49. Innocent Children Martyred
During the catastrophe that befell in crossing the flooded Sarsa river, the companions of the Guru and his family were scattered in different directions. Mata Jit Kaur, Mata Sahib Kaur and their two female attendants, Bhai Mani Singh, Dhana Singh and Jawahar Singh, were all together in one group. Jawahar Singh who was an inhabitant of Delhi, took this whole group to his house in Delhi. Guru's old mother and his two younger sons, went with Gangu Brahman to his village Saheri near Morinda. Gangu worked in Guru's kitchen for twenty-one years. Guru's mother, Mata Gujri was carrying money in a bag. Seeing Mata's money, Gangu got tempted forgetting that he ate Guru's salt for twenty-one years. As Mata Gujri was half-asleep, Gangu stole the money and shouted," Thief, thief," to create the impression that some thief stole the money. Mataji encountered Gangu and told him that she did not see anybody else entering the house. Upon this he tried to defend himself by saying that he was being blamed because he had given shelter to the homeless and the outlawed. Instead of admitting his guilt, he ordered them to leave his house. Gangu finally handed them over to the police officer of Morinda who in turn took them to Wazir Khan, the viceroy of Sirhind. They were imprisoned in a tower. Next morning the two children, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, were presented in the court of the viceroy. Wazir Khan reflected that if the children became Mohammadans, it would be a glory to his faith- Islam. He, therefore, told them that if they accepted Islam, he would grant them an estate, would marry them to the princesses and they would be happy and be honored by the Emperor. The nine years old Zorawar Singh replied," Our grandfather, Guru Tegh Bahadur, parted with his head but not with his religion and he ordered us to follow his example. It is best that we should give our lives to save the Sikh religion and bring down God's vengeance on the Turks," continued Zorawar Singh,"O viceroy, I spurn your religion and will not part with my own. It has become the custom of our family to forfeit life rather than faith. Why do you seek to tempt us with worldly ambitions? We shall not be led astray by the false advantages of your offer." Wazir Khan could not endure such an outspokenness and got very angry. He decided that he must put these children to death. Sucha Nand, a Hindu minister supported Wazir Khan by implying that their arrogant words were uncalled for. He ignited Wazir Khan's anger by saying that when these children grew up, they would follow their father's foot steps and would destroy enemies. Therefore, this progeny of a cobra must be smothered in time. At that time, outspoke Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan of Maler Kotla," O viceroy, these children are still drinking milk in the nursery, and are too young to commit an offence and know not good from evil. The holy Quran does not allow the slaughter of innocent and helpless children. Therefore be pleased to release them." In spite of his appeal, the Qazi confirmed that the holy law would give the infidels the choice between Islam and death. It is said that in order to bring the children to submission to Islam, they were made to enter, next day, through a very small door while the Quran was displayed on the other side. The idea was that as the children would enter the door with their heads down, they would then be told that they had bowed to the holy Quran and thereby to Islam. When the children saw that trap, the seven years old Sahibzada Fateh Singh threw his feet first instead of his head while entering through the small door. Throwing the feet towards the Quran meant an insult to Islam. Wazir Khan, therefore, could not conquer the nine and seven years old children of Guru Gobind Singh. When every effort failed to convert the children to Islam, it was finally ordered that they should be bricked alive in the wall. A wall was, therefore, built step by step on their tender limbs until it came up to the shoulders of Sahibzada Fateh Singh. The executioner advanced with his sword, and asked whose head he should chop off first? Upon this Sahibzada Fateh Singh said," Listen O executioner, since the wall has reached my shoulders first, therefore cut off my head first." Sahibzada Zorawar Singh exhorted,"No, you cannot cut off his head till you do mine, because I am the eldest and therefore, I have the right to go first. Cut off my head first." Hearing such a strange debate, the whole assembly of Wazir Khan's court was stunned. The small children were ridiculing the angel of death. The chronicler states that Sahibzada Fateh Singh's head was cut off first. Therefore, that place is called Fatehgarh Sahib to commemorate the memory of the young children. When this news was delivered to Mata Gujri in the tower, where she was waiting for them, she breathed her last on the spot. This treacherous event took place on the 13th Poh, Sambat 1762 ( 27th of December, 1705). A rich Sikh called Todar Mal cremated the bodies of the Guru's mother and her grandsons. A Gurdwara stands to symbolize their memory. As Nura Mahi narrated the tale of woes, Rai Kalla and other listeners were torn with grief and wept bitterly. The Guru was unruffled and remained as composed as ever. When Mahi finished his distressing story, the Guru thanked God for the glorious and triumphant end of his sons. He then addressed to the Almighty," O God, Thou gavest me father, mother, and four sons. They were all Thy trust to me. Today I have been successful and happy in restoring that entire trust back to Thee." While the Guru was listening to Mahi's story, he was digging up a shrub. He then pronounced," As I dig up this shrub by the roots, so shall the Turks be extirpated." The Guru also remarked," No, my sons are not dead. They have returned to their Eternal Home. It is Sirhind that shall die."
