Tuesday, April 23, 2024

In remembrance: When Guru Gobind Singh’s son were buried alive by Mughals

History has recorded many horrific deeds that are a blot on the human race! The gruesome murder of the two younger sons of the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji by the Mughal Governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, is one such act that all humanity will forever remain ashamed of. The young and innocent boys, Sahibzada (Prince) Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh attained martyrdom on December 26, 1705, for standing up for what was righteous and just.

The murder of the children was one among many perfidious and treacherous acts committed by Wazir Khan against the family of the Guru and the Sikhs. Wazir Khan aligned with the hill area chieftains to attack the Sikhs even though the latter had given him no reason for harbouring enmity. The combined forces of the Mughals and the hill chieftains laid siege on the Anandpur Sahib fortress where the Guru and his family were ensconced. Despite many months of siege, the combined forces were unable to capture the fort or break the will of the Sikhs. Wazir khan then promised the Guru a safe passage from Anandpur Sahib but attacked them with overwhelming numbers when they came out. He sought their destruction through deceit and perfidy that goes against all tenets of war.

The retreating Sikhs gave formidable resistance near the River Sarsa which allowed the family of the Guru and a handful of followers to cross over. Unfortunately, the two Sahibzadas’ aged nine years and seven years, along with their grandmother Mata Gurjar Kaur got separated from the main contingent.

Mata Gurjar Kaur passed through thick jungle with the young princes looking for refuge. They spent the night on the banks of the River Sarsa in a small hutment of a boatman named Kuma Maski. The next day they were promised refuge by an old retainer named Gangu in his native village Saheri. The treacherous Gangu, in order to cull favour with the Mughal rulers and also to take possession the jewels being carried by Mata Gurjar Kaur, handed her and the Sahibzadas’ over to the Sirhind administration.

The Sikhs could not come to the rescue of Mata Gurjar Kaur since they were under siege at Chamkaur where a handful of them fought to the last man to save their Guru. The elder sons of the Guru, Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh attained martyrdom while fighting in the Battle of Chamkaur. It was due to their sacrifices and that of the other Sikhs that Guru Gobind Singh managed escape the enemy in Chamkaur.

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 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 livid with anger. On the next day in court, he tried to pass over 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 buried in a brick tomb. 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 the most ghastly act of all was committed. 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. Many years later, while at Nanded in modern day Maharashtra, Guru Gobind Singh charged his disciple, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, to avenge the murder of the Sahibzadas. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur came from Nanded 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 Sahibzadas’ with their extraordinary courage and commitment changed the course of history. The fortitude exhibited by the young princes galvanised the otherwise docile Sikh community of farmers into becoming great warriors ready to sacrifice their very lives to fight against persecution and injustice. 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.

There is a lot to be learnt from the sacrifice of the Sahibzadas. It is on such high principles and courage beyond imagination that the foundation of strong nations is laid. The younger generation needs to draw motivation from their story and stand up for what is just and right in the national interest.

(This piece by Jaibans Singh is taken with gratitude, courtesy the Organiser website).


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