A Tribute to Guru Gobind Singh
You were primarily a spiritualist,
But circumstances made you a noble warrior:
Your father, Guru Teg Bahadur,
was treacherously beheaded.
You had to contend invaders from the Western frontier
And ward off repeated imperialist incursions from the East.
Both the identity and very existence of the people
were under constant threat.
So, you had to prepare your people for the struggle:
You forged a loosely-knit group of followers
into a fearless and formidable community,
known as Khalsa.
You specified their five marks of identity,
Famously known as the five Ks:
Kesh, uncut hair, covered usually by a turban,
Kara, an iron bracelet,
Kirpan, a sword, tucked into the belt,
Kachera, a cotton undergarment,
Kangha, a little comb—as a symbol of cleanliness.
You taught them to use the sword skillfully—
But only as a last resort.
You made it abundantly clear to them:
“When all other means have failed,
It is but lawful to take to the sword.”
Thus, your men were always mindful of ethics—
Never thought of expediency.
With these disciplined men, you challenged
the invaders from the Western frontier,
who could never penetrate your defence.
The fierce imperialists from Delhi
could hardly ever defeat your men in battle.
But you had to pay the price:
your two elder sons died in battle;
your two little sons were captured and buried alive.
Now you were the only one left—
of the family of martyrs.
You carried on your mission—undaunted.
Once during your campaign,
Some of your men deserted and returned home,
only to be driven back, by their brave womenfolk:
Stung by shame, these men plunged into battle again!
Such was the spirit of the community!
Now your life too came to an end:
You were, while in bed,
villainously assassinated by the enemy.
You had the better of the assassin, though;
but died of the mortal wound later!
Normally, the death of the leader,
in those days and in the circumstances,
would lead to the meek surrender of the people.
The enemy would take over
Plunder and massacre or subjugate and dictate terms.
But your men, as inspired by you,
their late-lamented waheguru,
would not let such things happen.
They carried on their fight fiercely—
not for geopolitical reasons
But to preserve their own identity.
Thenceforward, the history of Punjab
Was the history of the people, not merely of kings.
Soon the son of the soil, Maharaja Ranjit Singh,
the Lion of Punjab, took over.
And the people rallied under his banner.
Thus, you had laid the foundation
On which the Maharaja built the Sikh Empire.
And it is your blood and your family’s blood
that cemented the empire’s superstructure.
Now you are no more,
yet your spirit continues to inspire and guide
millions of your community.
Though now diasporic and into various walks of life,
and though some of the marks of identity
are no longer insisted upon,
the people amazingly preserve their identity—
Thanks to you, their Waheguru!
Copyright © Ram R. V. | Year Posted 2017
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