The Guru resumed his march to Hehar where he spent two days with Mahant Kirpal Das, a hero of the battle of Bhangani. The next stop was Lamma Jatpura. It was here that Rai Kalla who was accompanying him, took leave. Realizing that the territory around Rai Kot was not suitable place for meeting the enemy's challenge, the Guru directed his Sikhs towards the Jungle Desh, the land of Brars. On the way he passed through the villages of Manuke, Mehdiana Chakkar, Takhatpur and Madhen and reached Dina, in Ferozepur district. At Dina a devoted Sikh, Rama presented the Guru with an excellent horse which he accepted for himself and gave his former horse to Bhai Daya Singh. His arrival soon became known to the people of the area and they began to rally around him. Some of the influential people who met the Guru at Dina were Shamira, Lakhmira and Takhat Mal, grandsons of Jodha Rai who had rendered material assistance to Guru Har Gobind in the battle of Gurusar. Param Singh and Dharam Singh, grandsons of Bhai Rup Chand, also came to him. The viceroy of Sirhind heard that the Guru was entertained by Shamira and his brothers. He wrote to Shamira on the subject and ordered him to arrest and surrender the Guru. Shamira replied that he was only entertaining his priest, who was merely visiting his Sikhs and harming none. Shamira however, feared that the viceroy would send his troops and arrest the Guru, so he sent a spy to obtain information of the viceroy's movements and proceedings. The Guru stayed at Dina for some days. It was here that he wrote his celebrated 'Zafarnama', or Persian epistle to Emperor Aurangzeb. It was in fact an exquisite reply to the letters of the invitation to the Guru which he had received from the Emperor. The letter is characteristic of the sublimity of the Guru and each line is pregnant with stimulating truths and righteous indignation.
He wrote to the Emperor that he had no faith in his solemn promises in the name of God and oaths on the Quran. The fact remained that he, the Emperor, on all occasions violated his sacred promises and proved false, mean and treacherous. The Guru wrote,"......What though my four sons were killed, I remain behind like a coiled snake. What bravery is it to quench a few sparks of life? Thou art merely exciting a raging fire the more...........As thou didst forget thy word on that day, so will God forget thee. God will grant thee the fruit of the evil deed thou didst design......Thou art proud of thine empire, While I am proud of the kingdom of the Immortal God........When God is a friend, what can an enemy do even though he multiply himself a hundred times? If an enemy practice enmity a thousand times, he cannot, as long as God is a friend, injure even a hair of one's head." The letter was sent through Bhai Daya Singh and Dharam Singh to the Emperor and they delivered it to him in Daccan. This letter awakened the Emperor's dormant conscience and evoked in him a sense of true repentance. It cast such a miracle effect on him that he began to pine and soon confined to bed. Aurangzeb dictated this letter to his son when death was at hand, in which he acknowledged his defeat in the life that he led : "......Whatever good or bad I have done, I am taking it as a load upon my head to the Great Unseen............I am totally in the dark about the destiny that awaits me. But what I know is that I have committed enormous sins. Canst tell what grim punishment is in the store for me.........."
