The month of December has a special significance for the Sikh community. It was in this month that the combined forces of the Mughals and the small hill principalities used perfidious deceit to draw out Guru Gobind Singh, his family and followers from the Anandpur Sahib fortress and then sought their destruction. These forces, under Wazir Khan, promised the Guru a safe passage from Anandpur Sahib but attacked them with overwhelming numbers when they came out. The two Sahibzadas’ aged nine years and seven years, along with their grandmother Mata Gurjar Kaur got separated from the main contingent as they left the fort. They were promised refuge by an old retainer named Gangu in his native village Sahedi, but were handed over to the Sirhind administration of the Mughals, in what can be termed as the worst possible breach of trust and faith.
It is notable here that the main contingent of the Sikhs fought to the last man at Chamkaur where Guru Gobind Singh took up a defensive position with a handful of Sikhs. The elder sons of the Guru, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh attained martyrdom while fighting in the Battle of Chamkaur. The Guru lost his four sons and his mother in the ensuing tragic turn of events, but was saved in person by the bravery and sacrifice of his dedicated followers.
Wazir Khan came back to Sirhind a defeated and frustrated man having failed to kill or arrest the Guru. He would have been filled with fear at the prospect of the Guru’s reprisal for the deceitful manner in which he had behaved. It was against the backdrop of this fear and frustration that he attempted to gain control over the young Sahibzadas’ by converting them to Islam and then keeping them captive in his custody.
In order to achieve his evil objective Wazir Khan subjected the young princes to the worst form of torture and intimidation, he kept them and their grandmother in a Thanda Burj (a cold tower) that was designed to capture the cool night breezes of air drawn over water channels; a perfect place for the summers but very uncomfortable indeed in the middle of winters and that too at night, especially so for the very young Sahibzadas’.
Wazir Khan subjected the princes to a trial in his court which lasted for two days. On the first day the princes were cajoled to embrace Islam and offered immense riches and power on agreeing to do so. The princes rejected the offer with absolute disdain which left Wazir Khan flustered and very angry. On the next day in court he tried to pass of the sentencing to Sher Mohd Khan, the Nawab of Malerkotla, whose two brothers had been killed in battle by Guru Gobind Singh. Sher Mohd Kahn exhibited the highest form of chivalry by refusing to take revenge from ladies and children and advised Wazir Khan to release the Sahibzadas’ and their grandmother.
It was at this stage that Wazir Khan committed the most gruesome act which goes against all tenets of honour and principle. He declared the two innocent boys to be enemies of the Mughal Empire and ordered them to be bricked alive. The execution was slated for the next day.
History chronicles other atrocities and torture being committed on the young boys even as last minute attempts were made to intimidate them into changing their mind and converting to Islam. The courageous princes refused and were incarcerated into the wall. The wall, however, broke down before the boys lost their breath and then was committed the most ghastly acts of all! Wazir Khan ordered the executioners to slit the throats of the young princes. On hearing the news of the martyrdom their grandmother Mata Gurjar Kaur also breathed her last.
The manner in which the two Sahibzadas’ stood against injustice and discrimination has no parallels in the annals of history. The ruthless depravity of their prosecutors constitutes the other side of the spectrum. The courage and fortitude exhibited by the young princes galvanised the Sikh/Khalsa community into rising against persecution and injustice. Guru Gobind Singh Ji charged his disciple, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, to avenge the murder of the Sahibzadas. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur came from Nanded (in modern day Maharashtra) to Punjab for the ordained task, Sikhs in large numbers joined him. He first took Samana and Sadhaura on the periphery of Sirhind and finally attacked Wazir Khan. The ensuing clash known as the Battle of Chappar Chiri took place on 22 May 1710. It witnessed the larger Mughal forces being crushed by the Sikhs. Wazir Khan was killed in the battle and Sirhind occupied in the next two days.
The martyrdom of the Sahibzadas’ thus heralded the creation of the Sikh Empire from the debris of Mughal as well as the Afghan principalities, changing the very destiny of the South Asian region in general and Punjab in particular. The Sikh Empire created by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, though short lived, is known for a just, benevolent and secular rule based in the tenets of law.
Independent India has witnessed a similar sense of righteous nationalism permeating from the small Sikh community that remains in the forefront of every national endeavour, be it safeguarding of the sovereignty of the nation or contributing to its progress and prosperity. All of this finds motivation, in no small measure, from the story of the young Sahibzadas’
The story of the Sahibzadas’, needs to be disseminated far and wide within India and across the world as a true example of standing up for what is just and righteous. Effort needs to be directed towards this end by the Sikh community and its institutions as also by the Indian government and other cultural bodies of the nation. There is a need institute studies, create literature and make all efforts to disseminate the historical facts in a manner that they motivate all humanity.
(Jaibans Singh is a reputed columnist and author. E-mail: [email protected])