21. Visit of the hill Rajas

At this time the Raja of Bilaspur visited Anandpur accompanied by several other hill chieftains. The Guru received them in an open Durbar and in an eloquent speech asked them and other high-caste Hindu leaders, assembled on the occasion, to join hands with him in his campaign of reform. " Their ancestors " said he, " were the Lord's Paramount in the country. They made and administered laws according to their requirements. From time immemorial they were accustomed to receive homage from contemporary potentates and men of note and influence. Their people were happy and prosperous. In religion, as in arts, nations of the world considered it a privilege to follow their lead. But the state of things had, then, undergone a complete change. They were no more a self-governing, conscientious and sacrificing people. Their religion was discarded. Their places of worship were insulted and demolished. Their men were taken into slavery. Their women were forcibly removed into the seraglios of the Turks and their children were sold in the market of Kabul and Kandhar for a penny a head. They were no more masters but slaves in their own land, incapable of doing a good turn to themselves or to others. What was this due to ? Certainly the land had not changed; neither the elements had grown fickle in their ministration of beneficence. The same Himalayas fed the streams that watered their fields and gardens mud quenched their thirst. The same lands yielded them numerous varieties of corn and luscious fruits. The same sun and air refreshed their souls and purified their tomes. Thousand and one other blessings existed as of yore. Evidently, therefore, the fault was their's and their's alone. They had ceased worshipping God Almighty and had taken to the worship of stocks and stones instead. This had deprived them of the only source of goodness and had consequently destroyed fellow-feeling in their minds. Their religion was only an hallucination, their social system was still worse. It was based on selfish principles that brought good to few and evil to many. Professedly intended to bind people into one homogeneous whole, in reality it engendered and nurtured man-hatred. Did they not daily witness the sight of large crowds of Hindus overawed by a handful of the conquering race ? And did they not notice that the members of this race were powerful because their hearts were united, while they, the Hindus, would not suffer for one another's troubles ? If they still desired to have a place among the living and progressive nations of the world, he would ask them to enter the fold of the Khalsa Panth and be saved from the otherwise inevitable downfall and extinction." This pathetic appeal failed to move the stone-hearted hill-men, in whom all manliness had become dead. " The Guru," they replied, " being gifted with miraculous powers could well afford to face the mighty Moghul. He was, moreover, a Faqir having no land or country of his own. Wherever he lived was his home. This was not the case with them. They were men of the world having much to lose. The Moghuls would not notice him seriously; for .they knew they could not wrest from him any territory or treasure. But what would be their position ? They would be kicked and turned out from the land of their fathers and would be either killed or sold as slaves. They knew full well the might of the Moghuls and regarded the expectations raised by the new agitation as mere idle drearns. The religious and social propaganda of the Guru was still less acceptable to them. They refused to believe that any ceremony could drive out the brute from the base-born or that any good could come out of promiscuous eating and inter-mingling with the low castes who formed the major portion of his followers. They saw no harm in the worship of idols, and they did not see why they should not stick to their old ways and beliefs. They had come to Anandpur out of mere curiosity to see how the low castes looked in their new garb. The previous nine Gurus had confined themselves to the preaching of God's name and impressing upon the people the importance of Bhakti (devoutness) above all other things. They did not disturb the old order of things or introduce any revolutionary measure. They wished to be understood that these changes were not acceptable to them." "That all should come into (the fold of) one religion, so that the difference between them (the Hindus and the men of the new Faith) may dis- appear and all the four castes of the Hindus, viz., the Brahmans, the Chhatris, the Vaishas, and the Shudras, for each of while the Ved Shastra has prescribed a different creed, may leave that creed and deal with one another according to one creed; that they should consider each other as equals and no one should think himself superior to another. And all pilgrimages like that to the Ganges, etc., which are enjoined in the Vedas and Shastras must he removed from 4he mind and with the exception of Guru Nanak and his successors, none like Rnma, Krishna, Braluna and Devi, &c., should he believed in. And after taking my Puhul (baptism), men of all the four castes may eat out of one vessel and may learn from one another. He (Guru Gobind Singh ji) said a great many things like this. When the people heard them, many of the Brahmans and Chhatris got up and said that they would never accept a creed that was opposed to the Vedas and Shastras and they would not give up the old religion which their ancestors had believed in, upon the advice of a youth (Guru Gobind Singh was a young man). Saying this they got up; but twenty thousand people accepted the propaganda and agreed to act up to its principles."