While staying at Dina, the Guru visited a few places in the neighborhood. In the meantime he came to know that his whereabouts became known to the viceroy of Sirhind and he was, therefore, anxious to find a suitable place where he could best meet the challenge of the enemy. So he left Dina and visited many places such as Bander, Bargarh, Baihbal and Saravan etc. At Saravan the Guru gave his people a little practice in arrow shooting. Next he proceeded to Jaito, Kotla Maluk Das, Lambhawali and then reached Kot Kapura .Realizing that the pursuing enemy had come too near, the Guru asked Chaudhri Kapura, a Brar Jat, to lend the use of his fort to him for a few days. Fearing the wrath of the Mughals, he refused to oblige him. From there the Guru reached Dhilwan Sodhian where one of his relatives received him with great warmth and cordiality. It was here, as the tradition goes, that one of the Prithi Chand's descendants, Kaul visited the Guru and presented him clothes. The Guru took off his blue robe which he had been wearing since he left Machhiwara, and tearing it piece by piece burned it in fire. The historic words that he is said to have uttered on his occasion are memorable:
"I have torn the blue clothes which I wore, and with that the rule of the Turks and Pathans is at an end." Chaudhry Kapura being repentant of his disgraceful act, came to see the Guru and asked for his forgiveness which the Guru did. Then he provided him with a good guide, Chaudhry Khana with whom the Guru marched westward in the direction of Dhab Khidrana. On the way he passed through Ramina, Mallan, Gauri Sanghar and Kaoni. Meanwhile a large number of followers had rallied around him. The forty Sikhs who had deserted him at Anandpur and had given a disclaimer to him, were taunted by their wives who would not let them enter into their own homes. They came back to reinforce the Guru's small army. One brave lady, Mai Bhago brought them to the aid of the Guru along with a large contingent of other Majha Sikhs. He had taken up his position on a sandy hillock at Khidrana in the district of Ferozepur. The Mughal army advanced towards his camp, but before they could attack him, they had to encounter a contingent under Mai Bhago and Jathedar Mahan Singh. A fierce fighting ensued. They were all overpowered but not before they had shown their mettle as the toughest fighters whom the experienced Mughal commander had ever known in his life. The Guru from his position of high altitude about two miles from the place of the battle, discharged arrows with fatal effect against the Mohammadans who could not see from what quarter destruction was raining on them. As the tank at Khidrana was dry, Mohammadan army was in great state of distress for want of drinking water, thus, Wazir Khan decided to return without striking a blow on the main body of the Khalsa with Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru became victorious.
After the departure of the Mohammadan army, the Guru decided to see the battle field and went about wiping he faces of boh dead and wounded, and praising their unsurpassed valor. He found out that forty Sikhs including their leader Mahan Singh, who had given him disclaimer at Anandpur, all but Mahan Singh, died fighting bravely. Mahan Singh was still alive but was on his last breath when the Guru told him to open his eyes and said," Mahan Singh, ask for any boon you desire from an empire to salvation." After opening his eyes, Mahan Singh was delighted to see the Guru and replied," O true king! We are sinners because we disclaimed you at the time of need at Anandpur. The doors of Heaven are closed for those of us who had departed ahead of me. O Lord, grant us your Grace and disregard that disclaimer." It is recorded that the gracious Master took out that disclaiming document, which he carried on his vest during all these times, tore it up as a sign of forgiveness and reconciliation. Mahan Singh saw this with his own eyes and then breathed his last as happy, forgiven and emancipated soul.
The souls of forty were also emancipated. Those forty Sikhs are called Forty Mukte-the Saved Ones or Emancipated Ones and are remembered in our daily prayers as Forty Muktas. Khidrana has since that time been called Mukatsar or the tank of salvation. The Guru then found Mai Bhago who inspired these forty Sikhs. A little aid revived her and she was blessed by the Master. From Mukatsar the Guru moved to Rupana, Bhander, Gurusar, Thehri Bambiha, Rohila, Jangiana and Bhai Ka Kot. Then he proceeded to Sahib Chand and to Chatiana where Brars who had fought for him demanded the arrears of their pay under threat of blocking his onwards march. By the grace of God it so happened that a Sikh from the neighborhood brought enough money about the same time which enabled the Guru to pay off all the arrears. However the leader of the Brars, Chaudhri Dana was extremely sorry for the arrogant behavior of his people and refused to accept any payment for himself. On the request of Chaudhri Dana, the Guru then went to his native place Mehma Swai. Reaching there he encamped at a place which is now called Lakhisar. From there he visited other places in the vicinity. On the request of Chaudhry Dalla, the Guru then decided to move to Talwandi Sabo. On his way he passed through Chatiana, Kot Sahib Chand, Kot Bhai, Giddarbaha, Rohila, Jangirana, Bambiha, Bajak, Kaljhirani, Jassi Bagwali, Pakka Kalan and Chak Hira Singh, and reached Talwandi Sabo now called Damdama Sahib or Takhat Damdama Sahib. This place appealed to the Guru so much that he assumed a permanent residence there and lived at this place for nine months and nine days.