Hindu Rajas led by Ajmer Chand of Kahlir and his father Bhim Chand personally went to Aurangzeb and stirred up the wrath of the Emperor by telling him that Guru Gobińd Singh claimed to be Sachä Patshăh: True King, sat on a raised platform; a prerogative of the Emperor only, and was corrupting both Hinduism and Islam. Aurangzeb ordered a large army under Amir Khan of Sarhand and Zabardast Khan of Lahore to proceed against the Guru. All the Chiefs except the Raja of Nahan joined the Imperial forces. Guru Gobind Singh divided the army into five commands, each of which was posted in a fort. His eighteen years old son Ajit Sińgh, was stationed in the Kesgarh fort with five hundred soldiers under him. Sher Singh and Năhar Singh commanded the Lohgarh fort. Udai Singh and Alam Singh commanded the division of Agampura, while Mohkam Singh was posted with 400 men in Holgarh. Daya Singh commanded the northern ramparts, while the Guru remained in the Anandpur fort. Seeing the Imperial armies approaching in countless numbers, Guru Gobind Singh ordered his artillery men to light their fuses : and discharge their cannons. The battle raged with fearful violence. Daya Singh and Udai Sińgh came out of their forts and gave a terrific fight to the Imperial army who lost about nine hundred soldiers. Unable to fight the Sikh armies in the open, the Imperialists laid a siege to the city and stopped all ingress and egress. The Sikhs planned night attacks. They sallied forth from their defensive positions and attacked the enemy unawares. The Mughal Generals tried to storm the citadel in utter distress and desperation, but the Sikhs brought forth their bigger guns, named Baghan: Tigress and Bjai Gosh: Roaring Victory, and fired at the enemy, killing many in the enemy ranks. As the supplies were constantly failing, the Sikhs resorted to desultory sallies to seize the supplies from the enemy. The siege lasted for about seven months Jeth 1762 Bk/May 1705 to Rh Sudi 1, 1762 Bk/December 5-6, 1705 when the Guru’s army lived on starvation level. But Guru Gobińd Singh refused to surrender. Some Sikhs of Majha found life in the fort extremely miserable. They could not endure the hardships. When they made up their mind to desert the Guru, they were asked to sign a disclaimer (be-däwä), which they did and left the fort.
At last a messenger arrived with an oath signed by Aurangzeb on a copy of the Kor’ăn, assuring the Guru that if he came out of the fort, permanent peace would be negotiated on honourable terms. The oath of the Emperor was further supported by signed oath by all the Generals of the Mughal army and the Hill Chiefs. Guru Gobind Singh did not trust these assurances, but his mother and the disciples counselled him to accept such solemn oaths and meet the Emperor. On the night of December 5-6, 1705 A.D. Guru Gobińd Singh came out of the fort.’ The enemy had retreated beyond Kiratpur. As soon as Guru Gobińd Singh reached Nirmoh, the Imperialists fell on them. Udai Singh and Ajit Singh fought from the rear. Udai Singh was killed. Guru Gobińd Singh took the defensive position in a small barn, surrounded by a mud wall at Chamkaur. The story of the heroic fight of forty half-starved Sikhs and Guru Gobińd Singh’s two sons Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh is told by the Guru himself in his letter to Aurańgzeb:
“If I had not believed in the false oaths taken on the Kor’ăn by you” writes Guru Gobińd Singh, I would not have crippled my army which is dearer to me than my very life. What could forty Sikhs do against the treacherous attacks of lakhs of hilly equipped soldiers of your army....? These forty dear ones had not taken a morsel of food for days and yet they fought until death to the last man. Your Commanders, who had taken the oath, attacked us from the back without a moment’s notice with arrows, bullets and swords. In this desperate situation I was left with no other alternative except to I jump into the battle and face the onslaught. In that critical situation I too was compelled to take up the sword and fight. When all other A possible remedies failed, it was but lawful to resort to the sword. Tell me what else could I do in the face of such a situation? You left me no other alternative except to take up the sword.... Like a swarm of flies the clamorous hordes of your blackstoled armies attacked US from all sides. Whosoever came near the wall received but one arrow from my bow and fell dead, weltering in a pool of blood. Those who did not attack us received no injury from our hands. When I saw Năhar Khan coming forward to fight, I gave him a taste of my arrows and he fell dead. The Pathans who boasted of their prowess ran for their lives and all the supporters of Nahar Khăn retreated in terror. Then another Afghan commander advanced like a sweeping tide. With the swiftness of an arrow and the suddenness of a bullet he attacked. He made assault after assault, A some wisely and some with desperate madness. He conducted many stormy attacks, received many wounds and after killing two Sikhs was himself killed. But the unscrupulous rascal Khwaja mardud remained hidden behind the wall like a coward. A pity I did not chance to see his face. With one arrow I would have given him a taste of death. In a short time the exchange of bullets and arrows killed a number of people. The bullets rained in a heavy shower, and the whole battlefield was deluged and made red with the blood of the heroes. In the terrorizing twang of the shooting arrows even he I the bravest seemed for a moment unnerved. Even the boldest lost his presence of mind. What could mere moral courage do when forty half-starved Sikhs were fighting against countless hordes. The lamp of the earth (the sun) drew down its veil and hid itself. The queen of the night (the moon) rose gracefully in all splendour. He who trusted your oath on the Koran taken with God as witness, was graciously protected by the same God. Not a hair of my body was touched. No injury whatever came to my body. God protected me even when I left the hillock in the thick of the night fighting my way out.
