Nature has its own ways to establish equilibrium in the universe. Otherwise, the powerful will always prevail and vanquish the weak. At about the time Guru Gobind Singh was born in the winter of 1666 A.D., India was passing through a period of extreme religious bigotry.
A home grown centuries old religion- Hinduism- was the faith of the majority of Indians. They were subjugated and ruthlessly ruled by a far fewer number of Sunni Muslim conquerors hailing from Afghanistan. The Sunni Muslim Afghan conquerors wanted to propagate and spread only their form of religion in India.
Guru Gobind Singh was vehemently opposed to such dictats. The founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak was the first high profile social reformer in India, who was a witness to the cruelty and tyranny of the first Mughal Emperor Zahir-Ud-Din Babar. Guru Nanak was briefly imprisoned by Babar, but soon Babar realized his folly, apologized to Guru Nanak and released him from the prison. Babar’s grandson Jalal-Ud-Din Akbar was more tolerant and just to the people of all faiths and he befriended the successors of Guru Nanak.
By far the most intolerant Mughal Emperor was Aurangzeb Alamgir. He was determined to convert every well-meaning Indian to his Sunni Muslim faith. He picked up the affluent and fair colored and blue eyed Brahmins living in the Northern most hilly areas of Kashmir for forcible conversion into Sunni Islam. Guru Gobind Singh’s father, Guru Tegh Bahadur the ninth “Jyot” of Guru Nanak was on a gospel tour of North Eastern India, when Guru Gobind Singh was born in an ancient city of Patna on “Poh Sudi Satween” (according to the Christian Calendar in 1966). Guru Gobind Singh’s early childhood was spent in the North Eastern areas of India consisting of the present states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh.
As a child, he developed a strong inclination to play with bows and arrows. At his early age before ten, the family moved to a small hamlet in the lower Shivalik Himalayas in Punjab. This place later on became famous as Anandpur Sahib in Ropar district of Punjab. One fine autumn morning in 1675 A.D., a group of Kashmiri Brahmins came to see Guru Gobind Singh’s father Guru Tegh Bahadur at Anandpur Sahib. From their grim faces it could be made out that they were quite a frightened lot. Soon they started narrating their tales of utter despair and miseries. According to their version, they were being coerced to convert to Islam.
Guru Tegh Bahadur was not opposed to conversion by logic and persuasion, but he was fiercely opposed to all forms of forced conversion. On hearing their tales of horror, while Guru Tegh Bahadur was absorbed in thoughts, his nine year old son Gobind Rai came there. Seeing his father immersed in deep thoughts, he asked him about the reason for his being so immersed in thoughts. When Guru Tegh Bahadur told him the story of the Kashmiri Brahmins and asked for his son’s advice, the son surprised everyone when by advising his father to offer his own supreme sacrifice to awake the conscience of the nation.
This is how Guru Tegh Bahadur made up his mind to offer himself to be beheaded in the national capital, Delhi. The place where Guru Tag Bahadur was beheaded is now a sacred Sikh temple. After Guru Tegh Bahadur’s merciless beheading, his son Gobind Rai made up his mind to fight the Sunni Islamic tyranny of Emperor Aurangzeb with an army of highly motivated saint soldiers. For years, young Gobind Rai struggled consistently against the far superior Mughal Armies. During the spring harvest season in 1699, Gobind Rai gave a call to his “Sikhs” to congregate at Anandpur Sahib in big numbers. In this very congregation he established the order of the “Khalsa” (the pure) and he changed his as well as his male followers’ last name to “Singh” and the last names of the females were changed to “Kaur”. Thus was created the bearded and turbaned “Khalsa”.
From 1699 to 1907 A.D., Guru Gobind Singh fought a relentless series of battles against the imperial forces of Auranzeb Alamgir and scores of his subject Rajas of small hill area principalities. In the process of fighting the tyranny of Emperor Aurangzb Alamgir, Guru Gobind Singh lost all four of his sons and his mother. Thousands of his saint soldiers, including his five most favorite disciples and forty of his choicest soldiers died in the battlefields.
Aurangzeb died in 1707. His son Bahadur Shah abandoned his father’s bigotry and coercive policies and befriended Guru Gobind Singh. A meeting marking a period of peace and harmony was arranged between Guru Gobind Singh and Emperor Bahadur Shah in 1707 A.D., after which Guru Gobind Singh moved to the Southern Peninsular India and started living at a place called Nanded (Sri Huzoor Sahib).
Here he was assaulted with sharp edged weapons by two Muslim assassins. Guru Gobind Singh died at the age of forty two in 1708. Due to Guru Gobind Singh’s relentless military campaign against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire’s power base started eroding. After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, even the dreaded Mughal Empire saw its slow disintegration. Guru Gobind Singh was a great soldier, a great linguist and a brilliant scholar of theosophy.
He composed volumes of spiritual verses. His poetry was composed in a number of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic meters, unmatched by any other poet. The line by line weight in his poetry is so well balanced that it is a treat to sing his poetry in classical Raagas. He was so humble that he did not include his own poetry in the Sikh holy book “Sri Guru Granth Sahib”, although he did include some “Baani” of his illustrious father Guru Tegh Bahadur in the final version of “Sri Guru Granth Sahib”.
Guru Gobind Singh very well knew that the time to end the practice of living Gurus has arrived. He had a group of fifty two celebrated poets in his court, who used to admire his poetry and likewise the Guru used to enjoy their poetry. Before his death, Guru Gobind Singh most respectfully placed the final version of holy “Sri Guru Granth Sahib” on a higher pedestal and then bowed his head before it.
This gesture contained a message to his followers to take all spiritual and worldly guidance from the holy book and not to believe in any living Guru henceforth. He believed in a classless society and he created it amongst his followers. He always helped and never abandoned the poor and the downtrodden.