56. The Battle of Mukatsar

The defence of the pass of Thermopylae by a small band of Spartans under Leonidas is not more proudly and more gratefully remembered by Hellenic peoples than the gallantry which these forty men displayed in opposing the progress of thousands of disciplined warriors in an open country, wanting even in a pretence of defence. There is no Sikh home, no Sikh temple, where, up to this day, the Sikh devotee does not admiringly remember the "Forty Saved Ones". The story is pathetically told that when after the retreat of the royal army the Guru visited the place of action he saw mother Bhago, prince Zorawar Singh's nurse, washing her wounds. She it was that had taunted the men for their previous defection. She it was that had brought them back to atone for their sin by offering their lives for their country and their Guru and had led the attack on the advancing foe. Among the heaps of the slain the Guru recognised his disciples. Lifting them, one by one, and placing their heads on his thigh, he wiped their faces with his kerchief, kissed them, calling them by their names and praising them for their unprecedented valour, as if they were alive and were hearing his loving remembrances. While he was thus engaged his hands fell upon one Mahan Singh in whom life was not yet extinct. The man's delight knew no bounds at the sight of the Saviour holding him in his embrace. The Guru, too, was equally filled with joy at the opportunity thus afforded of exchanging a few words with one of the devoted hand of heroes. He enquired if the dying man had a wish which he desired to be fulfilled. " Unite the broken tie " was the reply. He believed the Guru to be the image of the Most High and Just. As the Providence forgave penitent sinners, he prayed that the Guru might be graciously pleased to forgive him and his comrades for their having abandoned him at Anandpur. The Saviour was moved to tears. Forthwith he took out the " Bedava " from his pocket and tore it into pieces, thus convincing the dying hero that the signatories to the document were thenceforward forgiven. Mahan Singh shed tears of joy and expired in the Guru's lap. No wonder, then, that the spot should have been, thereafter, remembered Muktsar (Tank of Salvation) and should have become one of the chief places of pilgrimage.