Both the sons of the Guru, Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh died fighting. When only five Sikhs were left with him, three of them Daya Singh,Dharam Singh and Man Singh accompanied Guru Gobińd Singh in his bid to cut through the enemy lines to a place of safety. Sangat Singh and Sańt Singh were left in the fort.
Tired and fatigued by the ordeals and hardships of the battle, Guru Gobińd Singh reached Machiwara forest where he rested under a tree. His companions were separated from him. Unnerved by the tragic losses, this prophet of freedom and love burst into the following song:
mitar piare nü hal muridan da kehna
tudhil binü rogü rajalan cia odhati nag niwăsăn de rehia.
Go, tell the Beloved Lord
The condition of His yearning devotee.
Without Thee, rich coverings are an agony to us;
And to live in the comforts of our households
Is like living with snakes!
Our pitchers have became like pikes,
On which men are impaled,
The Cup we drink from has an edge like a dagger;
O Beloved, Thy turning away from us
Is like the knife of the butcher.
With the Beloved in heart, a mattress of straw would please us.
Without Him, in rich house, we are burned alive.
Dasam Grańth, Guru Gobind Singh , Khayăl, pp. 710-11.
Guru Gobińd Singh was surrounded by Mughal armies who were searching him all over the forest. At this difficult moment he took shelter with two Muslim friends Ghani Khăn and Nabi Khan who disguised him as Muslim Faqir and carried him reverently in a palki (palanquin) to safety. He was fighting the Mughals, but he had profound faith in Muslims who were God-fearing. The Hindu Rajas had been responsible for nearly all his miseries, but he maintained a deep respect for Hinduism and its ancient cultural tradition. The Guru believed that the ultimate unity between various religions and ideological cultures depends on never losing faith in the essential truth of all and never condemning a faith, philosophy or culture for the folly of a few prominent political or religious representatives of that faith. Let a thousand bigoted Mughals fight him and destroy his home and hearth, when he meets a true Muslim he will trust him and embrace him as his brother. The heart in which the true light of Islam shines can never ha ve any bitterness and differences against him. This was his unshakable faith. Such Muslims stood with him in his battle against cruelty and despotism. Let a hundred Hindu Rajas treacherously betray him and fight against him, he would continue to admire the great heroes of Hindu history like Krishna, Rama, Valmiki, Dattatreya. His faith in the profound achievements of Hinduism was not shaken. There is perhaps no other example in history of a Saviour with such a philosophical outlook and invincible spirit that iefused to be embittered against any creed or culture because of the collective folly of its political or religious representatives. When Dr Radhakrishnan met Stalin, the Russian dictator asked the Indian philosopher “How will you bridge the wide gulf between the capitalists and the poverty- stricken masses in India?” Dr Radhăkrishnan answered, “The way Guru Gobińd Siugh bridged the wide gulf between the Hindus and Muslims in our history”, and explained to Stalin Guru Gobińd Singh’s noble role in Indian history by quoting from his writings:
dehură masit sot puja au nivaj ot
m?inas sabhai eli pai anek ko bharmäu hai.
The Hindus and the Muslims are all one,
Have each the habits of different environment,
All men have the same eyes, the same body,
The same form compounded of the same four elements;
4 Earth, air, fire and water.
The Abhekh (Formless) of the Hindus and the Allah of Muslims
The Kor’an and the Puranas praise the same Lord
They are all one in spirit
The One Lord made them all.
Dasam Grańth, Akal Ustati, 86, P. 19.
The Imperial troops continued the pursuit of the Guru, when the Ferozepur District, the forty Sikhs who had deserted him, rived there and faced the onslaught of the enemy. When these disclaimers reached home, their wives compelled them to go back and die for the Guru’s cause. A brave young lady, Bibi Bhago led them to the battlefield. All the forty died in the battle at Mukatsar December 29, 1705, and are remembered as Forty Liberated SwJs: Chăli Muktäs in the invocational Prayer: Ardasa of the Sikhs. ibI Bhago was wounded but not killed. One of the forty, Mahăn singh was dying when Guru Gobińd Singh asked him to seek any blessing or boon. “Master! said Mahan Singh, “tear our disclaimer and make us all your own,” Guru Gobińd Singh, tore the disclaimer and blessed them all.