Why do I fight the modern fads, while keeping my own history and heritage intact. Read on to know why we are not celebrating when the whole world is.
As the world around gears up for Christmas, I have my own dilemma.
To celebrate it or not. It is really not a dilemma, because I know I would not celebrate it, never have, never would. But in today’s global world, where exchange of information is easy, quick, and a little too much, where consumerism rules, where cultures are mingling, how do I keep the mind of my little child away from celebration? My daughter loves dressing up and partying, and Christmas is the perfect time for it. Her school has a Christmas Party every year, and there is singing, dancing and lots of merry making. It is also the ideal time for her another passion, baking, which she shares with me. Delectable treats rolling out of the kitchen and the fragrant fresh baking essence wafting throughout the house depicts the ideal holiday season!
But, apparently, a Western Holiday Season. These holidays coincide with a very important event of Sikh history. It is a time of remembrance for our community, and not of celebration. And the best way to make a child understand the importance of anything is to make her aware about it. Hence, following is the history, which I, along with my family have tried to embed in her mind and heart.
It was during the second half of December of 1704, that the Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh ji, after signing a pact with the Hindu Pahaadi Rajas and the Mughal forces left the fort of Anandpur. The fort of Anandpur, where Guru Gobind Singh ji was, along with his family and Sikh army, had been under siege by Mughal and Pahaadi forces for more than six months, beginning the month of May 1704. All the food and other supplies had been cut off for that long, and come the harsh winters of plains of Punjab, the situation got worse than it could be imagined. Many Sikhs had died. Hence, Guru ji decided to trust the promises made by the enemy. He sent a few carriages with skeletons of dead Sikhs, covered with expensive upholstery, just to test the promises. As expected, the carriages were attacked. Then the Mughal forces took an oath of Quran, and the Hindu Rajas sent a cow figurine and took its oath and promised a safe passage to the Guru, his family and his weak, famished army.
The Sikhs left Fort Anandgarh in December. As expected, the enemy forces attacked, breaking all the oaths of Holy Quran and Holy Cow. The family of Guru ji, along with the army, got separated.
Guru ji, his two elder sons, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh aged 18 and 16 years respectively, and his small army fought with the enemy on the banks of river Sarsa, and landed at the haveli/garhi of the landlord of Chamkaur. By the next day, the enemy was surging outside the haveli with a strength of 10,00,000, and the brave 40 Sikhs were raring to go and fight for their cause, from inside the haveli. Guru ji sent groups of five to fight. His eldest son, Sahibzada Ajit Singh, a handsome youth of 18 years of age asked his father’s permission to go into the battlefield with his brethren. The Guru smiled, got his son ready, blessed him to be ‘A-jit’, never to be won over by anyone, and sent him to the battlefield, one among the five charging into the sea of enemy forces. His martyrdom was definite. As the second son, Sahibzada Jujhar Singh saw his brother attaining martyrdom after killing scores of enemy soldiers, he too asked his father’s permission. The Guru smiled again, kissed his 16 year old son’s forehead, and sent him with four Singhs. Jujhar Singh, true to his name, implying a valiant fighter, fought bravely, and by the time the enemy overpowered him, like his elder brother, was surrounded by lifeless bodies of slain enemy soldiers.
Guru ji saw his sons attaining martyrdom, along with His Khalsa, looked up in the sky, and thanked the Almighty, that they were able to fulfil their duty, and died fighting for a cause, and their faith.
As the day ended, Guru ji was requested by the remaining Sikhs, to leave the haveli and so that he could be saved and could organise Sikhs again after the carnage that had happened, but he refused and said he was also going to the battlefield the next day. But as is the tradition established by Guru ji himself, that the command of Five Beloved ones is to be abided by every Sikh, he was then ordered by them, to leave. He did reluctantly agree then, but declared that he would not leave silently like a coward. He stood on the highest dune, clapped with all his might and told the enemy forces in his loudest voice in the dead of the night,
(‘The Peer of Hindostan is leaving’)
The enemy forces could not fathom such a loud roar, woke up from their slumber and in their confusion started killing their own men, thinking them to be Sikhs.
On the intervening night of 25th -26th December, a Singhni, named Harsharan Kaur, aged 16, skilfully dodging the guards, reached that spot in the battlefield, where the fight had happened. She collected the bodies, and remains of the Singhs, including the Sahibzadas, made a pyre, and lit it. She had her sword in her hand, and fought off the enemy soldiers, all alone, just to make sure the dead were not disrespected. In the end she was mercilessly thrown in the pyre too. Such were the brave daughters of Guru Gobind Singh!
Guru ji’s mother, Mata Gujri ji, along with his two younger sons, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji aged 8 and 5 years respectively, went into one direction, where they were betrayed by a former cook of theirs, Gangu Brahman, for a reward which the Mughals had announced for their news. The three were taken to Sirhind, and kept in the coldest minaret of the fort in cold December, where now Gurudwara Thanda Burj is. They were asked to leave their faith and convert by the Nawab of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, which the brave little boys refused. The young boys were martyred by burying them alive in walls, tortured and later beheaded. Almost at the same time, Mata Gujri ji breathed her last in the ‘Thanda Burj’.
It was to save these little Sahibzaadas, that the Nawab of Malerkotla had raised his voice against the execution of innocent children for enemity against their father. As a thanks to him, Malerkotla has since been guarded by the Sikhs. It was not harmed at all during the dark days of Partition in 1947, despite being a Muslim majority area on this side of the border. Any Muslim who entered the boundary of Malerkotla during those days, was safe. Till date, the town is revered by all Sikhs. Diwan Todar Mal, paid the price of land required to cremate the two sons of Guru and his mother, by covering it with gold coins. His family was killed later on. So was the family of Moti Mehra, who had bribed the guards to get hot milk for the Guru’s imprisoned family, while they were without any food, in the coldest days of December. He was put in the machine used for extracting oil from seeds, and crushed. The Sikh Kaum would forever be indebted for their sacrifices!
These two sons of Guru Gobind Singh ji, are the youngest known martyrs for a cause in the world!
Later on, when someone asked Guru Gobind Singh ji, about the sacrifice of his four sons, he said,
‘Chaar Muye to Kya Hua,
Jeewat kayi Hazaar’
How does it matter that my four sons are dead?
There are thousands of them still living!
All Khalsa are my children!
At a time when our father sacrificed so much and never flinched, because we are his children too, how can we celebrate another festival and make merry? No, my heart pains.
Hence, special efforts are made to familiarize the Little Missy to our history written in martyrs’ blood! These include visiting the places where all this happened, because that ensures the validity of it, and the child realises that all what is told is true and recorded and not a myth. The efforts include sitting with her and watching the films which are now luckily available, about our history. Reading books, and then talking about it plays an important part. Reminding her of all this makes it easier, and keeps her focussed on our history.
Some might say it is too violent to be shared with such a small child, but I say, look at the age of those who were martyred! All of 8 and 5! If they can understand what it means to stand firm on their ideals, why can we not make our children aware at that age? Instead of having a negative effect, knowledge of our history, roots, and sacrifices brings them closer to the faith, and sets an example in life, about how the community is still holding strong even after facing such extreme hardships!
As Marcus Garvey said,
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Note: The images used here to represent Guru Sahib and his family are just representative. They are not real, but some artists’ imagination. The Guru forbid worshiping anything physical, but the ‘Word’.