a paltry sum, it was we Sikhs who saved them, Singh had said.

Due to this discord between the Hindus and Sikhs, the latter probably needs to revisit history. In this article, we revisit how Mirza Raja Jai Singh I and his son Ram Singh protected Guru Tegh Bahadur from opponents within his own Sikh community.

This is the second article of OpIndia’s Hindu-Sikh history series. In the first, we discussed how Guru Nanak’s sons deviated from his father’s path and created the ‘Udasi Panth.’ In addition, the Hindu king had bequeathed his palace to the Connaught Palace Gurdwara in Delhi.

The fact is that until Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Nanak (Guru), had the leadership in his hands, Sikhism was never regarded as a separate faith from Hinduism. Till then, Sikhism was not treated as a distinct religion but just a separate sect. Under the leadership of the first five Gurus, Sikhism emphasized universal selflessness and brotherhood. Till then, the Sikhs had not taken up arms. It was the atrocities and barbarism of the Islamic invaders, which had compelled the Sikhs to take up arms. In fact, it was under the leadership of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan’s son Hargobind that the Sikh community became militarized.

When Guru Arjan Dev was summoned to Lahore by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, the fifth Sikh Guru possibly suspected that he might never return. Thus before leaving for Lahore, he appointed his son Hargobind as his spiritual successor on May 25, 1606. The 11-year-old became the sixth Sikh Guru.

The execution of Guru Arjan Dev by the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1606 went on to become a watershed moment for the fledgling Sikh community. As Guru Hargobind took up the Akal Takht or the Eternal Throne after his coronation by ‘Baba Buddha’ he made military training important for his followers, as he remembered his father’s supreme sacrifice.

From that day onwards, Guru Hargobind started carrying two swords. The swords symbolised the philosophy of Miri-Piri. The first sword, Miri, represented temporal power, while the second sword, Piri, represented spiritual prowess. Guru Hargobind redefined the Guru’s persona from that of a spiritual leader to that of a warrior by completely changing the attire.

In addition, he established an army known as the Sant Sipahi, or Saint Soldiers. Soldiers trained in an akhara built in front of the Akal Takht, and combat exercises became a regular feature of the Guru’s camp. As part of their tributes, the Guru instructed his devotees to offer him arms and horses rather than money.

Guru Hargobind transformed the nature of devotional singing, which had been an important aspect of Sikhism since Guru Nanak. His court was dominated by Var or epic combat songs. The execution of Guru Arjan Dev was exemplified as a symbol of sacrifice for the truth. Sikh devotees were instructed to follow the example of Guru Arjan Dev. Guru Hargobind told them it was un-Sikh to endure injustice.

So, it would be ridiculous to assert that Sikhs acquired weapons for the sake of Hindus. The truth is that after Guru Arjan’s execution, the Sikhs took up arms to defend themselves against the Mughal atrocities.

Hindus formed an essential part of the Sikh army, were tasked with protecting the Gurus

Do you know that the Rajputs not only trained the Sikhs in fighting and made them a warrior community but also protected Guru Hargobind? It was only with the support of the Rajputs that the Sikhs formed such a fierce army that humbled the mighty Mughal forces on various occasions.

Moreover, Guru Nanak had also visited the Hindu pilgrimages of Kolayat and Pushkar, which were under the Rajputs. He got along well with the Rajputs of Manaswal (Doad). In fact, during his stay at Kartarpur, only a Rajput family would offer him food.

History has it that while Guru Hargobind was imprisoned by the Mughals in the Gwalior Fort, he met a number of Rajput monarchs, and when he was released, he recruited numerous Rajputs into his army.

Rajput warriors named Rai Sigra and Rai Jaita were instrumental in teaching Guru Hargobind and his troops how to use weapons. In the battle of Gurusar, the Rajput army had aided Guru Hargobind. In fact, when Mughal ruler Jahangir was compelled to release Guru Hargobind from the Gwalior Fort, he was accompanied by 52 Hindu princes who from that moment forth always remained loyal to him.

Likewise, Bajar Singh, a descendant of Rao Mandan Singh Rathore, trained Guru Gobind Singh in the intricacies of warfare, as well as in unarmed combat, equestrianism, armed combat, musketry, archery and foot tactics.

