8. Masands Punished
Kabul, the Capital of Afghanistan, has always been noted for the manly bearing and large heartedness of its people. On a Besakhi festival Duni Chand, a trader from Kabul, presented the Guru with a woolen tent which surpassed in excellence even the one belong lag to Emperor Aurangzebe. When it was erected in the Maidan the spectators were rooted to the ground in astonishment. They saw thereon, embroidered in gold and silver, representations of all that was grand and beautiful in nature. Men looked at the artistic work with feelings of great delight and ecstacy and admired Duni Chand and other disciples from Balkh, Bokhara and Kandhar on whose conjoint expense and labour the gift had been prepared. In the same year, on the occasion of the Diwali festival, Raja Rattan Rai of Assam came on a visit to the Guru. He was the son of Raja Ram Rai, an admirer of Gurn Tegh Bahadur. Raja Ram Rai had no offspring and was consequently unhappy. Blessed by the Guru he got a son whom he named Rattan Rai. When he succeeded to the throne, Rattan Rai proposed to his mother that she should accompany him to Anandpur to pay respects to their benefactor's son. The mother very gladly expressed her willingness. So taking with them valuable presents and accompanied by a large retinue they started for Anandpur. On arrival there they were accommodated in the tent above-mentioned at the sight of which the Raja was lost in wonder and forgot the grandeur of his own court. Next day he brought as presents for the Guru an elephant named Pershadi with a forehead white as snow, and saddled with a seat wrought in gold, beautiful ponies, a curious weapon which when un- folded became by turns a spear, sword, gun and pistol, a sandal wood chowki with carved stands, a garland of pearls, a wig bedecked in precious stones of Dacca Muslin.
The presents were graciously accepted and the Raja was assigned a place of honour in the reception room. After making usual enquiries concerning the health of the royal visitor the Guru delivered a sermon on the various aspects of Dharma. The Guru's deep insight into the domain of religion astonished the Pandits who had accompanied the Raja (king) and his heavenly beauty dazzled the Raja himself. The Raja's mother and Rani (Queen) saw the Guru next day and received from him the solace of religion. All the while the Raja stayed with the Guru he was treated most kindly. He was regular in attending the divine service every morning and during the day he had the pleasure of accompanying the Guru's sporting parties. At length deeply impressed with all that he had seen and experienced the Raja (King) left Anandpur for good. A temple was erected by him at the seat of his Government where to this day the Sikh visitors receive attention. The order of Masands became a perfect scandal in the time of Guru Govind Singh. As agents of the Guru; the Masands were highly respected by the disciples in their respective spheres of work. To those who, for some reason or other, were unable to come and personally pay their respects to the Gurus they were as good objects of veneration as the Gurus themselves. The majority of the Masands succumbed to the many temptations to which they were exposed and made themselves obnoxious to the people. The disciples, simple as most of them were, could not master courage enough. to report to the Gurn the nameless obscenities committed by the Masands. Once when the Guru was holding a Durbar, some itinerant dramatists availed themselves of an opportunity to bring the nefarious doings of his Masands to his notice. A person took the part of a Masand and another of a dancing girl. With two male attendants and riding on horseback the Masand and his paramour visited the house of a poor disciple. Finding the owner of the house absent he cursed him in a loud tone. The noise made attracted the disciple's wife to the door. On seeing the Masand she fell at his feet and asked for his blessings. She was rewarded with a kick and was asked to arrange for a number of beds. She brought the best ones in the house ; but the Masand did not approve of them and flung them into the street.
The woman, then, borrowed better beds from a neighbour. This done the Masand ordered one of the young daughters of the Sikh disciple to shampoo the dancing girl and sent the other after her father. His servants took as much of hay and fodder for the horses as they pleased ; but when Nehari (a mixed food composed of gram flour, raw sugar and red pepper) was not forthcoming the wrath of the Masand knew no bounds. He was about to give the mistress of the house a beating when her husband returning from work fell at the man's feet and, as usual, prayed for his blessings, But poor as he was he failed to salute the Masand with a silver coin in his hand. This, coupled with his wife's incapacity to provide Nehari for the ponies, redoubled the Masand's anger. In fear, the man mortgaged his wife's ornaments and purchased provisions to serve dainty dishes to the Masand and his paramour. But as these did not include meat and liquor they were thrown to the dogs. At length the faithful disciple mortgaged a plot of his land and, with the money thus obtained, he provided such articles of food as he was asked to do and made presents of money and clothes to the Masand and his paramour, as well as to their male attendants. Next marning when the Masand prepared to leave he asked for the hand of one of the disciple's daughters for an attendant ; but as she was already betrothed the Sikh was not able to comply with the demand. For this refusal he was rewarded with a shower of imprecations. The poor matron wept in distress and wished they had been rich enough to satisfy their guests and deserve better treatment at their hands. Her husband remarked that the Masand was the Guru's representative and, therefore, what he said and did ought to result in lasting good to them.The Guru was already sick of the Masands. The heinous picture drawn before him drew forth tears from his eyes. He dismissed the performers laden with presents and thanked them for their enabling him to come to a decision on a matter of such serious moment. The messengers, sent throughout the country, brought the Masands bound in chains. They were tried and punished according to their deserts. Some were flogged ; others were made to return their ill-gotten wealth to the owners; while the few who were found innocent were released and sent back rewarded. The order of Masands, however, ceased to exist from that date. The Sikhs were, thenceforward, forbidden to hold any intercourse with them.