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Hindu-Sikh Relationship (part 3/10)

         Hindu-Sikh Relationship (part 3/10)

 This transformation of Sikhism had been started already,
though in a small way, by Guru Har Govind. The tenth Guru,
Govind Singh, completed the process when he founded the Khalsa
(Party of the Pure) in 1699 A.D. He was a versatile scholar
who knew several languages, kept the company of learned Brahmins
and composed excellent poetry on varied themes. He had been
had been fascinated by the Puranic story of Goddess Durga, 
particularly in her incarnation as Mahisasuramardini. He performed
an elaborate Yajna presided over by pandits of the ancient lore
and invoked the Devi for the protection of dharma. The Devi
came to him in the shape of the sword which he now asked some of
his followers to pick up and ply against bigotry and oppression.
Those who could muster the courage and dedication to die
in defence of dharma were in- vited by him to become members of
the Khalsa by wearing the five emblems of this heroic order--Kesh
(unshorn hair) Kangha (comb), Kada (steel bracelet), Kachha
(shorts) and Kirpan (sword). A new style of initiation termed
pahul was ordained for this new class of Sikh warriors--sipping
a palmful of water sweetened with sugar and stirred by a double-
edged sword. Every member of the Khalsa had to add the honorofic
Singh (lion) to his name so that he may be distinguished
from the non-Khalsa Sikhs who could continue with their normal
attire and nomenclature. No distinction of caste or social
status was to be recognised in the ranks of the Khalsa.

 The Khalsa was not a new religious sect. It was only a martial
formation within the larger Sikh fraternity,, as the Sikhs
themselves were only a sect within the larger Hindu society. It
was started with the specific mission of fighting against Muslim
iryranny and restoring freedom for the Hindus in their ancestral
homeland. Soon it became a hallowed tradition in many Hindu 
families, Sikh as well non-Sikh, to dedicate their eldest sons to
the Khalsa which rightly came 'to be regarded as the sword-arm
of Hindu society.'

 Guru Govind Singh was forced to fight against a whole
Musiim army before they could consolidate the Khalsa. His
two teen-aged sons courted matyrdom along with many other
members of the Khalsa in a running battle with a fully equipped
force in hot pursuit. His two other sons who were mere boys were
captured and walled up alive by the orders of a Muslim governor
after they refused to embrace Islam. The Guru himself had to
go into hiding and wander from place to place till he reached
Nanded town in far-off Maharashtra. He was murdered by a Muslim
fanatic to whom he had granted an interview inside his own tent.
But the mighty seed he had planted in the shape of the Khalsa
was soon to sprout, grow speedily and attain to the full
stature of a strong and well-spread-out tree.

 Before he died, Guru Govind Singh had commissioned Banda
Bairagi, a Rajput from Jammu to go to the Punjab and punish the
wrong-doers. Banda more than fulfiled his mission. He was
joined by fresh formations of the Khalsa and the Hindus at large
gave him succour and support. He roamed all over the Punjab, 
defeating one Muslim army after another in frontal fights as well
as in guerilla warfare. Sirhind, where Guru Govind Singh's
younger sons had been walled up, was stormed and sacked. The
bullies of Islam who had walked with immense swagger till only
the other day had to run for cover. Large parts of the Punjab
were liberated from Muslim depotism after a spell of nearly
seven centuries.

 The Mughal empire, however, was still a mighty edifice which
could mobilize a military force far beyond Banda's capacity to
match. Gradually, he had to yield ground and accept defeat as
his own following thinned down in battle after battle. He was
captured, carried to Delhi in an iron cage and tortured to death
in 1716 A.D. Many other members of the Khalsa met the same fate
in Delhi and elsewhere. The Muslim governor of the Punjab had
placed a prize on every Khalsa head. The ranks of the Khalsa had
perforce to suffer a steep decline and go into hiding.
						[To be concluded]

Authored by Shri Sita Ram Goel.  Courtesy: Voice of India.

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