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A guru for the ages

Let us all follow Guru Gobind Singh's words as a mantra to fight for a better national life, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2006 16:30 IST

Guru Gobind Singh's 340th birth anniversary this week recalls a spirit so sublime that no one came close until October 2, 1869, with the birth of a certain big-eared baby in Porbandar whom we now call the Father of the Nation.
The Guru shines as an example of the modern Indian spirit. He was a man of many parts: a scholar's scholar, a soldier's soldier, a spiritual seeker's saint. As a little boy, he spoke the fateful words that made his father Guru Tegh Bahadur offer himself as a sacrifice to Aurangzeb for the religious freedom of non Muslims in the Mughal empire. Yet there were many Muslims who lived and strove in amity with Hindus and Sikhs.

In 1705, when the Mughal army besieged and blockaded the Guru and his Sikhs at the Anandpur fort (at the instigation, we are told, of the jealous hill rajas), the Sikhs held out so valiantly that finally the Mughal commander of fered them a safe passage, on Koranic oath. But the moment the Sikhs emerged, he fell upon them. His forces decimated, the Guru managed to get to Chamkaur about 40 km away. It was two Muslim devotees, Gani Khan and Nabi Khan, who at great personal risk helped the Guru escape to the relative safety of Malwa in central India. When the Guru's two little sons were walled up at the behest of the Nawab of Sirhind, it was the Nawab of Malerkotla who protested and stormed out. The Guru blessed him and eons later during Partition no Muslim was harmed in Malerkotla, which remained a safe zone through the bloodshed.

In his Zafarnama, composed in Persian, the Guru wrote a famous couplet to Aurangzeb: "Ch'un kaar az huma heeltey dar gujasht/ Haal ast bardeney ba shamshir e dast (When all other means have failed, it is right to pick up the sword)." India is now a modern state and not a tyrant's playpen. But the Guru's words resonate still, not as a literal call to arms but as a mantra to fight for a better national life.

First Published: Jan 07, 2006 16:30 IST