One might not be familiar with the name Alam Singh Chauhan Nachna. He was the son of Bhai Durgu, a Rajput of Sialkot who had headed Guru Gobind Singh’s army. Guru Gobind Singh regarded him as his most trusted confidant. He earned the epithet Nachna (dancer) because of his uncommon agility. On one occasion, when Guru Gobind Singh was suddenly attacked, Alam Singh Chauhan Nachna showed exceptional valour and rescued him with the army.

It is believed that Alam Singh Chauhan Nachna went on to play an extremely vital role in almost all the battles fought around Anandpur. As Guru Gobind Singh himself testifies in his Bachitra Natak, when the Khanzada, the son of Dilawar Khan the Subahdar of Lahore, tried to storm Anandpur at night, it was Alam Singh’s vigilance which alerted the Sikhs and forced the Khanzada to retire without completing his assault. Alam Singh sacrificed his life fighting for the Guru’s son Ajit Singh.

Some Sikhs aided the Mughals against their own Gurus

While Hindus always supported the Sikh Gurus, obeyed their orders and helped them, there were some Sikhs who had sided with the Mughals against their own people. One such was Ram Rai, the seventh Guru Har Rai’s eldest son, who had joined the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb. Compelled by his desire to become a Nanak (guru), Ram Rai incited the Mughals and got Guru Tegh Bahadur arrested. At such a time too it was a Hindu ruler who stepped in to aide Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Nanak, who was the leader of Sikhs from 1665 until his beheading in 1675.

History has it that Ram Rai was sent to Aurangzeb by his father Har Rai as a messenger, but his intentions altered. He formed the ‘Ramraiya’ sect, which was not recognised by the Sikhs. Ram Rai fell from grace when he performed miracles in Aurangzeb’s court and deliberately misinterpreted lines from the Adi Granth to please the Mughal emperor. Asked why Guru Nanak had criticised Islam in the verse Mitti Musalman Ki, Ram Rai satisfied the assembled people in Aurangzeb’s court by saying that the line had been copied incorrectly and that the actual writing was correctly Mitti Beimaan Ki and not Musalman ki. Pleased by Ram Rai, Aurungzeb gave him a jagir of four villages in the Doon area as a reward.

Though Ram Rai managed to please Aurangzeb, Guru Har Rai forbade all Sikhs from ever associating with Ram Rai. Displeased with his elder son Ram Rai, Guru Har Rai declared that his younger son Har Krishan the next Sikh Guru before he passed away in 1661.

Ram Singh got Guru Tegh Bahadur, 9th guru of the Sikhs, released from the captivity of Aurangzeb

Later, Aurangzeb arrested Guru Tegh Bahadur and brought him to Delhi. Aurangzeb issued the orders of Guru’s execution. It is said, Raja Ram Singh of Jaipur, the elder son of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I, pleaded for mercy and was able to convince the Mughal emperor who rescinded the order. He undertook full responsibility for Guru’s conduct to secure his release.

Guru Tegh Bahadur was later beheaded in 1675 on the commands of Aurangzeb for taking up the cause of Kashmiri Pandits and refusing to convert to Islam. Gurudwara Sis Ganj in Delhi is the place where he was beheaded and Gurudwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi is where he was cremated.

It is also recorded in history how Tegh Bahadur gained full backing from Raja Jai Singh against his opponents in his quest to become the 9th Guru.

The history of ‘Gurdwara Bangla Sahib’ in Delhi

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, one of the most prominent Sikh gurdwaras, was originally Jaisinghpura Palace, a haveli of the Jaipur kings. It was originally a bungalow owned by Raja Jai Singh. It was in 1664 that Sawai Raja Jai Singh of Amber (Jaipur) hosted Guru Hari Krishan. The guru stayed there for about 8-10 months at a time of cholera and chickenpox epidemics.

Raja Jai Singh, who had also supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi in the same year, during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II, later donated the haveli (bungalow), where Sikh General Sardar Baghel Singh first built a small shrine in 1783. After Independence, the place saw rapid changes. The small shrine eventually went on to become the famous Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.

This is the second article of Hindu-Sikh history, you can read the first article here.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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अनुपम कुमार सिंह
अनुपम कुमार सिंहhttp://anupamkrsin.wordpress.com
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